Preaching the End of the World

Order of business first-if you are here because of the NaNo Hop, please drop me a comment-I have no idea why my notifications aren’t loading, but I can’t see any of you.

This past week was my birthday. Birthday 24. And like I do every year, I look for songs which contain my age. I found quite a few! I’ll link us up. But I picked the Chris Cornell song. It’s not exactly the best video I’ve ever seen-but the words are spot on.

I’d been a fan of 1985 since high school, but I’d never heard any of the other songs until I went looking. The Pat Stansik song definitely came pretty close as a runner up, and I thought about it for a while, but I had to go with the one that I just felt a little more strongly about.
Now, this is going to be a little bit of a reintroduction-simply because I know there are NaNos out there who have only just come around to the epic word fest that is my blog. For the rest of you, please know I appreciate you and our regular broadcasts will return shortly.
So hi there!
I’m Michelle. And this is my safe space. I write about what I’m passionate about, and I delight in epic conversations. I generally try to make sure there are no rules, except for respect. Differing opinions welcome, interaction always welcome-but I have no problem shutting down things that get rude, racist or otherwise belittling.
This is a forum for discussion (typically) about:
Mental Health
LGBT+/SAGA issues
Women’s Issues
Sexual Assault
Spirituality (although not often)
Current Events (including the Dakota Access Pipeline)
Writing (Both news pieces and novels)
Poetry
I post my opinions about these things, I post my stories. I write. And I do not apologize for having opinions, but I know I’m not perfect either. I make spelling errors, I make grandiose passionate speeches that I sometimes need to explain. I am human.
So welcome to this little nook. Grab a cup of coffee or tea or maybe something a little stronger. Stay hydrated. Be safe.
You are valid. You are irreplaceable.
Oh, and P.S. I’m working on a new novel. 🙂
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Playlist

Music just sometimes feeds your soul in ways you can’t explain. Sometimes it inspires, sometimes it destroys, always it gives you what you needed.

I’ve been listening to Disturbed version of The Sounds of Silence. (I have listened to the original, but found it no to my taste.) In fact, here’s the playlist I’ve had on repeat for about a month now.

The Sounds of Silence-Disturbed
Silhouette-Alquilo
Comes and Goes in Waves-Greg Laswell
Warriors-Imagine Dragons
Bloodstream-Stateless
Lost It All-Black Veil Brides
This is Gospel-Panic! At The Disco
Put the Gun Down-Andy Black
Hear You Me-Jimmy Eat World
Comatose-Skillet
Falling In Love At A Coffee Shop-Landon Pigg

I have a couple more, but let’s pick up on trends here. Songs about the loss of hope, the loss of purpose, being caught in the sea with a hurricane approaching. (Except for the last one-that song I just love because other reasons.) Which led me to thinking:

Be kind to yourself today. It’s a brutal, nasty world out there and well, don’t get sucked down into it, okay?

Deep In the Heart of GISHWHES

It’s day two of GISHWHES (the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen) and although I cannot show you any pictures yet (but I’ll be doing a blog over that as soon as I am allowed!) I can tell you about this process and what it has meant for me.

Before I get into that though, let me thank all my new followers for stumbling upon my not-so-humble opinions and thank you all those who stick around. I am honestly delighted to have met/start meeting ya’ll! It’s so wonderful that I get to share my thoughts and have feedback! Along that line, I’ve not published SEVEN articles with The Mighty and I am so blown away that just a couple months ago I was dawdling along and now I’m making progress in such fantastic ways. Beyond thrilled. Honestly.

So in the process of these last two days I have: Painted a portrait, illustrated a fairy tale, made a birthday card, made three post cards, done something nice for someone, taped coupons to shelves at the store, and made origami out of toilet paper. In the next few days, I will be making a trailer park out of sand (think sand castles), graffiti-ing the US constitution somewhere (legally!) and participating in a virtual choir-just to name a few things!

And sure, there are plenty of things which are also asking for participation which I haven’t yet gotten to and I’ve got my hands in quite a few projects as we speak, but the real value here is what it is doing for my mental health. And that’s where I wanted to head with this conversation.

I balked at the idea of doing GISHWHES at first because I’m shy, my art skills aren’t Monet level, I don’t have a lot of money, blah blah blah. I got over my inhibitions and decided that I was going to do it. And now that I am here, I am ever so glad I did. These items have given me confidence to do things I otherwise would not. I can do all these really fun things under the guise of GISHWHES, without feeling like people will excessively judge me. And sure, they absolutely will judge me. But you know what? I wear my GISH-membership like a suit of armor. I’m proud I’m doing stuff that’s out of my norm and I’m taking chances-which is more than I think a lot of people can say.

What Pokemon Go is doing for obesity and depression/anxiety, GISHWHES is doing for similar things. I’ve read the accounts of so many other GISHers who talk about having PTSD, Depression, Anxiety, OCD and more doing their items and breaking out of their shells. It’s phenomenal, it’s encouraging and I think it’s a delightful way to make friends who have the same interests as you.

When this week is over and I can post the pictures and show the videos, I will discuss all this in a little more linear manner. Just know that it’s epic, it’s fantastic and I’m doing my very best to help my team win.

Oblivion

I’ve had the song Oblivion in my head all day, rewatched the YouTube video about 80 times today. That’s not an exaggeration either. I love the musicality of it, and the lyrics are just delightful. The part that gets me every time is the following section:

When you fall asleep with your head upon my shoulder.
When you’re in my arms but you’ve gone somewhere deeper.

Are you going to age with grace?
Are you going to age without mistakes?
Are you going to age with grace,
Or only to wake and hide your face?

When oblivion is calling out your name,
You always take it further than I ever can.

When you play it hard, and I try to follow you there.
It’s not about control but I turn back when I see where you go.

Are you going to age with grace?
Are you going to leave a path to trace?

But oblivion is calling out your name,
You always take it further than I ever can.

When oh oblivion is calling out your name,
You always take it further than I ever can.

I know, I probably didn’t need to add the whole song, but at the same time, I’ve cried at songs before but this is beautiful.

We all go through battles. Life is hard on all of us. There’s nothing we can do to prepare for it, nothing we can do to make it easier. We just keep fighting. We have no other choice. But no matter what, we’re not alone.

I invite you to give it a listen. The music starts at 0:56, it stars Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) and the video is sad, but I like to listen and make my own mental video.

Bastille-Oblivion

Once Upon A Time

It was a slightly overcast day, but with enough sun to count as sunny. I woke up, smiled a bit, and headed to school and my then job as a tutor for the school. It was the end of April, and I was looking forward to the end of the semester. Ben, working in the same department, saw me as I walked in. I asked him what was on his mind, and we began to talk about the same topic that we’d been casually mentioning for ages: marriage. I thought we could just do a courthouse run when we went to get our marriage certificate, but the courthouse hadn’t offered them, and so we were still looking for a solution. I pulled the number up for the courthouse of the municipal we were in for classes (which was the next district over, and therefore a possibility). The judge DID perform marriages-by appointment only!

When would we like to be married?

I wanted May Day-a religious holiday about fertility and thusly good luck.

They only did Friday’s.

May second? Booked.

May ninth?

That was fine. We were scheduled for 9AM. Perfect.


The date was two weeks away, with plenty of time to break the news to our families that we were being completely serious (they’d known we would for about a year, but until we had something concrete it was always just up in the air.) We’d tried a December wedding, but it hadn’t panned out.

Fast forward to the Friday before our wedding-Friday, May 2 at 4:56PM. The Judge had been overbooked! And he wouldn’t even able to do our wedding!! No appointments available before our marriage certificate expired. Thank you.

It was the end of the business week before we were finished with our conversation. I could call no official until Monday, and that might be too late. So I began to try every minister, high priest, high priestess, pastor and anyone I had an email address for in the closest three counties. Most, as I had assumed, needed more notice. One had asked if we could drive forty miles to their Sabbat that same night, where they would love to do so, with less than an hour to get there-we passed, but I would have loved to!

Ben had been calling people with the same fervor, and emailing his professors (who are well known to be better connected than college students!) and lo and behold-one of his professors was ordained! Was he free on Friday the 9th? Yes! Would he be willing to do so? Yes! Perfect!

It wasa sunny Friday, the flowers were all blooming in the trees and it seemed like the perfect day for happiness. My parents and siblings, Ben’s dad, Ben’s best friend (and his parents) and a couple lost stragglers came to the classroom. My dad stopped off and bought pizza for everybody before we got there. In walked the professor, complete with a stole and robes, a brief case, and a guitar case. I’d never had Dr. Emens, but he seemed a nice enough fellow, and he was certainly doing us a kindness.

We had a traditional wedding, complete with prayers, vows that were based in a religion I had left, and the exchanging of rings. Then, at the very end, Dr. Evens sat down and asked if he could play a song for us. He chose “Good Riddance (Time of Our Lives)” by Green Day. We paid him, signed the things we needed to and then headed to our honeymoon-weekend (where we watched three seasons of Game of Thrones and the owner of the place we stayed picked wild flowers-which I dried (because they were my wedding bouquet).

It may not have been traditional, it may not have been the big and fancy wedding that everyone always thinks about, but it was unique, it was prophetic and it was the start of a wonderful marriage. And it was all completed at 4:30PM Friday, May 9, 2014.

Now, two years later, it is rainy (which I love!) and I’m sitting at the kitchen table with my huge cup of coffee, thinking about that day. I remember that I sat there thinking that I wasn’t nervous at all, that I knew I was making the decision that I’d made in my head a long time before.

There are some things you didn’t get with that version of the story.

I was 21 (and had been so for 5 months exactly). Ben was 20 (and had been so for a week under 5 months). I was asked within five minutes of getting married if I was going to have kids/when I was going to have kids/if I was already pregnant. 

Ben told my dad (and I later adopted the same reasoning for the people who asked why we got married so young:

I didn’t want to start our lives separately and have to make room for the other person. I want to start from absolutely nothing more than love and build a life together. I want to start out together poor and watch as our riches grow.

I’d always told people that when you know you love someone, you shouldn’t feel like age should stop you from spending your life together.

I chose to hyphenate my name because at the time I thought I wanted to go into academics and that way, if I published any papers, you’d know without a doubt it was me. I may not be directly going into academia, but I don’t regret splitting my name. Because it gives me an identity all my own. I use either name as I please, both for formal occasions and I am content.

So happy anniversary, my love. It’s been an interesting, epic, bizarrely perfect two years and I look forward to collecting more with you.

The Day the Music Died

I began today as I do many others: pensively. It was a still, quiet morning and there was something almost melancholy about it. I opened Pandora, as I usually did and for the very first time, American Pie was in my playlist. I’ve heard the song before (obviously) and I’ve read about the secret theories behind it, but I never really thought much of it. I sang along, as best I could, and when it got to the part that says:

Something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.

I raised my drink, like I was toasting the sky and sang it anyway.

The thing is, the music did die today. But let me tell you why.

Ms. Eileen Ruffing was known as a steadfast music educator who instilled discipline, passion and work ethic into each of her students. Spending decades of her life as a musician and as an instructor, she maintained the utmost professionalism of any human being I have ever known. Her classes were run with a strict policy and it was impossible for you to get away with something wrong without one of her characteristic eye rolls.(It was like she could see through her closed eyelids-you knew you were in trouble.)

She not only ensured that four grades of students had multiple concerts each year for years, she ran a middle school jazz band as well as privately coached students for Solo and Ensemble (a competition event). She was a clarinet by nature. This is the blurb offered by her church: (It’s an option for lessons.) “Band for fifth through eighth grade students with Mrs. Eileen Ruffing. Mrs. Ruffing was the band director at Highland Schools for 35 years and retired in the spring of 2015.  She is a clarinet player and brings with her an enormous amount of personal talent and experience as a band director, and is a long time Saint Vincent de Paul church member.” She was active in “pit” music sections for the Mount Vernon theatre programs. She was involved in several “band” camps at the University of Wooster, as well as at the high school she taught at for 35 years.

Cleveland-Indians-Logos

(She had a poster in her office of the Cleveland Indians for as long as I can remember.)

I remember the very first day of fifth grade band. It was a little before-right when we were signing up for our instruments. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to play-I just wanted to play music! I remember she asked me if I remembered how to  “bite down” to play a clarinet. I thought I did, but I bit my top lip instead of bottom and she rolled her eyes at me and said “No. You’re biting the wrong lip.” I felt so embarrassed! I eventually chose flute, and stayed with that for my high school career-although I did learn other instruments on top of that. She was there for every performance, gave me my first solo and was my biggest supporter when I decided to become field commander.

I was a new commander, and I found out that some of the band members I commanded were doing things that I perceived to be dangerous. I was so upset that I had to be taken aside by the color guard coach. She said, “You know, you’re not the only one who cares that much.” And I said “I know. I just worry so much. I love my friends. I don’t want them to get hurt.” And she said:

That’s how much Eileen loves you. You’re all her kids. But she’s the reason you became commander. She believed in you and you’ll be okay.

I never doubted my abilities to command after that.

So as I sit here, reminiscing about the wayward flute player I was, I’m reminded of the great things about having such a wonderful woman as the one who introduced me to music. Music was the one thing I turned to when times got hard. It’s still my first line of defense. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the music will always find you in your time of need. And so, as your eyes have closed one last time, I offer these words as your soul joins those who have come before.

And I would liked to have known you
But I was just a kid
Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever did.

12974358_10153674571423031_1964240464448343742_n

(This is her several years before I met her. I knew her when her hair was salt and peppered with the stresses of the education system. But I’ll never forget her laugh. It may have happened rarely, but it was something that remains.)

Why the Kesha Ruling Matters

This week has been one hellacious week, as far as my reaction to court cases and life in general. You could say my faith in humanity wavered for a moment in time. But I write to you today from the perspective from someone who found the passion to pull herself from the depths of a hell-like depression into a full blown fighter. I have always been a fighter and now I’ve found my purpose.

Pocahontus Compass

I can no longer sit idly by and let our society, which I have endeavored to learn about and discover seek to oppress me by legislation which forces me to conceal that which is most basic to my existence: my biological sex.

I was born a female, and that is what I will stay, as feels right for me. But for whatever reason, that has been enough to condemn me. Michelle, are you talking about yourself personally or as a generality? Well, reader, I have to say both. And I can think of no more a potent case than the one recently involving Kesha. Kesha is a pop singer signed to the Sony label. She is known for song like “Tik-Tok” and “Crazy Kids”. And earlier this past week, a judge (more specifically Justice Shirley Kornreich of the Manhattan-New York Supreme Court) ruled that Kesha would continue to be legally obligated to fulfill her contract with the man whom Kesha has accused of sexually assaulting and raping her.

Michelle, you don’t even KNOW Kesha, nor anyone even remotely close to that case. How could it POSSIBLY affect you? Well, reader, pull up a chair and let me tell you a story.

—-Before I begin, I actually started this post 4 days ago, and had to stop because it emotionally drained me to the point of insanity. I would now like to finish what I started.

Womens-rights-are-human-rights

If the law says that a woman must stand by her accused rapist (or alleged assaulter, or abuser) for the sake of upholding a piece of paper, on which words are printed and names were signed, you are doing two things. First, you are saying that a contract is more important than a woman’s safety. Second, you are saying that women are not to be respected or believed if they come forward with accusations of assault, abuse or rape. You are saying that a women is expected to be grateful for the opportunities she has and that any reason she may have to want to remove herself from that opportunity is not good enough, and that maybe she shouldn’t have brought it on herself.

I was in class yesterday, and as I usually get there a couple minutes early, I found myself in a super emotional conversation about this very topic. I promise I didn’t start it, but I can proudly say I did pitch in. But because it pertains, I will record the pertinent parts.

Person A: My theater class was talking about the Steubenville rape today and Kesha got brought up. There are 4 women including myself in that class and I’ve never been so emotional in a class before.

Person B: What happened?

Person A: The men in the class all grouped up to say that Kesha should have had the wherewithal to know that she was being given date rape drugs instead of sleeping pills and that she deserved to face the consequences. Then one of the 4 women took their side and said that Kesha getting raped was like a person standing in front of a mass shooter and asking to be shot.

Now, I’m gonna stop my relay of the conversation there, because Person A and the rest of the class were getting into the problems of rape culture (some of which I will bring up in a moment) and because I made my point. Person A was physically shaking, and by the end of the conversation, more than just them was of that same response.

So when I say “rape culture” what is it that I mean? According to the Women Against Violence Against Women, here’s the backstory:

“Rape culture is a term that was coined by feminists in the United States in the 1970’s. It was designed to show the ways in which society blamed victims of sexual assault and normalized male sexual violence.”

rapeculturegraphic

Uh-oh! Did I just say feminists? YES I DID. And the Google definition of feminism is:

Feminism: noun: the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

Feminists are simply people who think that all people should be equal, and have equal rights. That’s it. Not men-hating crazy people. Just equality. It says nothing about what job is “appropriate” or what fashion a person wears or beliefs or anything. Just equality. Seriously. SO MANY people use it the wrong way and have no idea what it is. Educate yourselves!

gender_balance

Anyway, back to my point.

If we as a society are telling one young woman that she cannot escape her alleged attacker, then we are telling ALL women that they are stuck in the cycles of inferiority because of the sex they were born as. We are saying that women do not have the right to feel safe, or to expect to be protected by the laws which seek to govern them. We are telling women that their voice is to be muted, so that no one is to ever pay attention to it because all women are doing is seeking attention without having anything worthwhile to say.

And yes, it IS possible for women to be awful people and just make stuff up for attention. But one bad person is NOT justification enough to punish all women and oppress their needs just as it is not justification enough to punish all of MANkind for the actions of Hitler or John Wilkes Booth.

I try to keep my blogs from being overrun by politics. My husband is the political one and in fact, I think he may eventually come around to the idea of going into politics as a career. I’ve always seen myself as the justice keeper type. But I want to also welcome discussion. I don’t want to exclude views just because they are not my own. I want to know why people think what they think.

This topic is so personal for me. Not because of who is involved, or what happened, but because I am a woman. My husband and I have decided that kids would be great-one day in the distant future. The thought of having a kid now TERRIFIES me. I’m not ready, I’m not financially stable enough, I still go to college and that’s reason enough for me.

Why am I bringing up kids in my blog about the Kesha case? Because I need you all to see the pressures on women. And part of being a woman is being pressured about your biological clock.

I had a professor who told me that my experiences were not correct because they seemed to him to be wrong. He had asked about the pressures of having children on married women. I offered my story because I thought it would help the class understand. Here’s the transcript.

Him: I don’t know. Do any of you married women feel that there is pressure on you to have children?

Me: I had people asking me if I was ready to have a kid five minutes after I got married. And some of the congratulatory Facebook posts also contained questions about it.

Him: I don’t think that happens.

Another woman came to my defense, saying that it does happen and that people also force their ideas of how many children you are supposed to have on you. But the point is, I was told that my experiences were invalid because he didn’t believe them. How am I supposed to combat that?

The CDC recently released a report about women drinking and pregnancy. If you took health class seriously, you know that alcohol and babies do not mix. It’s bad for the babies. But I personally think the CDC is taking it a little too far. Yes, I think that baby health should be at utmost priority. But I also think that if women who are of “sexually reproductive” age and not on birth control have to have their alcohol consumption monitored, then maybe so should men. After all, men are more likely to become alcoholics and if we’re really so concerned about baby health, then why would we want to be unconcerned about alcoholic dads?

The state of Ohio (in which I live) has recently passed a bill stating that abortions will not be funded unless it is necessary for health or in instances of reported rape or incest. Michelle, you just said you weren’t going to get political-what’s this? This is me showing you why Kesha matters.

So let me list this out for you.

ALL THE THINGS WRONG ABOUT THE KESHA RULING AND RAPE CULTURE IN AMERICAN SOCIETY

(The consequences spelled out for you by: a woman.)*

-Women are not to be believed in the event that they accuse someone of rape or assault because they are probably just seeking a better opportunity.

-Women are not to be believed about their experiences because they are probably lying.

-Women are not to consume alcohol because they are going to damage their unplanned children. (There is, to-date, no regulation on men though.)

-Women are not allowed to get an abortion (in several states now, not just my own) unless they have poor health, have been the victim of incest or have been the victim of a rape that they probably just want because they had the opportunity to have “consensual” sex and not worry about the consequences (and they probably lied about being raped anyway).

_________________________________________________________________

And now, you maybe see why the Kesha case is so important. It isn’t about Dr. Luke, Kesha or even Sony. It isn’t about Hollywood’s biases, intolerance, injustice (well, it kinda is) or anything like that. It is about the implications of a ruling based on sexism and oppression in a land where being a woman is already treated like a bad thing. I’ll be graduating Spring 2017 with a degree in Anthropology and then in 2020 with a degree in law. And I’m aiming for the laws which limit women’s rights. That will be my legacy.

female-power-anyn-rand.jpg*This explanation does NOT reflect my personal beliefs. I believe that the scenario I have explained is how the facts are being interpreted. I believe that ALL accusations of rape and assault should be looked into with respect and integrity, and am looking into a career in rape prosecution. The explanation I give is NOT how I believe the world should work and is in fact, just the opposite of how I want society to  be.