I haven't written much since you know who took office. I have struggled with what to say that hasn't been said, what to do with my emotions, how to translate them into productive action. The national gaslighting that is going on that "he's not that bad" and that the horrible fears faced by many Americans (LGBTQ, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, etc) "probably" won't come true is almost too much to bear.
But all that aside (as if it can be truly put aside), I can't help but notice another type of polarization - one that cuts to the very core of who we are as humans: whether or not to be kind and what that means. There is one camp that believes "political correctness" and "identity politics" are an affront to freedom of speech and get in they way somehow of the business of life. There is another that argues that our emotions are valid - our anger is real and you should not tone police us or ignore the power of language. There are those that "don't see color" and others who feel they are literally being erased. There are those who think everyone needs to "toughen up" and grow a "thicker skin" and not be such a crybaby, and those who think that it's high time everyone stopped being such a goddamn asshole.
This article by Ferentz Lafargue sums up my feelings exactly: "‘Coddled’ students and their ‘safe spaces’ aren’t the problem, college official says. Bigots are." In it he states:
"Therefore, whether one is suspicious of the merits of college as a whole or cynical about the existence of “safe spaces,” the truth of the matter is that “coddled” college students aren’t the problem. The real culprits — on campuses and in the real world — are the persistent effects of homophobia, income inequality, misogyny, poverty, racism, sexism, white supremacy and xenophobia."
I couldn't agree more. Why attack those calling out injustice and asking for a better world? Why defend the utter shittiness of the "real world" as if it is good for anyone? I've recently overheard an older woman (at a craft show no less) saying "Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me." I wonder if she truly believes that or if it's a lie she tells herself. I wonder if she needs a hug. That if someone told her her feelings matter, that she is a good person, that her pain is real if it would shatter her into a million pieces. To face our emotions is hard work. To remove the coping mechanisms, the denial, the band-aids of drugs, shopping, and distraction. To really sit and think about what we are feeling. It's one of the hardest things a human can do. I imagine it's why many prefer to live an unexamined life - to plow forward surviving, day to day, doing what needs to be done. Self-care, self-reflection, and self-compassion are extracurricular activities. Questioning the status quo, getting really angry about the way things are and shouldn't be - these are the province of the young and naive, as described by Hua Hsu in his article "The Year of the Imaginary College Student":
“The imaginary college student is a character born of someone else’s pessimism. It is an easy target, a perverse distillation of all the self-regard and self-absorption ascribed to what’s often called the millennial generation. But perhaps it goes both ways, and the reason that college stories have garnered so much attention this year is our general suspicion, within the real world, that the system no longer works.”
I think it's easy to criticize "millenials" because it allows the older generation to deny responsibility. It's a tale as old as time, one that really serves no purpose other than to divide and conquer. Read this amazing thread that calls out millenial-bashing for what it truly is. I recently watched this video by Adam Conover, comedian of "Adam Ruins Everything" fame. (A great show, by the way). Essentially he states that millenials don't exist and I would tend to agree with him. Our obsession with times past and generations keeps us from living in the present. I can't tell you how many episodes of "I love the 80s" I have watched. It's fun to look back at so-called gentler times. In fact, the Donald won on a "Make America Great Again" ideal. When it was ever "great" is up for grabs. What does "great" mean? Were we ever free from death, poverty, and oppression? Was there ever a time where all humans lived in harmony free of worry, fear, and desperation? Hardly? If anything human existence has been cruel and harsh the entire time for most of the world and continues to be so. We modern Americans are the luckiest, most privileged and best off by comparison. So if anything, we should hope to make America "great" (whatever that means) right now.
So back to safe spaces. The criticism of them is that they prohibit free debate, discourse, and discussion about difficult topics. Professors and teachers don't want to give "trigger warnings" because they fear half the class will leave and therefore shut down learning altogether. I can understand this. It's fine to disagree with this and assume that everyone can "handle" difficult topics.
But not everyone can. This comic beautifully illustrates why trigger warnings are important.
Essentially if you have experienced trauma you may have some form of PTSD. Being "triggered" isn't being sensitive - it's a psychological and physiological reaction to real emotional pain. The Donald made an offhand remark that combat veterans with PTSD are "not strong" and this is dangerously wrong. The effects of trauma are real and it should not be taken lightly especially when suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and an estimated 22 veterans die by suicide each day.
Safe spaces were created to keep people safe - because most of the world isn't. And saying this will prevent them from being successful in the "real world" is saying at least two things that are problematic. 1) We have to toughen up instead of trying to change the shittiness that is the real world. 2) That young people don't actually live in the real world and somehow are currently protected from it by being in college or under the care of their parents. Who are these imaginary bubble children? Guess what - college students and young people have jobs, have children, are soldiers and veterans, have mental illnesses, are caretakers and breadwinners for their families. They are not insulated in some bubble. That may be the "imaginary college student" of lore but it is not the reality today. I have not met these imaginary students throughout my work in higher education and if they exist, they are vastly outnumbered by "non-traditional" learners.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs is one of the most basic concepts of Psychology. It essentially states that without having your basic needs met you cannot get to self-actualization, one's full potential. You need to have water, food, shelter, security, and love in order ot be the best person you can be. If you don't feel safe, you cannot thrive. If you are not safe you cannot learn. If you are not safe you cannot smash the patriarchy. Our anger is valid. Our feelings are legitimate. Our pain is real. By allowing students and anyone for that matter to feel their feelings, process, and heal, we are opening them up to doing the real work of changing this so-called "real world." I'd give a thousand bubbles to young minds to free them from the prison of oppression and harm that is the "real world" if it would allow them to make real change.
We can rant on about how millenials are selfish, entitled, lazy, etc. But there are no facts to back this up. We can whine that they got too many participation trophies and expect too much. Or we can remember that the so-called millenial generation was raised by the very generation complaining about them. Who gave the trophies? Who put the iPad in their hand instead of having a conversation? Who told them they were special and could do anything they wanted if they just worked hard? Instead of viewing a hugely diverse group of people as a monolith that can be easily defined and dismissed, see them for what they are - the future. They will take what was handed to them and change the world for better or worse and it's up to us which one it will be.
It's no secret. I love drag queens. I'll never forget the awe, wonder, and complete and utter inadequacy I felt standing next to a gorgeous Amazon in a beautiful hat at Beauty Bar in NYC in the early 2000s. Her glamour, her style. I could barely speak, only stare. I thought "This person is the epitome of cool and I am but a mere mortal with bad bangs." Drag is an art form and to see it up close was utterly breathtaking.
I have watched every single season of RuPaul's Drag race. I get a pure dopamine rush from watching the queens size each other up, read each other, transform into myriad creative interpretations of feminine beauty and stomp the runway. The Snatch Game always has me cracking up - a favorite being Jinkx Monsoon's Little Edie. I love the tender moments with RuPaul. I love when they become vulnerable and share their fears and anxieties. I envy their sickening contour.
But why do I love them so? My own life and experiences couldn't be farther from theirs. As straight, white, cisgender middle-class white woman, I couldn't possibly appreciate all that drag is in its rich tapestry and culture. I couldn't possibly identify with what they have been through and what they have overcome to be the confident, radiant human beings they are on the show. So why the affinity? Why do they speak to me? What follows is a rather unscientific list, garnered 100% from my own experience.
Disclaimer: I understand that straight women's love of gay culture can border into appropriation and exploitation, not to mention a complete disregard of their own privilege in taking over gay spaces. I by no means wish to contribute to such nonsense and hope I have treated this subject with respect. Please let me know if I haven't - I am eager to learn.
Full disclosure - this may get political. But don't unfriend me just yet!
So we are in a tough election season. Our two less than ideal choices are giving me flashbacks to the Kerry/Bush election in which I donned a pin that read "Kerry Sucks Less." We hoped for the best and we got Dubya. Many years later we're now faced with a historic win for either a first woman president with a questionable vagenda or a first rich idiot president (first?). I can't say I have studied their platforms in detail as the mere act of reading the 24 hour news cycle is enough to give me a panic attack. I will say that I can't help but notice that it stirs up some strong feelings in many of my friends and family, especially given our climate of police brutality and protesting footballers.
Often the frustrated exclamation of both liberals and conservatives alike is "if you don't agree with me, then just UNFRIEND ME!" We are either #BlueLivesMatter or #BlackLivesMatter, as if the two were mutually exclusive. As if the solution to all of our problems is to isolate ourselves into distinct tribes in which we only speak with those whom we agree. I can't really blame people for being exhausted and feeling as though talking to their brick wall opposites has simply become unproductive. Everyone is just fed up.
But if all of our social media feeds are simply two opposite viewpoints howling into the void, garnering attention from only like minds, and pushing us further and further into opposing camps... how are we supposed to function as a society? Is our sole purpose in life only to be surrounded by those who think and feel exactly as we do? Or perhaps is it better to be challenged by a fresh perspective, forced to justify your own thoughts and feelings with facts and research, and perhaps consider changing your mind upon learning something new?
If I only surrounded myself with people who agreed with me, I would have no family and I would not be married to my husband. I often questioned my choice to date and then marry a conservative when my heart so clearly bled for the liberal feminist cause. For many years it's been "agree to disagree" on some issues and to find common ground in our shared values - the things that really matter and are non-negotiable. But when it gets to be this tough - a moment in history when we are all on the edge of breaking - agreeing to disagree is no longer good enough. To avoid discussing these big ideas would be detrimental to our relationship in the long term. And as we raise a child together, we seek to model compassion and respectful communication. So why stop there?
We must seek to understand each other, even if we can't agree. Instead of being defensive, we must be curious. Surely there are people on either side of the aisle who are out of their minds and make the rest of us moderate, level-headed folks feel wary and hold grudges against the group at large. The media loves to feed us sensational headlines that make both sides look like idiots and make us further want to defend our position (because we sorta agree with those idiots... but we're not idiots... are we?).
This is not to say that anyone should continue to endure any type of abuse or outright hatred directed at them. I would never begrudge someone to zealously unfriend a bigot, racist, sexist, xenophobe or other hateful person. I also understand how exhausting it can be to explain the same things over and over again to those who refuse to listen, learn, or budge even one bit towards returning your generosity of spirit and openness. By all means - maintain your sanity and wellbeing by disposing of toxic relationships. For those that you do love and trust, and ultimately feel you can both teach and learn from, be sure to give them a chance.
I can go on and tell you why I'm voting for Hilary even though she's not perfect and I can try to convince you that Trump is a terrible, terrible person. But I probably won't. Because like you - I'm scared of how hard it will be to disagree with you - someone I care about. But I won't tell you to unfriend me. Because maybe, just maybe - we should talk about it and come together instead of turning our backs on each other. Because maybe now, more than ever, we need each other.
I don't really set New Year's Resolutions. I always feel they are unrealistic, and winter is the time of year where I most prefer not to move, exert myself, or really go outside. I hibernate. I'm certainly not making any drastic life changes.
This past year, I became a mom. And for those of you that have crossed the threshold into parenthood, you know what that feels like. It's like a switch is flipped and suddenly everything you've ever thought, believed, wanted, or known snaps clearly into focus. Your values, your deeply held convictions, all become crystal clear. You know what is important now, and what is a bunch of crap you can't be bothered with.
It may also come with age - being in your thirties means you've tried on a few different hats. Maybe you've had three or four "big girl jobs." You know what you're good at, and what you're not. In a lot of ways you have paid your dues and are maybe setting your sights on what the next 20-30 years of your career will look like. (Anyone else shudder when they read that?)
So I didn't make a New Year's Resolution. I know who I am, and I do not resolve. I did get hold of a cool journal, called the 52 Lists Project. I decided this would be my year of #selfcare and#selfreflection and #selflove. Yes, I use hashtags in all my writing now. (Thanks, internet)
I don't spend a lot of time thinking about myself these days. I spend a lot of time playing mindless games like Candy Crush and rotating between Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. At the end of a busy day of adulting and momming, the last thing I want to do is work on myself. But I need to. We all do.
I've been in therapy for about a year now. I've learned a lot about myself. I've learned about how I am in relationships, how I deal with conflict, and what I need to work on. The main thing I realized is that despite getting everything I've ever wanted in life - the husband, the house, the baby, amazing job, is that something was still missing. How could something still be missing? I beat myself up for not being grateful enough.
Was it spirituality? A connection to God? I went to church a few times and no, it wasn't that. Although church can be lovely. Was it friendship? My friendships have certainly changed significantly since becoming a mom, but I talk to my best friend almost every day and I've made an effort to stay connected to most of them despite our busy schedules. So what was it?
The answer: ME. I am missing me. In everything I do, I am other-focused. Not because I'm a saint, but because I abandon myself. In every day and every chance I get I find a way to forget myself or put myself last. Who's fault is that? Sure it's easy to blame one's parents, the media, one's partner, and, obviously the patriarchy. But given my relative privilege it's time to stop blaming everyone and everything else. It's time to put in the work and start taking care of myself for real.
I'm grateful for my experiences. I'm grateful for the journey. And in some ways, even though it feels like I've gotten "everything I've ever wanted," my journey is just beginning. When I strip away the blame, when I strip away the guilt, when I strip away the "should haves" all that is left is me. It's both terrifying and exhilarating - but here goes nothing.
My whole life I have not enjoyed exercising. Gym glass was always tough for me as a kid. I could not run very fast or for very long. I could not climb the rope. I did not enjoy the monkey bars. I preferred to spend recess curled up under a tree with my diary, recording my playground observations, or with my latest book. When forced to interact, I would chill at the top of whatever tall structure there was and chat with my friends, or teach them French vocabulary. I took 1 dance class, did soccer for 1 season, and took all the light sports in high school: archery, step aerobics, even "aerobic walking." HA! I ran a cool 10-12 minute mile and nearly barfed afterwards. I did not pretend to be sporty.
As an adult, my exercise became tromping through the city streets, dodging slow walkers. It became hauling ass up and down subway stairs and running to catch the train before the door closed. It became hauling groceries up 3 flights of stairs to my apartment. Only when I returned to my native land of NJ did I realize what I thought was a sedentary life was actually quite active.
1 pregnancy, and 10-20 pounds of weight gain later, I have been hit with the reality of my aging mom bod. In addition to my loathing for the gym and physical activity in general, I also enjoy the finer things in life, mainly delicious food that is bad for me. Bacon, fried anything, cheese, carbs on carbs on carbs. I absolutely love food. I know that any weight I put on is my own fault but yet I don't care. I'd rather be fat and happy and enjoy my life, to be honest!
And then: A routine physical and a blood test revealed elevated liver enzymes - this was the wakeup call I needed.
A friend of mine who is into yoga, healthy eating, and all things organic shared a free workout plan with me by Betty Rocker. Normally I am one to cringe at these types of things. I hate working out. I hate challenges. I hate being told what to do. Something about this one felt different though. I have to say - I really like her. She is genuine, encouraging, sweet, and energetic. She feels like a person I would be friends with - not some intimidating gym person spouting "No excuses!" (Because trust me, I am really good at coming up with excuses).
I also was browsing Pinterest and came across 100 days of Real Food. I am always trying to figure out what to feed my finicky one-year old, who rejects food she loved only the day before. It only so happens that when mommy is quietly enjoying her own delicious food (or her rejects) that she shows a sudden interest. I started to think that it would be really nice to be able to feed her off my plate without having to grab the box and read the list of ingredients.
It also occurred to me that if I am so concerned about putting the right food into her little growing body, why am I not affording myself the same courtesy? Why don't I value my own body as much as hers? Why do I consume chemicals, fat and salt and not think twice about the damage I may doing whereas with her it is my primary concern? Obviously it's because I'm her mama and I'd move heaven and earth to give her the best of everything because SHE is my everything. But what about me? Where do I fit in? How many times do I forget to value myself? Where am I?
So I started Betty Rocker and I must say I was really impressed with what I am truly capable of (not to say I didn't sob audibly through the first 4 or 5 workouts). But 15-20 minutes a day when I would otherwise be crushing candy is not that much of a commitment. The noticeable changes in my strength, the mood lift, and the energy increase were all palpable. I finally broke free of the "exercise is not for me mindset" and it felt really good.
I have an "I'm a bad cook" mindset also and default to microwaveable meals whenever possible. But I started a 100 days of Real Food meal plan with my family anyway. Thanks to the meal plans and shopping lists I made some gorgeous meals like Halibut with sweet potato and fresh green beans, and a whole chicken in a crock pot which became stock, which became soup. I felt like a galdang pioneer woman!
It all boils down to a choice and the readiness and willingness to make that choice. It's not about not making excuses - sometimes we really just can't or don't want to do things and I don't think we should have more guilt thrown at us by holier than though "experts" who know nothing about us. I think the best thing is to realize that you are worth it, that you are capable, and you will actually enjoy it. Do it when you're ready, and do it in a way that is authentic to you. Take care of yourself and love yourself - you're worth it!
I love making teacher appreciation gifts. Mostly because...Pinterest, but in all seriousness, teachers deserve our thanks. Having accidentally stumbled upon a job posting for my child's own daycare I was saddened to see how little they make. These women who are going or have gone to school, earned degrees and numerous certifications, all so they can not only keep our children alive for most of the day, but come up with unique and fun lessons and activities to stimulate their tiny minds and help them grow. My child loves her teachers as evidenced by her leaping out of my arms and into her teacher's for an extended snuggle upon returning from our week-long vacation. The fact that teachers cannot afford their own services on their salary is appalling and is a stark reminder of the need for childcare support and reform on so many levels. But I digress. If I can put a smile on their face and tell them how much they mean to both me and my child, gosh darn it I'm gonna do it!
For my wedding I collected a LOT of vintage china. Mostly bread and dessert plates, teacups, and teapots. I've seen lots of people doing sharpie mugs in the oven and had some pretty good success DIY'ing one for a friend!
Mother's Day is upon us, and with that comes the pressure to get the perfect gift. Shutterfly has some great options but I also wonder if they really need another piece of clutter or really want to wear jewelry with my daughter's ever changing face on it! That being said, I think repurposing something old and beautiful and giving it a fresh take is an awesome idea.
I've always crushed on cheeky teacups featured on the likes of Etsy and Francesca's. But we all have that thought "I could make that!" and for twice the price of what it would have cost to just buy the damn thing we are now blessed with a somewhat similar product and some fun new art supplies to boot!
The image above is using a gold oil-based sharpie. I baked for 3 hours at 250 degrees to set the paint.
For my wedding, I wanted a way to honor the important women in my family by making them special corsages. Instead of a fresh floral one, which would fade, I thought it would be nice to make them bracelet style ones from old fashioned silk millinery flowers. This was in keeping with the theme of my groom and groomsmen boutonnieres which were made by the Etsy shop Mignonne Handmade.
I loved these so much, especially the book page leaves. They are something I could have probably done DIY, but they were so perfect as is I decided to splurge. When it came time to do the corsages, I took a different route. I did half DIY/ half semi-DIY. In my research on millinery flowers, I came across this awesome Etsy shop, Freshly Fallen Designs, that had mini millinery flower bouquets already made.
For these in particular, all I had to do was take the pre-made bouquet and use floral wire and hot glue to affix them to these pearl corsage bracelets, which I purchased at Michael's. I then used oak tags (from Staples) to label each of them and attached them with pink baker's twine.
For the others, such as the red rose and blue flower one pictured above (second from the left), I purchased some little bunches of flowers and leaves from the same section at Michael's where I found the corsage bracelets. I used a combination of floral wire and floral tape to make a mini arrangement and then affixed them to the bracelet with floral wire and hot glue.
Everyone was really pleased to receive them. I wish I could have done them for every woman at the wedding but I stuck to mothers, grandmothers, and aunts that I am close to. Otherwise I really could have gone crazy because I have a lot of aunts and female cousins! Overall, this was a fun pre-wedding DIY project that was easy, cheap, and fun to do, especially thinking about which flowers best represented each woman's style and personality. What did you do to honor the special women in your life at your wedding?
I was charged with games for a friend’s upcoming bridal shower and it was really fun to put together some fabulous prizes. Check out the games I chose in this post!
Now I don’t know about you, but I never win anything. So when I do win, I want to get something awesome, useful, and something I might not always buy for myself.
So I went in search of awesome prizes that I would want. In the mood for some “me time” I fueled up at Starbucks and headed to Target. (I'm so basic, I know) I raided the dollar spot, the candy aisle, the travel toiletries, and the end caps in the beauty section and I think I did pretty well!
What I got:
I also went to Amazon and grabbed some Flower girl books in case the two girls in attendance win a game. You can find “Pinkalicious: Flower Girl" here. It's short, cute and doesn't stick in my feminist craw because a little boy also wants to be a flower girl! #smashthepatriarchy
All told I spent about $100 for 20 prizes plus about $5 on the flower girl books. I went a bit overboard as my goal was 12 prizes (3 winners each for 4 games). All in all we ended up using most of them and I gifted the rest to the other bridesmaids, the mother of the groom, and the bride herself. Everybody wins!
My vision was to have first prize, second prize, and third prize for each of the 4 games we're doing and it worked out well. I tried to package them accordingly, and put items together that kind of made sense together. Here's what I came up with:
As you’ll see in my previous post on Bridal Shower Treat Bag Toppers, I was REVVED UP! Nothing gets me going like a good DIY that comes out exactly as I hoped. I recalled that the maid of honor was assembling mini-wine bottle favors with Jordan almonds (photo to come, I promise) and I thought “I WONDER IF THEY MADE TAGS FOR THOSE” Lo and behold, a tag was planned and they had a cute little poem in mind:
Jordan Almonds for Thee:
Five sugared almonds for each guest to eat
To remind us that life is both bitter and sweet.
Five wishes for the new husband and wife--
Health, Wealth, Happiness, Children, and a long life!
I took this concept and ran with it!
I created little cards that will be inserted into the pink organza drawstring bags of Jordan almonds. The tag could also be hole punched in the corner and tied to the bag via the drawstring.
Nice to meet you!
I am a tech pro, blogger, DIY'er, reader, TV binger, music lover, nerd and semi-crunchy mom. I write about professional development, being crafty, motherhood and politics. Thanks for joining me and letting me share my thoughts with you!