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.

 

Advertisements

Unconventional Letter

Dear Michelle,

Thank you.

Thank you for never giving up. And I know there were times you thought you had to, that there was no other choice. I remember all those nights spent alone, crying in the bathroom, hoping to end your pain with a razor blade. I remember the long days spent not eating, drinking only a cup of coffee in the morning because you felt like you might fall asleep in the middle of calculus if not, then rushing home to see if you’d lost more weight. I remember all of this, but most of all I remember how even though there were times you wanted to, you didn’t choose to die and instead, you chose to live.

Thank you for learning to open up again. After you graduated from high school, you tried to close yourself off, masking your feelings with words like “exhausted”, “the flu” and “allergies”. You kept everyone at arm’s length until you couldn’t take it anymore and you decided to make friends. I know that was hard for you, but I promise it’s paid off.  You’re about to find out that you actually love coffee dates with friends and trying new things.

Thank you for going off meds-even at the disapproval of your then boyfriend. He didn’t know you, you didn’t stay with him, and you really had to choose your own life for your own reasons. I know at that point, you didn’t even understand fully your diagnosis. I’m so proud of you for making your own way. I know in the future you’ll contemplate going back on medicine, and it’ll be hard, but if you don’t want to do something, don’t let the fear of consequences force you to make a decision.

Thank you card

Thank you for walking away from the poisonous relationships you tried so hard to save. You thought that if you just tried harder, loved more deeply, that you could fix them. But they weren’t the ones who needed fixing, and abusive relationships aren’t worth your time. Or effort. I’m so sorry you had to learn that the hard way. But you got past it with some ice cream and art. That was the first time you thought that you might be okay with being alone instead of being with someone who told you that you were always to blame, and that everything he did was to show you that you deserved no one better. You may have been brokenhearted, and it felt like your whole world was dying, but you left. You’re so brave.

Speaking of bravery, there will come a time in your life that you’ll wake up and be paralyzed with the fear of driving. We’ll work through it, and it will be hard for a long time, but please don’t give up. Living in the past, living with the memories of what “could have” happened is only going to hurt us in the long run. Yeah, this is one of those corny “hello, younger me” letters that we swore we’d never write, but I have so many things to thank you for.

Thanks for taking a chance and going out with that boy from high school that you thought was “too short”. You’ll drive each other crazy, but you have a strong marriage, and a lot of really hilarious dating stories that will get you through any disagreements you might have. You even got a dog (he acts more like a cat, and you’ll learn to love him). That boy will learn how to understand your moods, and even help you get through them.

Thank you for working so hard during your mood swings. No one requests to have bipolar disorder, but you’ve done remarkable things with it. You laid the foundation for such great things to happen for your future. But don’t think for a minute that it’s shameful to change your major when you get to college. It’s gonna drive you mad and you’ll feel so completely used up, but you’ll see that the greatest thing is going to happen once you walk through all the open doors. You’ll continue to struggle with food, but honestly, you’re going to love yourself more at the heaviest weight than you ever did when you struggled with your eating disorders. Just don’t go too far in the other direction, okay? Eating too much is bad too. Food isn’t a drug, it’s not meant to protect you from life.

I know that you know life is hard. But thanks for going back into counseling. In hindsight, you probably didn’t have to hide it, because you’re about to become exceptionally vocal about mental health and women’s rights. You aren’t stuck, you aren’t defective, and you most definitely aren’t finished. We have so much work ahead of us, and it’s all thanks to you.

You stuck it out when the world grew dark, when our mind waged wars against us and our heart got so heavy it might burst. You fought each and every day for life to be better, waiting for the day it all meant something. You kept going, even when everything screamed at you to just stop. I know my battles, our battles, don’t end with this little note. We have a whole life to live yet! And I know I didn’t say it then, but I’m saying it now. Thank you, baby girl. Thank you with my whole heart.

You got this, Shells. You don’t need anybody else’s approval, just go for it. You’re about to take your first step in an amazing adventure and you’ll be so surprised where it leads you. I know I am.

The sun will rise again, and so will you.

All my love,

M.

Oye.

I posted earlier today about compassion. It seems that the world is lacking in that at the moment. My news feed is so full of cranky, bitter, nosy stuff and darn it, I’m trying to be happier. So. I find myself needing to drum up a little happy magic of my own.

do-the-magic.gif

And that’s just what I shall do. So, for all you there who are following this little blog of mine, I say thank you! You’re all a delightful part of my story and I appreciate you all (even if we haven’t had the chance to interact yet.) And now, for the .gif heavy blog post of mine destined to make you smile.

Hedgehogs are just adorable.
hedgehog

otter (Seriously, too cute!)puppy.gif Puppies for dog lovers.cat.gifLion-kitty for cat lovers.

panda.gifslothducks

Thanks for stopping by. Hope you smiled!

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. 

Thankfulness, Day 19

Nineteen is my favorite number. And although there are loads of things which are my favorite, I thought today’s post should be something special. So here goes.

Cool, crisp flowing sweetly

The hum of nature’s course

No one could ever deny the power

Of the unending force.

Maybe I should have done something a little more awesome. Like just come out and yell I FREAKING LOVE WATER.

But then again, maybe that doesn’t quite get it right either.

So today’s post is about water. There’s a quote (not sure who by) that goes something like “All things can be healed with salt water: sweat, tears or the ocean.” I love this quote, because for me, it is the most basic truth. Water is a force to be reckoned with, but it’s also the calmest of calms. It’s transformative and stationary. And water is magickal. As always, I have a story.

Once upon a time, I went to North Myrtle Beach. It was rainy the entire time, but that wasn’t so bad. From the parking garage, I could smell the salt water. It was something I had never before experienced. But my time was only just beginning. The first day we (myself and the group) went out to the ocean’s edge and I took a deep breath before removing my shoes and bolting for the water. It was freezing. But as the human body is a marvel, I acclimated and began to swim. I have a loose interpretation of swimming, as I didn’t go far-maybe 30ft.

It was the second day, when I woke up to see the sun, which led me to the most spiritual experience of my life. It’s my favorite story of all times. It was rainy, the waves were huge and not many people were out. I went (with a buddy) out in to the water, and just let myself drift. I went until I was nearly as far out as the boats and just stopped. My feet could not touch the bottom, the current was moving all around me and I have absolutely no idea how to swim (apart from keeping my head above water). I stopped and just began to breathe. Words cannot describe how it felt to be part of that moment. I sent out a prayer to the universe and just existed. My internal hum matched the roar of the waves and my heart thudded with each crash. I looked at the sky, smelled the salt and reached the closest thing to unadulterated bliss I may ever know. I looked back at the shore and couldn’t see the way people looked at the sea, or the way their hair was done or hear what they were saying. I was so far out that it felt like it was just the ocean and I. In that moment, I understood what life meant, and it really just wasn’t any more complicated than being alive. (Very zen, I know.) It sounds really crazy, but it’s exactly what I thought being religious would feel like. You know, the people always say they felt enraptured and convicted and moved? That’s only eclipsing how I felt in that moment. I went to sleep that night and the sound of the waves filled my ears and as I focused on my breathing, it was like the ocean was inside me too. 

Anyway, the story is much better in person. My point is that I never knew how powerful water could be until I was there, in that moment. And I am surrounded by water all day. Water bottles, water fountains, dishwater, toilet water, all kinds of things. But do I even appreciate it?

I started to after that moment. How many people do not have access to clean water? What kinds of trials do they face? How much water is wasted? How are we at 2015 and there are still people who have to choose between drinking water and taking a bath? I’m sorry the world has let you down. It’s time to rise up. Everyone deserves clean water. Everyone.