A friend of mine posted about how the UPS man wouldn’t hand over her package until she told him what was inside. He played that game. And I have to say, having experienced this sort of interaction more times than I could attempt to count in my 47 years on this planet, it’s probably one of the biggest contributing factors to my Face of Stone that makes people somewhat afraid of me when it surfaces, like a submarine rising to battle above the waters. Because fuck you, dude. Oh, I can hear it now. “He’s just flirting!” “He’s just having some fun.” “He’s just playing around, he probably likes you.”
You know what? I’m reached the age in life where IDGAF, because stuff like this, societally, blames me and says, “let’s excuse bad behavior because you’re not in the mood to put up with it.” And what dictates that I should be in the mood? Because I’m a woman, and I should welcome a man’s attention and interest and playful banter, even if all I’ve done is answer the goddamned door to receive a package, something I PAID FOR. No. Just, no. How about saying something like, “I hope it’s something you’ve been looking forward to!” or asking, “How’s your day been? What do you do for a living?” Because holding a package hostage under the guise of “just playin'” immediately tilts the balance of power. It says, “Until you give me what I want (the answer), I’m not going to give you what you reasonably expect to receive without issue.” It’s like holding a package high above a kid’s head and making them jump for it. And you can argue that on the grand scale of things, this is small stuff, but if someone thinks it’s ok to do, I really don’t want to know what other boundaries they might ignore. And I resent being “That Witch” who calls your supervisor to complain, or “That Cunt” who won’t play along with your idea of fun, or “That Humorless Bitch” who just won’t smile for you. The real problem, in my opinion, is that I’ve endured it enough that I could feel my anger as if it were happening to me.
Boundaries. Respect. This is what a feminist looks like. Basically the same shit everyone wants and expects from the humans they come in contact with.
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It’s been a rough month, indeed. There was a brief respite – a quick trip to Vegas – that was an utter escape, lots of fun (no big wins) and I’d say Vegas is definitely like a Disneyland for adults. The rough spots have been lots of work, some serious brain chemistry working against me, and now, we find ourselves at a terrible spot with our younger dog, Tripper. He’s got a detached lens on his eye, an infected tooth, and his fever was too high for surgery. Now he’s panting, not eating, not drinking, and I’m desperately dropping pills down his throat to ease the pain and fight the infection(s). Plus an ice cube just now to try to get a smidgen of fluid into him. I’m taking him back to the vet tomorrow, and I fear deeply that unless they have answers and can stabilize him, our vibrant, goofy loving dog will be crossing the Rainbow Bridge before old age should have taken him. I’ve pretty much spent my weekend crying, not unlike each day the past month, so I’ll work to stay hydrated as well, and hope we all get through this with love, kindness, caring and the least amount of pain possible. And I’d like to ask for a new deck of cards, because I’m not doing well with what’s getting dealt to me.
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I wrote this blog post a year ago. I’ve carried the words inside me for 29 years. I’m an open book but I can also be intensely private. This is my story. I’m tired of pretending it’s not part of who I am, or that it influences my life. Today, I watched the video “Til It Happens To You” from Lady Gaga, and it’s like it happened yesterday. I’m done. Secrets eat you alive.
I look at your profile on Facebook once in a while.
Holding my breath the whole time, I don’t realize I’m doing it until I click away.
Your cover photo shows you standing with your wife and two sons, smiling. The American Dream, right? The comedy of the picture, with a previous family photo of you all lined up, on the stairway behind you.
I look at those boys.
Awkward in their teenage states.
I wonder, under my breath and in my head, “Will they grow up to be rapists, too?”
Because that’s what you were that night. My rapist. Mine. And then I click away. Avoid.
The bell that can never be unrung.
The night started out fun, a typical college fall weekend, drinking and laughing and all of us running outside, off to the next party. We kissed because you wanted me, and I thought what the hell, l’m having fun. It’s fun to be wanted. But. You were too needy. Some part of me sensed this, had always sensed it about you in regular interactions. Somewhere along the line, in my drunken stupor – I gave you the slip.
Went back to my dorm, the room began to spin, and I went into the co-ed restroom. Proceeded to get sick. Then I heard your voice in the hallway, and froze. You were calling out my name, banging on my door. I held my breath. Then another classmate said, Oh, she’s in the bathroom. Oh.
How I wish you hadn’t told him that.
Why did you do that. Oh.
I pretended to be passed out.
Would you tell your sons how you got under my arms, and dragged me out the door, back to my room? I opened my eyes in the hall, saw the girl who’d given away my location, pleaded with my eyes. But it was too late.
In your memory, I bet you don’t remember me telling you “No.” It was the only word I said.
Over and over. As you pulled my robe off. Pushed me into bed.
But it was not enough.
Years later, a therapist would explain to me that the reason I metaphorically left my body that night was to preserve myself. To save me further trauma, as you hunched over me, barely looking at me, absorbed in your own triumphant conquest. Thank god for small favors, right? You finished, you borrowed my robe to go to the bathroom, returned, dressed yourself & went back to your dorm room.
And you called the next day. A gentleman? Hoping for more? Pretending that word never happened, that it was some magical night.
At least we didn’t have phones in our rooms back then. Every time you called, I just shook my head. I’m pretty sure the senior classmate across the hall figured it out. She was pretty perceptive, even though we never talked about it. I went on to join a support group for sexual assault victims (I hate that word, “victim”, oh how I hate it) and I listened more than I spoke. Then I moved on to crisis counseling. I would channel my emotions into helping other people. I would gain weight, because nobody will ever be able to lift or drag me again. That powerless feeling is one of the worst feelings in my life, and I don’t know if it will ever go away.
Today, there’s lots of talk about addressing sexual abuse on college campuses. I listen to it quietly, and sometimes, if I’m getting ready in the morning and there’s a story on NPR, I’ll look at myself in the mirror. And my eyes fill with tears.
Because this will never leave me. I made bad choices. I got drunk. I kissed you back. And then, even though my voice said “No”, my physical being couldn’t defend myself and I was reduced to a warm body you used to your own satisfaction, never mind it wasn’t willing. “No.” I get to keep that word. You raped me. Your word is rapist. And I imagine now you talk to your boys, as a father, maybe you even say things about respecting women and you’ve changed the history in your mind, how I was a bitch who wouldn’t give you the time of day after a Friday night hookup.
What a bitch.
The bitch who said no.
The bitch who will carry that night of violation and pain with her for a lifetime. Oh sure, like all scars, they thicken and they fade and they blur. But what has been marked upon cannot be undone.
You took my power from me, and I hate you. I hate that you have sons. I wish you’d had daughters, so a part of you could feel queasy inside, maybe you would look back on that night and think, maybe when she said no, she really meant no. No. I even said it. I said it. And you, you ignored it. And you would think, I don’t want that happening to my daughters. Because you wouldn’t, right? I will carry your name inside me until I die, but I’m tired of the pain you caused. Tired of being fucking triggered by Bill Cosby stories and fucking movie scenes that eroticize rape and tired of badly-written books that glamorize an imbalance in sexual power. Tired of hearing words like “unrapeable” because a woman isn’t pretty enough, thin enough, young enough. I’m tired of being silent about it. I am, in so many ways, a force to be reckoned with and a strong, intelligent woman. So I’m going to own it. Yes. If you know me? You know someone who was raped. No matter what the fuck I did, what the choices were that I made that night, you can judge me all you want, but I. Said. No.
And that word makes all the difference.
(P.S. – I’m editing this to add that someone who is incapacitated does not even HAVE the ability to consent. My “no” was actually unnecessary at that point, but I have still clung to it all these years because with everything that was taken, that remained mine.)
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The spaces between us
Pile up with words
The silence collects them
Filling the room
None pass our lips
They accumulate in time
From our hearts
From our brains
Fear and circumstance
Leave everything unsaid
For every word that’s unspoken
Lies a matching response
They stack up in pairs
Nouns verbs all their mates
Full sentences of expression
Longing for breath
For the fullness of speech
Tangible in the
Never being voiced
In its purest form
No fear of reaction
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We’re inching ever-closer to some of the movies we thought would never happen – I’m thinking specifically of Natural Born Killers. The frenzy climbs, and media attention – even posthumously – seems to be the currency of the day.
I watched part of a video on CNN, the live feed of the reporter & cameraman being shot to death today. I recoiled, horrified, and cried at my desk. I want nothing more to do with any more video. I want to know nothing about the man who committed this crime, who posted more video on his Twitter account before going on the run and eventually killing himself.
I thought 20 children being killed along with their 6 teachers was when enough would be enough. I don’t even know what the answers are? But something has to change. This is heartbreaking.
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No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, most people will agree on one thing: former President Jimmy Carter is one of the greatest humanitarians our country has produced, and arguably, the most active and involved living president, working to make the world a better place.
So when he announced he has cancer (melanoma) in his brain, despite the long and productive life he has led, my heart broke into pieces. Because my father’s cancer went into his brain, and I watched him rapidly decline from treatment. Because my husband’s grandfather had melanoma in his brain – and everywhere else – and we watched him, but a year ago, decline so rapidly he, too, was gone before we could fully process the news. And anyone who has lost a loved one knows that these reminders may not cause us to sob in the kitchen while the water is running, or even in the shower, for that matter, but they unsettle us. A snowglobe, shaken. Reminders of the pain, the heartache, the loss.
I thought I’d blogged about this but couldn’t find it, so I’m sharing my story, the only time in my life I’ve met a United States President, and that man was Jimmy Carter. The year was 1979. He and his wife were aboard the Delta Queen, traveling the Mississippi River, and I can still remember my father, turning to my mother, and saying, “He’s going to be in Guttenberg tonight. We should go. When will we ever have this chance again?” And that’s exactly what we did. We arrived early enough to see the majestic paddle boat, and my parents pointed out to me the Secret Service agents, positioned on top of the boat, black suits, hard to even see in the gathering darkness (it was around 10pm, on a Sunday night.) We found a spot along the chain-link fence and waited.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter appeared, and then disembarked the boat. They made their way along the fence, and my father, thinking quickly, realized there was no way for me, age 11, to shake President Carter’s hand. He wanted me to have that moment, so he gripped the fence with both hands, and I stood on his forearms, reaching way over the fence as President Carter approached. He looked up at me, smiled, shook my hand, and also, realized there was no way a child could be so tall, and he looked down at my father’s white knuckles, hanging onto that fence. And he patted his hands, acknowledging him and what he was doing.
It struck my father so completely. It was the smallest gesture, and totally unnecessary. But it was a great moment for my dad, who couldn’t shake his hand, but, unprompted, got the attention of the leader of our country, and was acknowledged for it. That moment of compassion, right there, was what cemented him as a good person, in his head, for the rest of his life. And don’t get me wrong, one hand pat from Jimmy Carter isn’t newsworthy. It is nothing compared the countless homes President Carter has helped build, or the nations and villages that are better because of the humanitarian aide his works have brought to their shores. But it was a cherished moment for my family, because in giving up his opportunity to have an actual handshake, it elicited the core of who Jimmy Carter is, and that is a man who recognizes his power, and acknowledges the sacrifices, and how everyone around him has helped him along the way. May this next journey only underscore all the good things about you, President Carter. Your faith and belief in the sacrifice for a greater good will live forever.
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In-between meetings today, I saw reports that the suspects in the Paris massacre were killed, just as they hoped to be. They had stated they wanted to die “the martyr’s death.” As I have done my entire life, I consulted the dictionary, because I have sat here muttering at my computer screen that these acts of terrorism have nothing to do with a deep sense of strength or pride, or the Muslim faith, and everything to do with cowardice, fear and a cult-level brainwashing.
The first two definitions are:
1. a person who willingly suffers death rather than renounce his or her religion.
2. a person who is put to death or endures great suffering on behalf of any belief, principle, or cause: “a martyr to the cause of social justice.”
There are two additional definitions of being a martyr, both defining one in that insufferable way, where you just want to tell someone to build a bridge and get over it (“it” usually being themselves.) That’s not what we’re talking about. You either suffer for a greater good, as an icon in society, or you believe so deeply in your faith that to do anything else would be a dissolution of self. But are these people, with their AK47s, killing people because they draw blasphemous cartoons, are they adhering to a religion? (RELIGION?) Is terrorism a religion? Because when I think of someone who died as a martyr, I think of Benazir Bhutto. A woman who knew she would die, just as her father did, but felt so compelled to help the people of Pakistan and bring them greater freedoms, that her ideals could live on, long after a bomb tore her body apart.
So I only ask that you think a little longer about it, and when you hear the reports that these men died as martyrs, to consider that those were their words, not necessarily the definition of martyrdom. Because – it is my opinion – this is the face of a martyr, a woman who gave her life to make her part of the world a better place, not through murder or destruction, but cared to the point she was willing to die if necessary so she could continue to work for the people of Pakistan. And her sacrifice should not even be in the same stratosphere as the terrorists who died today.
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Tonight’s World Series game is of utmost importance. In order for the Royals to stay in it and to have a chance to win it, we must win tonight. Game 6. We’re nauseous.
Plenty of people around town are filled with excitement, enthusiasm and yes, even a little queasiness. Because we’re from the Midwest. Yes, we’ve trumpeted and written and shouted, “TAKE THE CROWN!” with all the gusto you’d expect from a drunken NFL fan. But what it really comes down to is this: we just don’t “take” things. We’re too damned polite.
Growing up in Iowa and my post-college years in Minnesota, I observed the humorous behavior around offering dinner guests dessert: It actually requires offering said dessert three times before it becomes ok for the guest to accept.
“Piece of pie?” your hostess trills.
“Oh gosh no, I couldn’t,” you politely respond. (We don’t want to create more dishes to wash, overstay our welcome, or in any other way inconvenience you more than our presence already has.)
“No, no, come now, you have to try a slice!” your hostess then will exclaim.
“Oh no, I am so stuffed on that amazing dinner! I can’t imagine another bite right now,” you murmur, because the second offering means the first one was genuine, and now you’re shifting in your chair and wondering if there’s whipped cream.
“I insist. Just a small slice? Say you will!” she says, and you then acquiesce, because now you are actually helping out, you have been offered pie three times now, so you know the sentiment is genuine, and you are ready and excited for pie, and sure you’ll have a cup of coffee if you’re making more.
This is us. This is Kansas City. We are proud of our city, proud of our roots in agriculture and industry, proud we finally got an IKEA and proud of our teams. But never TOO proud. Of course we recognize injustice and bias. We rant and rave and rage at the Joe Bucks of the world, the announcers who seem to equally marvel at and ridicule our cowtown baseball team, and seemingly heap adoring praise on the other team’s players. The sportscasters who mildly mix up Alex Gordon with Eric Hosmer (HOZ!) but don’t bat an eye while they recite reams of statistics about Madison Bumgarner’s history and pitches. But we’re nervous. If we don’t win, will all these people who seemingly look down their noses at us, for being less “Cosmopolitan”, for being less “Coastal”, will this just prove them right? Well, no, but it won’t help us prove them wrong, either.
And we WANT this. We want it so badly. We don’t want to wait and we don’t want to lose. We want to win. Because we exist in flyover country every single day, we know the metropolises on either side of the country don’t think about us and our contributions, that our fields provide food for the world, the fact our hustle and bustle doesn’t have high-speed trains or subway systems. Oh sure, we’ve got our foodie spots and our microbrews and we even have sushi. But we’re used to not hearing a lot of ringing praise, and truth be told, a whole lot of praise can make us look at our shoes and shuffle a little bit in embarrassment. And this is why we’re queasy. Because underneath all of this, we WANT THIS. We want it so BADLY. It’s attention but it’s also redemption and it’s validation of all the things WE know to be true and believe in.
So maybe we won’t TAKE the crown, in the sense we ride up on an Arabian horse, snatch it & gallop away, but we sure as hell want to EARN the crown, because our pride knows no bounds when it comes to our team and our city. GO ROYALS!
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James’ grandfather is dying. Stage IV Melanoma; it’s in his brain and lungs and a lot of other places, too. He had a doctor who put him into radiation immediately, but the 2nd opinion at KU Cancer Center confirmed everyone’s worst fears – nothing could be done to save him, and just live what life you have left. Hearing how kind the second doctor was brought my first tears, for he was so kind. So caring. Facing finality, with no good news and surrounded by family, this man took all the time necessary to convey the worst news of all: there is no hope. For hope is that tiny spark in the face of darkness.
Obviously this is painful and horrible and heavy and sad. It is hard to watch your partner struggle with the oh-so-many-faces and emotions grief brings when it moves in and settles down, right in the center of your chest like a boulder going nowhere. It’s hard to relive the memories it all churns up, images I’d pushed far to the back of the closet, the bottom of the box, the gray shell my father had become, a shadow of his former self, his body an empty sarcophagus that once housed a robust, vibrant, witty man. What those final moments were like and how months later they threatened to destroy me, crying at the night sky, anything to end the constant aching pain of loss.
Some of my own defenses kick in, and I don’t cry at home. I have to be strong and kind and gentle and understanding, because it’s some rough shit and it’s my turn to drive. My turn to be a rock. So I’m angry when grief still springs from the office ceiling or the backseat of my car, causing tears to slide down my own cheeks while I fight off old haunted feelings. The best thing I can do is just be here, be there, because if there is proof you can survive some of the greatest loss imaginable, I’ve done it. Still kickin’. Still pissed at grief for being an unpredictable demon, reminding us that with great love can also come great loss.
There are lost periods. Time passes in fits and starts. And where my world, 8 years ago, was filled with a jumble of crazy, of helplessness, wildly racing emotions and rage, confusion and denial, now there is … white static. It’s like that thing you hear in your ears, as though the air pressure around you has shifted, increased, and your head feels like its underwater, but you can still breathe, you just feel suspended by the buzz and hum of containment. It is an odd purgatory, this limbo, for it insulates somewhat against the pain, while you wait for the next verse to start.
White light. Open spaces everywhere.
The hum. Holding my breath.
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You know how it is, when you have a discovery and it’s like the lightbulb actually hovered over your head, illuminated the universe and then exploded into a thousand shards of brilliance?
Well, let me tell you something: The oven door comes OFF.
That’s right. Off! I suppose there are models where it doesn’t, and maybe really old stove/ovens require some sort of rare tool or brute force, but all I could think when I discovered this fact and did it for myself was, “DID EVERYONE KNOW THIS AND NOT TELL ME?” Because I’ve scrubbed plenty an oven floor in contortions, back in the day, and trying to work around an opened oven door is precarious, as if you lean on it, you very well could bring the whole damned thing toppling over onto you, or at the very least, scare yourself with some tipping.
Basically, you open the door all the way, and then look at where the hinges connect to the body of the oven. USE A SCREWDRIVER to do the next part, because some video I watched that had you flipping the little locks up with it cautioned that you could lose a finger if it snapped back. Ours is a newer oven, so it just required pushing the hinge guards down. Then, you take the oven door and shut it partway, as if you were going to broil something, and then grab the sides and lift up. Try not to drop it in your shock at succeeding at this! Now you can clean the oven quite easily and if you are inclined, you can also take the whole door apart and clean in-between the glass, if, say, someone you know accidentally hooked a shirt sleeve on a whole pan of cooled cooking oil, kept walking, and then launched said pan into the air, drenching the entire area with oil, much to the enthusiasm of a couple black labs. HYPOTHETICALLY SPEAKING YOU SEE.
Now, if you’re going to take the door apart, learn from me. Get some post-it notes, number them, and put the little screws you take out into piles and keep them separate and orderly. Also consider taking some pictures as you go, because you will have to flip back and forth and while you’re taking it all apart, sure, you’ll think, “this is completely logical and easy, I’ll just keep going.” And then when you go to put it back together, you’ll realize it took you three hours to get to that point, between watching a video, checking your steps, cleaning things, drying them, and having some lunch. And it will take you 7 times as long to get the door back together. DO NOT MAKE MY MISTAKES, GRASSHOPPER.
I’ve referenced a video for cleaning the door – here it is. It’s not the greatest quality? But it’s definitely informative, thorough, and it felt a little like having your grandpa around, showing you how to do a complicated project. I also was hooked by the opener, talking about what to do with a dirty oven door: “Three ways to solve it! Hang a decorative towel over the glass, buy a new stove, OR – clean it!”
And THEN, once you’ve gotten it all cleaned and the gunk is off the bottom and not threatening to set the smoke alarm off, you have the greatest sense of satisfaction you can imagine. And then? THEN? Someone should cook a frozen pizza in it without a pan or anything below the rack, and drip a nice big spot of cheese onto the bottom that you discover two days later, and you dance around in crazed disbelief, wielding a knife and trying to scrape the now-smoking burnt cheese out while the oven still preheats. (Hypothetically speaking, of course.) (Penance was paid. Hypothetically.)
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