Makeup Free-dom

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“To be yourself is all that you can do, yeah

to be yourself is all that you can do”

-Audioslave, Be Yourself

Take off all your makeup. Right now. Seriously, stop reading, get out your makeup remover (that you surely have with you at this very moment) and remove all of your makeup. What… you don’t want to? Why? You got a problem with natural? Are you insecure with how you look? C’mon, it’s 2014, you’re an adult. Surely you possess enough self-confidence to be able to forgo these products marketed to women by large, greedy corporations. Surely you don’t buy into the pressure from media and society to conform to beauty standards? What’s that? You don’t want to bare it all?

Coward.

That is me being sarcastic. What, you may ask, has me posing a paragraph full of smart ass questions? It’s the makeup free trend that appears to be taking hold. I don’t get it. Maybe I’m twisted and vain. Maybe I’m too insecure. But the whole thing kinda rubs me the wrong way. It’s not that I have a problem with makeup free, I have a problem with it becoming a campaign, a movement. I know that some of the efforts to go make-up free, like the Dove Beauty campaign, have goals of empowering women. I’m all for that. “Yay!” for empowerment. But it’s starting to evolve into something that feels more like pressure. Everyone’s doing it. Like, everyone. Teens, moms, young singles, celebs, news anchors. They’re posting it on social media with #nomakeupselfie. It’s the cool thing to do. And if you’re really confident, if you’re really secure in yourself, you’ll do it too… right?

Yeah, not me. I won’t be posting any barefaced pics on the interwebs. I love the natural look. I think it’s beautiful. But that “natural” look is harder to achieve than a Guns N Roses reunion. There are makeup lines marketed as “The Natural Look”, there are tutorials on YouTube on how to achieve that glowy dewy skin one has after having sex or working out.

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That’s all there is to it…

I like makeup. I don’t wear a ton of it, but what I do wear I’ve grown real attached to. I need concealer. Without it my eyes look like that creepy dude from Lord of the Rings.

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You’ll never be able to un-see this…

And I like to wear eye makeup, I’m addicted to mascara. This is not to say that I won’t leave the house without makeup. I do carpool line, run to the store, etc,  without makeup. Hell, I was even interviewed on the local news sans makeup as I was leaving the grocery store. But I’m not making a statement with my pale, jaundiced looking face. I’m doing it out of convenience or laziness- it depends on the day. I don’t really want to think that anything I do with my clothes, my hair or my makeup is in any way making any kind of statement. I want to do what feels comfortable to me, what fits my mood.

There has been a rash of women taking off their makeup live on tv or in front of live audiences. There’s a whole thing called Makeup Free Monday. In February the cast of the Today Show went on air without makeup. After one segment, the entire cast put all their makeup back on. Local news anchors have been taking their makeup off. Last week Mika Brzezinski took her makeup off on stage during the Women In The World Conference. She said that makeup shouldn’t own you as she spent 20 minutes wiping off her carefully applied makeup.

Not awkward at all

Not awkward at all

I’m not disagreeing with the ideas or the intentions behind these “acts”. I definitely don’t think makeup should “own” anyone. I’m just not sure where this message is taking us, where it’s landing and what it’s supposed to do. Seeing the pictures and watching these makeup free stunts on t.v., they just illustrate how uncomfortable this act is. Anyone under the spotlights is going to feel vulnerable without makeup on. Watching the bare-faced on-air personalities squirm uncomfortably is supposed to convey a positive message. But it seems to demonstrate a level of self consciousness that makes me want to look away. It certainly doesn’t have me reaching for my makeup remover and camera.

And the selfies. I’ve got nothing against selfies. Sexy selfies, makeup free selfies, go for it. Do what makes you feel good, do what you want to do. Flaunt your awesomeness all over social media. But let’s not start pressuring women to post makeup free selfies. Let’s not pressure women to do anything. Beyonce posted a beautiful makeup free selfie. Gwyneth, Cameron, Bethany Frankel. All makeup free on Twitter and Instagram. That’s totally cool. But when campaigns are started to show how “brave” women are to go makeup free, isn’t that somewhat contradictory? If makeup shouldn’t be that important, can we all agree that going makeup free doesn’t count as brave? Going makeup free should be a choice, like which shoes to wear today. Not an act of bravery or freedom or an act of anything.

Some people apparently feel “owned” by their makeup, feel true anxiety about going makeup free. If that’s the case, then maybe this is something that could empower them. But I know a lot of women. And every single one of them goes without makeup from time to time. At the gym, at the playground. I know some women who never wear makeup. I know some women who wear it more often than not. But I think I can safely say that I have seen every single one of my friends and neighbors without makeup on a fairly regular basis. I think this is the norm. Let’s not create an issue where there is none. We don’t all have to do a Kardashian smokey eye to leave the house, but there’s nothing wrong with enjoying your makeup, with liking the way eyeliner accentuates your eyes or lipsticks make your lips stand out. If it makes you feel good DO IT.

I’m not against raising money for good causes, starting conversations about empowerment. Those are all noble things. I just have a problem with pressuring women to do something. I mean, if we’re really going to break free of all the shackles of beauty that society imposes, why stop at going makeup free? We could stop shaving. Our legs, our armpits, everywhere.  Let’s all stop washing our hair. And let’s throw away those tweezers. Lets bring back the Frida Kahlo look. Let’s stop plucking errant chin hairs. No more waxing our lips. I mean, c’mon ladies, let’s be brave here. Not wearing makeup? Pffftt… that’s no biggie. But when I see Beyonce sporting some hairy pits on her yacht or Diane Sawyer joining the No Poo movement or Gwyneth Paltrow stroking her ‘stache on Instagram, then I’ll sit up and take notice.

(photo: thedailymustache.com)

(photo: thedailymustache.com)

Let Love Rule

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 “Love is gentle as a rose 
And love can conquer any war 
It’s time to take a stand 
Brothers and sisters join hands 

We got to let love rule”

-Lenny Kravitz, Let Love Rule

There are many things that get me fired up that I could write about. And I love to write when I’m angry. It’s more satisfying than punching a wall or screaming at the top of my lungs. Writing is my favorite form of anger management. But sometimes I have the need to tap into my optimistic, idealistic self. The “cumbaya” side of me, the “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” side of me. I’m a total sucker for a group sing along, for those moments of camaraderie. We’re all in this together. You’re all my brothers and sisters.

My Utopian World would be a population of people free of anger and shame. A world where everyone looked out for each other, a world that is color blind, gender oblivious, accepting, forgiving. And my manifesto would be the album “Let Love Rule” by Lenny Kravitz.

It was 1989, I was a Sophomore in high school. My best friend handed me a cassette tape he’d made for me, a copy of the debut album by a new singer. I went home, popped it into my stereo and sat frozen as I soaked up every sound, every word. I was transfixed. I was in love.

This album spoke to me like no other had. For me, this was the album that signified everything I believed and felt and wanted. This was THE album of my generation that spoke for social change, a new world view. I felt like Lenny was speaking to me, for me. I wore that tape out. My friend and I would ride around for hours in his car, driving down winding country roads, blasting Lenny. Sometimes pulling over to listen to a particular song and just absorb it.

Let love rule. A simple premise. Let your actions be guided by love. Let your thoughts be influenced by love. It’s so simple. But it’s so hard.

Here’s what I don’t get. We all want the same things. We may go about it different ways, but we all want basically the same things in this life. Who doesn’t want to be loved. Accepted. Included. Safe. Secure. Comfortable. At peace. So why do we do things to each other… hurt each other? Judge each other? Condemn each other? Shame each other?

It’s not a game of whoever ends up with the most marbles wins. It’s a quest for happiness.

Think of the things that made you angry today. The people you’ve argued with this week. Were these issues relevant to getting you where to you want to be? Or were they born of hurt and anger? Back against the wall? Pushed into a corner? We can always choose to step aside. Break the momentum of an argument.

Dear lord, I’m not preaching here -did I just say dear lord? I can bask in negativity. Anger. Irritation. But it sucks. I don’t feel better. None of that makes you feel good. It feeds on itself. It only produces more. More anger, judgement. More crap. Aren’t we all sick of the crap? I know I’m tired of it.

There’s a perverse joy in reading about a starlet’s divorce. There’s the satisfaction of you’re no better than us. Life can suck for you too. Theres’s the satisfaction of  the wealthy neighbor who files for bankruptcy. You know, the one who would flaunt all his expensive “toys” and walks around barrel chested and smug. Ha. You’re broke too, asshole. But where does this all get us? It doesn’t make us any happier.

There’s the fleeting glee of righteousness, but it’s quickly followed by a hollow feeling. The voices echo and bounce around inside of us if we don’t fill it up with other crap. And so continues the cycle.

“In this garden 
They’ll be no war 
No racial prejudice 
You’ll be my brother 
Of any color 
You’ll just be okay with us 
We’ll live each day in peace 
In hope that we will one day reach 
The rest of the world 
When they are ready to be teached” 

-Lenny Kravitz, I Build This Garden For Us

There are no “others.” We’re not all that different. Some of us look different, sound different. Some of us walk different and talk different. Love different. Who cares. Deep down, we all want the same things. These differences are just superficial. They add interest to life, they keep the canvas from being bland. But that’s about it.

Why does it matter to anyone if someone practices a different religion or no religion? Why does it matter to anyone if someone wants to marry someone of the same gender? Why does it matter if someone is living their life in a way that is different from you? Let’s keep it simple. If they are not hurting others, who cares?

If a teacher wants to have a ring through their nose and purple hair… why should that matter? If a boy wants to carry a My Little Pony backpack…  why does that matter? If a girl wants to wear her hair short and dress masculine… who cares? I have yet to hear any valid reason why we should care about how someone looks or acts or who they love.

I have heard many arguments, but none of them seem to actually answer the question. The are based on hypotheticals (“If people do this, then…”). Why does anyone care? Why can’t everyone just be o.k. with everyone else?

I want to go back to 1989. I want to ride in that little run down Honda and listen to the strains of hope. I want to think that a world like that is possible. I don’t want to be jaded and bitter. I want to look around and see you, my brother. And you, my sister. I want to want what’s best for you. Because what’s best for you doesn’t take away from what I’ve got. I want to feel joy for every good thing. I want to have patience and peace. I want to look around me and see people thriving because that means we’re all doing something right.

“But the only way for you to survive
Is to open your heart it will guide
You wanna stay in this world of music and life
You got to turn around and spread a little love and get high”

-Lenny Kravitz, Sitting On Top of the World

 

Step To This: High Ball Stepper

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Well, thank you sir. Thank you for not disappointing. Thank you for changing things up, but still retaining that you-ness that is so… you.

High Ball Stepper starts off with a high pitched chorus, followed by a short piano interlude. Then comes the bass, signature Jack White staccato guitar and drum rhythm. I dare you to listen and not have some part of your body pulsing right along with the beat. Then comes the electric assault. Sweet relief of a full-on plugged-in raw and gritty guitar. Revel in this, all that is good and bad in a good way about rock. And just when you think it can’t get any dirtier, there’s an explosion of fuzzy guitar muddied with reverb and wailing. It’s a tumultuous ride, this High Ball Stepper.

I implore you, play it loud. Plug in some headphones, listen to it in your car, but turn it up until you feel it. As always, enjoy…

 

Living In America: Living With RapeCulture

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“Me and a gun
and a man
On my back
But I haven’t seen Barbados
So I must get out of this
Yes I wore a slinky red thing
Does that mean I should spread
For you, your friends your father, Mr. Ed”

-Tori Amos, Me and A Gun

My daughter used to play a game when she was a baby. She would crawl over to our magazine rack and tear up the pages. When I would say something to stop her, she would cover her eyes. She thought, in her adorable baby brain, that if she covered her eyes we couldn’t see it therefore nothing was happening. We laughed each time she did this. We marveled at the simple naiveté of a small child. We thought it was precious. But you know what’s not precious? When adults do it. When we do it. When society does it. When we do it about something more serious than tearing apart a magazine, it’s not cute at all.

I would like you to complete a short, simple mental exercise. Imagine 5 young women or young girls that you know. Picture all five of them. Now, with that mental picture in your head, consider that one of those girls will be the victim of rape. Horrifying, right? Shameful. Appalling. Despicable. Reality.

This is a reality in our country. I know that this is not something any of us want to consider. Who wants to look at our young girls and imagine those kind of odds, that kind of future for them? But not thinking about it doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Sticking our head in the sand, ignorance is bliss, knowledge is pain. Is this the way we are choosing to operate in our country? I think so.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 5 women has been raped at some time in their lives. An estimated 80 % of those rapes occur before the age of 25. How can we call ourselves a civilized country when young girls and women are being violated in such astounding numbers? How can we call ourselves a modern society when rape culture is prevalent?

Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture.  Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.

-Marshall University Women’s Center

There’s no disputing the misogyny present in our music, our television, our movies, our advertisements.

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It’s the accepted degradation of half of our population. Sexualizing women, sexualizing girls. Even taking images of young girls in literature/movies and creating “sexy” halloween costumes. So, now we have women dressing up as “sexy children”???

Violence marketed towards boys/men. The vernacular that plays out on talk radio and from politicians. The demeaning of feminism (“feminazi”- ’nuff said.) Women portrayed as hypersexualized while men stand by and look on in their fancy suits…

I have no problem with women expressing their sexuality. I think we all should embrace that part of ourselves. We should own it, nurture it, love it. We shouldn’t be ashamed of it. But I can’t help but notice the obvious disparities in our media. It is this incongruence that is troubling. And it’s just one small piece of a much larger rancid pie.

We have radio talk show hosts calling women sluts for wanting birth control pills. (Because, you know, women have sex in a vacuum. Men are not even in the equation) We have politicians talking about ‘legitimate rape” and “forcible rape.” As opposed to…???? We have girls being raped while drunk at a party in front of a group of boys, boys recording the assault and posting it to social media to further the pain and humiliation of the victim. We have news outlets that do this:

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We have “slut shaming”

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This week a wealthy DuPont heir was sentenced to probation for raping his 3 year old daughter. The judge said he “wouldn’t fare well in prison”. Last year a 56 year old teacher was sentenced to 30 days for raping a 14 year old girl. The judge said that she was “older than her chronological age” and that she was “as much in control”. The girl committed suicide before the case even went to court. Last year a man was sentenced to 11 years, the maximum allowed by the law, for raping his stepdaughter at the age of 14. The maximum sentence was because he did not use violence or did not use any “real amount of force”. The girl suffers from cerebral palsy and obviously couldn’t fight or resist. Because of this, the law allows for a lighter sentence. Rape culture exists in our courts and judicial system apparently.

Obviously it’s not just video games and rap music and movies and tv shows that contribute to the rape culture that is permeating our society. We are absorbing this from every place. From every politician’s dismissive comments regarding violence against women. From every time we turn on the news and hear about another slap on the wrist for rape. From every news caster that questions a victims sobriety, purity and behavior. From every time a woman is shamed for being sexual, for embracing her sexuality. From every time a girl’s rape is passed around on social media for entertainment and ridicule.

These things matter. Rape is a problem. Rape culture exists, it is a problem. What we do and say and participate in and accept matters. We need to pull our heads out of our… out of the sand and pay attention. We need to take our hands from off of our eyes and see what’s in front of us. We aren’t just avoiding a few ripped pages from a magazine. We are shielding our eyes from the realities all around us. We are avoiding the ripped psyche of every girl and woman who is assaulted, raped or shamed. The longer we deny that this exists, the more it will persist.

My blogging friends Gene’O (Sourcererblog) and Diana (Part Time Monster) are hosting a discussion about rape culture. We are inviting anyone who is interested in an active, constructive conversation to chime in. The discussion thread can be found here:

Feminist Friday Round 3: Rape

Playing On Repeat: The Genius That Is Jack White

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“How you gonna stop yourself,

When your man stops ringing your bell

You’re right between heaven and hell

 And you’re gonna need the good Lord to help you.”

-The Raconteurs, Top Yourself

gen-ius (jeen- yuh s): noun, plural  Creating music that is original. That rocks. That pushes the boundaries of what came before. Ever-evolving: Musically, lyrically, stylistically. (see Hendrix, Lennon)

I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a “Jack White Week” on this here blog. I’m really not up for committing to doing anything for a whole week. So I’m just going to occasionally post, in no certain order, some of my favorite Jack White tunes. I don’t have “a” favorite. That would be like asking me which of my children is my favorite. The answer is different depending on which day you ask me.

Multi-talented. Guitar player. Drummer (did you know that the drums are his favorite instrument to play? So when he is slaying with his guitar, that’s just his “other” instrument that he likes to play). Lyricist. Performer. Collaborator. Genius. I am a fan of any incarnation of Mr. White: The White Stripes, The Dead Weather, The Raconteurs, or just Jack White.

“Top Yourself” is from The Raconteurs second album, Consolers of the Lonely. A little bluegrass, a little rock, a little funk. The song toggles between ominous and threatening to a head-shaking lament. Then it works itself up into a frenzy when the piano starts banging out an angry climax at the end. Enjoy…

Foolin’ Around

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Head in Hands

 “Pick up my guitar and play,

Just like yesterday,

Then I’ll get on my knees and pray

We don’t get fooled again.”

-The Who, Won’t Get Fooled Again

April Fool’s Day is a holiday I can get behind. There’s no pressure to get the perfect romantic card and chocolates or flowers (ahem, Valentine’s Day). There’s no expectation of gifts and candy for the kids (I’m looking at you Christmas and Easter). There’s no need to go out and buy green shirts that my kids will wear once (St. Patrick’s Day is for drinking beer, right? Why are the kids even involved?). There’s no Pinterest frenzy of crafts, creations, recipes and hoopla to make you feel inept and inadequate (Pretty much every holiday other than April Fools Day. Seriously- enough, Pinterest.). No, April Fools Day is low-key. It’s all about creativity and having fun at other’s expense. It’s perfect.

I love April Fool’s Day. My personal experience with this holiday goes back to when I was a sweet, naive 12 year old innocent child. I had finished up my homework and was watching the local evening news. The news reporter was interviewing a farmer who was concerned that his crops were suffering from an excessively rainy winter. The farmer was distraught. He was worried about how he was going to feed his family. He and the reporter walked through his fields, through rows of trees. He plucked something off of one of the branches, put it in his mouth and spit it onto the ground, grimacing. The camera zoomed in on the trees, bearing what looks like white fruit. The reporter said there may actually be a marshmallow shortage in the fall because of the damaged crops.

I stared at the t.v. dumbfounded. Huh? Marshmallows? I slowly made my way into my Mom’s room. “Mom? Do marshmallows grow on trees?”. She looked at me with one eyebrow raised. “I mean, I always thought they were made, like in a candy factory. But the news just said that the marshmallow trees are damaged from all the rain.” My mom started laughing. When she saw the genuinely confused look on my face she tried to compose herself. With amusement in her eyes she explained that it was an April Fool’s joke. I was indignant. You’re supposed to be able to trust the news! Why would they play a joke on their viewers! That’s just not right, don’t they have more important things to do?

Thus began a long-running joke in my family. I was teased relentlessly for being so gullible. This story was told to every friend I brought home. Family friends, neighbors, anyone who would listen was regaled with the story of my flaky air-headedness. Any opportunity to bring it up and give me a hard time was not missed. It has been roughly 29 years since that perplexing and vexing April. And still, the joke lives on. Just a few months ago, on my birthday, my nephew had a small tree branch with marshmallows taped to it that he proudly presented to me. They will never tire of this joke. My kids have now taken up the cause to make Mom feel stupid and will gladly carry on the tradition as well.

And there’s more. When I was older, I apparently felt the need to break up with boyfriends on April Fool’s Day. I’m not sure why. I never was aware that I did this. But I broke up with my high school boyfriend and two different college boyfriends on this day. Each time, the guy thought I was pulling a prank on him. Ooops. My family also took to warning guys about this. They told my husband when they first met him that if he made it past April 1st, then he was o.k.

So, me and April Fool’s Day, we have a history. I feel connected to this holiday and it’s spirit of absurdity. I have always wanted to pull off the perfect April Fool’s hoax. I have ideas, I think about it months ahead of time. But every year, the day sneaks up on me. I tell myself next year will be the year. I’ll plan ahead. It will be awesome. If I can execute the perfect deception, the most clever trick, then maybe I’ll have some peace. If I can leave people befuddled and shocked, them maybe I can finally shed the stigma of that long ago spring day of mischief.

And one final note to my family, my friends, my husband. All of those people who have relished the teasing and the taunting for all these years. I’m not alone. I am not the first person to be duped by a news show. In April 1, 1957 the BBC aired a segment on a false spaghetti harvest in Switzerland. This prank resulted in hundreds of inquiries as to how people could grow their own spaghetti trees.

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First, let’s make a few rules. News stations, news reporters, you are not allowed to take part in the shenanigans. Your job is to fixate on one issue to the exclusion of all other news or to drum up partisan political scandals. You stick to your hyper vigilant obsessive reporting and leave the funny stuff to the funny guys. It’s already hard enough to believe what’s being reported without your throwing in silly little pranks.

Second, as for the spaghetti trees… Maybe it’s just me, but marshmallows growing on trees seems much more plausible than spaghetti trees. Those silly Brits.  Imagine, thinking spaghetti grows on trees! Ha!

And third, I just checked and Pinterest is in fact trying to ruin April Fools Day. Dear Pinterest, Just. Stop.

 

 

The Other Shoe

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photo: Deviant Art

“Happiness hit her like a train on a track…”

-Florence and the Machine, Dog Days Are Over

I have written before about being happy. And I wasn’t lying. Most of the times I am content and pretty happy. Happy is my default setting. But sometimes, behind the smile is a little sense of dread, a little apprehension, a dark shadow persistently tapping me on the shoulder.

Waiting for the other shoe to drop. I don’t know where this phrase came from. It doesn’t really matter, we all know what it means. That other shoe is the thing that floats around in my subconscious. It is my nemesis, the thing I am battling constantly. I refuse to let the other shoe and it’s haunting presence take away my decidedly determined good mood. I will be happy, damn it.

There have been times in my life where everything seems perfect. Things feel almost blissful. And then BAM. Life slaps you in the face with a shit storm. The most memorable and significant incident went like this:

Joe and I got engaged. I was excited, I was in love. I felt incredibly fortunate. I had never been more content and sure of my life and where it was going. During this time I was struggling with a close friend who seemed displeased with all my happiness. I told a mutual friend “I feel incredibly lucky, my life has never been better. But should I feel guilty for being happy?” This was expressed as gratitude for my happy situation and confusion over the other friend’s cold reception to our engagement news. Those words that I spoke, those words would haunt me in ways I could never have imagined.

A week after our engagement we found out my brother had Stage 4 cancer. Wind, sucked out of sail. Balloon, deflated. It literally felt like the sky changed from sunny blue to colorless and stagnate. A gray suffocating blanket of pain and fear and disbelief.

That shoe dropped hard. But there was no time to wallow. We had to fight. We all, my whole family, had to strap on our boots and steel ourselves and be strong for my brother. The other shoe would continually drop for the next 18 months. Hope would be raised only to be squashed. He would seem to be getting better, only to have a scan show more tumors. The final shoe that dropped crushed us all.

We all forged ahead. We found ways to be happy again. Four babies have been born since then (I had my 3 children and my sister gave birth to her third child). We all healed a little with each tiny soul that entered our world. Each baby opened up our hearts a little more to allow some joy. Each one of them gave us permission to feel a little more happiness.

In those early days with my first child, I felt like I was constantly looking over my shoulder for that other shoe. Behind my joy and wonderment was a paralyzing fear. What if something happened to him? What if he got sick? What if someone took him from me? I had come to believe that with joy comes pain. That for every happy event, there was an equal and opposite devastating event.

I have been fighting these thoughts for all these years. They come less frequently now, but they still pop up occasionally. I have honed my mental shoe battling skills. I remind myself that I can’t possibly predict when the other shoe will drop. I can’t foresee it and therefore control it or try to prevent it. It’s ludicrous to think that I can control fate. Life will deal what it deals. But part of me is standing watch like a sentry. Part of me is ready to see that shoe falling and by seeing it coming I can step out of the way. I can pull my family to the side and watch it hit the pavement. Whew. Close one.

I don’t know if this is healthy. I know it is a way of coping with the trauma of life sucker-punching you. And coping skills can be a great tool. Until they’re not. Until they are impeding you form moving forward. Until they are preventing you from living you life.

Right now, I am happy. I think about that other shoe a little bit less. I’m still scanning the world around me vigilantly. My eyes track back and forth, along with my mind. I don’t think I’ll ever not be on watch. Part of that is being a parent. It’s our job to keep our eyes trained our young subjects. But I might be standing a little stiffer, a little more vigilante than my neighbor. Having seen that the unthinkable can in fact happen, I have no choice. But I will keep my watch with a smile on my face. I will break this vigilance to play and engage and relax. But I will never be off duty. When I’m having fun with my kids, my ears will still be listening. While I’ll sleep soundly, my rest will serve to make me more vigilant when awake. I am working feverishly to not live my life in fear of that other shoe, but if it does drop, I will be fighting like hell to keep it from landing on those I love.

5 Things That Were Totally Unfair From Your Youth (but maybe were a good thing)

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“You can’t always get what you want,

But if you try sometimes, You just might find,

You get what you need.”

-The Rolling Stones, You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Parents hear it all the time, “That’s so unfair!” If you’re like me you respond with something like “Yeah, yeah kid. Life’s not fair. Get over it.” It’s the circle of life, the cycle of parenting (or any other round shaped metaphor). We said it to our parents, our kids say it to us and one day their kids will be saying it to them. The reason for this is because life isn’t fair. There was no guarantee upon birth that your life would be even-keeled and full of justice. No one made any of us promises of an entire lifetime of things going our way. And that’s a good thing. There are times when it sucks. There are times when it is tragic and beyond comprehension. I’m not talking about the unfair tragedies in life. I’m talking about your every day, run of the mill inequities.

Some of these things are good for us to experience. Often there’s some kind of lesson to be learned from life’s unfairness. Following are some things that most of us experienced at some point in our youth. And we probably whined and threw a fit about them. But really? Many times these things serve to teach us a lesson. We just may not realize it until 20 years later.

1. Bad teachers: Now, I’m not talking about teachers that are predators. Obviously that is beyond the category of unfair. I’m talking about mean teachers. They are miserable. They don’t really seem to like kids. They don’t really seem to like teaching. Maybe they have a personality disorder. They are rude, they make snide comments about you. Maybe they single you out in front of the class. As long as they are not crossing the line into verbal abuse, get over it. I’m talking about older grades here. Once a kid is hitting the pre-teen/teen years they should be able to deal with a teacher who’s a little rough around the edges. There are a lot of great teachers out there, but every once in a while you’re going to get a teacher that’s just an ass. Guess what? One day you’ll have a college professor who’s an ass. One day you’ll have a boss who’s an ass. Assholes exist in all walks of life and all professions, so you may as well learn how to deal with them at a young age.

Sorry kids, they ain't all Morgan Freeman

Sorry kids, they can’t all be Morgan Freeman

2. Not making the team. Yes, this will feel a little harsh too. You had your heart set on wearing the cute volleyball uniform and you had even experimented with different hair styles that would both be flattering and keep the hair out of your face as you spiked the ball over the net. Except you can’t even figure out how to serve the ball and you tend to run into the net when trying to assist. So, you don’t make the team, but you learned a valuable lesson. Playing sports is hard work. It takes dedication and practice. And just because you and your best friend had already picked out your Maverick and Iceman nicknames doesn’t mean you were fully prepared for tryouts. Come back next year, tiger, and show ‘em what you’re made of.

That’s right Ice… Man. I’m dangerous.

3. Not getting the “stuff” other kids get. Some kids get all the coolest newest stuff. The cool toys, the cool clothes, the cool shoes. And for every kid that gets these hot ticket items, there’s at least a few who don’t. Who bug their parents for said item. Who compare the parents of said spoiled child to you. Well guess what kid, I am not and never will be that parent that runs out and gets you the latest and greatest just because every one else has it. You may get it eventually, on an appropriate gift giving occasion. But chances are I’ll find a bargain version of that big ticket item and it will be almost as good as the one your friend has. But getting everything you want, when you want it, just sets you up to be sorely disappointed when real life doesn’t work out that way. Or it sets you up to be an entitled asshole. Either way, learning to delay gratification at a young age definitely serves most kids better and sets them up for reasonable expectations as adults.

Brooke was all like, "Nothing gets between me and my Calvins…"

Brooke was all, “Nothing gets between me and my Calvins…”

And I was like:

Mom Jeans

4. Not getting invited to every social event. This can sting a little. Sometimes you may be left out. You may get your feelings hurt if a group of friends is doing something without you. This one takes some savvy analyzing to deal with properly. Are your friends excluding you in a hurtful way? Or is it based in practicality (there’s only so many kids that can attend a sleep over before it turns into Animal House and John Belushi is sleeping on the floor in your living room.)

 “Over? Did you say 'over'? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no! ”

“Over? Did you say ‘over’? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no! ”

You see kids, you won’t get invited to everything when you’re an adult. You may have to miss out on a neighbor’s cook-out or maybe you won’t be on the invite list for your coworker’s Christmas party. Maybe they only had so much food to serve. Maybe they forgot to invite you. It’s fine, really. It’s not a big deal. Because you worked through these types of issues when you were younger and learned to not take it personally. You didn’t really want to go anyways. You don’t really like hanging out with those people that much. I mean, they are kind of annoying and obnoxious with all their socializing and stuff…   O.K. -maybe you’re still not over this one.

5. That long awkward phase. There’s no positive spin on this one. It’s rough. The worst part is you know you’re totally awkward. You’re hair is full of cowlicks and a bad perm. Your teeth are too big for your face.

Almost this bad

That awkward moment when you realize the Awkward Brian meme is eerily similar to your school picture…

You’re clumsy. You drop your tray in the cafeteria in front of everyone. You stutter and stammer. You try to sound cool but it just doesn’t work. You try to be funny but no one laughs. This is a tough time. There’s nothing you can do but wait out this phase. It will pass eventually. You will grow into your teeth, you will learn to laugh at yourself when you do trip and fall (because that will never change). Eventually you will look back at these years and cringe and try to burn all the pictures and evidence so that your future husband doesn’t have to carry the mental picture around in his head of your “Greg Brady Phase”. You will wonder why your older sister never went through this phase and why all of your friends seemed to grow out of it much sooner. You may carry the scars with you forever and still picture yourself as the dorky 13 year old even when you have your own 13 year old to parent.

But, hey, that phase was good for you, right? You learned something from it, I’m sure. Right? Oh, @*$#  it! There was no bright side to this! This sucked! There’s no lesson to learn here, no sunshine to be blown up the arse about this one. This one has no reason. I see no need for kids to go through this “feeling uncomfortable in your own skin” kind of stage. This is a chapter in life that could be completely left out and we’d all be better off for it. It’s even worse when some people seem to breeze through these years unscathed- gleaming teeth, shiny hair that is always perfectly styled, graceful and confident and popular. While some of us feel like this:

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It’s just. Not. Fair.

Feminist Friday…. Why?

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Feminism… sigh….  Why has such an important word that signifies so many good and important things become so vilified? You would think that at this point in our country, in our culture, in society as a whole- that this discussion wouldn’t be necessary. But alas, it   is.

It seems like you can’t read the news, surf the net or get on Twitter without someone declaring their opposition to Feminism. I recently read a female blogger’s comments on a post where she stated that she could not sign on to be a “man-hating” feminist. That she would declare herself a “humanist” instead. I figuratively scratched my head and wondered, can’t you be both? Is there an either or? I am a feminist. I love men. Always have. Growing up I had a lot of guy friends. One of my best friends was a guy. I have been lucky enough to date really great guys. I married a man, one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met. I had a sensitive, caring, compassionate brother. I have a loving Stepfather. A beautiful son. I think most men are pretty great humans. I would not want to live in a world where men were demonized or demeaned or forsaken. And I am a Feminist. Yes, you can love men, appreciate men and be a feminist.

Guess what? You can also dress however you want. You can own your sexuality and celebrate it, flaunt it, embrace it. You can put on makeup and heels. You can enjoy being feminine. Or not. Either way, none of this precludes you from being a feminist.

You don’t have to spend every waking moment devoting yourself to feminist causes. You don’t have to tattoo it on your forehead. It can be a part of who you are and one facet of your world, it doesn’t have to dominate your life. And you can still be a feminist.

The cause of Feminism has changed and evolved over the decades. It was once a fight for the rights to own property and vote became the fight for fair wages (still an ongoing battle) and the fight against sexual harassment in the workplace. Thanks to the men and women who fought for these causes, we can rest easy on some of these issues. But that doesn’t mean that there is no need for feminism in 2014.

The fight now is about many things. It is easier to promote a cause when it is about a specific, tangible thing. When there is a victory on the far off horizon to be claimed. The goals today may be less quantifiable. My reasons for caring about it and talking about and trying to do something about it are varied.

The commonality of sexual assault and rape in our country and all around the world is appalling. The statistics are staggering. 17.7 million women in the United States have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape. (Nat’l. Inst. of Justice and Ctr for Disease Control and Prevention).  One in four women attending college will be the victim of sexual assault or an attempt. This is not the behavior of a civilized world. What are the reasons behind this? What can we do to stop this epidemic? These are the things that I find to be critical issues in the feminist cause.

The fight for women’s rights around the world are important for feminists everywhere. We can’t insulate ourselves and only concern ourselves with what happens in our country. Our world is more intertwined and connected than ever before. I have received comments from women in Pakistan and India on my blog, comments about the limited rights and violence against women in their countries. We can no longer afford to be egocentric and stick our head in the sand when it comes to these issues affecting women and girls all over the world. Child brides are being married off to old men. Young girls are undergoing genital mutilation. Women are being raped as retaliation. There is a long sordid list of injustices happening around the world to women. Our world and these other countries will never be healthy until women are treated as equal.

There’s a thing called Feminist Friday in the blogging world. I first learned about it from a fellow blogger (thank you Gene’O) and since then have connected with other bloggers who care about these issues. Smart people. People with a social conscious and a desire to discuss these things. People who truly want to make things better. They have written some important pieces on this issue. You can read Alva’s Almanac about why Feminist Friday is important to her. Take a look at an important post by Diana at Part Time Monster about teaching our children to have empathy and see the struggles others go through. And check out Gene’O at The Sourcerer. I think it’s vital that men be a part of feminism. I think that men have a place in the discussion and the cause. I absolutely believe that you can be a man and be a feminist.

We will be having a Twitter conversation today about Feminism. About the meaning of the word and the perception of the word. If you would like to join us on Twitter or by commenting on this or any of the above linked posts, please do! On Twitter you can find us by #FeministFriday, or you can find me at @gkelly73.  Happy Feminist Friday everyone!

img_2475i-need-feminism-because-600x799feminism

The Good, The Bad and Making This Place Better

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“In this garden
They’ll be no war
No racial prejudice
You’ll be my brother
Of any color
You’ll just be okay with us
We’ll live each day in peace
In hope that we will one day reach
The rest of the world
When they are ready to be teached
The kingdom will come
Thy will will be done
On Earth as it is in heaven
I build this garden
I build this garden for us”

-Lenny Kravitz, I Build This Garden For Us

What is the most important lesson you want to teach your children? To work hard? To live with passion? To trust their instincts? Me too. These are all important lessons that I’m trying to give my kids. But the most important lesson for me, the one I most want my kids to carry with them through this life can be found in a children’s book- “Is There Really A Human Race” by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell.

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In the book a little boy is asking his mom about the “human race” we all participate in and what is it really all about… she answers with this “Shouldn’t it be looking back at the end that you judge your own race by the help that you lend? So, take what’s inside of you and make big, bold choices. And for those who can’t speak for themselves, use bold voices. And make friends and love well, bring art to this place. And make the world better… for the whole human race.”  On the last page there is a drawing of a Muslim and Jewish man sitting together on a park bench playing “Go Fish”. I choke up every time I read it to my kids.

It’s so easy to get overwhelmed and bogged down with all of the crap happening around us. Just reading the news is enough to put anyone of us in a depression about all of the negativity and evil and hatred in the world. But, there is good out there. There are some really amazing people doing really amazing things. There are people performing small acts of kindness, right now, all over the world. It’s out there, it just doesn’t always make the evening news. After writing my recent posts about racism and online misogyny and bullying I felt like I was in need of some reminders about The Good. I do believe The Good outweighs The Bad. I may write a little more about The Bad because those are the things that get me fired up and pissed off and that’s when I have to write. The Bad will always get more airplay and screen time. And it should, because we have to write about it, read about it, talk about it if we ever want things to change. But sometimes The Good deserves a little lovin’ too. A little publicity can maybe result in a chain reaction, inspire us to do our own Good.

A few months ago I stumbled upon this picture:

credit: Stephanie Lim, Ann Arbor News/ AP

credit: Stephanie Lim, Ann Arbor News/ AP

Pretty powerful picture, right?  The look on this woman’s face, the ferocity with which she is protecting this man, the way the man is cowering and protecting himself…  it’s a picture that says so much. What’s even more powerful is the story behind the picture. The KKK was holding a rally in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1996. Many people showed up to peacefully protest the presence of the Klan. This man was spotted with an SS tattoo, wearing a Confederate Flag shirt.

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The peaceful protestors broke through the barricades and chased this man down, attacking him. Their anger is not hard to understand. Here is someone who represents everything most of us consider evil and hateful. Keshia Thomas, only 18 years old at the time, threw herself on top of the man to protect him from the crowd. Protesters were beating him with their placard signs and she threw herself into the line of fire to protect someone who by nature of his affiliations hated her because of her skin color. Someone who would likely rather see her enslaved or killed, if the flag shirt and SS tattoo are any indication. She exhibited courage and conviction with her actions. This picture tells a beautiful, unexpected story from a day that was intended to represent hate and ugliness by those holding the rally.

Then there’s this picture:

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Members of Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas were protesting at Washburn University in Kansas. Josef Miles was visiting the campus with his mom when he saw the protestor’s signs. He used a notebook and scribbled the message “God Hates No One.”  This boy, only 9 years old, stood up to the hatred these people were spewing and staged his own counter protest.

Facebook/Fever Dreams

Facebook/Fever Dreams

His mom said she’d “Never been prouder” of her son, “Those people are scary but he stood strong, was respectful and stood by his convictions. He will be a good man, I have no doubt. I got my Mothers Day present early.”

Last week I saw a story about a special needs teen, Mitchell Marcus, who was the team manager on his high school basketball team. During the last game of the season his coach put him in the game with 90 seconds left on the clock. The teammates and the coach wanted the avid basketball fan to have his chance to score a basket during a real game. Mitchell took his shot and missed, tried again and the ball went out of bounds. The opposing team, his school’s rival, now had possession of the ball. Then something amazing happened.9bf5dd6d8a43b1523578cac6706a8834

Jonathen Martinez passed the ball to Mitchell and said “Shoot it, it’s your time.” Mitchell again shot and missed. The opposing team stood back and let Mitchell take three more shots until he finally scored. The crowd rushed the court and lifted Mitchell onto their shoulders. The rival team sacrificed their chance to win the game, opting instead to let Mitchell fulfill a dream.

These stories are reassuring. Comfort that in the midst of ugliness, there’s beauty. Comfort that The Good outweighs The Bad. Hope for the optimist in us that we’re not fools for believing in The Good. Because there’s also this:

After Arden McNath collapsed in front of her, Meghan Vogel stopped and helped her to the finish line and made sure she crossed over it first, sacrificing her place in the meet. (AP/The Daily Mail/ Mike Vogel)

And this:

Christians forming a protective circle around praying Muslims during the Egyptian protests

And to return the favor:

Muslims standing outside a Catholic church in Egypt to protect the worshipers

Muslims standing outside a Catholic church in Egypt to protect the worshipers

Let these stories warm your heart. Remember, even when you’re watching the evening news that there are people out there making bold choices. When you hear of senseless violence, remember that there are people who are using bold voices to stand up for others. When you see people displaying bigotry or hatred, remember that there are people who are making friends and loving well and bringing art to this place. Remember all of this and maybe we can all make this world better for the whole human race.

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