Adrienne Masler Life Coaching

February 11, 2018
by amasler

The Biggest Way to Influence Government that You Don’t Know About

Hey folks, I have something important to share about how the United States federal government works. It’s public knowledge, but it’s not common knowledge… and it should be, because it’s quite possibly the most direct way for any individual citizen to have an impact on our government and laws.

First, a brief overview of the structure of the federal government. There are 3 branches: the legislative branch (Congress) makes the laws, the executive branch (President and agencies, e.g., EPA, DOJ, USDA, etc.) enforces the laws, and the judicial branch (SCOTUS and lower courts) interprets the laws.

What I want to share is what happens after Congress passes a law and the President signs it (or Congress overrides a Presidential veto). Legislation is often broad or high-altitude, setting a policy mandate without specifying the details. It’s up to the relevant federal agency to figure out the nuts and bolts. “For example, typically a legislature would pass a law mandating the establishment of safe drinking water standards, and then assign an agency to develop the list of contaminants and safe levels…”  That process of figuring out the details is called “rulemaking” and it is, IMO, one of the most overlooked and misunderstood processes of our government.

IMPORTANT POINT 1: The public has an opportunity to comment on proposed rules and the agency is required to consider every comment it receives! This is not supposed to be a shady, hidden process. It’s often overlooked because many people and the media aren’t into the details and consider it boring. Rules open for public comment hardly ever make the news. Did you know that there are thousands of rules open for public comment right now?

IMPORTANT POINT 2: COMMENTING IS NOT THE SAME AS VOTING!!! Voting is essentially a popularity contest, and that’s how we commonly define civic participation. Rulemaking is a process in which data, research, expertise, and experience play a huge role. It’s not enough to be for or against the proposed rule. In this process, WHY matters. Reason and logic matter. Personal experience matters. A single comment that offers a thoughtful critique based on data and sound logic is worth more to the agency than all the “yes/no votes” put together.

Most people aren’t aware that rulemaking is different from voting. When the public does get word of a compelling rule open for comment, most people decide whether or not they like the rule based on what they read or see in media sources, then head for the phone or computer to tell the agency, “Yes, I’m in favor of this rule,” or, “No, I’m not in favor of this rule.” An agency can wind up with hundreds of thousands of comments like this, and they’re all trash!

Effective comments contribute something new to the process and include relevant “questions, concerns, ideas, data, and alternate proposals… [The agency] will pay particular attention to comments that

  • contain new information or a new perspective
  • respond to specific questions the agency asked in the [proposal]
  • offer different ideas on how the agency can accomplish the goals Congress told it to accomplish”

Rulemaking is a fascinating process because a single comment can have an impact on the final outcome. It’s the quality of information and participation that makes a difference, not the quantity.

IMPORTANT POINT 3: The agency is most likely to get comments from industries and corporations that are directly affected by their rules. Why? Because they have people, usually lawyers, whose job it is to pay attention to the regulatory environment and try to influence the rules and regulations in their favor. Barring actual corruption, money can’t buy direct influence over the rule, but it can buy the time, attention, education, and skills of smart people. It’s difficult for the public to compete with these resources. I’d like to see this change, but that’s a conversation for another day. Given the current state of the rulemaking process, I’d like to remind you that agencies are required to consider every comment they receive and encourage you to participate whenever it’s important and relevant for you!

What can you do?

1. Decide what issues are important to you. Think about what parts of your personal or professional experience are important for an agency to consider.

2. Stay informed about rules that are open for comment. You can make a point to check regularly or follow the websites and social media accounts of agencies likely to make rules you care about. Another way to stay informed is to join organizations you support, such as the Sierra Club or Nature Conservancy; they will often share information about proposed rules and open comment periods with their members when those rules are relevant to the goals & interests of the organization.

3. Read the proposed rule. This is probably the most challenging step, as they tend to be long, dense, and not exactly entertaining. However, you can find others to discuss the proposal with. If you learned about the proposed rule from an organization you’re a member of, there are probably other members who would be interested in the discussion. You can also look on Reddit, which almost certainly has a relevant board (“subreddit”) for the issue, and if not there’s always

4. Comment while the public comment period is open!


To learn more about rulemaking and effective commenting:

To find out what rules are currently open for public comment and to make your own comments:

December 17, 2017
by amasler

Amazing Cranberry Sauce!

Folks, I’m not a foodie or food blogger by any stretch of the imagination. Around Thanksgiving, however, I had a brainwave about homemade cranberry sauce. My friend told me I could use oranges or lemons; though I was skeptical of the lemons, I had some on hand so I went with it. Then I looked up a bunch of recipes and some of them used maple syrup instead of or in addition to sugar. Well! It turns out that cranberry sauce is better with lemons! And I couldn’t taste the maple itself, but it seemed to add to the overall flavor in a way I can’t describe. But could it be even better?

It dawned on me that cranberry and lime flavors are often paired in other dishes and drinks. Why not in cranberry sauce?

There is, of course, a little more to the story, but I always skim past the intro when reading food blogs and I don’t want to bore anyone else, so I’ll get right to the point: This. Is. Amazing. It is the best cranberry sauce I have ever had. One of these days I may get around to taking pictures and writing out the recipe step-by-step, but in the meantime I just really want to put this recipe out there. Please go ahead and try it and let me know what you think!

Amazing Cranberry Sauce
by Adrienne Masler

  • 2 pounds cranberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2 cups water

Wash cranberries and remove stems and mushy berries. Place all ingredients in a large pot and stir to combine. Bring to a boil (you may want to use a lid as the berries start to pop), then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat and serve warm.

Options and Notes:
This recipe makes enough cranberry sauce for a feast with about 8-10 people in attendance or for a smaller number of people to eat by the bowlful for several days because it is just THAT GOOD. If you wish to make a smaller amount, there are 12 oz bags of cranberries at the grocery store also. The conversion factor for the other ingredients is 0.375 (multiply each measurement by 0.375 and use internet conversion tables to determine what volume of each ingredient to use. When are we all going to start using scales and writing recipes by weight?!).

The sauce will thicken as it cooks, especially if you leave the lid off. It will continue to thicken as it cools, so you do not need to cook it all the way to your desired consistency.

I’ve used less sugar than most recipes call for, because oversweetened cranberries are awful.

I tried making this with 1/3 cup lime juice (I used 1/3 cup lemon juice in the first batch) but that was too much. You may want to try zesting your lime, though.

The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for a week or so; I have not tried freezing it.

July 26, 2017
by amasler

How Your Body is Like a Goat

4 goats

A goat named Duck and her friends in 2008.

When I was a kid (pun intended), my family raised goats. Normally we’d feed and milk them at the same time every morning and evening, but on occasion we’d be away from home and evening chores would be overdue by the time we returned. On those nights, as soon as we’d get out of the car, we’d hear it. A rousing chorus of “MAA!” would follow us to the barn and we’d have to be careful opening the pens to prevent a mini stampede. The longer we’d kept them waiting, the louder and pushier they’d be.

Your body is like a goat because it has needs—many of them the same, including food, water, attention, and even milking for some of us. Like goats, infants, and rose bushes (i.e., anything alive that we care for), bodies will scream louder and push harder when those needs aren’t met, unless of course the needs go unmet for so long that they numb out in despair.

Our goats trusted us to take care of them. They weren’t in a position to take care of themselves. No wonder they freaked out when we were late.

Your body can’t take care of itself either. Does that sound crazy? Think about it. If you’re sitting there feeling thirsty for hours but your mind keeps telling you to stay put because you’re working on something important, is your body going to get up and get a drink anyway or is it going to shut down and numb out the sensations of thirst? Your body needs your mind’s cooperation to meet its needs. Put another way, your mind can override your body’s requests. This may be necessary sometimes, but if it’s habitual, it’s unhealthy.

Like goats, bodies need a sense of safety and trust that their needs will be met. Without a sense of safety, our systems start to break down. If you’re not used to paying attention to your physical needs, if you often ignore them in favor of whatever else you’re doing, you’re actively (however unintentionally) undermining your own health. Others have discussed this in depth—I refer you to Gabor Mate and Peter Levine for starters if you want to do more research.

Mother goat with her baby

A goat named Gorda with her baby in 2011.

One way to help create a sense of safety for your body is to meet its needs promptly. There’s a lot out there about self care these days, but most of it focuses on activities that are pleasurable or are aimed at stress management. Those things are great, but the picture is incomplete and lopsided. I’d like to expand the definition of self care to include honoring your body’s needs. I think this really needs to be the foundation for self care.

Start noticing your body’s cues. Are you hungry, tired, thirsty, needing to stretch or use the bathroom? Do you need to sneeze, cough, blow your nose, pass gas in either direction, or apply your menstrual product of choice? Are you hot or cold? Do you need to get out of the sun or get out in the sun? Do you need to add or remove layers? Is your body sending you signals about your stress level or health status that need to be attended to?

Go ahead and do it. Don’t wait and don’t apologize. We don’t need to be complicit in our culture’s fear and loathing of bodies and bodily functions. It’s time to normalize all of the above.

If you’re in the habit of ignoring your physical needs, try noticing and meeting your needs more often this week. What happens?

If you already make a point of meeting these basic needs, how does this impact your life?

What do you think about apologizing for or excusing normal, universal bodily functions? Is it time to stop doing that already?

June 30, 2017
by amasler

No Evangelizing Allowed

When I posted on Facebook recently about not wanting to live in America anymore and needing an optimism boost, an older relative suggested that if I just trusted in Jesus, things would surely look a lot different to me.


Let’s cut to the chase: evangelism sucks. It’s a violation of basic human decency. Don’t do it. The rest of this post is written in response to those comments, and therefore is focused on Christian evangelism, but it applies to all forms of evangelism.

Why are you proposing Jesus as a solution to my problems as though I’ve never heard of him before? You have no idea what my faith may or may not be. Why do you assume that I’m not Christian? Why not ask before making assumptions and suggestions?

As it turns out, I was raised Christian and as an adult have found that it isn’t for me. I don’t repudiate it, but it isn’t central to my life and spirituality.

I have my own faith, which doesn’t have a label or doctrine, but which is far more meaningful, personal, relevant, practical, supportive, inclusive, and vibrant for me than Christianity ever was. I have a community of friends who have similar understandings of the universe and we support each other in matters practical, relational, and spiritual. I also have a personal relationship with the Divine. My faith does support me, and I am also human. Doubt and fear are normal experiences for all of us. Expecting faith to banish those experiences is called “spiritual bypassing”.

If you want to talk about your personal experience with your faith, please do. It’s obvious that your relationship with Jesus means a lot to you, and I respect that.

What I don’t respect (never have, even when I was a Christian) is evangelism. Evangelism is the arrogant assumption that you know better than me how I should conduct my spiritual life, and that you’re doing me a favor by telling me about it. Evangelism is based on the absolutely unsupportable fallacious claim that Christianity has a monopoly on truth. It is presumptuous to assume that others don’t have a faith or that a relationship with Jesus is just what the doctor ordered for someone else, no matter how well you know them.

I’m going to share something important with you and I hope you take it to heart: evangelism is annoying and disrespectful at best and downright harmful at worst. It is alienating and counterproductive to your apparent goal of influencing others to join your faith. Just as it is rude to give unsolicited advice on someone’s choice of mate, food, hairstyle, career, education, voting, family, medical treatment, or hobbies, so is it rude to give unsolicited spiritual advice. Can you imagine someone piping up about Moses, Mohammed, Buddha, Krishna, or Athena (for example) any time you expressed doubt, fear, sadness, or anger? “Give your life to Allah, you’ll feel better!” Everyone is on their own journey at their own pace, and not everyone is going to the same destination (by which I mean different faiths work for different people). Everyone also has the free will to make their own choices about their spiritual lives. Talking about how Jesus heals all in response to someone’s pain is frustrating, tone deaf, and unsupportive. It does nothing to acknowledge or support what they are going through. At best people roll their eyes and tune you out. Or they will feel hurt and misunderstood because you mistook their pain and request for support for an opportunity to sell something. At worst, you are talking to someone who has been abused in the name of Jesus, and by bringing him up you are pouring salt in their wounds. When the followers of Jesus show themselves to be inconsiderate, they give others another reason to dislike and distrust Jesus. And don’t say, “But Jesus is Real and all those other guys aren’t!” All the faces of the Divine are real to those who find meaning in them. Jesus may be more real to you than the Norse panthenon, but there are others for whom the reverse is true.

There are three kinds of business in this world: yours, mine, and God’s, and the only business you can ever really be in is yours. When you advertise Jesus as a solution to someone else’s problems, you sound like a pharmaceutical advertisement, pushing a drug as a miraculous cure while glossing over the side effects and the people who shouldn’t use the drug because it could hurt them or be ineffective for them. Evangelism shows no respect for the other person’s experience and beliefs, and it violates everyone’s boundaries. It violates my boundaries because it is unsolicited advice and a waste of my time, as well as being completely insensitive to my actual needs. It violates your boundaries because you are in my business instead of your own. Not to speak for anyone else, but I’d venture a guess that this type of pharmaceutical-advert evangelism might even violate Jesus’s boundaries because it so badly warps his image and message of compassion.

I am aware that there are scriptures that appear to promote evangelism. I didn’t hang around long enough to try to reconcile those scriptures with basic human decency, but my guess is that there is something lost in translation. There are many other individual Christians and groups of Christians who don’t evangelize, and they may have literature that can help you understand my point from a Christian perspective. And yes, there are Christian perspectives that support what I’m saying about evangelism.

It’s not that people don’t want to hear about Jesus (although some don’t). It’s that people don’t want to hear how this thing that happens to work for you (be that physical therapy, a certain diet, energy healing, a line of swimwear, the latest self-help book, coffee enemas, or Jesus) is guaranteed to work for them and have it shoved down their throats like it’s the best thing since sliced bread. People want to have their experience acknowledged and they want the compassionate support of others. They also want to solve their own problems and make their own choices. People are more likely to respect your faith if you’re not waving it in their faces at every inopportune moment.

Your faith is your business. My faith is my business. Go ahead and talk about your business, using “I” statements. Truly effective and compassionate “evangelism” means living your own faith. Perhaps if you are a compelling example, someone who is searching will be drawn to what you stand for and invite you to tell them about it. Otherwise, keep your nose out of other people’s faith journeys.

April 28, 2017
by amasler

An Open Letter to My Male Friends

I drafted most of this last year and am finally getting around to publishing it. The #yesallwomen conversation isn’t getting as much attention right now, but it is sadly just as relevant as ever.

Women have been tweeting about the first time they were assaulted, and at the same time this HuffPo article popped up on my feed again. It’s about all the ways women minimize and de-escalate everyday sexism, and how men aren’t aware of that.

I’m one of the “lucky” ones who has “only” had to deal with cat calling and friends who don’t know the difference between a joke and sexism, or who sometimes push my boundaries. Well, that’s if you don’t count the process of being taught how unsafe the world is for women. I was 12 and had no social life yet when my dad started telling me and my younger sisters to never put down our drinks at college parties because someone might want to drug and rape us.

In thinking about this tweet storm and the article simultaneously, I realized that my closest male friends are the main source of the assaults, misogyny, objectification, and sexism that I deal with on a daily basis. Not strangers, not coworkers or casual acquaintances, but my friends. This is an open letter to my friends and to every man out there who is or wants to be friends and lovers with women.

First of all, I love you guys. We’ve had some good times together. You’re all fun, interesting, caring, intelligent, and creative people. You’ve supported me and cheered me on. You’ve been there for me when I needed a shoulder to cry on. You’ve challenged me to become more mature and thoughtful and to take more responsibility for myself. You are the people I’d call to come get me if someone assaulted me. I trust you with my life and with my son. I’m thankful every day to have you in my life. I want to keep hanging out and having fun with you, being there for you, and being able to count on you.

I know that you care about me, about the other women and girls in your lives, and about being mature and moral people. We’ve talked about this; I’m not just giving you the benefit of the doubt here. Which is why I have to say that the ongoing misogyny and sexism that you perpetrate is bullshit.

Before you get all outraged, listen up. I know that you would never in a million years abuse or rape me or anyone else. Most of you were raised by kick-ass women and you respect them. Some of you have daughters and you’re raising them to be strong, smart, and independent… but you’re also terrified of what might happen to them as young women in this world. Well, that stuff you’re terrified of for your daughters still happens to us as adults, and you guys do it to me.

You take sexual banter as an invitation to touch or grab me without warning, usually startling me and always making me feel violated. Why don’t I flip out on your ass more often? Read the article. If I want you to touch me, I’ll say so. If you want to touch me, ask (and respect my answer).

You make comments that reduce me to an object you want to possess, that make me feel in that moment like the only thing you value about me is my sex appeal. I get comments on my ass, my breasts, my weight loss, my thigh gap. It’s the exact same way you talk about luxury cars or your latest gadget. Yes, you also value me as a person, but that doesn’t make objectifying me OK. My body isn’t here for your enjoyment unless I choose to share it with you, and when I do that you’re getting a lot more than just my body; I’m sharing my heart and mind with you too. When is the last time you complimented me on my confidence, optimism, compassion, common sense, intelligence, or courage? Which do you talk about most, my body or my character?

You objectify other women in front of me, then try to justify yourself by pointing out that I like women too. Dude, being queer doesn’t mean that I’m into objectifying people. When I see an attractive person of any gender I will have a small private smile of appreciation and maybe I’ll think some non-verbal comment like “Mmm” or “Ooh”. I am NOT thinking, “Oh, she has a great ass, I’d tap that.” Other people’s bodies are not an invitation to have sex with them. They just are. Yes, you can appreciate an attractive person, but don’t talk about other people’s body parts and what you want to do to them. The same goes for people you find unattractive. Their bodies aren’t an open invitation for comment, derision, or ridicule. Keep your unkind thoughts to yourself and practice letting go of the judgment.

You interrupt, talk over me, and shout me down. You’re more likely to have a “Yes, but…” response than to acknowledge what I’m saying. Basically, your listening skills are terrible. My strategy for dealing with this is usually to ask you to speak first, hoping that if you feel heard, you’ll be able to listen to me. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

You take advantage of my respect and self-control by counting on me to maintain appropriate boundaries between us, especially when it comes to sex. Sometimes we’re in agreement about the boundaries, but you still push them. Sometimes you want more than I do and you claim to understand and respect that, but you still come on to me. Sometimes I want more than you do, and when you make that clear I back off and don’t make any more moves because I respect your boundaries. I am so sick of lame excuses like, “I just get carried away sometimes” and “I have a big appetite”. Guess who else gets carried away and has strong desires? Me! But I’ve spent years practicing self-control, respect for myself and others, and delayed gratification. This is where all that societal crap like “boys will be boys” comes in. You guys have been taught that you can’t control your desires, so you’ve never learned how. Instead, you rely on me to do it for you, no matter which one of us set up the boundary in the first place. At least one of you would be no better than your cheating father if I hadn’t said “no” when I really wanted to say “yes”, and could have said “yes” if I was being as selfish as you were.

These things (and more) happen over and over again. You all (usually) get it in the moment when I call you on your latest transgression. You clearly feel remorse and apologize for your behavior, and then we’re good… until the next time. Each of the examples I listed above has happened more than once with different people. If you recognize yourself in any of them (and I’d be happy to enlighten you if you don’t), realize that I can give multiple other examples of the same issue happening with other friends. Maybe you think you only “slip up” once in a while, but multiply that by the number of male friends in my life and you’ll see that I have to put up with this regularly. Now think about the other women and girls in your lives and do the same multiplication. Guys: this is bullshit and needs to stop. Now.

One of the quotes that stood out to me from Gretchen Kelly’s article was this: “We have all learned, either by instinct or by trial and error, how to minimize a situation that makes us uncomfortable. How to avoid angering a man or endangering ourselves. We have all, on many occasions, ignored an offensive comment. We’ve all laughed off an inappropriate come-on. We’ve all swallowed our anger when being belittled or condescended to.”

Here’s something I haven’t told you: Laughter does not always mean that I think what you just said or did is funny or that I’m having a good time. Sometimes it does mean that, but other times, laughter is a tool to de-escalate when something awkward or violating has just happened. Many people in our culture have deeply ingrained ideas about how it’s not ok to “make a scene” or “be rude” in the face of rudeness and worse. When you violate my boundaries, the truth is that is the rude action; me standing up for myself is not. I’ve been giving my “make a scene” muscles a workout, but old habits die hard. As Gretchen Kelly says, “It [de-escalation and minimizing] doesn’t feel good. It feels icky. Dirty. But we do it because to not do it could put us in danger or get us fired or labeled a bitch. So we usually take the path of least precariousness.” Sometimes it seems easier to pretend I didn’t notice or I’m not bothered. It sucks to be told I’m overreacting and that you didn’t mean anything by it and to just “calm your tits”. I don’t want to fight with you, listen to your excuses, put up with your mansplaining what my reaction should be, and educate you on the regular; that gets exhausting. So… sometimes I laugh and joke when it’s not funny at all.

For anyone (I hope that includes you) wondering what you’re supposed to do now, here are some suggestions:

1. Don’t take laughter and joking at face value. Learn how to tell when I’m treating something as a joke even though it isn’t. Am I blushing? Squirming? Avoiding eye contact? Am I saying things like, “Stop that!”, even if it sounds like a half-hearted protest that doesn’t mean anything? Am I suddenly quiet, or did my tone of voice change? Have I increased the distance between us? Does my laughter sound a little forced or a little too manic? If it really is a joke and I’m really comfortable, there is better proof than laughter. My whole posture will be relaxed and comfortable and my eyes will be smiling too. I’ll probably be close to you physically, may touch your arm or wink, and I’m comfortable with sustained eye contact. When in doubt, ask.

2. Handle being called out gracefully and maturely. Look, you’re my friends. If I do “make a scene” or stand up for myself, it’s because I want the outcome to be better for both of us. I don’t say something because I want a fight or I want to make you feel bad. I say something because I respect myself and also your ability to learn and grow. Deflecting your shame back onto me helps exactly no one.

3. Check yourself and your friends’ boundaries. Don’t assume that boundaries around touch are the same as they were several years ago, for example. Go ahead and ask the women in your life if you’re being respectful, then carefully listen to their answers. You’ll get brownie points just for asking, but taking their feedback seriously and using it to improve your own behavior will make everyone’s lives better, including yours.

4. Practice, practice, practice. Practice noticing when you cross a line, when you stop yourself from crossing a line, and when you call other men on their bullshit. Practice asking for consent and feedback.

5. Take feedback to heart but don’t take it personally. We’re all learning. I’m learning that I have a voice and the right to say, “Hey, that’s not ok with me.” You’re learning that some of the behaviors you consider most fun are actually hurting people you care about. I get it; it’s confusing and scary and at times you may think that you’re not allowed to have fun anymore. Taking it personally and throwing yourself a pity party just makes it worse for all of us, though. Let me assure you: mutually agreeable banter and flirting are some of my favorite things, but the key word is “mutual”. Do you really want to be having “fun” at my expense?

6. Call out other men on their sexist and harassing behavior/comments when you’re with men. Support women to stand up for themselves if/when they need or ask for it.

7. Apologize sincerely when you mess up. Reflect on the situation so you can make a different choice in the future.

8. Listen–to our stories and when we tell you that you crossed a line.

9. Educate yourself. The internet abounds with stories of everyday sexism, for example. It’s not my job to teach you, but here’s one link to get you started.

The actual impact of one’s actions can be worlds apart from one’s intentions. None of this is to suggest that you’re “bad” or deliberately trying to hurt anyone. I truly believe that most of this bullshit happens because of social conditioning, habit, and ignorance, and those aren’t the easiest blind spots to take stock of. And yet… It can be done. Once again, I love you guys. Now cut the crap.

April 9, 2017
by amasler

Why I Wasn’t SAD This Winter

I’ve had depression on and off in my adult years, most recently for 5 years (undiagnosed for 4), but no matter whether I was actively depressed or not, winter was always worst. Seasonal Affective Disorder has been part of my life for the last decade, and as they say it’s a risk factor for major depressive episodes and post-partum depression. I primarily blamed the lack of light, though outdoor time and exercise also seemed to be factors. For years, all I wanted to do in winter was hibernate: curl up in a ball while eating cookies, breakfast cereal, and deluxe pb&j as comfort food. Motivating myself to get out in the cold and move was extra hard due to brain fog and that whiny, exhausted, helpless “I don’t want to!” feeling. I spent the whole season self-flagellating over my lack of motivation, chastising myself for not doing more to help myself. I always gained a little weight in winter too.

Not this year.

This year, I had no brain fog, no “I don’t want to!” feeling, no carb cravings, no self-flagellation, no wondering what’s wrong with me, no gaining weight. I did notice lower energy levels and needing more sleep, but it was a manageable difference that felt seasonally appropriate, related to the shorter days. It wasn’t psychologically painful.

What made the difference? I can’t chalk it up to the Vitamin D supplements; I was taking those last year, too. Walking a mile to and from work most days probably had a little to do with it, but I know from past experience that wouldn’t be enough to make a longtime condition simply vanish. The major clue turned out to be that I wasn’t craving carbs, because I haven’t been craving carbs since I officially quit eating wheat.

About a year ago, I did an experiment: I stopped eating wheat for three weeks. There were a couple specific things about my own health fueling my curiosity, but it basically comes down to wondering what the gluten-free hype was about and whether it would make a difference for me. If it did, I could decide how to proceed. If it didn’t change anything, I could go back to my normal diet.

Three weeks later, I ate a sandwich. Not just any sandwich; it was on Ithaca Bakery rye. The good stuff. Only within 24 hours, I was in a world of hurt. My joints and sinuses ached like nobody’s business and I felt awful mentally too. It was so bad that my cravings for my old comfort foods evaporated instantly. I wanted nothing to do with wheat ever again.


Thanks to a couple accidental exceptions to my new no-wheat policy, the world of hurt results have been repeated enough for me to know it wasn’t just a fluke. What I can’t explain is why I never noticed it when I was eating wheat regularly. Never mind; I sure notice it now.

Over the summer, I also cut back significantly on dairy and experienced the easiest round of seasonal allergies ever since I started reacting to ragweed in 2005. Then this winter was the easiest I’ve had as an adult, psychologically speaking. I never imagined that these two major dietary changes would lead so directly to marked improvements in allergies and depression. I was delighted but not surprised when I lost 10 pounds in two months after quitting wheat. I was glad to listen to my body’s preferences and start to feel better overall. What I didn’t expect was that my SAD wouldn’t come back. I didn’t expect my seasonal allergies to be almost cured.

It turns out that the brain chemistry model of depression may be missing the whole point. When I read Kelly Brogan’s latest post, Depression Starts in Your Gut, this morning, the pieces finally clicked into place. Chronic inflammation is the underlying cause of so many modern ailments. Another name for the “world of hurt” joint pain I get after eating wheat? Inflammation.

I was talking to a friend about my gluten-free experiment the other day, and he had a horrified expression on his face as he contemplated never eating another bagel again. “I can’t live like that. I don’t want to,” he said. Guys, I remember that feeling. Carb-based comfort foods were both crutch and treat for me. I used to say that if I was addicted to anything, it was milk. My acupuncturists gently encouraged me to reduce dairy consumption for three years before I would even consider it. I couldn’t imagine living without entire food groups. Wouldn’t that be restrictive, boring, and unhealthy? Wouldn’t I be in perpetual mourning, feeling denied and left out, if I couldn’t eat my favorite foods and what everyone else was eating?

Here’s my question: Does anyone feel that way about fruits and vegetables? Or do we just feel that way about wheat, dairy, and other foods that might be causing problems? My personal suspicion is that the very foods we can’t imagine giving up are the ones that we need to ditch. Truly healthy food doesn’t have that addictive, can’t-live-without-it quality. It’s enjoyable and delicious, but the thought of never eating kale again doesn’t induce panic attacks. For me, the flip side of breaking those addictions isn’t what I expected. Instead of mourning, I’m celebrating my improved health. Instead of feeling deprived, I’m grateful that I listened to my body’s preferences. I can honestly say that cookies and cheese no longer appeal to me. I’m not struggling to ignore their siren song; I don’t even hear it anymore. I can’t even say that it was “worth it” to stop eating wheat and dairy, because that implies that it was a sacrifice. Healing these specific conditions that have plagued me for years and feeling better every day of my life is amazing. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.

I’m not making universal dietary prescriptions here. There are people out there who can eat wheat and dairy without issues, but I think they’re both a bigger problem for many people than some want to admit. Here’s what I’d encourage you to do: try your own experiments. Find out what’s really going on in your body. You probably already have an idea which foods or food groups are most problematic for you; I know I did. My own weight loss journey began when I stopped eating breakfast cereal as a comfort food several months before my no-wheat experiment. Start small and listen to your body. If your experience is anything like mine, you may be blown away by the results.

January 25, 2017
by amasler

Why “Identity Politics” Matters

I’ve heard people dismissing the modern civil rights movement as “identity politics” and “political correctness”, implying that the ongoing struggle to secure full human rights for everyone is useless or even harmful. If that’s you, please read this carefully.

First they came for the Indigenous, and I did not speak out because we stole this land and it’s ours now and they should be “good losers”.

Then they came for the journalists, and I did not speak out because I thought the media were spreading fake news and it’s about time someone took away freedom of the press.

Then they came for the immigrants, and I did not speak out because I thought they were taking my jobs.

Then they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out because I thought Muslim was a synonym for “terrorist”.

Then they came for those who are differently abled, and I did not speak out because I wanted more easy fodder for my sick jokes.

Then they came for the Blacks, and I did not speak out because they’re all lazy and would rather deal drugs than go to school or work.

Then they came for the LGBTQIA folks, and I did not speak out because I thought their “lifestyle” was an “abomination”.

Then they came for the poor, and I did not speak out because I thought they were the ones taking my tax money.

Then they came for the middle class, and I did not speak out because they could have made it if they worked hard enough.

Then they came for the scientists, and I did not speak out because they’re all godless heathens.

Then they came for the artists, and I did not speak out because Game of Thrones was on, and who needs the arts anyway?

Then they came for the women, and I did not speak out because they were just putting women back in their rightful place, finally.

Then they came for the planet, and I did not speak out because making money now is more important than my children and grandchildren having a safe place to live.

Then—just when I thought I finally had all the security I could want—they came for me on some trumped-up charge (ancestry? didn’t go to an Ivy League school? perceived loyalty?) and there was no one left to speak out for me. And I finally knew that the people I helped oppress were never the enemy.

—my adaptation of Martin Niemöller’s comments on World War II

This is about civil rights. If any of us are expendable, we are all ultimately expendable.

Picking and choosing who has their rights protected and upheld sets a dangerous precedent. When those in power see the world as a zero-sum game populated by “winners” and “losers”, in order for them to keep winning, they must always have an adversary to beat. If they can, they will pick us off, group by group.

Those who are still fighting for their rights in 2017 have also been protecting you with their words, their bodies, and their lives. They are protecting your rights from being violated by the same powers reluctant to recognize their rights. This is easy to overlook when activists are gaining ground. When officially protected rights are expanding, those of us whose rights have been long protected feel so secure that the front lines of the fight appear to have nothing to do with us.

Image displays text of Martin Niemoller's poem "First They Came"The front lines have everything to do with us. Once the circle of protected rights starts shrinking instead of expanding, there is nothing that will protect you—not tradition, not law, not being a good person, not appeasement. It will take longer for them to get around to violating your rights because it’s a last in, first out kind of situation. But rest assured, your time will come. If those who have been fighting all along are silenced and sent back to the reservations, foreign countries, asylums, ghettos, prisons, closets, and kitchens, there will be no one left to speak out for you.

Why should you care about “identity politics”? Because none of us have our rights until we all do.

White people, it is far past time that we join our less privileged human family on the front lines. Don’t tell me that you have better or more important things to do. Don’t wring your hands and tell me you’ll be devastated if anyone loses their rights. Don’t tell me that you have no evidence of things going to shit because you’re not on the front lines and you’ve been ignoring the dispatches.

Get your ass in gear. Read up on intersectionality and the history of oppression. Respect your leaders (hint: they’re not rich white cisgender male citizens). Then start speaking out and acting up.

January 15, 2017
by amasler

I Wouldn’t Be Here Without You

I have a minor confession: I almost always skip the acknowledgements pages in books. They’re often little more than lists of names which mean everything to those named and to the author, but nothing to me. I do, however, appreciate that the acknowledgements are there. There’s a tendency to see writing as a solitary pursuit, but acknowledgements pages remind me that it takes a village to write a book, no matter whose name is on the cover.

We’re immersed in a culture that would have us believe that living is a solitary pursuit too. We’re supposedly the independent architects of our unique lives. Each of us gets all the credit—and all the blame—for everything that happens to us. Now, there is absolutely something to be said for personal responsibility, but there is also something equally as important to be said for interdependence, connection, and community.

I’ve long wanted to write my own acknowledgements page for my life so far, and here it is. It’s somewhat different than you’ll find in books; rather than a simple list of names (though those are included), it also includes my brief thoughts on programs, services, and products that have significantly impacted my life for the better. In this way I hope it will also serve as a reference for people who are dealing with similar struggles.

I won’t claim that it’s a list of recommendations, because I don’t have a specific audience in mind. I don’t know who will come across this list or whether all, some, or any of the items on this list apply to you and your situation. What I am claiming is that these people, programs, and products have helped me, they may help others, and I’m so grateful for their role in my life. Also, this is completely personal. There are no affiliate links here and I get nothing from anyone for sharing this. No fine print!

One more note: my life is a work in progress and this list is by no means complete or exhaustive. Some of the gratitude I have is incredibly private and even complicated, and not something I’m willing to publicize. Some omissions may be entirely unintentional. Perhaps in another few months or years I will update it or create a new one. Finally, these are in no particular order.

Martha Beck’s Life Coach Training literally changed my life. It taught me how to listen, how to ask the most effective questions, and set me on the path to trusting myself, my journey, and the universe.

Wendy Renee Holthaus held space for me to melt down in the midst of depression and work all the way through it. Wendy is a Kick Ass Recovery Coach!

Angelina Lombardo is another coach who is holding space for me to create new dreams and become a phoenix rising.

You Need A Budget (YNAB) is what finally made personal finance make sense to me. I’ve been using it since I was in college and it’s the reason why Z and I were able to face a surprise pregnancy and having to radically change our lives in 6 short months without going into debt.

Mercedes Lackey’s novels, especially of Valdemar, show me a better world in action. I absolutely love the care and attention her characters show for each other and their remarkable teamwork and sense of justice. Her books were my escape and my salve during my PPD.

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Ithaca is nothing short of amazing. This community has seen me through all the upheavals and challenges of my adult life, including coming out, having a baby, and PPD. Special thanks to MM&WP, KK&BP, AM, LD&LD, JS, JM, JB, KO, AM&PM, the choirs, everyone who helped us with pregnancy, moving, meal delivery, and childcare, and of course NP&GG.

Ithaca Shamanic Drumming Circle has become my spiritual home and is teaching me that yes, there is more to this world than we can see, but anyone can find that out and experience it for themselves. This community is an amazing group for learning, support, and healing.

Karaoke nights at the Scale House with Elephant Sound were my first foray back into the land of the living in the wake of PPD.

Ithaca Community Acupuncture literally changed my life. Since the clinic’s operating model and sliding scale fees make treatments so affordable, that’s how I was able to even try acupuncture in the first place. Regular treatments made seasonal allergies, SAD, and PPD livable. Their (now retired) volunteer program was my first commitment outside myself in the wake of PPD. Special thanks to CF, SH, and K.

The Yoga School got me moving again, and I’m especially thankful for the trade I was able to do. I’d still be doing it if other commitments allowed! Special thanks to LS.

La Leche League leaders in Ithaca helped me identify the cause of our breastfeeding hell and how to resolve it, giving us emotional support along the way. I knew I was through the worst of it when I had the opportunity to give another mother hope about her similar situation. Special thanks to LU.

Cayuga Family Medicine, JL, and DZ solved the breastfeeding problem and the PPD problem. Thank you!

Hand in Hand Parenting puts words to things I’ve sensed since childhood but had no idea how to articulate. It’s gentle, compassionate, and backed by science. It helps me to more consistently be and become the parent I want to be, and my Listening Partnership has become my anchor (thank you, CS).

Mama’s Comfort Camp is a fantastic virtual community of support, kindness, and non-judgment. Maybe I’ll make it to a local meeting someday!

VE at the YMCA offered me a job again at just the right moment.

McCune and Murphy PT, especially DM, are getting me moving again without hurting myself. Getting back the strong, flexible, healthy body I knew was buried somewhere under old injuries, bad habits, and fear is fun and confidence-building.

Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts. Now that I think about it, the virtual course I took here was essentially my first step on my path of healing. It led me to Life Coach Training.

Dressing Your Truth helped me uncover my own sense of style. Prior to finding DYT, I’d basically given up on ever feeling or looking put together in a way that reflected who I really am. It turned out to be simpler than I thought!

Simple Green Smoothies helped me jump on the smoothie bandwagon in delicious style and gain vitality while losing weight.

Katy Bowman‘s work is slowly, slowly helping me rethink how I move all day, every day. This is the year I learn how to squat! Maybe next year I’ll be climbing trees…

ZM: dear friend and bane of my existence

OM: you are my sunshine

NP: aunt extraordinaire

JCK: you get me

You know what? It feels just as good as I hoped to write all this down and share it! Now I’ll send it out into the world with love and gratitude and hope that it will make even a small difference for someone else.

January 15, 2017
by amasler

Dogfights and Teamwork in 2017

Last night I read something that accurately describes American society in 2017… and it was written in 2010.

Lengthy periods of economic stagnation or decline have almost always left society more mean-spirited and less inclusive, and have usually stopped or reversed the advance of rights and freedoms. A high level of national wealth, Friedman writes, “is no bar to a society’s retreat into rigidity and intolerance once enough of its citizens lose the sense that they are getting ahead.” When material progress falters… people become more jealous of their status relative to others. Anti-immigrant sentiment typically increases, as does conflict between races and classes; concern for the poor tends to decline.

I’m reading Parker Palmer’s Healing the Heart of Democracy, which was first printed in 2011. The quote above is on page 64, and it’s from a 2010 article in The Atlantic which quotes a 2006 book.

You know what this tells me?

1. People knew this was coming. It’s happened before, it’s happening again. We have the opportunity to learn from the past and respond differently in the present to create different outcomes. (That may not exactly be news, but I find that a reminder like that inspires a deep breath and breaks the worry cycle, enabling curiosity and creative thinking.)

2. The most important thing we can each do in our current social and political climate is to hold onto our kindness and compassion for everyone. And I do mean everyone. Black, brown, white, citizen, immigrant, queer, trans, poor, rich, political, apolitical, sick, well, optimistic, pessimistic, privileged, in denial, in power, angry, beaten down, you name it. No exceptions, not even for the man who will be sworn in as President in a few days. (Lest anyone think I’ve lost my mind: Compassion wears different faces in different relationships, but it never looks like letting letting bullies have their way.)

3. Yes, we must do everything we can to protect the rights of minorities of all types and those who are traditionally more vulnerable and discriminated against in our society and we must also do everything we can to protect the rights and address the needs of the “citizens [who have lost] the sense that they are getting ahead.” Most people who are going to read this already know that growing wealth inequality is real, but for some reason the national conversation tends to focus on the big picture instead of on the individual impacts.

Look at it this way:

When a black person is killed by police, they become the poster child du jour. It’s personal. That movement has faces, names. They did everything they were supposed to do and still got shot.

When entire communities lose their livelihoods, we don’t hear much about it. When we do hear about it, it’s in the context of a larger conversation about the national economy, globalization, regulations, trade, etc. But for the folks who live in those communities, it’s personal. Their neighbors have faces, names. They did everything they were supposed to do and still lost jobs, retirement plans, and houses.

As a thought exercise, how would things be different if wealth inequality protesters had poster children?

Another thought exercise: What happens when you’re someone who believes wholeheartedly in personal responsibility and then you can’t get ahead and/or lose everything you worked for due to forces outside your control? How do you make sense of that experience? I think the quote I opened with provides some suggestions.

Pain is pain. Suffering is suffering. Poor and middle class white folks are suffering from systemic injustice too. Comparisons are worse than useless because they separate us. The ol’ divide-and-conquer trick is working well.

This isn’t an either/or situation. It’s a both-and situation.

Yes, as individuals there is only so much we can do. Maybe you reading this feel called to march on Washington with feminists, or stand with Standing Rock, or put your energy into Black Lives Matter. It’s all important. It all matters.

But one other thing we can all do, individually and collectively, is to change our way of thinking and talking about systemic injustice. Even as we each choose the work that matters most to us, we need to keep in mind that racism and economic injustice (for example) are not different beasts. They are different faces of the same beast.

We are all in this together. Many of our allies don’t know that yet, or perhaps they’ve forgotten. We need to keep inviting them to join us at the table and on the streets and show them that we take their concerns seriously too.

I think, underneath everything, most of us are afraid that there’s not enough to go around. Not enough justice. Not enough resources. Not enough jobs. Not enough equality.

But that scarcity mentality is exactly what keeps us fighting like dogs over scraps in the yard when the door to the banquet hall is wide open.

November 10, 2016
by amasler

An Open Letter to Clinton Supporters

To Clinton supporters and others who are reeling from the results of this election:

We need time and space to take care of ourselves, to process this grief and fear. Cry. Light a candle. Take a long walk. Give hugs. Reach out to others. Read this essay by Martha Beck that is still making me vibrate with powerful energy.

When you’re ready to move forward again, consider this. We focused a lot of energy and power on Clinton. She won’t be our next president, but that power and energy hasn’t just disappeared into a black hole of doom. It’s come back to its source: us.

This may be the kick in the pants we need to get out of our armchairs, for those of us who were in them, and to find new ways to take action together. We can use the power that’s snapped back to us to build grassroots movements, protect each other and the planet, and build community.

In the next few days I’ll be gathering with friends to strategize our next moves. One friend is keen on voting reform, specifically starting a NY chapter of FairVote. There’s a book I’d love to read in community, and I have other ideas that I will be posting after more reflection.

What I saw in Clinton over the last year and a half was a woman standing up in the spotlight, raising her voice to speak for us while facing the most scrutiny and judgment ever heaped on a presidential candidate. My own childhood taught me that if I wanted to stay safe, I had to stay small and on the margins. I’ve been afraid to be seen and heard, because any time I dared to show my true colors as a kid, I was laughed at, yelled at, or considered broken and in need of fixing. Well, between Clinton’s example and the redistribution of power that we’re experiencing in the wake of the election, I am done playing small. I’ve stayed out of politics and kept silent because I’m an introvert and a Highly Sensitive Person; my skin is thinner than most, which can be a superpower but often feels like a liability. No more of that. I will need to find my own way to speak up and participate. I will probably never be on the front lines of a protest, or even anywhere near one, but I will work behind the scenes in my daily life to make connections, build community, and inspire others.

I’m so thankful for all the “come together” messages I’m seeing from you. This is the silver lining: realizing that we really are in this together, that we must, can, and will be the change we want to see, and that we are stronger together.

Many of you may not be ready for this, so remember it a little way down the road. Trump may be the personification of the patriarchy, but the people who voted for him had many different reasons for doing so. We need to know what those reasons are. We need to share our own reasons for being afraid of his presidency. We need to hear and be heard, and we need to find common ground with our neighbors and family members who have scared the shit out of us with their choice to vote for a misogynistic, abusive bully. Partisanship won’t disappear on its own and it won’t end by magically picking the exact right candidates in the next election. It will end when we reform our voting system and start actually talking respectfully to each other again.

I am not suggesting that we tolerate hate speech or violence. I am suggesting that we did win the popular vote, and we have it within us to be leaders in reconciliation. Yes, I’m scared too. This whole standing up and speaking out thing is pretty new. I don’t think that I’m ready to truly listen yet, but I do know that’s the direction we have to go in if we want to make the best of the next four years and create different results in our communities, states, and nation during that time and beyond.

I love you. I believe in us and what we can do together. I’m here with you now while we cry. Let me know when you’re ready to get back to work.