#METOO

I have thought about writing on this for a while now, however, my thoughts on the direction of the submission continue to change.  Today, I am grappling with the people making excuses for the predator’s behaviour.  “It was a different time” just isn’t cutting it with me.

Here’s the thing — yes, it was a different time.  For some things, this actually has some merit, little, but some merit.  I’m talking about things that didn’t inflict physical harm.  So, telling off-color, inappropriate jokes was more accepted.  It was never right.  So, telling an inappropriate joke in mixed company made someone uncomfortable, even 50 years ago, it was just not acceptable to say anything about it.  Dinner parties where the boss hugs all the wives of his employees (yeah, cuz they were mostly male employees) was more accepted, yes.  It was probably often done in a friendly and appropriate way.  It was, however, also done in an invasive, predatory way and made that recipient of the predatory behaviour uncomfortable.  It was a different time–that’s for sure.

It was a different time because there was nothing and no one to back up someone who complained or turned someone in for this unacceptable behaviour!  You lost your job.  Or it got worse.  You were bullied.  Your husband lost his job.  You were labeled in an entire industry as a troublemaker.  So, you looked the other way.  You tolerated the bad behaviour.   It was also, truly, a good ole boys club.  You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

So, while we’re chastising women for coming out with their stories “years later” and saying “it was a different time” and “oh, the poor men, it’s like a witchhunt’ and ” we’re taking away their masculinity”—why aren’t we holding ALL those that knew what was going on for not standing up and saying something?  People knew about just about all of it.  Ignoring it, is supporting it, it’s participation.  It’s even worse if they ignored for a promotion or some material possession.  Completely unacceptable.  OH, now you’re going to say what about them losing their jobs…..well, hmmmm if you expect the person who was violated to step forward, certainly that applies to the witness….I mean, possibly even more so!

It was a different time.  A time when women had less of a voice.  When women had less power.  When women were barely past being able to vote and being the property of their husbands.  Sexual harassment and sexual assault have never been okay.  And it is not only in one industry, so stop that “go get another job” bullshit!  My sister-in-law is a teller and had to deal with it from a customer just last fall.  Should she find a new career?

It.  Happens.  Everywhere.

It is still happening.  It happened to my daughter in a job at age 19.  And you know what, no one stood up for her.

So, while it is probably uncomfortable for people to hear all these stories and it seems like men are just getting attacked left and right for being predatory, it really isn’t the same as actually being attacked.  It isn’t the same as being not so far out being owned by your father or husband.  We should all be feminists.  We should all be fighting for the equality of everyone.

It makes me wonder why the women who sit around and say “oh it was a different time” or “it’s because of the porn” or it’s because of whatever, say all these horrible things and attack people already dealing with a horrible situation.  I am beginning to think it’s probably mostly because it happened to them and it makes them feel better to think it was a different time.  Or the people who knew it was going on—it makes them feel better for not standing up for what the knew was wrong!

Start with yourself.   Then start with your family.  I have always raised my kids to do the right thing, even if it means you stand alone.  I am sure there were times in their childhood where they took an easier path, because none of us are perfect, for the most part they did what is right, they stood up when they needed to and put themselves on the line, to help people in need.  They were also raised to get consent.  We all need to stop letting things slide.  It’s uncomfortable to call someone out on their bad behaviour!  It’s not easy to tell your friends and family to stop calling their neighbor that they’re complaining about “the Mexicans.”  How ever the neighbors are behaving is NOT about their ethnicity!  I know this because I have the same issue and my neighbors are white!  Stop laughing at jokes that are inappropriate.  Stop acting like it’s okay when your 50 year old friend gawks and leers at some teenage girl or young woman.  It’s creepy and gross.

Doing the right thing is rarely the easy thing!

 

 

Enough!

Something I have learned over the last decade or so—If you stop initiating the connection in your relationships, very few people (if any) will put in the work to pick up the slack or find out what is wrong.  

It is an efficient, yet shocking way to find out what you mean to people.  There are potentially other reasons they don’t reach out or make efforts, but the bottom line is you are obviously not as important to them as you thought and/or as important to them as they were to you.  However, it isn’t usually that simple.  If it ends there, consider yourself lucky.  Often what happens next is they lash out, blame and accuse you of abandoning them, of being a crappy person, friend, son, daughter or whatever.

I am still unsure if they are that self-absorbed, stupid, entitled, or something I’ve yet to uncover.

Now you have to make some decisions.  Do you want to have a relationship with this person?  In either of the above situations, clearly it isn’t a healthy relationship.  What is it costing you to maintain these relationships?  Your health?  Your self-esteem?  Immense amounts of time?

How do you feel after not putting out all the effort for a while?  How are you feeling not interacting with them?  Are you devastated or relieved?  Has your stress level gone down?  Do you have more time to do what is important to you because you are no longer managing these relationships?

Relationship: the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.  

Relationships by definition require two people.  I would add they also require participation and effort from both people to be a genuine relationship based on respect, love and kindness.

In my own life I have experienced this in several different ways in the past decade with friends, extended family, and most recently with my own parents.  While I find it sad that this is happening and has happened, I also feel that I am enough.  I am worthy of love.  I am worthy of effort.  I am worthy of thoughtfulness and consideration.  I am worthy just as I am.  And if all these people don’t get that, I am better off without them.  

It has taken me a long time to realize my worth.  It has taken me a long time to realize that I am worthy of love whether or not I manage these relationships.  I have been tired for a very long time.  Tired from giving and emptying my well without it being refilled.  I am more than enough just the way I am.

Independent, Free-thinking Children are the BEST

Do you have the kind of relationship with your children where they are allowed to be individuals, think for themselves and form their own opinions – even if, or especially if they differ from yours?  Well, I do.  If you do have this kind of relationship with your children, you might experience more of them wanting to assert their individuality or their own style and many other things. 

This is a good thing!!  They are not sheep!!  You shouldn’t want to be raising sheep.  Sheep don’t function well in the wide, wide world.  Oh yes, it is a challenge, raising these free-thinking individuals.  It is also a challenge to let them express themselves when you constantly run into or are surrounded by the people who prefer you raise sheep.

The beauty of a blog is that I don’t have to be vague.  I am speaking of the people who make fun of or tease your daughter for wearing basketball shorts and t-shirts, because they are “boys clothes.”  Or the people who make fun of your boys for having long hair.  Even now, in 2018.

For the love of all that’s holy, maybe said daughter LIKED basketball shorts or wasn’t ready for her legs and ass to be stared at by creepy men all the time.  And the hair, I don’t even know where to start here.  Maybe you’re jealous.  Demented.  I mean Jesus had long hair.  I just don’t know why you think your #2 shaved head is anything to be superior about.  

The crux of my issue here, is that most of the shit that gets spewed towards people expressing any individuality is from the people closest to them.  The people who are supposed to love your children, who are-in fact- supposed to protect your children in your absence.  These are the critical people.  These people are now the problem.  And the truth is they are sheep, raising sheep. Right?  Because if you are making fun of people constantly in front of your children, are they going to speak up and say “I want long hair.  I want to wear only black this week.  I want my ears pierced. etc”  Actually, no, they aren’t.  So, therefore sheep.  

It’s another in a long line of “shake it off” or “they’re just kidding” when really, Uncle Neal is being an asshole and we should call him out on his judgemental passive-aggressive ass!!

So, stop tolerating this.  Stop making your children endure this.  Stick up for them.  Or at least stop subjecting them to these people very often.  And don’t make excuses for this behavior.  It’s all opinion! These people aren’t right!  Once again I am brought back to the golden rule~ “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” OR “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

I’m super proud I didn’t raise sheep.  They are high-functioning, respectful individuals who all have their own opinions and don’t always agree with me, YAY!  

Be True To YOU

For far too many years I put others before me.  Their feelings, their wishes, what I thought was best for them, what I thought was supposed to be.  It’s all on me.  It’s all technically been my choice.

I have also spent far too many years trying to please everyone.  Is it the same thing?  Not quite, I don’t think.

I spent too much time trying to make things perfect.  Or what I thought was perfect or supposed to be.  I know it wasn’t perfect or what was supposed to be because my children, when they were old enough, stopped me.  It wasn’t perfect for them and they knew it wasn’t perfect for me.

So began my journey towards choosing me!  Doing what was right for me!   And in turn what was best for my family.

What was so confusing was I constantly taught my kids to follow their hearts, be true to themselves, bet strong, fight for what’s right, don’t let people walk all over you, be kind, surround yourself with people who value you.  As they got older, they saw through the people we were investing our time in.  They wondered why we sheltered them from seeing the real people we were spending time with.   When they turned 18, even those people didn’t keep up appearances anymore.

It has been a slow process.  It is still in process.  It started with Christmas.  I love Christmas, actually wish I could celebrate year round!  I always thought that the most important thing was spending time with family on Christmas.  To some degree that is true.  I tried build bonds with extended family.  Made them and their holidays the priority.  It was a sacrifice of not creating our own traditions, in our own home, with our own family.  I still thought it was the right thing to do.  The story could be so lengthy.  OY!  It turned out, the people we were investing in, weren’t truly invested in us.  When I asked to have Christmas at our house, the answer was no.  It took many more years for my kids to finally tell me what they wanted.  They wanted to stay home for Christmas, even if that meant it was just the five of us.  They wanted the magic to last all day.  They wanted to stay in our warm, happy, loving home and celebrate together.  We had all the love!

From there, I got stronger and stronger.  It isn’t my job to make my parents happy.  It isn’t my job to keep in touch with every single person I am related to by blood or marriage.  It isn’t my job to “represent the whole family” in my Christmas card because “I’m so good at sending them out.”  It’s not fecking rocket science!  Buy a card, sign your name, address the envelope, slap on a stamp–BOOM–you’re amazing too!  It’s NOT MY JOB! And it’s not yours either!

Now we have backlash because I was the glue.  I did it all.  People aren’t even sure what or who to be mad at–because why look in the mirror.  We have a whole lotta people who don’t stay in touch now.  They get angry because they know it’s not my job, but they liked it when it was so easy.

Now my little family is growing and we are making our own traditions and sharing with others if they want to participate.  I invite the right people now.  The ones who show up, because they know the gathering is so important to me.

So, be true to YOU!

Stay tuned for Choose You part 2 and probably 3, 4, & 5!! 😉

 

Christmas Lights Bring Me Joy

I am a lover of the sun, the moon, and all things sparkly!  I think that is one of the reasons that I love Christmas so much!  All the twinkling lights.  All the sparkly ornaments!  The shiny ribbons.  The glowing candles.  I absolutely love it all!

It warms my heart.  I think all the sparkle and lights help my mood too!!  In spite of the gloomy Oregon days, the holidays bring on a sense of  sunny days!  I put twinkle lights everywhere I can.  

I know many people with issues around the holidays.  Sometimes it’s because a loved one has died and they just feel so much grief, they can’t enjoy the season.  For others, it is unmet expectations or the pressure of expectations of others.  I think it also has to do with not doing what is best for ourselves.  Not putting our needs anywhere on our list.  Being afraid to deal with the consequences of taking care of ourselves.  Of course, all the holidays are about giving, loving, being selfless; but never was it supposed to be at the expense of our sanity, our self esteem, our health, our mental health or our happiness.   You have to make your holidays what you want them to be.  You are, I assume, an adult, a grown-up, you get to decide what you do with your time.  You get to decide what you want your traditions to be.  If you love wrapping presents, spend your time making the gifts you give wrapped in the most wonderful way possible.  If you love baking, bake for those you love.  If you love decorating, do that.  If you love hosting dinners, host a dinner for the people you love and pick the people you enjoy being around!!  The thing is you don’t have to DO IT ALL!  You get to make your holidays what you want them to be.  

Start now.  Pick one thing.  Make a small change.  Pick you.  Choose YOU!  You are important.  You are worthy.  You are valuable.  

It really breaks my heart when I meet people who don’t love the holidays.  It really is the most wonderful time of the year!  

Genuine People & Protecting Your Heart

I was having lunch with a friend yesterday and we were discussing everything under the sun!  As we shared about the goings on in our lives, I realized how important it is to be with people who understand you and genuinely care about you.  The recharge from a conversation with someone who truly cares about you, is amazing.  You feel filled up when you leave a visit with someone who genuinely cares about you, as opposed to feeling drained, defeated and “not enough”, when you spend time with those who don’t really care for you, or are just doing it out of obligation. 

I have been going through the process for over a year now of being around people I love, who love and respect me, those who genuinely care-and not spending time with those who don’t really care about me or only care superficially.  It’s a process and there’s backlash.  It is soooooo worth it.  At least for me it is!!

We are all different.  We process differently, we love differently, we share, communicate, argue, and praise differently.  I am a feeler.  I’m emotional, kind, loving, empathetic, sympathetic.  I am passionate. I cry. I hug.  Therefore, I have to protect my heart.  Yes, I know it sounds like an oxymoron. 

This is when it all fell together for me at lunch yesterday.  I was discussing a rather trying situation going on in my family.  We have some long time family friends that have, over recent years, really shown their true colors.  Even after ignoring some of the fundamental differences between us for years, these recent actions have sealed my fate.  I cannot in good conscious be around them.  Yesterday my friend said it so eloquently that I cannot believe I didn’t put these words to it myself.  You can’t expose your heart to that.  It is too risky, too damaging.

It goes beyond right and wrong.  It is also about self preservation.  You don’t have to compromise yourself to make others feel better.  Especially people who don’t genuinely care about you.  

People who genuinely care about you do things that are important to you.  They help you along your journey, they want you to succeed.  Sometimes they even make sacrifices for you.  When you spend time with them, your well is filled up.

Find your people.  Surround yourself with people who fill your heart with love and confidence after you spend time with them.  It’s okay to protect your heart from damage as well. We cannot change people, but we can change the people we are around.  Choose wisely who you invest your time in.  Invest your time for the right reasons-not because you feel obligated either.  Trust me-having a full well is a much better way to live!

 

Being Bored

There are probably tons of articles on letting our children be bored and all kinds of research articles cited.  Why oh why then are we still over-scheduling our precious little pumpkins?  Does it make us feel like better parents?  Do our children actually even want to do all these activities?  And at what cost? To what detriment? A few things come to mind……

Now that my children are a little older or grown, I am seeing how being over-scheduled has affected so many of their peers.  Kids who now have free time are anxious, stressed, depressed, lost, etc.  They don’t know what to do with their lives now that they aren’t being told what to do 24/7.  They are no longer exhausted from being on the go either.  It is especially apparent in kids who don’t leave home or don’t work or don’t go to school.  Some kids continued to stay scheduled by working full time and going to school full time.  It was comfortable for them-they knew how to cope with that schedule.  My oldest fell into this category.

These children who have been signed up for everything or for a year round sport or two or three, a club, volunteering, fundraising, blah, blah, blah.  They don’t have time to make friends or forge lasting relationships.  They are always busy.  They don’t make their own decisions.  They don’t figure out what to do when there’s nothing to do.  Did I mention the friendships?  I am still friends with many of the people I went to school with.   Some kids keep in touch with their friends, however, I am not sure I see family vacations together or Friendsgivings in their future.

A couple problems I see from the parents:  We had parents that weren’t involved, so we vowed to be part of our children’s lives.  We maybe went too far the other direction.  We think that signing our kids up for every activity they can be in makes us a good parent, shows we care, we are involved.  Being busy is some sort of badge of honor.  As a parent if you’re not driving your little pumpkin somewhere everyday, what kind of parent are you?  This is absolutely ridiculous, FYI!  We think keeping them busy makes it so they don’t have time to make bad decisions, or get involved with the wrong crowd, or date, or do drugs.  The problem is that they are not making the RIGHT decision either!!!  So, when they graduate from high school and get out into the wide, wide world, they don’t know how to say NO, they don’t know how to deal with other peoples views, they don’t even have their own views or opinions because they’ve been told what to do and think their whole lives.  Also, somehow sacrificing our happiness or our finances for our precious little pumpkins to stay in said activity, somehow makes up think we are being “better parents.”  I know many people unhappy in their jobs, who won’t make a change because the finances might make it difficult for their children to be in said activity. Ummmm, listen Karen, I think your happiness is more important and also, not the best example me thinks.

I wish I had some amazing formula, list, outline, script, affirmation, video etc that would guarantee well-adjusted children.  I don’t.  And some will be fine even going through the above.  If you are really defensive of this post, I am going to venture out and say you are over scheduling your pride and joy.  Take a minute.  Breathe.  Think about who it’s for.  Ask your children what they want to do.  Find some balance.  Give your children some chores.  Make them do their own laundry.  Let them have time to play!!

Your precious little pumpkin needs to practice, make mistakes, venture out, fail, fall, get up, deal with some real life issues, while they are home, while they are still young.  They will have to do all these things eventually, it just gets so, so much more difficult the older they are.  Let them be kids now, so they are successful adults later!!

 

 

Let’s Redefine Failure

Where to start?  I think, at least in my experience, we have a horrible view of failure, a negative view of failure.  We are worried to try something for fear of getting it “wrong” the first time.  We study, we observe, we try to be sure we are going to get it right before we even attempt something.  From riding a bike to being a doctor to going on an adventure to starting a business and, most importantly, to chasing our dreams.

I was watching a movie the other day–a Christmas movie–and paused the movie to talk to my youngest son about failure.  I started to talk about failure, but stopped myself and asked him how he felt about failing.  I actually couldn’t believe how that sounded.  How do you feel about failing?  What the hell?  He said he wasn’t too concerned about it and didn’t really want to talk anymore; could he get back to his school work?  I continued talking and really thinking through the problem, reiterating at every turn that it was okay to fail.

Finally, my epiphany came.  It’s all because of grades that we have this unhealthy perception that failing is bad, that it’s the opposite of success, the opposite of good.  So, because of our grading system, we are afraid to fail.  This has transferred into all aspects of life for many, many people.  Possibly–and I am just throwing this out there–for everyone except those who got F’s in school and survived.  Getting F’s in school doesn’t actually measure ones intelligence or chance for success in life.  It measures your ability to memorize, sit still, conform, test well, follow the rules of an establishment, conform (did I say that already?), regurgitate information and suck up to teachers.

I get back to Christopher and detail my new-found knowledge with him; and I am angsty that this is a thing.  He’s supposed to be the angsty teen, by the way.  I tell him that I am happy he seems to not be negatively affected by this phenomenon.  He’s not devoid of concern about failing; it’s just more subtle.  He says to me that he was always a good student in elementary school and has been home schooled in middle school so he hasn’t had to deal with “failing” grades or that possibility.  For this, I am actually relieved. Next year, he goes to high school and we will definitely have a much different perspective on grades than we have in the past.  I have always told my kids we expect them to do their best, and I mostly still believe that, maybe with a few modifiers.

So, what are you not doing because you are afraid of failing?  Do you measure your life, successes, progress, etcetera on a grading system?  If so, who decides what constitutes an A or an F or a C?  How can we change our outlook on failure?  How can we raise our children to not be concerned only with grades, with getting A’s in a significantly subjective world?

Maybe we take back the word: give it less weight, less value or importance.  Next time I forget something at the grocery store, maybe I will say well, you failed at that shopping trip!! Forgot your coat: fail.  Burnt the cookies: fail.  How about every year that you don’t do something you love, want to, dream of doing; you say I failed at not going back to school or to grad school, or I failed at not going on that tropical vacation, or I failed at not taking care of myself?

It’s not super easy to change your perspective, especially when it’s ingrained so deeply, but it is certainly worth a try.

Silver Linings~UGH!

I’m usually a silver linings kind of girl.  Really, I am.  I also prefer to be happy.  Doesn’t mean I don’t get angry, sad, frustrated, irritated or disappointed, I just prefer to get through that quickly and get back to happy.  So, I often look for the silver linings.

When it comes to death, I usually try to find the “positive” things that are a result of said death.  Like Aunt Betsy isn’t in pain anymore or Uncle Jack lived a long 93 years and had a great life. Or Jeremy wouldn’t have wanted to be on hospice so it’s good for him he went quickly.  You had a chance to say goodbye to Aunt Janet, that’s really important. Etc.

What I know now is that these sentiments don’t always work or apply or you just don’t feel like looking for the bright side.  It happens.  It’s okay.  I do think it’s better to not unpack your bags and move in to this spot, that eventually you have to move, even extremely slowly, forward.

I also know that depending on your relationship and closeness to the person who died, you may very well not know how to move forward like you used to.  I know that it is extremely possible that you will be a different person, not exactly the same “you”.  That is okay.  YOUR people will still love you, they will get to know the new you.  It is okay to be changed by this trauma that has happened to you.  Keep moving forward, slowly.

I started out not wanting to find the silver lining.  I couldn’t think of anything positive.  F*$K Cancer was about all I had.  However, even this time there is a silver lining so to speak.  My friend died and left me new friends, her friends.  Somehow they knew, she knew, God knew, the Universe knew…..and my new friends reached out to me and I felt not alone.  I hope to meet them all some day, but even if I don’t, I know they are there and we share an extremely strong common bond.  We all loved her and she loved us.  For that we are so lucky.

So, I end with a little Monty Python “Always look on the bright side of life.”  Easier said than done sometimes.  But always worth a try.

I Am Lucky to be your Friend

If you were lucky enough to know Ellen, be friends with her, and be loved by her, you were loved by her unconditionally.  I was that lucky.   I am not sure if loving unconditionally is the greatest thing about her, because I don’t even know where to start with all of her amazing qualities.  She was so much fun and could also be so level-headed.  She wanted the best for those who she loved.  She would be so excited for anyone who got to do something they dreamed of doing.  Genuinely pleased and happy for them.  She’d tell it like it is, because she cared about you.

Ellen and I were closest when our kids were little.  Life was crazy.  She was there when I had a miscarriage.  Had my third child, who just turned 14 yesterday.  She was there when I was so sick.  So sick I almost missed out on life-saving surgery.  She was with me through it all.  We went through it all, together.  The memories of so many beach trips and hanging out, abound! I am so lucky to be her friend.  There are a whole lot of people in this world who never even met her.

Ellen was a sort of interesting combination of my dad and my husband, the really great parts! Music, books, that loving unconditionally thing, smoking pot. (That could be Ellen blog #10 😉 ) Interestingly enough they both adored her and she had quite a bond with them too.

Ellen, of course, had a love for music.  Especially Phish.  I have a wide, wide range of music I listen to and concerts I’ve attended.  Some of them I would say…..endured.  Ellen forgave me my desire to listen to country music.  I did see the Grateful Dead in concert afterall.  I also remember asking her if she had that Greenday music.  Of course, she’d get that for me! We really listened to so much together and yes, she was great at expanding my horizons! There’s that one line in Juno when Ellen Page says “I bought another sonic youth record and it sucked.. its just noise” I cheered in the theater.  Yep, I saw them in concert too.  So she loved me even though I would love some top 40 hit.  I would call her and leave a message because Brass Monkey came on the radio and it just made me think of her.  Ellen and music could be blog #13.

Death is a crazy thing.  We seem to avoid dealing with it head on.  We don’t say “I’m sorry your friend died.”  We say “I’m sorry for your loss.”  Which is true, the loss is great, but also seems to imply something can be found.  I have been trying to respond to people dying more head on and still I am pretty sure I wrote “I’m sorry for your loss” to someone close to Ellen.  I am sorry to everyone that was close to her.  I know how broken your heart is.  I know you wonder why her, even for a second.  I know that every third day is worse than the two before, because something happens to remind you of her in a big way.  I am so sorry our friend died.  I also know that we are all so lucky to be her friend.

Nothing prepares you for how you will feel when someone you love dies.  Even if you’ve been through something similar before.  You don’t know how you will feel, even from day to day.  So collectively we all navigate every death we experience in our own way, with no real tools or rule book.  A few important things to remember are that we have each other, it’s okay to be sad and it’s okay to reach out.  We also will survive, however, we might be just a little bit of different person.  It’s okay.  Your true friends will love the new you too!

I am just so lucky to be her friend.  I plan to remember that as often as possible when the sadness comes by.

I am so lucky to be her friend.