Stacy’s Mom, Strong Coffee and Wintermageddon

Making it through the day is never more frustrating than when you wake up to two inches of snow and it’s raining ice. (I know, that was my first thought too.) The first several moments are the ones which set the tone for the rest of the day. And I thought that waking up this morning would be a little easier. I had known it would be snowing, I figured it would just continue to be powder and that it would be a relatively easy to get to work today. I mean, a little snow couldn’t keep me down (thanks Chumbawamba!). And that’s when I remembered that I’d been meaning to put a blog out. I wasn’t sure of the topic, but when I set up for the day and “Stacy’s Mom” by Fountains of Wayne came on, I knew what I wanted my blog to be about: the ever pressing issue of time.

Mostly I try to look forward, look ahead. I mean, the past has finished, and in the words of the great philosopher Rafiki (which means “friend” in Kiswahili if you wanted to know-I took 3 semesters of the language in college!):

 

(I own NO rights to Disney-I just needed the quote.)
I mean, those of you who know me in person probably also know that I will be graduating from law school in 2020, and being that I am very excited, will be walking to get my diploma in a flapper dress, and celebrating the entire day with Jazz music and the like. I literally love that the culture of the 20s will be able to be repeated in a modest sense (I hope there’s less racism and mobsters and not so much prohibition, but you know…) Anyway, so I’m very excited about the whole “Roaring (20)20’s. But I think for the moment, we need to look back with a purpose.

“90’s Kids”

If you were a 90’s kid-and I want to clarify this-if you were a child during the 90’s, NOT necessarily just having been born in the 90’s, there are some similarities we all cling to. But this isn’t just your “Things 90’s Kids Will Remember” list. This is an honest look into the 90s, as written by someone who spent almost the entire decade alive. Which means I was the young end of the 90’s, but I had access to a bunch of stuff from the 80’s as a child and therefore it counts. (I’ve proven my worth to many 80’s-born adults-it counts.)

If you look at the paragraph above, you’ll notice that I’ve typed “90’s Kids” pretty much every time I referred to the age group. However, if you look at the people who were aged 6-18 by 2000, you’ll be quick to realize that that age group is now 22-34 and we are hardly children anymore. But the moniker sticks. No one ever says “90’s generation”, “90’s born” or really anything you can think of except “90’s kids”. And why is that, you ask? That’s my point of discussion for today. But in order to discuss that, we need to get into the culture differences between back then and now, as well as some key points. That’s what I meant by “this won’t be a list necessarily, but it’s all basically relevant.” So, here goes nothing.

The 90’s were a time of revolution. There were changes to the pop culture scene, entertainment and social realms which trace their beginnings back to that specific decade. Other trends were merely a continuation of ones which had come before. But for better or for worse, the 90’s are a part of our history. For this analysis, I will need the help of:

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Nokia, Drew Barrymore, Christina Ricci, Ever After, The Addams Family, Cinderella (with Whitney Houston), The Dark Angel and The Baby Sitter’s Club. Honorable mentions include: slap bracelets, The Oregon Trail and Lisa Frank.

If you cannot finish the line: In West Philadelphia born and raised… I question the validity of your belonging to the decade. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was a staple for the 90’s. But it was also something different. It was humor centered around a respectable family of color. They worked hard, acted just like many families in the 90’s and it was funny in such a way that it was not inherently racist. So why is it worth the mention it? Because in a time when #BlackLivesMatter and the apparent panic over Beyonce’s Super Bowl show, it reminds us of a time when it was entirely okay to be like everyone else and be entirely different-at the same time. Although some things are now a little dated, honestly, this one is worth the look-back for the humor, the realism and the wistful vision of how sometimes family is enough to make everything better. And you know what is even better? Comedy that is funny for the sake of funny, not because it s so abrasive that you laugh because you’re uncomfortable. Seriously, the language was pretty decent, I think that there is much to be said for humor that doesn’t have to be vulgar.

 I’ve posted about Buffy before on my “role model” blog, but I mention her again for good reason. In a time before Harry Potter Hermione Granger, you would be hard pressed to find a stronger TV woman than Buffy, and I don’t mean physically. She had reasonable flaws (like a lazy streak when it came out studying) but sh was also very protective of her family, her friends and on several occasions even her enemies. And yes, there is the issue of Buffy+Spike, but apart from that, Buffy was written in such a way that you related. You wanted to go after school and work on your slayer abilities (or become a Wicca!). It wasn’t only really relatable for viewers, Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy) cried so hard when Angel said goodbye officially, that if you listen closely enough, David (Angel) says “Sarah” instead of “Buffy”. She believed in her character. And that is so hard to find nowadays. So why is this worth the mention? Because not only is it representative of the 90’s culture, it’s a TV show about a FEMALE lead with realistic attributes (and body size!) but also with friends who are equally as complex. In a time when feminism still gets a bad rap, we should take heart that there is an entire generation of voting age, working adults who grew up with Buffy and learned how to treat themselves and others as equals. Buffy was also a high school girl-who actually looked like a high school girl. I mean, today they look like 29 year old super models. (Also, Joss has remained active in Hollywood-check him out!)****I will add The Dark Angel here, because it was a TV show about a female lead as well, but I think Jessica Alba’s character is really the beginning of hyper-sexualization in TV heroines. She gets an honorable mention for the fact that her show was really about a female main character who really was pretty capable of being on her own, but the thing is that she had a leather outfit kind of like Catwoman and it really just looked sexy-not functional.

The Baby Sitter’s Club brings up a really great set of memories of my own. I went through 2 younger siblings, being entrusted by my parents to babysit as deemed safe and appropriate from the time I was about 7. They didn’t leave me alone to do so until I was about 12, but I also went to babysitting class and learned CPR and that stuff. I remember when my sister was born, my parents were ultra protective, but by the time she was able to crawl, she was taking naps on this HUGE mattress. I was asked to watch her overnight (we shared a bedroom for YEARS) and let my parents know if she started crying.I was so concerned that she would wake up and I wouldn’t hear it that little 7 year old me stayed up ALL night. My sister slept all night, as a matter of fact. My mom laughed at my predicament and told me that I hadn’t needed to stay up all night and that my sister would have been okay (she was about a year at that point). My first job was babysitting at the age of 13, and I continued to do so until I got into college. So why mention the BSC? Because in this day and age, it is increasingly difficult to have a child of the age of 13 be emotionally and mentally mature enough to handle babysitting-even just one child (At 15 I was watching 3 boys under the age of 10). And what’s scarier is the number of people aged 14-17 who are parents. But that’s a topic for another day I suppose. Anyway, my main point is that the BSC made babysitting cool, and all the girls were young like I was.

  

I’m going to combine the next set of movies/TV shows into one umbrella category called “freedom of self”. Now of course, I know that Ever After and Cinderella are basically the same theme, but The Addams Family goes here too. Cinderella, the one with Whitney Houston (may her soul rest in peace), was a novel idea when it came out. Why? Because Cinderella, her godmother and the Queen were all women of color. The Prince was Filipino (if I’m not mistaken), the King and his servants were all white, as were the Stepmother and the stepsisters. Why mention race at all? Because Cinderella traditionally is an all white cast. The direction of this movie was done with the talents in mind, not their skin color. Ever After is my FAVORITE adaptation. I love Drew Barrymore (we’ll get to her) in general, but in this version, Cinderella saves herself. She escapes based on her own determination and will-power. And there’s factual historical moments included in it too. The Addams Family (with Christinaa Ricci) and more specifically Values, was a move that made it entirely okay to be different. Christina played Wednesday who stuck out of camp like a sore thumb, but made a friend out of the other “outcast”. And that’s the thing. Why should we pay attention to these? Because no matter your color, your IQ, your color palette preferences, how much you love to read, you can always find someone else who feels as alone as you. But if you just believe in yourself, that’s all that really matters. No woman needs to wait on a “knight in shining armor” when she can pick up a sword and battle her way to freedom.

Drew Barrymore and Christina Ricci should be on every list of awesome things about the 90’s for one reason: their strength. And again, I’m not talking about their physical strength, I’m talking about their emotional and mental strength. They both were involved in some pretty self-destructive behaviors-drugs, alcohol, self-harm, but they pulled out of it. Making steps to their own personal freedoms was not easy, but they did it and look more fabulous than ever. Why bother to mention them? Because they are real life heroines who show strength and a capacity for self-improvement. I’ll include them in my list of role models. Because I’ve always looked up to the people who can take their lives and turn them around to make something better for their future. Plus, these two ushered in the grunge scene. Which, if you wanted to know is making a comeback. Does that mean we will return to punk, goth, emo, scene and then the hipster movement? Well, what goes around comes around, so maybe.

   

 

The last thing I want to bring up is the technology revolution. I mentioned Nokia above, and I wanted to maybe explain why we are still called (and self-refer as) “90’s kids”.

 

  (This is a Motorola i530 from 2004. It was my mom’s first cellphone and thusly the first cellphone in our home.) The first “cell phone” was sold in 1982 for $4,000USD. The ones which are affordable and stuff were sold in the 90’s. I’ve taken some screen shots so we can remember how far we’ve come.

  
  
If you notice up above these pictures, under the “Bumblebee phone” I typed the caption that that was my mother’s first phone in 2004. I’m only guesstimating, but I think it was closer to 2005. But the point still works. I was over a decade old before cellphones were a commonplace thing in my childhood home. I didn’t get my first one until I was a freshman in high school-when I took the job babysitting three boys. But that means that developmentally, I lived in the 80’s most of my life. I had tin-foil wrapped TV antennae, I played in the water hose which came from our well, and rarely spent any of my time watching TV. We never owned a gaming system and I bought my first iPad last year. Now, what’s that got to do with my main point, you ask?

Everything.

As a child in the 80’s, technology was sparse. And it continued to be so until 2000, making that generation at minimum 20 before the technology boom. They lived their childhoods with the sparse st of entertainment (of the electronic kind) and their adulthood was marked by technology. 

As a child in the 2000’s, technology was abundant. New waves of technology crop up, children are raised with iPads and leap pads and child-computers so that they can be fully functional techno-savvy adults. Their whole lives will be marked by technological advances.

So what of the 90’s kids? If you, like me, were basically brought in with the new decade, the first half of your childhood was very comparable to the 80’s. There was TV, your parents told you to play outside and if you wanted to hang out with friends, t was in person. Usually your friends had siblings and you basically always had to either chauffeur and chaperone or were chauffered and chaperoned by those siblings. But then 1995 hit and technology became easily accessible to the general public. Telephones were no longer connected to a landline, emails and instant messaging took off. Essays now had to be typed instead of written in cursive and you suddenly had access to pop culture from other outlets besides TV. And so, you are both in both worlds and excluded from them. Your childhood was ripped in half by the great divide that is technology. Instead of fitting in with the older crowd, you are teaching them how to use the new updates to their fullest advantage. Instead of fitting in with the younger crowd, you feel your maturity and mannerisms are outdated and therefore make you too old to relate. So I will ask again, what of the 90’s kids? Well, that’s just it.

The 90’s kids are a subculture all their own, intent on reclaiming the half of their childhood that was lost. We see Disney movies repeatedly (singing along and pointing out the flaws), while settling in for a glass of wine (red-for the antioxidants). We reach for the Atari games when COD is on the Xbox (because Atari is like the Solitaire of consoles-it’s a classic). We are hopeless romantics, while being incredibly feminist (because we like having the option to be taken care of but know that we can rely on ourselves as independent individuals). We are passionate about others because we grew up in a time of superheroes and super heroines who sacrificed themselves for the greater good. We watch older shows and listen to older music because they remind us of a time when entertainment meant something and wasn’t just to make the producers money. We feel strongly about our beliefs, even if they differ from everyone else. And we remember the greatness of Saturday mornings, ensuring that we value the weekend forever. We enjoy working hard when it’s noticed. We take our futures seriously, even though it seems that no one takes us seriously. And above all, we’re just trying to figure out what it all means. We are the generation of idealists, of thinkers, of planners. We are the generation of confused, adult-children with no idea who we really are or how we are going to succeed. We are the generation that was stolen. And it’s time we reclaim our place.

   
 

A Day in the Life of…

So normally I try to write about something very near and dear to me, something that isn’t overly political, but is something that I am pretty passionate about. A little while ago, I posted about how I thought it was incredibly wrong to force people to go to college. And today, I want to present the other side. A personal narrative of what it’s like going to college in today’s world. And hopefully, to dispell some college myths. I’ve screen-shotted my proof for numbers, although they are easily available on Google.

I don’t know how many people relate, but it really grinds my gears when I hear “Why can’t you just save up money?” Or “Working through college isn’t that hard.” Or “Back in my day, you could rent an apartment and go to college on a part time job.” These sentences may have been true at one point, and that question may be well-intended, but I believe that they are incredibly un-applicable (inapplicable?) to today’s college generation. This will be, as always, just my experience, mi cuenta. 

Classes began yesterday. And if you live north, so did the snow. I woke up around 620, took the dog out, fixed lunch and made sure my husband was up. While he was finishing getting ready, I ran out to get the car scraped. He locked up and we left for class. The roads were slick, the cars were thick and it added some time to our drive. Rush hour in Ohio always does. We made it to school, and work in my case, and began classes. We got back to home about 12 hours later. The wind blew, but I walked over 2 miles yesterday, and will do so all semester, regardless of weather. And my husband’s walk is almost 4 miles a day. Just to get between classes. We’re both taking upper division classes (stuff meant for graduate students-not undergrad) and we’re trudging along.

Ohio State’s tuition is dependent on where you call home. For me, it has always been Ohio, so I get in-state tuition, as does my husband. For just one of us, it costs $20,144 USD just to attend for one year. That doesn’t include gas, rent, food or supplies. So, living in a big city is pretty expensive. If you say $200 in groceries for 1 person per month, plus $700 per person for rent/utilities per month, plus $100 a month for supplies/gas, that’s $1000 a month PER PERSON on living expenses. **NOTE: I am using the second set of numbers as my reference, because I live off campus in an apartment, so I’m filling in my numbers instead. And that supplies number isn’t adequate, so I’ve included the personal amount to fix it.**

So, in total, it is $20,144 + ($1000 x 12) = $32,144 per person just to go to classes for one full year.

  Two we people’s total is $32,144 x 2 = $64,288 for one year of college. And this is a public, state school. I shudder to imagine a private university. And this number doesn’t include emergencies like a broken down car, hospital trips, doctor visits or any other emergency things. If it did, it would look more like $70,000 USD.

So let’s look at the job markets and such. We’ll take a minimum wage job, because mostly the college population has one of those.  I have included my google search for current, factual information.

 
So, we have $8.10 USD as the minimum wage. So let’s discuss hours. The minimum amount of class time you can have at OSU is 12 credit hours. That, from my understanding means that you will have 12 hours of class per week, or around 3 per class. You can go up to 18 credit hours. So one week has an entire 7 x 24 hours = 168 hours. Suppose you’Re taking the upper limit of credit hours. That is 168-18 right off the bat. So 150 hours of the week is left.

Ohio State recommends that for every 1 hour of class, 3 hours are spent in homework to achieve a passing grade (taken to mean “C”). The picture I have is from the U of Michigan website.

  
(Notice how if you take 18 Credit Hours, it is recommended that you work less than 20 hours.) So to catch us up, we have 150 hours in a week after classes. Now,  18 x 3 = 54 hours. So, 150-54 is 96 hours in a week left. Let’s say that you sleep 8 hours a night. 8 x 7 =56. So you are down to 40 hours a week left. But what about drive time?

It takes us anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour to get to campus, even from where we live, depending on when we leave. So, if we were to leave every day during rush hour (because Ohio is famous for it), it would take an hour both ways. That is 5 x 2 = 10. So if you take that away from the 40 hours you had, you are now down to 30 hours left in the week. Take another 10 from that for dinner/eating each day and you are at 20 hours left for the week.

Suppose you were a scary person and you didn’t ever have any fun what-so-ever and you worked the rest of the 20 hours. You’d have to include the fact that you have to drive there (assuming you don’t get a job on campus while you’re already there. So take an additional 5 hours off of that number for driving to work. You are left with 15 hours to work.

Remember that minimum wage from above? Bring it down here.

$8.10 USD x 15 hours = $121.50 USD before taxes. In my best effort to predict my checks, I use 86% as the amount of the paycheck I will actually get post-taxes. So, if you’re using that too, $121.50 x .86 = $104.49 USD. For the month? That total is $417.96

So. Let’s wrap this up, shall we?

“Why can’t you save money?” Because making $417.96 per month (or $5015.52 a year!) compared to spending $32,144 doesn’t really put much of a dent in my student loans, and to be fair, I use the money I supplement with working a part time job to pay for the emergency stuff (and to apply to grad schools, law schools and register for the entrance exams-which cost $200 a piece).

“Working through college isn’t hard.” Well, as I hope I have illustrated for you, it IS possible to work during college, and I do so. However, I’m not sure I would ever call it easy. I mean, I like being able to work out, grab coffee with my friends and spend time with my husband, but those things take time and make life meaningful so I sacrifice work for them.

“Back in my day, you could rent an apartment and go to college on a part time job.” I’m very happy for you. But with today’s numbers, a part time job barely covers food for my husband and I for the month. (And let me remind you that these numbers did not include birthday presents, Christmas presents, lab fees, parking passes ($800 USD a year), fast food, or any “luxuries” that a person may want.) 

This blog post was not meant to be a “Michelle Complains About College Again!” Rant. That was NEVER my intention.

What I want you to see, maybe even empathize with or understand better is that going to college is a big commitment and what may have been true for older generations during their time, their 20s, is no longer true today. And we should stop using antiquated information to make generalizations about today’s 20-somethings.

And to round us out, here are some memes about college which I find funny and insightful.

   
   

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. 

What an Effing Nightmare

I’m fat is the stupidest sentence on the whole damn planet. I am not a blob of blubber, just as I am not strep throat or bipolar. I have those things (except for strep-I have had but do not currently). Anywho, I have spent over a decade telling myself this stupid sentence. If you notice, I have no pictures of myself on this blog, I have maybe 3 selfies on Instagram and overall, I really don’t do photographs. But why? Because I’m still trying to figure out how to define myself according to rules which are not that sentence.

  (This picture drives me crazy. At least we’re active, dammit.)

 I have fat. Mostly a lot of it. It’s kind of a big deal. And I hate it. I’ve been weaning myself off of soda (Dr. Pepper is my weakness), and I added a small but intense workout to my daily routine. It’s planks, wall sits and low cardio. And I have chosen to be open and honest about it. Not because I want you all to laugh at me, but because I have a message that others need to hear.

  (These aren’t me, but I think they’re a pretty solid representation of the parts that I keep hidden.)

 I decided I’d had enough of being fluffy. I want to look healthy, not like I do now. I feel embarrassed, and it’s a great source of sadness. I made myself this way, but I also didn’t. I was put on the birth control that allows for 3 periods a year because mine were really painful. And while I was on that birth control, I gained 80 pounds. That’s 4 times more than I gained from mood stabilizers and anti-depressants. I stress ate and that didn’t help at all. But after that, I continued to be large and in charge. Only I wasn’t in charge. I was out of control.

  But what is it that I ate? Salads mostly. And coffee, soda, pizza, spaghetti. My calorie intake was between 1300 and 1600 per day, over half of that was drinks. I ordered low fat coffee from Starbucks if I chose to get anything other than tea. Even now, I eat maybe twice a day, I drink coffee like it’s going out of stock and I drink water, between 2 and 3 bottles a day (unless it’s a hard day and then only 1-which is bad, I know). My calorie intake recently has been between 1400 and 1650, with most of it being creamer and dinner. My breakfast is usually peanut butter toast. Is it super healthy? No. But I should not be obese.

Did that word startle you? It did me too. But it isn’t a death sentence unless you make it so. Which is where we find me this past week. I decided I was far too stressed and I was going to try to get into a regular workout routine. And so far, I’m doing great. But it’s because I know the shitty parts have to end sometime.

  (This is a plank. It’s also called pain.)

 It started out just feeling tired. I felt like my body was at the point of sheer exhaustion. Then came the nausea, the light headedness and the muscle pain. The latter I had expected but the first two I hadn’t. This came on slow and then got worse the more days that passed. Fast forward to today (Okay fine. Today is day 3, but I’m trying darn it!) and I feel like I can only keep water down. Food turns my stomach, I feel really icky on the inside and my muscles are aware that I mean business. And it was in that line of thought that I recalled watching several seasons of The Biggest Loser a few years back. A lot of the people were really sick while they were beginning their workout routines. I remember watching an episode where the woman had to keep stopping to puke because her body was detoxing.

  I brought this up to my husband and he reminded me that I hate eating fast food and that I always get salads and I should be fine. But the thoughts persisted. He asked if I wanted him to work out with me and I said:

No. It’s embarrassing.

He then asked why it was embarrassing that I was making myself into a better me. I shook my head and got down to business. 

  But really. Why is it that I felt like it was embarrassing that I struggle? I’m doing something. I’m trying, which is more than I can say for the old me. It’s really hard. I feel sick, my tummy hurts (because I’ve been doing abs) and I feel all around like a big ball of crap. But I’m already more dedicated than I was in the past, because I’m pushing through the pain and working out anyway. And yes, I still feel a little embarrassed that I can only hold a wall sit for a minute and a half before it feels like someone is sawing off my thighs or that I can only hold a plank for 30 seconds before my flabby arms buckle from stress. But you know what? I’m doing something about it. And maybe today I will go for 2 minutes straight, or learn how to use an elliptical. And the fact that I’m still trying is worth more than the pain.

  

Or at least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

What I want people to take away from this, more than anything is that it’s hard. Change always is. And we can sit around waiting for life to correct the travesties it has enacted upon us or we can get up and kick it in the face. I really hate working out. I hate running, I hate lifting, I hate all of it. But I’m not doing all this because I really want to look at the number on the scale and smile. I am, we are so much more than a number. I want to look myself in the eyes in the mirror and be attracted to myself. I want to learn how to take myself out on dates, and have the confidence to walk into the mall and get my hair done or my nails (am I even that person?!) without feeling like everyone is staring at me because my stomach is round. I want you to take away that this sucks worse than anything I’ve ever purposefully done to myself, but I turn my music up that much louder and scream over how much it hurts. Because if I want to be around to see all my reams come true, or to survive the zombie apocalypse, I’m going to need to practice my roar.

  

(I would like to thank Google for always having the pictures I need to make my point.)

What’s My Age Again?

9 December 1992. It was a cold day in December, flurries and snowflakes abounded and as the sun disappeared, a lunar eclipse kissed the moon. In the chill, the bitter cold of night, there was a silence. A single snowflake fell to the ground, having caught the light of the blood red moon, and the world held its breath. Seconds passed, each one bringing the moon closer to the culmination of the eclipse, the tint caressing the moon with no inclination of saying goodbye. And right as the moon shone brightest, a scream rippled through the stark white hospital. The lights were dim, the sounds of Christmas carols humming through the radio and in a flurried rush, as the snowflakes outside the window, a baby was wrapped in a blanket, the jam-like innards having been sucked from her nose, her bottom having been smacked. That child, covered in goop, being rapidly wiped off and swaddled, was me. I came home in a Mickey Mouse shirt, which my mother graciously lets me keep in my clothes drawer with my socks.
My mother was told she could never have kids. I was both a surprise and a blessing (or so my parents tell me). I’m sure they really had no idea just how many surprises were to come to them on my behalf. I’ve been through every emotion and hair color, I’ve grown fond of coffee (if you couldn’t tell), I fell in love with music. I learned to play almost a dozen instruments, I even thought about being a music major in college, even auditioned. We always put the Christmas tree up after (or on) my birthday). And now, I live with my husband and life has changed so much since my earliest memories.

Last year on my birthday, I anxiously awaited the minute I turned 22 so that I could buy the Taylor Swift song. But as I approached this birthday, I realized that finding a “23” song would be much harder. So I began my search. As the title suggests, I found Blink-182 first and then Jimmy Eats World. But that song just wasn’t enough for me. I’m sure my sister would love for me to claim the R5 song “Wishing I Was 23” but I just can’t connect to it either. Next to reach the chopping block was “23” by Shakira. I’m a huge fan of Shak, and I really thought maybe this song would be it. But I kept looking-just in case. And then I landed on “Waiting” by Jamie Campbell Bower. And I think I have my song. 

Being 23 is already pretty stressful. I have another year just gone. I spent it being sucked down by my cowardice and anxiety, I found myself changing my mind-a lot, and I picked myself up after tons of times being metaphorically beaten down. But it’s gone, for better or worse and I can’t get it back. That’s really something to think about. It’s a scary world out there and I’ve missed another year. Or am I just another year closer to the best me I may ever be?

So my goals for year 23, are personal,more so than they have ever been. I want to break my shell once and for all. I want to get out and meet people, make eye contact and not be afraid of everyone. I want to work out more. Not so I can be skinny, but so I can be healthy. I want to be able to go into the next parts of my life in the best shape I can. I want to do something-like get my book published, or sell a song to a famous person, or even just go somewhere. And more importantly, I want to succeed. Less thana year from now, I’m applying to grad schools and law schools. I want more than anything to get in. I want to smile at the acceptance letter and realize I did it. I want to not be scared to drive. I have a CRAZY story to tell you all sometime about why I have worries driving, but today I shall not get into it. And I want to enjoy life. I don’t need to have “everything”-the perfect body, makeup, hair, and material goods. I just want to spend more mornings looking at the sunrise, more evenings staring up at the heavens and maybe, just maybe, finally learn how to play guitar.

All that I need is to be true to myself. And that is my favorite reason why I’m 23.

So come close, and I’ll scream

Oh just let me be me

And I fail to see

The dark skies aren’t all that dwell inside me

-Jamie Campbell Bower, Waiting

  

The Part that Slapped Me In The Face

I made my post earlier, about the things that bother me and I’m going to add a little to it,but also record my experience today. I’m going to approach it all as openly as I can. I’m not trying to prove anything, I just want to write today. I admit, the irony is a little astounding, and I will just say that I am human and sometimes I make mistakes.
The Background:I celebrate Christmas because it’s engrained in my head as something I shall always do. I also celebrate Yule, because I enjoy the solstice. I looked at the clock, after trying in earnest to get some homework done. I  switched gears a little to explore housing for next academic year. And I found some potential places which look wonderful. I shared my finds with my husband, we settled on a couple and  began to dig into them a little deeper.

The Emotion:I seldom feel so defeated as when I look at the cost of things. Like, basic necessity, right to life things. It amazes me how much it costs to live, even when you skrimp and save to afford the basics. Not luxury items, just the bare necessities to get by. So I closed my screen and curled up beside my husband and just cried. I cried for myself, for us both, for people out there who also have to make hard decisions each and every day. I felt overwhelmed, broken down and exhausted. He said “at least we have each other.” I couldn’t even make myself smile about that. How sad on my part. I was so overcome by all the things that were hard.

The Reality:I made up my mind that I hated being poor. I hated that we had to choose our level of comfort based on the electric bill. I hated that we had to show up to our parents’ houses without presents for everyone so that we had enough money to buy groceries. I hated that we were given a  1-foot tall tree (by my wonderful parents) that we couldn’t afford to decorate nor could we afford to turn the attached Christmas lights on, because we need every dollar we have. I hated that we are so close to the holiday season and we can’t give our friends anything more than a smile and a text message. I felt so disheartened. So I got on my phone and looked at the Christmas radio station. Have a Holly Jolly Christmas came on and I was offended. How dare music try to force me into a good mood when I had so many complaints? 

 I still have all of those feelings. It makes me sad, and very much so that I cannot afford many of the luxuries that accompany the holiday season. And in the back of my head, there was a little voice that urged me to please, just believe in all the good things, that there are so many who have even less than you. I’m not sure why people use that line. It’s meant to get you to stop whining, but it honestly just makes me feel like a 1. bigger piece of shit and 2. even more upset for them. I just sat, curled into my blankets crying, wondering why it was so painful, why it was so hard to just live.

The Slap:Why couldn’t I have been born without the need to help people live better lives? Then I could work at a meaningless job and make money and have whatever I wanted. Or if I had to help people, why couldn’t I have been born to a wealthy family who could use their resources to further my ability to help, making it possible to first help myself? But you can’t always get what you want. And I know that. It just hurts my feelings that so many people have loads of things that they aren’t thankful for, and I have so little. And it was that thought, that singular thought that halted me.

Why did I feel entitled to anything more than the body I live in? What really are the basic necessities of life? The universal rights of human beings?

The Resolution:And I decided, over a cup of coffee, that it didn’t matter. I cannot let the world bring me down forever with its injustices and unfairness. If I want the world to be a better place, I am exactly where I need to be. Because if I were rich, how could Ipossibly understand the way that “socioeconomically underprivileged” people felt? How could I possibly relate? So in all honesty, yea, I still hate that life isn’t fair. But maybe that’s why I have to experience it. I can’t know how to help if I don’t even understand why the help matters so damn much.

And for the record, I’m making our ornaments out of a cardboard box, with tin foil and markers. Because:

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!” 

― Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Thankfulness, Day 20

More and more I find it hard to be an extended conversationalist. I write better than I speak some days and when I am at a loss for words, it is truly an off day for me. However, for the first time in far too long, I had a friend date today and I found myself stagnating in coversation. It was by no means anything she did. It was simply that I was so in awe of how amazing the friends I have are. And so, it is for her that this post is dedicated today. I may have taken over the conversation at some point, and I am eternally grateful for your unfailing listening abilities.

I am thankful for closed doors. 

Our generation is one that is afraid to make a commitment, to say “no” because that could mean an opportunity lost. Opportunities come infrequently for 20-something college kids and so we keep all feelers out, just in case. But there are benefits to being able to decide and take a stand. When you close a door, you are devoting yorself to the possibility of something better. You are taking the chance that you trust yourself and your decisions enough to make a change. And what is even better is that you’re approving your confidence. 

Not making a choice is making a choice. When you remain neutral, doors will close around you. And those are the worst kinds of closed doors-the missed opportunities. Wouldn’t you much rather have made decisions to stand by (even if they were wrong) than never know if you made a large mistake by not making the mistake? So yes, I most definitely am thankful for closed doors. 

But I’m also thankful for open ones. For example, it was a very large struggle for me to get out of bed this morning. It was warm, comfortable and my bed doesn’t care if I want to be in pajamas all day. But I knew that if I just got out of bed, I would get to enjoy time with my oldest friendship. And I took that chance. I had someone listen to my problems, and I listened. I was introduced to what is now my favorite coffee spot in Columbus and I walked 2 miles today. The thing is, I was scared. I was going somewhere new, somewhere I had never been in order to have our friend date. It would have only been too easy to blow today off and apologize with some lame excuse. But my heart needed a friend and in the end, I gained a great deal today. 

I talked to my friend (it was more like “fellowshipped” but po-tay-to, po-tah-to), found a great coffee shop (where the coffees are delicious, cheap, and named after authors-I had a Jane Austen and the guy made hearts in everyone’s coffee!!!) and faced my fears. All in all, very successful. Because I closed the door on my excuses and opened the one to my possibilities. My heart is full, my day was fantastic.

  

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.

You Got Me There

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Today is the day that I come out of my shell once more, and tell you all about a subject that I believe needs more sincere attention. It is National Bipolar Awareness Day. I have some helpful infographics here for you all, and I think that Ineed to be the change I want to see in the world, so I’m going to discuss why YOU and I and EVERYONE needs to start talking about mental health.

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5.7 million Americans. “There are 321,271,372 people in the United States of America.” according to howmanyofme.com and that means that there are roughly 2% of Americans (1.77%) living with this disease. Comparatively, there are  10 times as many people who simply live with some mental illness diagnosis. Since this day is dedicated to Bipolar Disorder, I will focus thusly. (These numbers all change depending on where your sources are and who actually did the research, so keep that in mind. These are “low” estimates.)

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So what IS Bipolar Disorder?

I can promise you that it is NOT a crutch. People who live with this disorder are not seeking attention because they have very little else to do-it is a chemical imbalance in the brain.

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Sound like fun, right?

It isn’t. There are moments when you feel like you are invincible. You can go for days, live life freely. And then comes the crash-the moment when life isn’t your oyster, it’s your cage and you’re running out of oxygen. And there’s more than one kind. There are more than 2 kinds. But the 2 which everyone seems to be “familiar” with are:

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So what can we do to help?

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All in all, having a mental illness is not much different than having a physical one-because as a human, we are both the mental and the physical. You see, there are not too many people who would go to a cancer survivor and tell them to “get over themselves”, but there are plenty of people who passionately do that to someone with a mental illness. It’s time to change these stigmas and reclaim healthy lives.

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NaNoWriMo

Since I learned about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) last November, I’ve really rededicated my life to the pursuit of creativity. This year is no different. I want to take the time to invite you all to write this upcoming NaNoWriMo (November). If you are a member of their website, please feel free to add me as a buddy. My name is Michelle BB there. Of course, if you aren’t into writing, or if you haven’t the time, I encourage you to find your muse in other forms. I’ve been drawing to prep myself for some visual moments and I think I’ll be working on cover art soon. It’s going to be a wonderful November, and I hope to see you all there!

Best,

M.