Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the it's September so everyone needs money edition

Salutations, September.

August was pretty much 31 days of suck. Expensive suck. For whatever reason a whole lot of stuff went wrong last month and it's costing us a damn fortune, so now that August is over, things should get better, right?

Well. No. Because it's September, and September predictably means one thing every single year - everyone needs money. My pants are too short, my shoes are too small. I need a ton of sweaters of varying colors and weights to wear over my other shirts because the school has an ass backward Puritanical dress code that says upper arms are somehow the gateway to sex and god forbid the boys be distracted by my upper arms. School supplies, school fees, trips, sports expenses, sports gear, and the fundraisers. Sweet baby Jesus the fundraisers. Go ahead, squeeze every last drop out of me. I know it's only $18 for this and $30 for that and that you only need to get this many magazine subscriptions and orders and popcorn packages. I know. I know that you only need one sweatshirt and one t-shirt and one of this and one of that.

Oh and you need red pens and another 5 subject notebook even though every store in town is sold out of them and we need 4 soccer jerseys except the store is sold out of them too and Mom can I have a lunchable????

Parents, are you with me right now?

Anyhow, there is other stuff to rant about too.

Like Kentucky
Oh, Kim Davis, sweetie....you've had your 15 minutes of fame. I know that you think you're all super religious and strong in your convictions, the great defender of the sanctity of marriage and that...but we know you're on your 4th marriage yourself. You know that saying about throwing stones and glass houses? Maybe pay attention to that one.

The Supreme Court refused to intervene on your behalf here, basically said that the state can force you to do your job. Your job is issuing marriage licenses. The funny thing is that the couple you've been denying a license to, the people you just can't stomach marrying one another....they actually are sticking up for you. How crazy is that? They don't want you thrown in jail for contempt of court.

They just want to get married.

It's time to do your job or move out of the way.

Or you know, keep clinging to some belief that straight people can make a mockery of marriage but gay people marrying offends your interpretation of the Bible and go to jail. There's always that option.

Those who write the books decide which history we teach
If I were to tell you that some slave owners were super nice to their slaves, that the slaves shared their knowledge so that plantation owners could prosper and that slavery really wasn't all that bad because they had their faith to lean on (and their families unless the families had been "split up" by sales)...what would be your first reaction?

If your first reaction isn't that all that is complete revisionist whitewashed bullshit, I'm not sure we can be friends.

It's how students in Texas (and consequently the nation in general) will be taught, though, according to the new history textbooks written to downplay the role of slavery in the South. 

The books are a result of lobbying by conservative groups to shape what students are taught, and the books sold in Texas tend to spread across the country because the publishers print what Texas will buy because they have enormous districts.

Just because we don't happen to like the things that happened in the past in this country doesn't mean we can pretend they didn't happen or minimize what occurred. Teaching students this romanticized version won't do a damn thing except further the illusion that we live in a post-racial society - which is exactly the goal of those demanding these edits.

Stand up against this shit and refuse to let your children be misled about the history of this country. For fucks sake.

Finally someone is keeping track of this stuff.....but it's not anyone here....
The Guardian has launched a site compiling information about all deaths occurring in police custody here in the United States. The data they are collecting includes information about states, race, age, charges and whether the person killed was armed or unarmed.

The fact that someone is finally compiling this data is huge. The fact that it's being done by a British newspaper, not one here...well, should be a bit disturbing.

Here's the link if you'd like to follow it. As of this morning, the number is 776.

Victim Blaming
Chrissie Hynde is best known as the lead singer of The Pretenders, has long been an example of a strong woman in an industry dominated by men.

She's also famous (or more correctly, infamous) now for what she recently said about rape victims.

Hynde, a victim of rape herself at the age of 21, decided to tell the world that she takes responsibility for what happened to her, and that rape victims in general need to own their share of blame. 

Wait. What????

No.

NO.

If you feel like there might have been choices you made that may have had something to do with your personal assault and you need to work through that, more power to ya. (I still think you're wrong, btw...those who rape others are 100% on the hook for that, regardless of anything else.) But do not for one second believe that it's okay to blame victims for what happens to them. Nope.

It's Denali again. Thanks, Obama.
President Obama renamed Mt. McKinley its original name, Denali, this week. The name, and the mountain itself, are sacred to the indigenous population in Alaska. 

This of course has resulted in a few people completely losing their shit. Trump and a few Ohio representatives in particular are quite vocal about it, not seeming to understand that he restored the original name, that it should have never been renamed in the first place, and that it was not named after McKinley's assassination but years prior.

But whatever. Facts, schmacts. OUTRAGE!!!

Hard eyeroll.

Big Strong Brave Hunters.....
A homeowner here in a mountain town shot and killed two bear cubs this morning.

A mother bear and her two cubs were going through his trash. He claims he fired two warning shots (with rubber bullets) in an attempt to scare them off. It didn't work. His dog got out, then he fired a live round, hitting both the cubs with one shot.

Jesus. If you live in the mountains, you have to confront the reality that you are the one intruding on the animals, not the other way around. If the bears have become problematic in or around your home, you are supposed to call it in, not shoot them.

The mother bear ran off and climbed a tree across the street. Wildlife officials hope she'll come down on her own.

Without her babies.

Gah.

Sometimes I really hate humans.

The VMA drama
Seems like any time I write about anything pop culture related, I get people telling me that it's stupid and meaningless and insignificant except that what is transpiring between Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus (and all the media) right now is symptomatic of a much bigger issue.

A much bigger issue.

White women appropriate culture, use the word "mammy", make entire videos calling out someone else - world applauds. Hell, they get to host the show, win the awards.

Black woman points that out, she is deemed "angry black woman", told she needs to behave and be quiet.

Nicki Minaj has every right to be pissed. If you don't understand why...please read this.

The ADHD and anxiety are so thick in the air you can taste them
We're having some real adjustment issues with the kids going back to school this year. It has been hard. Harder than usual.

Like so bad that I have a couple of them asking me to homeschool them bad.

The beginning of the year is always full of changes and new expectations, feeling out new teachers and getting to know the kids in the classes...but something just feels off this time. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I'm hoping that we get past this initial phase quickly.

Either that or I'm going to need to be talked down on a daily basis.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The journey to marriage equality

Earlier this week was the 95th anniversary of the day women gained the right to vote in this country. I saw many people sharing links about the date, the significance of it all, and I couldn't help but laugh at the tagline Facebook attached to the story. "Happy Women's Equality Day!"

I wouldn't go that far.

It's not as though finally being given the right to vote automatically conferred equality then - after all we had to be "given" that right by men and women of color were in many places stopped from exercising their rights fully for several decades to follow. Things weren't magically equal between the sexes then and they still aren't today, though we've come a long way.

The fight for marriage equality is happening today, in real time, in living rooms and church pews and statehouses and bakeries and hospitals. The fight for true equality doesn't begin and end with the recognition and inclusion of the marriage contract alone, just as the quest for equality among the genders didn't begin and end with the right of suffrage.

There are so many obstacles standing in the way of full marriage equality still, not the least of which are the comprehensive laws on the books across the nation permitting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. This map provides a pretty eye opening display of which states permit which types of discrimination.

Ultimately, though, this post is about more than all that. It is about the idea of marriage equality as a construct, one that, even if extended without reservation to the lgbt community still isn't fully inclusive.

Marriage, at its simplest, is an agreement between consenting adults. Attempts to narrow that definition in any way will inevitably fail a thorough challenge.

For example, marriage does not exist simply for the creation of children. Babies are conceived and born out of wedlock as easily and often as they are within the boundaries of marriage. Not all married people want or can have children. Some marriages take place later in life, past the point where fertility has diminished. None of those people are "less" married in the eyes of the law.

Marriage, real marriage, is something beyond all that. It doesn't fit into tiny boxes, it can't be easily categorized. There is no normal, even if we've been raised to believe that the nuclear family version is the only acceptable one.

Marriage takes as many different forms as there are married people in this world.

I know plenty of traditional couples. Him. Her. Kids.


Some of them fit the mold just like we're told they're supposed to.

Some of them hardly see each other at all, living almost entirely separate lives. On purpose.

Some of them routinely vacation alone or with friends instead of one another.

Some of them have worked through marital trauma.

Some of them are staying married just until the kids are out of high school.

Some of them stay married for other reasons.

Some of them married out of convenience and expectation, because it was what they were supposed to do.

Some of them have left first or second or third marriages, some have remarried, some have pledged never to marry again.

Some of them have open marriages where they are free to explore relationships outside the marriage. Some of those are expressly sexual in nature, others are more focused on the emotional components of the relationship being fulfilled outside. Those in open marriages don't hide anything from one another and it is all done with express consent, approval and permission.

Some of them are closeted bisexuals, refusing to tell even their spouses that they are attracted to both men and women, but remain faithful to the marriage because there is a difference between sexual orientation and fidelity. I'm going to repeat this one. There is a difference between sexual orientation and fidelity. 

Some of them are openly bisexual.

What works for one marriage is none of my business, not any of my concern. It works for those individuals and as long as they are in agreement, that's all that matters.

For that matter, there's a compelling argument, one which I wholly support, in favor of polyamorous marriage. Polyamory exists in forms other than the highly religious polygamy we've been spoonfed on reality television. I know several polyamorous families forbidden from legalizing their bonds to one another for the simple fact that there are more than two of them. They live together, raise their children as one cohesive unit. In many ways, poly marriages would actually be more functional than two person marriages, particularly in the area of parenting, because of economies of scale. More adults in a home setting means that more of them are able to pursue full time careers, fewer need to be present for the raising of children. It's amazing to see in action, though that requires you get over whatever your preconceived ideas of marriage are supposed to look like.

I'm not sure at what point people in this country became so hyperfocused on how other people live their lives, while at the same time defending their absolute right to do as they pleased in their own lives.

I wouldn't want someone examining my marriage from the outside, condemning or condoning the choices I've made. I doubt anyone out there reading this would either. Just because I might not choose something for myself doesn't make it wrong for someone else.

Why then does it matter how other people's marriages work? Why does it matter what they look like or who they include?

Short answer.

It shouldn't.

I'll do me.

You do you.

Let's talk about the journey to equality, not claim we're already there.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A place called there

It is often said that life isn't about the destination, but is instead about the journey required to get there, wherever there is. That all assumes that a place called "there" exists.

I know that my vision of there has changed dramatically over the years, altered irrevocably by the very journey I believed myself to be on in order to get there.

I've never arrived.

You have to wonder though what happens in the event someone ever ends up exactly where intended to someday, or at least these are the things I wonder about. What happens when and if the life train pulls into that station? If you've completed the precise goal you always intended, if you've done what you planned, if you've completed whatever brought you to that point?

Obviously most of us never get there, wherever it is that our individual theres might be. Life interferes, it laughs abundantly in our confused faces and pulls us off the tracks, setting us down on some other track that we never even realized existed until that precise moment, one that had remained hidden until life illuminated it, usually under a blinding spotlight.

The new destination, often unknown at least initially. We usually need time to process the track left abandoned, the one that we'll likely never see or travel again. We need time to mourn, and often we need time to even realize that something worth mourning is gone.

For me, that track, the one that went one way while I went another, it remained in sight but just out of reach for a very long time. Lord knows that I tried all I could for far too long to get back there. Well over a decade of misplaced efforts reaching for a life I'd never live, of wishing for something that would never be.

How much time I wasted chasing this imagined life of someone I wasn't anymore.

Since the first major time there was altered irreversibly in my life, there have been others. Many others.

Some of them were relatively minor alterations to the course of my life, while others were entire re-writes that began with a sudden ceremonial burning of the book I thought I was writing, both literally and figuratively.

I wasn't supposed to be a writer.

This thing that defines me more than almost anything else, something I never imagined someday being.

Some of the paths in my life were revealed to be deceptions, falsehoods, places I thought I was going but never was, not really anyway.

These experiences changed me more than any other in some aspects, solidified who I truly always was in others. Maybe they just revealed the truth.

This version of me on this journey now to wherever it is that I'm going is a hell of a lot different than any prior version.

I've set and achieved goals in my life, sure, but never felt like I was there, mostly because I'm not even sure where there might be anymore.

Just one of the many lessons I have learned, thanks in large part to all my derailments.

I wonder though, are there people who get there someday? Then what?

I'd imagine that it's only ever even possible if a person was to attain the pinnacle of their chosen field or accomplished something of great significance. And then what - where does one go from there?

The answer surely can't be a book deal and lifetime of speaking engagements, can it?

Or perhaps there has nothing to do with measurable success, at least not for most people. Perhaps there is simpler, smaller, more attainable.

Perhaps there isn't a destination at all.

Perhaps there is here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the holy hell I'm getting old edition

Hey. I probably don't have much time because the battery on the laptop is slowly dying and the baby has been asleep for just over two hours. But, for the love, I need to get some of this stuff out of my brain.

* Aging Gracefully

Sure, it's great in theory until more and more people in your house approach and/or surpass your height and can tell you when it's time to dye your hair again. And ohmygodmom it's so gray now. What happened?

Hmmm, child. I have some theories.

As I was sitting with the dye on top of my head today, I decided to tackle my eyebrows, only to realize upon having a good close look that a whole bunch of them are gray now too. White really. Like invisible. So, not only do I still have bushy eyebrows in the places I don't want them, I have to fill in the rest because it's so sparse up there.

Yes.

Aging.


But enough about me.

* Birthright citizenship

Oh for the love of Thor, where am I even supposed to start with this one? This is the new sexy issue for the presidential candidates to argue about, one that is so deliciously enticing to them because it feeds off subtle (and not so subtle) racism.

There are some (far too many) people in this country who don't seem to understand that birthright citizenship is actually part of the Constitution. It's in the 14th Amendment. Anyone born subject to the jurisdiction of the country (i.e. within the borders is one of the ways), is a citizen by birth. End of story.

This whole rhetoric is based on a lot of half truths and flat out lies about illegal immigration in this country that have been spun so far out of proportion that it's hard to see where the little snippets of truth really are anymore. Candidates are getting defensive about their use of the term anchor babies, refusing to see that it's offensive. The children born here are citizens. Period.

If anything, they're actually born at a pretty significant disadvantage since their birth doesn't automatically confer any benefits at all to their families. They can't petition to have their parents stay, their parents can be (and are far more often than most people realize) deported. In those cases, the children often leave the country with the parents because the only options for them to stay are if there is a family member not being deported, or getting placed into the foster care system.

This movement underfoot to remove this type of citizenship is a bit on the preposterous side when you consider what would actually have to happen if it were to be eliminated - a Constitutional amendment. The last amendment ratified in modern times was the 27th, having to do with Congressional salaries. It took 202 years to be ratified. The 26th amendment lowered the voting age to 18, a far more recent amendment, passed quickly. In 1971.

The equal rights amendment was never ratified because there was too much disagreement about it. The likelihood that an amendment removing birthright citizenship would even get through Congress and even make it to the states is minute; the chances of it ever being ratified, virtually nonexistent.

Let's not make this any more than it is - political posturing that feeds on fear and racism.

* Ashley Madison and the fallout

The site is disgusting. I hate that it exists, I hate that there were so many registered users, I hate that there are people all over the country (well, world, I suppose) hurting because of the fallout of the data hack. I'm concerned (enough) about the users who were revealed to be on the site, but I'm more concerned about their spouses and families.

There are a few things I wanted to briefly discuss though, food for thought if you will.

- The data is reporting that between 90-95% of the users were male. Assuming that many of them were on the site in the hopes of finding a female affair partner, you have to wonder how many of them actually met someone physically in person through the site...or if they were all talking to bots the whole time. Chances are decent, in my mind, that just because someone registered on the site doesn't mean they had physical contact as a result.

- Having said that, intent matters. Intent fucking matters a lot, because looking for an affair requires someone to willingly discard their personal integrity and honesty in the relationship they're supposed to be faithful in. That first step is the biggest one. If you don't want to stay, leave. Don't cheat. FFS.

- Even as hard as it is to feel sorry for those who've had their affair seeking revealed, the size and scope of this data breech should be alarming to anyone. Just because this group is hard to conjure sympathy for doesn't negate the enormity of the information being hacked here.

- There are many more victims than those revealed to be on the site. Their spouses and families are victims here too, though those releasing the information may believe that they're doing them a favor. Finding something like this out is hard enough, but to have to do it all so publicly ups the ante for all involved. Nothing like public humiliation to go with your ordinary humiliation.

* Frat Houses 

There is yet another story this year about signs being hung from fraternity houses telling parents to drop off their freshman daughters there, (and mom too).

Hardy-har-har.

So funny. Not.

For the love.

When I was a freshman in college, I rushed sororities. Not because I had any interest in it at all, but because my Mom REALLY REALLY REALLY wanted me to do it. Fine. Whatever.

I got all dressed up and tried to be nice to a bunch of strangers. Then we went for a walk down the row. Most of the frats had guys outside, organized, watching us walk up and down the street. A few had drug out the couches so they could be more comfortable during the viewing.

One held up signs rating us as we walked by. I left and didn't go back the next day.

Over 20 years ago.

This shit isn't new, but it's still fucking disgusting. This isn't just one fraternity at one school. This is what rape culture looks like, you guys.

* This week in post racial America

There was a group of black women, members of a book club, kicked off a winery tour train because they were being too loud. Those who refuse to see that this is racism at work defended the action as necessary because of the noise level. Except that groups of white women haven't been kicked off in the past, no matter how loud they were. Mmmhmmm.

There are two competing dialogues about the anniversary of Katrina going on right now, and the distance between them reveals a lot about the state of race in this country. In the area hardest hit, whites are far more likely to be pleased with the rebuilding efforts and progress, while blacks are far more likely to say that work still hasn't been done.

It has taken a long time, but there are finally some real changes taking place in Ferguson. A judge issued an order withdrawing all outstanding arrest warrants that are more than a year old and reissued all licenses that were suspended for reasons like missing a court date or failing to pay a fine. There are accusations of a strong bias in the legal system there, amounting to what is referred to as a debtors prison that disproportionately affected blacks. This will clear the records of many people. Change, goddamn...it's slow and hard, but every step forward counts.

Alrighty then, my battery light is flashing and I'm being paged by a tiny man. Rage on, my friends, rage on.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Making Peace With the Girl in the Mirror

The post below was one that I wrote over a year and a half ago. It's been sitting, unpublished, in my draft folder ever since. I couldn't bring myself to hit the publish button then, for whatever reason. I'm publishing it now, unedited, because it's time.

I may not like who I've been in the past, I may not like who I am capable of becoming, but I refuse to hide it anymore. Admitting it is hard, but necessary.

------------------------------------------

I write about mirrors here a lot. Even my guest posters have written about them. Sometimes they are the literal mirrors, the ones that show our physical beings to us accurately, whether we want them to or not.

It's rare that I'm literal around here, though most of you probably already know that by now.


Usually when I'm talking about mirrors, I'm talking about reflecting on more than our physical selves. More than just checking our makeup and hair, straightening those collars, eyeballing the lines sinking deeper and deeper into our skin. I'm talking about seeing who we are, who we really are, far beyond the physical.

I find it harder to lie to myself when I'm looking in a mirror. It forces me to be honest with what is going on, even if it hurts.

The past few years have been growth years for me. Growth, whether physical, mental, emotional or spiritual, doesn't come without the requisite growing pains. It hurts, this process.

I've forced myself to admit things I don't want to admit. I've owned my responsibility for choices I have made, people I have hurt. I have replayed events in my head like a broken record time and time again, trying to tease out what really happened, then somehow trying to reconcile that with what I had allowed myself to believe.

It mostly started a few years ago, in, of all places, my childhood bedroom. I had retrieved a bag of belongings from the attic where I had hidden them away years before then. Things I thought I needed to keep, things I could not let go of, but things I didn't want with me until then.

In that bag was a box, and in that box were letters and notes that had been written on loose leaf paper in junior high decades earlier. Little pieces of who I was, who they were, folded up in different shapes, passed under desks and hidden in lockers. Secrets. Questions. Polls.

Some of them made me laugh. Some of them were pleasant memories of the friendships I had back then. Some of them, bitter reminders of the people who went one way while I went another.

Then there were the hard ones to read. The ones that told me that I was wrong about so much I had believed. That I was the one to blame. That I was the reason they all distanced themselves. That they tried, oh how they tried. Some of them tried far longer than they should have.

I sorted them. Put them in chronological order. Then I saw it.

The notes told me that they did the best they could until they couldn't do it anymore. That they walked away because I was toxic and damaged and I was damaging them and none of it was fair.

At the time, and for most of my life afterwards, I blamed them. I thought they abandoned me. I thought someone had spread a rumor or told a story or tossed me under a bus and that they all believed whoever this mythical enemy was. I was hurt because I truly believed it all.

Then, twenty years later, sitting on my bedroom floor, I re-read the letters and notes and I saw it.

It was me. It was always me.

I was in a bad place. A bad, bad place. Being in a bad, bad place is not an excuse for what I did. It's just the reason I was such a mess, coupled with who I am hardwired to be.

I was fourteen and I was lost. My parents were struggling with their marriage and I was too old to be insulated from any of it. I was drinking. I was drinking a lot. I managed to hide the drinking from them both for a very long time since they were preoccupied with what was happening between them.

I was teetering on the edge of the bottle already. At 14.

I had taken up smoking too, stealing the cigarettes from my parents.

I smoked my first cigarette at an Al-Anon meeting. Ironic, yes?

I rationalized it all. Told myself that it wasn't me.

I did things, some terrible things, to people I loved, friends I cherished, all of whom deserved a better version of me than existed at the time.

I rationalized it all. Told myself that it wasn't me.

I still struggle with guilt now for what happened then. Realizing that the monsters weren't out there, but right here inside of me was an unsettling to say the least.

It took me almost twenty years to see it.

Once they'd all distanced themselves from me, I wallowed a bit. Things got a lot worse before they got better. I was bitter and angry and blinded to my role in it all.

I stopped smoking because I could feel myself becoming addicted. I wanted to feel my lungs burn and then do it again. Over and over. I knew that if I didn't stop then that I would never be able to. I knew that it would kill me someday just as I feared it would kill my parents.

I stopped drinking because I had no one to go to parties with anymore. I didn't drink again with any regularity until I was in college, until I was older, until I had a better grasp on it all.

I stopped because I was slipping down into the rabbit hole.

I live in fear of that rabbit hole every day.

All those years later, I realized why I had kept that box and tucked it away. I needed to read it when I was finally ready. I needed to face who I was, I needed to see the truth. I needed to understand that I wasn't the victim, but that they were.

I needed to confront my past.

I needed to take a long hard look in the mirror.

I'm not that girl anymore, but now I embrace the truth that I can become her. I know that I have been her. I remember. I own it.

I still haven't forgiven her yet, but we're on the way.

I'm learning to make peace with her, one mirror at a time.

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