150 Years And Still Enslaving

I’m sitting here at my desk, half-watching 12 Years A Slave in the background, finding myself having a physical reaction to the sheer horror in this movie. I can’t even look directly at the screen during the worst scenes.JOHN77_edited-1

I know this is the intent of the movie, and they have done a spectacular job.

What I can’t wrap my head around is that while we share a collective horror about past mistreatment of slaves, even the current racism today, we continue to judge others with the same vicious tenacity that we cringe from during the movie.

The sickness in my stomach that I feel now is the same sickness I feel when I hear people trash homosexuals, taunt the mentally ill, and call poor people a product of their own choices. We have not changed all that much in 150 years, we’ve just changed the targets – and the tactics.

What happens when we deny federal rights to people that love the same sex? We enslave them to a lifetime of second-class citizens. They can be refused visitation of a dying loved one, denied social security benefits of a partner they spent decades making a home with, and openly discriminated against in adoptions, service, and much more. It makes me ill.

What happens when we deny services to the mentally ill, and the families trying to help them, simply because they don’t have the right medical insurance card in their pocket or the funds to pay for services out-of-pocket? We enslave them to a life of illness. We watch families get torn apart, homeless veterans walk the streets, and substance abuse eat away at the ones that try to self medicate. It makes me ill.

What happens when we blame the poor for their financial situation, reducing the funding to programs intended to help them improve? We watch generations of children grow up to believe the only way to make money is through illegal operations, imprisoning them when they are caught, and enslaving the next generation to a life without a parent and starting the cycle over again. It makes me ill.

Life is complicated, but one thing that is very simple is that we are all a product of it.

I was born with a silver spoon. Two parents, enough food, good education, white, and straight. But being born privileged does not make me better; in fact it may make me worse. It separates me from the very human condition of being born none of these things. I take my status for granted – often.

As I listen to the whippings, cursing, and crying on the screen behind me, I’m not just experiencing the horror of the past, I am also realizing the horrors of the present. I still live in a world of discrimination and prejudice. I still live in a time of second-class citizens. And it makes me ill.

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Not Everyone Lies On Facebook

Sigh. Where to begin?

I’ve been reading MANY posts lately about the lies people tell on social media, how we scrub our lives and portray only our most beautiful moments. It’s a social media backlash that I honestly take a little personally.Lies Kids

I post pictures of my kids doing adorable things. I only post pictures of myself when they look good. I share anecdotes of my small children saying amazing, profound things. And I am not ashamed of my life shared on social media.

Here’s how you can interpret my social media activity:

  • I post cute kid stuff maybe 3-5 times a week. Other than those moments you can assume they have been in timeout for knocking each other around like barbarians.
  • You will find pictures of me, usually with my husband, about once a month because doing my hair and makeup for anything other than work (and usually not even on those days) only happens that often.
  • I share articles and stories that inspire, inform, or make me laugh so hard I snort coffee. Since this is most of my posting, you can infer that I read a lot and care about politics, world events, the great irony of reaching middle age, and art. To name just a few.
  • I “Like” a lot of my friends’ posts because I like my friends and their kids – both human and animal. I genuinely like seeing their fondest memories, reading lists, and musings about life.

You see, I don’t lie on Facebook. In fact, it’s a pretty accurate highlight reel of what my life is like. Would it make my friends happy to see 4 pictures a day of my children crying, whining, or giving me the evil eye? Would they rather see pictures of me the moment I wake up with puffy eyes, standing over a toaster making waffles willing the coffeemaker to brew faster?

Life will always be a series of highs and lows. I have faith in my social media friends that they can read between the lines of my “perfectly Instagrammed” life and know that I am well-rounded, equally disturbed, and a majority of the time completely unraveled. I know that I believe the same about them.

If you love social media and want to continue the fun, please feel free to share this rant. Who knows, maybe it will start a counter-revolution.

Remember to Forget

September is World Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. It’s also the month that We Remember the events of 9/11.

For those of us old enough to have experienced the events of that morning, we still remember where we were, the frantic calls we made, and the terror as we watched, helpless. We all have a unique story from that morning, but for a brief period of time, Americans were connected by the horrific events of watching the Twin Towers crumble and planes crashing. We shared days and weeks of uncertainty and fear, not knowing if this was the beginning or the end.  We were kinder and more forgiving of one another in the first hours, giving way to collective anger and need for retribution as we entered a war. We began to unravel in the subsequent years, pointing fingers and laying blame. Today we are divided about events, how they happened, and how we should have responded. The aftermath in America still rages around us as we continue the “War on Terror” and fight for health benefits for first responders.

Like Alzheimer’s destroying parts of the brain, the farther we get from 9/11, the memories of that moment in time when Americans felt united, connected to people simply through nationality, begin to disappear. The people who experienced 9/11 first-hand will slowly give way to new generations, and 9/11 will become merely a fact of historical importance.

Today, as We Remember 9/11 and try to rekindle that feeling of connection to one another that was so strong that morning, we are faced with the reality of faded memories and the blur of larger context.  We start to realize that, as a nation, we are already forgetting.

Don’t should on yourself.

Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I really should have done my laundry yesterday, but I didn’t. I also should have gotten my MBA, eaten healthier in the last few weeks, and put the kiddie pool away before it left a big, brown circle on my lawn.

I should have done a lot of things in the past 20+ years, but I didn’t. I also have a lot of regrets and guilt, the results of a lifetime of “should haves”.

What is it with this word “should” that makes us all so miserable?

If the word “should” did not exist, I would have a lifetime of things that I did and did not do. And things I wouldn’t and couldn’t have done. What’s the difference? The word “should” implies that I have all the wisdom of today when I made the decision. It also implies that an alternate decision was better.

Let’s take the fact that I did not get my MBA. I did not get my MBA directly after my undergraduate degree, when I feel I “should” have done it. Instead, I got a job where I met most of the friends I still have today. I met my future husband, who has given me two unbelievable, if not high-spirited, children. I also had some incredible experiences that are now my favorite memories. So, really, it’s not that I should have gotten my MBA. I didn’t. Why would I wish for something different now? If I want my MBA, I can still get it.

What about the bigger “should haves”?  I should have spent more time with my dad before he got sick. The fact is, I didn’t spend more time with my dad because I was an adolescent that wouldn’t have been able to appreciate the stories and wisdom that I might have gained had I spent the time. I wasn’t ready, and that’s OK.

We are a product of the people, opportunities and decisions of our past.  They leave small imprints of expectation, and we call on them to help guide us through today and into tomorrow. From an outside, unbiased perspective, this would seem like a good thing. But we humans, unfortunately, are wired to internalize, rate, and shame ourselves into believing that we should have done things better.

Don’t wait for a life-altering event to make peace with your past.

Don’t should on yourself.

Note: The phrase “Don’t should on yourself” was told to me by a very wise woman, who attributed it to another. I only wish I could be so smart to think of it myself.

Because we are all just children.

via German Federal Archive

In grade school, I had a teacher that would start to whisper if the class got too loud. A simple, yet effective tactic, since we all quieted down to figure out what the crazy lady was saying. And she was a little crazy, she was a nun.

I was reminded of this experience while checking Facebook and saw another impassioned, yet reckless, post about a polarizing political issue, demanding allegiance or face a de-friending.  Whether or not I agreed is beside the point, it hit me like a battle cry. Take up arms with me, or be my enemy!

When did we all get so worked up about everything, particularly political agendas? We have become a world of squeaky wheels, to the point that all we can hear is the roar of opinion. This land needs some oil – STAT.

I’m fine if you have an opinion that differs from mine. I will feel superior to you, but you feel the same about me, so it’s a wash. But what I am not going to do is run around screaming at the top of my lungs, “You are either WITH me or AGAINST me! Your choice!” Really, is that a choice? I DISAGREE with you, but I am not going to shoot you.

Stop taking aim people, it’s counterproductive. Quiet down for a minute, use your inside voice, and just tell me what you want and why. If you whine and scream at me, I’m just going to put you in time-out until you can calm yourself. Or hide you on my news stream on Facebook. If you want to talk about it, I will listen, but I will make up my own mind at the end of the day.

I’m switching to my whisper voice now.

Please stop acting like little children, and let’s have an adult conversation.

Thanks.

 

Time to burn the house down

I spent the morning watching my new little buddy wander aimlessly across my ceiling, circling and stopping at what I can only assume is a spidey stop sign.  Apparently he had a busy Monday morning, lots to get done.

He wasn’t my last visitor today, because when I stumbled groggily into my kitchen to open the blind, alas, another one of the eight-legged brotherhood had set up camp in the folds.  The window is going to stay closed for a bit.

You see, I don’t kill spiders, and apparently the word is out.  They are everywhere, my constant companions.  I leave them be, and in return they avoid me.  The only exception to this policy was the black widow that dropped off the ceiling directly into my wash machine full of clothes.  I considered that an act of war, so she was immediately heavy washed in hot water with an extra rinse cycle.  She forgot rule #1: Leave me alone.  She paid the ultimate price.

I don’t spare spiders out of any karmic duty or Buddhist belief.  Actually, the Buddhist belief that all life is sacred is pretty appealing to me, except for one small exception.  I get a twisted satisfaction watching ants feast on Terro, like a little flock of Kool-Aid drinkers and I am Jim Jones reincarnate. Creeps me out how much I hate the little guys, but again, they declared war first. At this point you may feel compelled to remind me that we encroach on animals natural habitats, then blame them for trouble. Don’t. Save that argument for more worthy animals, like ANY other animal besides ants.

I read somewhere once, that spiders were good for the environment, and that has stuck with me.  I think they eat other pest insects, which I find  appealing since I grew up where mosquitoes are the size of condors.  I also like spiders because no one else does. I am a sucker for the underdog, the down-and-out, the lepers of the world.

Until today, I have been OK with my decision to not kill spiders, but things are starting to get a little out of control at my house. It’s like projectX was posted on BugBook and my life is never going to be the same.  Spiders, ants, mice, you name it, they got the event invitation. You can read about my mouse party here

I think it’s time to burn the house down.

Using the stock market like a mood ring is dumb.

English: Phillippine stock market board

English: Phillippine stock market board (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mood rings were all the rage in the decade before I was old enough to really appreciate fads. Future generations, after much research, determined they were nothing more than body temperature indicators and novelty items.  Imagine looking at your ring, seeing red, and thinking “Wow, I must be really angry.  I don’t feel angry… but wait, now I am really MAD!!”

I think the mood ring is a good analogy for the stock markets today.  Most of us know how we feel about the economy regardless if the market number is red or green.

If I don’t have a job, haven’t found work in a long time, downsized to the point of meager existence, the markets jumping up 200 points in one day doesn’t really have a direct effect on my life. I still have to pay my bills and hit the pavement the next morning, like millions of others.

If I have a small business, I know if I have more customers this month than last.  I can look at the average amount of money customers are spending on items or jobs, and determine if I am growing, shrinking, or remaining exactly the same.  If I am in a growth cycle, I will hire. If I am shrinking, I will fire.

If I am lucky, gainfully employed, and the markets will affect my portfolio, then I will rejoice. I can provide the basics for my family, keeping food on the table, and roof over their heads.  I may not be able to retire when I want, or provide the Disney Christmas experience, but I can provide.  A market drop may be a reminder to simplify, but it won’t destroy me.  I will work hard every day at my job to make my company better and be the best asset I can.

If I lose my job, I will face the harsh reality of being unemployed. But I still need to get up every morning with the optimism that today is the day I will find new work.  I may need to look for assistance, face under-employment, or adjust my life to make my family my priority.  I won’t need the market to tell me that I have fallen on rough times, the bank will do a good enough job at that.

The only barometer I need for my life is me.  If I lose everything tomorrow, I will still have my family, true friends, and my ability to work hard to make a future life for myself.

When I see the headline, “Stocks see worst day of the year after weak jobs report”, it should only be a reflection of life as I am living it, not something to set my mood.  Journalists shock you, make you want to read more, incite feeling to elicit the “click” on their headline.  My advice, don’t freak out until your life tells you to. And if your life tells you to freak out, try to make tomorrow a better day, despite what the markets do, because at the end of the day, it’s all you can do.  That, and vote.

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