Spirit Bands

This took place over a decade ago, but I feel like it’s pertinent. I’m doing my best to report it with integrity.

When I was in 6th grade, the administration of the school came up with the idea of spirit bands. They were little bracelets in our school colors that could be used for what was considered special rewards: going first in lunch lines, bathroom privileges and things like that. We were told that if we did not have bands, we could not buy juices or carbonated drinks at lunch, we would sit at a table designated for non-wearers and would have to wait for everyone else to get lunch before we could. You could lose your band if you were in trouble-which meant that any trip to the office took away your right to go to the restroom until you earned your band back (a process which took an indeterminable amount of time). They said it was to encourage us to be good students.

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Now, in sixth grade, we were about 12. None of us had had really solid world history, and we were mostly innocent children. And then one day, we asked-well, what about people with diabetes? If they don’t have bands, they can’t get lunch. And if they can’t get lunch, their blood sugar could be at risk. The response was a very hesitant “they should have bands”. And that, my good readers, is when the revolution began.

Someone, I’m assuming someone with an older sibling, began to talk about how this was just like Nazi Germany-people being segregated based on an arbitrary division, handed down by those in power. A systematic oppression. We sent round a petition. We stopped wearing the bands. We did as much as 11 and 12 year olds could, to stop a system we believed to be unjust.

And we were met with some pretty furious administrators. I’m sure they were not happy about the spending of thousands of dollars on things they thought would be useful. I’m sure they were not happy that a bunch of 6th graders compared them to Nazis. I’m sure that was uncomfortable. But we won. None of us had to wear those bands anymore.

So why am I telling you this?

Because if, as a child of 11 or 12, we knew that something was unfair and we were able to change the tides, think of what we can do now, as adults? When there are actual Nazis to fight, deep injustices to rebel against.

I get it-being angry about this administration is hard. It’s been a long battle so far and we’re still going. It’s exhausting. It’s humiliating. It’s degrading. But resisting it is what is right. And what is right may not always be what is easy-but it is always what is right.

Think about all the terrible things that have happened since the 2016 election was revealed. Think about all the people you’ve had to leave in the past because they were accepting of a man who can destroy human rights with a sweep of his hand. Think about how many marches and letters to your representatives and how scared and angry you are.

And then think of all the millions of people who were marching with you. Who sent their letters too. Who stood up and said “Me too.” Who stopped thinking of just themselves and started working for the greater good. Think of the justice workers, the resistance, the handmaids, the people who are fighting with all they have. Because for each atrocity that the current dictator engages in, there are those who refuse to remain silent about it. Who whistle blow. And think about how you are not alone.

I know it’s hard-especially when you get onto social media and you see trolls and bots repeating the same terrible lies you grit your teeth at. Trust me. I know it’s infuriating to be gaslit. But keep going.

If not for yourself, for the thousands of children who are now at the mercy of people in Washington. For the thousands of children in foster care and abusive homes. For the thousands of women who do not have access to reproductive health care. For the thousands of LGBTQ people who are afraid they will face conversion therapy. For the thousands of people of color who are judged harshly for nothing more than the melanin of their beautiful skin. For the thousands of religious minorities who are afraid to practice their beliefs in public. For the thousands of immigrants who face the tyranny of America because they face death in their own home. For the thousands who do not have a voice of their own.

Keep going.

Keep fighting.

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Where Are The Children?

As many people are aware by now, almost 1500 children have been lost by my government. And I want to talk about it. Because it needs to be talked about.

But also, I want to talk about Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzales, the 20 year old Guatemalan woman who was shot at the border of the United States.

Imagine graduating college with an accounting degree, and being unable to find a job. You decide that your only option is to leave behind everything you knew, your own people, coming on a journey that left you with very little to your name, seeking safety. You’re tired, exhausted really, ready to collapse when you finally make it to the border of a country that you believe will accept you in. And in a rapid turn of events, you hear “This is what happens. You see?” And then you are no more. Your family screams, but you do not hear, because you are dead.

Ella no merecía morir. Nadie merecían morir. Su familia vengan para vivir una vida mejor y todos somos responsables de eso.

She did not deserve to die. No one deserved to die. Her family came in order to live a better life and we are all responsible.

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Of the 7000 children who were separated from their parents this past year, almost 1500 of them are “missing”. These lost children of America were given to “foster” families-some of whom were known human traffickers. The American Government saw fit to sell children into slavery.

Our government-no matter how much or little you agree with it-sold children into slavery. 

Just keep repeating it until you puke. Because that’s what I did. And then get active. Jam the fax machines in congress. Jam the fax machines in your governor’s office. Donate to the ACLU and SPLC. Find the children. Because no matter which agency, under whose orders, these are the people who represent America. And until all of the children are found and brought to safety, this is all our faults.

Our fault for being apathetic. Our fault for being lazy. Our fault for allowing this pompous, fascist dictator to remain in office. Our fault for accepting oppression as safety. Our fault for brushing off the news as “sad”, as “at least it doesn’t affect me”, as anything other than our responsibility. Our fault for not shutting down slavery-even though it is 2018. Our fault for not demanding equality loud enough, often enough.

So rise up people. Rise up with your rage, your sadness, your inequality. This is a war we’re fighting. And if we lose? It’s not just immigrant children who will suffer.

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.

And while we’re at it-where is the justice for the First Nations? Did you know the police incited violence at Standing Rock is still unfinished? There are innocent protesters who are still facing trials for defending their rights.

Where is the justice for African Americans? The NFL fining teams for kneeling during the anthem is against everything our country stands for. This protest was everything that was claimed to be acceptable-peaceful, non-violent, non-destructive, silent, safe. If you can’t respect that, you’re a hypocrite. Where is the justice for the people of color who are shot for no reason other than the underlying racism in America?

Where is the justice for the children who are more likely to be shot that someone who is currently serving in the military? Where are the safety precautions? The stricter regulations? Where is the political outrage over the fact that America is fighting a war it didn’t even recognize it had? And where is the justice for the victims who are blamed for the actions of those school shooters? The children who are slut shamed (or prude shamed)? The children who are gaslit for every incident that happens to them-much exactly the same way the adult Americans are gaslit into believing that hopes and prayers are the answer?

Where is the justice for women? For people in poverty? For immigrants? For religious minorities? For victims of sexual assault and rape and domestic violence?

And the list, I promise you, goes on. And on. And on.

If you aren’t angry, you aren’t paying attention.

Ya’ll, I’m a writer.

I got some really epic news today: I’m getting a book published.

It’s not the traditional way, but I have 100% agency over it, and I’m 100% okay with that.

It’s a book I’ve been through the gauntlet with: I sent query letters out to 75 agents in the span of 9 months and got nothing back (besides a few well meaning rejections). It was my very first NaNoWriMo novel, and I’ve been rather attached to it. I put it aside for a time and have been editing it, working through all the things I messed up.

And when you take a leap of faith, sometimes you’re rewarded in some amazing ways.

So I’ll be on Channillo, a place where writers write and readers read. I have a more political thought essay collection there too, called Coffee and Criticisms, which you’re more than welcome to also check out!

So about this book!

The Queen of Souls

It’s called The Queen of Souls (which makes me giddy every time I look at the document). It’s YA lit, with some upper YA themes. And well, here’s the snapshot I have for it:

Katerina Alkaev has only ever known how to be one thing: an outcast. With no real memories of her past, no family and no prospects of a future, she’s stuck in a spiral of bad luck, non-committing foster homes and an extreme lack of self-worth which bring her to the little town of New Hollow. She struggles to find her place in the world, not sure she’d recognize her destiny if it slapped her across the face, which was nothing new to her. When a fight with her abusive boyfriend Michael leaves her broken and bruised, Katerina discovers a world that she might just belong to, provided she can stay alive long enough to find out. With the help of her best friend Isobel, Katerina begins to unravel the past, creating allies and enemies that all seem to stem from an ancestral act of love and sacrifice. As Katerina begins to accept her fate, she discovers an ages old prophesy that demands she side with the darkness or die. With love and life at stake, one thing is absolutely clear: if she wants to survive, she’ll have to transform.

This book is based loosely on the mythology of Psyche, the goddess of souls with a touch of modernity. Set in the fictional world of New Hollow, it features coffee shops (obviously), a small town on hard times, mystery, rebellion and love. Apart from that, well, I guess you’ll just have to read it and find out!

It will be published in parts, so it’s perfect for a little bit of light reading every now and again. I’m working on more books (both the traditional and self-pub way, so if a subscription service isn’t your style, stay tuned-there’s more good things to come!) and I’d say that’s a pretty swell ending to a pretty swell day.

A little TL(S)C

When law school began, I will admit, I thought I had everything figured out. I had a coping mechanism toolkit for when things were rough, I drank loads more water than my entry into undergrad (a lesson I will never forget) and I was overall in a very good place. I came to a new state to start over. A complete redo, free from the baggage of the past. And that was a wildly freeing concept.

All of that was also incredibly naive and somewhat short-sighted.

Turns out, law school is where the gaps in my self-care capabilities became glaringly obvious. And for that, I am ever thankful. Because it’s given me an opportunity to fix them. So as I’m sitting here, nursing a stress-migraine, I wanted to reflect on all the really cool things that have changed.

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First, I became a vegan. It’s been something like 6 years since I decided I wanted to be a vegetarian. It’s been a bit of a struggle to wrap my head around it all the time (especially when iron levels are low) but I went about it all wrong. I didn’t focus on complete nutrition, I just focused on not eating meat. And there were days when I *did* eat meat (typically chicken or fish) and yet I still kept going. Because instead of listening to the reasons I couldn’t be a vegetarian, I was the best vegetarian I knew how to be. And that wasn’t good enough. I can’t ignore the crappy way I feel when I eat meat-or to my very wild surprise-the stinky-like-feet smell of dairy. So I’m leaving it behind. It’s a process I started in March, and I’m very nearly at the fully integrated stage. My grocery list contains only plant and plant-based foods, but it’s been fully researched and there are plenty of nutritional changes going on in it as well. I’m looking at plant-based things like mozzarella (because I adore pizza) and vegan sour cream (because baked potatoes).

And in more dietary news, I’m leaving behind heavy carbs. I’ve spent a long part of my life associating heavy carbs with happiness. So soda is going (and soon to be gone) and so are things like pasta, bleached breads and the like. That’s not to say I will be abstaining from all grains-in fact, I will be eating oats, rice, and ethically sourced quinoa, as well as whole grain breads on occasion. But I’m removing them from my grocery list in a big way-so that I can find happiness outside of carbs. And that’s a change I’ve needed to make for ages. I got myself a blender with a to-go attachment, and I will be using it to make all manner of smoothies to stop the unnecessary sugar cravings from that soda.

Image result for self care clip art freeRegular exercise! This one is something I did a lot in high school, but then got to undergrad and lost my sense of self. This summer, in addition to the wild amounts of sun I will be getting (because Topeka apparently never gets rain), I will be devoting each morning to yoga, and most afternoons to swimming. I’ve been at the gym more this semester than I’ve ever been, and I’m rather excited to add some variety.

I’ll also be meditating every day. As a way to spiritually and mentally ground myself, I have been working towards finding a balance in how I feel and how I am (I know, that sounds a little weird). However, I’m really excited to add this in to my yoga time and really begin to heal from the inside out. To that end, I will also be investing in hobbies this summer. Painting, writing and reading are going to take up a lot of my afternoons, because I’ve neglected those parts of who I am.

In regards to my spiritual self-care, I will be really exploring the different avenues of beliefs, and digging in to the ones I already have. I’ve been pagan for nearly as long as I’ve been a vegetarian, but I want to see if there are things that align better than others. I’ll be sharpening my tarot skills, praying to the ancestors and doing a lot more in the way of sharpening my spiritual skill set.

I’ve re-designed my Etsy shop, and hope to have it up and running soon. I really want to invest in sharing my love of essential oils. While I’m perusing the internet waiting for orders, I’ll be soliciting agents for my NaNo book! This is something I am not new to, but I have been hard at work trying to make the best draft I can.

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All this to say, this summer is about fixing my mental-physical-spiritual health before I begin my social work classes in the fall. I’m considering revamping my YouTube channel to kind of showcase the changes and do some reviews of things I’ll be doing. We’ll see!

Anything you think I’m missing? Anything you’d like to see changed in your own life? Have you made changes and they’ve made your life the better? Let me know below!

Alrighty. One Hour Left.

So I was in a timed exam, and I got done a little early, with no option but to wait out the clock. So I decided I’d set free the little creative bug in me and just have some fun. This is the result of that little window of time, and I must say, it’s rather delightful.

Some background: I had a song stuck in my head at the time, and I was watching the clock. That much is probably evident, but if you’re looking for which song-it’s Goodnight Moon by Go Radio. I chose specifically to not use gender. I also just went a little whimsy with the spoken words-I made up the language as I went. It’s not copied from anything that I am consciously aware.

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“So goodnight moon, and goodnight you.”

There they sat, waiting for the final tick of the clock. The batteries had been wearing out slowly and the time had come. Each second took slightly longer than the one before and it was time to say goodbye.

But that was the problem with letting go, wasn’t it? Even something as juvenile and unemotional as a watch battery could find, that in its last moments, care was expressed on its behalf. And what then, could be said for the rest of…stop.

The tarnished plating on the watched seemed to fade. The watch face, once illustriously lilac (or so they had been told), now sat dusty and apparently unimportant, its hands frozen at 3:17. What a time to die.

It was all that remained of their family-this little piece of costume jewelry. Much like those it had belonged to, its importance was solely in the eye of the beholder. The engraving in the band suggested a fascination with darkness, and knowing of the original owner, it wasn’t an unreasonable assumption. However, they were just words to a song, long since forgotten. A relic, not unlike the time piece. What times must have been like then, with music and the importance of knowing your position in the light spectrum. They’d approached each experience as fleeting, but holding on to the sentimental value for far longer than reasonable. Thus the watch.

A brief stretch and up they rose, catching the smell of the pending storm. It was inevitable, as all things were. Drifting to the bank of the river, they looked once more at the cheap metal, hand carved engravings and faded colors. It was an accurate representation of the world they knew-lifeless, soulless and oppressed. But that was coming to an end.

They had no training in music, an art long since banned and forgotten, but a small rectangular object, lodged safely in a pocket was the key to the change oncoming. Remembering-just barely-how to operate it, they keyed up the appropriate symbols of a dying language and hesitated slightly. A dull rhythm behind them.

“Osha na heimawei?” Are you sure this is a good idea? An old friend emerged from the path. No threat, just curiosity-although both responses were illegal.

“Amsu.” Yes, they thought. “Ji esto na heikawa. Esko pa ti antewa.” The world killed itself long ago. I must revive it. “Ni ma toankeishelo.” My destiny must revive the life long lost. The friend extended a hand, which they grasped.

“Shei nakem.” Together then. They pressed the three-tipped button and dialed up a side meter.

“Shestako meinahopaneita. Weitcha hakeifato.” This is how apathy ends. This is how the humanity is exhumed.

“And when our hearts are heavy burdens, we shouldn’t have to bear alone.” They tossed the watch into the river and increased the volume until it reached a deafening level. Light began to emit from the depths of the water, where the metal left ripples.

It was as though the sun rose over the world for the first time in ages. Colors burst forth from each thing the light touched, and it was then that they finally understood the beauty of having open eyes. Instead of the grey and black scale, there existed sights that there were no longer words for.

Their family passed down stories of time before the darkness-when freedom and individuality weren’t oppressed for uniformity. A time when this light reached everywhere and everyone, when sounds were crisp and emotional. Although the language’s nuances were slightly lost on them, the meaning of the song that still filled the air swelled within, like some higher purpose.

Within a couple breaths, enforcement surrounded them and it was then that they understood: neither they nor their friend would see the finale to this new chapter.

“Katek. Meitanopatchema. Katenchezna.” Stand down. Await containment for final processing of crimes committed. Surrender or pass beyond. 

A fleeting look at their actions. It was enough to overwhelm them. Their friend squeezed their hand one last time.

“Techakana hielo.” I will follow you to the end. 

“You cannot take freedom from those who would see it shared to all. Our lives may be brief, but our meaning will never be lost. Welcome to morning. May the darkness be fleeting and oppression end.”

“3:21. What a time to die.” Their friend spoke.

“Fa. Meistopashei.” No. What a time to live.

And humanity was exhumed, bringing with it an understanding and a hunger for all things diverse and beautiful.

“Like a passage from goodnight moon.”

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Tale of the Cursed Hot Pants

So this story is purely for fun, but it’s true and it happens to me a pretty substantial amount, so I’m convinced what I’m saying is fact.

My parents live on a farm in the middle of nowhere, and everywhere around them is a bunch of farms. Population: some people, many livestock. So it’s not uncommon for farm clothes-including clothes which you would not wear out in a large public venue. Enter hot pants. They’re grassy green athletic shorts, so not quite hot pants. But let’s break this down. I’m a large person, wearing what can only be deemed to be booty shorts. They’re not super revealing, but I definitely wouldn’t wear them in public. And they are cursed.

Anyway, my dad always treated everyone with respect, and still does. I definitely am glad I had that as a foundation in my life. And that extended to solicitors at our house.

This is where the story gets interesting. So I had been working out at my parent’s house and was sweaty and gross. I was walking around the front of the house to go in and get some water when who should appear but the two Jehovah’s Witnesses that frequented our house.

Now, of course, I can’t just outrun them and pretend I didn’t see them. So I go inside, grab a towel and by that time, they’re at the door. So I open it and step outside. And they proceed to stand SUPER close and have an extended chat. Great. I try not to be rude, but a teenager in short shorts next to a married couple in Sunday clothes isn’t really what I had in mind. Plus, I stunk. So they show me videos and I wish them well, and then I lock the door and take a shower.

Speed up to this past week. The note on my door said the pest control guy was supposed to show that day, but it was going on 4 and I assumed he’d already come and gone. I’m unwinding from classes when all of a sudden, there’s a knock at my door. I think “Oh, the pest guy was running late.” And holler out “Just a minute!”. I take the dog and put him in the room, and throw on a hoodie. I swing the door open, and who should it be, but the Kansas Jehovah’s Witnesses. And take a guess about what the state of my legs was. That’s right. The same cursed shorts that I’d kept. Great.

And of course, I stepped outside and we all chatted like it wasn’t anything. Except for these two women in floor length skirts and me, in my green athletic shorts. Thankfully, they were much quicker about their message than the ones my dad befriended, but boy was I glad when they left.

So long story short, I need to salt and burn my shorts. Because I’m gonna develop a reputation.

I became an egg.

Ben and I got into a discussion earlier in the semester about how we’ve both changed. And a great chunk of it is for the better. But because we’re both in school, and surrounded by people that aren’t us, we’re picking up the mannerisms and behaviors of those other people. Me more than him. (I’m a people sponge.) And as we were talking, the story of the boiling water popped into mind.

The Campbell’s soup (condensed) edition of this story is that a child had an anger outburst and the parent, boiling water on a stove, asked them to retrieve an egg, a carrot and coffee. Pouring three cups of boiling water, each of the items was placed in a separate cup for a few minutes. When asked what the foods had to do with the anger, the parent replied that the egg, which had started off soft and fragile, when placed in hot water, became hard and rigid. The carrot, while firm and strong at first, became pliable and easily enough cut down. But the coffee, the coffee changed the water itself.

This is, of course, the metaphor for dealing with hard times. You either become tough and hardened, soft and depleted or you change the situation altogether.

Unfortunately, law school was my hot water and I became an egg.

Last semester was all about me surviving the frying pan without jumping into the fire. I threw up walls, didn’t let others in and became an all-around really oppressive force. I was so convinced that I needed to constantly prove my worth that I began to be, well, a bully. And I felt the change. I felt the words tumble out of my mouth the way bile does. I didn’t seem to be able to stop myself. I had wanted so badly to prove that I could handle everything that I was actually proving exactly the opposite.

Thus the talk.

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(Image from FreeImages.com)

Now, I don’t know if it’s possible to become coffee from an egg. But I’ve noticed the shift-just slightly-and I like it much more. I hold what I’ve deemed “Lunch Therapy” where other students come and we all sit and talk about what’s bothering us while we eat lunch. I ask people about their day, their life, I take an interest. Not because I’m trying to change the climate of the school, but because that’s who I am. Not the person who picks up on insecurities and jokes about them, but the person who cares too much. A couple people have really gotten into the idea, and I’m hoping that it will catch on, because it helps everyone focus on that self-care.

And I don’t know why I thought that was a bad thing. Empathy was my style since high school-when I used to stay up all night and talk people down from suicide. People would call and text me and I’d sneak around my house to find a private place and listen. I’ve always created a safe space for people to help themselves heal. Why was I so unwilling to carry that trend?

Because I had wounds that needed healing too.

And that, friends, is the thing about self-care. If you don’t keep up on it, if you put it to a back-burner for a while, you’ll be notified really plainly that you’re in trouble. And it’s so much more than drinking water and getting sleep and social activities. It’s the small, annoying things that make a huge difference. And for me, it was a void of validity. I needed something to make me feel worthy/respected/accepted/etc. And I thought that what I was doing was it, but I was wrong.

When I gave up facades for lent (for a religion I don’t practice, no less), this was the journey I agreed to. Restructuring my life so that instead of a rotten egg, I’d get back to being the earthy, grounded, free-spirit, passionate, hurricane of a me.