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…

All the Stuff… 1

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All The Stuff

“Welcome to the inner workings of my mind…”

-MsMr, Hurricane

With a lot of excitement and a little bit of trepidation, I’m introducing a new feature. A sneak peek at my life, a review of the previous week. A tad bit of over-sharing and a sprinkling of random thoughts. Gene’O and Diana recently started doing their “If We Were Having Coffee” features and I love getting a glimpse of their lives and their thoughts. It’s a great way to get to know each other outside of our normal writing. So I decided to steal their idea follow suit.

So, I pull back the curtain of my life. Welcome to my world. A little bit of a circus, a little ordinary. But it’s aaaallll mine…

Sunday kicked off with some Father’s Day bowling with the fam:

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A good time was had by all, though the teams seemed stacked. Next time I’m going to focus more on my bowling and less on the basket of fried pickles.

Monday found me “volunteering” as team parent for my kids’ swim meet. This means corralling a few hundred kids who are parked under tents in a parking lot for about 5 hours. Young kids with little or no impulse control and hormonal sweaty teenagers. By the end of my shift, my friend and partner in mayhem management were wondering why tasers and electric shock collars weren’t allowed.

The first half of the week was spent sulking because I couldn’t come up with a topic to write about for my weekly blog post. I started many. My drafts folder is overflowing with partially written pieces that have been abandoned in frustration. Sometimes it comes easy and you’re inspired or itching to write about a certain thing. Other times you feel the itch but can’t find where to scratch. It’s frustrating and infuriating and mentally exhausting. Then finally relief comes and I’m back to being me. I’m a better person when I write. When I’m stuck, it’s not pretty.

There was some connecting with “new” bloggers. Most notably was Denitra at Thoughts From the Blue Notebook. She’s a Vlogger/Blogger and when I read her piece “Who You Talking To” I was floored. For those who write with heart and soul on the paper, for those who breathe in words and phrases…  all of you who feel deeply and then write about it… You. Must. Read. I have read it over and over. And every time I’m overcome with emotion.

I read an eye-opening and revealing post by Laurie Works, guest posting on History of a Woman (how, by the way, had I NOT heard of this blog until now?) Her post, “I Have a Voice” is a heartbreaking story of growing up in a world where your religion tells you you’re less than. That you are to submit. That you don’t have a voice. It is a stirring read and one that I wish could be prescribed reading for absolutely everyone, everywhere.

The weekend involved bucket lists, a psychic, taxicab confessions among friends, and hi-jacking a 12 year old’s birthday party to play on a giant waterslide. That being said, starting off the week a little tired, a little sore and in desperate need of caffeine.

Here’s to a great week!

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How was your week? Was your writing flowing or a struggle? Did you do, see or read anything that inspired you? If you have any crazy stories from your weekend, you must share!

This Discrimination Is Still OK

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“Pardon me while I burst into flames,

I’ve had enough of the world and people’s mindless games.

Pardon me while I burst and rise above the flame.

Pardon me, pardon me. I’ll never be the same.”

-Incubus, Pardon Me

We live in a world where discrimination still happens but it often happens in the shadows. It is done in the way cowards typically do things- when the world isn’t watching or paying attention. And it still happens far too often. Gay slurs are still spewed and racist words still are hurled. And most of us can agree that this is shameful and pathetic. And it’s only just recently that the world is starting to agree that gay-bashing as abhorrent. Still, there has to be someone for all this fury to be directed towards. There has to be someone to absorb all of the misdirected anger and venom that still seems to fester inside some people. Inside some of our political leaders. There must still be someone to look down upon, to feel taller than, better than. Luckily, we have a sizable population of poor people to fill that role.

Poor Shaming.

That’s what it is. Just to sum it all up, it’s still acceptable to shame the poor. It’s totally ok to stand up in the U.S. Congress and sneer about the “takers.” It still o.k. to go on Sunday morning talk shows and wear an unholy mask of disgust and contempt while talking about welfare and entitlement programs. This is all fine. You can do this and still be a regular guest on a news show. You can do this and still get elected to be a political leader. In fact, some people will vote for you for this very reason.

Souls vs Stomachs

One very powerful Congressman recently said the school free lunch program gave students a “full stomach but an empty soul.” Because anyone who’s ever gone hungry knows that you need to feed your soul. I mean, that’s top on the list of concerns for a hungry child who’s trying to make it through a school day with a growling stomach eating away at his concentration. That is a priority in a life of not knowing when your next meal will come. More than one political leader has suggested that poor kids do janitorial work in exchange for free school lunch. They say that this will help those kids to understand that you must pay for things. That things just don’t come easy. Because, you know, poor kids are so entitled. They don’t understand the value of hard work. Especially when they watch their parents work two jobs and struggle to pay the bills. So, let’s have the poor kids sweep and mop and scrub toilets. While their wealthier peers look on and eat their lunch that I’m sure they worked very hard for. Some people actually think this is a good idea. Teach those little free-loaders that life ain’t easy. 16.1 Million U.S. children live in poverty.

A Combo Meal of Discrimination

Recently, one very powerful Congressman got flak for saying this:

 “this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.”

His assumption- that there were entire swaths of people who have no desire to work, who wanted to receive handouts- was not the problem. The problem was his use of the words “inner cities,” a.k.a., minorities. Yes, this comment was one of those underlying racist comments, indicative of a mindset so entrenched that the speaker doesn’t even realize it’s racist. And it should be derided. But the outcry shouldn’t have stopped there. In one statement, this politician managed to dismiss two disenfranchised entities. It was a two-for-one. But it’s ok to shame the poor, so his comment was called out for being racist, when it should have been called out for exactly what it was. Racist and poor shaming. It should have been called out for the bullying tactic that it was.

Insight and Ramen Noodles

Recently, Karen Weese wrote an insightful article on poverty. She gets to the heart of what it feels like to be on the fringe. She illustrates the perceptions that exist and pokes holes through all of the standard theories. But where she really got me was when she discussed “The Ramen Noodle Effect.” She explains that many of us can point to times in our life when we can all relate to being “poor.” Those years post college of living on thrift store furniture and eating 25 cent packets of noodles. But this is a false equivalency. Having a few years of living in a run down apartment is not the same as growing up poor. Surrounded by a family and community in poverty.

“It is much easier not to panic about tight finances when Mom and Dad have a guest room you can always move back to (even if you never actually do)…. It helps when there’s someone in your family who can advise you about applying to college or buying a home. It’s reassuring to know that, no matter how bare your cupboard, there will be a full spread of food when you go home for the holidays, and family and friends who can help you, standing in the wings.”

Not Even Close

It’s not the same. Working in a minimum wage job for a few years as a teenager does not give you insight into the lives of people who spend a lifetime in those jobs. Your stepping stone is someone else’s tenuous life line. Your “character building” position as a dishwasher or fry cook is someone else’s shaky grip on survival. Sleeping on a mattress on the floor for a few years isn’t equal to growing up sharing a bed with three siblings or finding yourself sleeping in your car. Digging for change in the crevices of your sofa for Starbucks isn’t the same as juggling finances to figure out which bills get paid this month. Selling your old shoes or clothes at the consignment store for beer money isn’t the same as selling plasma every month to pay medical bills.

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The Words.

The things people say when discussing the poor. They harken to Dickensian times. “Lazy. Victims. Takers.” These words are used to dehumanize an entire group of people. These words offer justification and comfort to those who wish to keep the poor exactly where they are. Poor people are fundamentally flawed, in character and morals. They don’t want to have better or to do better. They want a hand out or a hand up or a free ride. They enjoy this lifestyle. If they were motivated and ambitious and resourceful they wouldn’t be in this position. These are the statements that are repeated. They are hollow excuses for disdain. They are the rationalization for judgement. They are the lame attempts to lift oneself higher while stepping callously on the backs of those already crippled with exhaustion. They are the words of bullies.

Lack of Empathy?

Some people seem to lack the imagination to understand any circumstance they haven’t personally experienced. They are so self involved and egocentric that they can’t be bothered to consider what any other reality may actually be like. Maybe they were spoiled or grew up so isolated from people who were different. Can we really blame them for their obtuse view on life? Yes. Yes we can. We live in an age of information and access. One only has to spend a few minutes listening or reading to hear what other’s reality is. One only has to pay a tiny bit of attention to the person cleaning up after their office closes or caring for their elderly parent. It doesn’t take much effort at all to shed the notions bred by ignorance to see the good in people versus the bad.

Arrogance?

Some people like to think that they have arrived at a place because they are better than. And those who haven’t reached that place must be less than. I was poor. I pulled myself up by my bootstraps. Sure you did. But perhaps you fail to recognize that not everyone experienced life in exactly the way you did, in the same exact circumstances. Perhaps you worked super hard. And perhaps you had a little luck. Perhaps there was someone who gave you a hand up. Perhaps there are some people so caught up in the downward spiral of poverty, scratching and clawing to feed their children and keep a roof over their head that “bettering” themselves isn’t on the bare table they face every night. Perhaps your experience isn’t exactly the same as someone else’s experience. Perhaps you could use your experience to try to be the one to extend a hand. Perhaps instead of tearing people down because they didn’t arrive at the same place you did in the same way you did, you could offer help or encouragement.

Bullying?

Maybe they were the bully on the school bus. Maybe they were the kid who only felt good when they were putting other people down. Maybe a tone of self righteousness couched in policy making and social commentating gives them a sense of power that they crave and need. Maybe they need to understand that the bullying that left them feeling angry and empty when they were younger is not going to fulfill them as an adult. Maybe they need to direct their anger elsewhere. Maybe they need to find another outlet rather than the convenient punching bag of someone who is too busy trying to survive to fight back.

Whatever.

Whatever the reason, it needs to stop. Heaping shame and humiliation on those living in poverty isn’t productive. No one has ever solved a problem when coming from a place of judgement and contempt. But the bullies don’t get this. The bullies need to be called out. We tell our kids to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. We tell them to “Stand Up and Speak Out.” Maybe it’s time for us to say something. Most of us are good people. We’re appalled when we hear racial epitaphs. We cringe when we hear a sexist remark. We wince when we hear a gay slur. It’s time we started reacting to the words and actions used against the poor. It’s time we stop accepting the false arguments that have been touted as justification for poor shaming.

Vernacular can be changed.

Mindsets can be altered.

Empathy is a skill that can be learned.

Kindness can grow and spread.

Assumptions can be examined.

Bullies can change.

Poor shaming can be called out as discrimination.

We can vote.

We can stand up.

We can speak out.

 

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The Longest Goodbye

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“You were fighting every day

So hard to hide the pain.

I know you never said goodbye,

I had so much left to say.

One last song,

given to an Angel’s son.”

-Sevendust, Angel’s Son

I never said goodbye. It’s taken me 14 years to realize it. I remember so much and so little about that night. Certain memories stand out like a bad dream on a loop that I can’t pause. I remember sounds. The shrill ringing of a phone. The sound of my breath. Raspy. Shallow. The inexplicable calm in my mother’s voice. “You need to come.” I stayed calm until I hung up the phone. Then I lost it. I didn’t want to go. I can’t do it. My hands trembled uncontrollably as I pulled on my pants. I was frantic and stalling at the same time. I want him to save me. Tell me I don’t have to go. Tell me it’s all some sick cruel joke. He took my hands and steadied them. “You have to go. You have to do this.” I nod quickly, more times than necessary. I manage to find the keys. “Are you ok?” he calls out. I nod one more time and shut the door behind me. If I talk, if I hesitate, I’ll break. I must move forward or I’ll crumble. I remember the sound of the keys. Clanging like a frantic jester in my trembling hand.  My teeth chattering. Nerves had taken over my body and I was shaking. I remember the audacity of a beautiful night. Warm. Breezy. In defiant contrast with everything I was feeling. I don’t remember driving there. Mom met me on the sidewalk to the house. She’d come out to give me the details. To let me know what I was going to see. Dear god, I just saw him two days ago, what could have changed in 48 hours? I tried to follow her into the house, but collapsed into her arms overcome with fear and anguish. I collapsed. I knew I was supposed to be strong for her, but I couldn’t help myself. I was ashamed, but I succumbed. I let her guide my limp body into the house. She sat me on a chair and comforted me. She comforted me. I knew this wasn’t the way it was supposed to go, but I felt more out of control than I’d ever felt in my life. When I finally calmed down and the sobbing subsided I went into the living room to see my brother. He was asleep, but not asleep. I realized quickly that the last time I saw him, only 2 days ago, was the last time I would have a coherent conversation with him. And what did we talk about? I don’t even know. Probably some bullshit. Probably me trying to be stupid and make him laugh. Did he know? While I was rattling off stupid one-liners, did he know that it would be the last time we would really talk? Was he annoyed with my oblivious idiocy? Did he want to scream at me or shake me and tell me to shut the fuck up? To be real? Did he want me to say goodbye? I’ll never know. I’ll never know if my self preservation robbed him of a real moment, of getting to say goodbye to me. He was always so protective, he wouldn’t want to upset me. He would have put my needs ahead of his. He would have hidden his disappointment. And now I’ll never know. That night passed like a dream. I remember some things so clearly. I remember feeling the most desperate panic I’ve ever felt in my life. I wanted to leave, to escape. My mind was screaming inside my head while the world moved in slow motion. I remember disbelief. I had been so hopeful. So optimistic. And still we were here. I remember worrying that he was suffering. I was so intensely scared that he was suffering and couldn’t tell us. I remember feeling guilt. Guilt because I laid on the floor and closed my eyes and drifted in and out of a tortured sleep. Guilt because my sister sat by his side the entire night. Not budging. Guilt because she was having to be the strong one and I reverted to a scared little girl who just wanted to shove her thumb in her mouth and rock back and forth. The details of that night and the next morning are sacred. We were all there. My parents. My sister. Her husband. Me. Joe. We all were there for a moment that is indescribable. It was beautiful and wrenching and I’ll never be able to put into words watching someone precious die. I think we all knew it – that moment. And I still didn’t say goodbye. I held up  afterwards. We all did. The house felt obscenely quiet. We were all in shock. I went through the motions. We all did. I still had wedding stuff to attend to. I still had to plan for the happiest day of my life that was to follow, only ten short days, after the worst day of my life. Planning seemed so superficial. So stupid. I didn’t care. I didn’t want a wedding anymore. I would have been happy with a signature on a piece of paper to make it legal. But my family wouldn’t have it. They convinced me that the wedding had to happen. I had to do it because it’s what he would have wanted. He knew, even before I really knew. He knew that Joe was the one. He told my parents, after I’d brought Joe home the first time,”That’s the guy she’s going to marry” So of course I had to keep on keeping on with the wedding. He would have been pissed if I’d canceled the biggest party of my life. But now, all these years later, I realize I never said goodbye. All these years later, when that realization hit me, it was like someone had cut my legs off. How did I sit by his side for hours upon hours, knowing it was goodbye, yet never saying goodbye? Was it selfishness? Was it denial? I have been told I should write a goodbye letter. The mere mention of that left me open and seething. A wound, this particular wound, that I didn’t even know was there for fourteen years, was now bleeding. I operate between two worlds. In one world I go about my business and tell myself that I’ll see him soon. He’s traveling. He’s busy. That’s why I miss him. This is feasible. The other world is on a more spiritual level. I know he’s gone, but I know he’s here. He’s with me. I know he was with me when I walked down the aisle on my wedding day. I can tell you the exact moment he showed up during the births of my three children. There have been times, random times, when I hear his favorite song and I know he’s with me. I feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I have felt him here with me when I’m writing about him. I still don’t want to say goodbye. But maybe I’m still being scared and selfish. Maybe saying goodbye is the right thing to do. So here goes… How do you say goodbye to someone when you don’t want to let them go? I don’t want you to go. I know I can’t put a cap on this, I can’t fold this up and put it in a box. But I do want you to know some things. Your life was a gift to us all. You brought laughter. You brought art. You brought joy. You made us, this hodgepodge family a real family. You gave each of us a part of you. Your smile that could light up a room. Your laughter that could soften the hardest of souls. Your humor that could cut through any moment and bring sweet relief of laughter. You could make me laugh when I didn’t want to laugh. And is there really anything better than that? Is there any greater gift? I want to hold on so tight, my jaw clenched in tight determination, but I also need to release. I am not going to tell you goodbye. I just don’t believe in it. But I will tell you all the things I wanted to say so badly. All the things I kept to myself because you weren’t giving up and I didn’t want you to think I was too. I want to tell you that I love you. I want to tell you how much better you made my life, everyone’s life. I can’t imagine a world without you, so I just imagine you’re still in it. I miss you. I miss you so bad I feel it in every bone. I hope you’re good. I hope you are happy. But I’m not saying goodbye. I’ll never say goodbye.

#YesAllWomen and Feminist Friday: Conversations Matter

Gretchen Kelly:

Diana at Part Time Monster just summed up, more eloquently and effectively than I ever could, why this movement and this conversation matters. I’m re-blogging this here, but click over to Part Time Monster and leave a comment and join in the discussion. Our #Feminist Friday discussions have no time limit and generally last all day, sometimes even all weekend. This is an important one. I hope you’ll join us.

Originally posted on Part Time Monster:

I believe in the power of words. I believe, especially, in the power of the written word. Writing means not just that we were here, but that we endure. Reading means that we can access and interpret our past. Thus historically, reading and writing have been cultural points of contention; they’ve marked racial, economic, and class boundaries. They’ve also marked gender and sexual boundaries.

(Think of the historical moments when  education was deliberately withheld from lower classes, women, and/or slaves. Think of what we define as “chick lit” or what we see as “boys'” or “girls'” books. Think of the still-common under-representation of women and minorities in the publishing industry.)

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My Greatest Sorrow is My Greatest Joy

Gretchen Kelly:

Wendy and I were close friends in High School. Best friends. We shared everything, we went through so much together. We lost touch during the college years and have reconnected recently. This past year her life was turned upside down in ways none of us could imagine. This is her story…

Originally posted on Strengthening the Soul:

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~ Robert Brault

She’s dying. My 9 year old daughter is dying. Today I can say it without crying, but not necessarily tomorrow. Each day is filled with up and down emotions. Some days I am hopeful for a cure, but many days I am filled with despair and an indescribable sadness. My heart aches. My tears burn. My head and my body are tired.

You see, my daughter Abby was recently diagnosed with a rare, genetic disease that is terminal. There is no cure or treatment. No cure. 100% terminal. Every child diagnosed with this disease will die. I have never felt so helpless. As mothers, it is our job to nurse our child’s boo-boos, dry their tears, teach them how to deal with sorrow and upsets, and give them hope…

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