All the Stuff… 4

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 All The Stuff

Oh August, you tricky little bastard. You come in all sweltering and sticky and full of anger and tumultuousness. And when you leave there’ll be a sadness that summer is winding down. The freedom and the carefree days of bare feet and entire days spent in a bathing suit and the permission to have a beer at noon… all a memory as we creep towards fall and schedules and structure and life as we thought we knew it.

Last week my kids went off to school. My youngest in Kindergarten and the older two…  I forget what grades they’re in. Their grades are insignificant in the scheme of school milestones. Lest you think I’m a callous uncaring mother, just know that next year when I have one starting Middle School and one starting High School I’ll be all over them and tearful and doting and clinging. I will become the mom version of a stalker. They will be so smothered with me grasping at their waning childhood that they will look back on this year grateful that their little sister took some attention away from them. They’ll get their time. But this year, right now, it’s all about my youngest. She pranced off to school full of glee and anticipation and wonder. And every afternoon she bounces off  the bus excited and brimming with things to tell me. And I’m soaking up every bit of it because the older two are indication that this will not last.

Anyways, we’re beginning the process of settling in to our new routines and that means…

More time to write, more time to read. Woo hoo! *pops the cork on the champagne*

That’s not to say it hasn’t been a difficult month. Some pretty crazy stuff going on out there. It’s hard to not get down and dejected with all that’s happening. A new terrorist group that seems even scarier than the ones before. A loss of a beloved actor and comedian. A U.S. city that looks like a flashback to 1960. The realization that we still have a long way to go with some things.

Out of all this strife comes the writing. Some pretty amazing words that will be burned into my mind for a long long time.

REDdog at Shed Reflections wrote a heartfelt insight Excuse Me, I’m Feeling Suicidal. One of the best pieces I’ve read on the subject of depression and suicide. “…so much of the talking has been about the talking about it.” He makes it personal and sheds some light in his direct and matter of fact manner.

The wry and funny and seriously real Twindaddy and the so talented I can’t even comment on her poems out of fear of sounding stupid Hasty Words came out against the haters in The Unwitting Villain. I am going to print this poem and just hand it over next time someone brings their negativity into my world.

And there’s Samara…  I honestly don’t know what I can say about Samara without sounding like a gushing fangirl. Her words are some of the most powerful I’ve ever read. Sometimes her words speak to me and get somewhere deep inside my subconscious and wake up a sleeping thought. She leaves me in awe every time I read her work, whether from shock and laughter or from the soul piercing rawness that she lays out when she’s straying from her hilariously snarky snarkedness… She recently posted on Stories That Must Not Die a post titled I Bleed Therefore I Am. I really can’t say anything about it. It is something you need to just go and read.

And last, this post from BlogHer, The Exercise That Opened My Eyes to White Privilege. This should be required reading. It should be an exercise done in every high school and college in the country. It should be done over and over again until people get it. Until people stop saying “Yeah, but…”  Until people stop trying to redirect conversations about race. Until.

And now, I’m done.

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“The Talk” That Proves Racism Is Alive

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*This is a blogpost I wrote earlier this year. Sadly it bears repeating…

unknown, via Twitter

“The police in New York City
They chased a boy right through the park
And in a case of mistaken identity
The put a bullet through his heart
Heart breakers with your forty four, I wanna tear your world apart”

-The Rolling Stones, Heartbreaker

*This is a blogpost I wrote earlier this year. Sadly it bears repeating…

Do you worry about what others think of you? I know I do. I worry about it too much. My worries are there because I want people to like me. But imagine if simply being you made others uncomfortable. Imagine if walking around in your skin caused fear. What if upon seeing you a person’s eyes enlarged, they backed away, they avoided eye contact or even turned and walked the other way.

Last summer I read a post by Questlove (Drummer of the Roots) on the Huffington Post blog. He wrote about how he has to worry, all the time -everywhere he goes, about what others think of him. Of how they may react to his appearance. I cried quietly as I read it. He detailed living his life, walking around trying to not be imposing. He described what it’s like to put fear in people simply by looking the way you look…

“All the time I’m in scenarios in which primitive, exotic-looking me (6’2″, 300 pounds, uncivilized afro for starters) finds himself in places that people that look like me aren’t normally found. I mean, what can I do? I have to be somewhere on Earth, correct?”

He routinely turns down invitations to swanky places because it’s “been hammered into his DNA to not ‘rock the boat’ “

I won’t attempt to summarize any further what he wrote because I won’t be able to do it justice. You’ll have to (click the highlighted link above) and read it for yourself. He wrote this right after the acquittal verdict in the Trayvon Martin case.

I wish I could say that his story is rare, an anomaly. Sadly it’s not. It is so common that African American parents in our country have to explain to their sons at a young age how people may perceive them and react to them.

They have The Talk with their sons.

No, not the sex talk. This is a conversation aimed at preventing young black men from inciting violence or suspicion or incarceration because of the color of their skin. This conversation informs these young boys that they must tread lightly around white men and police and other authority figures. Tragic stories abound of young black men being roughed up by the police for no reason. Young black men being killed because they didn’t defer to authority even in the face of extreme and obvious injustice. Young black men being shot because they were simply there.

Don’t talk back to white men.

Don’t try to explain, even when they have obviously mistaken you for someone else.

Don’t run down the street, someone might think you stole something.

Don’t hang out on the corner with a group of friends, they might assume you’re in a gang.

Don’t reach for your phone, they might think you’re reaching for a gun.

Move slowly.

Keep your hands visible at all times.

You may say that these are reasonable instructions for anyone. But I don’t know anyone personally who has been arrested or killed who did nothing wrong, committed no crime. Because I’m a white woman living in suburbia.

I have never had to tell my son that if he is running down the street that someone may assume he has committed a crime. Think about the absurdity of that for a minute. Don’t run. Your game of tag or your attempt to race to a friend’s house may be perceived as a threat. Think about telling your son not to run down the street. Ever. That is the reality you face if you are the parent of a young black boy.

This isn’t a new thing. The Talk dates back to 1863 following the Emancipation Proclamation. When slaves were freed in rebel states they were told to not celebrate openly, to essentially “fly under the radar” to avoid giving angry rebels cause to go after them. What I learned after the Trayvon Martin case was that The Talk still exists. It’s still relevant and necessary.

The Talk is a sad part of coming of age in the black community. And I had never heard of it before. Such is the privilege of being white in America. You can say you know racism is still alive in our country. You can have your heart ache with each new story of a son and a brother being shot. But if you’re white in America, you don’t know what it’s like. This is a reality that has been around for over a century and most of us have never and will never experience what it’s like to live in this kind of fear.

Right after the verdict in the Martin case, another trial was beginning. A 76 year old man was on trial for the murder of his 13 year old neighbor. He thought that Darius Simmons, a young black boy, had broken into his home days earlier. He shot him in the chest and killed him.

Recently our national attention was tuned in to the “Loud Music” trial. Michael Dunn faces up to 60 years in prison for firing 10 rounds into a car of young black men, killing 17 year old Jordan Davis.

These are just the cases that make the news. How many cases are there that don’t result in an arrest, that never catch the fleeting attention of the media? Democracy Now reported that in a study of 2012 shootings, that “at least 136 unarmed African Americans were killed by police, security guards and self-appointed vigilantes in 2012.”

Becoming numb to these horrific stories, to these appalling tales, is not an option. You can’t be numb if you look at their faces.

The faces of these children who were murdered.

These sons who were loved and adored as much as you and I love and adore our own children.

These are children. And they are gone forever.

Because they went to buy Skittles.

Because they were taking out the trash.

Because they turned the radio up.

For buying Skittles

Walking home after buying Skittles

He was taking out the trash

Taking out the trash

He turned the music up too loud.

Playing music too loud.

You can’t look at these faces and feel numb.

If you’re like me you feel kicked in the gut. Despair.

I see a little of my son in each of them. I feel pain for the parents of these boys. I feel sorrow for them because I know a little bit about what it’s like to lose someone you love at such a tender age.

And I feel enraged.

I feel pulse racing, heat inducing, hand trembling rage.

And I don’t know what to do with that.

But I will have The Talk with my son.

With my white,suburban dwelling, young son.

Not for the same reason and not the exact same talk. I will explain to my son that because he is growing up  as a young white man in our country that this talk isn’t essential to his survival. But that he needs to know that it is essential for many boys his age.

I will explain that some of his friends are having The Talk with their parents because without it they may inadvertently put themselves, their very lives, at risk.

I will tell him that he needs to know that racism, which baffles a young innocent boy like him, is still present. That he needs to know that what goes on around him, even if it doesn’t affect him directly, is still worth his concern and attention. That even if by the time he has children The Talk isn’t necessary, that he can never forget it.

I will tell him that to forget our ugly sordid past with racism in this country is to ignore and deny a threat to our humanity.

That to forget allows it to fester and grow and continue.

Questlove’s story has stuck with me since I read it many months ago. It was heartbreaking. And it illustrates the magnitude of the problem. A noticeable famous figure, on t.v. five nights a week for the last five years, still encounters fear and racism.

Yes, racism is alive and well. And it’s ludicrous that anyone would need to be informed of that.

It’s not obvious to those of us who don’t feel the brutal brunt of it on a regular basis. Many people will scoff and point to our black president. Some will recite all of the ridiculous defenses and excuses that have been trotted out by lawyers and pundits in a lame attempt to explain how and why these children were killed.

But denying it is extremely dangerous.

Denying it or downplaying it allows it to continue.

Sticking our heads in the sand may seem comforting at first. Ignorance is bliss and all.

But eventually that sand becomes suffocating as will the cold reality of who we are- what kind of people we become if we can see the faces of these children who have been killed because of how they look, because of their race- and don’t at the very least acknowledge it. If we do that then we become no better than him:

Michael Dunn, upon hearing his verdict.

Michael Dunn, who shot Jordan Davis,upon hearing his verdict.

We become the personification of self righteous indignation when we shrug off the realities that black families in our country still face.

Jordan Davis’ mom put it best,

“You can’t pretend anymore. The blinders are off now. If there is this level of racism, it can’t be under the table anymore. It has to be exposed so we can deal with it.”

I say that we can’t deny racism as long as parents are still having The Talk.

The conversation that’s been a necessity -a tool of survival in the African American community for 151 years- when that conversation is no longer needed, then we can declare victory. Then we can say that it was a part of our past, no longer plaguing our society.

When it’s no longer necessary to “hammer it into (the) DNA” of young black boys, then and only then, will we have justice for Trayvon… for Darius… for Jordan.

Update, August 22, 2014: And now for Michael Brown.

Big Mike Jr Brown via Facebook

Big Mike Jr Brown via Facebook

The Writing Process Blog Tour

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-photo: Stephen Depolo via Flickr

-photo: Stephen Depolo via Flickr

 

“Staring at empty pages, Centered ’round the same ole plot”

-Traffic, Empty Pages

Earlier this summer one of my favorite bloggers nominated me to participate on The Writing Process Blog Tour. My first thought was process? You mean there should be a process? My second thought was me? You want to know how and why and what I write? I find how others write fascinating so I was excited to be included.

Gene’O is the brilliant mind behind Just Gene’O and Sourcerer Blog and  contributor at Part Time Monster. If you check out his blog and cruise around a little you’ll see why I’m a fan. Probably one of  the most versatile bloggers, he writes about music and comics and does photoblogging as well. And when he finds a cause or injustice he needs to write about, watch out. Needless to say I was flattered that he asked me to participate.

Now on to the questions about my writing (gulp) process….

Why do I write what I do?

Quite simply, I write about whatever is on my mind. Sometimes it’s lighthearted commentary or observations. Sometimes I write album reviews or profile songs I have “playing on repeat.” Literally. I get obsessed with new music. In college my roommates had to hide my new Phish cd from me. I occasionally write about my kids and parenting. Other times it’s about issues I’m passionate about. If someone says something really stupid and misogynistic I’ll probably write about it. Racism, feminism, poverty, injustice to marginalized people, these tend to be the things I feel the need to speak out about. I also enjoy the opportunity to exorcise some anger when writing about things that get me fired up. The thing I love about blogging is I make the rules and I can write about what I want when I want. Isn’t that we all love about it?

How does my writing process work?

Music.

The name of my blog is from “Across the Universe” (The Beatles). That song sums up everything I feel about writing, about life, about this blog.

I start every blog post with a lyric from a song. I do this for a few reasons. Music is my favorite medium. It has always been what inspires me. I don’t have any musical talent, but it’s been a part of my life since I can remember. At times a song lyric or song title inspires an idea for a blog post. Other times I finish a post and have to search for a lyric that seems representative or connected in some way to what I wrote. And I always listen to music when I write. Sometimes the mood of a song dictates what type of writing I do. I try to just go with it and let it guide me.

Which brings me to the second part of my process. I try to write by instinct or inspiration. If I start writing and I don’t feel something I stop. My dashboard is full of unfinished posts. Some of them I’ve revisited after months of languishing and finished them with a new thought or direction. The seed may have been planted but not ready to produce until much later. Others may never see the light of day. I try not to sweat it.

I prefer to write on my laptop but have notebooks full of writings and scribblings and notes. I use these when I need to write on the go. Carpool line has seen some scratchings. Swim practice has become a surprisingly fruitful place for writing. The white noise of swimmers rhythmically moving in sync through the water is quite calming. If I’m desperate and am caught without my laptop or a notebook I’ll reluctantly type notes in my phone.

And the editing. Dear lord, the editing. And by editing I mean cutting. I tend to be long-winded. I have rarely written something that didn’t need at least 500 words shaved off. This has been one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from blogging. In every other aspect of life I live by “less is more”. Except for writing. And cheese. And wine. Anyways, editing takes me ridiculously long to accomplish. I’m hoping that as I enter my second year of blogging this part will come easier. (I mean, this whole paragraph was probably completely unnecessary but I’m leaving it in to make a point).

How does my work differ from others of it’s genre?

Unless you count random as a genre, I don’t know if I have one. And I’m not sure if what I do is any different from any other blogger who writes about issues and music and  any idea that pops in to their head. The difference is in simply that we all have different ways of processing the world around us. We all have different thoughts on any given subject. If I know I want to write about a particular subject I purposely avoid reading blogs or opinion pieces on that topic. I don’t want to be influenced and I don’t want to see that someone has already captured my thoughts. If I see someone expressing what I had intended to say, I’ll abandon the whole idea. I need to know that what I wrote came wholly from me and other than reading articles to gather information, I prefer to write in the dark so to speak. That being said, I am often inspired by what I read from other bloggers.

What Am I Working On At the Moment?

I would love to say I was working on a book. And I was a little, here and there, before I started this blog. It’s been years since I’ve written anything that would be read by another soul, so I have taken a break from working on the book while I hone my writing skills here. Writing for an audience and hitting publish definitely makes you critique and edit and learn. I hope to resume working on my book soon. I’m almost always thinking about it, playing out scenes and ideas in my mind. But right now, this blog is my focus. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to devote more time to it now that I don’t have a little one at home with me during the day.

So that’s it! A peek inside my lack of a process. Now I get to pass the tour on to three bloggers:

Lizzi of Considerings – Life in Silver Linings Lizzi is a generous soul who’s words will touch you. She doesn’t hold back and brings her heart along for the ride. She is one of my favorite bloggers and if you read her blog you’ll fall in love with her too.

Mandi of Cellulite Looks Better Tan Mandi writes with a voice that puts you there. You feel like you are walking along with her, living in her world. It’s an intangible thing and one of those things you wish you could learn but it’s probably innate. Funny, serious and everything in between.

Racheal of Rachealizations Lover of cheese and all things positive. Funny and contemplative and insightful. Check out her blog and see the hidden gems inside.

So get to it people! Share with us the secrets to your madness- I mean writing.

I’ve Had Enough of “Them”

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“Will we ever understand? Or is the fate of man at hand? Will we live or shall we die?

How will we ever know if we never try?”

-Lenny Kravitz, What the Fuck Are We Saying

Them.

It can mean different things. It can be people who look different. It can be people of different nations. Different cultures. People who pray to a different god. People who love differently. People who live a different lifestyle.

Them. It’s a lie. I don’t believe in it. I don’t subscribe to the cult of judgement that seems to accompany the mentality of them.

They must be savages to riot in the street.

They must have done something to deserve being shot while unarmed.

They must not be strong enough/ have enough faith/ love enough to take their own life.

They must be filthy and ignorant to be ravaged with a horrendous virus.

They must believe in an evil god to live in perpetual war.

Statements dripping in self righteousness and contempt. Statements born of fear or ignorance or shame. Or all three. But nothing written or shouted or proclaimed from such a place is ever true. These things are not uttered in an attempt to help, to discuss, to heal. To rectify or repair. No, these words and others like them are a fallacy meant to perpetuate the myth of them.

Is it comforting, the idea of them? Is it a primal mindset we have yet to outgrow?

Lately it’s been too much to take. The harshness. The shrill. It’s become deafening. The evening news has become my affliction. Social media has become a playground for the ignorant to show their bitter hearts. And I’m wondering when it will all be done. When will we collectively say enough? When will people push through the bullshit of themThe other people. People not like you. It is so simplistic in it’s thinking that I wonder how this mindset has survived all these years. Decades. Centuries. How does fallacy survive? How does it endure?

“The government’s the devil’s hands. It’s a lie and it’s a scam. They wind us up, put us down and watch us go. And if you close your eyes, there’s a big surprise”

A piece of dirt in a disputed land. A land claimed by both sides as holy ground. Powers on both sides committing crimes and atrocities. All in the name of religion. People dying and children orphaned or maimed or traumatized. Because of them. They pray to a different god. They tread on our sacred ground. They are different from us. Propaganda demonizes the enemy. Because war cannot continue if people don’t believe in them. People on both sides. They will grow weary and war tired if they are allowed to see similarities.

Palestinians crying after seven children were killed by bombs in a refugee camp (Mahmud Hams/ AFP)

Palestinians crying after seven children were killed by bombs in a refugee camp (Mahmud Hams/ AFP)

Israeli's taking refuge from Hamas rockets in a sewer pipe (Reuters)

Israeli’s taking refuge from Hamas rockets in a sewer pipe (Reuters)

And the people caught in the middle? The people who retreat to a bomb shelter throughout the day? The people who’s children are killed and who’s homes are destroyed? They aren’t that different. They want to live in peace. Comfort. Security. They want it all to stop. They want to be able to eat and work and play and raise their families. But it won’t stop. Not until we stop seeing them. Not until we start seeing us. Seeing our children’s faces in a sewer pipe. Seeing our lives and hearts ripped apart because our child was killed by a senseless war that rages on. One that feeds on the notion of them.

 “I’ve been lost in the name of love. And we kill our brothers daily in the name of god. We’d better chill before we take on some tribulation. And if we realized? Then we’d make a little love”

Yet another young black man killed. Unarmed. Shot. More than once. Unarmed and walking down the street. Not a new story. A story as old as our nation. A story that continues to play out with heartbreaking frequency. A story that continues because of them.

And I’m angry. Because we should be better than this. I’m angry because I don’t care what he was wearing or what symbols or signs he flashed in a photo that seems to become some kind of implicit justification. Because he was shot. He was unarmed and he was killed. And this has happened again. And again.

(N.Y. Daily News)

(N.Y. Daily News)

I’m angry because it is clear that if you look a certain way you are living in danger every day that you venture out in the world. Because of how you look. Because of assumptions rooted in ignorance and hatred. Because of ideas that are so ingrained that many people don’t even realize they subscribe to them. And it doesn’t matter that he was college bound. But the nature of such incidents is to place the burden on the deceased to prove that they had a future. It cannot be assumed that they had a future. It must be stated and reiterated and shouted from a megaphone. That he had a future. The sick cruel nature of our world. To value the life of someone over another based on a certain path deemed worthy. Because if he wasn’t on a particular path, he wasn’t us. He was them.

There is no them.

There’s just us.

Strip away the superficial. The colors, the accents, the mannerisms, the dialects.

The religions.

Eliminate them because they are superfluous. They don’t matter.

And what do you have? The same. The same red blood coursing through blue veins. The same hearts, four chambers pumping life sustaining blood. The same brains firing off directions and information and knowledge. The same hearts. The hearts that ache with loss. The hearts that want peace and safety. The hearts that yearn for life and joy and love. Boil it all down. That’s what we all want. The rest is bullshit. Life. Laughter. Dignity. Security. That’s what they want. Just like you. They are like you.

I’ve had enough of them.

I’m tired of political leaders and power grabbers and game players and antiquated prejudice telling me about them. I’m tired of the delusion being repeated. Causing damage. Destruction. Death. Shame. Disgrace. Someone somewhere has a stake in them. Someone needs to keep us in fear. Someone profits or exalts or rejoices in division rather than unity. Someone wants to inhibit change and progress. Someone wants to see only the differences instead of the similarities.

Look around. Watch. Listen to what people say. Look for them. Whether it’s politicians from disparate parties. Whether it is land hungry dictators. Whether its someone trying to justify a boy being gunned down. Whether it is people offering an overly simplistic view of mental illness and suicide. Whether its people advocating sending immigrant children back to the horrors they just fled. If they are speaking in them, then there’s an agenda. If they are speaking in them, there’s no will to unite or to bring together or to resolve. The aim is to divide further. To fortify the barriers to progress. To keep us in a place of judgement and hate.

And when you see it, don’t buy into it.

Don’t let them cloud your thinking.

Call them out.

Call bullshit on them. 

‘Cause I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of them.

 

Three Types of Friends… Make That Four

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 Walk-Together-

One of my best friends summed up friendship like this: You have the friends that will come to your wedding, the friends that will show up at your funeral and then you have the friends who will be there to pluck your chin hairs and wax your lip if you’re in a coma.

Yep.

Chances are we all have or have had those friends.

Wedding friends 

jillkevinheinzyoutube

They may be the ones who want to celebrate a special day with you because they love you and are happy for you. These are the people that have walked through life and past relationships with you and are truly happy to see you enter a new phase. But in addition to these guys, there are the fun time friends. These are the people that are fun to party with, that know how to have a good time. They will be the first on the dance floor and the ones making the funniest toasts.

Funeral friends

Funeral-Crashers

These are the friends who loved us dearly and are devastated at our demise. But this also includes a sub-group of “friends.” The ones that want to be able to say they were your friend. Even if they really weren’t. Everyone wants to say they were close to the dead guy. I don’t know why, but death seems to bring out a weird element of not wanting to miss out on the grief and glorifying the dead. Some people feed on this and revel in latching on to the grief. They want to be able to whisper about the loss and shake their head in sadness at the next cocktail party. They want to be able to impart details about the accident or illness that not everyone else is privy to. Their motivation? Who knows? Possibly to seem well connected? A dead guy can’t call you out on the true nature of your “friendship.”

The I’ll Visit You While You’re In A Coma Friends

beaches2

These are the true friends. These are the ones who will come see you long after all the others have moved on and forgotten you. These are the friends that truly know you. They know you wouldn’t want the doctors or the nurses or your family members to watch you waste away in a hospital bed with a hairy lip. They are the ones who know what kind of stuff makes you laugh and they will sit there telling you jokes and funny stories just hoping you’re laughing somewhere inside your coma world. They know your quirks and eccentricities and will make sure the hospital gives you the type of pillow you like and will make you playlists of your favorite music to listen to in coma land. If you have friends like this, hold on to them. They are few and they are precious.

Then there’s the WTF friends

singlewhitefemale

You know. The crazy stalker friends. Or the frenemies. Or the jealous of every good thing that happens to you friends. Or the “I’m going to blurt out something private and embarrassing about you at a social gathering” friend. These are all too strange and unique in their own twisted ways to get their own categories so I’m just lumping them all together. But I do have a few juicy examples to share with you….

WTF friend: I’m going to get really upset with you for breaking up with your boyfriend. I’m going to tell you how great you guys were together and you are meant for each other. I’m even going to get a little pissed when you move on and start dating someone else. And then, about a day later, I’m going to have sex with your ex boyfriend. The one I was just mad at you for leaving. Then I’m going to tell you about it with a sheepish “Sorry?” True story. I don’t know if this was a passive aggressive move or just… who the hell knows? But the problem with this story is not the sleeping with the guy part, it’s the guilt trip that proceeded the carnal deed.

WTF friend: I’m going to be your BEST friend. There for you no matter WHAT. Except for when you fall in love and get engaged. Then I’m going to be pissed. And on the night that you tell all of your friends in hopes of celebrating said engagement, I’m going to pout and not speak to you the whole night. I’m going to suck all of the air out of the room until you decide to leave early and drown your sorrows in late night Waffle House grease with your betrothed. True story.

WTF friend: When you’re, oh, about four months pregnant with your third child, I’m going to have a little chat with you. I’m going to wait until you just had an ultrasound and found out you’re having a little girl. I’m going to listen as you tell me how relieved you are that everything looked ok and the baby seems perfectly healthy. And as soon as I’m done exclaiming in glee over your news I’m going to tell you that I want you to come to my house and watch an abortion video with me. Because I’m a good friend like that. I’m going to say these very words to you: “I couldn’t let you abort that baby any more than you could let me put a gun to (insert 8 year old son’s name here) head and shoot him.” W.T. ‘effin F???? This is a true story. I know. Bat shit, right?

Yes, I had all three of these WTF friends. And yes, I dumped them after each scenario played out. I can put up with a lot. I can be really forgiving. I have a large tolerance for annoying behaviors and mistakes. I’ve actually been told on many occasions by many different people that I am too forgiving. But with me there’s always a line. It may be way down the line from where others would draw it, but I have one. And once you cross it we are done. Cause, seriously, WTF?

And thank god I have the other friends. I have the wedding friends who laughed at these WTF stories and made them hilarious in a “You have to laugh because it’s so messed up” kind of way. The friends who can drop a dry one-liner in reference to this craziness that has you laughing so hard you are almost grateful for the WTF’s, if just for the humor value. And I have the friends that will come see me if I’m ever in a coma. True, genuine friends. These friendships don’t dabble in judgement or jealousy or pettiness. These are the friends that will celebrate your successes and cry with your misfortunes. They are the ones that can make you laugh, the one’s who can finish your sentence. The ones who when you see them after a long absence it’s like you’re transported right back to your dorm room and the four of you never missed a beat. The ones you can tell anything to. The friends who nourish your soul and seeing them is like going home.

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Happy International Friendship Day! Do you have friends that have helped you keep your sanity? What are your crazy WTF? friend stories?

Feminist Friday: #Twitterpurge, Women, and Internet Culture

Gretchen Kelly:

I had not heard of #twitterpurge until reading Diana’s post. This is just another example of the problems we still face in our society regarding women’s bodies, misogyny and cyber bullying. Please feel free to join in the discussion over at Part Time Monster.

Originally posted on Part Time Monster:

Over the weekend Something Happened on the Internet. Well, something happened on Twitter. It was called #twitterpurge, and though it seems to have slowed down a lot since then, it hasn’t quite ended. The hashtag was primarily used for revenge porn, with users posting nude photos of ex-girlfriends or lovers under the hashtag. The #twitterpurge hashtag is a stark contrast to #Yesallwomen, a movement that created mini-texts of empowerment and confession using tweets. This time, we were reminded that the Internet is not a safe place for women.

So what is this hashtag, and where did it come from? Last year, a film called The Purge was released. The premise was that, for one night, all crimes were made legal; this “purge” of crime had the dual effect of lowering crime stats for the rest of the year and providing population control. This year, the sequel to the film,

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All the Stuff… 3

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All The Stuff

Ya’ll, I am having a hard time getting it together here. This is my first summer blogging. I’ve only been doing this whole blogging thing for ten months. There’s A LOT I’m still learning. And what I’ve learned this summer is that I don’t write well at all when I have distractions. Unless there’s something that really pisses me off like the time I read that Lily Allen didn’t think Feminism “Should even be a thing any more.”

I read that on a Friday afternoon. All three kids were home. My house was a swirl of chaos. My husband was working out of his home office. My son had a friend over who thought I wanted to have random conversations with him. Like every five minutes. Get outta my face Eddie Haskell and take your precocious ass somewheres else.  The t.v. was blaring from one room, music playing from another. My youngest was pulling on me wanting my attention, wanting me to print pictures for her to color or get on YouTube to watch some creepy and annoying “Skylander Dad.” Didn’t matter.  I was able to push all that away and write. Because I was mad.  I was fired up and I pounded on the keyboard and snarled and sneered at anyone who tried to come between me and the “Publish” button.

But I haven’t felt that fire in a few weeks. And I thrive on the heat. I crave the purge of anger. What I’m saying is I need someone to piss me off in a way that I can write about. Call it my twisted form of anger management, but I physically feel the need to spit piss and vinegar and unleash some crazy. I don’t really do that in real life. I’m pretty laid back and easy going. But here? Here I feel safe. Here I can say the things that my voice won’t allow. Verbally I’m all awkwardness and stunted words when I feel mad. But give me a pen or a keyboard and I’m like a mute who found her voice or a stutterer who’s words suddenly flow effortlessly.

There’s been plenty to get worked up over. Things I wish I could write about. But I made a rule when I started this blog that I wouldn’t write about political issues. And I care A LOT about political issues. But I also know that writing about them is only inviting negativity and opposition. The issues I do write about aren’t political. At least they shouldn’t be. Treating people fairly and equally and with dignity shouldn’t be a political issue. Anyways….

All of that being said, the busiest part of the summer is winding down for me. I just had house guests for the past week, 4 kids and two adults. That brought our house to 4 adults, 7 kids. For 7 days. It was fun and chaotic and exhausting and wonderful.

And next week will be a relaxing week at the beach with Joe and the kids. I’m hoping to do some reading and some relaxing and some mindless wandering…. and after that there’s only a few weeks left ’til school starts back up again. If history is any indication, I’ll find my rythym with my summer schedule about 3 days before the kids start school. But hey, I’m making up these rules, so who cares?

The best thing about getting back on schedule will be when I get my groove back not only with writing but with reading, mostly reading all of your blogs. Cause you guys are pretty brilliant and make me laugh and sometimes make me cry… but my favorite is when you make me think. I appreciate all of that. A LOT. Cheers to these last few weeks of summer, whatever that means to you. A break from routine. A reason to get outside. An excuse to sip a cold beer in the afternoon… Whatever, I hope you have a great one.

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So, tell me, how’s your summer going? Do you have any recommendations for books I should read on vacation? Anything pissed you off lately? If so, feel free to drop a rant here. I LOVE a good rant….

Night Owls Rule and Morning People Suck

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“And I don’t want to hold her down, don’t want to break her crown,

When she says, Let’s go, I like the night life baby”

-The Cars, Let’s Go

Every morning I wake up early, just as the sun is coming up. I shuffle out to the kitchen and start my coffee before heading out to my back porch. With the early morning chirping of birds as background music I do my morning yoga sequence. Afterwards I sit with my coffee and soak it all in. The stillness. The serenity. The peace. By the time my kids are up I’m sparkling with energy and ready to start the day.

That is completely made up. That is not my life. That is the fantasy version I have wistfully yearned for. The reality is I trudge out to start my coffee barely awake, the kids already dressed and eating their breakfast. I mutter “Leave in 10 minutes” and go get dressed while my coffee is brewing. We all pile in to the car to head off to school, me gripping my coffee for dear life. It takes roughly two carpool lines for me to fully wake up and be in human speaking mode.

It ain’t pretty.

I decided this summer to change all that. I wanted the early morning yoga and the peaceful solitude of just me and my coffee. I started gathering up articles. You know, the ones that pepper every “lifestyle” or “healthy living” section of ever on-line newzine. I read “Top 10 Ways To Become A Morning Person” pretty straightforward and “Hey, Sleepyhead! How To Be A Morning Person” did I just feel someone tussle my hair?. These articles were full of sunny optimism. They made it sound so easy. Happy mornings are just a Buzzfeed article away!

Then I stumbled upon “So You Think You’re A Morning Person” are you taunting me? and “Why Morning People Rule the World” Really? Now you’re just being an asshole. But for the most part, the advice spewing articles were full of hope and promises. It’s so easy! Anyone can do it! Shaman promising to change your life in 10 steps or less. Snake Oil salesman spinning tales of people who’ve transformed their lives by simply adjusting their circadian rhythms. Billy Mays offering you a free Sham Wow if you just read this article!

And I fell for it. I fell for the money back guarantee and the free gift when you purchase two. I am a sucker.

You have probably guessed that it didn’t go well. I saw no sunrise. Scratch that. I did see a sunrise, but it was because I woke up at 4 am and couldn’t go back to sleep. #$@% yoga, just give me my freakin’ coffee. I tried. But I legitimately can not make my body fall asleep before 11pm. And that’s on a good night.

So in the vein of justifying things and making a negative a positive (my secret super power), I decided that I shouldn’t even try to change this. I shouldn’t yearn to be something different. Just as I shouldn’t wish to be a tall leggy blonde, I shouldn’t wish to be this other person. This unicorn of early morning euphoria. I know they exist, I think I may even know some, but I can’t really be sure. The point is, I need to accept who I am and not fight it.

I’m going to embrace it. Because despite what you may read out there, being a night owl is kinda cool.

I have crazy energy at night time. This is when I work out. Not late at night, but right before or right after dinner. My 7:30pm workout kicks (whatever workout I could eek out at 6am)’s ass.

At night I feel no guilt. I’m off the clock and done for the day. Free to do whatever I want. If laundry is piling up I let it wait until the next day. I can’t just sit and read a book in the middle of the day or watch t.v. I would stress about all the things that need to get done. But at night, I can do whatever I want. It’s allowed. And no one judges you for sitting on your couch in you pajamas shoving Cheez Its in your mouth at night time.  And you can have a drink without feeling like a degenerate. Try doing that at 6am.

Nighttime is mysterious and interesting and romantic and dangerous. I don’t want to miss out on it. There’s always possibility after dark that just isn’t there during the day. People are more daring, their inhibitions are lowered. No great story ever started with “So, I went to bed early… “

I’m not alone.

There are plenty of us out there. Probably more than care to admit it.

There are all kinds of people who are biologically predisposed to staying up late. And you should be grateful that these people are out there. They are there if your house catches fire in the middle of the night. They are there if you have an emergency and have to go to the E.R. They are wide awake to perform surgery if need be. They are there to bail you out of jail should you have too much fun after hours. I am none of those things. But I’m a mother and I’m telling you that being a night owl has come in handy with newborn babies and sick kids. I can hop up and attend to their needs and be alert and present. I may be groggy the next morning, but that’s ok. I’m used to that.

Which brings me to this: Night owls are bad ass.

We live in a world or society that operates on a morning person’s time schedule. We have to be up for school/work/life at the same time as all of you sunshine greeters. Only we didn’t go to sleep at 9:00. We get used to functioning with less, maybe even thriving. I don’t sweat being tired, it’s a fact of a night owl’s life. We get over it and just move forward. You won’t see night owls complaining incessantly on Face Book about how tired they are or how they can’t sleep (seriously, why do people keep doing that?). We have no choice in the matter so we don’t dwell on it.

Studies show that there may be a genetic component to your natural circadian rhythm. We adapt even when it goes against our natural inclinations. Morning people don’t really have to adapt much. They often can dictate an early bed time. They have a little more control given that society doesn’t generally require much of people after 9pm. Some studies have concluded that morning people actually need more rest than night dwellers and don’t focus as well later in the day.

So let’s chill on the articles about trying to change your sleep patterns. If you do a quick Google search you’ll find 156 million items on becoming a morning person. A Google search on how to become a night owl offers a little over 4 million results. Why is there such a premium placed on being an early bird? Is it because one cliche’ about getting a worm has imprinted itself in our brains? A 17th century proverb that actually meant that “Success comes to those who prepare well and put in effort” has been twisted to mean getting up early is advantageous and leads to success.

I truly don’t mean that morning people suck.

They don’t. We need morning people. We need people who get the world moving at the ungodly hours of the early morning. I don’t begrudge you your morning glory and a.m. chipper-ness. Yes, it may be annoying if you’re chatting me up before I’ve had my coffee, but I get it. This is your time. Your shining moment. This is your peak, your summit for the day. And good on you. But don’t judge me for my morning surliness. I’ll get down to business and I’ll get stuff done but I won’t be all sunshine and rainbows until at least mid morning.

My peak will come later in the day. I will have a day of gradual ascension, each hour feeling more energized and creative and alive. While you’re yawning through dinner I will be dancing around my kitchen and acting silly. While you’re climbing in to bed, I’m sitting on my porch with my husband enjoying a glass of wine and great conversation. While you’re drifting off to sleep, I’m writing, words flowing out effortlessly. I’m recharging, I’m connecting with my man with no distractions and no interruptions. I’m free to create and write. I go to sleep every night having spent a few hours doing whatever I need to do to take care of me. And feeling no guilt. No one was neglected or ignored because I spent this time on myself.

So here’s to all you night owls out there. Be proud. Flaunt your late night awesomeness. Embrace your lifestyle with no apologies. Steer clear of the articles and snippets that are so abundant because they’re so easy and cliche’. You don’t need to change a thing. You don’t need to follow a ten step program. And you definitely don’t need to believe the hype. You rock.

 

 

 

 

 

Losing My Breath, Ignoring My Voice

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“I’d sooner chew my leg off

than be trapped in this,

How easy you think of all of this as bittersweet me.

I couldn’t taste i,. I’m tired and naked.

I don’t know what I’m hungry for,

I don’t know what I want anymore.”

- REM, Bittersweet Me

I had asked for a sign.

I needed a signal, needed someone to point me in the right direction, tell me what to do. I had been in conflict for almost a year. My relationship was over. I knew it but was scared to leave. Just out of college, trying to figure out “what next,” trying to figure out what life was at this point. And the one thing I had was my relationship.

And now I didn’t want it any more.

It wasn’t his fault. He was a really good guy. Smart, loving. I can’t even say he was an ass. But I was falling out of love with someone I had fallen for in an intense way.

We started dating my Junior year of college. I had obsessed over him from afar and then we met. And I tumbled into a crazy romance. He was fun and spontaneous. I called him my “Bobby McGhee.” A bad boy with a heart of gold. But now I wasn’t feeling all the romance of “riding a Diesel Dan all the way to New Orleans.” I needed something, someone else and I knew he wasn’t it.

For months I turned it over and over in my head.

What if I leave him and he’s the last person I ever love?

I would tug nervously on my necklace trying to decipher my true feelings.

Was I freaked out at talk of engagement and looking for a house together? Was it too much in the post college reality check that is real life?

I felt like the choice I would make would impact the rest of my life. I could see living with him and spending a life with him. We got along well, never really fought. We had fun. But was that enough?

Or I could end up spending the rest of my life alone, mourning my one shot at happiness and love.

I would leave my desk at work and pace around the parking garage, my mind racing, trying to gulp in as much air as possible before going back inside.

I could never get enough air.

Each day brought more urgency. He started to question me, he knew something wasn’t right. I shrugged off his concerns, wearing a mask of normalcy.

All the while I felt my throat constricting.

I would encourage him to have nights out with his friends. I would pour a glass of wine and turn on some Hendrix and sit with my notebook, writing and journaling, hoping the answer would flow from my pen or from the fermented grapes that eased my tension.

No answer came.

I was growing increasingly frustrated. I always lived my life by following my instincts and trusting my gut and my intestinal flora was deafeningly silent. I felt like I was going to make a major life decision and possibly hurt a good person who I cared deeply about and I had nothing to base it on.

I started to pray. And I’m not a pray for things kind of person. But I started to pray for a sign.

Just tell me which way to go. I’ll pay attention, I promise. Just give me something. Nothing. No song on the radio, no major disagreement, no “aha” moment. Thanks for nothing.

I was biding my time and running in place.

Then one night I ended up at a bar with the girls from work on a Friday night. I didn’t even feel like going out, but I couldn’t bear the thought of sitting in the apartment with him all night, pretending. One of the girls left the table and came back “Joe’s coming. I called him.” All of a sudden I was awake. He walked in and smiled the smile that lights up the whole room. I tried to not notice.

We ended up playing pool in a back room of the bar. Somehow he and I were locked in conversation all night. We drifted from bar to bar with our work friends, almost oblivious to all the people we were with.

At one bar there was a guy with a guitar and a galvanized metal bucket for tips. I turned to Joe. “We should request a song!” He agreed and I told him I wanted to hear “Lola.” He dropped a generous amount of money in the bucket as he leaned in to speak to the singer and walked back to the table with a satisfied grin.

Soon the group was breaking up, some were going home, some going to dance. Joe asked if I wanted to go grab a beer and talk. We sat at a sticky booth in the only quiet bar in Buckhead and talked about nothing and everything. As he drove me home I started to get nervous. This had started as an innocent night out with friends and ended up feeling like a date.

And now I was going home to my boyfriend.

As soon as he parked the car, I leapt out and shouted a quick “Thanks” before sprinting for the door. Blessedly the apartment was dark and quiet. I crawled into bed and feigned sleep while my heart raced frantically.

The next morning I awoke to laughter. I sat on the couch as casually as possible. I felt like I should be wearing a scarlett letter on my chest.

An Andy Kaufmann special was on t.v. All of a sudden, the room felt like it was pulsating. The t.v., his laughter, it was amplified. I started to sweat. I tried to focus on the show and distract myself. But the t.v. kept getting louder and louder. The voices sounding more manic and my mind racing frantically. My breathing got more shallow and raspy. I got up and started to pace around the living room. I went outside into the parking lot. The fresh air did nothing to alleviate the weight pressing on my chest, the tightening around my neck. By the time I went back inside I knew I needed to go to the hospital. Something wasn’t right.

I don’t know if I stayed conscious during the car ride. By the time we got to the E.R. I was pretty sure that something horrible was happening. I imagined some obscure allergic reaction. I talked, in between gasps for breath, giving instructions.

You have to tell my family I love them. Promise me you’ll tell them. I thought I was passing along my good-byes by proxy.

They ordered XRays of my chest and my throat. I was floating in and out of consciousness when the Doctor returned to talk to us.

“You’re fine.” I was fine. “Physically, you’re fine.” Oh. Ok. No one’s ever made that qualification to me before. But ok.

He proceeded to explain that I was having a severe panic attack. He explained the power of the mind to make the body feel very real sensations. I felt like my worst fears were coming true, I had always had an intense fear of mental illness. As a young girl I had visions of living life strapped to a bed, a life spent contorted in a straight jacket or watered down on pills. I lamented the lack of a physical ailment to explain my symptoms. I was kind of freaked out and in shock. I know what I felt was real physical feelings.

My throat was closing.

I couldn’t breathe.

But it was all in my head.

That night I insisted that he go out with our friends. I was too tired from ingesting my first taste of Ativan and experiencing a perceived near death to do anything. He insisted on staying with me.

Why does he have to be so damn nice?

But I made him go. I needed to be alone to process the day.

I craved solitude.

Thankfully he acquiesced.

I sat in the silence of the apartment trying to sort it all out. What the hell was going on with me? How did this happen? I started writing in my notebook. I let my hand take over, writing the words, shaping the phrases. I didn’t even know what would show up on the page, I just let it happen. And there it was. I need to leave.

I needed to leave. Not because he was awful. Not because he was bad. But because it wasn’t right for me. What had once been so right was completely wrong now. And I needed to leave. My body had been screaming at me for six months. My throat had been in a vice, tightening a little more each minute. And I ignored all of it. I searched, I prayed, I listened for the silent voices. All along I was forsaking the only voice that mattered. The voice that was getting muffled with each day of trudging on, with each day of looking somewhere other than the one place the answers resided. The voice that would stop my breath before it let me ignore it. The voice that I would realize, so many years later, was more vital than water.

 

“Lola” The Kinks. ‘Cause who doesn’t love this song?

 Have you had issues with anxiety? Have you ever ignored that “inner voice” that speaks to you? What were the consequences? Do you have a favorite song you request?

All The Stuff… 2

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All The Stuff

Ha! I laugh at this title! Because I didn’t write. Anything. All week. And it was a looooong week of not writing.

Sunday found me sitting on hard bleachers at the Aquatic Center for my son’s swim meet. I was tired from a long weekend of having fun. Groggy and bleary eyed I sat, for five hours, watching a bunch of teens swim lengths that I could never swim and push their bodies to the limits of exhaustion. It’s so tiring watching all of that. But I brought my notebook and planned on doing some writing. I wrote a little here and there but nothing of any significance.

Then, Monday, and the week kicked off with a stomach bug for my son. Then ear infections and sore throats and general malaise for both the older kids. For the record, that’s 5 visits to the Doctor since school got out in early June. I told my kids they were trying to ruin my summer. Anyways, my week was spent taking care of sick kids and doing stuff around the house. It’s hard to write or read or do much of anything with my brain when I have three kids couped up in the house all week. Oh, and my husband was out of town, ALL WEEK LONG. This is my excuse for not writing. What I’m saying is it’s my family’s fault that I didn’t write anything.

But enough whining! A few things happened to be excited about. Tickets were purchased for Music Midtown. This has become an Anniversary tradition for Joe and I. It always falls on the weekend of our wedding anniversary and it’s in Atlanta, the city where we met and fell in love. This will be our third year going (and our 15th wedding anniversary!) and it’s going to be amazing. Jack White, Eminem, Fitz and the Tantrums and a “new” band I’m super excited about, The Strypes will all be playing. This year my husband promised me we won’t get lost

Also found out that my Sister In Law (who I LOVE) is coming to visit with her husband (Joe’s brother) and my nieces and nephews in July. And since I was imprisoned home taking care of sick kids, I started a bunch of projects around the house. We moved to our new house about a year ago and I’m still working on making it feel like home. I know I’ve said that Pinterest is ruining holidays and motherhood, but I do get all Pinterest-y when I get in project mode. So I’ll be breaking out the spray paint and rummaging through the basement to see what I can transform and re-use. I’m cheap like that.

The highlight of my reading last week was this post by Lizzie at Considerings. It is a heartbreaking read about infertility and how it affects friendships. It was raw and honest and important. Most of us have been in the position of not knowing what to do or say or how to act when a friend has suffered a loss or is going through something difficult. Lizzie breaks it down in a personal way. “Life is rarely about fulfilled expectations…” I hope you go read it.

This week is going to be much better. Writing WILL happen! Hell, I may even write two posts this week! I have a lot swirling around in my head, it’s just a matter of which idea or thought makes it way out of my rambling mind and on to the paper. More reading of my fellow bloggers and hopefully a few new blogs will be discovered. Bring it on all you brilliant and creative word slingers! Here’s to a great week!

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How was your week? Do you have things you’ve neglected because of blogging? Or things that are distracting you from writing? Is anyone trying to ruin your summer? Talk to me…

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