Archive for the ‘respect’ Category

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Road Trip Stories in the South

April 8, 2019

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Last week, I had a most excellent adventure. First, I met my oldest and closest friends in New Orleans and then road-tripped with my 88-year-old mom through the South. Both pieces were extraordinary.

My friends never disappoint. Sure, we’ve grown older; our legs more tired and our wrinkles much deeper. We’ve raised kids and dogs and worked and suffered. We’ve become strong, independent women who know a thing or two, and yet, have plenty to learn. We’re a complicated crew. Because of my gals, I’ve learned that relationships take effort. I’ve also learned, the best ones are worth the investment.

As lives change, friendships shift; but once together, my friends and I remember. We remember big hair, Bon Jovi, shoulder pads, banana bike seats, pool parties, and Schaeffer Light. Now, we roll eyes, remembering the jocks and the burn-outs, the teachers and the coaches. We remember laughing. We remember predators. We remember love. Mostly, we remember our stories. Together; eating and drinking and dancing like fools, we make more moments to remember. Stories.

After my friends, dispersed, Mom arrived. Because her grandma was a suffragist and taught her to demand social justice, Mom taught me the same. We headed for Montgomery where much of our nation’s horrific history is recorded. We sat with ghosts. We studied at the Legacy Center, listening to stories of incarceration, injustice, lynching, and death. As white women raised in America, like it or not, we’ve benefited from slavery’s dark legacy and the Jim Crow laws that followed. After many museums, we sat with ourselves; sorry and ashamed. Mom and I had long talks about racism, social injustice, and the history that got us here. We committed ourselves to listen better. Act more. And to speak about what we learned; sharing both the stories that were told and the stories that disappeared.

By the end of my adventure, I realized, not for the first time, how quickly life moves; how tragic and joyful it can be. In the time we are given, relationships and stories transform life, making it either better or worse.

Stories.

For me, I hope to create a life where I live a good story, I write a good story, and I listen to all the stories I can.

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An Epidemic: 15 Personal Stories of Assault

October 2, 2018

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First published on Medium.

As a writer, I’m keenly interested in definitions and stories people tell. But sometimes, we need to be on the same page, especially in the age of #MeToo.

What qualifies as assault? Rape, of course. Physical abuse, yes again. But it goes deeper, broader, regardless of how it’s defined in a court. For me, an assault has occurred when a person uses power and control to instill fear and discomfort toward another.

I asked a few women, and included myself, to share experiences about an assault—a time when a man or a boy exerted control over their world, causing them pain, shame, and fear. The recollections are disturbing. They are also common. Without knowing, a few told the same story, but at the time it happened; none of us spoke up.

Why?

A host of reasons. There was no one to tell. There was confusion. Who would believe it, and what would they do? There could be a consequence for telling. We might be mocked, told to take a joke, shamed further. Without a clear definition of assault, maybe it wasn’t assault. Maybe the story wasn’t worth telling. Above all, we wanted it erased.

But the memory of assault never goes away. And moving forward isn’t the same. There remains a hitch, an indelible mark which can cause further confusion.

Meanwhile, the perpetrators carry on; almost always hurting more people.

For women and girls living in a patriarchal world, we are warned about assault. We are told to wear proper clothing. We are told to cross the street when a man walks toward us. We are told to carry mace or whistles or phones set to 911. Above all, we are told to be careful, careful, careful. The world is a scary place.

But more often than not, dark alleys aren’t the primary places for assault. They happen at school, at work, and in homes—like in the 15 accounts below. The list is real, disturbing, and painful. Each event created a dark and permeant stain. Read them. See yourself in them. Consider them assault, or certainly, a close cousin. They are.

  1. The boss at my restaurant only hired pretty high school girls. The ones who gave him blow jobs got perks and better schedules.
  2. The guys in my high school kept a tally of who they screwed. If you weren’t on the list, they made life hell for you.
  3. A bartender told me he’d give me all the money in the cash register if I got on top of the bar and danced for him.
  4. A lot of the boys in high school ‘date’ raped multiple friends of mine. The same guys asked why I had an exclusive relationship with a guy from a different school and told me I was no fun.
  5. My boss in my first “real” job demeaned me for wearing red lipstick—then asked if I wore it other times. He wiggled his eyebrows and offered me a lollypop.
  6. In high school, I remember sitting in a kitchen with two “friends.” When they poked and prodded me in sexual ways, I told them to stop. They didn’t stop. Fortunately, the mom came home, and I ran out.
  7. My elementary school gym teacher, who we nicknamed a male chauvinist pig, told us when it came to most sports, the place for girls was on the sidelines. He always let the boys choose teams and called anyone who cried a sissy.
  8. My boss told me I should wear high heels and shorter skirts like my co-worker. He said, I’d get more accounts.
  9. The president of the company at my second job had an affair with my manager. We all knew it, which made the work environment uncomfortable. When his wife found out, my manager was fired, and he remained president.
  10. In elementary school, an older boy told me he was going to get me. He made sexual signs. When I stopped taking the bus, he followed me. If I hadn’t been such a fast runner, who knows? For years, I ran.
  11. My Brownie Troop leader who told me I needed to lose some weight if I wanted the boys to like me in a few years.
  12. My manager pressed so close to me; his penis jabbed into my back.
  13. When I was a freshman in college, two fraternity boys invited me and a couple of girls over for hot chocolate. Within minutes, ten more fraternity guys surrounded us.One squirted whipped cream in places that made me block out my memory. Somehow, we escaped and ran into town.
  14. Everyone knew to stay away from the supply closet if our manager was doing inventory. Things happened in there.
  15. One of my teachers, about age 50, kissed me in the closet and then did a bit more. We didn’t talk about stuff like that when it was happening. It was wrong. It was scary. It was too big to talk about. My parents would have freaked out on me.

If you see yourself in one of these scenarios or have a different story to tell, do. Step up and speak. Write them down. These stories continue to happen—Every. Single. Day.

It’s time to take to the streets, share our experiences, and halt the assaults. The events that are happening in DC should be of no surprise. We live in a patriarchal world, and the men in charge want to keep it that way. But this can change. Certainly, women need to protest, to vote, and to demand to be heard. But it’s bigger than that. If we create an environment with women leading, sharing, and working together, I believe, we will be able to build a healthy environment for all. At the very least, let’s change the conversation about assault. Any abuse of power is unacceptable.

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March #RESIST

January 4, 2017

 

 

I plan to march. On January 21, 2017, millions of women across the country will be marching to express their voice and taking part in the Women’s March on Washington, while other will march in sister cities around the world. Some people criticize us for being anti-democratic, sore losers, and pinheads, but none of those tags are true. I won’t be marching to protest the vote. I will be marching because women matter. I will be marching because I’m half the planet’s population, and I’m not going away. I choose to march because…

I march because I matter.

I march because I believe in freedom.

I march because I have a voice.

I march because I love my country.

I march because I have daughters.

I march because I have a son.

I march because I have a mother.

I march because I have sisters, a brother, a husband, nieces and nephews and cousins.

I march for my grandmothers and great grandmothers who marched before me.

I march for my father, brothers, grandfathers and ancestors who’ve past and can’t march.

I march because I represent marginalized voices.

I march because we matter.

I march because I love pure democracy.

I march because I choose to march.

I march because I believe choice matters.

I march because I am tired of people telling me how to feel and how to act.

I march because women should not be called fat, or ugly, or pussies.

I march because assault is not okay.

I march because women are more than contestants in a beauty pageant.

I march because I don’t want to be ranked by my looks or my f!#*$@ability.

I march because women have brains.

I march because I believe in good and right and equality.

I march because we need to heal.

I march because women should not be marginalized or minimalized to objects.

I march because women are not lesser human beings.

I march because women should not be afraid to be women.

I march because I love.

I march because I care.

I march because I am not afraid.

I march because I want others to know women matter.

I march because women should be able to choose what they do with their bodies.

I march because when the environment is ignored, women suffer first.

I march because women should not die in backroom, coat hanger abortions.

I march because I care about early childcare initiatives that help women.

I march because locker room talk hurts women.

I march because I have a right to feel safe.

I march because women should not be thrown into poverty because men got them pregnant.

I march because I have a vagina and am not embarrassed or ashamed to say it.

I march because women should be paid what men are paid.

I march because it is time to move forward, move beyond sexism.

I march because I need to feel hopeful about my future.

I march because I don’t want to feel terrified alone.

I march because women working together can transform the planet.

I march because I love and stand with my LGBTQIA, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Black, Brown, indigenous, disabled, ethnic, hurt, abused, and all of my sisters.

I march because we won’t move backward.

I march because we matter.

I march because I matter.

Join me. The organizers for the Women’s March on Washington posted this statement; “We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families—recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”

If you can’t get to Washington DC, go local! There are over 30 states planning sister marches, including in Colorado. The event in Denver will be 9 am- 3 pm on January 21, 2017 at Denver’s Civic Center Park. For more information and other marches, check out: https://www.womensmarch.com/colorado/

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Ants, Honey, and Human Dependency

May 31, 2016

There is a tree in Nicaragua that is not the tallest tree. It is not the most beautiful tree. It is not a sweet smelling tree. And yet, it is a powerful tree; one that offers wisdom, as all plants do, if one is willing to listen.

Like miniature swords, long spiky thorns poke from the branches of the tree, swearing off enemies. They do their job well. The barbs are sharp and painful, and they hurt. They are also full of honey. Because of the honey, the tree is covered with ants, which bury in the thorns to feed on sweet nectar. In return, the ants pee (ecosystems at their most sophisticated are also often at their most basic) on the tree, offering much-needed liquid, fuel to carry itself through a long dry season. The tree gives food; the ant gives drink.

Magic.

But sadly, perhaps terrifyingly, enchanting global ecosystems are in danger, becoming bewitched. Until I ventured to Central America, I had no idea jungles turn brown. They do. They remind me of Ohio in November, not the most stunning time of the year. The tropical trees drop their leaves, leaving barren branches and matted, crunched-up grasses below. In a perfect world, the rains begin in May, and within a few short weeks, the landscape becomes lush. However, because of global warming, the six-month rainy season has been shortened; hurting crops, farmers, plants, and animals.

But why should we care? We have nothing to worry about: we can buy our bananas at Safeway.

With an increasingly long dry season (I’m sure the same could be said for an extended rainy season), ecosystems all over the world are in danger. John Muir once said, “God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.” ‘Tis true: we are responsible for the future. Will we act the fool? Turn our heads? Or will we come to the realization that although we can buy bananas at Safeway, we share one planet?

Like it or not, we depend on a healthy structured environment, and our world is contingent on a balanced system. Ants and the thorny tree rely on each other to survive. Not only is it a fine balance, but it is also their relationship that makes it work. Many people talk about the need for relationships: with God, families, peers, and partners. And I agree: relationships are essential components to a healthy, vibrant life. I would also add that a strong and equal relationship with our environment is essential.

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The thorn tree might not be the most beautiful or popular tree in the jungle, but it knows it can’t stand alone. It survives by sharing its nectar with ants. Their relationship is key to their survival. Likewise, our survival as humans is dependent on our relationship with the environment, not just on ‘earth day’ but on all days.

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Back to School: What’s Important to Know?

August 17, 2015

Yes, it IS still summer, but students across the country are heading back to school, and although I hate to see big, yellow buses round the corner, a heightened energy resonates with me. It’s a season full of possibility; positive and encouraging.

As teachers begin to set their curriculum, I’ve decided to set my own; as a parent, an educator, and a concerned community member who wants to see our children and our society thrive.

What is important to learn? What goals have we made for our families, our students, and ourselves? In my book, achieving a 100% on a test, winning a race, or landing a lead is fantastic, but not what’s essential or really all that important. So—what is important to know? I’ve created a list.

  • Love: enough said
  • Kindness: it goes a long way
  • Acceptance: of others and oneself
  • Balance: between one’s mind, body, and soul
  • ABC’s- and 123’s: we all need to read and to add
  • Self-sufficiency: learn how to learn on your own
  • Spirituality: find faith
  • Respect: yourself and others
  • Healthy habits: eat well, sleep well, rest well, work well
  • Understanding the world around us: this includes geography, cultural behaviors, religions, politics, and social influences
  • Self-confidence: trust your intuition
  • Nature: spend time outside, it’s life’s best and yet most underutilized teacher
  • Beauty: look for it everywhere—in the slice of an orange, the shape of a cloud
  • Creativity: make time to discover and explore
  • Visualize: dream possibilities
  • Compassion: it also goes a long way
  • Gratitude: enough said

As your kids climb aboard the school bus, keep life in perspective and remember what’s really important.

What’s on your list?