But it’s who we are.

Kesha put out her newest song this week, entitled “Praying” and I will be the first to admit that I ran the whole gambit of emotions listening to it, including the compulsion to listen to it on repeat for hours on end. Although the song itself deserves more words than I could give, it actually made me think about a different post I’ve been chewing on. (But don’t worry-there will be a Kesha post before I leave this state.)

I met up with a friend this week for coffee before I make the journey. She and I have been friends since second grade-making that just about 18 years. We’ve been strong friends since freshman year of high school and I consider her one of the people I hold most dear and close to my heart. It was during this coffee meeting that we talked about our lives, the directions they were heading and without breaking the level of commitment to each other, we spoke of doubt and concern and fear.

I told her that we didn’t have to tackle the heavy stuff, and she told me that that was who we are. I don’t know about you, but having a friend who you can make jokes with and take on the messy bits with-without fear of judgment or losing conversation flow is one of the nicest things I think a person can have. She makes me so sad that I’m actually leaving this state, because I won’t get to see her face.

But I had a point.

Sometimes you have all these external battles you have to face. Work, school, bills, moving, other people. And these battles can take the form of physical, mental and spiritual ones. But sometimes you have internal battles. Depression, anxiety, doubt, fear, a lack of self-care. And those battles are no less important. They just also happen to be really hard to fight, because sometimes they coincide with external stressors.

Life is hard. I’m not going to sugar coat it. And so many times I have a heart to heart with myself about what it is I’m doing. Because it feels like I’m just a drop in the ocean of chaos. There doesn’t seem like there’s a meaning, a purpose to everything. And that’s such a hard place to be-because you’re the only one who can pull yourself out of it, but you’re the one in there fighting.

Love doesn’t mean coddling and over-protectiveness. Love isn’t shielding you from every bad thing that can happen. It doesn’t mean you’ll never be in pain, be scared, be sad. Love isn’t something that covers everything in bandaids and rainbows. Especially when your heart is in the right place.

Love is the thing that keeps you from giving up because it’s hard. Love means letting yourself get hurt because that’s how you grow and that’s how you learn to be a light for others. Love is the reason that you wake up every day, facing those battles that feel like they’re too much to handle.

I saw a post the other day on Facebook that said something like: “You were born to bring love to someone else. They need your laughter, your kindness, your hope. That’s why you make it through the tough times-so you can be a light for them.”

And I made a comment on that post that said just five words.
“And that person is yourself.”

So many times we forget that if we don’t pay attention the our own needs and our own brokenness, we can’t possibly do all the good we aspire to do. You are worth every ounce of love and laughter and empathy that you give out to others. And it’s not being selfish-it’s your duty.

I’ve spent a long time angry at the idea of God. I felt abandoned, I felt forgotten. I ran so far in the other direction that I passed deity and went straight to bitterness. And I spent a long time there. But bitterness can only take you to the rock bottom you were so desperately trying to avoid. I spent a long while looking for answers to those big questions, those “Why?”s. And I can’t say I have the answers. But I have the ones that keep me going, hoping for a better tomorrow. Religion and self-care have a lot in common. And whatever the “truth” looks like to you-if it isn’t wrapped in unconditional love, it’s just not the truth.

I think that each person has their own idea of truth, the truth that is true to them. And if that’s Christianity, that’s okay. If it is Islam or Judaism or Buddhism or Paganism, that’s okay. Because at the end of the day, you can only do your very best. And that very best is love. The love that doesn’t prevent pain, but endures it. The love that doesn’t disguise fear and doubt, but prepares you to battle it. The love that reminds you that you are just as worthy of happiness and empathy and care and hope as everyone else. No matter where you find that kind of love, it has to start within.

“I’m proud of who I am
No more monsters, I can breathe again
And you said that I was done
Well, you were wrong and now the best is yet to come.
I hope you’re somewhere praying, praying
I hope your soul is changing, changing
I hope you find your peace
Falling on your knees, praying.”
-Praying, Kesha.

Religious Tolerance

You sneeze: what do people say to you?

It’s the holiday season: what do people say to you?

It’s your birthday: what do people say to you?

Something terrible has happened to you: what do people say to you?

A loved one has passed on: what do people say to you?

Something great might happen: what do people say to you?

All of these have one really strikingly gorgeous thing in common: well-wishing. Now, the specifics may not be the same, but the idea behind it very much is. And yet, we have some issues accepting it, don’t we?


If someone came up to you and blessed you because you sneezed (and no, it doesn’t matter if it’s in German), you’d say thank you. It wouldn’t matter if you believed that God was going to bless you, or if you were atheist-you’d just say thank you. Or at least you should, becuase that’s just good manners.

If you were going into the hospital, you’d want to come out of it again, right? And you’d want comfort if a loved one or friend died, right?

You’d want to celebrate when good things happen, take solace in community when bad things occur. That’s just human nature-right?

My point here is that if I were Muslim or Christian or Jewish or Atheist or Pagan or Buddhist or what-have-you, the concept of well-wishing is universal. I did a post during Ramadan (last year?!) about how much I learned about the graciousness of the Muslim Americans that I met. I have a Jewish friend who is the happiest, most accepting person I may ever know. I have a Catholic friend with a heart of gold, who accepts me for my differences and loves me just the same. I have very Christian friends who are a delight to be around-and allow me to explore who I am while they do the same, and even some who give me their time and share their food with me (I’m always down with food and coffee dates-you know, when my schedule permits).  I have atheist and agnostic friends who respect my choice to believe in something bigger than myself. I have pagan friends who delight in my successes, lift me up in my sorrows and support me throughout. And I know that’s just my story. I get that.

But the larger picture is what I’m getting at. 

Tolerance is something that doesn’t seem to be big around my country these days. I see a collective out and about, trying to make sure everyone knows they are valid and matter and valued-and I love that. I try to do so as well, because that’s what we all need. In the end, it doesn’t matter, it shouldn’t matter, if someone is wishing you well-becuase it means they care enough to say something nice to you.

Look, I don’t expect everyone to know that next week is Ostara, the celebration of the Spring Equinox, a time of great fertility and happiness. Saint Patrick’s Day is a religious day, but is celebrated by more people than just the ones who honor him as a saint. Lent is happening right now, in preparation for Easter. Purim and Holi are coming up soon as well. Ramadan starts in a couple months. And you thought December was the only packed holiday month!

My point is simple, really, and I feel like it’s almost absurd to have to say it. When someone tells you:

Happy Easter, Happy Ostara, Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Happy Friday, Blessed Purim, Blessed Lent, Blessed Holi, and more, they are not saying “you have to subscribe to my religion”. They are wishing you well. 

And in this day and age, isn’t that something we all need?

No.

Three days. It feels like a countdown to doom. Just a couple short moments until the world as we know it pauses. I know that good things come from dire places, but doesn’t it feel a little *too* dire?

I’m trying. I’m trying to be the optimist here, to be the person whose logic and reasoning skills are intact. I’m trying to not let the fear and the crushing weight of all that is happening allow me to come undone. Really.

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

There are a great many things that I feel. There are facets of my life that both thrill and terrify me (in the exhilarating, stressful way). And then there is just three days from now-when all the lowest things about human society become what everyone sees of my country.

I know I have a few international readers-and I do hope you see this for what it is and not an insult to your reasoning skills-but I have a message. A request, really.

Please do not look at January 21 and think that all Americans are like that. Please do not think we all hate differences, are afraid of people who aren’t the same as us. The loud minority is drowning us out, but we are here and we are fighting. There are those of us who care for the water and the planet we live on, who weep at the injustices at Standing Rock. There are those of us who value the lives of other human beings, both those who look like us and those who don’t. There are those of us who love openly, and rejoice when others can do the same-regardless of whether or not it fits our idea of love. There are those of us who are working to make the world better-not drag it back into hatred, ignorance, bigotry and fear mongering.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned. I am.

But do you know what I know?

I know that in dire times, good comes. When human kind needs it most, who should appear but Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, Shirin Ebadi. The list goes on.

I can’t wait to see who our next humanitarian leader is. Maybe I’ll get to meet them. Maybe, dare I dream it-I might be them.

Sleep peacefully, readers. Be safe, be loved.

You have value. You are valid. You are irreplaceable.

We’ll make it. Together.

What Comes Next

In response to the events of the recent past, I have no more words-I have said what I needed to, and the extent of my voice has been used. What comes next? Actions. For too long, I have been behind the scenes planning and debating and thinking. I wallowed in my defeats and I am prepared to start the good fight (or rather, continue it more actively). I can’t say it’s a surprise, but I’d like to pop away for a moment from politics and do what I do best-speak from the heart about issues important to me.

I applied to law school today. My applications are finished, and my letter of rec providers have been notified and I’m preparing for my LSAT in just three weeks. I debated long and hard about whether or not being a sexual assault/rape prosecutor would still be a viable job option for me and ultimately I decide yes.

The need for a compassionate, justice driven lawyer who actively works to better the lives of victims has never been more necessary. I have not changed-I still want to help people who have experienced the depravity of the human condition and I know that it’s something I am uniquely qualified to do. So I will-and I will do so most fervently.

There is one more way I can help-and it’s something I’m going to actively pursue for the time being, to see where it leads me and that’s politics. I’m not going to make this all about me just yet-but I’ll keep you informed. I’m going to be 25 next year, which puts me right in the prime zone for House Of Representatives in the midterms. But as I said, more on that later.

Bill Cosby believes that he will return to his career after his case is over. A picture of Taylor Swift was leaked in connection with her sexual assault case. Donald Trump’s case was dropped. DePaul University saw an increase in sexual assault crimes this week. My own university saw an increase in hate crimes. And the list, quite literally, goes on.

But you know what? I’ve seen incredible kindnesses this week as well. I saw friends gathering together to keep each other safe, I saw (and was involved in) several hugs with strangers (with consent to hug, of course!) and I know that there are good people out there.

I wanted to do a full report over the cases like I usually do-but I’m still not done talking about love and acceptance. It’s what the world needs right now-it’s what I need right now-and I hope that wherever you are, you find a little piece of hope as well.

I’ve lost family members over this election. I have friends who were disowned over this election. Trust me, I understand. I’m in the boat with you, and all I’m asking is that we not let this boat sink.

Love and light, people. For the night is dark and full of terrors.

White Girl Goes to Iftar (Ramadan)

happy-Ramadan-2012-1-1024x640
(This picture is a wish of a happy Ramadan. I didn’t make it, but I like it.)

I’d been working on blogs to post, trying to manage how much frustration I have and how much stress when my roommate asked if I wanted to go with her to iftar. I thought, sure why not and agreed. She responded for both of us and last night we left. I now get to do something I absolutely LOVE doing: I get to break some assumptions and stereotypes and tell you all about my time at iftar.

So some vocab first. Ramadan is the Islamic holy month where you fast during the day hours and eat during the night. You can’t even drink water! Iftar is the name of the meal that you eat after the day is concluded. The fasting is done for two reasons: the first being to honor the gifts of God and to be closer to him. The second is to remember that there are people for whom fasting is not a choice, but rather is their way of life. And so for the month, you honor the struggle that they face in poverty.

I also learned two Arabic words last night: mashallah and inshallah. Mashallah is a kind of protective prayer, said especially over babies which roughly translates to “May God protect you (from the evil eyes)” and inshallah means “God willing”. So if you are traveling or what have you, you say inshallah as a way of wishing them safe travels and the hope that you will be seeing each other again if God wills it.

So now that we’ve got the vocab down, it’s time to get the stigmas and stereotypes broken.

  1. It snows in Turkey. And it isn’t just a desert. They have greenery and whatnot too. (I asked, just because we were talking about silly Ohio weather. Turns out Turkey has regular seasons of 3 months each: Spring, Summer, Autumn Winter. Ohio has maybe two seasons: winter and fiery death by humidity. I just thought this was cool.)
  2. I didn’t have to remain silent when Muslim men were speaking. They usually spoke right to me. And made eye contact. Everyone was EXTREMELY polite and made sure that everyone else around them was doing well. (In fact, the fact that I was getting an education was a source of celebration for everyone. So that debunks the women as inferior bit, I think.)
  3. The prayers that are spoken (we were invited to watch) are prayers of thanks for health, food and opportunity. There is a reverence for being able to live life and for being safe. (We sat through one, and one of our acquaintances was kind enough to translate it for us.)
  4. The hijab (head scarf) is optional. You can choose to wear it if you want, and most women do because it is a way to further their faith. (Which debunks the oppression myth, I think.)

I asked a new acquaintance what the one thing she wanted others to know about her and her religion and she said:

Even if I say nothing, I am still saying something. I have hopes and goals and a family. I am shy and don’t make friends quickly but I love practicing my English. I have a very open mind, and I want to learn all about other people. I wish more people saw that my actions speak louder than my words. I just want to be respected for being myself.

We continued to talk about her story and about how she was so thankful to be in America, where people didn’t hate her for who she was and for what she believed. Reread that. She was thankful to be in a country of acceptance. I met a family who was from Istanbul-whose family was still in Istanbul. They were appalled by the violence there, and by everyone who falsely represented their religion.

In fact, the theme of the night was that education would defeat ignorance if we invested in it. I’ve been to around a dozen or so Christian churches, known people from all of the different factions (Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, etc) and I’ve met Catholics, I’ve met atheists and I could continue on. But never once have I ever felt so welcomed as an outsider than this gathering of the Turkish-Muslim community.

Allow me to reflect on that for a moment.

This group of people who were mostly immigrants or the children thereof welcomed two strangers into their holiday observation as though we were family. They celebrated our education, our career goals and our ideas and opinions without judgment. I looked nothing like the people in attendance, nor did we sound similar but that didn’t hinder their regard of me. In fact, I heard more about how we should find ways to include things like humor in our teachings, about how we should find community in art and food instead of fear and hatred. These people who didn’t know me made me coffee, gave me food and showed a sincere interest in what I had to say-even if I just ranted about how much I didn’t know.

Do you want to know how I get treated at Christian churches? Like a sinner not worthy of their time. And I want you to know that I told the people last night that I was pagan. That I practice a polytheistic religion. I’ve said that to Christians before (who are strangers) and I get the “devil” treatment or I get the shove-the-bible-down-my-throat treatment. Do you know what the Muslim women and men told me last night? That they were glad I came with an open mind and took the time to get to know them even though we believed different things. I left with invitations to return for women’s nights, cooking classes and art sessions, as well as many hugs.

Last night was an experience I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I may not have all the information I need in order to fight the bigotry and hatred shown by others, but I have my own experience and it’s a great start. Before I wrap everything up though, let me talk about one last thing.

COFFEE.

cups

Let me tell you. This wasn’t our specific cup, but the decoration is gorgeous on all cups. And the thing is, I’m 23 and I felt like I was holding the crown jewels when I picked up my cup. It’s all so beautiful. And they’re traditional espresso sized, so I also felt like a giant.

cup2.jpg (This is closer to the color-the decoration was roses though.)

As an American, a white girl, a college kid, a twenty-something, you all should not be surprised when I say that I am a regular at Starbucks, I drink coffee until I float in it and anyone who has been to my house knows that there’s always creamer in my fridge and coffee in my percolator. But when I woke up this morning, I couldn’t drink the cup I made myself. It tasted like dirty water in comparison to the coffee I was graciously made last night.

The woman who invited us made us fresh Turkish coffee last night. If I had the ability to make it everyday and it would taste like that, I would never buy creamer again. Let me be very clear, I hate black coffee. It has to have at least creamer in it, if not something else. And the coffee she made us last night was the very first time I have ever drank coffee black and enjoyed it. I didn’t even add sugar.

Apparently, if there’s bubbles and foam at the top, that’s how you know it’s a good cup. And when you are all done, if you turn your cup upside down, swirl it three times and let it set, you can tell your future. (I so tried it, but no one knew how to read it, nor did anyone believe so we made up stuff and got a bunch of laughs.)

coffee reading.jpg(Again, not my cup, but this is basically what it looks like when you’re ready to read it.)

I’ll leave you with a custom.

When a man is inquiring after a wife, he will bring his family to the woman’s house and the woman will serve them all coffee. She will hold out the suitor’s coffee and put in it salt, spices or other items which would not be for coffee (tomato paste, oil, etc). If the man drinks the entire coffee, it shows his devotion to the woman and his desire to marry her is deemed genuine. Apparently it’s very good for comedic relief, as oftentimes the man will make faces to get through the taste of the coffee. It’s meant as a joke, but also as a way to prove your love.

I rather like that. Apparently there are some really funny stories-so I’m going to go around asking people about their coffee ceremony stories from now on.

Thanks for reading. I had a lot I wanted to say, and it was just so wonderful. (I have plenty more to say as well, but another day perhaps.) For the first time, I wasn’t afraid of strangers, I felt accepted. And it wasn’t at all like how the news reports. All I saw were a bunch of people happy to eat food and pray, happy to share their stories with strangers, happy to be listened to and respected. I can’t say I’d want for anything else.

LGBTQIAP+

I got into a philosophical conversation today with some friends about how it is incredibly common for the masses to cut off the letters after “LGBT”. Hardly anyone uses the other letters, or they go so far as Q. I want to discuss these terms, as well as a few others. Not in spite of Pulse, but because of it. Human rights and human beings cannot continue to go unspoken, underrepresented and undermined. My only waiver statement is that I’m trying my best to be accurate, but I’m not perfect. This is meant as a discussion-if you have comments, concerns or general inquiries-please plop them into the comments. I always take them seriously-ya’ll know that to be true.

themore

Lesbian: A woman who is romantically, sexually, and/or affectionally attracted to women.

Gay: A man who is romantically, sexually, and/or affectionally attracted to men.

Bisexual: A person who has sexual and emotional relationships with or feelings towards both women and men, although not necessarily at the same time.

Transgender: A term for people who challenge society’s view of gender as fixed, unmoving, dichotomous, and inextricably linked to one’s biological sex.

Queer: Usually this term is used as a self-affirming umbrella term for the LGBTQIA community. *COULD BE OFFENSIVE*

Intersex (Androgynous): A person born with sex chromosomes, external genitalia, or an internal reproductive system that is not considered medically standard for either male or female. If both are present, the term hermaphrodite may still be used, even though it is outdated

Asexual: A person who doesn’t experience sexual attraction or who has low or no interest in sexual activity. There is considerable diversity among the asexual community; each asexual person experiences things like relationships, attraction, and arousal somewhat differently.

Pan (Poly)sexual: A person who is attracted to all or many genders or gender expressions.

+ (Ally): An individual whose attitudes and behavior are supportive and affirming of all genders and sexual orientations and who is active in combating homophobia, transphobia, heterosexism, and cissexism both personally and institutionally.

Questioning: A process whereby an individual is re-assessing his or her sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Androphilia: attraction to men, males, and/or masculinity

Gynephilia: attracted to woman, females, and/or femininity

Autosexual: someone who has a great deal of trouble responding to someone else sexually but can respond fairly or very well to his (or her) own touch.

Metrosexual: a man with a strong aesthetic sense who spends more time, energy, or money on his appearance and grooming than is considered gender normative.

Skoliosexual: attracted to genderqueer and transsexual people and expressions

Genderqueer: Identity adopted by some trans people who blur the lines of the gender binary or embrace gender fluidity.

Gender Binary: Recognizes only two genders and regulates behavior within narrowly male or female expectations.

Neutrois: non-binary gender identity which is considered to be a neutral or null gender.

Transsexual: a person who identifies as a sex other than the one to which they were assigned at birth

Aromantic: a person who experiences little or no romantic attraction to others and/or a lack of interest in forming romantic relationships.

Greyromantic: orientation that is between aromantic (no romantic attraction) and romantic, experiencing romantic attraction, but not very often.

Lithromantic: feel romantic attraction towards others and also enjoy being in romantic relationships but only in theory.

Demiromantic: an individual who does not experience attraction unless they have formed a strong emotional connection with another individual. Often within a romantic relationship.

Polyamorous: open to more than one relationship even if they are not currently involved in more than one

Cisgender: Not transgender, that is, having a gender identity or gender role that society considers appropriate for the sex one was assigned at birth.

Sexual Orientation: A person’s emotional, physical, and sexual attraction and the expression of that attraction with other individuals.

There’s a difference between sex, sexual orientation and gender. There is also a difference between sexual orientation and attraction. I just want to get these definitions out there, because ignorance can only be defeated by education and understanding.

Definitions today were taken from:

Amherst College

It’s Pronounced Metrosexual

Google

Give Love Today

I was going to do a piece today about trans fear at my old high school. I was going to tell you all about this great idea about how to revamp the education system so that ignorance is blotted away by comprehensive education. I was going to tell you about the hopes I have for the future.

Instead, I got in contact with the people I know from Florida, made sure they were safe.

Instead, I checked the pages of my LGBTQIAP friends, to make sure they were still alive, still safe, still okay.

Instead, I found out that there was something similar going to happen in California, but it was stopped. And that people were murdered in my home state today as well.

Instead, I searched the news, angry to find that not only had people lost their lives, there was a bomb that would have gone off as well.

Instead, I opened all my social medias and watched the solidarity of people praying for a better tomorrow.

I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry for the lives lost. I’m so sorry for the way that the education system failed. I’m so sorry that people are still afraid of what they don’t understand. I’m so sorry that hatred is a larger driving force than compassion. I’m so sorry that people will take this event to talk about Islam, LGBTQIAP and gun violence in an ignorant light, without actually helping the situation, creating more ignorance and bigotry. I’m so sorry that there were tweets this morning about “deserving it” and “AIDS on the walls”. I’m so sorry.

I won’t promote hate. I won’t hide who and what I am. But I want to ask all of my readers, followers, friends, family, fellow bloggers, and everyone who may come in contact with this post, or me, to please be careful-especially if you’re planning on going to PRIDE. Please. Don’t let hatred force you back into the shadows. But please be careful. Be safe. Be loved.