Monday, June 9, 2014

Why passivity is a dick move

We've all seen passive statuses on Facebook:

A wife mumbling about how she does everything all day and that it would be NICE to get SOME HELP now and THEN.

Or a girlfriend commenting on a friend's status about how nice it is that YOUR man takes YOU out, HINT HINT HONEY, followed by a pretending-to-be-joking-but-we-know-you-aren't "LOL."

Or the cryptic status that somehow both complains about doing something and pats oneself on the back for doing it, while also hinting for applause and pity, usually ending with "this is just my life now...", presumably followed by drinking at 3pm and a divorce in 3-6 months.

Ahh, the not-so-subtle 'art' of being passive. It's art in the same way that feces paintings are art. That is to say, it makes people judge you, raise an eyebrow at your mental well-being, and avoid you in the future.

     Unfortunately, it's not just adults that do the passive bullshit. My 8-year-old daughter has also gotten very good at the Passive Dickhead Move. Instead of asking for help, she'll grumble about how "I can't get this..." but she won't ask for help. Stubborn little fucker. Her father and I stand by, silently waiting for her to request our help, and then watching her struggle with the weight of her own bullheadedness. At dinner this weekend, she sat down first and her father sat next to her. When she finished her dinner, she had trouble getting out of her seat because his chair was positioned slightly behind hers. She mentioned that she couldn't get up. I told her to ask her dad to move. He was sitting right there, looking at her, waiting for her to use her goddamn words.

     Instead, we watched her wiggle, scoot, finagle, and finally almost fall to get out of her spot and clean up her dishes. We looked at each other silently, smirking. As she walked through the kitchen to go wash her hands, I scooted my chair back to block her way, to see if she'd say "Excuse me." Instead, ever passive, she turned sideways and squeezed behind me, without saying a word. I called her back and we had a short talk about how important it is to be direct, and how her dad and I are intentionally working on developing this quality in her because it's an important skill to have as a child and as an adult.

     When my baby sister was a toddler, when she saw someone holding something she wanted, like ice cream or a toy, she would come up to the person holding it and say, "Who's that for?" with a sly sparkle in her eye. My older sister and I still quote her to this day when someone passively hints at something, because we found it to be hilarious that a toddler would understand how to be passive.

     Then again, baby sister spent the first give years of her life at home with our mom. Mom is the Grand Master of the "Mumble & Martyr." To do the Mumble & Martyr is very simple. Many women seem to have mastered this act, but my mom is definitely the champion. She still does it to this day, I hear. Here's how it goes:
  1. First, grumble that the chore isn't done yet. It doesn't matter if nobody else is home, or if they're busy working, or if they're at school, or if they just plain didn't think about this chore because you always swoop in and do it. That does not matter. Just grumble that it's not done yet. What matters is the fact that YOU say it should be done NOW, and it ISN'T done now, so you must make it clear that you are annoyed that it wasn't done by now.
  2. Then, get angry that you're the one who's going to have to do that chore, right now. Clearly nobody else cares or else they would've done it by now. Take it personally that nobody helped you. Clearly they don't love you if they see you doing this but they don't help. Obviously they think you're their slave. They must have intentionally left that there so you'd see it and take care of it, especially since you've done it the last 10,000 times. Didn't they know that you were miserable those last 10,000 times? Don't they care? Those heartless, selfish bastards.
  3. Third, after sighing loudly and making as much noise as possible getting ready to do the chore, do it. Wash those dishes, put away that laundry, gather up dirty dishes or clothes. Not with a smile, oh no - that would be a loving act done with a humble heart out of love for your family. No way do they deserve that; they did this to you! Do it with a scowl, mumbling the entire time about how nobody takes care of their own stuff and how it's unfair that it all falls on you. 
  4. Finally, after you begrudgingly do the chore, make sure that everyone in the house knows you did it. After all, it's not called a "chore" for nothing, amirite ;-) ? Tell everyone that you did the dishes. Tell them exactly how long it took. Tell them how many other times you've done that exact same chore. Under no circumstances should you make them do the dishes next time, or have them do a different chore to make up for it. No way should you make each person responsible for themselves, like adults. Just do it, then make them feel like shit for not having done it first. How else will they learn!?

     I used to be extremely passive. I'd hint at what I wanted. I'd ask people to babysit my kid by telling them I wanted to do something and later asking if they were busy that night, and then I'd get upset if they didn't get the hint. I'd drop signs to my boyfriend or my boss about what I wanted, and then I'd fume when they didn't grant me my wish. And that anger is what takes it from 'passive' to 'passive-aggressive.' Which is not a pretty color on anyone. Being passive and then getting angry about it is total bullshit. It's like getting mad at someone for something they said to you in a dream. You just seem like a psycho with very tenuous roots in reality.

If you can't man up enough to be direct, you do not get to be upset.

     Other people are not mind-readers. They don't owe you anything. And they aren't the ones who are responsible for YOUR choices.

Being passive is selfish. (I want something, but I don't want to ask someone for help, so I'm going to hold it all in and hope that they help me.)
It's impolite. (I don't trust people enough to be direct with them.)
It's presumptuous.  (They should be able to read my mind!)
It's immature. (I shouldn't HAVE to say it! THEY should KNOW!)

How to stop being a passive dickbag:
  1. Go to the person that you are requesting something from.
  2. Calmly state your need.
  3. Ask them for their help.
  4. Thank them, regardless of their answer.
    That's it. No, really, it's that simple. The very worst that can happen if you're direct is that someone will say, "No." The worst that can happen if you're passive, on the other hand, is that people will actually pick up on the hints you're dropping, turn you down, and then resent you or look down on you for behaving like a teenage girl. And that hurts. Don't do that to yourself. Don't do that to the people you love. Don't do that to your children.

Be a fucking adult. Be direct.

    Friday, February 28, 2014

    My "Frozen" Child

    About a month ago, my 8-year-old daughter started taking an acting/singing workshop in which the teacher chose "Let It Go" from the movie Frozen as their group song. My daughter became a bit obsessed with the song, watching the YouTube video a dozen times a day and singing it constantly. It's a catchy song, so of course I've started singing it as well. The lyrics struck me as interesting, so I was excited to go see the movie this weekend.

    If you just watch the music video for the song, you can assume that the song is about a moment where a girl finds her ability to control her power to make ice and snow, and she becomes free in her ability to experiment and be herself, on her own, without hurting anyone. In the movie, this is the case, but the song is so much more than that. A few of the most intense lyrics carry over so much into the struggles that many people face.

    "Conceal, don't feel, don't let it show." This can be taken literally: "Conceal your powers, don't feel things without gloves on, don't let your powers show" as is the case in the movie, where Elsa loses control of her ability to freeze things and ends up hurting people on accident, out of fear.

    But of course, there's a deeper meaning. How many of us have struggled with hiding, not allowing ourselves to feel, putting up walls?

    "It's time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through. No right, no wrong, no rules for me. I'm free."   A great thought, initially, until you realize that there's no situation in which there's no right, no wrong, and no rules. And a life alone, of slamming the door behind you so nobody gets hurt, isn't freedom. It's a prison.

    We arrived home from the movie and discussed the situation in which this song was played. Whereas initially that song seemed so empowering, so enlightening, it was really just a glimpse into the gray area between loving people by protecting them, and loving them by letting them in.

    My daughter struggles very badly with self-control. I believe she has a form of OCD, but it's more than that. She's defiant. She's headstrong. She's disrespectful. We don't allow disrespectful behavior at home, but it crops up at school, and sometimes it carries over at the end of the day. Moreso lately than ever before. Tonight was one of those nights. Every single evening, it seems, she's shocked at the fact that she needs to 1) brush her teeth before bed and 2) go to bed. Tonight was no different. She tried to sucker her way out of the teeth-brushing in a cutesy way and I wasn't having it.

    This turned into an hour-long saga: first I talked to her about how we all have to do things we don't want to do, and that we as parents were put in charge of her by God and that there's no way we're going to take that responsbility lightly. I then had her go brush her teeth. She wouldn't stand up. "I can't," she said. Right. She didn't want to. And when she's told to do something that she doesn't want to do, she lets it build into a huge monster obstacle that is trying to kill her. When she's told to do something she doesn't want to, she'll do it - but she'll do it on HER terms in HER way with HER own attitude. Which is *not* obeying. It's defying, while trying to get away with barely obeying. This was of course what she did tonight.

    I told her to walk to the bathroom. She crawled. So I told her to come back and stand up, and WALK to the bathroom. So she walked to the bathroom...while dragging her feet. I made her come back and do it again with a good attitude, without crawling or dragging her feet. So she stomped. I told her to come back and do it again, and she melted down. "I can't."

    So then we had a long talk about the anger monster that's inside of us when we get upset, and how it's hard but we have to breathe that anger out and let love in, we have to put that attitude aside and choose to be respectful. She again said she couldn't do it. And she crossed her arms and glared at me as she said that. So I made her stand up and look at me. I told her that I love her too much to let her anger take her over. I've been somewhat lax in the past with her - not anymore. I refuse to let her treat someone with disrespect. Not because it hurts them, but because it's bad for her.

    I stayed calm, held her hands as I talked to her, but I was stern when necessary. I told her she didn't have to walk all perky and sweet, if she was still upset. Nobody's expecting perfection. But she is not permitted to stomp, lift her head, crawl, drag her feet, or otherwise do what we're asking while still managing to defy us. She can walk to the bathroom in a neutral fashion with neither a good nor a bad attitude. She asked what that would look like, and I showed her. She again refused to do it.

    I made her stand and talk to me. I told her again how I will not let her have a frozen heart (another analogy borrowed from the movie for our talk tonight). I will break her bad attitude so that she can be the wonderful, strong, loving girl I know she is. I told her, as she stood there glaring at me, that I love her. I told her that I will absolutely not allow her to be disrespectful because it's not good for her. There are many ways that parents can break that habit. They can smack a child in the mouth when they talk back - which is what would've happened to my generation when we were kids. The parents can remove TV/internet privileges. They can throw toys away. At this she gasped and burst into tears again. "NO! That's not fair!" she wailed, sobbing harder with her little eyebrows furrowed.

    I looked her in her angry little eyes and reiterated what I'd just said: "There are things that we can do to get you to behave. I can and will spank you if necessary. I will remove toys or privileges if necessary. But I do not want to do those things, do you understand? You are a smart child. You understand when I talk and make analogies and give you options. So I will start with your mind, and explain things, and hopefully we won't have to resort to spanking, removing privileges, and throwing away toys. But trust me, I absolutely can make this very difficult for you if you choose to continually disobey."

    She seemed surprised that I had tricks up my sleeve, surprised that there were things I could do to actually get her to obey. She argued that spankings don't work and they don't even hurt, but backed off of that argument when I looked her in the eye and said, "Oh trust me, I can make it hurt. I absolutely can make you regret a bad choice. But that's not my choice on how to handle things with you at this age."

    She sighed and lamented how hard it is to control herself, how one bad choice leads to another. I pulled her onto my lap.

    "Julianna. You listen to me. I love you. I love your personality, your smile, the way you help everyone. I love how smart you are. I love that you are creative and can make anything out of anything. I love you. I love your bad choices. I love you in your anger. I love you on your bad days. I love your mistakes. I love your strong attitude and your bad attitude. I love that you have a mind smart enough to argue with me. I love you so very much that I will take you and love the heck out of you with ALL your mistakes and ALL your good qualities. And I love you so much that I will never stop fighting for you, not for a single second. I promise you that."

    She started to crack and fell onto my shoulders for a hug, sobbing openly but still upset.

    I had her stand back up. I know she was hurting because I was melting her down with my love, but I know that she also has a tendency to overdramatize to get out of punishment. Sorry, kid, but nobody's had me wrapped around their finger yet; isn't gonna start with you.

    So she stood again. I explained that it is our job as a parent to expect a lot from our kids, so that they can grow. I held up my hands at uneven heights:
    "This hand down here ___ is where you are, this other hand is where you need to be next ^^^. You will try to reach this goal - you'll run, you'll jump, you'll miss. You'll run, you'll jump, you'll miss again. And again. And again. Eventually, you'll reach this goal. And guess what we'll do then? We'll raise this bar again even higher up here ^^^, and you'll have to reach a new standard. You'll run, you'll jump, you'll miss. Again and again. Until you get it. And then we'll raise the bar again. Why do we do this, Julianna? Because guess what happens every time a kid runs and jumps and misses?"

    What, she asked.

    "Their legs get stronger. They learn how to try. They learn how to fail. They  learn what they're capable of. My job as a parent is to help you grow and learn and improve. You can't grow if I do everything for you, and you can't grow if you're here ^^^ and the bar is set down here ___. Or if you're here ____ and the bar is set down here where you're already at ____. You can only grow if you're here ____ and the bar is set way up here ^^^.

    "That is what we're here for. We don't set rules because we don't like who you are. We don't set rules because we want to make life hard on you. We don't set rules to make us feel like we're in charge of someone. We set rules because we were chosen to be your parents, and we have to do what's best for you. That means everything from having you brush your teeth every night, to teaching you to follow directions when you don't want to, to expecting you to do your own homework, to every difficult thing that you can imagine."

    She sobbed again. She was finally getting it. I don't think she'll ever be okay with being reprimanded. She's a spunky little fighter, and I love her for that. She's not going to become a victim, not on my watch. And I'm always watching. But she's also not going to become SUCH a fighter that she builds herself an ice castle and sends shards of icicles at everyone who comes to rescue her.

    I asked her again to go brush her teeth. She walked to the bathroom and brushed them, and I tucked her into bed with a hug and a kiss. Tonight was *NOT* easy. I cried. She cried. She felt that I was being mean. I wanted to slap her face. But we got through it. She's currently exhausted and snoring in the next room. What a day. What a kid.

    Thursday, January 23, 2014

    Hipster Kids

    I can't handle being friends with hipsters.

    First of all, the facial hair. Who decided it would be considered 'hip' (or whatever the hipster word for 'hip' is) to have sprouts of pubes growing out of your faces?

    Then, there are the clothes. The men dress like skinny girls, even if they're neither skinny nor girl, and the women shop in the teenage girls' department. Listen, hipsters: if I wanted to look like I hang out with men whose balls haven't dropped and prepubescent high school girls, I'd become a pedophile, okay? I'm all about having personal style, but when your personal style matches color-for-color, garment-for-garment the colors and garments of the scads of other twentysomethings who are lined up outside the same concert venue as you carrying the same chai latte as all your friends, that's not style. That's idiocy. A 30 year old's fashion accessories shouldn't be the same as my second-grade daughter's.

    Seriously, kids: you look like a Tim Burton film trying to casually dust off and stroll away after a violent collision with a Lisa Frank Trapper-Keeper.

    But worst of all is the up and down of the trends with these kids. They obsess over something for a year - mustaches, PBR, some random band who's not from the USA, an indy TV show that nobody else likes because it's awful but they like it because the jokes are funny in an unfunny way - and then suddenly they're over it, they're no longer interested, and you're uncool if you happen to still like it. Seriously? Did all these people suddenly become an aloof version of the insecure pretty girl in sixth grade who needs to be in on 'the next big thing' in order to like herself?

    Ugh. I just have no time for it. I wish someone would do a study on the income, spending habits, and work habits of anyone who's labelled as a hipster. I guarantee they all have Iphones, don't work 40 hours a week, and don't even pay rent to their parents.

    What a generation...

    Monday, January 13, 2014

    How to find the right neighborhood

    Are you trying to find a new place to live, and you need to know if an area is white trash poor, middle-income normal, or full of people so rich they could afford to purchase black-market organs without batting an eye (or going on a kidney donor list)?

    Are you scared of moving into a lovely area, only to discover that the local residents petition the Neighborhood Watch to stand guard outside your house simply because you drive a car that's more than 2 years old?

    Conversely, are you frightened that the neighborhood will turn into rape alley at nightfall and that you'll have to learn to fall asleep to the sounds of women and children screaming in terror outside your Quaint Suburban Ranch House with Wrap-Around Terrace?

    Search no more! I've created this handy little list of indicators so that you can visit an area just once to know whether this is a town in your desired income range.
    1. Pet Paradise

    Check for a presence of doggie day spas. No no, not for humans. Not boarding kennels. Day. Spas. For. Pets. Where you can send your pets to be pampered with massages, treats, and 'premium services' (puppy happy endings?) for a day or a weekend. If there are many of such spas in the area, approximately 95% of the local women are trophy wives. If there few to zero of these places, then it's likely that the local women have these crazy things called "jobs" and "mortgages" and maybe even "children." And if you have no idea what a pet spa is, congratulations, you're not ridiculous.

    2. Weed-free

    In the summer, do you see dandelions in yards? After moving from Pennsylvania’s Clearfield County, which is 6 spots away from the poorest in Pennsylvania, to the county that holds the top seat in terms of affluence and douchebaggery, my sister and I noticed that nobody around here has dandelions in their yards in the summer. It's like, not a thing. There is however a plethora of Mexicans mowing lawns and doing yard work at various businesses and residences. Although who knows; maybe Mexicans just hate dandelions and they pluck them out of their neighbors yards for aesthetics...after arriving by the dozen in one mid-size Ford truck...

    Okay, there’s nothing wrong with taking care of one’s lawn or hiring someone to do it (at fair wages). But I can promise you that families who are struggling to keep their electricity on have better things to do with their time (like work, sleep, and um, eat) and money (like keep their children clothed and um fed) than to meticulously and regularly groom their yards for perfection.
    3. High-End Cast-Offs

    Check the local Goodwill. If you see name brands like D&C, Prada, and Kate Moss, there’s a wealthy pocket of housewives nearby who have too much of their husbands’ money and not enough time on their hands.  Capitalize on this – one woman’s trash is another’s treasure. My local Goodwill sells Target overstock – meaning you walk in and see 3 dozen of the same dress in EVERY SIZE, and 55 pairs of the same weird purple Target heels on the shoe racks, unworn. Yeah baby.

    4. Artistic Flavor

    Is “art” a thing? A good indicator of an area’s prosperity is whether there is private funding for community art programs like community theater and art studios. Usually areas with these factors also have a nice variety of nightlife/concert venues available as well. It’s a sad thing, but in many small towns, there simply isn’t enough money to pay for anything that isn’t a necessity.

    5. Electronic Security

    And then there's the old stand-by - if there are bars on the windows, keep house-hunting... unless you like the late-night thrill of waking up to a guy trying to murder you because he ran out of his latest injectable and your face looked tasty. A "monitored by ADT" sign might be tacky, but it's not as tacky as having a neighbor who, you know, gets murdered for the $10 in his wallet.
    Happy house hunting!

    Chore Chart That's Actually Working - WTF

    When my daughter was in first grade, I posted a blog entry about our chore system, which was a cute, decorated large canning jar that kiddo could fill with marbles as she did chores. The chores were assigned a certain value (one marble for a shower, three for cleaning your room, etc), and once she filled up the jar, she was able to redeem it for a prize. At the time, the idea of filling up a jar for chores was a good idea for a kiddo so young, but now she's 8 years old and in second grade, and we've come to realize that responsibility and more strict guidelines help her out a lot more than a casual approach. We came up with a chore chart - a simple idea, but it's working really well for Juli.

    This chart helps Juli to see what needs to be done every day. She still has the option of not doing a task, but with more measurable consequences.  She must earn 70 points in a week to get her prize - an average of 10 checks per day, which is pretty easy since she'll definitely get 6 points per day since certain items are required (brushing teeth, for example). She can earn extra points at our discretion (as long as she doesn't ASK for them. We don't play that 'pat me on the back, please' game in our house!). Her prizes vary from a stuffed animal her grandpa mailed her, to a $5 item she picked out the week before at the store, to various other items that we've purchased/thought up and tucked away. So far she's earned her prize two weeks out of four.

    We also slipped in a little extra regarding laundry: she can take her entire laundry basket down to the laundry room once a week and get ONE check...or she can take an arm load down once a day and get a check. She gets another check if she sorts it out into the color-coded baskets. This means that she'll actually earn more points if she does it once a day, than if she does it once a week. The point in this is so that she'll get into the habit of doing this every single day, since it's a good habit.

    Her school has a stoplight system that many schools employ - the child starts the day on green and moves down to yellow or red with poor choices, or up to a few other colors (blue and purple i think) based on good choices. We had major problems with her hyperactivity/boredom due to already knowing the material. She was always getting in trouble. This system rewards her for every bump upwards that she gets - a check just for staying on green, which for Juli is a big accomplishment, and then additional checks for moving above green.

    On a side note, I had some problems with the various methods that her teacher used to try to motivate her to stay on 'green' because they weren't addressing WHY Juli was getting in trouble, it was just a bribe to try to get her to control a behavior she didn't know how to control. She'd come home, on red, and wouldn't remember how she got off green. So her teacher came up with one idea that finally worked: she keeps a notebook and any time Juli does something she shouldn't, the teacher writes down what she did with a minus sign; any time she's caught doing something without talking back/with a good attitude/etc, she gets a plus. This has actually helped Juli realize where she has problem areas, and she's now been making better choices. Before the notebook system, she was below green 3-5 days per week. Since the implementation of the notebook (3 weeks ago), she's been below green only once, and has actually gone above green for the first time all year, on five separate occasions. Hooray for methods that work!

    Wednesday, December 12, 2012

    My Eulogy

    A few weeks ago to Improv class, we did an exercise where we each got up and gave our own eulogy, either as a friend or family member or even as ourselves. I got up and said what I wanted someone to say about me, but I realized that there wasn't a soul in the world who knew those words. My fiance loves me and knows me well, as does my older sister. I know that the two of them would have a lot to say about who I was and what I wanted people to remember me for. But I don't know that anyone would have been able to say what was in my life's heartsong.

    I'll try to type my eulogy here, again, because it's important to me. But more urgent than that, I'll try to live my eulogy beforehand. I know that we all get caught up in the minutiae of life and sometimes don't realize that we've let our passions dissolve into our morning cup of coffee, but I don't want to live like that.

    What would your eulogy say? What would you have to change in order to live your life as you wish you should have?

    My Eulogy:

    Becky is gone, but today we talk about her life. She was many things: a daughter, a sister, a mother, a fiance, a writer, a talker, a geek. But one of the titles that she worked the hardest on, and that she cared about the most, was the title of "mother." She'd be the first to tell you that she was disorganized, forgetting to send out birthday party invitations until just days before her daughter's birthday, and forgetting to sign Julianna's homework in time. But she loved Julianna and had a burning desire to give that child the best possible life she could have.

    She often wrote letters to Julianna. She wrote this letter to her daughter in 2010 or 2011 before going into surgery:

    My dearest Julianna Nicole,
     You are a beautiful person, inside and out. I am so proud of the girl that you are and of the woman you will grow up to be. I want to remind you of a few things that you should always know: 
    • I love you.
      I love you because you’re you. I love who you are, and who you’ve become. I love you in your mistakes and in your perfection. I love you no matter what you do, no matter where you go or who you become. I love you, because you’re you. That cannot and will not change.
    • You are perfect just as you are.
      YOU are amazing. I need you to always know this, no matter what anyone says. YOU need you to always know this. Don’t worry about what other people say you should be, do, or look like. YOU make your choices to be, do, and look the way that YOU want to.
    • Stop. Look around.
      Sometimes as a grown-up, you will get caught up in the every-day things like going to work, doing laundry, and eating dinner. Never get so caught up that you don’t stop to appreciate what you have. Never get so caught up that you don’t stop to think about what your heart longs for. Enjoy life as it is, but don’t forget to follow your dreams.
    • Dream big for yourself, little one.
      Find out who you are (this is through trial and error) and discover your passions. Have little dreams about things you want to try, places you want to go. Have huge dreams about who you want to be, how you want to behave, what you would like to accomplish, what you would like your career to be, what family you envision yourself starting.
    • Dream big for the world.
      You can change the world if you try. You can change lives. Don’t ever make your life only about you. You can serve others with your actions. Trust me, it will feel good. Have little dreams about how you interact with people, how you help out, how you treat your friends and family. Have huge dreams about ending poverty, feeding the homeless, saving animals, or whatever cause makes your heart beat faster.
    • Make choices that you can be proud of.
      Remember, we will always make mistakes but we should always think before we do or say anything. Take time, think it through. If it is something you will regret, maybe you shouldn’t do it. If it is something you will regret and you still want to do it, that is your choice and it is okay to make that choice – however, know that YOU will be the one living with the consequences, and others may have to live with your choices as well. In that same vein…
    • You WILL make mistakes.
      You will make choices that you regret – some big, some small. But this is what you need to know: no matter what mistakes you make, you are forgiven. God forgives you and so do the people who love you. That is not a question. But, the hardest part is forgiving yourself. If you make a mistake, move on with your life. You aren’t going to make perfect choices but being angry with yourself or feeling sad won’t help you at all. You must choose to be kind to yourself. Allow room for error, and allow room in your own heart to forgive yourself, no matter what you do. Let me tell you a secret: over the course of a lifetime, every single person will make mistakes that they never, ever thought they would make. But not every person will have the strength of character to forgive themselves. You must forgive yourself.
    • Everyone is different, on the inside and on the outside. Know this. Accept this.
      Some people will be just like you. Some people will be very different. This is a wonderful thing. Surround yourself with people who have all different religious beliefs, political beliefs, ethnic backgrounds, lifestyles, and opinions. You will learn about the world and about yourself through these friends.
    • Be aware that it is truth, not opinion, that some people are beautiful inside, and some people are ugly inside. People who are ugly on the inside want other people to be ugly and unhappy, too. You should love them anyway, but do not let them change you to mirror their ugliness.
    • Never apologize for your opinions. If you really believe what you think you believe, stand behind yourself proudly, and enter discussions with people who believe what you believe, as well as with people who believe the opposite of, or differently than, what you believe.
    • Love. Love people. Show them that you love them. Help people, hug people, compliment people. No matter who they are, where they’ve been, or what they believe, every person deserves to be loved.
    • Love yourself. Do things that you enjoy. Take time to spoil yourself. Find people to share good times with. Treat yourself well and talk to yourself in the same way you would talk to a beloved friend. Don’t ever insult yourself or be mean to yourself, even in your head. Make a constant, concerted effort to always treat yourself with love and affection. Make it a requirement for you to be nice to yourself first – and if you are nice to yourself, you will probably be nice to others.
    • Examine yourself constantly. Be aware of who you are and who you appear to be. If you are personally not happy with what you see, change what you can change, and accept what you cannot change.
    • Try new things. Challenge yourself. Do things you never thought you could do. You will be surprised at what you enjoy, and what you can accomplish.
    • Find your art. Everyone has a way to express themselves. My art is words: I love to take an idea and craft into a well-thought-out paragraph, using words that mean exactly what I'm thinking, while expressing what I'm thinking in the tone that I intend to express it. It makes my eyebrows furrow, my heart race, and my soul sing. Some people paint, draw, sculpt, scrapbook, sing, dance, act, play instruments, write poetry, write stories, write articles, write letters…all to express themselves. There are probably a million more ways to express yourself artistically. Find yours. Find many, find few. But find an art.
    • QUESTION EVERYTHING. I know we are raising you to believe in God and Jesus. But, child of mine, DO NOT BELIEVE IN GOD until you have decided to believe in him yourself. Read the Bible. Read other religious books from around the world. Look at the facts. Examine your heart. Believe what you believe is right and true and good. Don’t believe in anything because someone told you to, or because everyone else does, or because it looks fun, or because you think it makes you look a certain way. Believe in what your heart truly agrees with. Whatever that is, for however long that is. I trust you to find something that feels right to you.
    • Don’t keep secrets from the people who love you. No matter the choices you make, you will always be better off if you share them with people who can help you work through them. Don’t ever close yourself off from people who love you. If you’re doing something that you want to keep to yourself, I understand. But you should still tell someone who cares about you, because nobody can be healthy while in isolation.
    • Find balance in everything. There can always be too much or too little of any one thing, but finding a happy medium is usually the healthiest choice. Oh - and please remember, you don't always have to be the MOST or the BEST or the BIGGEST at something. Just be perfect, wonderful Julianna Nicole.
     I love you infinity!*

    * "I love you infinity" is something we say to each other. It started when she was about three when I said, "I love you bigger than a house," which turned into a game of the biggest things we could name. Occasionally it switches to "i love you louder than a concert"-type comparisons, or numbers such as "I love you a hundred" back when she thought one hundred was a huge number. Eventually we run out of ways to "go bigger," so the first one to yell "I LOVE YOU INFINITY" wins.

    Becky just wanted her daughter, Julianna, to have a good life. Not good in terms of possessions, but good in terms of how she treated herself, how she lived her life.  Becky's goal was for Julianna to love herself, no matter what. As you know, Bec made many mistakes in her life, or things that seemed like mistakes at the time. You may not have known that Becky also was very hard on herself for those mistakes, for many years. Looking back, she saw that she had wasted a lot of time being mad at herself. So she wanted to teach Juli to forgive herself, to treat herself kindly, no matter what.

    She also wanted Juli to be adventurous. Becky herself was always a bit of a self-proclaimed sissy: she hated rollercoasters, driving fast, and even panicked when driving over water when she was younger. She didn't want Juli to grow up with those same fears. So she had Juli try new foods and new experiences. She intentionally talked up various activities, even homework, so that Julianna would approach those tasks with excitement, not hesitation. She viewed the world as an open game for her daughter to explore and play with.

    Becky also had things that she wanted all of us to know. She wished that we could all be more accepting of our own disparities. She spent years fighting against external stereotypes and cookie-cutter labels inside herself, even up until her end. She had always thought that, if you held a label, you had to be perfect at the one thing that you were calling yourself. It took years for her to learn that it's okay to be a hypocrite, it's okay to change your mind, it's okay to not be a standard member of any one group.

    Becky is gone, but if she could part with one concept, it would be this:
    Love yourself. Love your mistakes and your regrets. Love your dreams and your goals. Love your quirks and your inconsistencies. Because when you love all of yourself - not just the pretty parts, or the public parts, or the pre-planned parts, but all of you - you are then able to love others as well. You have to speak kindly to yourself in order to breathe kindness into the world.

    Love yourself.

    An old diary entry

    Found this in an old diary from 2009:
    why does everything feel so hopeless? why am I so constantly overwhelmed w/ despair that I can't cope w/ life? how do normal people handle their problems? Does every1 else fight w/ a constant urge to run away? constant feelings of inadequacy? the fear that "I'll ruin my own life" ? how come I feel emotion so intensely only for other people? how come I can't ask for things for myself? will I ever be able to feel like I'm an adult? do I avoid responsibility because I'm scared of failing? will I ever trust anyone to stay and can I stop pushing everyone away even though I so desperately want them in? am I a bad mother because of all of this?

    Boys don't cry, and girls don't play with worms

    Studies have shown that, even with no parental influence pushing children towards gender-specific toys, girls tend to favor "girl toys" such as dolls and dress-up clothes, and boys tend to favor "boy toys" such as blocks and trucks. Girls have been known to use sticks as dolls in some cultures, where boys use those same sticks to build and knock down structures. This is perfectly natural, and normal. Females have that natural nurturing instinct, boys like to play rough. That is as much a proven fact as the statement "men have stronger upper bodies, naturally" and "women are curvy." The genders are different, and that is a good thing.

    However, a problem arises when we tend to "genderize" our children's toys. How many times have you heard a dad say "Don't play with that, that's a girl toy!" to his son, or "Girls can't wear that color, it's only for boys. Sit down and act like a lady."? We've all heard it. But is it okay to say this to our children?

    Children need to explore in order to learn. They should be provided with toys that suit all genders and stereotypes. It is not only normal for a boy to try on a dress, "play house," and pretend to be his mommy, it's healthy. He's imitating someone he respects, he's exploring his feelings in a different role besides himself, he's learning to pretend, he's empathizing, he's using his imagination.

    It's healthy for a girl to play with trucks, climb on the jungle gym, and build block towers. She's role playing; she's exploring physics and cause-and-effect, she's fine-tuning her large- and fine-motor skills, and she's having fun.

    If a child doesn't have the freedom to explore gender roles, stereotypes, professions, and ideas, how will he ever come to know who he is? How will she perfect her motor skills? How will he be able to connect with people who are different than he is?

    Listen to me - no, listen to proven science and social studies: Your son will not "turn out gay" or "be ruined" or "be less of a man" if he wears pink, or holds baby dolls, or plays with girls. Your daughter will not "be a lesbian" or "have issues" if she loves Transformers and jumps off of the couch so often she bruises a rib, or - God forbid - learns to operate a weapon.

    When you try to squeeze your child into your ideal, or society's ideal, of his or her gender, you are teaching your child that --
    1. Who you want them to be is more important than who they already are.
    2. Trying new, different things is a bad idea.
    3. "Girls are bad" or "Boys are bad"
    4. It's not okay to be different.
    5. Who you are just isn't okay with some people, so you should change.
    You are also laying the groundwork for hatred. Hatred of others, hatred of cultural groups, hatred of oneself for "not fitting in." You are planting some very bad seeds in your child when you do this to them.

    So parents, give your son a doll - it might help him adjust to a future Big Brother role and make him more empathetic to other kids.  When your boy comes home crying, for goodness' sake, PLEASE, for the sake of his mental well-being, DO NOT tell him to "suck it up and be a man." Give him a hug, ask him what happened, and listen and empathize with him. Let him explore why he's crying, and what could have gone differently. Or just let him cry. Someday he may be a father with a son who happens to need a strong, sensitive role model to look up to and affirm that it's GOOD to be real about your emotions. Let your daughter buy those matchbox cars - she'll be driving someday, you know.

    When your daughter asks you how to shoot that AK-74 you've mounted on your living room wall, teach her the basic safety rules, buy her a pair of ear muffs that fit, and take her to the range. And maybe start her on a .22 for now :). When she doesn't cry over a sad movie, or want to brush her hair, or show interest in the same books, music, and movies her 'girlfriends' are into, ask her what she likes and find out why. You might discover a great band and find out that - hey, your daughter is actually kind of cool.

    When you're buying a birthday gift for a kid you barely know, don't be afraid to get blocks, animals, and cars for a girl, or books, dress-up clothes, and dollhouse toys for a boy. Their parents might not have bought it for them, but the kiddo may have wanted it all along and didn't know it.

    And let your little girl wear pink and dress like a princess. Let your boy play in the dirt and taste bugs. Let your kids spend countless hours building play-doh creations and laughing at the word "underwear." Let them be kids! Let them explore who they are and be proud of their own personalities, gender roles, and preferences. Give them this room to explore themselves, and I guarantee you're giving them a great shot at growing up to be confident, unique individuals who don't just follow the leader. (And guess who gets to take the credit then? You do.)

    Thursday, November 29, 2012

    Why I Don't Watch The News (written 5/2011)

    I wish I could block the rampant Ugly in the world. I am SO SICK of seeing and hearing about all of the bad news. I don't WANT to know that a child was murdered, or that a mom died, or that a house fire killed a family. I have nightmares & flashbacks, stomach aches and dizziness, from every traumatic incident that I encounter in my day, whether or not it is similar to what happened to me or my loved ones. There is no "block" button to turn off these ugly things. I hate it! I absolutely despise, detest, abhor the darkness, the ugliness that is everywhere.

    And I’m sick of the news channels, feeling that it’s their right to broadcast someone’s most private, painful moments. No, it is NOT our business that a Hollywood couple is divorcing. It is even LESS our business how the children are handling it. It is NOT okay for you to film or for me to view a family mourning in grief after their child was killed playing near a car. You newscasters, you heartless bastards…you sit there, feigning sorrow over a story you only care about because it gets you ratings. You jump on the public’s grief like vultures in the desert pounce on fresh meat. You prey on the hardships of others, and you do so gleefully.

    And the people who watch it, who don’t even bother to send up a prayer of comfort for the people in the grief…you are just as bad. The news station sells the horror, and you scamper right up and purchase it like a kid purchases cotton candy at a fair- gleeful and hungry, relishing every bite. You gawk when passing a car accident, and exhibit only the tiniest sliver of sorrow over a family’s deepest tragedy. You purchase this product called Bad News and you bring it into the world, and do not kid yourself: you are partially at fault for the insensitivity of the world.

    I don't watch the news. I absolutely never watch it, and I make a point of that…except at the gym the other night, during the last 20 minutes of my workout, I was unable to read anymore and my neck was killing me from looking anywhere but straight the TVs. I finally gave up for the sake of my spine and stared straight ahead, trying to block out the images I was seeing and failing miserably. I was “treated” to extremely graphic images showing the aftermath of a cock fighting ring...a graphic, pained retelling of a family's grief over a child who was killed playing in the family truck...or more Bin Laden images. Three televisions, all showcasing the Ugly and the Evil of the world. I chose instead to angle my pained neck and instead stare at the wall behind the hideously massive meathead lifting weights, but it was always there in my peripheral vision. Only my anger and disgust with the world propelled me through those last 20 minutes, but I don't know if I'm any better off for it.

    At least with printed media, I can click away or throw away the newspaper after viewing a headline. It's to the point where I can spot the words "dies" "murdered" "child" "year-old" "family" "tragedy" etc immediately and can turn away before I accidentally read more. But with visual media, or with people who feel it’s okay to talk about someone else’s tragedy as if it’s a soap opera,  I am subject to hearing about these travesties, these darknesses, these uglinesses that abound in our world and are perpetuated by people who find joy in discussing them.

    I simply cannot handle it. I am an unabashedly tomboyish chick, who can kick your butt in video games, and get my hands dirty with the boys. I speak fluent sarcasm and can eviscerate or fascinate you with my well-honed writing abilities. I am self-sufficient, intelligent, confident and opinionated. But I am also extremely romantic, girly to a fault, silly, forgetful, self-deprecating, and sensitive. I'm a mommy. I'm a woman. I'm definitely part dude, but I'm still a woman, and I'm still the sensitive person that I have finally allowed myself to be. I'm still the little girl who endured unspeakable tragedy in my childhood and therefore hurts for every tragedy I encounter in my adulthood. I like who I am. I like the mix of dark and light that I have allowed myself to become over the years. I like that I can slam out a 1200 on my SATs and lock my keys in the car afterwards. I like that I can shoot a pistol with my boyfriend on Saturday afternoon and cry about a sad movie that evening. I am 100% comfortable with the enigma that I am and I don't see why people feel the need to try and pigeonhole me into one end of the spectrum or the other. I am no longer that girl who is always an extreme. I am not as cut-and-dry as you want me to be. Stop trying to break me of being the person I have fought so hard to become.

    And it’s just not fair that I’m bombarded with the Ugly, everywhere. It’s not fair that people buy into it so wholeheartedly. It’s not fair that I have to endure nightmares and stomach aches and dizziness and terror just because someone felt that it was SOMEHOW okay for them to discuss a stranger's most painful moment. It’s not fair and it’s disgusting and I’m done. I want no part in it anymore.

    Wednesday, November 28, 2012

    Bucket List

    Like most moms, I don't really spend enough time on myself. As I noticed that I was depressed and bored with the minutiae of my life, I began to seek ways to break up the tedium.

    A few years ago, my friend Christa bought me this book called "You can do it! The merit badge handbook for grown-up girls." It's a really fun book with about 60 chapters, each chapter detailing a potential goal to accomplish - hobbies to try, dreams to pursue - and gives you a detailed way to try to accomplish this goal. Each chapter includes a "advice on how to get started" interview from someone experienced in that field, realistic checklists on how to get started, list on potential steps you might want to achieve (how to just try it out, how to get good at it, how to do it as a career), and a list of resources (websites, books, magazines, organizations) to check out for more information.

    I've been tackling this book for the past month or two, chapter by chapter as they interest me. (I skipped right over "Starting a rock band" and "quilting" because they're of no interest to me, for example.) It's a really cute book, and it's definitely come a long way toward giving me a clearer picture of the goals I want to accomplish in my lifetime.

    So, in the name of trying something new, this is the list I've made both from the book directly and inspired by my hobbies. These are things I want to do someday:

    1. Write a novel. Complete it.
    2. Get published online - opinion pieces, satire pieces, short stories
    3. Knit a damn scarf and actually finish it and wear it
    4. Tour America by car. Visit the Grand Canyons, the Pacific Ocean, and the Great Lakes for the first time. Revisit Yellowstone, Devil's Tower, the Black Hills, New England, and the deep south again. Mingle with the locals. Pick up an accent temporarily.
    5. Write my life story. Let people read it. - WORKING ON THIS SLOWLY AND IN PIECES
    6. Try out for a play - community theater
    7. Act in a play
    8. Take an improv class - DOING THIS NOW!
    9. Take singing lessons
    10. Take a bellydance class - they have these at the YMCA for only $15/8 weeks and it's a blast, I hear
    11. Sing karaoke, in public. This terrifies me.
    12. Learn a new language - I'm thinking German
    13. Join the NRA. Buy a gun and practice target shooting. Become proficient with its use. GOT MY SMITH & WESSON M&P COMPACT 9MM IN 2013. RECEIVED MY CONCEALED CARRY PERMIT IN 2013.
    14. Learn to play pool 
    15. Play guitar again
    17. Sell some of the jewelry I've made - somewhere, anywhere
    18. Attend wine tastings. Discover which wines I love
    19. Throw a truly great party - wedding?
    20. Learn to play chess
    21. Try yoga - I'm gonna fart, I know it
    22. Go fishing with Dan's Granddad
    23. Be comfortable with jogging in public
    24. Learn to change my car's oil and do other routine maintenance
    25. Go camping. Sleep in a tent, build our own fire, fish and relax for days. Don't die.
    26. Discover my family tree on both sides; trace my lineage back as far as possible
    27. Learn to salsa dance - might as well put these hips and this Mexican heritage to good use
    28. Learn to swing dance. Again, hips.
    29. Visit Europe, don't die in a bathtub full of ice without my internal organs
    30. Go to a concert festival
    31. Go hunting with my dad
    32. Read through the classics that I haven't read before
    33. Give a public speech with a large audience, just to feel the rush
    34. Study a topic that interests me. Write reports on that topic. I miss college.
    35. Buy a brand new car, be the first person to drive it
    36. Go scuba diving; don't get eaten by a shark or other marine creatures
    37. Buy a house with my man. Make it our own.
    38. Re-pierce my nose or dye my hair a crazy color
    39. Spend a day at the spa and truly relax. Bridesmaids, you in?
    40. Learn painting techniques. Attempt to paint something half-decent
    41. Learn to play poker
    42. Go on a cruise  - this is what we plan to do for our honeymoon
    43. Spend a weekend away at a nice hotel. Drink, sleep in, have loud sex, wear comfy robes, steal the toilet paper.
    44. Go to a major league baseball game and a Steelers game
    45. Pay off my student loans - almost there!
    46. Set up an investment portfolio. Profit at least $5 when it's all said and done.
    47. Get front row seats to a band I truly love (done this with a few bands such as The Airborne Toxic Event - thanks Luke! I'm still sad that you were sick for this - but I want to do it with more!)
    48. Sponsor a child and actually make the payments. Sorry, Abusa from Ethiopia! I hope you're still alive.
    49. Drive a boat. Steer a boat? Whatever it's called. I'M ON A BOAT.
    50. Go to a good play on Broadway
    So, who's doing what with me? And what's on your bucket list?

    Tuesday, November 27, 2012


    Yesterday I was working out at the YMCA. I did a 30 minute circuit of strength training on my core, and then I moved to the elliptical. I had about 40 minutes until I had to pick my daughter up from school, so I set it for a 30-minute workout and picked the machine in the back corner.

    I was shaky because I had really worked my abs, but I felt good. I love the rush that comes from a good, hard workout on the strength training circuit. But I needed to balance it with some cardio so I could go home sweaty and exhausted. So I got on the elliptical and threw on Pandora's "Pop Fitness" station.

    I always use the "interval" setting on the elliptical because my personal trainer explained the benefits of doing interval: you pump up your heart and get working hard on the high section, and then you cool down on the low section. This lets you work out longer and gives your heart a much harder workout in a shorter time. It works really well for me because I like the regular breaks, and I feel accomplished every time I make it through a section. On the other programs that come on the machines, I get tired more quickly and slow down more regularly. With intervals, I get tired right at the end of the high-intensity section and then I get to cool down and relax. About 20 seconds from the end of the low-intensity section, I feel ready to go through a high section again. It works perfectly.

    On high intensity, I jack the incline up to 10-15 with resistance around 10, and on the low intensity interval I keep the incline at about 4 or flat with about a 4-5 intensity. I find that moving it to a flat incline uses completely different muscles than an incline so I like switching it up so my legs don't get to enjoy muscle memory.

    During the low section, if I'm having a kickass day, I tend to try to focus on my core while doing low-intensity reps. I take my hands off the bars and hold them in a punching stance which causes my abs to stabilize me. It also makes me feel more of a burn in my thighs. Sometimes I lower the intensity down to a 1 so that the movement is extremely easy to do, which causes my abs to work even harder to stabilize me. Then on the high intensity, I don't hold the bars; I instead put my hands on them with an open fist so that I can keep my balance and get an arm workout without using my arms to do the work my legs are supposed to be doing. Needless to say, my abs and arms are sore as hell today. It's great.

    Anyway - this super crazy thing happened yesterday. Rihanna's "We Found Love" was playing. I hate her voice, I hate that song, but it definitely has a great beat for a good workout. I was about 1/3 of the way through a high-intensity section, basically jogging and pumping my arms like a psycho, when that part came on. You 3:36 in this video: . It just kept going and going and freaking going, and I had it in my head that I wouldn't stop pounding it hard until that section reached its crescendo. Probably because I thought that section was only about 8-16 beats.

    So I kept at it. Finally, what felt like 40 beats later, the song went back to the chorus.

    And as soon as that part finished and I was able to mentally slow down a tiny bit, I felt this HUGE rush come over me. A chill went from my head all the way down my spine, and I felt this sudden.... I don't know how to explain it without sounding stupid... I felt this sudden rush of anger or arrogance mixed with this feeling of invulnerability. I'm glad nobody was watching me because I think I looked ridiculous. I looked at the machine and pretty much scoffed at it, thinking "You don't win this time. Bitch. I conquered you." I think it was a rush of testosterone, or adrenaline, and it was amazing. The high that I got at that moment powered me through the rest of the workout and into the rest of my evening. I felt like I had conquered the world by pushing through the pain that I was in. My body didn't let me down. I felt strong and in charge and un-defeatable. It was friggin' amazing.

    I have no doubt that the music itself helped to fuel the emotional response that I felt at that moment. The building and building and eventual cresting of that section felt like a jet pack on my back to get through it. I need to listen to more music like this while I work out, music with predictable, hard beats and intense ups. Suggestions welcome.

    It's been about 12 hours and I still feel like I'm the king of the friggin' world. But oh man, am I sore.

    Thursday, October 18, 2012

    Re-Evaluating Friendships

    I have a lifelong habit of keeping bad friendships in my life. As a people-pleaser who's constantly fighting a battle with my self-esteem, I have repeatedly fallen into the trap of making friends with people that I don't actually like. I've had friends whose personalities run the gamut between indifferent and abusive. I've had friends who know nothing about me, friends who don't care when I'm down, friends who are too busy for me. I've been there for people who only think about me when I'm around, who wouldn't care if I got into a car accident, or who are embarrassed by me.

    I stayed in these friendships and relationships because I didn't value myself. I thought that these people were as good as it gets. I thought that 'some friends are better than no friends!' and I still struggle with that silly mentality. But over the past few years, I've been taking strides toward improving my life. I've taken a holistic approach, improving various aspects of my life. I've improved my diet and have been getting into good exercise habits. I've tried new things and have taken up new hobbies. I've spoken up for myself at work and with acquaintances. I've gotten more organized and less lazy (this one comes and goes...). And I've also started re-evaluating my friendships.

    I've come to realize that I tend to befriend the same types of people:
    • Talkers who only want me around when they need someone to listen to their problems. These are the high-stress people. I make a good friend to them because I like to listen and I know how to commiserate. But they don't usually reciprocate as good friends to me.
    • People with no other friends, who lean on me for everything. I feel guilty if I don't hang out with them often enough because they haven't taken steps to meet other people.
    • Negative people who always seem to want to argue about the most insignificant things, and who never seem to have a good word to say about anything. These people just seem dissatisfied with themselves or with their lives, and it comes out in their attitudes.
     I realize that these friendships are detrimental to my mental health and to my happiness. I've taken some steps to cut those people out of my life. For example, I ended a friendship with an acquaintance that I see regularly through work, because the 'friendship' was just filled with resentment, argumentativeness, and anger. We constantly argued and were only nice when we were having very casual discussions. Anything more intense than casual (like subjects such as politics, religion, science, feelings, or even I.T., etc) became ugly, heated arguments. This friend took everything that I said as a personal attack, though that wasn't my intention. I was constantly defending myself and then accusing the friend of doing and saying hurtful things. It was exhausting and I repeatedly tried to back off, but we kept falling back into a casual friendship. It was absolutely strained and exhausting. We've now stopped speaking altogether because anything in between was just a nightmare.

    This year on facebook, I finally unfriended someone I used to call my best friend. She and I used to have a lot in common - beliefs, backgrounds, family situations. We had different personalities - she was everyone's darling, who never said a word against anyone (and never stood up for me when her other friends insulted me to her). But time changes people. Now she's part-silicon and appears to be nothing of the person I used to know. Her facebook was full of humble-brags about how she got hit on constantly, about how often she worked out (to keep her boxy figure), about how great of a mother she was (although she always hated kids and never wanted any). Back when we were friends, everyone thought she was a sweet, likeable person. But I knew her very intimately, and I saw her without her mask. In reality she was actually quite condescending, extraordinarily narcissistic, and not at all loyal. Removing her from my facebook friends list was one of the most liberating things I've done in awhile. It was like I was finally standing up for Younger Me, saying "You don't need people like this. You never did, and you never will. End the charade." She probably didn't even notice I was gone from her friends list.

    I unfriended my daughter's father, because the sight of him makes me remember how badly I've treated myself over the years that I was with him. I put up with so much verbal and emotional abuse from him, and more manipulation than should be possible to tolerate.

    Friendships and acquaintances like the ones I endured above are simply not worth the stress.

    So I've asked myself: What do I want from a friend? And the answers weren't surprising, but the lack of true friends within that criteria depressed me.
    • I want friends who are interested in my life. Just typing this makes me cringe because it makes me feel arrogant and selfish. But that's a false mentality. In fact, everyone (including me, damnit) deserves a friend who genuinely cares about her hardships.
    • I want friends that I have something in common with. I don't need someone who shares all the same hobbies or beliefs as me; that's not what I mean. But too often I've found myself calling people "friend" despite the fact that not only do we have nothing in common, we also have nothing to talk about. I don't know how I become friends with these people, but they're not worth the awkwardness. I need people that, even if we don't have any similar hobbies, we have similar personalities and can talk about things that we both care about, we can joke around, and we can have fun being together.
    • I want friends that are fun. I want people who want to go places, who want to try new things, people who are upbeat and fun to be around. I'm not saying I need wild party people, but I don't want to surround myself with people who just want to hole up and watch TV or something.  I want friends who like themselves and who like to have fun.

    Since I started trying to treat myself better, I've managed to make a few healthy friendships through church, friend-of-a-friend meetings, and through family:
    • Clever, interesting artsy people who never spill judgmental bullshit, and who expand my worldview. These are my girls who are there for me when life is boring, when life is insane, and when we all just want to sit around BSing. I don't see them often enough because none are very local, but when they are around, life is sweet.
    •  Balanced, calm people who can logically pull things apart and explain the nuances of various viewpoints without being condescending - mainly, my fiance. His logic and calm are such a powerful presence in my life every day. Another great friend lives about an hour away but we go to some shows and events together, and it's always nice when he's around.
    • Extended family that I can talk and empathize with about our crazy families and our kiddos.
    I'm hoping that by treating myself better - by not chastising myself for admitting that I deserve happiness - that I can step out and make friends with people who are good to me and who will let me be good to them in return. I'm hoping that I can somehow kindly end the crappy friendships or let them fade away. I'm hoping that in a few years of treating myself like I'm worth happiness - AND I AM - that I can find happiness in my choices. Here's to hoping!

    Tuesday, October 16, 2012

    A Church Sign Double-Whammy!

    My favorite church has a double-sided sign, and yesterday I actually pulled over to take a picture because the irony was just too great. I'm sure I'm using the term "irony" incorrectly but I don't even care. This is too good.

    On one side, the sign says, "To belittle is to be little." Basically, they're saying that if you insult and belittle people, you are weak. A fair point. 

    But then on the other side, they actually belittle you as you drive by:

    "If you are unkind, you are the wrong kind." I get it - they're trying to make a play on words and give a little inspirational message about kindness. But using your church's billboard to call passersby "wrong" is probably not the best way to get them to step inside your doors. It probably IS the best way to get them to roll their eyes and join a cult. Probably. I dunno.

    I've proposed some alternate church signs that they'll probably use in the future, if they finally decide to stop beating around the bush.

    Romans 8:31, Victory Baptist Style.

    Verily, verily, I sayeth unto thee, thou shalt speaketh in terminology that confuseth the average man so that he might see the errors of his ways and come unto you, humbled, and shall be washed in the blood of the lamb. Macbeth.

    Monday, October 15, 2012

    Cohabiting: Is it okay?

    As an unmarried mother, I've endured plenty of judgmental comments from people, both Christian and non-Christians alike, because I'm not married to my child's father. I've also gotten comments because I "claim to be a Christian," yet I live with the man I love despite the fact that we aren't married. My best friend was recently insulted at her bank, where the bank employee essentially told her that having a joint bank account with someone you're not married to is a major risk - strongly implying that any issues with her joint bank account that she has with her boyfriend are a result of them being unmarried. This same best friend was also insulted by a former close friend that she used to nanny for, who made her feel like a bad Christian for living with her boyfriend before marriage. I myself have been lectured, insulted, and have received various 'loving hints' from Christians about how I'm clearly not trusting in God  because I'm living with my fiance before marriage.

    It turns out, those Christians who insulted me were right. These are the things I've learned from searching the internet for websites debunking Cohabiting as being non-Biblical:

    1. Every time a couple lives together before marriage, they have sex. The term "cohabiting" (living together) is absolutely synonymous with "sex before marriage," 100% of the time. According to this website, at least.  If you live with your boyfriend or girlfriend, you're gonna bang, even if you've decided not to. I think there's like, an evil demon-elf that sneaks in to cohabiting couples' houses and makes them 'do it' when they're asleep. I hear it doesn't feel as nice as when you're awake but at least the little guy cleans up for you both afterward.
    2. People who live together before marriage are bad with money.  Obviously you moved in together because it was more affordable, but "the majority of cohabitants do eventually break up and economics are obviously not an overwhelming impediment then, so why allow it to become a controlling factor from the start[?]"  Basically, you moved in together to save money, but you WILL split up, and money doesn't keep you together then, so you're stupid and bad with money.
    3. Conversely, when you get married, you automatically become good with money. You never overdraw your checking account, and you always pay all of your bills on time. You always consult one another and various websites and experts before making any financial decisions, and you never regret purchases. Marriage is awesome for your wallet! And financial problems are definitely not the number one reason for divorce. Nope.
    4. Living together is an insult to the institution of marriage. And interesting note about that institution: you and I were probably unaware of this, but even when Jesus was walking the earth, people were actually still required to get a certificate of marriage in the United States of America. Their marriages were only valid with that certificate from the U.S. government. All marriages that took place without a United States Certificate of Marriage were invalid. Pretty cool, eh? Go 'merica!
    5. Living together before marriage is stupid. Trying anything out before you 'buy' it is obviously a bad idea. Anyone who has purchased a car sight-unseen from Craigslist can attest that if something appears to be great upon first sight, it's going to be great; no questions.

      Obviously, if you both love God, then you're 100% perfect for each other. Personality differences, personal beliefs, financial differences, sexual mis-matches, bad habits, and other incompatibilities don't exist. All it takes to make a marriage work is for it to be "right in God's eyes" which means that you have a United States Certificate of Marriage BEFORE you get naked together. Even if he's verbally abusive or an alcoholic, or if she's a withholding jerk or if she has emotional issues that cause her to be unstable, it doesn't matter. Because you are married in God's eyes! Make it work!

      Trust me, every single thing that you need to know about the person you're dating can be ascertained without having to commit the atrocity of living together. You actually don't ever need to set foot inside of the same building as your partner. Simply ask your partner's mother if they were neat and tidy, and quiz your partner's exes and you'll know everything you need to know about how easy this person is to live with. You don't need to be a heathen to find out if you're compatible!
    6. The issues that plague non-married couples don't even affect married couples. There have been 0 documented cases of abusive husbands in the history of mankind; there are only abusive boyfriends. Never in history has a man treated his wife badly. Not once has a wife cried herself to sleep due to abject loneliness. That kind of thing only happens to the Unmarrieds (especially The Gays).
    7. If you marry someone, you automatically become sexually compatible. I know I have never met a married couple where the man wanted sex more than his wife was willing to give it to him, and who either felt lonely or gypped or cheated because of this. That simply doesn't happen. Apparently when both parties put on their matching wedding rings, a special hormone is released in each person's Dirty-Before-Marriage Parts that causes instant, whole, complete sexual attraction and compatibility, forever and ever, til death do they part.
    8. If you were such a heathen that you had kids before marriage, your bastard child will automatically become a menace to society with no moral basis and no ability to contribute to society. Keep your legs closed until after marriage or you'll give birth to the next Hitler or Housewife of New Jersey.
    9. Until you have a marriage ceremony, you're not committed to one another. You're only kinda-sorta-barely-into-each-other. Only people who have paid for a $20,000 party complete with flowers and catered meals are committed to each other. Everyone else is a jackass who's faking it.
    10. Remember that kid in your Biology class who threw off the curve for everyone else, because he studied or was a friggin' genius and somehow managed to get like a 99% when everyone else got like a 72%? You hated that asshole because, if he hadn't scored so high, everyone would've gotten a better bump in their scores. But because that jerk was so smart, everyone else was screwed.

      People who live together before marriage are just like that jerk who scored so high. You see, they don't have to do all the stuff that the "good" students of marriage did. They didn't stay pure until marriage (because as we noted above, every couple living together before marriage always screws like bunnies, like 30 times a day), they didn't go bankrupt to hold a wedding, they didn't wait to kiss until their wedding day. They cheated, and they still get all the benefits of a relationship! That's NOT FAIR! HOW DARE THEY still claim to be happy, despite the fact that they aren't legally married? How DARE they pretend that they're emotionally fulfilled with their partners? It's disgusting.
    So basically, if you even THINK of living together before marriage, you:

    1. Are slutty
    2. Are definitely bad with money
    3. Are a bad Christian
    4. Are a bad American
    5. Have no faith in God to pay your bills for you
    6. Are too concerned with sex to be a good spouse anyway
    7. Are destined to have a child out of wedlock
    8. Are a bad parent
    9. Are uncommitted to one another
    10. Are cheating at life.