“Winners and Losers”

Flipping back and forth between channels, I am glued to the coverage of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote for the Supreme Court. Some networks are putting people with differing opinions on, and debating why Kavanaugh should or should not be confirmed. Surprisingly, the debates are not always ugly.

Then, I flip to a network where three people are sitting on a couch, discussing the same topic. Only, this time they are tossing to a segment called:

“Winners and Losers”

They then proceed to list who is winning because of the news that Kavanaugh will most likely be confirmed. The commentary (and that is what it is… not news… commentary) is covered with flashy graphics, pictures and video.

The show then goes back to the three on the couch, as they proceed to discuss there are many losers in this possible decision. They laugh as they say the people are hurting over this loss.

The first picture that pops up is one of women holding signs that display their anger, concern, sadness over another event that is belittling them and their voices.

Now, I know my voice may seem bias because I’m a survivor myself. However, I truly cannot understand this dialogue. Here we have people who may have personal experiences with assault, who identify with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, and we are plastering “Losers” graphics in front of them while commentary sounds overhead about how this group is a group of losers.

When President Donald Trump was rallying 20-30 minutes away from where I live this past week, he went on a tangent making fun of Dr. Ford’s testimony. He mocked her testimony about not remembering all the details. He used a demeaning voice, putting tone and reflection that belittled her and were not accurate to how she really sounded.

By now none of us should be surprised by anything Trump says to belittle women. He likes to say he is the biggest supporter of women, but he disproves that at many turns.

Just a sample of his quotes from the past, a small sample, backs up what I am saying here:

“You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”

“Heidi Klum. Sadly, she’s no longer a 10.”

“You know, it doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”

“A person who is flat-chested is very hard to be a 10.”

“Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president? I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”

“So why in 1992, did you tell a writer for New York magazine, Marie Brenner that “You have to treat women like shit”?”
Trump: “I didn’t say that. The woman’s a liar, extremely unattractive, lots of problems because of her looks.”

“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. There was blood coming out of her wherever.”

I digress… let’s get back to the Trump rally this past week.

So, the President of the United States is standing before an excited crowd. He is tossing out his usual talking points. The crowd is cheering.

Then, they start to laugh as he begins to belittle a woman who sat before an intense questioning of her past and what may have happened to her at a high school party with Brett Kavanaugh.

She sat in front of millions and told something that had brought her so much shame, she only began to talk about it approximately 30 years after it happened.

And, our President decides to use bullying instead of compassion when referring to her.

We all know you don’t have to agree with someone to show compassion.

We also know belittling someone is the wrong way to go. We were taught that in Kindergarten. My kids are still learning it in middle school.

But, let’s remember his words are not surprising.

What brought tears to my eyes were the sounds from the crowd.

They were laughing.

Laughing! Oh, and clapping.

I am sure I know someone who was in that crowd. He was too close for that chance to be none.

Do they have kids? Do they believe their kids should behave this way?

Again, I am not talking about agreeing or disagreeing with someone. I am talking about treating others, even those with which you disagree, with kindness.

Kindness.

Not laughter. Not with degrading words. Not with a belittling speech.

Kindness.

I could care less what Trump, or Senator Chuck Grassley or Senator Lindsey Graham has to say. They have no idea what it is to endure assault and rape. They are ignorant of the facts here. Plus, they have a political agenda at stake.

I care deeply about the audience laughing and clapping at what they have to say. These are people who probably know someone who went through something similar to what Dr. Ford described. They may not know it. Some of them have daughters. Some are daughters.

By the way, I am sickened by the people who may have threatened Mrs. Kavanaugh or her daughter. I am an equal opportunity kindness believer.

What have we come to? Who are we?

It feels like those handful of kids who bullied us at school are taking over and we have to sit back and hand over our lunch money, and then stay out of their sight to avoid being beat up.

One other comment Trump said was young white men should be scared. Today, while I was watching different media shows, another man said that white men are now being attacked and accused at every angle.

I happen to be married to an exceptional man. I do not believe they should all be lumped into a barrel and rolled over Niagara Falls. Because of this, I reached out to men in a separate blog.

I think we should all reach out to each other, and try to understand each other’s points of view, by asking each other why we believe what we believe. We have to stop this tribal categorization of “Winners and Losers”. We need to stop drawing lines and making general statements about one another. We have to stop laughing at those who are hurting.

We HAVE TO STOP LAUGHING at those who are hurting.

STOP LAUGHING AT THOSE WHO ARE HURTING

Because, if we go to rallies and laugh at “the other side” no matter what… only one group will fall under the “Winners” header:

The Powerful

As Bill Maher put it last night on “Real Time”…

“Power begets power.”

And, more of us have less power than the few that have most of the power. We are handing them even more power if we allow for their behavior of belittling others to continue. We are allowing abuse of others… and abuse of power.

What would we rather this world look like?

One filled with hate, division, ridicule, and bullying?

Or, one with understanding, respect, kindness and love?

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10

“The greatness of a nation can be judged by how it treats its weakest member.” Ghandi

“We choose our destiny in the way we treat others.” Buddha

“I don’t understand why we can’t just be nice to each other.”
“Yeah, it’s not that hard.” A couple of kids I know

Dear Men…

I am reaching out to tell you that sexual assault victims know what an assault looks and feels like.

We know when we are being forced to do something against our will.

We know when the people who assault us believe our bodies are theirs and they can do what they want with them.

As a woman who has been assaulted many times, I know what a misunderstood advancement looks and feels like compared to an assault.

Today, a judge declared Bill Cosby a “sexually violent predator” and sentenced him to 3-10 years in state prison. His defense attorney wanted the judge to go easy on him. He feels that Cosby is defenseless at his age, especially since he is blind. Does he forget all of Cosby’s victims were defenseless… you know… after Cosby drugged them?

When many look at that story, we cannot fully put ourselves in that position. A huge celebrity, beloved comedian, drugs you and takes what is YOURS. Men around the world might not look at the Cosby case and say: “Yikes, did I do something like that?”

It is the same for the Harvey Weinstein case…  in the sense that he lured women to a Beverly Hills suite and used his power in Hollywood to sexually assault women.

However, another case that is hitting the spotlight this week is giving men pause. Men are wondering to themselves if they could also be accused of what Dr. Christine Ford is accusing Judge Brett Kavanaugh of doing.

In fact, in just a couple of days, Dr. Ford will bravely sit in front of an angry and divided group of Senators and tell the world what she says happened to her at a high school party.

Let’s be clear… despite what the talking heads and Republican politicians are saying on cable news… what Dr. Ford says happened is not “just one of those things that happen in high school.”

Yes… failed hookups are the story for many, many high school kids. Rejection from the person you have the biggest crush on is part of most of our high school memories. In fact, that story often pops up in our college and adult lives as well.

So, some men are questioning whether what they did in high school or beyond would classify as the same thing as Dr. Ford’s allegations.

Given women’s history with men, the chances that every man was always respectful and considerate of us, well, are slim. In fact, I have looked up to and admired men who were sexist and disrespectful in a way that was, unfortunately, acceptable in society… or at least tolerated… until recently.

Every woman I have talked to about their own experiences with men have many, many stories of them crossing the line verbally or physically. Not all those stories come close to what Dr. Ford is describing.

I want to be careful because all of our experiences are different, but I am here to tell the good guys there are differences in the way women are treated…. and we know it.

I was on what many might consider a date with a guy in high school. I thought we were going as just friends. I thought we wanted to avoid the pain of not having an actual date by going to the event together. It ended up, he thought differently.

At the end of the event, he drove me home. We pulled into the driveway, and he leaned over and gave me a big ol’ kiss… not closed lips, people… but that is as far as I’m going with it… you get the picture.

I was shocked! I truly had no idea he felt any way romantically about me… and no idea he was going to kiss me. I jumped back. The look on his face broke a little piece of my heart. He was rejected and disappointed. He had been so kind and respectful to me all night. We had always had such a blast together. He had a different take on our relationship.

I started apologizing to him. I was so sorry I gave him the wrong idea. I so badly wanted to continue being friends. (We didn’t… we drifted… drifted…)

His response is key here.

He could have been like Cosby and Weinstein, and maybe Kavanaugh (the facts are not all in). He could have pounced on me….grabbed my lady parts and tried to kiss me more. No one was around us.

He did not. He retreated, embarrassed. He apologized. He got the wrong idea. He hoped I understood. Of course I did.

So, here I am, men, asking you to evaluate your experiences with women.

Did you make unwanted advances? If the woman retreated and said no, did you put your hand over her mouth? Did you lock her in a room? As she struggled to get away from you, did you try to get your man part in her? Did you continue to force your way on her while she struggled to escape you?

Did you put drugs in a woman’s drink with the purpose of “getting some” later that night?

Or…

Did you try to kiss or make a move on a girl you thought liked you… and then retreat when she said no? Listen, you were way too excited to get there… but you respected her enough to back off.

I have described in many previous blogs (The Choice is Clear, “…for a girl like me.”, “That’s a pretty good offer for a girl like me.” Part 2) some of my experiences.

However, I also have many experiences where a guy crossed a line, BUT then retreated and apologized, and never showed the behavior to me again. I do not lump those in with the sexual assaults I’ve experienced.

Women, please know, I am not trying to demean others’ experiences. It is just that some actual GOOD men are evaluating who they are…

… and that is a good thing.

After centuries of oppression, assault, and lack of rights, it is time for women to be treated better… and for all men to assess how they treat women. Frankly, it was time centuries ago, but I’m glad society is making sure they do now.

The bottom line is: How do you treat women?

Listen, I get angrier by the minute when I see a**holes on TV saying things like, “Wow, if people knew what I did in high school, I would be in trouble too.”

Um, if you did what Dr. Ford is saying happened to her… you should be in trouble.

If you assaulted a woman, girl, man, or boy… you should be in trouble.

All those talking heads who are saying, “I wouldn’t want to be judged for what I did in high school.”

I want them judged.

However, if you took a girl home, thinking you were starting a romantic relationship, kissed her hard… she said no… you backed off and apologized…. you are not the same person Dr. Ford describes.

If you didn’t lock a girl in a room so you and your buddy could have your way with her. You are not the man Dr. Ford describes.

I can only guess this time in history is hard on the good men who care how they treat women. Men are being lumped together as a**holes.

For the actual a**holes, your time has come.

It is sorely needed, as women (and don’t forget… some men) have been the victims of crimes that were usually considered part of a “Boys will be Boys” mentality.

The Boys club needs to be dismantled. The rules of the club need to be abolished. We need all men assessing how they treat women.

As you assess how you were as a boy and a man, listen to another woman, who is way smarter, and funnier than me, talk about the stuff you should NOT have done:

Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal segment on Kavanaugh

Now is the time to end sexual violence. (Again, it should have ended a long time ago, like… before it began.)

Now is the time to stop worrying about how the news of assaults affect the men accused and worry about how the assaults affect the victims.

However, at the same time… to the good guys I say…

Thank you, and be patient. Most of us know you are there.

Maverick McCain

“No ma’am. He’s a decent family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about.”

“I admire Senator Obama and his accomplishment,. I will respect him. I want everyone to be respectful, and let’s make sure we are. Because that’s the way politics should be conducted in America.”
Senator John McCain

Recently, I watched the HBO documentary “John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls.” I wasn’t going to watch it, but I was folding clothes and needed something on which to zone out.

The thing is: I forgot. I forgot who John McCain was. He brought Sarah Palin onto the national stage, and erased my memory of the good he had done.

See, Senator McCain was responding to a woman, a supporter of his, who stood and said Senator Barack Obama was an Arab, that she didn’t trust him. The quote above is how Senator McCain responded.

The woman gave us a glimpse of what many wanted to do with this country. Spew hatred towards those who were different than they were. It was a peek into the future we had no idea was coming. She showed us that some were willing to absorb the lies and hatred, perhaps out of fear of change.

Then, the change came.

Barack Obama swept into the White House and did everything he promised… or at least he tried. He was severely blocked by Congress, but he still did as much as he could to relieve us of what could have been another depression, make sure people got their basic health needs covered, and supported any underserved community, including the LGBTQ community.

While all this was being done, no family scandal or drama surfaced. By all accounts, the Obamas are a dedicated group… to each other. The love can be seen and felt, for sure.

Yet, that misinformed woman and all like her continued to be fed buffets of lies about President Obama. I read comments on social media that brought tears to my eyes because they were rooted in such anger and hatred, not fact.

So, 10 years later, we find ourselves asking… how did we get here?

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I wrote everything above here a few weeks ago. I only had a little idea that I was writing this during a time when our political Maverick was going to pass and leave our world.

I don’t have any answers in this blog post, but I do have hope.

My hope is that John McCain’s death will serve us in the same way his life did.

My hope that, as we listen to his past political opponents praise and honor him, we see what we can be.

My hope is that the quote that started out this post will play, and someone who is putting party above country will reconsider that stand.

We lost one of the last true independent thinkers who understood what this country is and should be.

My hope is that we can honor him in the best way possible: By standing up for America, respecting our opponents when they deserve it, and loving each other.

Rest in Peace, Maverick. Thank you for everything you gave to our country.

Is This the Moment?

We can all recall moments in our childhood when something changed. If you still spend holidays with any extended family, you know they come up almost every time you get together.

The “thing” to change doesn’t need to be significant. It could be the way you saw the grown-ups in the family, or the first fight you got into with your cousin that made you realize he or she wasn’t all that.

They don’t all have to be moments like the ones I endured as a child. (The Choice is Clear, “…for a girl like me.”)

They can be when you found out about Santa Claus.

I don’t remember much of when I found out, but I do now think back fondly on all the lengths my family went to just to keep me believing.

Our youngest found out last night… thanks to some magician on a Netflix show. My husband and I sat there and heard the guy talk about how his parents lied to him about the Easter Bunny. Then, I am reaching for the remote, in what felt like slow motion, as he spits out how crazy it was for him to have believed in Santa as a kid.

My baby girl looked over at me and she could tell by the look on my face that this guy was telling the truth.

This was not the way I wanted her to find out! You see, I had it all planned out.

I had told our oldest one day after school. I knew one of the girls that could be pretty mean to her knew the truth. I didn’t want some terrible incident on a bus ride home from school to be her memory of finding out. I was poetic about magic, and tradition, and the joy of the season. She was disappointed, because she had a gift she wanted that year that she knew we couldn’t afford…. and she wanted Santa to bring it. (My heart… they always say this every year!!! Sweet girls.)

So, now our “baby” is the same age as when I told our oldest. I knew the time was coming. (though I was hoping to squeeze out one more) However, I wanted it to be on our terms. Not from some guy named Justin who used to host Cupcake Wars, but now says he is a magician. (Sorry, Justin, you are just not my favorite person right now.)

Our youngest is the dreamer. She is the magical flying girl with dragons and unicorns. She has a made up story for any event… “What if it was like”… “What if instead, you had said or done”… She loves magic and wonder. The last thing I wanted was for any of it to be taken away.

Once the initial surprise started to wear off, there were tears. She was so mad at herself for crying. She didn’t understand why. We talked to her about how normal that was, that she was just finding out something she didn’t want to be true.  It was a tough moment, for sure. I did not handle it the way I had wanted.

So, I wrote her the letter pictured above here.  I will give it to her today.

And, now, I wonder.

What are the moments that will shape our girls?

Will it be the times I yell because they are not getting out the door fast enough…

…or the times I sit with them as they cry over something that happened at school that day?

Will it be the nightly reading of books…

…or the times I ban them from any electronics?

Will it be the Christmas when I decorated the entire tree area, including some presents, in the “Sound of Music” theme…

…or the time they each found out we have been lying to them for 11 years about a jolly old man who brings them presents?

I think, as parents, most of us try to do our absolute best. I believe many do so much better than I do. I learned cuss words in 4th grade by boys named Matt and Scott. My girls learn them from me at 7am on any given morning when things aren’t going well.

So, what will my little family’s holiday stories look like?

Listen, for all my flaws, and I have many, I do know I love our girls like no one else. I try constantly to pour support, kindness, empathy, and love into them every day.

But, like everyone I make some big mistakes, as well. We all remember our mistakes more than our triumphs.

My hope is that the good poured into my girls will beat down any of the negatives, and they will always know the magic of any season.

My hope is that they will now truly understand the meaning of Santa: Going out of their way to bring magic and wonder to everyone they possibly can.

Because, magic and wonder are two powerful tools that can sustain hope and love.

And, that is a better story to tell than that one time she heard some magician guy named JUSTIN!!!… tell them that the magic wasn’t real.  Ugh, Justin.

 

Introverts Who Interact: A Mom’s Glimpse into YouTube Madness

As we parked our car, and piled out of it, I could feel my daughters’ nervous and excited energy. Their faces held expressions I hope to never forget. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into, but I knew I was glad I got to witness the emotions and expressions they were carrying.

We rounded a corner to see the sign lit up ahead of us: “Fox”. Then, on the marquee you saw the names:

“Dan and Phil”

My girls were seized with an excitement that ended with a squeal or two.

All around us were kids approximately 10-18 years old, with different colored hair, funky cool clothing, and determined looks on their faces as they made their way toward two people who made them feel less alone.

The girls and I had spent the past year going to a theater somewhat like the Fox in St. Louis, and seeing touring Broadway shows. I kind of had an expectation of the vibe being similar with people looking at merchandise and trying to find their seats in an excited, but very calm, way.

Nope.

This is not what was going on behind those beautiful entrance doors to The Fabulous Fox Theater.

The lobby was jammed pack. People filled every nook and cranny of it. Upon closer inspection, I figured out that they had a snake line (like when you are going through baggage claim at large airports, or at Chick Fil A at dinner time) in front of a merchandise set-up. The line snaked at least 10 times. Then, it spilled out in a single file into the lobby.

The girls looked at me with pleading eyes. “Can we buy stuff now?” I told them we had thirty minutes until show time, so let’s try. Then, we set off to find the end of that line. It continued out of the lobby, into a side area before you get to the area outside the seating. So, on we went. Then, it snaked back around twice, in and out of doors. We finally found the guy holding the “line here” sign to tell us where to stand. I looked at my girls. They knew. There was no way we were getting merchandise before the show. I promised a try at intermission.

I thought, “Surely, just about everyone is in the lobby, trying to grab a memory from the show.”

No.

The theater was pretty packed. I had no idea how the merchandise liner uppers were going to fit in there.

After a series of selfies, we sat patiently, but excitedly, and waited. I have to admit, I was getting caught up in the energy. It was a community of people who may not regularly have one. One girl turned to my daughter, and said she looked like someone I didn’t know… thought maybe it was a friend. After telling her, the girl shyly looked away, smiling at the interaction she just had. Later, I found out the girl thought my daughter looked like a character she likes. Connection.

A Panic at the Disco song came on, and the screams were so loud I could no longer hear the song. I looked at my 13-year old who was wearing a Panic at the Disco t-shirt, and she was beaming. The song obviously meant something to her, her sister, and the rest of the theater. Another connection. A few more songs play, and each time there is a chatter or wave of laughter as the true fans get why each song is playing at this venue, at this time.

This is the moment I was in awe. I had no idea two YouTube personalities had this much of an effect on people. As my eyes scanned the room, I noticed the same theme we saw outside as we walked in. It seemed the theater was packed with teens and pre-teens who may be considered miss-fits or misunderstood, but had a common bond in this room, with the two men that were about to come on stage.

Then, some song I had never heard before started playing, and the laughter and bouncing in seats began. This was it. My girls leaned into me and said the song was written for Dan and Phil. This is THEIR song. I thought they were going to burst from the excitement welling up in them.

I scanned the room, and arms were up in the air, dancing was happening in the seats, and you could feel an energy not unlike a rock concert with your favorite band.

Then the lights went down. Boom!

“Dan and Phil”!!!
“Interactive Introverts”!!!! (How clever is that, by the way?)

I have never heard or seen anything like this. I have seen Bon Jovi four times. I’ve seen Poison, Def Leppard, Aerosmith, ZZ Top and on and on.

This reminded me of the old Ed Sullivan footage when The Beatles started playing.

The energy was amazing, and I soaked it up.

The words I said so many times over the years: “How in the world can watching people play video games on YouTube EVER be interesting?!?!” came back to bite me.

Ahhhh, now I get it.

For more than two hours, my pre-teen and teen and I laughed together. They would lean in from time to time to explain something, and they were so excited to share. Both girls would break into a bouncing routine in their seats as they anticipated the next move.

(Sidebar: I feel a need to mention, Dan and Phil are British, so their accent adds something to it all!)

Parents even got a shout out from the stars, as they thanked us for enduring this show for our kids. A few fake awards to parents were even announced.

I missed at least half of the show. I couldn’t help but spend those moments watching my girls watch the show, or watch the crowd watch the show. I thought about how bad social media can be, about how bad it is to spend too much time on a device or computer, and about how we are losing real connections as we make virtual ones.

Then, something would happen on that stage and I would be whisked right back to a different reality. One where social media and technology can also bring people together. It can sometimes send people to places where they feel they finally fit somewhere.

Believe me, I know I sound a bit too poetic about a couple of goofballs who record themselves playing games and banter back and forth with a wit that even makes me laugh.

Of course there is a truth to: “Uh, make real friends.” being more of an important approach to life.

However, let’s also not miss the fact that sometimes that is hard. I remember growing up feeling like I don’t belong. I remember, as a latch key kid, spending many dark evenings alone, watching TV so I would have noise and company. I turned out ok. (Welllll….hmmmm…)

I just wonder if kids these days can figure out a happy medium. The key word in that sentence being “happy”.

I hope to never forget that July night in St. Louis with my two favorite girls. Being there to see their excitement… well… there is nothing better than those moments. We now share a new connection, as we watch one or two “Dan and Phil” clips each night.

As I watch them grow, and try to ready my heart for the day they will leave the nest… I am thankful that I sucked it up and said yes to a night in a theater watching YouTube personalities act their show out on stage.

What I really got to see was so much better.

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Oh, and in case you are wondering… at intermission, we shot out of our seats, and ran to the merchandise counter… still landing way back in the line, but close enough to snag some “merch” before the end of intermission.

Darn it! I Was Wrong about “Roseanne”

Just a few short months ago, I was a wide-eyed optimist… believing the revived TV sitcom could start a real conversation in America. I even wrote a blog about how she could be the one to change the conversation.

I put Rosanne in quotes in this blog title, because I mean the TV show and not the woman.

Could the show bridge the divide that widened not so long ago?

Some of us have watched with amazement in November 2016 and beyond as people supported a misogynist racist. People clung to their values as the reason, but so many of us heard words like “grab any woman by the pussy” and “Mexico sends its murderers and rapists” and “some are very good people” when speaking about neo-Nazis … and we can’t understand what values put him in power.

So, here comes Roseanne… someone I disagree with on many levels, but brought opposing views from her own on to her sitcom… in a heartfelt way.

I believed many could see each other more clearly through the witty exchanges on a funny sitcom. I hoped we would cut through the noise when we watched a conservative woman hug her grandson who loved dressing like a girl, despite the fact she thought it was the wrong thing to do.

Then… the Roseanne, without quotes, reared her racist head. To be clear, most already knew she was a racist. She has never hidden her feelings about those different from her.

However, if you were a fan of her first go ’round in sitcom-land, you would know that she was big on inclusion within her sitcom family. An episode with a young DJ who didn’t want to kiss a black girl ended with Roseanne and Dan sternly explaining why he was wrong. (I loved that he was married to that same girl in the reboot.)

The Connors loved and supported each other, even when they didn’t agree. I truly thought… “Hey! Yes! This is what we need to be reminded to do.”

The issue for Roseanne, without the quotes, is, we have had enough.

We are tired of white people who think it is ok to use the phrase “I’m not racist.” while saying or believing disparaging things about others as a race. Or, supporting a candidate who has clearly said racist things, and say those who don’t are being snowflakes when we call that out as wrong.

So, while “Roseanne” does get some credit for peeling back the curtain on our current state of race relations and our clear separation based on hypocrisy… Roseanne, without the quotes, cannot get a pass for calling a woman the product of an ape.

And, so, here we are… still stuck on our sides, gripping our flags, claiming our own righteousness. We are divided and many just don’t care because the “other side” is just wrong. Some have stopped even trying to see “the other side.”

Heck, many have stopped caring about the issues completely. They don’t care WHAT is said… only WHO said it.

For example, Ben Bowling is the valedictorian of a senior class at a Kentucky high school. He told the audience he wanted to share inspirational quotes he found on Google. He then said:

“Don’t just get involved. Fight for your seat at the table. Better yet, fight for a seat at the head of the table. -Donald J. Trump”

The crowd busted into applause and cheered. Then Bowling said:

“Just kidding. That was Barack Obama.”

The crowd became noticeably quiet.

You see, it is hard to admit when you are wrong.

I have never minced words about how I feel about our current state of politics. I am not a supporter of the current administration or the leaders in Congress. However, sometimes they get it correct, and those are the moments I have to admit that they are not always bad.

Alice Marie Johnson and her family would agree with me.

She is home with her family right now, after being in prison for 21 years. She was in prison for dealing cocaine and leading the drug ring that sold tons of cocaine from 1991 to 1994.

Her case seems to be a classic one for Trump who claims to be tough on drug crimes. He even proposed the death penalty for dealers.

Except, he ended up doing the opposite by granting her clemency. (not a pardon)

He might have done it for the wrong reasons: another reality star asked and he saw the publicity gold… he is sending a message to others that he can do this (though I think he has other ideas to get that job done)…. We can get into a “Yeah, BUT… ” argument all day.

Whatever the reason, a woman who has seemed to turn her life around, and has already served 21 years, is home with her family tonight.

No matter how I feel about him, I can see the good in this.

I was hoping “Roseanne” was going to help us all start to see each other as humans again.

Instead, Roseanne, without quotes, came out from a blanket that covered her racism and showed who she is, yet again. (Though one can argue she had already done that with the “Fresh Off the Boat” episode that was insensitive to other races, to say the least.)

I’ve watched the “whataboutism” explode: What about Samantha Bee? The View? I’ve seen people justify Roseanne with this defense.

Different corners, different outrages… or are they? We really need to re-examine who is the target of our rage. If you switch out names, like Bowling did, you may realize the rage is at actions and words… and should be at the people slinging them… no matter the party affiliation.

The bottom line is I was wrong about “Roseanne”, and now I wonder what it will be to set us closer to the correct track.

I read about plans to maybe do a show with the “Roseanne” cast, minus Roseanne. Maybe they will try again. Maybe it will work.

Or, maybe we just need an election to rebalance the nation. Maybe we need people to show up to the polls. Maybe we need to remember the “Golden Rule” or anything we were taught in Kindergarten about how we treat others.

The alternative is we continue down this rabbit hole, and frankly, that is the last place we should be heading.

I Turned Around and She Was Gone

Life is a quirky little journey. Some of us take many different paths and others stay in the space they have known their entire lives, surrounded by people who’ve known them forever.

The thing about taking different paths is that you often lose some people along the way. It could be because they saw prettier paths to take, or because they saw the sign that the lane ends way before you did…. or maybe you merged onto a new lane first.

Most of the time you know why friendships fade, but not always.

I had this one friend who shared an entire path with me for several years…. especially the Friday and Saturday night paths that led us to dancing our booties off. (Do people still say that?)

And, then, one day… she was on a completely different journey. And, honestly, so was I.

I’m sure, at the time, I could tell you all the reasons why the dancing stopped. Right now, I only know of one. We both fell in love with people not currently on that path and our eyes were set on a different scenery.

Almost a decade went by…. and then one day… a message. She didn’t know if I wanted to talk to her, if I was mad at her, or if I even wanted to be friends, but she wanted to reach out and try.

In that moment, no reason for our faded friendship could stop me from just saying, “Come on… walk with me!”

Without any explanation, we are friends again. We live in different states, we have kids and are married… but we can jump onto each other’s paths at any time.

Some friendships are seamless like that. You shared too much for it to end. I even have a friend I call my best friend. I will always call her that. The thing is… I talk to her MAYBE 4 times a year. However, the times we talk, or text, are like a minute has not gone by.

Then, well, there are friendships that just split into different spaces all together. Have you had one?

You are super tight. You share things with each other you never talk about with anyone else.

And, then, one day you turn around… and she is gone.

What do you do with that?

I have two separate reactions, and the one I choose is only based on my confidence level at the time.

  1. Avoid.
  2. Approach.

Many of my friends are in a time of life when we have kids and families and schools and jobs to occupy us. We move forward and join whomever is on our path. Maintaining relationships is a beast right now.

Yet….

If there is someone you love who has left your path, we owe it to choose #2. My dancing queen friend chose it… and I could not be more thankful she had that courage.

Someone dear to me has left my path, and frankly I have a lot of issues to sort out with this relationship before we walk together again. However, in the end, I don’t want to look back… forward… to the side… and not see her.

That has to be the factor we all consider as we continue our walk.

“Is there someone not on my path that I want to walk with again? Even if it is only for a few minutes a year?”

Maybe a text, or call, will change your course.

Choose Kind: But is There a Limit?

“I am so irritated right now. None of my friends answered my texts to come over today.”

As I sat there, someone I thought was her friend, and someone who did answer her text, I wondered: Did she know what she just said?

So, I pause, and say slowly: “NONE of your friends?” (big smile on my face for a clue)

“Nope. Not one.”

“oh”

This isn’t the first time I felt small around her. It was not going to be the last.

I could have said a million things at that point. I said none. I chose to just suck it up and be kind.

I chose not to make it about me.

However, a year later, it still pops into my head like an ugly enemy, eating away at my confidence.

This came on the heels of a different conversation I had with someone I help a lot at a school. I had just finished doing a ton of work for her. She walked up to me and said she was grateful for some newer volunteers because they had done all that work.

So, confused, I said, “Oh, no… I did all that.”

She responded: “Oh, get over yourself!”

I was shut down. I said nothing. Was I too full of myself?

I just continued helping her.

The memory of that will whack me in the gut from time to time and remind me how small some think I am.

Since each of these conversations, the relationships have continued as is… and I have not mentioned the way I feel. I know that part is on me.

Something happened recently that is making me rethink my choices.

My daughter was the only girl out of a group that wasn’t invited to a girl’s birthday celebration a couple of weeks ago. Every single girl in the group was invited… but mine. I got to see that reality on social media.

Now, this is bound to happen, they are new teenagers. However, this particular group is different. I have decided the past two years not to have birthday parties for our oldest because one of the girls was fighting with our daughter. We didn’t want to exclude anyone in that group. (We still celebrated, just not with that group, because it felt mean to invite all but one.)

So, here I am looking at a picture on social media of the entire group… but one… my girl. My mom heart breaks, but I start to have flashbacks of her friendship with the birthday girl.

For a year and a half, the birthday girl has been using my daughter’s supply needed for a class. I’ve had to buy more, while this girl’s supply is still full. For the past 7 months, this girl has been insisting, begging, she use something of my daughter’s, because she doesn’t like hers. My daughter has willingly handed it over. She didn’t mind at all. They were friends, right?

I recently went out of my way to make sure her mom didn’t worry when we were on an out-of-town trip…. texting pictures of her daughter, alive and well. While I had less confidence of if we were friends, I didn’t mind… the girls are friends, right?

And, here I am staring at a celebration this mom had for that daughter… and my kid was not in it.

Oh, sorry, I forgot to mention…. the mom is the same woman who said the first quote of this blog.

You would say this was a teachable moment for my kid. It was also one for me.

Is it possible to be too kind?

I cannot stand that thought. I was raised differently. My mom is extremely empathetic, and it all rubbed off on me. Here is a typical conversation I have had with mom my entire life:

“So and so called me a —–.” OR “You will not believe the sexist comment my boss said to me today.”

“Oh no! Is she/he mad at you? Did you do something to him/her? Hurt his/her feelings?”

“Ummmm…. I don’t know, but they hurt mine.”

Now that I’m an adult, I can appreciate what she taught me. She gave me an easy ability to be empathetic.

However, I wonder…. where is that line between kindness and being used/walked on? When do you decide that your feelings matter just as much as the person’s who is hurting you?

I really have no answer. I am sure many of you think I sound like a doormat. Sometimes, I wonder if that is true. However, I want to lay my head down at night and know I wasn’t ugly… know I didn’t treat someone the way they did me.

So, at a school event when that first person in this blog, mom of the birthday girl, walked up to me as if no birthday party, leaving my girl out, had just happened days earlier… I offered her seats by us. (Place was filling up, we were close to the action.)

Again… I wonder… you know, like I said above here… where is that line?

It is important for me to find an answer, because, now, our girl has been hurt tremendously, by the same people, by being left out. She brought up that we avoided birthday parties to spare feelings…. wondering why she was left out of this one… why weren’t her feelings spared… what did she do wrong?

Wow.

So, help me. Where is that line? How do I stay on the correct side of it, without being ugly?

I know I have to figure it out fast, or I’m going to teach my daughters to lie down and be the doormat.

What I Learned as a Juror… Twice

I get the privilege of saying I have served on not one, but two juries. I have been part of two groups of 12 who rendered two verdicts. There were only a few angry men (and a couple of women)… not 12.

I have served for a criminal trial and a civil trial.

I guess you could say I’m a seasoned juror.

I am not going to lie to you.  The first time I received  a summons (in Georgia), I was extremely bummed. Just like you, I had a life that would be put on hold. I had a 24/7 demanding job, two itty bitties, two separate schools, a hubby, some pets… life was full.

I showed up that first time, hoping… PLEASE! Do not choose me.

Within hundreds of names to go into voir dire (jury questioning from attorneys and judge for selection in a trial), my name was called.  Surely, I won’t be called.

I was.

The case was a criminal one, and among the two pages of charges, the defendant faced home invasion, attempted murder, and kidnapping charges.

Seven years later, very close to the same time of year, I was called to be a juror on another trial.  When the judge asked us if we’d served on a jury before and what the charges were, I, of course told him about the first one. He answered, “Well. (eye brows raise up) This is not going to be like that one.”

It wasn’t. It was a car accident where we had to find if there was fault, find percentage of any fault, and find out how much the plaintiff deserved in a list of 7 different categories.

I learned so much. If you’ve served on a jury, you know what I mean. The legal system is multi-faceted and it has many players. You learn right away that Law and Order taught you some things, but the drama is mostly left on the TV screen.

While the lessons in the legal system were many, what I really learned about was human nature. The second trial highlighted it even more for me, partly because of the nature of the case, but also because of the current way society is operating. “I will pick up my stuff and go in this corner and … huff!”

Each case taught me something different about people. Both taught me the same thing about myself.

First… those other people.

In the criminal case, we were in the courtroom for 6 days. It was intense. There were tears shed by witnesses, and alone in my van… by me. The case was serious and touched on many fears we all have: someone breaking into our home, someone holding a weapon to our face, someone bounding us up, this time with duct tape, and someone pointing a gun at a child and making her go with him.

After all the testimony, and all the evidence, we went back to the room. I, for no explainable reason, was named foreperson. I asked if everyone wanted to enter, secretly, what their own verdict was. I collected them.

All 12: Guilty!

This couldn’t end so soon. I knew this man would spend a considerable amount of time in prison. I needed to get everyone who had any doubts to speak up about those doubts.

I didn’t just make two gentlemen in the back mad. They were pissed. (sorry, needed that word there) They were verbally threatening, saying things about needing to get on with their lives, who did I think I was to hold them hostage.

I said, very slowly and carefully, that I did not feel comfortable rushing this case. Did anyone have any questions or doubts?  Slowly, hands began to go up. Quickly, those gentlemen attacked them verbally. We asked the bailiff for evidence that pertained to the questions.

We wrote on the dry erase board.  We deliberated the case.

We took another secret vote.

All 12: Guilty!

Grumble, grumble from the back.  “See! Told you!”

I went to the door, and told the bailiff we were ready.  We waited about a half hour, and then were escorted back into the jury box.

I kid you not… lawyers were putting on their suit jackets, straightening ties. People seemed unready for us. The judge asked for our verdict. He read it. He then said something like:

We did not expect you to come back so quickly, as it hasn’t even been an hour and a half.

The defense’s attorney wanted a roll call: a call where each of us stands up, says our name and tells them what our individual verdict was.

All 12: Guilty!

Then, the judge talked about how we weren’t going to hear witness testimony for the sentencing, because they hadn’t expected us to return so quickly. Then, he hands down the sentencing:

125 years in prison

That was the moment I knew I made the correct call. I forced us to be really sure, to discuss the case and give this man the deliberation he had a legal right to have.

In less than an hour and a half, we made a decision that sent a man to prison for 125 years.

You may have a life you two brutes in the back, but we needed to be measured and sure that we were ok sending a man to prison for his entire life.

Human nature for those two was to worry about themselves and their lives. Thankfully, for 10 other people, human nature was to be careful and deliberate when deciding the fate of another’s life.

So, what about that other case? A car wreck…. that had to be an easier decision.

Haha! No. It took more than 5 hours of deliberation to decide this one. Now, in our defense, we had to do a lot of math when it came to damages, medical, and lost wages.

However, the reason it took so long?   Two women decided they knew the facts… which were not in the trail… because they drove and they know how everyone drives.

It was awful to listen to them say what they KNEW happened. Barely anything they said was in evidence, part of testimony, or true.

When we broke for the day, we had reached a compromise on one part of the verdict that made my stomach sick.  We were going to lay a percentage of the blame on a worker who was parked in the right hand lane, working on a manhole. Both people who were part of the accident, and testified, said they say the guy in more than enough time.

The compromise also placed a big chunk of blame on a guy who merged in front of the guy who applied his brake to slow down. Even though that guy merged in plenty of time, and both the guy who applied his break and the plaintiff who rammed into the back of the plaintiff say they saw the guy speeding up, and it looked like he was going to merge.

I came in the next day, and said I was so sorry but the compromise was not sitting well with me. My gut was telling me the parked worker was not at fault at all. I also didn’t think the merging guy deserved any blame but was willing to do a smaller percentage. I read the laws we were supposed to consider… twice. Nine jurors agreed the law led to a different distribution of blame.

The two women who disagreed went into an argument about how all the drivers in our area cut each other off and it’s not fair. Some personal stuff, some stuff that had nothing to do with the case…

I held my ground. Eight other jurors stood up for me. They agreed. We fought. Later, the attorneys and judge said they could hear us, and began to worry about us.

Compromise: Parked worker 0% blame, Merging driver 10% blame, Plaintiff who slammed into the rear of the defendant 90%.

The two women were not completely happy, but I kept reading the law. They couldn’t argue the law. Not that they didn’t try.

Then damages. I could go on and on and on…. but I will just give you a glimpse by saying one of those two women thought the defendant (who had life-long injuries, lost the ability to do the job he had…) only deserved $400 for 4 years of loss of enjoyment of life and $400 for an expected 24 years of future loss.

So, we fought some more. We asked the women what their enjoyment was worth. What was loving their job worth to them? At one point, anytime you would speak, one of the women said, “No!”  “No!”  “No!” over and over and over. She was incredibly rude and wouldn’t let anyone speak.

After I politely shut that down, we were able to deliberate more and we compromised.

We did it!  About 8 of them broke out in cheers so loud, the judge told us later they knew we were done!

Later, after the verdict was read, roll was called, and the judge gave us certificates for serving… we were able to ask the judge questions about the case.

The two women asked him if he thought the guy that was parked deserved any blame. He had a surprised look on his face, and then said, “No. Not at all. If you would have come back with any blame for him, I would have had questions for you.”

Then, they asked him, “What about the merging driver?”

He closed his eyes, and with a very measured tone, said, “I don’t think he deserved any blame, but felt you all had to compromise on that one. Maybe you feel if he didn’t merge, none of it would have happened. Ten percent was reasonable for that. I wouldn’t have given him any more than that.”

Sure, I feel good that 10 of us were correct in our arguments. However, us being right isn’t the point for me.

The point is human nature tends to be that we bring our own experiences into arguments instead of facts, or in this case: law.  Human nature is having your opinion, and not listening to the others’.  In our current climate, human nature is to avoid compromise or hearing another side… at all costs.

However, the great news in all of this is that both times, in both trials, a majority of the people in the room fought against that nature. They had open minds, discussed the facts, and made reasoned decisions. Most of the jurors on both trials kept the people involved in the case in mind and thought of them more than themselves during deliberation. In both cases, 10 out of 12 jurors stuck to the facts.

I learned so much about the legal system.  Some of those lessons are for another blog.

I learned even more about human nature. In a time where everyone is picking sides and not listening, the lessons I learned solidified for me that where we need to meet is in the facts… sometimes in the law… and in listening to one another.

Oh, and what did I learn about myself? I was given a pretty good gut. I learned that I need to listen to it more.

Well, except when it tells me I need ice cream….

 

THIS is the generation… Not so fast

You can find articles everywhere about how this young – “new voters” – generation may just be the one to bring real, necessary change. I agree… to an extent. I, unfortunately, have witnessed, first-hand, incidents that give me pause, and prevent me from throwing the confetti.

Don’t get me wrong. I ran out and purchased my copy of the Time magazine featuring the handful of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.  I want to document for my kids the time when we saw kids rise up and take on a challenge bigger than themselves. This generation does definitely give me hope things can change for the better.

Then, there was this 7th grade boy this week that reminded me… we still have a long way to go.

There is also another sad, and unfortunate, chain of events that led to one girl wondering if her life is worth living.

First, the boy.

A 7th grade girl was working with her team on a project in one of her classes. She had 3 other students on her team. They were a bit behind in their presentation work, and she was trying to stay on task.

What was making it difficult was a boy in the class, who was on another team. His team decided to go near the other team’s area to practice their presentation. He also thought it would be fun to be loud and mess around with a member of the first team I mention.

This 7th grade girl tried several times to ask the boy from the other team to quiet down and let them work. He didn’t listen. Then, the girl said to the boy something to the effect… she’s getting really upset… she’s trying to control her anger, but she really needs him to leave them alone…

And he responds:

“What? Are you cramping or something?”

The women reading most likely have been asked more than once in their lifetime if they were “ragging” it… or if it’s “that time of the month”… or if their “nasty friend is visiting”… or straight up: “What… are you PMSing?”

Some men reading may not understand the implication of these phrases, but they are strong statements for women. Basically, any passion or emotion is minimized to: “You are a woman. You are weaker. Your feelings/thoughts/emotions don’t count because you bleed once a month.”

This boy, this kid, said that in front of the group, without pause, followed up with a good ol’ chuckle, and stared her down to show…. Her desire to get work done was not as important as his desire to mess around in class. In fact, he implied, strongly, her feelings must only be because she is cramping. (Not that it matters, but she wasn’t.)

It can’t be anything to do with the fact that she is trying to accomplish a task she is required to finish.

Just right there, in a 7th grade classroom, sexism showed its ugly head. Demeaning a girl is still acceptable to some people.

When I told my husband about this, he made a great point. That kid didn’t just make that up. He learned about cramping somewhere. He most likely has heard someone demean a woman this way somewhere.

So, the cycle continues.  (Oof, sorry, I couldn’t think of a better word.)

In related news… as I was proof-reading this blog, a story popped up on my news feed that shows just how far we still have to go.  I need to add it to this blog.  Here are the details of that story:

(Wednesday, in Japan,) Ryozo Tatami, the 67-year-old mayor of Maizuru in northern Kyoto, collapsed during a ring-top speech. Two women, apparently medical experts, rushed in and started performing first aid as several male sumo officials surrounding the mayor looked on.

When two more women rose to the ring trying to join the first aid effort, announcements demanded the women get out of the ring.

“Ladies, please get off the ring,” a sumo referee said, determinedly. “Only gentlemen go up.”

That really happened. Yesterday.  Before you say, “Well, yeah, but that is in Japan.” Remember, the cramping story was here at home.

While we watch a generation rise up, and speak about issues that matter, and ask for changes that are necessary, we have to remember… within that group are still children who are still learning how to demean and knock down a group they feel are less than them. Women, people of color, people in the LGTBQ community, people with fewer means… the list, unfortunately, goes on.

We can’t completely stop this wave of insensitivity, discrimination, lack of empathy that still exists in many places.

We can try. I will always try. However, at the end of the day, some boys will learn it is ok to look at girl and degrade / demean / disrespect her passions and desires with a phrase that lets her know he thinks: You are a bleeder, so you are less than me.

And, about the girl wondering about her life’s worth. I don’t want to dive too much into this one. There are privacy issues, and people out there who could read and figure out about what I am speaking.

What I will say is this: She was trying to make some other kids feel safe. She was  punished for her part in all of it. She is sad. She wonders if things will ever get better.

Her story is of the highest importance for us right now. We have figured out some ways to make sure she knows she is not alone. However, just like the boy above here, we can only work from the outside.

And, that brings me to my point.

We are making progress in our country and in many parts of the world to bring real, concrete change. Kids are rising up and doing their part.

However, there is still a lot of work to be done. Those of us who welcome the change and the shift toward empathy and acceptance of all still have a lot of work to do. We cannot get complacent and think, “Yes! They’ve got this.”

We need to support kids who want to be the defenders of those being left behind, or bullied, or even worse…

While I believe in the marches, and will always participate… the real work is in the day-to-day interactions we have.

Please, help kids learn. Show them examples that will build their empathy.

Please, help other kids feel accepted and loved.

How can we do that?

Listen. Love. Be the light for those in darkness.

And, try like mad to drive away that darkness.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thanks for reading.