Wake Me Up (When September Ends)

I have news.

I submitted my second round proposal for the President’s Prize this week. I will find out next Monday (the 11th, I believe) how it fared and then may jump right into planning for stage three. There are now more steps and I’ve upped the anty a bit.

So the stages (in order):

1. Turn in round one (done) 2. Round one review (done) 3. Turn in round two (done) 4. Review round two 5. Notify those who are moving on 6. Presentations 7. Review of presentations 8. Notify those who are moving on 9. Interviews 10. Review of interviews 11. Notify winners

Now, I am only *directly* able to affect numbers 1, 3, 6 and 9. So for me, I am half way there! But this is something which will not be finished until the end of November. And that’s okay. It teaches me patience. I added in working with the legislative system to get an Ohio Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill passes (or at least introduced), I’ll be presenting at two conferences and more! I don’t want to give too much away just yet, becuase I’m still refining it. Rest assured that as soon as I am finished with this process, I will tell you all about it!
But the thing is, I know I am just one person. I will try my best, because this is something I am very passionate about and I believe that I can absolutely make a difference. One raindrop raises the sea, after all.

And it is that message, that belief that makes me want to fight each day. But it still hurts my heart when I see articles like This One. Now BEFORE YOU CLICK-this is an article which is both very sad and possibly triggering. It’s a rape news story-about a high school boy.

I’m bringing this up because it is stories like this which explain the need for my project, but also ways in which I can help beyond what I originally thought.

The victim is male. He is African American. He is disabled (mentally). He is a “jock”-he played football. He is a high school student. He was bullied. This case details that the high school AND coaches hid the bullying and tried to cover up the attack. The victim was raped with a coat hanger (which was kicked several times).
The facts of this case are such that I may not have thought to cover. I know I fight to be gender inclusive-and that’s how I structured my project. But I didn’t think to include “hazing” events (such as this is alleged to be). I didn’t think to include disabilities (although I certainly want to focus on inclusive body positivity and awareness).

Perhaps the biggest thing I didn’t think about was the fact that this information (that is, my project), might actually be more necessary for the older people-the ones in charge of the students, than the students themselves. Now, I’m totally focused on students-because that is my target audience. But this is not the first case of an incident being covered up by administration at the high school level. I mean, my own state stood front and center back in 2012 becuase of the Steubenville rape-in which an unconscious girl was raped by several people-and the incident was posted to social media sites. The hacker who uncovered the high school’s involvement is scheduled for trial-because even though he was the one who cracked this wide open, hacking is illegal-but a different story for a different day.

The next couple weeks are exceptionally busy for me. I’ve got a lot of school work, I’m performing a wedding and hopefully I’m carrying ahead with the project timeline. Even so, I want to take a moment to thank you.

Thank you to everyone who shared A Call For Help. Thank you for everyone who answered that call. I know that the stories I read through were so moving, so emotional. I tried to answer each email I received-and I thank you here as well. I know these are not easy stories to tell-and I keep my word-I will not share them with others without permission. I did notice a very general theme which applied to every single story I read. And I think that if this theme were applied to more people’s daily lives, a great deal would change. I am, of course, talking about being heard and believed, treated with respect and dignity.

I’ll keep you all informed, of course. Wish me luck!

 

Oh, and before I forget, thank you so much, all my new followers! I’m glad you’ve come along for the journey.

 

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Sometimes

Sometimes song lyrics are all you have. As a child, I was deeply enthralled in Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. And one of the characters used only quotes, because she found an inability within herself to find the right words for her thoughts. That happened to me just a little as a child, but it happens ALL THE TIME as an adult. I struggle for the right words with caution, I try to find what I want to say in as few words as possible. But clearly, I am a writer and words are my friends.

So what am I going to blog about today? I’m gearing up for a super women’s rights post, so today I will take a page from Madeline and just use quotes. These quotes are from all manner of time and space, have meant something to me, have moved me, shaped me or forced me to think and I think it’s fair to say that they are part of who I am. I’ll keep the song lyrics at the bottom!

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. -Frederick Douglass

Hope” is the thing with feathers/ That perches in the soul/ And sings the tune without the words/ And never stops at all. -Emily Dickinson

But I have promises to keep/ And miles to go before I sleep. -Robert Frost

There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me. -Jane Austen

Your heart is bruised, my dear, not broken. The soul is a compass; you will find your way back. -K.A. Scott

All that is gold does not glitter/ Not all those who wander are lost/ The old that is strong does not wither/ Deep roots are not reached by the frost. -J.R.R. Tolkien

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty. -Mahatma Gandhi

The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea. -Isak Dinesen

————-SONG LYRICS—————

And I’ve tried/ But trying doesn’t always get me there/ and I’m fine/ Even when the way it’s going isn’t fair/ Halfway between somewhere and nothing/ Woke up and I’m twenty something. -Graham Norton

And now I’m itching for the tall grass/ I’m longing for the breeze/ I need to step outside just to see if I can breathe/ Gotta find a way out/ Maybe there’s a way out. -Boys Like Girls (this is my favorite song)

This world will never be/ What I expected/ And if there’s something wrong/ Who would’ve guessed it? -Three Days Grace

I said yep, what a concept/ I could use a little fuel myself/ And we could all use a little change. -Smash Mouth

—————————————-

I decided to end it there, but this may be a multi-part blog. I mean, I have TONS more quotes and I can guarantee there will be days I need to break away from my thoughts. This has been fun!

Role Models and Hope For A Messed Up World

I couldn’t find the words I wanted to say right away, so this post is coming almost a week after the incident, but the concept has been stuck in my head for quite some time. As an individual, I love being a singular version of myself. But I look often for someone else who is also a trailblazer. I wanted to write about why I look for and who I select as a role model for my life. I think it’s important for people, women especially, to have someone who is an upstanding, respectable example of the lives we want to lead. Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t people from older stories who could be role models (I frequently look to Joan of Arc, personally). The problem with using people from the past is that things were different. The world was not the same then as it is now, and we need people who are more like us than sword bearing warriors or queens from afar. 
  There is the social media factor, I suppose, which lends itself to a certain realm of role models, some good, some not. But it seems that the news represents best those who are not good role models for the young (and young-ish) people of today. I am of course talking about the celebrities like Nikki Minaj, Lindsey Lohan and to some extent even Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. They all represent the pandemonium of fame and the pit falls thereof. We could also examine outlets like Disney or Matel, who have presented the world with prestigious Barbie, Cinderella, and Ariel (just to name a few). It is these three which are both a great help and a hindrance to young women of today. I want to explore them and then propose my list of four individuals who are better role models for our generation. 

  Barbie: In almost every household you might find her, or a cousin or a friend. She is blonde, brunette, red headed, light skinned, dark skinned. She has had a plethora of jobs, donned an impressive collection of costumes and even manages quite a large variety of accessories. Over the years, people have yelled at her for being too skinny, too unrealistically proportioned and too shallow. I mean, there was even a brief moment in Toy Story 3 where she was introduced to public audiences as a complete and utter bimbo, followed by a weak attempt to reclaim her dignity. But the thing is, she’s too uniform. She has no individualized flaws. No scars, stretch marks, beauty marks, wrinkles, pimples, or really flaws of any kind. Her makeup is always done, she’s always smiling and there is nothing any of us can do about it.

  Cinderella: She’s Disney’s star princess. I mean, who didn’t want to be a princess because of her? She came from rags to riches, found a guy, married Royal and viola. She even had a set of killer shoes. But what does she have as far as personality? She’s got wishes, desire. But she lacks motivation and drive. She “asked for a dress, shoes and a night off”. I get it. But that’s not real life at all. And why do you need a man to provide you with everything? I mean, independence goes a long way. I know in the original story she was a teenager, but isn’t that kind of the point? In her time period, that made her basically an adult, and I know she would have been in need of a man, but this is the 21st century and we don’t need that anymore. Say it with me: I am a strong, independent woman who needs no man, but can have one if I so desire.

  Ariel: With a golden voice and perfect hair, who cares about anything else, right? Wrong. Again, you don’t need a man to be the best woman you can be. The thing is, Sebastian was right. Giving up everything, your soul and life included, just to get a man (or attempt to) is not the way to go. And by this point, wouldn’t you also need to make exceptions for finding the right partner-be it woman or man or just a good friend? As with Cindy, sorry Ariel, but there’s nothing that warrants me looking up to you if you’re going to change everything about yourself for someone else.

So I’ve given you a basic run down of my issues with the above, but I do want to mention that I know these characters are fake, but they are widely distributed and influential. I do not want to come across as impossible to reason with so the last person (it’s actually two people) are fictitious as well. And I also realize that the women I am looking at have flaws. But that’s exactly why I chose them. And I will go over them as well. These are, of course, my own personal opinions and you can take what I say with a grain of salt. I would love to hear your opinions in the comments, as always. So,without further adieu.

Michelle’s List of Role Models for Women of 2015.

  Judge Carolyn Walker-Diallo: You might not have heard of this woman, but she is the reason I’m doing this post. Seven days ago, she was sworn in as a judge in New York. She wore a headscarf, because she is Muslim and she was sworn in on the Qur’an. Now, none of this even really seems like anything out of the ordinary. But the amount of hate mail she received for being sworn in on the Qur’an is astounding. This woman vowed to uphold the law, as she has done her entire career. She is an upstanding citizen who was voted into office. I came across this story in my FaceBook news feed because of how many ignorant people are accessing social media to tear her down. You are permitted to swear into office on any holy book and even the constitution of the United States. She has done nothing above and beyond the average expectations I have for a law abiding citizen, but she is my candidate for a role model for the simple fact that she stuck by her faith, even when people threatened her and heckled her about it. She stayed true to herself, even though that path offered great resistance.

  Adele: Let me say that I am a huge fan of Adele. Her voice is so beautiful, and she’s gorgeous. She’s not stick thin, and I love her for it. She says what’s on her mind and once again, stays true to herself. She took time from her career to take care of her baby. We’re almost the same age and that means a great deal to me. Why, you ask? Because she’s proving that not all 20 year olds and 20-somethings are wild and crazy and awful. She’s a credit to our age group. She even works at a record shop. Her flaws? She’ so soulful in her music that she really only sings sad songs. Which isn’t like a huge flaw, but I don’t associate anything other than sad love songs and break up songs with her. 

  Angelina Jolie-Pitt: Did this one take you by surprise? I really thought that this spot would be occupied by many other people, and indeed it could have been, but there are lots of women who could have taken this spot who simply aren’t as well known. And while you are all entitled to have your own individual role modes, for the purposes of this blog, I needed someone visible. She adopts underprivileged kids, she works with charities and organizations, speaks on behalf of underprivileged people to the UN. And on top of that, she preventatively had a mastectomy so that she didn’t have to worry about breast cancer. I mean, that sounds like a very personal thing and she’s known for her body. I remember a lot of people were upset at her for taking charge of her own body, and that is why I commend her for doing it. She did what she had to do so that she could live her life to the fullest. Also in this spot, Emma Watson for similar reasons. 

  

  Molly Hooper/Buffy the Vampire Slayer: I told you I would bring in some fictitious characters. I chose one from my younger adult life and one from my current adult life. So I will start with Buffy. She was a kick-ass teenager who saved the world a lot. And the thing is, that was badk when TV series were filmed with people who looked like teenagers playing teenagers, and incorporated flaws and diversity of character types. Buffy had an attitude, she was impatient and made mistakes. She needed help and asked for it, she complained about life and then grew up and made sacrifices. She represented real teenage life, apart from vampire hunting. And her friends were just as painfully realistic. But they all had a moral code and they represent a lovely era of beautiful story telling.

   Molly Hooper. I have great aspirations to be Molly Hooper. For those of you who do not know who Molly Hooper is, allow me to tell you. The BBC produces a show called Sherlock, based off of Sherlock Homesfrom Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In the BBC version, there is a medical examiner by the name of Molly Hooper.  She has an enormous crush on Sherlock, does everything dignified she can to get him to notice her including buy him a present at Christmas. He’s rude about it and she calls him out on his bad behavior. Later in the series, she also tells him he’s throwing away his gifts and that he should apologize for various actions. Sherlock comes to respect her. And she didn’t change herself. She stayed true to her personality and persona, all while being a valuable asset to a team. Honestly, I know that this is all fiction, but really, if I were ever to model myself after someone who never existed in real life, it would be Molly Hooper. If you haven’t watched Sherlock, I HIGHLY recommend it. I can discuss all manner of theories with you. I’m a true and devoted CumberCookie and Sherlockian.

Anyway, this has been my short list about female role models in modern society. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. 

Things, Excitement!

A little while ago I wrote about how my computer crashed and sent all my things-including the story I had been working on for over a year-to the abyss. I wrote about how I had an early edition on paper and that from the ashes I would rebuild. I’ve found that my scenario is the best thing that could ever happen to my creative license. 

As I look over the words that I wrote before, I can see what the editors and publishers saw. I can laugh about the mistakes I made in an eager attempt to get it done, the amateur manner in which my characters behaved. That was not the story I should have written. It was a mess.

So today, instead of fervishly trying to copy down the words that I had written to produce a terrible tragedy of a book, I scrapped the project for real. Not just starting over, but an entirely new story. Sure, the key points are still the same, and my ideas are really similar-but the presentation is completely different. I have new desires and so do my characters.

It will be darker, more believeable, more like the story I wanted to write but failed to before. What’s more, I will be able to say that I’m writing an entirely new story for this NaNoWriMo, because I will be. This time around, I won’t be hanging on to over-used lines and stereotypes but jumping into unknown territory with characters that feel as real to me as people I went to high school with. 

I think this is a great metaphor for my own life. I have a predetermined plan in my head, where I follow a plan that I made ages ago, saying the words that I have heard over and over before. I know that there are options out there, and that I have complete freedom to reach out and take hold of the new and the bold, but I’m so attached to the story I’ve already made. Believe me, I cried so hard when my manuscript disappeared. And I think that’s an entirely acceptable metaphor for life. I fight so hard to keep the outdated parts of me, just for the sake of saying “But see? I did this!” when what I really need to say is “But see? I’m making new paths!” I never like the change that is imposed upon me: graduating, moving, starting new jobs, making new friends, but in the end those changes are the exact reason I want to keep revising my chapters, my life.

So goodbye first draft, it’s been really nice getting to know you, but it’s time for a serious revision.

Hello new draft, I can’t wait to dig in and see where this story leads.

  

The Evolution of Self: A Portrait

Years ago I had an art teacher tell me that I was no good at drawing, or coloring, or creativity. Those concepts carried into my time as a high schooler, making me avoid art class with a passion. I chose instead, to put all of my efforts into music-where I learned to play various instruments with adequate skill and sang my  heart out in groups and solo. It is the story of my music education that I will hold onto for another day. When I found myself in a visual art class one year, I went to the teacher and explained that “I sucked”. It wasn’t because I had been certified as an individual without artistic powers or that I wanted mercy in the expectations, but because someone had told the impressionable child-me that I was no good and I carried that with me as my own truth. My high school art teacher told me that I didn’t suck and kept after me to keep trying. When my first entry on a larger project was complimented by TWO art teachers, I was confused.

I thought I sucked.

And yet here I am, a number of years later still and I find both coloring and drawing to be comforting. My skills are unpolished and although I find it relaxing, I would not say I am an artist. If you ever wondered what a difference havig art in classrooms can make, please use this story. If you’ve ever wanted to know why I have the utmost respect for teachers with passion, use this story. And when you combine the two, you’ll understand why this is one of the life-defining moments in my life.

I struggle daily with how to define myself. The labels which have been handed to me do not present a complete picture, and there are not words for the other parts of me. As I explored this, I realized that I am in a transient state, changing, moving and shaping myself constantly. I have no labels, because I do not need them. I am an unfinished work of art, still being planned out by an artist who hasn’t decided where this project will go.

I look back on that moment in high school when I struggled with my identity. Perhaps it’s just high school, perhaps I was different. I didn’t know that by breaking down the walls of my childhood-the misconceptions that I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t worth investing time in-I would be doing the best thing for myself.

It has been 8 years since I stepped foot inside the high school I would graduate from. I was a junior when I took the art class that convinced me I didn’t have to be perfect to make something beautiful. 

I didn’t have to be perfect to make something beautiful.

So here I am, almost a decade after I began my transformation into the adult I will become. I haven’t finished changing, and in fact, I imagine I will be someone new before I finish. But the thing is, those words stuck with me. The teacher I had in high school is both someone whom I admire deeply and a source of great inspiration to me. She pushes me still to see the world in a different way than may be easy, or colorless. And so one of the things I’ve been working on this semester is exploring that change. What I came up with I’ve been putting into writing, becoming more assertive in what I need to say. What I don’t show people often is that I also put my messages into drawings. Sometimes they are tattoo sketches far too big and detailed to be reasonably priced, sometimes they are metaphorical and drawn in an utmost surreal context. But then there’s this piece.

The Evolution of Self: A Portrait

  I so named it that because I wanted to show how my change is both reflective of who I am now, and the product of who I was. I’d like to take a moment and explain what I feel the message is. You don’t have to like it, just consider it.

The basic content is: a waterfall, a phoenix and two sets of hands. That much, I gather you could figure out for yourself. The next layer are the words in the background: Transform, Brave, Love, Acceptance, Beautiful, Hope, Life, Forgiveness, Growth. There is the color scheme to consider, the level of detail (and shading) in the hands, the size of the hands and the “decoration” of the hands, as well as the way the background is set up. 

The nine words are the ones I had to learn the hard way. They are reflective of self, things that were not always easy for me to fully grasp.

The background grows darker, more assertive as it approaches the bigger hands, more concrete. The waterfall is closer to the small hands. The left side of the picture in general is lighter, less defined, more washed out. 

And the hands themselves. On the left, you have a child’s hands. They are reaching out for help, open and expressive. The nails are painted black, and the waterfall is suggestive of losing oneself, “going off the deep end” and trying to “keep my head above the water”. The hands themselves are lightly shaded, as though the owner is becoming invisible. And yet there are bright red marks on the arms-dashes, hope and love. I can promise you that this isn’t a shock-and awe piece, but a true to life representation of the way my arms looked spring of my freshman year. I don’t talk about it often, it isn’t a story too many people know, but now they will. Those two words were the things I wanted most out of life-hope of a better life and love that would heal all wounds. And yes, I really did cut them into my arms with diamond Os and the Es facing vein length. It is honest and brutal.

On the right, there is the me that I am now. older, stronger hands with imperfections (like crooked fingers) reaching out to the younger me, the me that is representative of the 2-3 million people who engage in self harm each year. The right side reaches out, without judgement, offering safety and hope and love to those without. The nails are blue and a silver wedding band is there. But if you look closely, the scars are still there, silent reminders that what was done cannot be undone, but can make you stronger. 

In the end, it was never about being right or being wrong. It was always about being the person who broke free from their shell to embrace something new. I may not be perfect, but I made something beautiful: a new life. And that is the true evolution. Like a phoenix, I took my failures and created brilliance. I cannot wait to see what comes next.

Unless

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

I’ve been stewing on this quote for a while, brought to you by the great Dr. Seuss in The Lorax. I think on it often. And lately, it just bubbles to the surface, like life is trying to teach me that lesson.

The think about getting comfortable in my skin is that I’m not comfortable. But I’m comfortable with that. I’m so depressed I can barely breathe or I’m so manic I can barely take a breath. Or, in the moments between, I’m so empty that it’s like the breath has been knocked out of me. (See a common theme here?)

What I know is that life is hard. It’s hard in general, but there are things that make it harder. Invisible illnesses, visible illnesses, being different that society deems appropriate, being unique. Life comes at you with brutal force that knocks you down, and just keeps kicking. It takes you by surprise (and not always in the nice way) and brings you to the depths of your abilities. It gives, it takes and you are left to cope.

It’s a very exciting life that keeps me guessing. I wake up and find some days that I can’t get a hold on life quite yet and I wake up some days and grab life by the reigns. Other days I feel like life has gotten away from me. But that’s why this quote comes back to me.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if I’m depressed so majorly that I feel life leaving me. It doesn’t matter if I’m so apathetic that I just pass the day in a blur. It doesn’t matter if I’m so manic that I don’t sleep for a week and process everything at lightning speed.

What matters is that I always look for another day. 

The sun will rise again.

So, as I pass through the land of no feelings and into the land of (hypo)mania, I smile. Not because I’m happy, but because I know that unless I wait for another sunrise, unless I keep trying to get a handle on life, it will not get better.

I hope all you lovely folks have a beautiful day. _/|\_