Thursday, September 29, 2016

I'm Embarrassed For You Already But It's Not Too Late to Get It Together

Well this is just fucking ridiculous. Sorry for the expletive right out of the gate, but that's how I feel. We skipped right over regular ridiculous and went straight to the big leagues.

Have you visited the internet lately?

I've been telling myself for a while now that I need to stay off social media, but have yet to follow through. I think that's about to change, though, because I CAN'T EVEN with the nonsense I've seen over the past week. The political arena (circus) went from bad to worse and I can only assume we can expect a further decline until November (if that's even possible). And Lord help us all when a winner is announced, because no matter who it is, a large portion of the population is going to lose their collective minds. 


Is it the end of times? I don't know but it feels like it could be the end of times. Calm down I'm being dramatic. 

I (for the most part) have resisted engaging in politically-fueled posts, because generally no good comes from it. It's easy to have a polite conversation when you agree with someone's OPINION, enjoyable even, but when someone offers a different point of view things can get dicey in a hurry. Even the most level-headed of people can become unreasonable if you challenge their way of thinking hard enough. 

Example: this one time my husband and I got into a heated argument after I bought Hidden Valley Ranch dressing instead of Kraft. Very serious business. He believes with every fiber of his being that the latter is superior. I, on the other hand, have functioning taste buds. We yelled at each other about it. YELLED. About RANCH DRESSING. My kids still refer to that as "The Great Ranch Dressing Debate of 2013". Definitely not one of our finer parenting moments, but at least I learned an important lesson in that it's just best not to argue with people who are wrong.  

I'm obviously kidding (not about the argument - that really did happen), but apparently these days that's what a difference of opinion means - the other person is WRONG. Plain and simple. No discussion. People sling insults like monkeys sling poo and I'm starting to consider wearing protective gear before I turn on the computer.  

It's so, so hard to deal with people who don't think like us. SO HARD, you guys. But it's possible. I know this because I've actually seen with my own eyeballs a few exchanges where there was no name-calling and no telling each other how stupid and wrong the other person was and no declaration of an impending unfriending. Instead of nonchalantly scrolling past as if that's the norm, I find myself  dumbfounded by such civility and compelled to stop by to congratulate these people on their ability to be KIND AND RATIONAL HUMAN BEINGS. 


Sad, sad, sad state of affairs we find ourselves in. Politeness and consideration have been thrown out the window like a half-eaten burrito, with little to no regard for who we hit in the face in the process. 


Oh, and another thing. 

Hilarious parodies and video mash-ups are like little rays of sunshine to my soul. I love a good meme. Cleverly captioned gifs make my heart sing. Obvi. BUT YOU GUYS. These are not where one should look for reliable political information. 

We are not this stupid, are we? The media is treating us like we've got shit for brains and guess what - that's exactly what they are turning into. Shit. And not even the hard kind that's been sitting in the yard for a few days. These people take whatever information is at hand and spin it whichever way necessary to make if fit their particular beliefs and get them the most attention. The most views. The most likes. The most shares. We sit and scroll and scroll some more and ingest it all like hypnotized morons. 



I don't know. It seems to me that sharing political opinions seems to be pretty pointless at this juncture. Most people have made up their minds and no amount of information (or MISinformation) is going to change it. Trump supporters are only willing to click on titles suggesting that he is the answer to all of America's problems and that Hillary is the anti-christ. Switch the names around in that sentence, and the same becomes true for Hillary supporters. You know I'm right. 
But if putting your current stance out there helps you sleep at night, FOR THE LOVE, fact check your information. 

A good place to start is by looking at the name of the website from which you got it. 

Hint: Any Facebook page that has the word "Conservative" or "Liberal" should give you pause. I'm not saying you shouldn't follow them or that they always offer inaccurate information, but there's a good chance that - at the very least - the information is biased one way or the other. And if the lead photo for the article has a picture of either candidate a side show act, SKIP IT. 

I'm giving you this piece of advice because if you are guilty of sharing articles suggesting things like "Hillary Eats Babies for Breakfast" and "Trump Recently Engaged to Daughter", you are just making yourself look like an idiot. I'm sorry to be so blunt, but it needs to be said. Those two headlines are obviously exaggerated examples, but they might as well not be because I swear to the heavens above that I come across at least 10 of these type posts a day and I'm like...No. Don't. Stop. Please. 


That's my exact face. I literally turn into Ross Gellar.

Come onnnnnn. TRY HARDER, AMERICA.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

I Was Lucky

Near the end of my freshman year in college I visited New Orleans with a group of friends. We were there for a sorority convention, but arrived a day early so we could hang out on Bourbon Street. I believe there were four of us. Being from Texas and having lived a fairly sheltered existence up to then, it was my first time to visit the city. The other girls were all from Louisiana and were determined to show me a good time. And I was all in.

While I had been to plenty of college parties and drank my share of Zima's and wine coolers, I had never allowed myself to get "sloppy". Our first stop was Pat O'Brien's for one of their famous Hurricanes. I got the large. I couldn't taste the alcohol in my Hurricane and proceeded to drink it like it was nothing but Hawaiian Punch as we meandered down the bustling boulevard. Just wait. I get dumber as the night progresses. We stopped at another bar called "Tropical Isle" a little while later, where I was served a drink called a "Hand Grenade". I remember the souvenir cup in which it was served had the words "New Orleans' Most Powerful Drink" printed all over it. The accuracy of this claim is indisputable.

About halfway through the drink I started to feel woozy. I knew I was a lightweight, but was determined to keep up with the other girls so I finished the drink and did my best to hide just how drunk I was. We continued to make our way through the hustle and bustle, in and out of dance clubs and bars. Although every one of us were intoxicated at this point, we made a concentrated effort to stay together, continually checking to make sure we were all accounted for.  

At one point we were in a bar and ran into a couple of guys the other girls knew from school. We were all standing around talking and dancing when the libations I had so quickly and carelessly sent down the hatch decided they should make their way back up. In a (failed) attempt to save myself from embarrassment, I ran out of the bar and around the corner. I was right next to the bar, but most bystanders were near the entrance, out of sight as I sat on the curb puking onto the street. Such a proud moment. 

I hadn't been there but for a few seconds when I felt someone behind me. Male hands reached down and pulled my hair out of my face and asked, "Are you okay?" I turned around and recognized him as one of the guys that my friends had been talking to. I nodded, turned back around, and continued to throw up. He stood there holding my hair away from my face until I stopped. He then helped me up, reunited me with my friends, and suggested we all call it a night. He got my friends and I a taxi, and sent us back to our hotel.

This memory suddenly came back to me and I haven't stopped thinking about it since I read a story a couple of days ago about a Stanford student, Brock Turner, who was found guilty of raping a woman in early 2015. It has been all over the news because he recently received his sentence. He was found unanimously guilty of this crime, and prosecutors asked that he be sentenced to 6 years in prison. The judge, however, sentenced him to 6 MONTHS of jail time with probation because felt that "A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him." You see, he was a college athlete with a bright future hailing from an upper middle class family. Poor guy. 

As if the story couldn't get worse, the father has recently written a letter suggesting that even the light sentence his son received is "a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 years of life." Gee. I wonder if the victim has a slightly different perspective? Maybe not - I mean, this event hasn't changed her life in the least. 

I did some research and found out that Brock has a sister. That's right. Dan Turner, Brock's father - the man who referred to the sexual assault executed by his son as "20 minutes of action", and whose biggest concern seems to be his son's loss of appetite for a good ribeye - has a daughter. I wonder if he'd feel the same about this situation if she was the one in the victim's chair. With his response to this situation, he has failed her. I am genuinely disgusted by this man.  

Brock had been drinking that night as well, and blames his actions on poor judgment due to intoxication. I find it interesting that his judgment was skewed enough that it escaped him that it is NOT okay to penetrate an unconscious female, yet he was lucid enough to know to run when he realized he was spotted and being pursued by two passersby. Curious. 

The reason this story has brought up my personal memory is because the victim admitted to being overly intoxicated and blacking out. 

I was obviously overly intoxicated, and about a half hour after I got into that cab I blacked out, too. The boy who followed me out of the bar had also been drinking heavily and could have very easily done to me what Brock Turner did to his victim. But he didn't. He held my hair out of my face while I wretched in an alley. I used poor judgment. I was stupid for allowing myself to be over-served. But I hadn't done anything illegal - the drinking age in Louisiana at that time was 18. I was 19. Fortunately for me, the price for my stupidity was a hangover I will remember for the rest of my days. Not sexual assault. And it's BEYOND messed up that I feel like I should hunt down the mailing address of that boy and pen him a thank you note for not raping me when I was vulnerable.  Did you hear what I just said? That I am appreciative of someone FOR NOT VIOLATING ME when I may or may not have known what was happening?? Something is very, very wrong with that statement. But this is how backwards rape culture in America is today. And the way this particular story has played out has done nothing but perpetuate it. 

I have two children - a boy and a girl. I am terrified for both of them. 

I will tell my daughter: It is absolute crap, but apparently you hold the burden. Your too-short-skirt is an invitation. Your intoxication is consent. Society has made these rules for you and I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry. 

I will tell my son: We have planted and sowed the seeds. We have done our best to impress upon you the importance of respecting women. It doesn't matter how flirtatious they are, how scantily they are dressed, or how much they have had to drink. Anything other than a VERBAL "Yes" means "NO". Go ahead and consider a verbal but drunken "Yes" to also mean "NO". If you choose to color outside of these lines, you have made the decision to become a criminal. This could forever and deservedly alter your future.  Because I guarantee that you've sure as hell altered hers. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Is My Family Tree Good Enough for America?

I'm no stranger to racist comments. A kid in junior high would call me by different Mexican foods every morning while we stood outside waiting for the first bell to ring. He'd come up with a new one each day. My favorite was when he would call me "tortilla", because he would without fail mispronounce it TOR-TILL-YA, which gave me an opportunity to laugh in his face and call him an idiot. Something I should have done on all the other days as well. Hindsight.

(In case you're sitting there saying tortilla to yourself and wondering what the correct pronunciation is, it's TOR-TEE-YA.) 

I'm still subject to racist comments fairly regularly, even as an adult. I've before been referred to as a wetback and though it was supposedly "in jest", it was only slightly, as are all remarks of its kind. Another time I was playing Bunco with a group of ladies and one of the women made a comment about seeing an Obama sign in someone's yard and followed it up with, "I'll bet they're Mexican." I don't know exactly what that was supposed to mean, but I was in tune enough to know she didn't mean it as a compliment. I've been part of conversations where someone will mention needing to hire someone to mow their yard or do work around their house and someone else will comment, "Go find a Mexican." And I won't even get into the things I've seen "friends" post on Facebook.

Granted, a lot of times the people who make these comments in my presence don't realize I am Mexican simply because I don't look the part. You see, I'm half white. Not that that's a valid excuse for making them in the first place, but it is what it is and the unfortunate truth is that experience has taught me to mention my heritage in casual conversation early in a relationship, simply to save them from embarrassment later on. While the "mention" usually only includes a statement like, "My dad is Mexican," the rest of the story goes like this...

My grandmother was born in Mexico in 1929. My grandfather was born in Mexico in 1926. They married at the ages of 15 and 17 in January of 1944. They had, respectively, 3rd and 6th grade educations. They came to the United States in 1945, with their first child, in hopes of providing her a better life.

They started out in a small border town called Donna, Texas. They lived there until the summer of 1954, when they moved to another small town, this one in Northeast Texas. This would be the town in which my father, the 3rd of 9 children, would meet my mother, and the town I would come to know as "home".

My grandparents were blue collar workers. They worked hard, and for many years. My grandmother worked mostly as a cook, first in a local hospital, then later in a restaurant. She was actually the "kitchen manager" at the restaurant. Her son owned it. She eventually came to be lovingly known as "Mama", and is still called that today by just about everyone who is a native to my hometown. My grandfather worked first in a local ice cream factory then, upon its closing, as a service person for a local business owner, and finally as a custodian for the high school I attended.

They worked as resident aliens for 40 years, until 1985 when they became American citizens. I was in 4th grade and still remember that day. Possibly because I got to miss school to attend their naturalization ceremony, but more likely because even at the age of 10 I was aware of what a proud moment it was for them, and our entire family.

Waiting for the ceremony to begin. My grandparents are in the middle.

A few members of my family outside the courthouse following the ceremony in which my grandparents became U.S. citizens. That's me on the right in the sweet knee socks.

My grandfather died at the age of 69 when I was a freshman in college. My grandmother is currently 86 years old.

The legacy they have created includes eighteen grandchildren. Eleven of us have college degrees. Three are currently in college working and on-track to earn a degree. From the eighteen grandchildren have come twenty-six great grandchildren. One of those is old enough to have graduated college and has since entered the police force. Another is currently in college. From my Mexican-born grandparents and their nine children, eighteen grandchildren, and twenty-six great grandchildren have come a host of contributing members to society - businessmen and women, law enforcement officers, social workers, managers, medical professionals, teachers, and accountants.

Me with my grandparents at my high school graduation. 

On paper, my grandparents didn't add up to much back when they first came to America. They were young, uneducated, and poor. But they recognized that there was opportunity for a better life in the United States. My story is just one of hundreds...thousands...probably hundreds of thousands of families who came to America with nothing in hopes of making something of themselves. And they did it despite the odds.

"The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else's problems. These aren't the best and the finest. When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're sending people that have lots of problems...they're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." 
                      -Donald Trump

Mr. Trump, I take exception to your generalization of an entire country and its people. I am only the second generation of my family to be born in the United States and I find the use of fear mongering and the perpetuation of racism to support your political agenda despicable. But I must admit that there is one statement you've made on which I will agree - it turns out some Mexicans ARE good people.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Born On Third Base

No time to read? Now you can listen!

Last week one of my neighbors texted me to ask if I had any knowledge of bookkeeping. I (hesitantly) texted her back that I'm a little rusty, but yes - I actually have a degree in accounting. I use the word "hesitantly" because it seems that no matter where I go, accounting follows me. I haven't worked full-time in accounting in about 10 years, and in that time of hiatus I've arrived at the conclusion that I decidedly do NOT want to be an accountant when I grow up. Apparently the universe has different ideas.

It turns out that the reason she wanted to know is that she works for a non-profit organization in town that provides food and shelter for families in emergency situations. The woman that had been handling the books needed to resign due to some personal health problems and they were looking for someone to take her place. I've really been wanting to find a volunteer opportunity like this for years and this one just happened to find me, so I jumped at the chance to do it. I've heard that God puts you in certain places at certain times for certain reasons. Well…THAT. And for once, I'm actually glad that this accounting degree thing JUST WON'T QUIT.

SIDEBAR: This is the internet after all, so as ridiculous as it is, I feel it's necessary to include a notation that I'm actually extremely grateful that I have a degree. It took a lot of hard work and even more student loans to get it, so before anyone jumps down my throat about how fortunate I am and that I shouldn't complain: I KNOW THIS. Chill and keep reading.

Friday night the same neighbor texted me and asked if I was available to ride with her to a local hotel to help out a family in need. The family (Mom, Dad, and 3 kids) are currently living there and had been locked out of their room because they were unable to pay. They had an EBT card and a $97 hold had been put on it when they put $11 worth of gas in their car earlier that day. With the hold, they didn't have enough remaining on the card to pay for the hotel and they were going to be on the street until they got paid on Monday.

The organization gets as much information about families as they can before they are granted help, simply because they run entirely off donations and want to make sure they are begin good stewards with donor's contributions.  So after we spoke with the front desk and paid for them to stay through the weekend, we talked a little with the mother.

Before they found themselves in the situation they are currently in, they had been living with family. One of the family members in the home was very ill, and the mother became her caregiver. Unfortunately, the family member passed away, the mother's help was no longer needed, and they were no longer welcome to live in the house.

"I knew once we moved into a hotel, we would never get out. I didn't want to move in here, but we didn't have anywhere else to go."

My friend asked if she had been able to find employment. (She had to quit her job to take care of the ill family member.)

"I've looked. I can't afford child care and now we don't have any family to help out. I can't find a job where I can work while they are at school because I don't have a diploma. So no one will hire me."

"Have you looked into getting a GED?"

"I went to take the test. I didn't know anything. I couldn't answer any of the questions. I quit school when I was 14."

Her eyes watered and she looked at the ceiling as she said that last part. I don't know that I've ever seen a human being wear shame like I saw when she told us that.

We gave her a hug and a number to call about taking classes that would prepare her for taking the test and asked that she let us know how things are going. Honestly, I wanted to take the whole lot of them home with me, but there is a certain degree of professionalism and (for lack of a better word) distance required when you're dealing with these situations on behalf of an actual organization, and not out of your own pocketbook.

I got home and thought about what I'd just witnessed. We've worked hard to get where we are, there's no arguing that. My husband literally started on the lowest rung in his company and worked his way up. But there is also no arguing that there IS such a thing as being born on third base. And we were. Don't confuse this to mean that we were handed our successes - we weren't, and there was a lot of hard work involved with getting us where we are - but there are some circumstances that had nothing to do with anything we did personally that put us a little ahead of the game.

It's not as if I've never realized this before, but I don't think it's ever been quite so glaringly in my face. I don't have a memory of sitting face to face with someone who can't dig their way out of the hole they've dug for themselves and have subsequently, and continuously, been shit on by life.

My husband and I were raised in homes that valued education. Quitting school at any point, let alone at the age of 14 was NEVER an option. Had I attempted such a thing, I believe wholeheartedly that my parents would have personally escorted me to school, and to every class, probably even holding my hand, until I had a diploma with my name on it. And nothing I have done "earned" me a family that cared that much. That's just the card I drew.

It is hard to imagine that there are people out there who have no interest in whether or not their children succeed, because for most of us that is our number one priority. It's easy to say, "Well, quitting school was her decision. What does she expect?" To that, I agree. It was an especially terrible decision, and one for which she continues to pay. But I would also say, "Have you met a 14 year-old?" Making good decisions aren't exactly their strong suit. Furthermore, I don't know many people who can say they HAVEN'T made a bad decision(s) in their lifetime that could have had worse consequences than they did. As I think about this, I'm having flashbacks to a few college weekends. Also age 17. Moving on.

When the subject of welfare or "government assistance" is discussed, I don't think I've ever NOT heard someone say, "I've worked hard and earned EVERYTHING I've got. Why shouldn't they?"

I don't doubt that people who say this have worked hard. I believe that is likely true. But where did you start out? Did you grow up with a family who instilled a strong work ethic? Did you have a person, or people in your life who made you believe you were valuable? That you could make something of yourself?

Of course, there are people who grow up without all of those things and still manage to beat the odds. If this describes you, I salute you. You rock. I personally know a few people who fall into this category and I am amazed at their perseverance. But, truth be told, had I been raised made to feel less-than or worthless or, worst of all, unloved - I can't say with any certainty that I would have come out on the other side anywhere close to where I am. In fact, I feel like there's a good chance that life would have gotten the best of me. If I never once heard that I could be someone, where would I be?

Would I be struggling to put $11 worth of gas in my car?
Would I be wondering how I was going to feed my children tomorrow?
Would I have a safe place for my family to sleep tonight?

This isn't a debate on whether or not there are people out there who manipulate the system. Of course there are. There are bad eggs in every group - regardless of their socioeconomic standing. I'm going to oversimplify this with a personal example.

When I was in college, I worked at a vet clinic. There was a staff rotation for "weekend duty", meaning coming in to feed and medicate any animals that were staying overnight. There was a client who had a Rottweiler. He was the kind of guy who you could tell owned a Rottweiler because it was a Rottweiler, which by default made him a badass. Sorry for the stereotype, but you know exactly the type of person I'm describing. And I swear to the heavens that he checked to see exactly which weekends I would be working as to make sure he boarded his dog on my watch. That dog was the bane of my existence. He was huge, he didn't listen worth a shit, and he hated - HATED - being in a kennel. And it was my job to put him in one. Yayyyyy.

One weekend, he was being particularly obstinate and no matter what I tried, I could NOT coerce him back into his kennel. I tried everything. When I finally decided that he wasn't going to go in voluntarily, I went over to grab his collar so I could drag him in. He bared his teeth and growled at me. I'm no idiot, and I was certainly not interested in being mauled by a large dog that day. I called the veterinarian and told him that if he hoped to return to his office on Monday and find it NOT destroyed, that he needed to come help me kennel this dog. Otherwise, good luck and I'll go ahead and leave my key under the mat. I have never liked Rottweilers because of that experience.

A couple of weekends ago, I was out on a trail when I passed a woman who was walking her dog. A Rottweiler. As I passed, the dog got close enough to me and nudged my hand with his head. She pulled him back and reprimanded him. I scooted over to let them pass, but I could tell that the dog meant no harm so I stopped and let him sniff me. He rubbed his head on my hand again, so I bent over and scratched behind his ears and patted his head. He didn't want to maul me. He just wanted a little love.

Two dogs. Same breed. Different home life. Very different outcomes.

Like I said, I am oversimplifying here. But then again, am I?

Later that night we received a text from the woman we helped at the hotel (and before you get all up on her for having a phone - it is the most basic phone you can have with no data plan, and she texts using one of those free texting apps so it comes through in about 7 different out of order text bubbles). It said, "Thank you for saving us. We have not been in this situation before. I have always had a home. When I get back on my feet I want to help other people who need it because I know how it feels. I know how it feels to have no one and to be scared because you don't know what is going to happen. I just want to give back."

There is so much more to this story and about this woman that I could share, but my point is this. Before you make the decision to pigeonhole everyone who could use some help, or who is down on their luck, or who uses government assistance, please stop and think about this woman. And when you look at your life, where you've ended up, and still make the decision to go forth in life with the mentality of "What's mine is mine!", stop and ask yourself "Where would I be if….".

It just might change your perspective.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Taking a Swing

Don't have time to read this? Check it out - I'm a podcast!

The last time I published a blog post was on August 9, 2015. I haven't written since then for a lot of reasons - kids started school, we moved across the country, the holidays, I'm lazy. Anyway, the day I published that post, I was really excited. I felt strongly about what I wrote. I felt like it had meaning and purpose, and unlike a lot of things I put out there in the blogosphere - I felt like it was pretty well written and that I had done a decent job of getting my point across. Then, that afternoon, another blogger accused me of plagiarizing something she had written on a similar topic. It was super irritating. Mostly because I had never even read her blog post (so how was it possible to steal her content??), but also because my post was from a specific event that had happened that I had PERSONALLY witnessed. I'm not going to bore you with the details, but in short I HADN'T ripped off her idea (anyone who knows anything about me would know I'm not that kind of person), and the whole experience kind of gave me an "F this" attitude. If this is what bloggers are like, then I don't want any part of it. Meanwhile, not ALL bloggers are like that. I'm furious at myself for having such a quitter attitude, and I'm more than disappointed in myself that I let someone so insignificant get under my skin.

But I can't blame my lack of writing entirely on that incident. Before that I hadn't written anything since April. Of course, I have a list of things I can blame that on - including lack of inspiration - but, if I'm being honest, I can blame most of it on deciding that I'm just not good enough of a writer. The blog world is tricky. Everyone tells you to do it for yourself, and maybe that's why you start your blog. It WAS why I started mine - as an outlet. We had recently moved to California, I hadn't made a lot of friends, and I was bored. And lonely. I'd be lying if I said a part of me didn't hope that something would come from it. At first it was enough to have my friends comment and tell me how much they enjoyed my words. Then I discovered that there were groups of bloggers out there who considered themselves to be part of a "tribe". Oh, how I wanted to be part of their tribe! I wanted to be in with the populars. I wanted to be invited to sit at the "cool table". I wanted to go "viral". If I could just get the right people's attention. If I could just write something funny enough or moving enough or figure out a way to use the word "eleventeen" in just the right place…then, THEN, I would be one of them. But it never happened. Don't get me wrong - I got a few accolades and fist bumps from some really great people. But, it kind of felt like the time you DID get invited to sit at the cool table because you wore the right designer jeans one day, but the day eventually came that you went to get dressed and discovered that those jeans were in the washing machine. And that day you're back in you're same old non-designer jeans and you wander into the lunch room to find that your seat is taken.

Writing stopped being fun because I was no longer writing for myself. So I stopped writing at all. Because that's how you really go places. By quitting. Sigh.

A couple of days ago I sat in the parking lot of the gym WILLING myself to go inside. I could not think of a place I wanted to be LESS than I wanted to be at the gym. I don't know why. I don't always feel that way. It was just one of those days. But as I sat there staring at the building, trying to think of a good, legitimate excuse to leave, I remembered I had downloaded Elizabeth Gilbert's "Big Magic" on Audible. I told myself that I didn't get to listen unless I took my ass INSIDE the gym, so I eventually got out of my car and went inside. I listened to her for over an hour - and YES, I was exercising that whole time.

The author said so many things that, like many other readers I'm sure, felt like she was speaking directly to me. Telling me to get my head out of my ass and get on with it already. She said that we've (I've) complicated things by making it about someone other than myself. She said we should make things because we LIKE making things. I should write because I LIKE to write. Painters should paint because they LIKE to paint. Bakers should bake because they LIKE to bake. Haters should hate because they like to hate. Ok, she didn't say that. My daughter is 14 and Taylor Swift has taken over my life. Anyway..she said that we should stop looking for permission to create. And that was exactly the push I needed.

Last spring I listened to the Serial podcast. Sidenote: If you haven't listened to it, you should. I was instantly hooked and got all kinds of shit done around my house because I wouldn't let myself listen to it unless I was being productive in some form. But I wasn't only hooked on the story, I loved the idea of a podcast. Doing a podcast sounded like great fun. I mean, there's not much in this world that I like more than talking. Ask my husband. He would like me to shut up occasionally. He doesn't say that in so many words (usually) but I can see it in his eyes (because they're rolling). It probably has something to do with the fact that I like talking to him most right after he's put his headphones on to listen to music or watch youtube videos. It's kind of like a Pavlov's dog reaction. You know, how kids' suddenly… URGENTLY…need Mom the second she picks up the telephone. Put on your headphones? Nope. I just remembered something really important that we need to talk about right now. Guess what I saw on Facebook today.

Anyway, podcasts. Shortly after I finished listening to the Serial, I started listening to audiobooks. Something I had never really gotten into previously because I somehow felt like I was "cheating". Like I wasn't really reading. (For some reason I tend to set a lot of stupid and unnecessary rules for myself that NO ONE on earth will EVER care if I follow.) So here I am, listening to podcasts and audiobooks, all the while thinking, "That would be so cool! Talking about whatever I want, whenever I want, and no one can interrupt me." But there's one little problem. I haven't written a book. And what do I have to talk about? So, like most ideas I have (and I actually have a surprising number of ideas), I let that one fizzle out.

Then I listened to "Big Magic". And I realized the reason that I let things fizzle out is because I'm afraid of failure. I don't think that's anything unique - I assume most people don't start a project thinking, "I hope I really suck at this."

Last week my mom was out shopping and she sent me a picture of a decorative canvas that she thought would be great for my son's bedroom. It said, "You can't get a hit if you don't take a swing." He plays baseball, and this is actually a conversation we've had with him frequently during the season. We would get frustrated with him because he went through a streak where he would just stand there and watch perfect pitches go by. We would ask him why he didn't take any swings, to which his answer would always be, "I'm afraid I'm going to strike out." Ironically enough, he struck out more frequently from NOT taking swings than he did when he actually tried to make contact. My husband would tell him, "It's ALWAYS better to strike out swinging."

Hmmm. It's always better to strike out swinging.

WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING? I am being thrown all these pitches and I'm just standing here with the bat resting on my shoulder. Maybe the pitches aren't perfect, and maybe I won't even make contact. But how will I ever know if I'm not even willing to get in position?

So this is it. I like writing and I like talking so this is me taking a swing. I might strike out, or I might get  a little hit and then get thrown out at first, but hey - at least I'm taking a swing.

*You can also go here to listen.

Sunday, August 9, 2015


I don't know where to start with this post. I'm angry, which usually doesn't bode well for me when it comes to writing something with any hope of it turning out at all coherent. So I guess I'll just dive right in and see what happens.

I saw a post on Facebook (of course) that bothered me so much that I actually woke up in the middle of the night stewing about it. It was a rant about buying school supplies and how in the world one child could possibly need or use as much as was on the list. I get it. School supplies are expensive. I'm shocked every single year when I get through the check out line and watch my total grow and grow...and grow. It's amazing how paper and notebooks and folders and pencils and erasers and scissors and gluesticks add up so quickly. I'd be lying if I said I never perused one of my children's  school supply lists and begrudgingly thought to myself, "Seriously?!?" But here's the thing. I'm pretty damn fortunate - as are my children - that we can walk down the school supply aisle and I am able to tell them to pick out whatever glittery folder and bedazzled pencil case they'd like. That we can go over one aisle and pick out a new backpack that doesn't have stains all over it or rips along the seams, complete with a matching lunchbox if their heart so desires.

Remember that Facebook post I mentioned? Here's the part where I get pissed. It didn't end with a simple complaint about how much money was spent on the supplies. It went on to say that they were going to write their child's name on "every single thing" so that when one of the other kids used it they would "know who to thank". Wait. What??

There are children who arrive to school on the first day empty handed, and WELL aware of it, as they watch their classmates waltz in donning new clothes and shoes, a brand new backpack strapped over their shoulders, carrying grocery bags full of supplies that they proudly hand over to the teacher as they walk in the classroom. I'd be willing to bet serious money that the child who quietly sits at her desk on the first day with not one single gluestick to contribute to the pile didn't make that decision on her own. But yes, let's make sure she's even more aware that she is using something that isn't hers by putting our name on everything that is OURS with the expectation of receiving credit for our "generosity".

What is this "What's mine is mine" mentality teaching our children, anyway? Is this going to be the line of thinking for future generations? I realize that people who aren't willing to do their part are a drain on society. But why is it so hard for some people to see that IT IS NOT THE FAULT OF THE CHILD. The unfortunate truth is that deadbeats exist and sometimes (all too frequently) they procreate and that poor child did not get a choice in the matter when they were brought into this world!

I should have stopped while I was ahead and not read the comments to that Facebook post. But I'm me, so I did read them, and of course came across something else that enraged me. It said something along the lines of, "Not only do we buy the school supplies those kids need but most of their food as well! Even at home! " Are. you. kidding. me?

While he didn't specifically name the program he was speaking of, I have to assume the "even at home" part he was referring to was food stamps. This issue is a major hot button for a lot of people because "I WORK TOO HARD FOR MY TAX DOLLARS TO BE PAYING FOR SOME ASSHOLE WHO IS TOO LAZY TO GET OFF THE COUCH AND GET A JOB!" Right? We've all heard that rant. We've also all been witness to those people in line ahead of us at the grocery store who fit the cliche of "welfare queen" with their perfectly manicured nails and expensive purse and the latest and greatest smart phone, but then proceed to whip out their government issued food card. I won't lie - that business is annoying. But have you ever seen a woman in line with holes in her shoes holding a toddler dressed in pajamas that were too small and loading up the checkout belt with diapers and milk and baby food? I have. I've actually seen that scenario more frequently than the former but no one seems to want to talk about it because it might make these programs seem legitimate and heaven forbid a single cent of our tax dollars go to people who are less fortunate than ourselves. After all, there are people who are abusing the privilege so we should just get rid of it altogether.

I could write this entire post on pure emotion, but facts are far more effective. So I did some research. It was hard to know where to start so I decided to go with averages. I used non-partisan websites and information so as not to run into biases. I found here that the average american worker pays approximately 31% in income and payroll taxes. That means if you make $50,000/year you would pay approximately $15,500 in taxes (keep in mind these are estimates and don't take things like itemized deductions into consideration). That money gets divided up between different areas of government spending, the biggest chunk being the military (approximately 27 cents per tax dollar). The rest is divided (unequally) among things like healthcare, interest on debt, social security, veterans benefits, food and agriculture, education (a depressingly low percentage), and a few other programs that have a percentage so minimal they aren't worth mentioning.

Food stamps are included in the category of "Food and Agriculture", which is estimated to use 4.3 cents of every tax dollar. That particular category also includes Federal Crop Insurance (which I admit to not knowing much about), so only a portion of that 4.3 cents is actually put toward food stamps. At the end of the article where I found the information I just cited, they offered a link to a calculator that breaks down where your tax dollars are most likely spent. An itemized "receipt" of sorts. Pretty cool, eh? So, I clicked on it, entered in the $15,500 that I've used as an example here and found that approximately $463.63 of those annual tax dollars would go towards the food stamp program. That is roughly $1.27 per day. In my opinion, that seems like a very small amount to give in exchange for knowing a child might get a hot meal a few nights a week, but I'm betting there's still a lot of moaning going on right now in regards to that number. So let's take a minute to further examine it.

According to this article, as of September 2014 there were approximately 22.7 million households receiving food stamps. Divide the $463.63 we established earlier by that number of households. That comes out to .00002 cents. So, in paying $15,500 in taxes, you are contributing…well, not even close to one whole cent per household on food stamps. Still pissed?  How many times have you left a penny in the "extra change" bowl at the convenient store? Thrown one in a fountain and made a wish? Or how about dropped one and just left it on the ground?

Still not convinced? Okay. Let's say you go out to dinner at a mid-priced restaurant once a month and spend $8 on your meal. We'll assume you don't lick the plate clean and leave a bite of your burger and some fries - approximately 10% of your meal - on the plate. If you take the 80 cents that you didn't eat and divide it by the 365 days in the year, you've just figured out that you've donated more per day to the dumpster behind your favorite eatery than you contributed per family on food stamps.

I get that people work hard for a living and that there are lazy, no-gooders who do nothing more than sit around and wait for handouts. But as much as we complain about having to pick up the slack for those who give the less fortunate a bad name, there are people - LOTS of people - who are honestly down on their luck and could use a helping hand. So say what you will about welfare and food stamps and the "lazy" people who use them. There are and always will be flaws and loopholes in the system that allow dishonest people to take what they don't deserve. It's just the way of things and, yeah, it sucks. You can be pissed off about the fact that you have to buy more school supplies than you should because some other kid's parents wouldn't (or couldn't), and you can get your panties in a twist because you have to pay the government a couple of dollars a day to feed some other family that isn't your "responsibility". But I'm personally pretty freakin' proud to live in a country who has programs put in place to help people who need it - ESPECIALLY CHILDREN…even if those programs aren't perfect.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Bubble Wrap or Billboard

Changes are on the horizon in our home. My daughter is in her last couple of months of junior high, which means high school is right around the corner. Please pass the wine.

We moved to California a little over 3 years ago. It was the middle of the school year and up to that point, they had attended a public charter school. After visiting several schools in the area, we chose to put our children in a small, private Christian school. There were a variety of factors that came into play when making that decision - the fact that we are Christian being one of them, of course - but if I'm being honest, it was mostly because the overall "feel" of the school felt similar to the one they were leaving, and we felt it would be the easiest transition. 

Now that my daughter is about to enter high school, we have decided that we want to move her to public school. Again, there are a variety of factors coming in to play here, but simply put - we just think it's what's best. Like all decisions we make as parents, we could soon learn that we made the wrong one. I think that may have happened one or eighty-seven other times but who's counting? For now we're listening to our heads and our hearts and trusting that God has a little something to do with how we feel. 

As you can imagine, my daughter is apprehensive. She's got friends - a lot of them, actually - who aren't leaving her current school. The new school is close to 10 times the size of her current one. As far as we know, she'll only know a few people when she first starts out. These are very real, and very legitimate fears. We've told her this and we don't expect her to suppress them. 

But one night recently as we were discussing her anxieties about the move and why she was so skeptical she said something that really broke my heart. She said…deep breath…"But, Mom. There are going to be kids there who aren't…Christian." 

Oh, sweet girl. 

My mouth gaped open for a minute. I shut my eyes and shook my head. She knew immediately that what she said bothered me. 

"I'm sorry! I'm not trying to be mean!" 

I know you're not. But what a disservice I have done for you and I'm disappointed in myself. Somewhere in my attempt to teach you how to be a good Christian, I apparently neglected the most important part! You see, when Jesus gathered his disciples he did NOT say, "Listen up, y'all. We all agree that this Christianity thing is awesome, right? Well, I really think it'd be super cool to keep this club exclusive, so don't go telling anyone else and for sure don't hang out with anyone else. Yuck. Now grab a coffee and talk amongst yourselves."

Nope. Not how things worked AT ALL (I mean, besides the obvious).

I  know lots of people who are Christians, obviously. Most of them walk the walk. They follow God's word and they "do unto others". But some of them…well, let's just say they don't paint us in the best light. They spend a lot of time congratulating themselves on being "Christian" and looking down on everyone who happens to be different. Those people frustrate me a little because that's really not the best recruitment strategy if you think about it. 

I also have friends who aren't Christian. I can think of one specifically, who is a different religion and her set of beliefs is quite different than mine. But let me tell you, she is a wonderful person. She is funny and hard working and talented and brilliant, and she is also one of the most philanthropic people I know. She's just lovely. If I went through life opting to only interact with people who think exactly like I do, I wouldn't know her. And I would really be missing out.

I know you're not perfect, but you've got such a big heart. So big that sometimes I swear I can see it beating. I see it when you're willing to help classmates with their homework even though they haven't been a good friend to you. I see it when you come to me and ask if you can invite a girl over who you don't usually hang out with because you know she's having a hard time and could use a friend. I see it when you see something sad on television and then come wake me up in the middle of the night because you can't stop thinking about it. I see it when you feel sorry for the homeless people you see on the side of the road and when you want to save every stray dog you see - even when we're on vacation and our hotel doesn't allow pets.  

As much as I'd like to (and trust me - I'd really, really like to), it's not fair to keep people with hearts like yours all wrapped up tight in a safe little bubble. Hearts like yours are the biggest, flashiest billboards that Christianity could hope for. Hearts like yours are meant to go out in the world and be seen. Even when it's a little bit scary...for both of us.