How to be Attractive

I logged into my Pinterest account today to grab one of my images for one of the other posts I was writing and there was an image sitting there waiting for me because apparently based on the other things I have been pinning Pinterest thought I would like it. I had a total WTF moment about it. Here is the image:

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What the fuck Pinterest? Really? Do you not know me at all?

I am sorry but my inner feminist could not let this one slide. I have been made aware that this utter nonsense exists in the world and for the next five minutes it is my mission to balance this garbage.

Luckily as if she somehow knew I needed something awesome in this moment my soul friend sent me this.

This awesome slam poetry serves to rip shame in half and give the finger to sexist agendas that aim to keep women small, neither seen nor heard.

Hear is my truth about feeling attractive and connected to myself: I do it for me not for anyone else.

  1. I smile when I feel like it not out of obligation to the world. Sometimes I feel swallowed by my emotions and smiling is not a thing, I am no less attractive because I experience more than one emotion.
  2. I smell the way that I smell. It is my smell. My smell is usually lavender and lemon oil, it may not be for everyone. I am not open to anyone else’s opinion on my smell.
  3. I wear clothes that feel good and make me feel like myself when I look in the mirror. No outside opinions needed or wanted in that area either.
  4. I will educate or shelter myself on and from the world as I see fit. I am no less intelligent or worthy of taking up space based on my decision in this area.
  5. I can kind of get behind this one honestly. I do not speak kindly of myself though, that is doing it for other people. I speak kindly to myself because I do it for me, not for you.
  6. Have whatever kind of hobby you want, screen or no screen. Or if you prefer don’t have a hobby at all. Your interests are YOUR interests. They belong to you, do what feels right.
  7. I do value education, that is my truth. I also thought that college was out of reach. You are no less worthy if you did not get past the 8th grade. You do your life in the way that feels right for you and do not accept anyone else’s judgements or opinions based on some classist bullshit like higher education.
  8. Make time for yourself and anyone else you feel drawn to give your time to. Our time is an enormous gift, we deserve it as much as the rest of the world. You are still a good  and worthy person if you never volunteer a day in your life.
  9. I like the piece about saying thank you because one of my own personal truths is deeply connected to daily gratitude. I do not believe in obligatory reciprocation though. You reciprocate when you feel compelled to and do not allow others or society to guilt you into doing favors you are not comfortable doing.

These are my truths about being attractive based on the list provided. They may not be your truth, maybe you like the original list. That is alright. Personally, it was not for me. I am more in line with Olivia Gatwood and her Ode to the Resting Bitch Face.

You owe the world nothing. Focus on you, figure out what unique brilliance you bring to the world and do not allow others to tell you that you are less than because you did not conform. Radical self-love my friends. Embrace all aspects of yourself as you are not as others believe you should be.

 

 

“We Should All Be Feminists.”

These are the words my professor uttered a few semesters ago after a classmate stated, Well I don’t personally identify as feminist.

I don’t know if my professor meant we as social workers, or we as women, or we as liberal minded individuals, or we as in every single person ever (I personally lean towards the last option). And I know that professors “should” remain objective but I sure am glad she said it! I know I am not alone either.A lot of my friends in the class breathed a visible sigh of relief when the professor spoke up.

Every time I hear someone, specifically women, renounce feminism I feel myself hold my breath. Suddenly I don’t feel safe because if you are telling me that you do not identify as a feminist it makes me wonder if there is an aspect of equality that does not speak to you? And if that is the case then yeah, back to what I said, I kinda don’t feel completely safe around you.

This exchange led to a really awesome conversation. This professor is a huge feminist and very open about it. We discussed why some people do not choose to identify as feminist, some people in class spoke up to share their reasons.

The reasons ranged from: I don’t know enough about it, to my dad would kill me, to but I don’t hate men, to feminism is not inclusive, to I am not political, to I just don’t believe in it, to feminists are always so angry and I am not an angry person, to I’m not much of an activist.

My professor and some of the rest of us helped illuminate the discussion by explaining some misconceptions and answering questions.

So I wanted to share a little bit of the discussion for anyone else that may still think feminism is a dirty word.. Let’s brush some of that dirt off.

  1. Feminism is not about hating men. That is a totally different thing called misandry. Some Feminists may personally identify as misandrists but that is like some may identify as lesbian or Christian or Latina or male. You can be all of these things and be feminist but they are not the same. So to be clear: Misandry = dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against men. Feminism = the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes. NOT THE SAME THING.
  2. Feminism is all inclusive. Malala Yousafzai defined feminism as a synonym for equality and I personally agree with that definition. Now, this misconception is a fair one, but I would like to clear it up all the same. There are different branches of the feminist tree and some are less inclusive. For example, radical feminism has a history of discriminating against trans folks. Some radical feminists do not believe that trans folks belong in the movement. That is not the feeling of the majority however and feminism as it exists currently is very clear about its commitment to intersectionality and inclusion. Feminism has multiple branches, Liberal, Social, Radical, Womanism.. etc.. If you would be more comfortable getting super specific then I recommend doing the research and pick which one feels right to you. Or define it for yourself, that is a totally acceptable alternative as well.
  3. “I’m not political/ I am not an activist”. Cool, me either, but I am still a feminist. There are no rules to being a feminist, you get to define it for yourself. Let me repeat: THERE ARE NO RULES, YOU DEFINE WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU. I would not typically attend a protest personally because that it not usually the energy I want to put out into the world, that does not make me care any less about equality and women’s rights. I am also not super political. I think our political system is a joke and have very little faith in our elected officials. That does not make me any less a feminist.
  4. Not all feminists are angry. That is like saying all social workers work for DCF (my social work friends will get why that is such a cringe worthy statement), or all Christians are anti-gay, or all white people are racist. Those are pretty heavy accusations to make and THEY ARE NOT TRUE. Sure, some feminists are angry, and they have a right to be, consider what we are talking about here; protecting the rights of a group of people who have historically had their rights infringed upon based on their sex/gender. We have a right to be angry. And yes, some feminists bring that masculine energy into the movement, especially at protests. That does not mean all feminists are angry. Personally my brand of feminism comes from more of a earth-mother- nurturing place and I lead with a much more feminine energy. Again, there are no rules, you get to define it. Feminism belongs to you, and to me, and to everyone. We make the decisions about what it means to us. And I would like to make the statement one more time before moving on that there is nothing wrong with being angry. To focus on the emotion in a negative light like that serves to minimize the experience of the individual. People have the right to be angry, we all have the right to feel our feelings. There is nothing wrong or bad about that.
  5. My family/friends/significant other/social circle/kid/employer/grocer/dog/bus driver wouldn’t understand. THAT IS OKAY. This is not for THEM, it is FOR YOU. The things we believe in BELONG TO US. They are personal, they are sacred. No one is required to understand them and WE DO NOT OWE ANYONE AN EXPLANATION.

I am going to end my list there and address the last reason separately, I just don’t believe in it. To me that is a cop-out. That is shutting down the conversation because for some reason you are scared. It is like when I used to identify as atheist because I knew if I said that when someone tried to talk to me about spirituality the conversation would die and I wanted it to die because spirituality was a scary place for me for a long time. My question is WHY? What stops you from believing it? What is holding you back? What are you unsure of?

If you do not believe in equal rights then say that, say I do not believe in equal rights that way we know where you stand. But to say I don’t believe in feminism without a reason is just putting the movement back and that is not doing gender minorities any favors I can tell you that. Saying I don’t believe in feminism is like saying I don’t believe that Black Lives Matter. Saying I don’t identify with the feminist movement is like saying I don’t identify with the civil rights movement, or the LGBTQ+ movement, or any other social justice movement.

Understand this: Being feminist is not about being better than anyone else, it is not about excluding anyone, it is not about hating anyone. It is about equality and the very fact that feminism is still considered a bad/dirty/scary/negative word to some people proves that the patriarchy is alive and well.

Now more than ever it is IMPERATIVE that you stand up for what you believe. That you openly identify with those beliefs. WE NEED YOUR HELP. If nothing else, please do me this favor, do the movement this favor.. If you can’t get past the label for whatever your reason maybe 1. Please reconsider and 2. Please do not renounce feminism. We are trying to change the world and make it safe for all people, every time you renounce us you are setting back time. Please,please, please if you can’t get past the label at least find it in your heart to be our ally. And as our ally please do not do or say anything that would negatively impact the positive work we are striving towards.

If my passionate advocating has not convinced you, give me one last chance: here are a bunch or celebrity feminists who get it, maybe they will change your mind. I mean who doesn’t love Will Smith?

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www.hdnicewallpapers.com
http://www.hdnicewallpapers.com

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Don’t Mind Us, We just Live Here

Tonight hubs and I chose to stay in and have a quite night. We had a nice dinner together, played some games, and now we are both enjoying our introvert time – separate but together.

He is watching a documentary on the tablet with earbuds so I can read in silence. It was a nice idea, to spend the night reading in silence, in theory. It hasn’t quite worked out to be the quiet evening I hoped for. This is thanks to living so near downtown.

The outdoor stadium is not far from our home. It is common place for us to go to bed listening to fire works, or announcers announcing soccer scores, or crowds cheering the distance. These noises have become the noises of our home, much like the train that goes by in the night, we have become used to their presence in our home, they are welcome and comforting in a way.

Tonight is different though. There must be a monster truck rally going on or something. The music is obscenely loud, I can hear every word. I guess it would have to be in order to be heard over the deafening noise of the trucks.

We live a few miles away and it is as though this event is taking place in our backyard. Lucy has been pacing and whining, it is all a bit much. But I guess that is what we get, we knew the stadium was this close when we bought our home. It comes with the territory, literally.

This post is not about me though, not really. The people I am really frustrated for are the people of the community I did work in a few semesters ago.

When our city decided to take on a professional soccer team with it came the plans to build a new soccer stadium for the team. It was decided that this stadium would go smack in the middle of the community I am talking about. Right in the middle of this residential community’s downtown.

As a result, in solidarity with this community, my husband and I have never attended a soccer game. We will not support anything connected to the gentrification taking place in this community.

When I worked with and interviewed families in this community I noticed something, when I would ask them about their feelings about what was happening in their community they did not even identify that part of their community as theirs any longer.

The report my classmates and I submitted with our findings is what got me the spot on the committee I sat on during undergrad. It was also circulated in certain circles associated with the work and continued gentrification of this community because others who have tried to come into this community and speak with the residents have not had much success, they will not speak with outsiders.

Unfortunately my work did nothing to impact positive change for this community. The stadium is moving along on schedule and now the very university I attend is planning to build a campus in this community. It is wrong but that is all I will say about it. I stand with the community, not those who would take it from them.

So tonight as I lament in my home over the noise pollution plaguing my quiet evening I think of this community I have come to love. I think of the mothers who will be trying to put babies to bed over the noise of a soccer stadium that is literally in their backyard. I think of families who will be plagued by the noise of the crowd, and of concerts as they choose between keeping the windows open to stay cool or close them to get some peace even though they do not have air conditioning. I think about how this community has been invaded, how they are being pushed out, how they have been told over and over that they do not matter, and their land is not theirs. They watch as their community is taken from them block by block and turned into a playground for outsiders. Stadiums and universities are built all around them while they know full well that even though it is on their land, they will never have access.

I may not like the noise, but I have options. What about those who don’t? I guess they don’t matter as long as everyone else is having a good time.

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Shine a Light

This morning hubs and I woke early. Truth be told I don’t think I was ever fully asleep. I went to bed earlyish last night because I realized with the direction the vote was going in there would be a good chance I would not sleep at all if I heard the results before bed. This measure to protect myself from bad news and attempt to get a sound nights rest was somewhat futile unfortunately.

So we woke up this morning with the anticipation of two children on Christmas morning only this was not a joyous anticipation.. It was the anticipation of two children who knew they would not be receiving gifts this Christmas but hoped against hope that by some miracle Santa had come and delivered presents to their home. I am sad to report that Santa did not visit America this election season. There were no overnight miracles just the sad sinking in of our new reality. A reality that many of us, myself and hubs included, are not ready to see.

You want to see what forcing an idealist to come to terms with reality looks like? I started my day in tears. I cried for myself, I cried for my future children, I cried for every single person in my country and in the world who has even more reason to mourn today than I do. I have certain amount of privilege that will insulate me from any havoc this new reality may wreak, I know many who have far more reason than I to cry this morning.

So I gave myself space this morning to have my reaction. My hubs had his as well and we supported one another through it. There were a lot of unanswerable questions. There was a lot of reassuring. There were lots and lots of hugs and snuggles.

The truth is I didn’t really want to get out of bed. It was hard to find the motivation. I wanted to stay in that negative frame of mind and dwell.. Then I was scrolling through the mournful reactions of my friends on social media I saw something that reminded me of my truth..

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My whole perspective changed in that moment and I remembered who I am and what my life purpose is. I am a badass idealist who sees what can be not what is. I am a light in dark places and sometimes “the real world” can be a very dark scary place. Yes, I got dropped kicked in the face by reality this morning and yes for a moment I felt shattered. What the outcome of the election has showed me though is right now my light is needed.

There is a reason there has been so much negative energy brewing lately and a lot of us, again myself included, thought that after election day that energy would finally clear.. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. That doesn’t change me or my life mission though. I could not feel stronger in my resolve as an idealist in this moment.

Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi, Bernie Sanders, John Lennon, Rosa Parks.. All of the heroes of the world who stood up for something bigger than themselves were idealists! They saw beyond what was to what could be. They believed in the goodness of the human spirit and what the world is capable of through love. They shined their lights so bright the world could not ignore them.

So today take your moment. Mourn, or celebrate if this is not a sad occasion for you, or get angry.. Do whatever you need to do for you then go out and be a light for others. Show our brothers and sisters your humanness, your ability to love, and to meet negative energy with pure kindness and compassion. Be example. Shine so bright that it is lights up the dark and blinds those whose lights are turned down.

While I was in the shower thinking about all of this and meditating on my truth and my own mission in life I started singing. Without realizing it at first I was singing a song from my childhood.. When I was little, 6 or 7 I think, Disney came out with Polly. It it a favorite movie from my childhood, it bestowed on me valuable lessons. My gift to anyone reading this is this song from the movie… Now go out and shine your light today. Be the reason someone does not lose hope today. Help remind the world what love feels like. It is time we turn up our light.

How We Help

I feel like the universe has been sending me signs the last few weeks telling me it is time to write this post. It started a week or two ago with my mother, we were in the car running errands together and we saw a person sitting on a curb holding a sign asking for money/help.

This led to a discussion about what we both do in terms of offering help to homeless people we encounter in the world. Personally, I am one of those rare individuals living in this digital world that still keeps cash in my wallet, I give money, usually a few dollars. My Mom seemed surprised by this. She went on to explain how she would rather buy someone a meal than give cash because she is concerned they would use the cash to feed their addiction and she does not want to enable that behavior.
While I am making no judgement about whether her way of handling the situation is right or wrong I will say her answer did not surprise me. I will also say, and I admit this does come with a bit of judgment, I have never in my 32 years of knowing this woman seen her buy a homeless person a meal.
I mean it is a nice thing to say but if you have never actually acted upon it I think the appropriate response to How do you help the homeless? is I don’t.

I know why my response surprised my mother, because she and my father did not raise me that way. They raised me in the judgement place where all homeless people are addicts and we don’t get involved. Furthermore, my mother raised me to be a cautious woman because this world is not a safe world to be a woman in, so I am sure my engaging someone and giving them money scares her in terms of my safety. To that I say I understand her concern but it is my risk to take.

This week we (Todd, myself, and sometimes our friend who is staying with us) have been driving through downtown quite a bit. Our friend’s sister (who we are also friends with) is vacationing nearby right now as well so we have been driving over to her hotel to see her. One night when we were driving home through downtown there was a man with a sign walking through traffic while we were stopped at a light. I did not have my wallet with me.
A night or two later we were stopped at that exact same light and the man was there again and again I did not have my wallet.
This led to a short discussion with our friend about what her church family does for homeless folks which is care packages in the form of backpacks with filled with essentials from what I was understanding. I thought that was a beautiful idea.

I understand not everyone is comfortable giving money, I think a really important starting place in terms of helping folks who are homeless or out on a corner with a sign is not to ignore them as if they do not exist. I think acknowledgement is one small step in the right direction.

I don’t feel like I have all the “right” social work answers to speak to the needs of this population. I have done some work with this population while in school (serving meals at the shelter etc) but this population hits a little too close to home for me and I have not done my emotional work around it in order to feel like I could work with this group without having major boundary issues.

My cousin who was my first best friend growing up is homeless and has been since the age of 18, she is my age now. She is not an addict or a prostitute, she is not a criminal or an alcoholic. She has a mental illness and a long history of trauma. One of the reasons I give money is because every time I see a person with a sign I see her. That right there tells you my boundaries would be a mess, I know I project my own stuff on to this group of people as a whole. At the same time having someone I love and worry about living out in the world, often on the streets or in the woods, makes it so much easier for me to have love and compassion for those who are struggling. I am not passing judgement on this group of people, I just want them to be okay. The only way my cousin has been able to survive this long is because strangers have gotten involved and helped. I have to pay that back anyway I can. By giving money I am taking care of someone else’s loved one just like some stranger out there is getting involved and taking care of mine.

Another reason I give money, this speaks to my Mom’s concern about feeding a person’s addiction, I recognize that the money I give might go towards alcohol or some other substance, I also know that detoxing/withdrawals from alcohol can potentially kill a person, it is not something that a person should be experiencing on the street.

Ultimately when you pass by a person holding a sign you have choices, you can ignore them or engage, you can give them specifically what they are asking for or offer to help in another way. I am not here trying to make determinations about what is right or wrong, good or bad. This topic came up a few times recently and I felt the need to write. I choose to do what I do for very personal reasons in hopes that the energy I send out with this act will some how repay itself in the form of assistance for my loved one. Everyone has their own reasons for their actions and as a result the world still spins.

Language Matters

I have been writing this post in my head for about three weeks now and I decided it was time I put pen to paper before it got any bigger. Forewarning this post is going to contain a few links as points of reference.

In a previous post, The Wet Blanket, towards the end of the post I mentioned an assignment about baseball that I was working on with a few other class members. When discussing the assignment in the post I brought up concerns I had around sexism, what I left out were concerns I had surrounding other “isms”.

The worksheet we were collaborating on asked a question about how the players were picked, in reference to baseball players who play professionally. The members of my group wanted to answer the question by saying the best players from around the nation are recruited. WRONG. I saw that as a classist answer. I explained to my group that we cannot use the word “best” because we can not say definitively that the players chosen are in fact “the best”. My group did not agree with me. I continued to explain that what if the best basketball player to ever live dropped out of school at 16 to start working and help his family afford their bills? Not everyone has the same access because of socioeconomic status therefore we cannot say definitively that those who play MLB are the “best”. This should help explain how ended up with the nickname Wet Blanket in this group. The point I was trying to make when challenging my group on this particular answer was language matters.

That class was the original birth place of this post that has gained momentum since then.

In another class a group assignment was given where we, as a group, have to present on the topic of disability. Our goal is to help the class to become culturally competent when engaging with individuals from this population. The professor asked that we do independent research to become versed on our topic outside of the information available to us in the book. In doing so he actually recommended that we look on the internet for articles and not just at peer-reviewed articles.I was surprised and delighted to hear this. Normally any research conducted has to come from peer-reviewed sources and while I actually enjoy reading journal articles I knew just the place to look for articles on the internet.

One of my favorite go-to places for interesting articles is Everyday Feminism, I have referenced this site before when writing posts about social justice issues, it is one of my favorite online resources. So I started searching for articles that I thought might be relevant and thought provoking, they had many to choose from. One of the articles I chose illustrates how oppressive ableist language is, it can be read in its entirety here.

I shared this article and another that I liked with my group members via email and then last night after class three of us had the opportunity to discuss the content. Coincidentally all three of us worked on the baseball assignment together as well in the other class. Myself and another group member who read the article discussed how pervasive ableist language is in everyday conversation in America. The third group member then made a comment about how he thinks it is okay when you are hanging out with friends but not around other people who could be hurt by it. WRONG. I explained that ableist language is no different than sexist, racist or homophobic language. He tried to defend his side further by stating that what you say with your friends is different than what you say in front of other people. He ended by saying don’t you think? I explained that personally I do not agree and our other group member then chimed in and said that is how this type of language becomes acceptable in the first place is because of attitudes like that. I was grateful for her input, it is exhausting being the only voice of opposition sometimes.

This morning I was researching blockers for a case study on a transgender child I am working on. While immersed in my work I stumbled upon another great article that is titled The Power of Language. It speaks directly to what my classmate was talking about last night. Language seeped in “isms” is always hurtful even when you’re just talking with friends and this person’s story outlines that perfectly.

Moms Deserve MORE!

maternity leave

This post is so much bigger than me, I am not even sure it is wise for me to weigh in on the topic. This is one of those times I feel it is important to set up the disclaimer what I am about to write are strictly my own opinions.

Yesterday we were at my parent’s house and Todd was watching John Oliver’s show on HBO while my parents and I were playing scrabble. We were listening to the show while we played. John Oliver was talking about how behind the times our country is in terms of maternity benefits for mothers and this started a conversation.

John Oliver highlighted a story of a woman who had one month for maternity leave but then went into premature labor. Because her baby was born early it had to stay in the hospital for a period of time before being able to go home. The mother was then left with an agonizing decision to either take her maternity leave at present to be with her baby while it is in the NICU knowing that she could use up her leave before the baby ever comes home or wait to take her maternity leave until her baby is released from the hospital. She chose the latter which meant she had her baby on a Wednesday and returned to work the next Monday. The mother explained the guilt she felt leaving her baby, only being able to visit in the evenings after work and how difficult it was for her to focus at work because of the whole ordeal. Motherhood is made out to be this wondrous time in a woman’s life but for this woman, the start of motherhood at least, sounded devastating. That’s not right.

When the story was over I looked around and realized my parents and I had stopped playing scrabble a while ago. All three of us were glued to the TV. Todd made a comment about how messed up the story was and this prompted me to share my friend’s story.

My friend works for the same hospital I used to work for. I enjoyed working for that company more than any other company I have ever worked for. They take great care of their employees, their is a clear standard of professionalism and in my experience people cared about the work they did. There were a few issues though and one of the big ones related to the terrible benefits. You can barely call them benefits really. When a person has to pay for having Christmas off out of their own vacation time it is not much of a benefit. I get that there are some companies that don’t offer paid holidays but those companies are usually upfront about that and say, Hey by the way we don’t pay for holidays or Hey you have to work on Christmas. This company would have you believe they pay for holidays, Um no, the employee does.

The way it works is sick time, vacation time, maternity leave, holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Years.. all of them), personal time, all come out of the same pot. Time off is time off no matter how you use it. Of course like most companies though you only get so much time off in a year so you better hope you don’t fall ill too much in a year or you may not get to take that summer vacation or worse you may not get paid for the Christmas holiday even though the office is closed and you cannot work that day anyway. A few other important points to understand,

1. PTO (paid time off) does not roll over year to year with this company so you have to use or lose it.
2. You are not given PTO at the beginning of each new year, you have to earn it. – When I first heard this I actually thought it was fair, you get like 1 hour of PTO for every X amount of hours you work. – Where you get screwed though is at the beginning of the new year. For example January 1, a holiday in most countries, the office is closed but you do not get paid for this holiday because it is the beginning of a new year and you have not worked enough hours to have any PTO. Not to mention what if you want to take vacation at the beginning of the year? You haven’t worked enough to have vacation time. And you better hope you don’t get sick in the first few months of the year because you don’t have sick time saved up yet either. Pretty messed up right?

Back to my friend’s story. She made the colossal mistake of having a baby towards the beginning of the year. I mean what was she thinking, right? This is poor planning on her part, no reason the company should accommodate her in anyway. She had some PTO saved up but not much. She had a choice, take a very brief leave of absence for maternity leave and get paid, or take a longer maternity leave (approx 2-3 months) and go unpaid for a period of time. She chose to take a longer maternity leave. My friend was fortunate to even have an option because her significant other made enough money to support them while she did not have income.

Here are just a few of the factors that influenced her decision:

1. She had no real help with her baby after it was born. Most of the people in her support system work so she was almost solely responsible for taking care of the baby, which is probably the experience of a lot of women.

2. Once she went back to work she knew her baby had to go into a paid daycare. This meant:

A. That it would cost her and her significant other more for her to be working because of the cost of daycare so it made more since for her to be home longer and save that money. To be clear, even though she wasn’t working it still saved them some money because day care is so expensive.
B. She would have to hand her infant over to a paid care giver (who is not family) for the majority of the day while she was at work 5 days a week. She was in no rush to do that either. Talk about guilt.

3. She was breast feeding. Pumping while at work was not an option for her because of the kind of job she has.

So she got a few months to breast feed regularly, save some money even though she had none coming in and bond with her new born before she had to turn it over to strangers essentially and go back to work. I swear it about killed her. But hey, at least she got that time off right? Some women don’t get that. If that is the upside to this whole situation then WTF? Seriously.

So, here is the real kicker though. My friend is insured through her employer, the hospital. Her insurance covers her, her other child who was a toddler at the time and her infant. A certain portion of her pay check is held out each pay period and that pays for her health, dental etc. Because she was not making a paycheck for a period of time when she did finally return to work she actually owed her employer money! The hospital was nice enough to let her use her health insurance to take her new born to the necessary doctors appointments etc even though at the time she technically was not getting paid but when she returned to work this left her in a deficit and she did not receive a pay check for the first few pay periods until her employer was paid back for the health insurance she had used.

These were her options if she wanted to have more than a few weeks for maternity leave. And again she was fortunate to even have options, some women would not have an option to not receive a pay check and would have to go right back to work. I ask again, how can you really call this way of doing things a benefit? My friend certainly did not benefit from the company PTO program. Maybe it is better than nothing but better than nothing does not necessarily constitute being called a benefit. Not in my eyes at least.

I’ve shared my concerns about this companies benefits with Todd before because even with all this being said I have considered them an option for future employment. I am fortunate enough to be covered under Todd’s insurance which means I won’t have to use the hospital’s insurance but there is no getting away from the awful PTO “benefits”. We agreed if I do find myself working for this company in the future while pregnant we will do what is right for our family, like my friend did.

So after John Oliver finished up the story about the woman with the baby in NICU he went into another story that illustrated our lack of compassion for new mothers/parents. Ironically the next story had to with major league baseball, wasn’t I just calling out sexism in that organization a post or two ago?

Apparently the MLB has a paid paternity leave that gives a new father 3 days off after the arrival of a new baby/child. (notice I said arrival of a baby/child, not all families receive babies/children by going to the hospital and giving birth. Some adopt. I just think it is important to keep this kind of thing in mind when talking about maternity/paternity leave and the rights of new parents.)

Now before I continue I want to be clear that I have done zero research into this story, I am parroting what I heard on John Oliver’s show and I could be dealing with some misinformation. What I will say is this, my opinions are based on the story I heard and could stand to change if I came across further information that disputes any part of the story.

As I was explaining, apparently the MLB gives 3 days of PTO to new fathers as their form of paternity leave. As John Oilver reports it though very few baseball players actually use their paternity leave. In this case though a player did choose to use his paternity leave benefit to be home with his wife and new born and this caused him to miss two games at the beginning of the season. As a result of this decision he received some major back lash. People were angry with him for his decision, which in my opinion is offensive enough, but in one case an announcer or sportscaster ( I have know idea what this man’s actual title was, I just know he was someone with a voice in the industry) actually suggested that the player’s wife should have scheduled a c-section and given birth before the season started.

Um ma’am, your medical condition interferes with our baseball game, could you maybe surgically rip your baby from the womb a week early even though there is no medical reason to do so that way your husband can play with us?

So I guess baseball is more important than the integrity of human life? No, no, it’s totally cool.. Put mother and infant at risk through a completely unnecessary surgery so the boys can play their game. Once again people of society some how think they have a right to tell a woman what to do with her own body. Yeah, that NEVER gets old.

I know I went all angry feminist on this post but this is something to feel angry about. It is ridiculous to me that this is so many women’s lived reality in a country that prides itself on being a world leader.

For more information about our total failure in terms of paid maternity leave compare to other nations check out this ARTICLE . The graph will blow your mind. Get it together America, you are embarrassing yourself.

Past the Point of Exhaustion

parramore

I have spent the last few days working on the paper that reports on my groups findings from the field work we did in a local community. Between the time spent in front of the computer screen, discussing various aspects of the work with group members and controlling my emotions as I try to remain objective in my synopsis, I am EXHAUSTED.

This is the most worthwhile project I have ever been lucky enough to take part in but it is also the most intense. It has not been easy reporting on the level of marginalization and oppression experienced by this community. I have had to take multiple breaks to regain focus and expend some of the tension I am internalizing as a write.

I am glad to almost be finished with this project. I look forward to reporting on it with my group members in front of the class next week. What I look forward to most is what we plan to do with this information though. The project ends after the group presentation next week but a few of us have decided to take next steps and try to get this information into the hands of people who may be able to impact a change. Our professor is supporting us in this venture and it will probably be something I spend some time on over the summer.

This kind of macro work is new for me so this has been an amazing learning experience. This semester, as challenging as it was at times, was my best yet. I am starting to see who I am as a social worker and that is very exciting.

I look forward to the summer semester and opportunities to build on what has turned out to be a very solid foundation.

My Ally not my Enemy: A Story about Finding Common Ground

common ground

I was speaking with a classmate recently about an assignment and without him realizing it he said something that made me feel very uncomfortable. It was not with malintent and I knew that immediately but it did not change the way I felt when it happened.

I had a choice to make here, as we so often do when presented with these kinds of microagressions in life, either speak up or let it slide. This is rarely an easy decision to make because by choosing to say something the situation could become even more uncomfortable based on how you address what happened and how the other person reacts to what you say. The other option doesn’t seem much better though. By not saying something this person may never know that this behavior is something that makes people uncomfortable and will continue to do it. In this case it didn’t take much thought, I knew I had to say something.

So having made the decision to speak up I had another decision to make, one that is equally as important as the first. In bringing up this transgression do I call my classmate out or call them in? I read an article a while back that helped me understand how to navigate these very situations in a compassionate but assertive manner and knowing when to call people out versus calling them in is a very big part of having a successful outcome.

In this case I chose to call my classmate in. The cringe worthy act that took place was my classmate calling me sweetheart while thanking me for something. Some people may not give much thought to this pet name, they may not have flinched at all but I did.

First of all I do not know this classmate that well, we are not friends or have any kind of personal relationship. Him saying this was not coming from a place of familiarity. Second, that’s not my name. My name is Jill. I am willing to bet he would not call my brother who is in the program sweetheart, please do not think it is okay to do it to me then. Although I am sure it was coming from a place of good intentions to me it feels condescending and unprofessional. Plus I worried that if I did not saying something it would set a precedent. What if in future exchanges he continues to call me sweet heart? Better to put a stop to it now to avoid negative feelings going forward.

This scene from the movie Tootsie outlines what I am talking about perfectly:

(Dorothy’s boss, Ron, just referred to her as tootsie.)

Dorothy Michaels: Ron? I have a name it’s Dorothy. It’s not Tootsie or Toots or Sweetie or Honey or Doll.

Ron Carlisle: Oh, Christ.

Dorothy Michaels: No, just Dorothy. Alan’s always Alan, Tom’s always Tom and John’s always John. I have a name too. It’s Dorothy, capital D-O-R-O-T-H-Y.

So back to how I handled the situation in the moment.. He calls me sweetheart while thanking me for my help and I say oh you’re welcome I am glad I was able to help, before I go can I share something with you real quick? He gave me an affirmative response of some sort so I continued to say, I am sure you did not mean anything by it but in the interest of keeping things professional I prefer to be called Jill please.

You never really know how someone is going to react when you have to call them in/out so I prepared myself for anything in terms of how he would respond. At least I thought I did until he managed to surprise me anyway. He apologized to which I said thank you and that it was okay. Then he shared that recently his professor told him the same thing. I was confused at first, did he really call a professor sweet heart? I responded by simply saying, Oh really. He went on to explain that he was doing a role play with a female student in front of the class, he was the social worker and the female student was the client. During the role play he called the client sweet heart. Apparently the instructor stopped the role play for a moment to discuss why that is not okay.

He and I talked for a few more minutes about why some women feel uncomfortable when this kind of thing happens. What I learned from him is he was raised thinking that this type of behavior was chivalrous. He definitely seemed to have some knight-in-shining-white-armor ideals going on. My perception, based on a lot of what he shared about his upbringing, is that he seems to think women are delicate and need saving. I was actually pretty surprised, I would not have known any of this based on my previous interactions with him. He certainly seems pro-equality across the board, and I still think he is, there is just this other side that kind of conflicts. I took everything he shared in stride, a person doesn’t know what they don’t know. However, I took the opportunity to explain that what he was talking about could very well be interpreted as oppressive and sexist and the reasons why.

The conversation went well. I definitely feel that we both learned something from the each other. I think he has a much better handle on why sweet heart is not appropriate now. I think calling him in was the right choice. I did not shame him for his statements, I did not make assumptions about him like he should know better, I approached him as an ally that just made a misstep.

That was my biggest take away when I read that article about how to approach these types of interactions. Regardless of if you decide to call someone out or call them in, treat them as an ally who made a mistake. It is a lot easier to approach the situation objectively with compassion for the other person if you see them as someone who is on your side instead of as enemy.

The book I finished recently on dichotomous and hierarchical thinking touched on this as well. If we stop labeling everything (including people) as “good” or “bad”, “right” or “wrong” or (any other type of binary where there are only two options instead of a spectrum) then we will find it much easier to find common ground.

My classmate was not a bad person, this was not an issue of right and wrong. My experiences, thoughts and reality are no more or less real or important than his. My experiences are different from his, my thoughts are different, my reality is different. Different does not equate to bad, it does not equate to wrong. I think this is where people get stuck.

It would be very easy for me to have gotten angry with him when he called me sweet heart because he lives in a place of privilege where he is less likely to have to earn respect, it is given based solely on his gender. I could have schooled him on how he doesn’t understand my struggle as a woman and lectured him endlessly about his privilege. But what would that kind of tirade gotten us? Would we have found common ground? Would he have had this break through about his place of privilege and what his words mean to those of us who don’t live in that place? No, I don’t think so.

As our program faces what seems to be an uphill battle in the area of cultural competency I am thankful for common ground. I am thankful for conversations that come from a place of respect and a want to understand experiences that are different from our own. I am thankful for moments that prove we all have potential for growth. I am thankful.

Growing Tensions

white privilege

On Friday I was talking with a school colleague before class, we were discussing some of our concerns about things we have heard that are going on in the program. Apparently as racial tensions and discrimination in all forms are brought to the forefront in the media our program is feeling the impact of the social issues as well. The problem we run into, in my opinion, is one of cultural competency. Some of what I have heard that is happening sounds like it comes from a place of individuals not being able to overcome their personal biases and have a conversation about race, sexuality, privilege or other sensitive topics in a meaningful, respectful way. Instead these hot button topics come up, people are triggered and any hope for a worthwhile interaction is lost.

I have been fortunate that none of these exchanges have taken a bad turn in any of my classes but outside of classes conversations about race, privilege and discrimination have been coming up more frequently I have noticed. Two weeks ago one of the groups I am in for a project had some field work to do, some of us car pooled while driving over to the community. I was riding with a classmate who is of a different racial background than myself and she started asking me questions about my experience as a white person.

Do you think being on time is a cultural thing for you? I had never thought about it but I answered yes, I think it is. She said that in her cultural being on time is not something that has ever held a lot of importance which is why she is often late for class, appointments etc. She expressed concern to me because she worries her tardiness is seen as unprofessional.  My thoughts, which I shared with her, were that her professionalism should not be wholly judged on this one thing, punctuality. She is being held to the dominant culture’s standard of professionalism which means she is at a bit of a disadvantage because she grew up in a different culture where this, being on time, is not necessarily considered a standard of professionalism. We talked about it together for a while and it helped both of us have insight into the thoughts and feelings of another culture on this topic.

Another question she asked is if I thought whit privilege was really a thing. Yes. Absolutely, without a doubt. She seemed surprised about my lack of hesitation in answering this question. She continued, do you think you have ever benefited from white privilege? Yes. I know I have. Again I think my honesty surprised her. I explained that for a long time I was like many people that share my race and I was unaware of this thing called white privilege but once I became aware of it and fully understood it I knew that I had absolutely benefited from it in life. We talked about what that looks like, a perfect example was the conversation we had just finished having a few minutes before. She told me that in her cultural competency class in the program some of the white students deny white privilege which made her question it herself. I explained that I am able to speak easily about it now because I have known about privilege for a while and already worked through any feelings of guilt I had when I first started learning about it and understanding how it has impacted my life. I continued to explain that for people who are hearing about it for the first time it may make them feel uncomfortable, guilty or even resentment and that working through those feelings of denial and guilt take time. It is a process and we all have to be patient and show each other compassion as we get to this place of cultural competency.

Coming back to Friday morning before class..By sheer coincidence the program head, with whom I have developed a close relationship through my involvement in NASW and our shared interest in end-of-life topics and PAS, happened to walk by as my classmate and myself were talking. She stopped to say hello and then asked if she could join us for a few moments, she wanted to ask us about some things. I immediately knew what this was about. She asked for some insight on what we think is happening in the program, what we have seen, heard and experienced in  and out of our classes as it all pertains to this growing tension in the program. The three of talked for a while. A suggestion I made, that I have made to other instructors before, is that the BSW program should require 2 semesters exclusively dedicated to all issues relating to cultural competency. Because we, as future social workers, will be working directly with the public and more importantly, with vulnerable populations, cultural competency is crucial. I think that is the main problem right now, lack of cultural sensitivity and self awareness. I also desperately want to believe that with time the problem will works itself out.

It does concern me that we are entering our senior year and these issues have escalated to a point that the program head has had to send out an email reminding all of us that we should be treating each other and our professors with respect during all interactions regardless of differences of opinion. Ultimately I feel good about my own progress in the area of cultural competency, I am active in my quest for knowledge and understanding and am aware of my own growth. I hope my colleagues that are struggling are able to figure things out but either way I am only responsible for myself and my own education. It is just unfortunate that in a social work program, that should be focused on acceptance, inclusion and to borrow from the NASW code of ethics, dignity and worth of a person, we are having these kinds of issues.

Can I have Nothing for Myself??

hair

I went on Pinterest to find a photo or quote that seemed appropriate for this post and as furious as this particular photo/quote made me it is pretty perfect actually for what I am about to share.

Let’s get a few things clear before I even share my story, this photo and what it represents is complete and utter bullshit. When I cut my hair off it was for me. It was not an act of defiance, dissatisfaction or despair because despite what this photo would have someone believe women are not all emotionally unstable creatures who make every decision with men in mind. Utter bullshit.

I got my hair cut today. The only thing I do not love about having a pixie cut is having to get it cut every 6-8 weeks. It isn’t having to get it cut that actually bothers me either, it’s a quick trim and I’m out the door, it is the draining interactions with salon staff that makes the experience a dread.

I do not have a set stylist, I haven’t for years. My friend David was my stylist and he was phenomenal. He moved away and right around that same time I stopped coloring my hair so I no longer needed someone I trusted on that level because I was not keeping up with a dye job. When it comes to getting my hair cut I am pretty trusting, I have never had a cut that I couldn’t make work, even if it wasn’t what I was originally expecting.. I’m pretty low maintenance and easy to please.

So I go to one of two local chain salons near our home and sit with whomever is available, it’s fast, it’s cheap and I am on my way.

Every stylist I have had since cutting off all my hair has been very complimentary of my cut, “Oh I love your style it’s so bold” or “It suits you” etc. When I hear things like this from a new stylist I always have hope, OK good maybe this time will be different. It never is though.

Today was my fourth cut since the initial hair appointment when I went short. Today was the fourth time I was asked about how my husband handled the cut or what he thought or if he approved. I am not kidding one time the stylist asked if “he approved”. Um? What? My answer is always the same, he wasn’t involved in the decision or he didn’t have a say, my hair not his.

I am SO over this exchange. For the record Todd was very supportive of my decision and it has not changed how he looks at me, not that I was in anyway concerned about that. I did not realize how truly hung up our society was on norms for beauty and gender roles/expectations until I unwittingly challenged one of those norms.

The stylist who originally cut my hair was so nervous, the hair appointment took way longer than it should have because she was being so cautious about how much she cut. She cut my hair into a bob when I showed her 3 photos of the pixie cut I wanted and asked what I thought. Shorter I said. This happened three or four times. She would cut a few more inches and check in, shorter. And again, shorter. And again, shorter. She even asked me at one point if I don’t care that much about my hair, or something like that, and I was like, I love my hair. I love it, I just want it short. I literally had to tell her that my self worth and sense of beauty is not wrapped up in my hair.

I have never felt more myself or more beautiful in terms of my style. I love this cut and it has nothing to do with whether or not Todd approves or the validation or lack of validation I receive from the outside world. I have wanted a pixie for years and the truth is I never had the guts. I should have done this years ago, I love it.

I appreciate that I married someone who understands that somethings are for me, like what I wear and how I style my hair. The way I speak and what moves me.

I hate that not one stylist I have sat for has asked me how my hair cut makes me feel, it is always about what my husband thinks. How is that anyone’s business anyway? I just don’t get it.

I would never tell Todd to shave or not shave, to cut his hair a certain way, or anything else that would make him feel like his decisions about his body and how he wants to present himself belong to anyone other than himself. So why are people making me feel like his opinion on my appearance is more important than my own?

Feminist is NOT a Bad Word

fem

 

I grew up in a Catholic republican household. I know, for better or worse, I had a sheltered upbringing. With that being said, I do not ever remember hearing about feminism growing up but somehow in my subconscious there was this idea embedded that all feminists were bra-burning-radical-hippies. That idea didn’t come from no where, ya know? I am not blaming my parents in whole because society plays a huge role in that I am sure but I think my parents probably did have something to do with it.

So as you can imagine I have never wanted to associate myself with the feminist movement because I don’t consider myself that radical. Well you know what I realized, I am. If believing that all people should have equal access to pubic facilities (read more about HB 583), or that women should be able to wear whatever they want without being shamed, or that our society is fundamentally broken, makes me radical well then I guess that is just something I will have to live with.

I think I have always been afraid to identify as a feminist because I thought there was something bad or wrong about it. Although recently as I have been working through my feelings on this subject I came to realize I have always been a feminist. Even as a child I was stubborn and willful and unwilling to be controlled.

I remember things from my childhood now that help me own this part of my identity. Like when I watched The Sound of Music for the first time and fell in love with Maria because she was unwavering and stood up to the scary patriarch of the family. She knew who she was and what she stood for and no bully was going to silence her.

I remember watching a commercial for some dumb thing and thinking (as a child) the marketing was ridiculous. I remember asking my mother, “Why won’t they just be honest?” I remember she had no idea what I was talking about at the time because I was too young to express this complex thought eloquently but all I meant was if the product was any good they wouldn’t have to cover it up with all of this other flashy stuff to get you to buy it. I wanted companies to be direct with no frills, I learned in time that is now how it works.

While I have been working this out I have been doing a lot of thinking and a lot of reading and one thing I read really resonated with me. Maya Angelou was quoted saying “I am a feminist. I have been a female for a long time now. It’d be stupid not to be on my own side.” Um Yeah. It would be. Completely stupid in fact. Being a feminist, for me at least, is not just about equality for females, it is about equality across the board. It has to be, otherwise none of this means anything in my opinion.

Getting to this place where I can accept and embrace this, feminism, as a key part of my identity has been difficult and has been a long time coming. It is right up there with finally being able to own that I am an atheist. It is not easy to push through the ideals you were raised with into who you actually are and what you truly believe in. I would say I am a fledgling feminist because I have a pretty good foundation and good intentions but good intentions are dangerous without a better understanding of the issues. I am getting there though, this is big part of the growth I am experiencing right now and it is exciting.

Reformed Grammar Snob

love over hate

 

I have loved words and reading and writing and anything literary in nature since I was old enough to pick up Go Dog Go and read it to myself. Books and writing have always been a sanctuary for me, a place where I can block out all the noise of the world and get lost. It is peaceful in this place, I feel calm and in control. So it should come as no surprise understanding these deep love I have with reading and written word that I have always been a bit of a grammar Nazi. Actually Nazi is probably a little strong, in truth I have never been perfect with punctuation and word usage. For example, I am one of those people who have always had trouble with when to use effect versus affect. I have to look it up every time and even then sometimes I get it wrong.

So Nazi is definitely a little too strong but I was a snob for sure. In fact one of my biggest pet peeves in life has always been when people use double negatives. You know that cringing feeling you get when someone runs their nails on a chalk board, I bet you flinched even at the mere mention of the sound, well that is how I have always felt about double negatives. I have always been critical of other people’s vocabulary, or lack thereof in my opinion, and grammar etc. Because English has always been an area I excel and am naturally comfortable with I used this as leverage to look down on others. It was an area where I could be superior.

WTF?! That is all I can say now. I shit you not, this is exactly how I felt about it and I never gave any thought to how much of an ass that makes me. Well this is me recognizing my former assness and doing my best to correct said assness.

I subscribe to a feminist magazine online that has amazing articles about everyday microagressions, feminist issues, equality issues, how to be more self-aware and an overall better human being. Last Sunday I woke up early and stayed in bed for a while reading. That is when I stumbled across, what ended up being for me, a life changing article. I am not going to restate the entire article, you can read it in its entirety HERE.

Suffice to say it was a huge slap in the face that was apparently a LONG time coming. I see now that I have always held onto ideals of prescriptive grammar silently judging those who use slang etc.

Well that’s enough of that. I see how counterproductive and elitist that type of behavior is now and refuse to take part. So thankful for that much-needed kick in the ass.

Close Your Mouth, Open Your Eyes

malcom

 

I am approached a few times a semester by students doing surveys or polls for classes. I usually participate depending on what it is they need. For example, I am unlikely to sign a petition if I am not personally familiar with the subject matter. Earlier this semester I filled out an anonymous survey about my exercise habits. Today I was approached again.

This time it was a young-looking female student asking if I would fill out her survey about capitalism. Sure. Upon completion she asked if she could ask me a few questions, I was not busy and thought it was part of her assignment, so I agreed.

She proceeded to ask me what political party I belong to, I immediately thought I don’t like where this is going, I told her I had no party affiliation. She then began to explain her feelings about public assistance. She said it is not the government’s job to take care of the poor and that all the government programs should be cut because most poor people abuse them. She also said that if the government continues to give hand outs then no one will ever have the initiative to better themselves.

I just looked at her. What do I say to this? I really had to take a pause to calm myself before I opened my mouth. Some how I managed to politely say although I do not share her opinion I respect her right to it and asked if she minded sharing with me where she got her information. This very simple question rattled her. Has no one ever asked her to share her sources before? She said that she has friends who know people who use government assistance when they don’t need it.

I did not think I could be further dumbfounded but she did it. I asked if she had any other sources? Her reply, Fox news. So basically she is working on third-party information equivalent to gossip and Fox news.

The conversation that followed was brief. I discovered she does not know what the word equity means. I also discovered she does not know the difference between income and wealth and finally I found out that she thinks Doctors and Attorneys are the people who make up the upper 1%.  It concluded with me explaining that it was hard for me to take what she was saying seriously because it did not appear she was informed and her information does not appear to come from reputable sources. I explained that if she had some facts and figures to support her claims that were obtained from reputable, peer-reviewed research then there would be something to talk about it but as it stands I felt there was nothing more to discuss.

I realize I could have shared a wealth of information with her from far more objective sources but the truth is I was so offended by her lack of knowledge that I just had to stop. I did not want a random conversation with a stranger, that I secretly knew I should have never engaged in, to effect me. That was one of the worst cases of ignorance, parroting and confirmation bias I have witnessed in quite some time. I am surrounded by well-informed, open-minded, socially conscious individuals all day long, I forget that not everyone is as well-informed on the issues. This was a sad reality check.

 

A Luxury that should be a Standard

obey

 

I called this morning and made appointments for Todd and I with the dentist in town to get ourselves established as new patients. Admittedly neither of us has had a cleaning since we moved to College Park, this call was a few years overdue. While scheduling I gave the scheduler our dental insurance information and she informed me we have wonderful dental insurance, some of the best they see in fact. Todd works for one of the largest engineering firms in the country so this did not surprise me to hear. I already knew just from treating patients in the healthcare field that worked for his same employer that the medical insurance was good, it was nice to hear they take care of their employees health across the board. The company encourages their employees to have a healthy lifestyle through a program that adds funds to their HSA by logging their activity with pedometers as well. Free money for making healthy choices is something I can get behind.

The Hospital I formerly worked for was one of the largest, if not the largest, in the central FL area and they had a similar health program that gave incentives for making healthy choices. Now personally I thought their healthcare package was lacking, big time. But as a company they took care of their employees in other ways that were no lost on me. I believe they care about the well-being of those they employ. They were a wonderful company to work for, especially if you did not have to use their insurance package.

After I made our appointment I was thinking what a relief it is to not only have good insurance but encouragement to live healthy and make good choices. With that sense of relief also comes a small pang of guilt though. Why isn’t this the standard? How can I, as a socially conscious human being, truly enjoy the access I am granted to doctors and medical treatment knowing that others in more dire need than myself are denied that same access?! I am grateful for it, absolutely, but I cannot feel good about it, truly, in good conscience.

You have heard the adage, Happy wife, happy life? I think that could apply to employees as well. If great healthcare coverage (dental, vision, maternity.. the works!) was a given in all areas of employment doesn’t it stand to reason that you would end up with healthier, more focused, all around happier employees? I am reading The Power of Habit:Why we do what we do in life and business by Charles Duhigg. The most recent section I read talked about how a new CEO took over a failing company and turned it all around by focusing on employee safety. His goal was to have zero incidents reported not just at the factory level but at all levels of the company. This was a lofty goal but by turning the focus back onto the well-being of the employee instead of profits etc he not only met his goal but the company became profitable again. If you take care of people they take notice.

To be clear though, I do not think that healthcare access should be limited exclusively to those who are employed. This should be something that all people, regardless of employment status, income, age, race creed etc should have equal access to.

I am not doing any research here to back any of this up, I am just thinking out loud which means these thoughts are unrefined and maybe even a little oversimplified. But really, I think I have a point. A point that I know others before me have already made. This is not some radical idea I am suggesting. Healthcare, or in our countries case – lack thereof, is a topic that is constantly under heavy debate.

I just don’t think it is right for something like this to be considered a luxury. It is not a designer bad, it is someones health. Health, a decent education, refuge, all of these things should be a given not a rarity.

Yes it was nice to hear that we have good dental coverage I just wish that we lived in a society where that kind of thing was the standard. Then there would never be a reason to point it out to a person because it was true for all.

Public Opinion and the Media

Media_Propaganda_by_Trosious

Todd and I have watched two documentaries in the last month that highlighted two different well known court cases. When given further information about each case the opinion I have always carried about both was completely turned on its head.

After the first documentary I thought, man that stinks for that girl, because of how the media portrayed her she really did not get a fair shake in the public eye. By the time we were finishing the second documentary I was feeling much stronger emotions.

The two court cases I am referring to are the Amanda Knox murder trial and Liebeck vs. McDonald’s (better known as the McDonald’s coffee case).

The documentaries we watched were Crimes of the Century, Season 1 and Hot Coffee. I am sure based on the titles you can figure out which case showed up in which documentary. Although there were huge take-aways from each documentary what I was most impacted by was the role the media played in each case. I would be willing to bet that everyone in America is familiar with one or both of these trials.

Amanda Knox, the sexual heathen who, with the help of her boyfriend, brutally killed her roommate while studying abroad. Um false.

Then we have the most frivolous of all frivolous law suits ever created. A woman spills coffee on herself in the McDonald’s drive-thru, sees an opportunity to make a buck and sues the company for millions. Again, false!

30 minutes into the Amanda Knox story it is pretty clear that this girl is innocent, by the end of the episode there is no doubt in my mind. Yet, some how public opinion has painted her guilty. How could this happen? How could we take a girl who is clearly innocent and make her into some sex crazed maniac capable of killing her roommate? The media. We only know what we hear on TV right? This case is a perfect example of how investigative reporting is dead. The news in this case acted more like gossip hounds, clinging to each tantalizing detail, than professional reporters. Here is the kicker, there is someone in prison for the murder of Amanda Knox’s roommate. He was convicted with DNA evidence! He was convicted of the murder before Amanda ever went to court! Why then was her case not thrown out, I mean they caught the guy!? You never hear that side of the story though and across America people think Amanda Knox got away with murder.

The Hot Coffee documentary left me floored. I can think of  a time in one of my Sociology classes where we talked about the McDonald’s coffee case and everyone in the room agreed that it was frivolous and wrong. It was just some morally shallow individual trying to get rich quick. Some people showed genuine disgust for this person. I am disgusted with myself. I formed an opinion about someone whom I have never met and without all the information. Shame on me. Shame on all of us. I would love nothing more than to share the photos of Mrs. Liebeck’s injuries in order to drive home the point about just how wrong we all are about her. I can’t. They are so graphic in nature I do not feel comfortable putting them on my blog. But I encourage you, I insist that you do even an ounce of research into this case. If you have a strong stomach Google “Liebeck burn photos”. Under Google images the third and fourth photos that appear are what was shown on the documentary.

Mrs. Liebeck suffered third degree burns to her pelvic region, including her who-ha. For those of you who are not familiar with burn degrees I have included a chart I found on Nelsonbarry.com,

burn chart

Mrs. Liebeck had to undergo skin grafting operations following her accident and was hospitalized for over a week. Not to mention the medical treatment needed after her operations. She and her family only decided to bring the case against McDonald’s once they realized the extent of treatment she would need and discovered that medicare would not be covering all of her treatments. McDonald’s pushed back against her claims as they had with over 700 other cases that were similar in nature.

I am not going to layout the entire documentary, go watch it if you want to learn more. It will absolutely make you think twice before ever using the term frivolous lawsuit again. Once again thanks to the news media’s coverage of this story the vast majority have formed completely ungrounded opinions of a woman who was injured and needed help.

– As an aside, the Hot Coffee documentary does not just focus on Mrs. Liebeck’s case. It is a documentary about tort reform and it will give you something to think about.-

The narration of these two cases by the news completely ruined public opinion of two women who did not deserve it , in my opinion. After watching both documentaries I felt conned. In my everyday life I have always been interested in allowing myself to make up my own mind about people. Just because my girlfriend or co-worker or even fiance does not like someone does not necessarily mean I share their opinion. I will listen to people I trust but ultimately I do not like to form opinions based on someone else’s experiences. Why should this be any different? When it comes to the news I have been skeptical as far back as I can remember, certainly since becoming an adult and even more so in the last five years.

It really bothers me that I was just one more person who at one point or another had thought ill of someone without having all the information. I was just one more person making things harder for someone who had already been through so much and it is not right. It isn’t like I have ever given much thought to either of these cases but if previously asked about them I would have said the same thing as everyone else, whatever I knew from the news.

I am sure sometimes the news gets it right but I am willing to bet that in just about every story they report on there is more to it than meets the eye. As a society we need to stop being so quick to judgement. I personally don’t want to form any opinions on misinformation and I don’t want my mind to be clouded by partial truths.

 

Documentaries that will move you

from-one-second-to-the-next

While enjoying our down time yesterday Todd and I watched some documentaries on Netflix. We have been watching an astronomy/physics series recently so Todd picked my favorite category when selecting the documentaries, social and cultural.

We first watched For the Bible Tells Me So. This documentary follows the lives of families that were brought up in religions that told them being gay is a sin and then ended up having a family member who is gay. All the families were transformed by the revelation of having a gay family member, some of them did not come around in time though. The documentary is empowering. Many of the families who were originally anti-gay or at least uncomfortable with the idea based on the teachings of their churches, in the end became equal rights activists. I really liked it and recommend it.

The next documentary we watched was The House I Live In. This documentary had to do with “the war on drugs” in America. This documentary brought to light so much information I did not know. Our nation’s skewed drug laws and who they really affect. The mandatory minimums on sentencing really blew my mind. It showed how drugs impact not only those who choose to sell or use them but the families and future generations. It also shed light on the politics involved in all of it which, no surprise, seem crooked. Also a very good documentary and another I would recommend.

The last one I watched alone. This topic is a hot button issue for me and I know when it comes to certain social problems I am like a broken record but until there is no longer a problem I am going to keep playing my same old tune.

The documentary I watched today is called From One Second to the Next. This documentary is all about the consequences of texting while driving. You hear first hand the devastation that can be caused by this kind of reckless behavior. The documentary features I think 4 or 5 different accounts of lives that were forever changed in a second because of distracting driving.

It was such a mixture of emotions for me while watching. This is an issue that already concerns me a great deal so I  felt angry most of this documentary. My anger is not so much directed at the people who chose to text, those who were brave enough to speak on camera about their accidents were clearly remorseful and damaged by what happened. They need forgiveness and understanding not judgement. The situation in general drives me crazy though because it is such a simple thing that causes so much pain.

The other thing I noticed that really bothered me is that none of these interviews with the people who caused the accidents were done from jail. A man kills 3 children, I expect him to serve sometime in jail at least, I am not even saying prison but county jail. Now after hearing his story and seeing how clearly destroyed he is by his poor judgement yes I feel sympathy for him but to be able to kill three children and walk away with ZERO consequences? That does not seem right to me at all. What is a human life worth that we can allow three to end in such a violent horrific manner with no action taken against the responsible party? I do feel that each case is different, I am not calling for blanket laws that have mandatory minimum sentencing but at least community service, something. I don’t know.

Your heart breaks not just for the victims and their families but for those responsible. It is a terrible burden to live with I am sure. What kills me though is that this is a burden no one would ever have to live with if everyone just did the right thing.

 

 

Can someone else get that?!

cell leash

I got the passive aggressive I’m-mad-at-you-but-don’t-want-to-admit-it treatment from a someone last weekend. I have no patience for this kind of thing. I don’t like confrontation but I don’t like falseness more. If you’re mad at me just tell me the truth so I can deal with it and we can move past it. The problem arises when the other person is upset over something petty. Nobody wants to admit to being petty.

I called to relay some information about plans that were being made and as soon as the phone connected on the other end I was getting nailed.

Me: Hey there, blah blah blah plans blah blah.

Other party: I’ve been calling you. (followed by a much longer than needed pause and further passive aggressive behavior)

So here is the scenario. I was called about plans that morning and confirmed that said plans were happening. First Todd and I needed to run some errands though and I made all of this clear when confirming the plans. So Todd and I ran our errands and as per usual I left my phone at home.

When we arrived home a few hours later I saw that I had three missed calls and three text messages from this person. The texts were non-emergent, run of the mill stuff and there was no voice mail so I finished up what I was doing, as I was involved in something at the time, and about twenty minutes later returned the call.

I got hammered for not picking up my phone and not responding to the texts.

My response: I am in fact returning your calls as you can see we are currently on the phone. (I realize this was probably a bit smart assy and unneeded) Is everything OK?

Other party: Yes (with more than a hint of frustration) but you can’t come over for an hour. (knowing full well we had already left the house and the dog was with us so it’s not like we could stop along the way and window shop etc)

I end the call and inform Todd that we have to turn a 15 minute card ride into an hour. We look at each other and I say Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Turns out, he was. Gelato. Ha. Good luck ruining my good day with your passive aggressive nonsense, I’m having gelato.

We were able to kill an hour and by the time we arrived the storm had passed and we had a nice evening.

I cannot lie though I was really annoyed by the whole situation. Especially because this is someone I am very close with which means they know how I am about the phone.

Sunday mid-morning I was writing when my phone went off. About 10 minutes later I checked it while passing through the kitchen and found that it was my girlfriend that lives a few minutes away inviting me to brunch.

(As a side note – I hate brunch. I wake up early so I cannot wait until late morning/early afternoon to eat. And because I eat breakfast early I am no longer interested in breakfast later in the day. Not to mention I do not like to drink during the day. Having a buzz in the daylight makes me completely disoriented. No, I don’t like brunch. For me there is breakfast and lunch and no in between.)

So even though brunch is an unnecessary, non-meal as far as I am concerned I agreed to meet her and went to my room to throw on a dress and some sunglasses. My friend has been up against a difficult situation recently and I assumed she wanted to talk.

It ended up working out well. I had not eaten yet anyway and we had a lot to discuss, plus it was a beautiful day that needed to be spent outdoors. So while at brunch I told my girlfriend about what happened the day before and how I felt about catching crap over the whole phone situation. She knows exactly what my feelings are on the matter so I did not have to explain my side of it and I needed some perspective which she was able to help me with.

Here is where I stand..

I am aware that I am difficult to reach at times. More often than not you are getting my voice mail the first time you call, which I do not check, and most of my text messages start with the phrase, Sorry, I just got this. I am sure this is incredibly annoying to most people especially if you are just looking for a quick answer on something.

But here is the positive side of it, when you are with me I am completely present. More often than not my phone is on silent or I did not even bring it. I am tuned in giving whatever it is I am doing 100% of my focus and that is way more important to me.

The one exception to all of this is when Todd calls. I always do my best to take his calls. But here is the thing about that, he only calls me at one time, when he is leaving work. Everyday he calls as he is leaving the office to let me know he is on his way home so I do my best to have my phone close by at that time of day each day. Although, if I have plans on any given day around the time he is getting off he knows I won’t be listening for my phone so he doesn’t call. Ultimately making it a non-issue.

I do feel bad at times when I take a while to get back to someone about something because I did not hear my phone or was painting or something and chose not to get up and see who was calling etc. And there have been times when I have missed out on things because I didn’t see the text saying, Hey let’s get lunch until 3:00. I don’t do any of this to be deliberately annoying and I appreciate that the majority of those with whom I am close understand and accept this about me.

I just refuse to allow my cell phone to become a leash. Just because I have a cell phone does not mean that a person can have direct access to me. I have voice mail, leave a message if you must. Eventually I will see that I have a missed call and return it. I mean hell, what did people do before cell phones when all we had were land lines? Oh yeah, we left messages for people and waited for a return phone call. Our society has become so jaded by immediate gratification and getting everything we want the second we want it that we have completely lost perspective. If I want to be disconnected that is my right and that’s it, there is nothing more to talk about.

The only area where I could potentially get pinched, as far as I am concerned, is in the case of an emergency. Even if there were an emergency though I do not worry too much because all of my important people have each others numbers. There might be a little phone tree action going on in order to reach me but it would happen.

I have set pretty clear boundaries in this area of my life and I feel good about it. I know that I have inspired others in my life as well. When I go out with my girlfriends for a girls night now we usually only carry one phone in the entire group in case we need to call a cab or something. That means that in a group that is sometimes as large as seven people we are all disconnected and really spending time together, I love that. I know a few people who followed my lead and deactivated their Facebook account as well which I think is awesome. It was never my intention to influence anyone else but I do feel good about my decisions regarding technology usage and am always glad to see something that has been positive in my life be positive for someone else as well.

 

 

I cannot be what I am not

balance

In life a challenge everyone faces is balance. Keeping balance in your everyday life is an important part of being a grounded, happy human being. When it comes to balance in my daily life the biggest challenge I face is keeping my emotionally driven personality in check. I am constantly trying to put my feelings toward any given thing into perspective, always trying to keep my eye on the bigger picture.

The problem I  face is that for me everything revolves around how I feel. Logic, statistics and analytical thought do not usually play a role in my decision making process. Being so far to one side of the scale in this aspect of my personality poses a real danger for me slipping into extremes. This is something I am afraid of and keep a wary eye on because I do not want to lose touch with reality.

Todd and I had a discussion this morning about something that has been bothering me and how I plan to handle it. I, like many Americans, walk around blissfully unaware of a lot of the yuck going on around me in society. When something is brought to my attention, however, it is difficult for me to ignore it and pretend it is not there. This is especially true when I have some level of control over whatever the thing is.

I do have a level of perspective about this, I know that I cannot single-handedly change all the defects of our society. I have to choose my battles and my causes. I do not have it in me to fight for every cause out there. However, I can choose what is best for me personally and not give my support financially to a company with immoral business practices for example. This is something small but it is what feels right.

What disappoints me so often is our society’s level of greed and what people and companies are willing to do for money. I see things and hear about things happening that are just wrong. Really wrong. But it is allowed to happen, there are no laws stopping it or those in place are loose and not often upheld.

I am not trying to change the world, I do not have the energy for that, but I don’t want to be part of the problem when I am aware of it and can make the decision not to be. It is exhausting to care this much but I would still rather be an exhausted person of principle than a carefree hypocrite as often as possible.

Another plea to disconnect

texting-smartphone

I am mounting my soap box, the time to turn back is now.

Earlier this week I watched a story on the news that threw me into a ranting whirl at the time and has been nagging in the back of my mind ever since.

The story was about a car full of college students that were killed in an head-on collision with an SUV that was speeding down the interstate going the wrong direction. The driver of the car that was hit apparently did not have to react and both cars exploded on impact. It bothers me to type this out because as I do I replay the footage in my mind.

One would think given the information I just shared that my outrage would be directed towards the driver of the SUV that caused the accident, that would be an incorrect assumption however. The news had footage of the crash as it happened, this is where my disapproval starts.

A female driver going 70 mph on the correct side of the interstate saw what was taking place across the median and pulled out her phone to video tape what was happening. Are you kidding me?! Let me make sure I understand this, you are driving down a road like I4 (for those of us who live locally) or the turnpike perhaps and you notice on the other side of the highway that a car is going way over the speed limit and driving in the wrong direction into traffic and your first reaction is to videotape it?! Pull out your phone sure, but call the police! This person could have caused a whole other accident because she was focusing on what was taking place across the median and video taping rather than on the road and driving. In my opinion she deserves a citation not to be getting recognition by the media for capturing this video for them. Yea, I bet the news stations were really kissing her ass. Not only do they have a story but they have video of the crash taking place to play over and over during prime-time. Does anyone else think this is completely disrespectful and disgusting? 5 people died in a very tragic way and the news is playing the video of their death on repeat. The lives lost mean nothing here, it is a story. How upsetting for the family and friends of the people involved to be exposed to something so horrific.

Over and over you hear on the news “Tweet us your videos, send us your pictures via this email address or that social media site”. Who cares how the video/photos were obtained. Who cares how graphic the images are, just throw a disclaimer out there and roll with it. I have been disenchanted by the sensationalist, twisted tactics the media uses to get a story but now I am utterly fed up. There is such little value placed on human life anymore all that matters is getting the story. Shove the camera in everyone’s face until someone agrees to talk with us.

A police officer was killed this week while trying to apprehend someone suspected of a crime. The news is broadcasting live from his funeral tomorrow. Uninterrupted coverage. If I were his family I would say Go Jump. Let those who actually know him grieve. Leave his family alone. This is sad, shoving a camera in the face of a grieving widow is not necessary to drive home the point.

Back to what I was saying about the driver who shot the video while going 70 on the interstate instead of informing the authorities of what was going on.. Judgement calls like this one scare the hell out of me. I would never dream of using my phone in this way while driving. I know the big push for the last however many years has been to discourage texting and driving but to me that is just part of the problem. In general people seem so distracted. I think we as a society have become so accustomed to multitasking that it carries over into areas of our life where it becomes dangerous. Using your phone and driving is not an efficient use of time, it is dangerous. Do people not realize the possible consequence of such a decision? This decision to willing allow yourself to be distracted while driving could be deadly. Is such little value placed on the preservation of human life that this kind of decision would somehow seem worth the risk? Todd and I were almost struck by other cars on the road twice today, we had been on the road all of 15 minutes. A dump truck merged crept into our lane without realizing it forcing into the lane next to ours to avoid being hit. Thankfully the lane next to us was clear and Todd had time enough to verify that before having to get out of the way. Then again while making a left turn the woman in the car next to us merged right on top of us without even looking. She did not use her indicator to change lanes, did not look, she did this while in the middle of an intersection AND she was on her phone clearly yelling at someone. For cripes sake hang up the GD phone!

It scares me the way things are, it also makes me feel incredibly discouraged. As is true in so many other circumstances I just wish that collectively people cared a little more. The silver lining to this post is that laws are starting to crack down on such issues as cell phone usage while driving. As it stands I feel this sort of thing is hard to regulate and hard to prove but acknowledgement of the issue is at least a small step in the right direction.