Thursday, July 28, 2016

How To Teach a White Middle Class Teenage Boy About Privilege - in ten easy steps...

You guys know damned well that I'm not writing a how-to instructional guide here.

What I am doing, though, is telling you all a story about how I drove home an important point about privilege in this society to one of the groups of people in this world who needs to understand them the most.

White dudes.

Specifically, the white dudes that live in my house.

Before you all go get your pitchforks and accuse me of race baiting and all the other shit that online trolls like to accuse me and my liberal bitch self of...stop. I've been writing about privilege for a while now and if you don't like it, leave.

You don't even need to announce your departure in some grand obnoxious fashion. You can just go.

For the rest of you, though, I thought this was a pretty profound lesson this week.

On to the story....

The neighborhood we live in is a fairly isolated one. On purpose. There are only two ways in or out of our tiny little neighborhood, it's quiet and there isn't much traffic. We moved here on purpose.

One of the ways out of our neighborhood leads directly to a two lane highway with a posted speed limit of 60mph.

The other way weaves through another neighborhood before depositing you on a major city street. That neighborhood full of bigger, fancier houses. Lots are the same size as ours, by and large, but these are the custom homes with foo-foo kitchens and stonework and media rooms. They're also roughly twice the price of our houses.

We have a little park, they have a pavilion and a pool. We have separate HOAs, and I know they pay a whole lot more a month than we do, though I'm not sure what the actual numbers are anymore. I could investigate, but frankly I don't care.

Anyway, these two very different neighborhoods were developed around the same time, and when they were both developed, we knew that the large plat of land that runs between and adjacent to both neighborhoods would also be developed at some point in the future. With, GASP, smaller houses than ours on smaller lots in a higher density neighborhood.

Oh, the horror.

Then the recession hit. And the land sat and sat and sat until finally it was sold off to another developer, who...wait for it....still wanted to develop the land.

By now, the people in the fancy neighborhood to the South of us had become accustomed to their wide open spaces and small volume of traffic (that they still complained about because people from our neighborhood drove through...the audacity).

They tried to fight the development.

Then, at some point in the past, and I'm not sure even when...they started to get vocal. And pissed. "Their" neighborhood was threatened not just by decreasing property values because of the impending development, but even MORE people would drive down their beloved street. And they didn't want that.

So guess what they did???

They (or the HOA rep or their attorney or whoever they paid to do this) lobbied the City Council, demanding that they get some concessions in exchange for the development of the neighborhood that was always slated for development anyway. The land that none of them owned and had been zoned already when they all bought their fancy houses. They wanted traffic concessions.

Except here is the thing.

The street that connects the now-being-developed-neighborhood to the outside world is up by our neighborhood...not theirs.

They pushed for, and were granted, three traffic circles. In less than a half of a mile. Outside our neighborhood and between the new one...not in their neighborhood at all.

And they did it quietly, had it signed off and approved before we knew anything.

Consequently, we've had streets in our neighborhood shut down. For months. These asinine traffic circles are small and cumbersome and WAY too close together. The construction company with the contract has been dragging their ass, so the project has taken months longer than intended. Winter is coming (because it is Colorado and winter is always coming), and they aren't finished. Still. When the snow comes, driving around these idiotic traffic concessions will be bad enough, let alone trying to plow around them or get the school buses through.

The city council approved them.

The planning department can't do anything.

The works department that will have to plow this street can't do anything.

Our HOA can't do anything.

The owner of the new development is paying for them.

The school district didn't get to weigh in, even though this street is a bus route.

And the fancy, schmancy neighborhood that doesn't even live near this part of the street???

They put a sign up that says 


"NO CONSTRUCTION TRAFFIC ALLOWED BEYOND THIS POINT"


Yeah.

A giant fuck you to all of us up on this end, living with the construction they wanted, that they aren't paying for, that doesn't affect them. Don't you dare park in front of our houses.

This is the textbook definition of NIMBY. They did this purely to try and prevent development of someone else's land, to make life hell for the rest of their neighbors, and have done it in such a manner that the riff-raff from the contractors aren't even allowed to step foot on their precious area.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Nice, huh?

My son was complaining about the construction, as have we all been for a while now. For him especially, it's frustrating. He's trying to learn how to drive, needing to navigate not just half-installed tiny traffic circles but cones and ditches and lumpy pavement and everything else that comes with it. He's been vocal about his annoyance. When will it be finished? Why is it like this? Don't they know this isn't fair and that this is a terrible idea? Who approved this?

You should have seen his face when I told him WHY it was all happening, who had a hand in it and what the reason was.

He was shocked.

Well, yeah.

Now imagine that instead of talking about a street being fucked up because a neighborhood of people with more money and influence than we have demanded it, we're talking about the institutionalized racism that permeates almost everything in society. Imagine that you're being forced to live with shitty conditions and bias and unfair treatment in just about every aspect of your life because someone with more power, over there and blissfully unaffected, not only doesn't care that you suffer the consequences, but they actually had a hand in creating the situation in the first place.

Oh.

Snap.

See what I just did right there?

This inconvenience is temporary. Annoying. It's not life altering. It's not permanent. This isn't something he's going to have to live with every day for the rest of his life. And yet, he got it.

It was caused deliberately by those with more influence just because they could.

It's also one hell of a lesson to teach a white teenage boy.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the it's not about the emails edition

FOR THE LOVE PEOPLE.

I haven't written one of these in a while, so brace yourselves.


It's Not About The Emails...
I was a Bernie supporter. I am still a Bernie supporter. I'm also a person who would like to avoid the apocalypse, and as such, I'll vote for Hillary Clinton without flinching in November.

However.

And this is a really fucking big however....

The reason people are pissed isn't the emails, or their release of the emails. People aren't sad because their feelings were hurt.

No.

People are legitimately pissed because it's become abundantly clear that the DNC was rigged for Hillary from the beginning. Most people who've been paying attention since the beginning already knew that, the release of the emails just confirmed it all.

The party system is in shambles. They're both trying really hard to implode before our eyes right now, and though I wholeheartedly encourage the rapid destruction of the two party system, or at a bare minimum massive overhauls, I don't want people to get so caught up in it all that they forget what is happening in a few months.

The only reasons those emails were released now can be explained one of two ways.
1) The people involved with the release really want Trump to win.
2) They are real life Jokers and just want to watch the world burn.

I'm not even kidding right now.

Democrats, I'm talking directly to you right now, so hear me.

We have to clean house. We have to fix this fucked up party and make sure elections are fair. We have to.

First, though, we have to make sure that our own infighting doesn't get Trump elected. For real.

Nice Try, Fat Girl
I've spent my entire life being overweight. It's just a part of who I am. I've tried literally everything, made myself sick in the process....even developed an eating disorder.

And I was still fat.

I know, I know.....you aren't fat, you have fat.

Whatever.

I accept my body as it is. I do what I can to make healthy choices and live the best life I can, but I'm not beating myself up over the number on the scale.

It took me well over 30 years to get here, and we're going to stay here, dammit.

Anyway, for whatever reason many of my friends have been expressing frustration with their weight lately, and to them (and myself....on repeat), I say this.

All that negative self talk
All those horrible things you say in the mirror
All the crying and anger and self loathing
Imagine your best friend saying it to herself or himself
Imagine your daughter saying it to herself
Imagine your son saying it to himself
Sounds pretty horrendous, right?
So don't do it to yourself

Seriously, ladies. (And some of you men too).

We work overtime to teach our kids to accept themselves, but we don't do it for ourselves. 

You're beautiful.

I'm beautiful.

Stop believing anything else.

Your worth isn't tied to a size. 

Having said all that, I laughed this morning a bit. I drink these kefir and kale smoothies all the time. Everyone I know that drinks them (many after I've distributed my pamphlets about the benefits....kidding, I haven't made pamphlets yet LOL) for any length of time loses weight. Yay for them. And then there's me. 

My body is all NOPE. 

Nice try, fat girl.

p.s. (to me, from my body): don't stop drinking them or I will punish you in at least seven different ways

The Upside to this Crazy Ass Election....wait for it....
Hey now you know who the racists are in your family, on your friends list.

All the people who've worked overtime (or barely at all) to suppress their deeply rooted biases and hatred are stepping out into the spotlight. 

Hi you guys we can see the shit you like 
and comment on even if you aren't 
posting it directly to your newsfeed...
that is how Facebook works. 
So go ahead and pretend you're 
"colorblind" and that your issues 
aren't with Muslims, but "radical Islam" 
and that you don't oppose immigrants, 
just "illegals".....go ahead. 

We can see all the shit 
you actually like and comment on, 
so we know how you really feel.

Concussions, CTE and Real Life Consequences
At this point, it should be a foregone conclusion that repeated concussions are dangerous...and not just in the immediate possibility of death way, but in the long term neurological damage way.

It's not just football.

It's not just boxing.

It's not just extreme sports. 

It's any sport or activity that results in repeated head trauma, and there's a distinct possibility that sub-clinical repeated head injuries can do damage too. In other words, you might not need the formal diagnosis of repeated concussions for the damage to happen. 

Pretending that head injuries like this don't happen, pretending that this sport is safe just because we really like it, pretending that this helmet will protect kids (or adults) from all injuries....it's wrong. It's dangerous. We need to study brain injuries more, we need safeguards in place for everyone playing sports where these injuries happen, and people need to start taking it seriously.

The Furiosa Test
I haven't seen the new Ghostbusters yet. I hope to while it is still in theaters.

When people first started talking about the all-female reboot, you'd have thought the internet was going to explode. THEY ARE RUINING MY CHILDHOOD was the rally cry of the manbabies. 

Whatever.

Apparently, it's a really good movie that has women in almost all the roles kicking ass and taking names and not giving any fucks about dating or clothes or dudes. 

This is my favorite thing on the internet this week. 


Furiosa, FTW.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

My Dog is Defective

Almost exactly a year ago now, we adopted him. Oliver.

We'd found him through a rescue group, driven over an hour to go meet him. They were sure he was half lab, but had no idea what the rest of his genetic makeup might be. The people from the rescue who had been fostering him and the rest of the litter guessed he was some kind of terrier. The scruffy, wiry hair and little beard were hints. He was black with patches of gray, especially around his face.

Even though he was only about three or four months old at the time, he already looked like an old man.

Tiny old man dog.

We were hooked.

Not that I expected any less, incidentally.

You should know that if you ever were to take my husband and all my kids to "look" at a dog or a cat, you'd better be prepared to bring said animal home immediately.

They suck at window shopping.


Yeah, he was pretty cute.

He still is, even though I've decided that he's hopelessly defective.

Like, I should get a partial refund or at least enough to buy a Roomba.

I have had a dog for almost my entire life. I've even had one that was part wiry terrier before...but none of them have ever been like this guy.

He was supposed to be my son's dog. Supposed to at least be my husband's dog.

Nope.

Even when everyone else is home and willing to play with him or help him hold the couch down, he's following me everywhere I go, tangled under my feet and completely in the way. He follows me to the bathroom. Cries when I'm in the shower. Lays his head beside me when he asks if he can climb on the bed.

I'm his person.

I didn't want to be his person. 

I was the last dog's person. Jake. Saying goodbye to that guy was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, and I didn't want to get attached to another furry beast the same way ever again.

Nope.

Then he showed up and stared at me with those deep brown eyes, the ones so dark they're almost as black as his fur.

Fine.

Gosh.

He's a digger. He has holes all over the backyard. In the sandbox, in the grass. He dug up the garden last summer after he began a torrid love affair with the broccoli plant, requiring us to build a fence this year. The standalone planters on the patio are his current compulsion. It's as if he literally can't help himself. I've caught him standing inside the planters, determined to displace every single speck of soil.

He buries things all over the yard. We have a huge bag of rawhide chips in the pantry because I refuse to give him any more of them. As soon as he gets one, he whines and whines and prances and dances and begs to be let out so that he can bury his latest treasure somewhere out there. He digs them up too, but not until they've been morphed into a soggy brown mess.

He chews. He chews everything. All the damn things. When he was a puppy, I'd scold the kids for leaving whatever out where he could reach it, telling them that he was teething or couldn't help it or whatever. He hasn't been teething in months. And still, there is no greater joy in this dog's life than an overflowing recycle bin in on the side of the yard. His favorite are the plastic bottles...but really, he'll chew up just about anything. He should have outgrown it by now. He hasn't. I've kind of given up hope that he ever will.

He is weird. He likes to play well enough, I suppose. He'll chase a tennis ball and occasionally bring it back, but he's as likely to get distracted by the butterfly fluttering around the yard and try to chase that instead. Pretty sure he has dog ADHD. Which would make sense in this house.

We've had many, many dogs that liked to roll around with the kids, with my husband and play on the ground. This one can't handle it. He's conflict averse, even if it is play. He has zero tolerance for yelling or hitting or wrestling and will wedge himself in between whoever is doing it. If the kids even try to hug me a little too hard, he's there in an instant, staring with his disapproval, speaking up if things get out of hand.

None of those are even close to the weirdest thing about him, though.

The weirdest thing about this dog is that he has no appreciation for how good he has it, and by that I mean that he lives in a house with a toddler. Toddlers are essentially walking food dispensers. It doesn't help that the baby is in that super fun toddler stage where he just starts throwing food if he's done or bored or annoyed or if I give him a waffle when he wanted oatmeal. Every other dog we've had since we have had kids did what they were expected to do....cleaned up. One dog drew the line at lettuce, but I forgave him that one infraction. Otherwise, they'd eat every little morsel of food, licked the floors clean, would even lick the highchair and the low cabinets when necessary.

This dog? Nope.

He's picky. And lazy. He has no interest in half of the things this kid disposes of. None. Zero. Zip.

Even the good stuff sometimes, and I'll look at him, like really??? YOU ARE A DOG. THAT IS STEAK WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?

Nah.

He apparently missed the day when we went over the tacit agreement between dogs and humans. You know the one that says I agree to let him sit in the bathroom with me as long as he eats all the goldfish the kid drops. Either that or he just wasn't paying attention. Either is equally plausible. Told you guys he has dog ADHD.

Between him and the baby, I'm always taking something away from the other one, picking up little pieces of who knows what that one of them has scattered all over the house or the yard.

What the hell, Oliver?

What the hell?

As I type this, he's touching me with his paw. Because he always has to be touching me.


I'm his person.

And he's my dog.

Pretty soon, we're going to get up and walk to the bathroom, me and my defective shadow.

He's lucky he's cute.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

so this is the part where i remind people that this is a HUMOR post and that my dog is definitely not mistreated in any way....but it's less funny that way. no need to come for me, dog people. honest.

Friday, July 15, 2016

A Story About Wasps and Hate

I've been trying to find a way to write this post for a long time now. The topic of hate and intolerance and the damage it does is something I've written about quite a bit in the past, this is true. But this is different. For so long I felt like I was screaming into the wind, the echoes of my voice fading with each gust.

I believe that things have shifted. Or at least I certainly hope they have.

This idea that we are supposed to be making America great again....to whom does it apply exactly? It certainly doesn't apply to women or minorities or immigrants or Muslims or the LGBTQ community. Things have been pretty awful historically in many ways for most of those groups for most of the recorded history of this immature nation.

We forget sometimes that we're mere teenagers on the world scene. Entirely convinced that we know everything, unwilling to learn from the lessons the past desperately tries to teach us, resolute and stubborn.

Then it dawned on me. I had an almost perfect parallel tale to tell.

This is that tale.

I hope beyond hope that you'll read this and you'll get it. Drop those defenses for long enough to see the point I am trying to make. I hope. If not, I'll just keep screaming into the wind.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We have a problem with wasps in our yard. 



We always have, even when the house was brand new construction in a neighborhood nowhere near completion. 

Even then, we'd find them. 

The nests. 

They'd pop up brazenly on the front porch, taunting us with their presence, demanding that we see them and that we confront them immediately. 

There were nests that we'd find only after they'd been there a while, sometimes by following the invisible trails in the air as the angry fliers returned home. Tucked under eaves and in corners, they grew and grew until we discovered them. 

Then there are the nests that form impossibly in places you can never even see. The only evidence demonstrating their existence, the persistent wasps circling the area. Hidden away, inside play structures and mirrors on the sides of the car, they'd fester and fester for who knows how long. 

Those first ones, the obvious ones, we'd knock them down as soon as we found them of course. We had to protect our children, ourselves. There's even a designated broom in the garage for tasks like this one, when we're required to swat them away while perched on tables or chairs or ladders. We swing away, we fight. We have cans of wasp nest spray reserved just for this purpose. We're always prepared. Those nests don't last long because we take care of them immediately.

The sneakier nests, the ones tucked just out of view...now, those ones are harder to deal with. There are bizarre positions we are forced to put ourselves in to deal with them, more harm we're exposing ourselves to potentially just to remove them. Sometimes we need to call in more reinforcements. Sprayers on the hose almost always get the job done, but they anger the wasps even more. 

The hidden nests, the ones that are impossible to see...those ones cause the most trouble. They are often quite large before we even know they exist. Huge, active, threatening - and yet invisible. Finding and destroying these ones is always something of a challenge, often requiring us to take things apart carefully and with much planning. It can't be done alone, there must always be a team involved in case things rapidly spiral out of control. To reach the nests, sometimes we have to destroy something else. Things get broken. 

The obvious nests all get taken care of right away, with minimal involvement. We can pat ourselves on the back and convince ourselves that we've done our jobs as responsible homeowners, as protective parents. But truthfully, it was pretty simple.

The sneakier ones, they're often quite scary by the time we find them. Usually it's the kids who find them, actually. They are pestered by the wasps, they can hear the buzzing and try to locate the nests. And truthfully, sometimes we're tired. Sometimes we don't want to deal with finding it and fixing it right now. Sometimes we call in the kids and tell them to play inside. We're too worn out. We don't want to do it now. We'll fix it tomorrow or the next day or the next.

And do you know what happens?

The nests multiply in size. 

They get bigger

and bigger

and bigger

And we've let them. 

When we finally get around to seeking them out and destroying them, we've put ourselves in more danger. We have exposed our kids to more potential danger. We've allowed those around us to be exposed to more danger. We haven't made anything easier, we just put it off. 

Those aren't even the worst ones. The hidden ones, the invisible nests. Those are notorious and the most difficult to find, to locate. When you realize where they are hiding, it's fairly common to go through a little grief process of sorts. Denial, Anger, Bargaining. Depression. They aren't in there! They can't be in there! It's coming from next door! Why are they in the plastic climbing structure??? How did they even get in there??? I can't find the hole....how is this even possible? Maybe I'm just hearing things. Maybe if we let it go, it'll magically fix itself. We can just ignore it and it will go away. Winter is coming, right??? How many more weeks until the nights dip below freezing? Why does this always have to happen to us? Ugh, it is going to be hard to fix this. Why can't we just have one goddamn summer without waging some war on these things? Why???

Eventually, though, there is Acceptance. Because there has to be. The nest, wherever it is, has to be found and destroyed. There are times that the strategies take a while to develop. Plans are made. Tools and personnel recruited. It's so much more complicated. So much more dangerous. So much more likely to result in someone getting hurt, and it usually ends in something getting destroyed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Now what if I told you that this, though it is an absolutely true depiction of our annual battle with wasps...isn't a story about wasps at all?

What if I told you that this story isn't about my husband and I, what if I told you that this was about you? Each and every one of you?

What if I told you that the wasps weren't wasps at all, but they were acts of intolerance, of bias, of hate, of racism?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Those obvious ones, well, they're still going to be the easiest to deal with right? The times where any person with half of a conscience could agree that whatever transpired was wrong - those are the slam dunks. You speak up, you reject the words or the actions because it is easy. You can pat yourself on the back afterwards too, because you did the right thing.

Because the right thing was easy. It didn't require you to put yourself in danger at all. You weren't at risk of losing anything. No one was reasonably going to get angry with you. 

You can intervene there and declare to yourself and the world that you aren't racist or sexist, you don't discriminate against gay people because that one time someone said faggot and you shook your head disapprovingly. 

That was easy.

The sneaky nests, though, that's when things start to get more complicated. The parallel here would be the friends, the family members - the obvious racists that you love but tolerate because they're old or they're family or they have some other redeeming quality and so you say nothing when they rail on about building walls or the dangers of Muslims. They get a pass. The jokes that you laugh at. The things you tell your children when you're insisting that your little girl sit like a lady and dismiss bad behavior from your son because boys will be boys. 

Those sneaky nests aren't totally hidden. No, quite the opposite. They're right there...you just can't see them unless you're looking. If you're lucky, you have to choose to see them. If you're lucky, those jokes, those words, those labels never apply to you. Those biases don't interfere with your life. You don't have to pay attention if you don't want to. 

Maybe you can't see them right now. Maybe you know they are there, but aren't really looking yet. Maybe you aren't prepared to deal with what you might have to do if you find them and so you don't even bother to look. Maybe you just don't want to do anything about it, and maybe you can just walk away and call the kids inside and shut the door because it doesn't need to be your problem right now. 

The hidden nests in this parallel are the hardest to find, of course. They represent the latent racism, the latent biases, the deep rooted things we believe about other people that we convince ourselves aren't there at all, even when that act of convincing ourselves makes the biases even worse. It gives them more power because we refuse to admit they exist at all. We tell ourselves we're colorblind. We know that is a lie because we all see all the unique things about everyone we encounter. The hidden nests, the invisible nests, those ones get bigger and bigger and bigger and do the most damage. The invisible nests are the systemic inequalities, the institutionalized racism, the laws and the policies. 

They are the way we've always done things. 

To find those nests, those sources of the evil, we have no choice but to dig. We have to plan, we need help. Things are going to get ugly. Some things are going to get destroyed and some people are going to get hurt. If we ignore them, though, those of us with the ability to ignore them, nothing gets better.

It only gets worse. 

Even if those wasps pose no threat to you right now, someday they will. 

I can promise you that. 

So you have a choice, those of you out there with a choice at all. You can choose to help dig, do the hard work required to reveal and destroy the roots of intolerance and hate even if it means some people scream at you and that some things have to fundamentally change and that you must accept that the way things have always been was never good for most people and that some institutions may need to be ruined in order to build them back up safely again...or you can gather up your kids and shut the door.

The choice is yours.

Me? 

I'm grabbing the broom.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

6th Annual 30 Day Photography Challenge CONTEST!!!!!!

It is always hard to choose photos for the contest with so many wonderful submissions!

These are the 23 nominees for the contest.  Each will be captioned and then numbered, at random.  To vote, please click on your favorites in the poll.  It is on the left margin of the blog.

<======= Over there

You can vote for more than one picture if you'd like, I will set it up so that you may vote for one or all of them. The only way for votes to be properly counted is to register them in the poll. Leaving a comment isn't enough. The poll may only be visible on web editions, not mobile. If you are on a cell phone, click the link at the bottom of the post to "view web version", which will allow you to vote. The voting will end at Noon MST, Thursday, July 14th.

Anyone who visits this page can vote, so get your friends to join!

Also, if you're on a web version, you can click the images to enlarge them and scroll through them easier.

The prizes you are all playing for are listed at the bottom, with links to the amazing sponsors. Please show them some love and good luck!


1. Coffee and Joy
Joelayne Battista

2. Tweet
Christie Huff

3. The Sign
Rachel Reis

4. Shuffleboard
Jennifer Tallman

5. The Bridge
Gretchen Chateau

6. Big Sky
Lillian Connelly

7. Forest
Tiffany Cruskie

8. Little White Dress
Krysten Hoversen

9. Rose Water
Katie McAllister

10. Peacock
Melissa Zamora

11. Lily
Carolyn Mears

12. Ocean Waves
Jennifer Maidl

13. River Rocks
Angie Simas

14. Old Barn
Meghan Spencer

15. Horizon
Melissa Ray

16. Book light
Kelly Acker

17. Migraine
Vanessa Brookman

18. Wildflower
Ashley DeBie

19. Sequoias
Lisa Seino


20. Rear View
Dina Fentiman

21. Blossoms
Mark Rodriguez

22. Ballpark
Melissa Keen

23. Little Swimmer
Paula Gill

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The prizes you are playing for this year include:

Some of My Most Popular Posts