GUYS. Hold. The. Phone.
I just came across this video in my Facebook feed via Practically Functional and immediately had to DIY it! Basically it involves putting a bunch of fabric scraps in a wipes container and letting your toddler go to town (like they usually do with a poor, innocent tissue box).
This is brilliant for 2 reasons:
Subscription boxes - surely you've heard of them. They can be anywhere from utterly frivolous to overwhelmingly practical. I believe sharing is caring so I'm rounding up some of the ones I've tried for better... or worse! Full disclosure - My posts do contain my affiliate links but this post is in no way sponsored or endorsed by any of these brands. I share of my own free will!
I recently read an article about how we need to stop using straws because our ocean and its lifeforms are literally choking on them. I get it - that garbage patch in the Pacific makes me super sad. I have tried to take action on this front by being more personally responsible.. I have a lovely collection of reusable straws in my home, use reusable coffee mugs and cups as often as I can. As I type this, I am drinking iced coffee out of a mason jar with a reusable straw. I use reusable bags in the grocery store. When I don't, I use the bags as garbage bags in my small garbage can. I wash Ziploc bags. I buy compostable plates made of wheat. I was told to carry a reusable spork (I bought one but can't bring myself to put it in my purse).
But how far can personal responsibility help us when literally every business ever uses a crap-ton of plastic? Order food from any restaurant or take home leftovers and you get styrofoam containers, disposable cutlery (in a plastic bag), salad dressing in a plastic pouch, in a plastic bag (why?).
Literally every food item I buy from the grocery store comes in a plastic container. I just made a grilled cheese and the bread, cheese, and butter were all housed in plastic. Even the butter cubby in my fridge is plastic.
Personal responsibility is important yes, but we should also lobby our local businesses and major companies to ditch the plastic and find alternatives as well. We also have to consider that not everyone can afford fancy reusable coffee cups and reusuable bags and fancy metal water bottles - there is a class issue with this as well. Not to mention, all those things had to be manufactured - how can we be certain that this trend of reusable items is not hurting the environment as well? The best option is to reuse what we have and minimize our desire to consume and buy more more more!
I still believe in making better personal choices for the earth. But plastic-shaming also needs to be directed at literally every business. Real change will not come from a few individuals as long as we are bombarded with plastic in every conceivable area of our lives.
This episode of Adam Ruins Everything has a lot of food for thought on this topic (with sources!) . You may also want to check out The Story of Stuff and Bag It, two great short films.
What are your thoughts on plastic overload? What do you do personally and politically to impact positive change?
This is a call to action.
I'm so over the #Oscars and other awards shows. I'm so tired of terrible men getting rewarded when they should straight up be in jail. We get so excited every time a small handful of women and POC get nominated for something as if it signals real progress and if we should be satisfied with so little.
I want more diverse and inclusive representation in my films, tv, music, and pop culture as a whole. People cannot be rewarded if they aren't given a chance. White (cis, able-bodied, straight) stories have been told again and again and frankly I am bored.
I am much more interested in the stories of those who are different than me, but with whom I may still share universal truths and values; or more importantly, from whom I can learn something new. Stories are what make us human, what keep us alive long beyond our years on earth. Stories matter.
Representation matters. What we see reflected in the media can either inspire or dishearten us. It's the difference between a child saying "that can be me one day" or "someone like me could never do that."
Time to move on from these antiquated awards shows that are behind society as a whole.
Since the election, I've been very interested in and absorbed by the many ways this new President has impacted our thoughts, feelings, and worldviews. One thing I am most excited to see is privileged people waking up to the reality of injustice in America.
It started in my babywearing group on Facebook. I am more of a hobby baby-wearer, and by no means on the level of many of the women in this group for whom it is a lifestyle. I enjoy seeing the beautiful wraps, cool finishes, the cute carriers, and occasionally add one to my Pinterest board Wear all the Babies.
Recently, women of color started sharing their experiences about being discriminated against or otherwise treated in racist ways while babywearing. Naturally, some white women in the group took offense to these revelations and asked that they not talk about race and keep the group "just about babywearing." There was a lot of tone policing (as if asking nicely is going to end oppression). The thing these women fail to realize is that for people of color, race is not separate from anything they do, think, or experience. That is the failure of whiteness and white privilege - we do not see the water in which we swim. Our race is the default and therefore devoid of examination and self-reflection - and that needs to change.
For the next week, the hashtag #youcantignorethis sprung up. Many women shared their experiences of racism while babywearing. I found them brave, refreshing, and honest. The topic of cultural appropriation while babywearing came up as well, which was also fascinating to read. It's something I didn't realize, being new to babywearing (and also being white as can be) that babywearing has been colonized and columbused to death by companies and white people in general. From taking traditional indigenous and African patterns and re-naming them things like "tribal" to the co-opting of the entire practice itself - these women were calling it all out on the table. I reluctantly (it's really very pretty) went to my pin board and removed one such wrap by German company Didymos which was called "Indio" - a racist slur used against Zapotec Mesoamerican indigenous culture. (To learn more, read here.) The term, which I had never heard before may not mean much to me, but to the people who were harmed by it, it's very upsetting. We should respect that. Furthermore, the company has since renamed the wrap to "Prima" due to public outcry. I'm not sure if that means that it's okay to continue using it, but that is an area for further learning and development on my part. My gut feeling tells me that I want to avoid this company altogether if they want to profit off of indigenous cultures and use insensitive language in naming their wraps. I can't stomach companies profiting off of indigenous people at the same time that indigenous Americans are being oppressed in real life, as they always have been.
That whole experience taught me two things:
1) Educating people is a LOT of work. I saw women of color get fed up really quickly and get justifiably angry. I also saw white women step up and and do some educating as well and was moved to do some myself. I immediately got tired of repeating myself and literally copy/pasted the same thing over and over just to keep it moving. I actually had to take a break. But I am privileged to take a break. My mental exhaustion and frustration is a scintilla of the lived experience of people of color. I have a great respect for those who continue to do the free labor of educating people but I also respect those who choose self-care and bid them adieu for their own sanity.
2) Some people just don't get it. I saw a lot of defensiveness, resistance, and hurt feelings. Everything from "I'm not racist" to "Bringing up racism is what causes these problems - we are all one." If anything, they made it about them and denied WOC's actual experience in favor of their hurt at being called out (the phenomenon known as white women's tears). You know, the typical. Very few said "Wow I didn't know. I will try to better" or things like "I am listening and learning."
It made me reflect on my own racial identity development and how far I've come. I do have some (some) empathy for those who are simply ignorant, haven't been exposed to other viewpoints or haven't taken the time to examine their own privilege. Not everyone went to a liberal college with diversity workshops and leadership training. I am very lucky and grateful for these opportunities to unpack my privilege and dismantle my internalized white supremacy. I still make mistakes, I still screw up - but I am trying.
So that brings me to the point of this post. We need to do the work. Many are finally starting to do the work, thanks to this election. We white folks need to take responsibility for our part in keeping white supremacy alive. We didn't ask for this but people of color didn't ask for racism. Anti-racism work is only half the battle - the big one is within. It's examining everything you think you knew and turning it upside down. It's both listening AND believing people when they tell you there is a problem. It's trying not to make it about you, but to make it about how you can work to fix it. It's recognizing that the concept of whiteness is a lie (both my Irish and Italian ancestors were not considered "white") and that our subconscious worldview that whiteness as the end all be-all is what is holding us all back. Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere - I do not enjoy living in a world where I have special unearned benefits and others have unearned hardships. The only way to empower others is to relinquish power, and the only one who can do the work is you.
If you are ready to start doing the work, don't expect a free education. Google is your friend. Start here with this awesome introductory post on Intersectional Feminism. Keep working at it and assume that the work may never end. But we sure will get a lot further a lot faster if you get on board.
Some people love to throw around "Social Justice Warrior" as an insult. Some people in our society seem to think that there is nothing to be so upset about, that we have equality between men and women, and racism is a thing of the past. Bringing it up is "divisive" and we need more unity they say. Calling out those that oppress you and others is nothing but crybaby nonsense meant to polarize our country. Clearly we need to "toughen up" and stop whining.
Honestly, I think that's a bunch of bull! Women and men are not treated equally under the law. Police brutality is a SERIOUS problem. Rape culture is real and it's terrifying. Families across the globe are being torn apart by draconian immigration policies and war. Nations are turning inward despite the fact that globalization is here to stay. Just because it hasn't happened to you or someone you know doesn't mean it's not a problem. That is called privilege. You should not have to know someone personally to respect their basic human rights or want them to be happy, healthy, and free.
If fighting for human dignity, standing up for what's right, and ensuring that all human beings are treated equally is being an "SJW" then sign me up. I'm a Social Justice Warrior and I'm ready for battle (well, not battle, but I will bring the snacks to your senator-calling and postcard-writing party).
Don't let anyone shame you into thinking that standing up for what you believe in is wrong. The truth is they are terrified of your power. The thought of you reaching your full potential and actually fighting back against injustice has them shaking in their boots. Women, especially, have been conditioned to be meek, weak, and take up as little space as possible both literally (with their bodies) and figuratively (with their voice and ideas). Take up space. Demand justice. Be a warrior and don't back down. It is literally life and death and we can't afford to not be "political" anymore.
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.
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!