Thursday, March 10, 2016

Being a Social Justice Warrior Means Losing More Than a Few Friends

          In order to be myself, I advocate for social justice all the time, this loses me friends like you would not believe. I have an incredibly difficult time with making new friends, and even keeping the ones I have because I am found to be offensive, when that is never EVER my intention. So let me get this straight: me being in favor of equality is seen as in bad taste? My support for all lives having value is too politically correct? My being in a field where I get to research facts about social injustice and the reality of poverty, racism, multiculturalism and misogyny (among countless others under the umbrella of social justice) does not make my stating thoroughly studied facts at all correct? I am doomed to be told I do not know what I am talking about politically, socially, multicultural, or racially.
          I cannot possibly argue facts when no one will listen with an open mind and open heart. If you truly know me at all you know I hate inequality and I have a streak where I will try to use my arsenal of knowledge in a kind and gentle way to reveal the facts where I feel it is needed. Even though I do this as a defense for those who cannot advocate for themselves, I know that I am seen as trying to be bombastic and combative.
Some of my values are as follows:
          I am a realistic optimist who wants to help those in need, no questions asked. I support raising the minimum wage because many of our society’s problems stem from poverty. I feel that if no one had to worry about working three jobs to make ends meet the world could improve drastically. I do not mind the lazy hangers-on who would benefit, as long as those who need it get the help. I feel it is my responsibility to humanity to help where and how I can without being greedy. I believe that my giving in taxes to support free healthcare, childcare, etc. benefits all of society over time. I cannot see how this is a bad thing, to give my money to those in need is seen as a sacrifice worth making, but the second it is mandated, even if it is the same amount you would have offered otherwise, that is somehow wrong to help others. I know there are others who would feel that their hard-earned money should not go to someone else at all, and would never give it willingly, and never give it without begrudging if it were mandated. I feel that it would be a forced humbling of society to see how much our money all pooled together can help those in need. Canada is right now toying with the idea of free money for everyone, a living standard boost. It has worked in other countries, and if America were to propose this, it would immediately be dismissed because of the innate American greed.
What is America’s core value? Money. We act as if this stupid paper stuff is more important that people! We waste our health on working ourselves to death to “keep up with the Jones’”. Americans work more and vacation less than practically any other developed country in the world! We glorify being busy, and to take time off is to be “lazy”. It is most certainly NOT lazy to take care of yourself, and many people need more to recharge than others. Not only that, but why judge others by your standard? “Oh, if I work a 60+ hour work week, those lazy bums can too!”, but this begs the question: “Why would you and why should they?”
          This goes along with the need for paid family leave. It should be a right and a necessity to help families adjust to the inevitable changes a child coming into their home can make. America is the only civilized country without mandated paid family leave. Bonds will grow stronger between parents and child, productivity is boosted by the parents not having to worry about money or losing their job for taking time to care for a new child. It makes all the sense, and yet it comes down to the “bottom line” which always entails how much money can be made rather than who it helps.
          Despite the vast amount of researched evidence of systemic oppression against several minority groups such as women and lower socioeconomic status peoples, I know several people who refuse to acknowledge an issue, to the point that they argue that I am being a racist or anti-men. There is a thing called the “pink tax” were the exact same item marketed toward women is higher in price than one marketed toward a man. Then there is the issue that being a woman makes our products a “luxury”. Feminine products are taxed as luxury items! A period is no luxury by any stretch of the imagination, my friends. This is a core point in the systemic oppression of women. Poor kids have, on average, lower grades because of less parental involvement. This is a fact because the parents of the poverty stricken children have to work all the time to make it, not because of not caring about their children as so often they are stereotyped as. And those one welfare by and large do work at least part time! The propaganda to the opposite I never see in print except when being spouted by a friend who disagrees with me.
          Racism is not dead and gone, in my classes we talk all the time about how when someone states “I don’t see color” they are lying to themselves. Because the fact of the matter is that as a human being, we do see differences, and if we can evolve ourselves to be loving and accepting of differences, that is the goal. The fact is, many people deny their baser thoughts, and that not only is inauthentic, it is damaging. It is damaging in that ignoring a problem almost always makes it bigger. Everyone has a privilege, be that you are straight, you are white, you are Christian in a nation full of other Christians. We are also intersectional, which means that we have overlapping privileges and overlapping disadvantages. A black gay woman has more obstacles to face in society than a white straight man. It is that simple and yet it is somehow offensive to state this as a fact.
          Considering I am working towards a master’s degree that discusses all of these things as facets we need to take into account when counseling our future clients, you would think I would be heard instead of shut down at every turn. I would hope that my education would help bolster my level of expertise somewhat. I could surely argue that my status as a woman is a contributing factor as to why I am constantly told I am wrong. It is a condition known among my fellow feminists as “man-splaining”. It is when men tell you what you really mean even when you are more knowledgeable in the area you were speaking.  No only this, by societally women are stereotyped as submissive and less educated then men, this leads to underestimating women. Men and women both underestimate a woman’s knowledge, it is how we are raised: girls like dolls and clothes, boys like science and getting dirty. Those are by no means factual, each gender is equal in mental capacity and there will be men and women who are smarter than one another in a given field. Stop dismissing my knowledge because of my gender!
          Each gender had similar capacities outside of strictly building muscle (men win that by virtue of biology), women can be a brilliant scientist or mathematician, men can design beautiful things, they are not, and never should be considered, mutually exclusive. Also, it should be considered perfectly fine to have traditionally “conflicting” traits, such as a female body builder who likes to bake, or a working father who enjoys children. Hopefully in the future we can learn to embrace our duality without judgment and critique.

          But we are all also much more than a mere label, more than a stereotype. As human beings who are able to transcend these labels, we should strive not to be blind to differences, but to embrace them as the spice of life! Ignoring differences does not help anyone, acknowledging them and accepting them can. I hope I shed some light on a few subjects close to my heart, but I know there will be someone who vehemently disagrees. Bring on the debate, but make sure you have got credible sources (not mass market media, which has been proven to be skewed to the left or the right with the highest bidder, academic or independent media would be a better source). 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Loneliness: My Constant Companion

Ever since I was a tiny child I have yearned for a playmate (back then it took the form of wanting a twin, then it was desiring a boyfriend as soon as I knew boys existed). Then as I grew up the term "best friend" entered the equation. I remember that in every year of school I had one or two very close friends (starting in second grade an onward), but I was an extremely social child. This was due in major part because school forced us together and I had many extracurricular after school as well. And I had my very social mother who would introduce me to new playmates or adopt new mommy friends who had daughters my age. I don't remember being lonely as a child because I was in constant (and I do mean constant) contact with a friend. I recall coming home directly after school and calling preferred friend #1 and asking to go over, or them come to my house. If they couldn't play, I then proceeded down my list of friends until someone could. It was rare that I ever had no one to play with. I still prayed excessively for a little sister, and finally got one at age 7.5... and that age gap was too great to play with her (until very recently, because as adults age matters less).

I want to have a nerd herd so desperately (perhaps my desperation is the problem?), but it feels like such an impossible task. I see the articles about people who have at least one close friend live longer, and those without die younger. I see how important a support system is and it is an oppressive cloud hanging over my head. How does one go about looking for like-minded people? I cannot find who I’m looking for, and those I have found have left by and large. I feel abandoned (even though I know not one of them did it on purpose), it is my curse to find a friend, become close and then watch them depart to bigger and better things. I have even begun mentioning to my new friends my curse, and they then reassure me that they’re not going anywhere in the foreseeable future… and less than a year later they are gone. This is not only military members (who have taken two of my close friends far, far away), but regular teaching positions or other job opportunities elsewhere. It definitely is my anathema.

The very worst part is that I have found the ultimate friends, the ones where we “click” and are great matches… that hurts all the more when I’m alone, and makes me devalue friendships who I see more as “placeholders” until the “worthier” friendships come along. When you’ve had a taste of perfection, it is hard to be as satisfied with less. That makes me sound like a completely awful individual, but there it is. That is me. I’m a perfectionist in everything, friendships included. It is not a lack of people who like me, it is a lack of people I truly like and who click with me on that once thought unattainable level.

I have decided this is something I will be tormented with until I move away from here. There are zero opportunities here, for me or for my friends. We are bound for superior places! I just wish that they were all in the SAME superior place. I want to be able to see my friends frequently, like once a week!

It struck me in my counseling class, when we were counseling each other and we were to use a real issue, that I have been so utterly lonely. I guess looking back that I could not stand the loneliness. I do like to be alone and can find great enjoyment singularly, but it does not compare to the perpetual playmates I had as a child. I’ve grown accustomed to using several things to help me when I’m lonely, I turn to all sorts of distractions ranging from healthy: reading, videogames, internet articles; to more unhealthy: borderline obsessive Facebook stalking, eating too much, etc.


I think the major loneliness survival tool has been eating. I do not eat anything at all when severely depressed, but I overeat when I’m anxious or lonely… which I feel incessantly.  At least now that I have noticed this behavior I can ask myself if I am truly hungry or if it is something else. I always have heard of emotional eating, and that term didn’t fit me because I eat less when I’m happy (but I also share happiness, I like to go out and do things when I’m in a good mood), but being sad does not change how much I eat, only the change in presence of others makes me eat more, like when I’m understimulated and alone. It apparently is something I do when bored and lonely, something that I enjoy that passes the time (and not all that much time typically, that is why I over eat, to get more of that happy fulfilled feeling). I think now that I’m aware I can work on it, and notice the true reason I eat. But I still need to work on accepting that major friendships will be fleeting or hope I can take root somewhere someday where like-minded individuals live so I can be in semi-constant contact with them. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Feminism and Men's Issues

Today I stated that I am a feminist who supports men's rights and attending issues in response to a video entitled "Why I am not a Feminist" by Lauren Southern. Of course this being the internet I got attacked by someone who claims that men are not part of the feminist agenda. This coming from someone I do not know, but whom I assume is a) does not claim to be a feminist, and b) is not educated in feminism (due to their responses, and the fact that if you research modern feminism you would be able to easily see that equality is the goal). Of course there are variables on all sides, I cannot speak for every feminist, woman, wife, mother, daugther, etc. I adhere to the definition of "Feminism is about getting rid of oppressive forces [patriarchy] that hold women down and also make men adhere to restrictive norms and ideals."


Here were my responses: 
"If you only read one of the following articles about feminists supporting men's issues, read this one: http://brutereason.net/2012/09/20/in-brief-do-feminists-care-about-mens-issues-a-handy-list/

It has links to pretty much every topic I saw covered in this video and more. 

Some issues feminists tackle in the following article: Ending sexual and domestic violence, better family policies, for men and women, 
http://now.org/blog/how-feminism-and-now-have-helped-men/


"Feminism to be an effective means of dismantling the systems that hurt both men and women and for achieving future equality. "

The idea that suggests that giving all genders an equal chance in life is some how going to lead to the oppression of men is ridiculous. Where on any site did they shut down the male gender? It is a one baby step at a time thing, women have it worse at present, so those organizations are working toward equality in the female side at present. I'd bet you could do some digging into each site you mentioned and find someone who participates in that organization who has written about men's issues. "

His response was more or less "Those links are old"

So I responded: "The articles I presented are not "old", none of them are older than three years, and even then they don't have an expiration date. 

Feminism is merely looking at equality through a female lens, as in my perspective is how the lack of equality effects women and men due to the patriarchy establishment.

Feminism fights patriarchy, which is the system that is responsible for the fallacy that women need to be mothers in place of men; a lie that can cost fathers their children and women their lives. It places unreasonable expectations on young men, leaving them ill-equipped for the modern world and leading to an epidemic of mental health issues. It runs the entire country, and those that gain from it would prefer that women don't stand together for their rights because they have so much to lose.

And feminism is pro-men. In discussion of rape and sexual assault, it is feminists who have challenged the myth that men are incited by short skirt, and the belief that the average man can barely stop himself from assaulting a woman." 

He continued to say I was wrong, in the fact that the sites did not support that men are included in the feminist agenda, I continued to sling link after link, argument after argument such as:

"Here is the link to another article from 2013 (I know, older than dirt) http://www.theguardian.com/science/the-lay-scientist/2013/jul/16/feminism "

Do you think women are less than men? Do you think they are inherently less intelligent, are only equipped to be barefoot and pregnant? Would you want your daughters, sisters, mother or cousins to be treated this way? If not, then you, my friend, are a feminist."

He responded with going off topic, asking about my opinion about abortion, specifically if he knocked up a girl and she didn't want to keep the baby, and he did. I told him my personal opinion, he seemed to like my answer and became a bit more cordial, yet he still was adamant I was wrong in saying men's issues are feminist issues. 

.. Until I finally said, "There are inclusivist and exclusivist in any branch of belief, my use of the work "any" was a mistake but there IS a feminist branch (modern feminist, such as everydayfeminism.com ) that sees feminism as about equality (gender, race, religion, etc). I overgeneralized, I was not completely aware of the branches (so I thank you for inadvertently urging me to research). 
Hatred of men, on the other hand, is called misandry, which is not the same as feminism. They may coincide, but feminism doesn't endorse it." 

So basically, I spent the day trying to point out the last sentence of my rant, my "opponent" spent the day trying to be "right" by way of pointing out I used the word "any" too generally, which inherently makes my entire argument false. Oh well. I hope at least one person can understand where I was coming from, learn something about feminism and understand that it is for the benefit of all people. Please comment and let me know if you learned something, or if you'd enjoy a rousing debate :) 

More links to enjoy:

http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2012/12/reasons-people-believe-feminism-hates-men/
http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/05/can-men-be-feminists/
http://mic.com/articles/88277/23-ways-feminism-has-made-the-world-a-better-place-for-men

Politics and Popular Myths

My political persuasion leans toward equality for all, and helping humanity. If you can achieve those goals somehow, I'll likely vote your way. Recently I got into a debate on Facebook, as you do, regarding socialism and Bernie Sanders as seen in this VOX interview, and I learned a few things that dispelled myths. It was argued that under the Obama administration cost of living went up, gasoline prices rose, and unemployment was high besides massive tax hikes.  Here are the facts I learned:

Obama fact-check:

Unemployment Rate -- the unemployment rate when he entered office was 7.8  percent. After his first term in office Is was at 5.5 percent, a decline of 2.3 percentage points since the recession-plagued month of January 2009, when the president first took the oath of office.

Consumer Prices Overall inflation in consumer prices has remained moderate over Obama’s first six years, rising by only 11 percent between January 2009 and February, the most recent month for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics has released the Consumer Price Index.  The average yearly rise under Obama of 1.9 percent is well below the post-World War II average of 3.7 percent. And thanks mainly to falling fuel prices, the CPI has actually dropped 0.8 percent since the last report.


Gasoline  The national average price of regular gasoline has rebounded somewhat since the plunge that took it down to just over $2 a gallon in January. As of the week ended March 30, it stood at $2.45, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
That’s 33 percent higher than the unusually low point at which it stood on Inauguration Day 2009, but also 32 percent lower than it had been at the end of March 2014. (In other words, it fluctuates. This fact is obvious if you notice how during peak traveling times such as holidays, gas prices soar).

Real Weekly Earnings As a result, the purchasing power of weekly paychecks took another big jump since our last report. The BLS measure of average weekly earnings for all workers, adjusted for inflation and seasonal factors, was 3 percent higher in February than it was when Obama first took office. Most of that gain is recent. Real weekly earnings have gone up 2.5 percent since fuel prices started dropping last June.

Also in the list found here for all the tax hikes under Obama ( http://www.atr.org/full-list-ACA-tax-hikes-a6996 ) I didn't see any (unless I missed them) imposed on regular working class people. 

On Socialism and countries in which it has succeeded: 

Some socialist ideologies really speak to me, such as basic human equality. Also, it should be a right that every person has healthcare and food, I'm not saying people should not work, but what if those who cannot afford medical care so they go without? That, to me, is an injustice. 

Some countries who would be regarded as "socialist" would be the following ten: 
  • China
  • Denmark: 
Denmark has a wide range of welfare benefits that they offer their citizens. As a result, they also have the highest taxes in the world (to me, paying taxes to help myself and others is a noble cause). Equality is considered the most important value in Denmark. Small businesses thrive, with over 70 percent of companies having 50 employees or less.
  • Finland:
Finland has one of the world’s best education systems, with no tuition fees and also giving free meals to their students. The literacy rate in Finland is 100 percent (America is at 99%). Finland has one of the highest standards of living in the world. Like Denmark and other European countries, equality is considered one of the most important values in society. 
  • Netherlands:
In the Netherlands, government control over the economy remains at a minimum, but a socialist welfare system remains. The lifestyle in the Netherlands is very egalitarian and organized, where even bosses do not discipline or treat their subordinates rudely.
  • Canada:
Like the Netherlands, Canada also has mostly a free market economy, but has a very extensive welfare system that includes free health and medical care. Canada is ranked as one of the best top five countries to live in by the United Nations and the Human Development Index (HDI) rankings.
  • Sweden
  • Norway:
In Norway, the government controls certain key aspects of the national economy, and they also have one of the best welfare systems in the world, with Norway having one of the highest standards of living in all of Europe. 
  • Ireland:
Ireland has arguably one of the best welfare systems in the world. Around 25 percent of Ireland’s GDP goes towards paying for the welfare system, as compared to 15 percent of America’ GDP towards America’s social support programs.
  • New Zealand:
New Zealand may not be a socialist country, but the welfare system in the country is very wide ranging, offering support for housing, unemployment, health, child care, and education as well. Therefore, New Zealand has many of the characteristics of a socialist country, even while remaining officially free market.
  • Belgium:
Lastly, Belgium has most of the same social security benefits that New Zealand offers, including invalid and old age pensions. 

Despite popular myths, there is very little connection between economic performance and welfare expenditure. Many of the countries on this list are proof of that, such as Denmark and Finland. Even though both countries are more socialistic than America, the workforce remains stronger.

These are evidence they a) you can keep a free market and still have programs to help the people b) not be classified as "socialist" in a technical sense and still utilize government support c) proof that small businesses won't cease to exist (if using the Denmark model) d) the workforce in a country will be better off, happier etc with assurance that they can get help (be that unemployment checks, paid maternity leave, paid vacation, general healthcare, medical and prescriptions). It makes the quality of life and satisfaction therein better. 

Yes, some of those countries have bigger flaws than others, but it is a system that can be useful, can work, and I do not see why people hate the idea of helping their fellow man through taxes. People are obviously not helping everyone who needs it without government intervention! 

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/7010350
http://www.factcheck.org/2015/04/obamas-numbers-april-2015-update/

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Results Are In!

Or in other words we got our report on MairĂ©ad's language evaluation! So let me break it down: 

ROWPVT-4: examines receptive vocabulary. 
Standard score 119
Age 6-8
Percentile 90

EOWPVT-4: examines expressive vocabulary.
Standard score 124
Age 7
Percentile 95

CELF-5: examines the overall language performance 
Standard score 115
Percentile 84

Sentence comprehension: 
Scaled score-11
Age-5y7m
Percentile-63

Word Structure:
Scaled score-12
Age-6y6m
Percentile-75

Formulated Sentences:
Scaled score-14
Age-6y6m
Percentile-91

Recalling Sentences:
Scaled score-12
Age-6y6m
Percentile-63

Also the report said that MairĂ©ad had NO ERRORS during her language sample (taken from her conversation with the Speech Language Pathologist) not in grammatical, semantic, morphological, or syntactic areas! None! 

The SLP was not entirely certain of the relation between the above tests and IQ, but I am going to research it! 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Microaggressions in Counselling


This is a response to a few articles I have read in regards to microaggressions, and I feel that my insight and reading the originals may help someone to understand what an issue microaggressions truly are. 
I have heard of microaggressions several times and maybe I am naive but I tend to believe that they are unconsciously spoken, not intentionally said to demean a person. At least that is how I have tried to view them when directed at me for being a woman. It is a perpetual intentional blind spot. People want to think of themselves as not racist, and not privileged especially in America. We want to think we earned everything ourselves, that we are tolerant of everyone and be perceives as such. The fact is that racism is ingrained into American culture and it is not over. It takes acknowledging that it might just be how you view people too, however small of a level. I realize that some people do intend to inflict harm verbally through the use of microaggressions sadly, and we should not ignore them, we need to educate them if racism is ever to be a thing of the past.
When the article mentioned that “most White Americans are unaware of the advantages they enjoy in this society and of how their attitudes and actions unintentionally discriminate against persons of color” (Bucceri, et al., 2007) I couldn’t agree more. It is very true that it is not seen nor acknowledged that white people as the “majority” culture in America do not see and refuse to believe we have it easier. If I had been born another ethnicity and a woman I would be facing even harder up hill battles in my life to be treated equally. It hurts white self-perception to actually succumb to the reality that you did not earn much of the respect and ease at which you travel through your life.
I have experienced microaggressions for being a woman frequently. Comments about how I dress or hints at how I belong at home, not working, etc. I find that women are looked down upon as a lesser species by many men. Phrases like “Just let it go,”, “You are overreacting,” or “It’s not a big deal”. Minimalizing my feelings because I am a woman. As a woman I face unequal wages for no other reason than my gender when in the same position as a man with the same credentials. (Making the Invisible Visible: Gender Microaggressions, 2013).
Some examples of what women go through all the time are: “An assertive female manager is labeled as a "bitch," while her male counterpart is described as "a forceful leader." (Hidden message: Women should be passive and allow men to be the decision makers.) A female physician wearing a stethoscope is mistaken as a nurse. (Hidden message: Women should occupy nurturing and not decision-making roles. Women are less capable than men). Whistles or catcalls are heard from men as a woman walks down the street. (Hidden message: Your body/appearance is for the enjoyment of men. You are a sex object.)” (Sue, 2010)
I have never been afraid of being a strong smart woman, but knowing I will be judged for it does serve to worry me. It can make me rethink how I say something, how I present myself making my requests with more smiles or a gentler voice so as not to be seen as a threat. It should not have to be that way. I have been catcalled, but luckily it has never been face-to-face only with a car driving quickly by. Catcalls and male aggression are terrifying to me.
My only disagreement is that I think that it is a combination of people becoming more and more “touchy” over smaller perceived slights as well as people thinking just that. If you just push aside others’ perceived insult as insignificant you are part of the problem. I believe it is both sides, we should endeavor to be less offended because we cannot know truly what someone means, but we should attempt not to gloss over how people feel. It is imperative to try to understand others’ feelings and also try not to cause offence because it is the right thing to do.
As a counsellor, as a human being, be aware you have them, you do them, you say them. Be honest with yourself that they happen, even by accident and try to change them over time. We may never abolish them completely because no one is perfect. Try noticing when other people say these things, recall if you have said something similar in the past or even just thought it. Being aware is the first step, then preventing saying or doing anything that can be a microaggression. We can all improve and do better, and we need to in order to be culturally competent counselors.



References

Baruth, L. G., & Manning, M. L. (2012). Multicultural Counseling and Psychotherapy: A Lifespan Approach (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
Bucceri, J. M., Capodilupo, C. M., Esquilin, M., Holder, A. M., Nadal, K. L., Sue, D. W., & Torino, G. C. (2007). Racial microaggressions in everyday life: Implications for clinical practice. American Psychologist(May-June), 271-286.
Making the Invisible Visible: Gender Microaggressions. (2013, Fall). Retrieved from University of New Hampshire : http://www.unh.edu/sites/www.unh.edu/files/departments/affirmative_action_and_equity_office/unh-advance_microaggressions_v3-a.pdf
Sue, D. W. (2010). Microaggressions: More than just race . Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/microaggressions-in-everyday-life/201011/microaggressions-more-just-race




Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Cultural Autobiography


Cultural Autobiography
My cultural background is mixed, but I am always been quite fascinated by it. I was told I was English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh as a child, and as an adult I have questioned that so I have opened an account with Ancestry.com and used their DNA kit to discover my heritage. I discovered I am in fact Irish, Scottish & Welsh (32%), Scandinavian (17%) and also my heritage can be traced back to the western parts of Europe such as France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands (31%), Italy/Greece (7%) as well as eastern Europe like Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Romania (6%) (it was not as precise as I would have hoped). All in all about 97% European, as I assumed and it matched up with the family history I had uncovered as well.
In my early childhood I was blessed with the opportunity that my family hosted several Foreign Exchange Students. Our first student was from Germany when I was about 4-years-old. Her name was Eva and she was one the swim team at the high school. I think she is the reason I love to swim as much as I do. I do not have many memories of her, just that she had a pixie cut and raven black hair and she was pale as snow and I remember how sweet and kind she was to me, and she treated me as if I were her little sister, reading me books and always making time for me. Our next exchange student was Andrea from Slovenia. She was a buxom blonde who wore a lot of the typical 90’s acid washed jeans and loose-fitting plaid button-up over a plain white tee. Then there was Peter from Hungary, he was a bookish young man who wore glasses and liked to sit on our roof. About this time we had Ekaterina, or as we called her Katya. She was a tall pale redhead from Russia. She was absolutely stunning, but she was an ice-queen. She had been very well taken care of in Russia by her family. They spoiled her and sent her money often. She was not as warm to me as Eva had been and she probably though I was a pest. I remember her collecting dolls (which I loved and wanted desperately to play with) and she drew often, many of the times she drew Vampires, of which she was obsessed. She was a Vampire for Halloween that year. Looking back she may be a large part of the reason I pursued an artistic life, why I love fashion and many other things. Lastly there was Julia, a student from China but I do not believe she lived with us long. I do not remember Andrea, Peter or Julia living with us long, several of our students changed households while in America.
We were invited by Eva to visit Germany and stay with her family, and of course we accepted. We went to Germany when I was maybe 5 or 6 and I believe we stayed there for weeks, but as a child everything seems to last so much longer than it really does so who knows. We travelled and visited many countries, Morocco, England, France, Denmark, Belgium, etc. It was a magical experience, and I have wanted to return ever since. I remember only some events, one such was getting fully outfitted in equestrian gear, (helmet, riding pants with chaps and padding, a vest and a turtleneck sweater and riding boots) built in such as riding a Lipizzaner horse and it rearing with me in the saddle and I remained calm,. Then I remember Eva’s family remarking how well I had done and insisting I should stay to learn to ride. They ran an equestrian business of some sort. I remember eating waffles in Belgium, and buying a garter in France. I recall going to a market because I was a picky eater and would not try many of the different foods and I picked out a jar of miniature hotdogs and eggs. I remember peering into the edge of the Black Forest and how much it looked like a place of fairytales.
My multicultural experience as a child puts me in a minority in America. How many children get to interact with people intimately from 6 different countries for a year? How often do children get to experience another country and see the culture first hand? Few, the rich and the military are the types of families I can imagine that see what I got to see all before I was 10 years old.
During my late childhood, between about 7 and 13 years old, my family met several Irish families who had emigrated to America. We spent every holiday with them and they became our extended family and have since heavily influenced my cultural outlook, my identity and my deep abiding desire to move to the United Kingdom. I feel all these cultural experiences colored my worldview and broadened my perspectives.
We moved to Clovis when I was 13 and I grew to loathe being told what to do, being asked was one thing I had no problem with, but being “forced” made me dig my heels in and do the opposite. My rebellious streak was always there, it just grew as I hit puberty. I am a natural rule follower, but if I feel like people tell me I cannot do it, I want to sometimes. Assuredly I was in the majority here, teens all like to rebel on some level.
I was raised in a “liberal” Mormon household, where my mother taught me to think for myself and never trust that I could depend upon a man. That is a bit counter-culture in Mormonism, where women are designated to the realm of the home primarily and told not to work unless it is necessary. I was taught by my mother to get an education and be able to support myself, and the Latter-Day Saint Church does encourage everyone, men and women, to get a college degree if possible, just a woman’s education often is of no practical use. She also had a more lenient view on the Word of Wisdom (the lifestyle guidelines in the Latter-Day Saint church), where caffeine is typically a no-no my mom was a heavy Pepsi drinker, and I became a regular tea drinker. I also was not held back from having feelings for the opposite sex, whereas the church guidelines basically forbid dating exclusively until after age 16. Those, in my life, seemed like small differences but they were hugely different than all the children I was raised with. My LDS upbringing within Mormon culture would be a minority, to be an active member and yet not follow all the rules, even more odd is that we were open about our differences!
 I was also raised with the typical “Christian guilt” that sin brings, and it heavily affected my childhood and my teen years. I was a very judgmental child and teen, and my mind did not expand until I went through my own trials. Me sinning as a teen colored my views, I could no longer judge people who had done what I had done because that would make me a hypocrite. I struggled with the idea that I had failed God, that my mistakes meant I was worthless and that I could never recover. I also felt alienated by the members my age, which did nothing to help me attend church. I felt lost, adrift and lonely but I still kept my beliefs close even though I felt like I was no longer worthy to attend church. I prayed often, feeling stupid for asking for forgiveness for something I knew for a fact I would only do again and again. In my mind repenting meant that you “go and sin no more”, and it was false of me to ask to be forgiven when I would continue to sin regularly. To fix this I more or less bullied my ex-husband into marriage at 18 before we had even graduated, and that caused a slew of new problems. I was simultaneously in the majority and the minority with my religious upbringing, in this part of America so many are Christians who I am sure have faced similar struggles, but my “sect” of Christianity is small here in Clovis, New Mexico.
I also took courses in high school that permanently broadened my mind, i.e.: psychology and world religions. After this my thirst for knowledge of different cultures, religions and how the mind works has set me on the current path I am on. I, still, cannot seem to get enough knowledge about all things different from me as well as learning every more about myself. I enjoy taking IQ tests, interest inventories, quizzes, or reading about things I relate to. It is as if I am dying of thirst to learn and only knowledge can quench it.
In high school I also had my first taste of a yoga class, which I immediately fell in love with. Throughout college yoga has been another cultural passion of mine, of which I have seriously considered making a career path. I love the theology and the history behind yoga and I have become enchanted with India. All of the cultural exploration I have done in the past few years has overlapped, I take classes simultaneously that enhance and support one another so I learn all about the religion of an area while at the same time immersing myself in the history and culture in another class. This more or less sums up my undergraduate career.
Young adulthood for me has been learning to put all of my values into a cohesive whole. To somehow balance my love of all religions, and how I believe they each have merits and truths, and still profess Mormonism. How I can balance my huge feminist streak with my appreciation for gender roles. Contrast is my life, I have values on many “opposing” things, but I do not believe they have to clash.  I feel like I walk the middle road, and dabble one each side. This makes me feel like the minority because I feel too many people are far right or far left with no one finding the middle ground where I stand.
I feel like the minority in that I support so many different beliefs and lifestyles, but it may just be the part of the world where I currently reside.
I can see how each stage of my life was influenced by a different culture, my youth by Europe (especially Germany), my later childhood by Irish culture and people, my teens by American society and my rebelling actively and inactively against my church upbringing, young adulthood has been colored by world history and religion with a healthy dash of psychology. I enjoy learning how and why people think as they do, while maintaining my own idea of right and wrong. My opinion of the right way to do things is fairly broad, basically if it does no harm (mentally, physically, emotionally, etc) than it should not be a problem. If something hinders someone else’s life (such as takes away their rights, freedom or equality) I am against that. My hope is to fight for the underdog, to help people to realize their worth and power. I feel like the underprivileged deserve to be heard and helped.



Monday, April 20, 2015

Kindred Spirits

Do you ever see someone and instantly know you will hit it off? That this person and you have this amazing potential to become close friends? This has happened to me a few times, an instantaneous moment when I see someone new that I just have to meet. I find it a really neat thing when not only do I find this person I know I want to learn about but they also want to be my friend as well!

I have encountered these rare people a few times, and it is so odd how I know we will get along before I have actually spoke to them. People say not to judge a book by its cover, but I am remarkably good at it. I can usually tell if I will like you from my first impression of you, and even more than that, I can ussually tell if we could be great friends.

One regret I have is no knowing the appropriate way to bridge the gap and make the connection. I worry a lot about making a fool of myself or else construing the wrong message. How do you hide your borderline rabid excitement at meeting someone who is so like you? I have failed to master that as of yet, ha ha! I need to take a class on how to begin a friendship in this modern age so I won't embarrass myself.

On that subject, why isn't fervent pursuit of friendship desirable? I feel like it would be shunned and looked down upon to show my hand of how deeply I hope for a friend. Maybe it stems from how I see "fangirling" as being viewed. Being overtly immersed in something is seen as obsessive, and therefore my search for an equally devoted friend is a hard sell. It scares people off, or if would if they knew about it. I've become pretty good at hiding my admiration for my friends, until this post that is. Well let us hope you aren't going to run away now that the cat is out of the bag, ha ha!



Friday, April 17, 2015

Non-Bestfriend Zone

I have this track-record of having friends who I grow close to and would like to call them my "bestfriend" but there is this catch... they never seem to return the favor. I must have something about me that evermore places me in the "not bestfriend material" category. I do realize that the "ideal" friendship seen in movies where to women are super close, talk/test/see each other daily is not as prevalent as Hollywood would have you think. I still yearn deeply for it though, as I always have for as long as I can remember. From day one I have wanted someone who knows me, gets my humor, understands my moods, and has similar passions and want to put as much effort into the relationship as me. Silly, and probably never going to happen sadly.

Every time in the past 10 years that I get close to someone one of two things inevitably occurs: One, they either don't feel that way about me or they already have that one designated bestfriend or two, they move within 6 months of us getting close. I am not exaggerating, this happens EVERY SINGLE TIME. I am the "Good Luck Chuck" of my friend-group. If you want to get out of Dodge be friends with this lady! I do have amazing friends who have moved far away, and I adore them, but they aren't here, and we talk even less with the distance, as much as that makes me sad and I do try to stay in contact. I realize that this is our 20s, it is just what happens after high school and college. People grow up, get a better job and move away. But seriously, everyone?!

I also understand "you can have more than one bestfriend" and yes, you can, but that would be hard to put all that effort into so many baskets. I suppose if you juggle, taking a friend at a time and rotating them, it could be done. But I still am left out of the nametag, I don't get the title even when I put in an inordinate amount of effort. I am all give, and many times my friends are all take. It is disheartening and discouraging.

So here is an open invitation, please be my bestie! I'm in sore need of one.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Self-Esteem and Societal Norms

Why does it seem to be a "radical" idea to be at peace with yourself? To have good self-esteem and love who you are as a person, and not care what others think of you? It is the media, this society we live in that has spread the nonsense that we need things to like ourselves, or worse, that we are not good enough and should refrain from liking ourselves in the first place. I do not like that we are constantly bombarded with the notion that we are not, nor cannot be, whole on our own. I love who I am, I feel you are damn lucky to know me, and for that I open myself up to criticism on a large scale. Women are not allowed within society to take a complement, it is considered rude. At the same time we are expected to be a doormat and respond to men who catcall us*. Women are expected to be not bold and fearless, but timid and shy, acquiescing to others' desires and never speaking up for their own or else they are being a b-word.

Why is it threatening to some people to have a woman be strong? What is so scary about a female having all the abilities and strength (which are considered the domain of a man)? How is that a threat to anyone? On that point, why is equality in any form a threat?  How is my making the same amount of money as a male in a job that that I am equally as qualified for a bad thing? Do people fear women making money, because that makes us less dependent upon men? Surely that is not the case, surely that is an archaic idea!

Do you believe women are as smart as men? Do you like that you have the right to vote? Do you like not being legally your husband's property? Do you like owning your own property as a woman? Do you enjoy having any rights at all? Do you believe men should be allowed to cry and not feel as if they are "less manly"? Do you believe men should be allowed to pursue their dreams, no matter if they do not fit gender stereotypes? If you answered yes to any of those questions you ARE in fact a FEMINIST. #sorrynotsorry I really rebel against injustice and being told I am inferior to anyone. If that makes me combative at times, than it is for the greater good. I will not apologize for striving to make others' lives and my own better by pursuing equality.

On the topic of femininity, that does not have to clash with strength. You can be a bold strong person and rock a lot of polka dots, lace, ruffles and bows. Being a feminist means allowing women and men the choice to be whoever they want to be and not judging them for their choice. It means allowing men the room to cry and feel emotions, because they have them and it should be fine to express them. It is all about the options, the choices we have, or perceive we have. The saying "Don't be such a girl" is demeaning to women, and I hear women say it to their sons! How, as a woman, can you say that?! Do you not hear yourself? You are putting yourself down as you demean and dismiss your son's valid emotions.

The message is to be who you want to be, be the person who makes you happy regardless of what anyone else thinks or says as long as you are not harming others'. Be true, be you and help those less fortunate.

It amazes me how blind people can be when they do not want to see something. How so many people believe that the issues women (and men) face all the time are not a reality. Just because you've been fortunate and have not encountered the prejudices that others have does not mean that they do not happen. Just because you haven't been discriminated against due to your religion, gender, sexual preference, or the color of your skin doesn't mean others have been so blessed. It is like saying that there is no racism because you have not seen it or experienced it yourself. It is like you ignore that portion of the population that has been judged or treated unfairly because it does not apply directly to you. How will you feel when someone someday treats you like you are worthless because of some part of you you have no control over? How will you feel when your daughter is beaten up by her boyfriend and accepts it because you never told her she was worth something as a woman? Protecting our girls should be something we can do by building them up, letting them be who they are and supporting their self-esteem and standing up for women's rights. The time is now, what are you doing about it?







*A catcall is demeaning and is not a complement, it is a bogus show of dominance over a woman and it is frankly quite frightening.