#WeekendCoffeeShare: In Which I Am Brief

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you hello and welcome you in. We’d have a quick chat, then we might head out for the morning. It’s Museum Month here, and today we’re off to visit the World War II Museum and gad about town a bit.

The week has been a busy one…It’s the first week of the semester, and it’s my first week as a full-time employee at the college, so the semester is quite different than semesters past. I’ve mostly gotten moved into my new office–all the things are there, but I have to find a way to hang some things on the concrete walls (ideas?) so that it doesn’t look quite so bare. I’m also beginning to learn the names of my students, though it’s taking me quite a while because there are about 125 of them. They’re pretty swell though, and we had some good conversations this week about writing and the current socio-political situation.

*****

If we were having coffee, I would apologize for this week’s short entry and tell you that you’ll be seeing more here in the next few weeks, both coffee share and other posts, as I start to get my footing underneath me at the new job and move forward with some blog plans. ❤

#WeekendCoffeeShare: Flooding, Facebook, and First Days

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If we were having coffee, I would first apologize profusely for my absence last weekend! I honestly forgot what day it was until sometime late Sunday afternoon, at which point it was far too late to write and publish a link-up. That’s honestly never happened before–well, the forgetting to post part, not so much the forgetting what day it is part, because that’s definitely happened before. But in all fairness, the last few weeks have been a doozy.

I keep making plans that get knocked down a bit as things change. I finished the summer semester in a whirlwind of grading and interviewing, and I found out about the job that next week. I wanted to spend my small break between summer semester ending and work on the fall semester beginning as a jump-start on some writing, but…Last week was bound up in working on syllabi for the semester, because (as always) I decided at the last moment that I wanted to change around the assignments for my courses.

And then large portions of the city flooded as we went into last weekend, and all thoughts of other things went out the window. We are fortunate in that we are in one of the more elevated portions of the city, so we only had a bit of flooding–the water was up to the edge of the sidewalk at its highest point. But much of the city was underwater there for a while, with some areas flooding as much as they did during Katrina. And even though the water has receded, there are still warnings and things are still in an upheaval, as we’re still getting some rain each day and now the Sewage & Water Board have admitted that 8 of the pumps weren’t working during the storm. Oy.

So, needless to say, last week’s plans for writing went out the window. I didn’t manage the coffee post and certainly not any other writing, but I’m here now!

*****

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I deactivated my Facebook account yesterday.

If you know me and how much I social media, that’s probably a shock. For those of you who aren’t aware, though…Facebook and I have been good buddies for a while. I use it to keep up with old friends–being an extreme introvert (and a busy person), the social interaction there is easier for to manage on a consistent basis than phone calls or coffee dates. I also use it to procrastinate, though. I spend time and energy writing Facebook posts that may be entertaining and thought provoking–or even just silly–and that time and energy could be better spent writing something that I post here or as a guest on another site.

The bigger issue, though, bigger even than how much time I spend crafting posts that could be netting my own site views instead of adding to Facebook’s views, is the relationship that has developed between Facebook and my life outside of it. They bleed into one another, and not always in good ways. For one thing, if I’m in a manic or irritated mood, I am much quicker to engage in debate on FB and far less nice when I do so. I have little patience, and I’ve both said some unpleasant things and had lots of unpleasant things said to me–and of course when that happens, my mood plummets. I’ve noticed myself feeling keyed up during arguments with others online and spending far too much time and energy in those debates. When it comes down to it, they’re not productive (mind you, I am not saying that I don’t think dialogue on social media can affect change; I think it can, but there is a point at which the debate becomes counter-productive), and they are stressful.

So I spent the last few days blasting out my contact info to friends who I want to keep in touch with, and I started getting rid of the account by increments. I changed all my linked accounts, and then I deleted the app from my phone. (I subsequently tried to check it on my phone about 3 times in an hour, but hey, who’s counting?) Yesterday I officially deactivated the account. And although I did spend part of the afternoon looking at Twitter and Instagram, I get an entirely different feeling from them (because I have cultivated happy feeds) and spend far less time on them than I ever did on Facebook.

Now if I can just keep it that way…

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the Little Jedi and I both start school this week. I spent all of this week in a flurry of activity preparing for that, so I haven’t written much, but hopefully I can get myself back to some sort of regular schedule once we both get settled in. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were full of faculty meetings for me, Thursday was mostly spent helping students with registration, and yesterday we carted school supplies up the 3 flights of stairs to the kiddo’s classroom and my office things up the flight of stairs to my new office.

The coming week will be full of things for us to do as we fall into the routine for a new semester. I’m teaching more classes than I’ve ever taught before, but for the first time I am a full-time instructor with my own office in which to work. Little Jedi is going into the 3rd grade, and it looks as though his classes are going to change quite a bit. With Sam working mostly from home now, all of our routines are changed from the way they looked last year, so it will be an adjustment!

*****

If we were having coffee, I would ask how you are, what you have been up to! And I’d promise to answer comments this weekend and to pop by for coffee and a chat with you, as I’ve felt terrible about missing you guys the last few weeks! ❤

#WeekendCoffeeShare: In Which I Am Late, and I Have News to Share

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If we were having coffee, I would apologize for missing you yesterday. I just couldn’t get myself together to finish the posting in time, unfortunately–But I’m here now! I’ll leave the link-up open until Monday afternoon so that everyone has a bit longer to add their posts to the linky. 🙂

If we were having coffee, I would also tell you that I have big news! My interviews went really well, and I accepted a full-time teaching position at the college where I’ve been an adjunct for the past year. It’s really exciting for me, and it came at just the right time. I’ve been feeling really discouraged for the past few months, especially in regards to my career and finances. Leaving grad school a few years ago before I totally finished my PhD was the right decision for me, but it also threw me into a tailspin. It’s taken me a while to recover, and I’ve had a series of part time jobs that have been fun and that have also been good learning opportunities, but that haven’t been ideal as far as advancing my career or keeping us financially stable. I’ll be able to do both of those things now, and it’s a major relief.

*****

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’ve spent the past week hanging out with the Little Jedi and Doing Nothing quite a lot. Since this was our last full week together before he heads back to his dad’s and then back to school when he is home again, we wanted to spend the week together. And we did–he had a friend over and visited a friend for a day or so, and the rest of the time we spent together just playing games, watching movies, and being together. All things considered (since I had the second interview this week and found out about getting the position), it was a nice way to spend a week. Sometimes I find myself disappointed that he doesn’t want to *do* more–I offered to take him to a movie or the library or the aquarium, all of which he said no to–but if he’s happy just hanging out, then I suppose I am, too.

*****

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’m almost out of steam, so I would like to see what is up with you! ❤

#WeekendCoffeeShare: In Which I Am a Wee Lazy

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If we were having coffee, I would invite you in and say hello. I’m probably still yawning and stretching, and the coffee might not actually be made. Perhaps we’ll walk just down the street to Congregation, the little coffee place on the corner, or perhaps we’ll just stay in here where it’s cool and I’ll hop up to make some coffee. Today I’m being a wee extraordinarily lazy, because this week has been a doozy. (Does anyone actually say doozy anymore?–Besides me, I mean.)

I would tell you that this week I finished up the summer semester, grading essays and averaging grades and getting everything in juuust before they were due. I generally try to finish things up at least a day or two in advance, but this time I had lots of trouble getting that done. Little Jedi is back from his dad’s house for the last 2 weeks of July, so I’ve been trying to spend time with him. I also had an interview for full-time teaching that took place halfway through the week, and the preparation and nervousness from that took up quite a bit of my time. (Side note: Not sure if I’ll have the job yet, but I do know that I have a second interview!) And there’s been a fair amount of family stuff going on that has made me both anxious and angry…Things that I’m not ready to talk about here (and may or may not ever be) but that have drained me of energy in all kinds of ways.

*****

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that Little Jedi and I only get this week and next week together out of the whole year. It’s weird, but it’s true. He spends a lot of time with his dad’s family and with my parents–and that’s well and good in the sense that he has lots of people to care about him, but it makes life a little lot more complicated. It’s difficult to plan anything as a family, and it’s frustrating because the other parts of his family don’t really recognize that. During much of the year he is in school, obviously, and during the summer he spends 2 weeks of each month with his dad. Throughout most of the year he’s with his dad every other weekend, and during his Mardi Gras break and spring break he was gone to visit grandparents this year. Sometimes it feels as though he needs his own social calendar, and Sam and I get railroaded into having almost no family time.

So we’ve spent this week mostly hanging out at home, because that’s what he’s wanted to do. We’ve played video games and read and watched YouTube, and he’s had some time to play with his friend and for them to have a sleepover (or two!). On tomorrow, we’re going to the theater to see Kiki’s Delivery Service, and next week I think we’re going to make our way to the aquarium and insectarium and library. In short, we’re going to enjoy our city and one another, because we don’t actually get a lot of free time together to do that.

*****

If we were having coffee, I would ask what you have going on, what your week has been like. So link up your posts below, and don’t forget to use the #weekendcoffeeshare tag on Facebook, Twitter, and here on WordPress!

#WeekendCoffeeShare: In Which I am Cold, and I Talk about Feminism

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If we were having coffee, we would be curled up on the big purple couch today. I’m wearing my Hufflepuff bathrobe backwards and whining about just how cold it is today. Of course, to some of you 47 degrees is not cold at all, so you’ll probably be chuckling. But for here in New Orleans, that’s cold as cold can be. Our houses are mostly not equipped to deal with the cold weather because they’re built to stay cool in the ridiculous summers, so the high ceilings and big windows work against us during the winter. We’ve also moved into a place without central heating–we have a few of the small space heaters around the house, but since there are no doors in the kitchen/living room area, the heaters have to work pretty hard. Anyway, it’s cold. I’m cold.

So while I’m on cup number two of coffee and bitching about being cold, I would tell you that this has been a good week, a week of finishing up the semester and moving forward. At the beginning of the week, Mon/Tues, I had lots of final essays to grade and final grades to input. Then on Wednesday, I got to be a part of something really, really incredible. I wanted to chat about it last week, but I wasn’t sure just how much to say before it all happened. Toward the end of last week, I was contacted to read on-camera for a feminist documentary project called Yours in Sisterhood–the goal of the project is to record people giving readings of letters sent to Ms. magazine in the 1970s in the places where those letters were written and to allow a space to respond to the tone and content of the letters. The project is spear-headed by director Irene Lustzig, who contacted me about reading a letter sent from a mother of an infant son in New Orleans. I readily agreed, of course, and the experience was a profound and moving one. I was surprised at not just the cognitive dissonance between myself and the writer of this letter, but also at our similarities–things we both wanted or things we both worried about. We filmed along the levy of the MS River here, and though it was loud and we had to do several takes, it seemed like just the right spot. Not sure when things will be available, because there are more readings to be recorded and lots to be done, but the project will end up both as an interactive online archive and a feature-length film. Their Facebook page is probably a good place to keep up with them!

After we finished up with filming for the documentary on Wednesday, it was time to say goodbye to Irene and her wonderful assistant Anisa, and then I had to scoot across the river to the community college and hand-in my end-of-the-semester requirements–gradebook and such–and then there was a trip to the library and to pick up Little Jedi from school. And there was also, finally my new phone waiting for me at home. We ordered them at the end of last week, and Sam’s was here Monday, but of course since I chose a rose gold colored phone instead of the traditional grey, it took mine longer to get here! We had to have new phones because our old Blackberrys weren’t working well anymore, and apparently the problem was that they were not compatible with some of the new networks and such. I caved and gave into the iPhone craze, and also into the Instagram (@parttimemonster) and PokemonGo crazes. Oh, and Prisma. Basically, I spent all of Thursday reading and playing on my new phone, because Wednesday was such a good but long day. The most productivity I managed on Thursday was making the bed, and that’s about the most productivity I managed yesterday, too.  But on the bright side, I caught a lot of Pokemon and am almost finished with The Girls, a really fascinating novel about a teenage girl in the late 1960s who is caught up in a Manson-esque murderous cult.

And today, in addition to writing this coffee post, I’m making some behind-the-scenes changes and working on some new ideas for this little blog. For one thing, I’ve decided to bring Feminist Fridays to the blog. A while back, some other bloggers and I ran a series of Feminist Friday discussions on a regular basis, and that was a productive time for me insofar as my own activism and writing. In the wake of working on Yours in Sisterhood this week, I’ve realized I need more of that conversation, and my blog is a good place to start it. So, beginning in January, each Friday will be devoted to a piece of writing about feminism. Sometimes that will mean I share a personal story, and sometimes those posts will be more global. I’ll also have some guest posters here, and if you have an idea I encourage you to chat with me about it by emailing me at ptmonsterblog@gmail.com.

And for now, with this long, long coffee date, I will bid you adieu, and I will see you next week for a coffee-on-a-go-go as we travel to my parents’ house to celebrate Christmas with them. Until then, link up your coffee posts below, and I promise I’ll be answering comments and getting the WCS Twitter going again!

******

Monday Re-Run: Body Image, Body Compassion, and Choosing Myself

 

In the hospital after surgery. It's probably not an accident that I can't find any pictures in the swimming cap---they're all locked away at my parents' house.

In the hospital after surgery.

At 5, I had surgery on my left eardrum to repair a hole. The surgery left my eardrum permanently weakened. I had to wear ear plugs and a rubber swimming cap to protect my ears when I went swimming.

And in the South, especially when there’s a pool nearby, we spend a lot of time swimming. There was a pool in our backyard. I looked a little weird in my cap, but I didn’t think much of it until one kid called me “rubberhead” during swimming lessons. Then it became all I could think about.

*****

At 10, I had huge glasses, braces, and hair that was long and frizzy, because my mom had no idea what to do with curly hair. Sometimes the boy I sat next to at lunch would call me Medusa. I had scrawny legs and was just discovering that I was, in fact, awkward.

I didn’t have any curve to my body, and though a few of my friends had started developing (or at least said they had started developing) breasts, mine were nowhere to be found. I became bothered that I had hair on my legs and that most women didn’t, and I asked my mom if I could start shaving.

She was taken aback, of course. I was 10. She expected me to be younger for longer, I think. Bless her, she asked a close family member what to do, and the answer was “if she’s old enough to be self conscious about it, she’s old enough to shave.”

It was a relief to do something grown up, to have some control over my out-of-control, developing body.

*****

At 13, I had no braces and no glasses. I’d grown curves and gone through puberty. I learned to work with, rather than against, the texture of my hair, and for the first time in years I didn’t have hair that made me feel embarrassed.

Instead, I had the kind of hair I could hide inside of. It was long, just past my shoulders, with a deep part on the right so that my hair swung in front of my eyes.

My hair was large and wild.

Hiding inside it turned out to be a good tactic as boys (and men) started to notice my body. Hiding inside that veil of hair allowed me to look coy and flirtatious while hiding my embarrassment at the attention.

That same year, one of my teachers found a note I’d written a classmate in which I’d divulged suicidal thoughts. They called me to the principal’s office to meet with my parents, who took me home. I entered counseling for the first time.

*****

At 17, sitting on my parents' front porch.

At 17, sitting on my parents’ front porch.

At 17, I was tiny and insecure. I was so small, but I felt so large.

I’d been told to watch out for getting fat. In my teenage years, that translated to “you are already fat, so don’t get any fatter.” Looking back, I should’ve seen the absurdity. I was a size 8.

But I felt like I took up so much space sometimes.

People often thought I was older than I was. I carried myself with an assuredness that I didn’t feel. I retreated behind my mane of hair, into my books, and with a close group of friends who understood me.

*****

Just after returning to college from working at camps all summer long.

Just after returning to college.

At 19, I was a college sophomore, in love for the first time. I was engaged, though of course it didn’t last long. I’d let go of the strong religious leanings that I had in high school, and I liked to party. I was beautiful, and young, and free to

do whatever I wanted as long as I could make it to an 8:00 class the next day.

I was a ropes course instructor and a lifeguard, so I swam often. I was very, very pretty, which got me into more than a little trouble, some of my own making and some of others’. I gained friends and quickly lost them, moving from group to group and party to party.

I still hid behind my hair—it got larger over the years. I got my first tattoo, a symbol of peace and happiness.

I went into counseling again for depression and anxiety, and for the first time I was put on medication. It eased many of my symptoms, but I had a significant weight gain from the medicine. And of course, it worked erratically because I wasn’t careful about drinking while I was on the medication.

I gained about 50 pounds. I was lethargic and stopped swimming, so the partying and the new medicine added up quickly. I went to monthly check-ups, but of course I wasn’t quite honest with my doctors about the partying I did.

*****

At my baby shower, which turned out to be just weeks before delivery. My hands and face are obviously swollen already.

At my baby shower just weeks before delivery.

At 24, I was a master’s student with an on-and-off-again fiancee.  My body wasn’t as good as it had been in my early years of college, when I was a ropes course instructor and a lifeguard, but it was still a young, healthy, beautiful body.

I got a second tattoo, this time a phoenix rising, flanked by the words “carpe diem.” I spent a lot of time reading and writing, and the rest of my time partying. Life was challenging but relatively carefree.

And then it wasn’t.

I wasn’t sure, at first, how I felt about the pregnancy. I knew it would change everything about my life, and I hadn’t planned for that to happen quite so quickly. I knew I wouldn’t be so carefree anymore. I knew my body would change. I went to doctor’s appointments, read books on pregnancy and parenting, changed my eating habits, and researched whether I could screw up my baby by coloring my hair and paining my toenails.

But around 26 weeks of the pregnancy, I had to research new topics. I was diagnosed with Intrauterine Growth Restriction, and I had to find out more about it.

When I next returned to my OB, she determined that I was actually preeclamptic. At 32 weeks, I went directly to the hospital from her office. I’d just been at work the day before, and aside from extremely swollen feet and ankles, I felt just fine. But I wasn’t.

I couldn’t wait any longer than a day to be hooked up to a magnesium drip and two days, mostly to be given vital steroid shots to help my baby’s lungs develop, before his delivery via C-section.

I barely remember seeing my child’s face for the first time. I vaguely remember his first cry. I remember thinking that somehow I’d made my baby sick, that maybe because I wasn’t sure if I wanted him at first, we were being punished.

My brother wheeled me down to see my baby for the first time, and I could only stay for a few moments. At 2 pounds, 14 ounces and 15 1/4 inches long, he was the tiniest baby I’d ever seen. I felt paralyzed by his smallness and crippled by

Holding Little Jedi for the first time ever.

Holding Little Jedi for the first time ever.

his fragility.

I felt like it was my fault that he’d come into the world already fighting. My body couldn’t nourish him properly or give him the place he needed to grow until birth.

For a long time, I beat myself up for that. Why couldn’t my body do what it was designed to do? Could I have done something differently? Why didn’t I get to have a have a healthy baby?

****

At 30, I had moved to New Orleans with my son, The Little Jedi, and my then-fiancee-now-husband, Sam.

I fell down the basement stairs on Halloween and sprained my ankle terribly. I was immobile for almost a week and on crutches for another week, and my ankle still isn’t quite the same. The walks I’d been taking with our terrier could no longer be taken—he is really energetic and needs to move quickly.

I gained quite a bit of weight again during the recovery, and I was bothered by

At 30, getting married in Vegas.

At 30, getting married in Vegas.

how long my body took to heal. A few months later, I would fall again and sprain my other ankle. And a year after that, I tore the meniscus in my right

knee.

Changes were around every corner—my own adjustment to living in New Orleans; Little Jedi adjusting to not living with my parents anymore, living with Sam for the first time, going to daycare/school for the first time, and living in a city like New Orleans after small town Mississippi; leaving school for a new career path; my husband changing jobs; a marriage.

*****

At 31, my body is scarred. I’m heavier than I’ve been probably ever in my life. My ankles and knee swell after high-impact exercise, and though I’ve stopped smoking, I’m still out of shape enough to be breathless after exercising in small bouts.

But I’ve come to see the value in what my body has been able to do, and I can forgive it for its shortcomings.

I’m choosing not just body acceptance, but body compassion and body love.

For me, this means holding myself accountable for what I put into my body now but not punishing myself for my past. It means that when I make a mistake (or 5 days of mistakes, like when Mardi Gras happens and then my birthday happens), I don’t beat myself up over it.

I have to re-choose body compassion every day.

My instinct is to get discouraged when I don’t meet the goals I set for myself, especially as concerns diet and exercise. But body compassion sets me up to say “oh well” and move along after a screw up. In some ways that’s more difficult for me.

But I choose body compassion.

I choose it because I need to be compassionate with my body before I can truly love my body. I choose it because I have to remember the life that my body has been through before that I can get to the life I want.

I choose body compassion. I choose me.

(This post was part of the first 1,000 Voices Speak for Compassion Link-up.)

Monday Re-Run: On American Girls and Being a Molly

When I was a child, I was an ugly duckling. I was terribly thin; I had big glasses, and my Mollymom just didn’t know what to do with my uber-curly hair, so she always tried to just blow dry it straight, and I ended up with a fuzzy hairdo. I loved to read, Coke-bottle glasses sliding down my nose as I buried it in a book. I liked to play with my dolls, making up stories None of my dolls looked like me–until I got American Girl doll Molly.

Molly had glasses. Her mousy brown hair was always braided to keep it out of her face. And she had stories. Those stories were historical, yes. I got to learn about WW II in an immersive way. But I felt a connection to this doll after reading how badly she wanted a dog (then, as now, I loved dogs), how fiercely she could love a friend and still be angry with her (I had a friend who stayed with us often because her mother was very ill, and we loved one another but fought when we’d been around one another too much–like Molly and her English friend Emily when Emily is staying to be out of danger), how Molly went to camp and had such fun despite hating bugs and getting poison ivy (I loved camp and the outdoors but hated bugs), and how badly Molly wanted to be the beautiful star of the show (wearing pin curls and removing glasses for the recital bore much resemblance to how badly I wanted to look like the other girls).

SamanthaI don’t remember which of the dolls I got next, but over the years, my parents bought Kirsten, Felicity, and Samantha for me. They always bought the doll and the books; I rarely got any of the additional things that the company sold for the dolls. And honestly, that was fine with me. What I wanted was to play with the dolls and tell their stories. I didn’t need a lot of accouterments for that. I read, and I fixed their hair, and I pretended conversations between them should they ever meet one another. I admired Felicity’s red hair, which I wished I had, and I rejoiced when she got her horse, Penny (much like with dogs, I have always had a soft spot for horses). I was entranced with the way Samantha stood with her friend, Nellie, as she was orphaned and sent to work in a factory. I wept with Kirsten when her friend died on the way to America.

Later, I would question some of these narratives. I would recognize the privilege that is hidden in the packaging. Sure, it looks great to have dolls that are historically placed, who come into contact with the issues of the day and are active rather than passive. And they do some amazing things. My dolls were all white, though. It wasn’t until 1993, seven years and several dolls after the company began (and a little past my collecting days), that Addy, a black girl living during the Civil War, introduced any sense of diversity into the line. And the historical “Looking Back” pieces at the end of the books rarely concentrated on women’s and girls’ history, instead giving a broad-brush approach to the time period. That would’ve worked for an introduction; but for a conclusion to books that had focused so much on the girl, it left her out of history once again. It was disheartening.

And those dolls were—-are—-expensive. They can cost hundreds of dollars with accessories, and even without accessories, just doll and books, they’re generally $100 or so. The company has been purchased by Mattel, and the original dolls have been mostly archived in a “Historical Line” in favor of promoting dolls that are more contemporary. Unsurprisingly, these dolls are mostly white, privileged, and don’t do too much boat-rocking. They’re not tomboys like Felicity, child labor activists like Samantha (or suffragettes like her aunt Cordelia), or escaping, like Addy, from an oppressive system (slavery, just in case that wasn’t clear) to find their family.

I wouldn’t have found anything to identify with in most of the new dolls. I wasn’t blonde, artsy, or all that worried about keeping up with my classmates. I went to a large school in a small town–if you didn’t go to the local private school, you went to the public school, and that was that. I was awkward. I got picked on for my weird hair and big glasses and for being ok with touching mice and hamsters and earthworms and all those things I wasn’t supposed to want to touch. Now there’s nothing wrong with being an Isabelle–with being a blonde at an art school worried about keeping up with your classmates. That just wasn’t me, and it isn’t many other girls. I was a Molly, though I wanted desperately to be a Samantha. I’m still a Molly.

And I can’t help but think of how many American Girls are not represented in that collection–even fewer now than previously, even less emphasis on empowering them, encouraging them to part of large social movements. Where’s our Civil Rights Era doll, or a gay rights advocate? Where are our Native American girls after extended European contact (the one Native American doll, Kaya, has a story that takes in 1764)?  It’s time we see those American girls.

Historical American Girls

(This post originally appeared as part of the A to Z Challenge 2014. In the 2 years since then, the American Girls company has introduced several new dolls, including several non-white characters, expanding their contemporary line. I still wish they were making more historical dolls, especially more historical dolls of color.)

Confessions of a Chronic Flaker

ConfessionsofaChronicFlaker

Sometimes we wonder what other people say about us when we’re not listening. Behind our backs, so to speak. We wonder what they think about us, when and if they do think about us at all, and who they share those thoughts with. I know this isn’t just me, because society is in many ways built on this kind of question, many of us performing the way we do (and make no mistake–we are all performing) based on who is looking. And sometimes, we can make good guesses about what other people say.

As an adult I’ve become known for my likelihood to flake out of an engagement, especially of the social sort. And it is as frustrating for me as it is for people that I cancel on. (I know this, because in some sort of oxymoronic turn of life, I am deeply annoyed by flaky people, so I know how you guys feel when I cancel.)

Though the actual circumstances may vary, what usually happens is, essentially, that I become so anxious about one or more elements of the pending even that I decide I just can’t face it. Maybe I don’t know the way, or I have to drive through a particularly confusing part of the city. (Driving is a huge anxiety trigger for me. I hate driving, especially in this city full of potholes, one-way streets, minimal parking lots, and no left turns.) Maybe I’m going to see a lot of new people, or I’m going to be in an unfamiliar place. Maybe I can’t find anything to wear that doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable or unattractive. Maybe the event will require me to talk a lot, or maybe it’s going to take a long time. Maybe I’m just out of energy. Sometimes it’s several of those things combined.

At some point, I start to feel like it’d just be better if I didn’t go. But then, I have to notify the person that I’m standing up that I won’t be there after all. This makes me even more anxious. I start wondering if they’ll be mad at me for inconveniencing them or if they’ll feel as though I don’t want to be around them. I wonder about plausible excuses for cancelling.

If it’s a bad day, then I decide to cancel plans. If it’s a really bad day, then I might send an e-mail or text cancellation instead of calling. If I do call, I hope that the person I’m calling is busy so that I can leave a message instead of talking to them. (Phones also activate my anxiety. I have significant hearing loss in one ear, and I tend to mumble a bit, so phones cause more confusion for me than straight-forward text.) The closer to event-time that this happens, the worse I feel about the cancellation.

And then, after I cancel, I feel sad and worried. Undependable. Flaky. Lazy. Isolated.

Meanwhile, it is entirely possible that the person I’ve cancelled on is thankful for some extra time on that Netflix binge or that they’re so busy with other things they haven’t had time or inclination to really notice my absence. In fact, this is probably quite often the case–because if it’s true that we wonder what others think of us, it’s also true that they don’t think of us as often as we suppose they might.

We occupy larger parts of our own imaginations than those of others. The shadow of our own failings, much like the light of our successes, falls heavier over our own selves than others.

Dear LGBTQIA Community:

dearlgbtqiacommunity

I am not just with you, I am one of you.

It has taken me a very long time to publish those words in a place that people from my hometown would see, where my family could possibly read them. I haven’t necessarily been shy about acknowledging my non-heteronormative identity around friends and in the comments sections of other blogs, but I have never really, at least until last week, published anything on the blog or in my social media that confirmed I’ve dated women.

Obviously, that has been a deliberate decision.

For one thing, I still don’t know what I am, what label to choose. There’s no real definition that fits the complex nature of my sexual identity. I find women attractive. I find men attractive. I find androgyny incredibly attractive. Mostly, though, I am less sexually attracted to people than aesthetically so. Maybe I’m what the kids these days call biromantic demisexual? I don’t know. I don’t really need to name it—but not being able to attach that label means that talking about my orientation is more complicated for me.

There’s another reason that I haven’t really said much, though–because I can easily blend in, I do. Because I met the partner of my dreams and he was decidedly male, because we are both cis-gender, we look like a heteronormative couple.  I hide behind my cis-gender, heterosexual marriage and heteronormative life. It is easy and safe. So many of you do not–cannot–hide. I don’t have to incur the same struggles that so many of you do, something I am always are of.

Many of you lost your lives this weekend because you did not hide. And I want you to know: I see you, and you are brave and beautiful and fearsome.

I am sorry that we’ve failed you, that we keep failing you. I am sorry that your lives are made more difficult–that many of your lives have ended–because of sex and sexuality. I am sorry that I still often say “your” in these discussions instead of “our” because I have a complex relationship with my sexuality and wouldn’t know how to identify myself if I tried. I’m sorry I haven’t been more vocal.

I am with you, always.

**This post is an edited version of a Facebook note I posted this weekend. On it, I listed several ways to give to LGBTQIA organizations in New Orleans and to the victims of the Pulse Orlando shooting. I’d like the comments section here to be a place where we post ways to give to the LGBTQIA Community. If you know of an organization doing good work that needs funding and/or volunteers, please feel free to post a link to to their organization here. I’ll start here:
Last Call: New Orleans Dyke Bar History Project, an organization in NOLA dedicated to chronicling the history of lesbian-centered spaces in New Orleans and their virtual disappearance;
GoFundMe for Leonel Mendez, a NOLA local who is in a coma after the Pulse shooting this weekend;
and a GoFundMe for Victims of the Pulse Shooting.

Code Words for Crazy

codewordsforcrazy

I was six when I had my first panic attack.

I’d gone back to my grandmother’s house after church on a Sunday night, something I did often when I was young. On this particular night, the church service we attended focused on heaven—on what it would be like to spend eternity with Jesus and the angels. But instead of being comforted, I was afraid. I didn’t like the idea that forever had no end, none at all, and I felt suffocated by the idea of being in one place forever. It didn’t matter that Jesus or his angels would be there, that the streets would be paved of gold, or that there were be no more sorrow or pain there. In fact, I could not imagine how it would be possible not to experience pain or loss or sorrow if I had to stay in one place for always, especially if those people I loved didn’t make it there, too.

That night, as I crawled into bed beside my grandmother, I started to cry. She asked me why I was crying, what she could do tell help. And so I told her. I told her that I was afraid of forever, that something never-ending was so far beyond my comfort zone and so enormous as to be horrifying. She told me I needn’t be afraid, of course, and somehow she soothed my fears enough for me to go to sleep.

That was, really and truly, my first indication that I was different…Different from my family, different from my friends and the other kids my age. I thought about things they did not, or at least if they did consider the things I did, they were not bothered by them.

This would become commonplace for me—being troubled by things that did not seem to trouble other people.

*****

I was 13 when I threatened to commit suicide. I wrote a note to a friend, told him about how sad and lonely I felt, how I thought it might be better if I just didn’t exist.

I don’t remember if he meant to show anyone the note, but I do remember that one of my teachers found it. She went to the principal’s office with the note, and my parents were called in. They didn’t understand why I was so sad—but of course, I didn’t really understand either.

I was taken to my first counseling sessions after that. We had to drive half an hour to the closest therapist, because our little town didn’t have any mental health professionals. I don’t actually remember much about the sessions, though I was certainly more than old enough to have a good memory of them. Mostly what I remember is that it didn’t help much, but I pretended that it did.

I spent the rest of middle and high school hiding most of my anxiety and sadness, though there were still times it would rise to the top. I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 17, and I had to take the test three times. Mostly, I was too nervous when someone else was in the car—but I also just hated driving. It frightened me. The bad stuff was usually explained away as PMS, or maybe just because I was a teenager, or maybe I was too emotional.

******

When I got to college, everything exploded. I took my first drink of alcohol during my freshman year, and I found that my thirst was difficult to satisfy. I drank too much. I smoked too much. I was too promiscuous. I dated men and women.

The social club I’d joined (which was much like a sorority) ordered me into counseling. I went to a session or two, but I wasn’t really ready to talk, and in any case the focus seemed to be on how much I was drinking instead of why I was drinking so much. The club told me I couldn’t come back without going to counseling. I told them to fuck off, and I spiraled into more drinking, more sex, more fights with my friends and my off-and-on again boyfriend.

I’d reached a point where I felt anxious all the time, and I cried a lot. I saw a psychiatrist, who put me on anti-depressants for the first time and gave me a name for what I was feeling…Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

I always managed to keep good grades, and somehow I found myself preparing to go to graduate school, and then actually going, making a move that I promised myself would help me change things. I felt better than I had in ages.

******

When I was 24 and in the final stages of grad school, I returned home from a summer abroad and very soon thereafter conceived my son. There was pressure on all sides for me to marry before the baby was born—pressure from the people who had been helping me pay bills while I was in school and who would be helping me while he was a baby, pressure that I couldn’t ignore.

And so, at 24 and four months pregnant, I married my off-and-on boyfriend and we moved in together. Our son was born 8 weeks early because I had preeclampsia, and he had to spend 5 weeks in the NICU. After pregnancy and 6 months of pumping-breast-milk-because-the-kid-wouldn’t-latch, I returned to my anti-depressant regimen under the care of a general practitioner.

My son’s father and I didn’t live together a full year before I asked him to move out. The relationship had always been tempestuous, and we knew we did not want to raise our child with both of us so unhappy, so we didn’t.

I returned to graduate school to work on a PhD, and I moved back into my parents’ house. It was only an hour from my university, and my retired mother was willing to stay with my son during my classes and while I was teaching. I stopped drinking, and I mostly stopped smoking. I tried counseling again, but the cognitive behavioral therapy approach to my anxiety didn’t work. I continued on with the anti-depressants and the anti-anxiety medication cocktail, and it mostly worked.

*****

At 32, I live in New Orleans with my child and my second husband, an amazing man who I met at a birthday party for a college friend….Her older brother. I don’t smoke, and I don’t drink very often either. I left graduate school over a year ago.

But not long ago, I admitted to myself and my husband that the anti-depressants had stopped working, that they hadn’t been working for a while. And so I went to a new doctor. He gave me a new word for crazy: bipolar type 2 disorder. Looking at the criteria, the diagnosis is a far better one than MDD or GAD. The medication he prescribed works better. And so here I am, trying to get better.

Over the years, I’ve been called overly-empathetic, pathetic, emotionally unstable, emotionally manipulative, too emotional, bitchy, and a laundry list of other things that were code words for crazy–because I felt too keenly, cried too easily, and fought too hard. Because I panicked.

This new word is a better one, but a harder one to come to terms with. Another word for crazy. A real word. A difficult word. It’s not even a code word for crazy—but maybe that’s good, because I’m finished with code words.