Monday, March 12, 2018


I learned the word #persisterhood today.  I saw it on a post by @WhenWeSpoke (Instagram) and it just struck me.  Actually, I learned a lot today… I was privileged enough to have my application accepted to the #BEConference in Austin, and spent the day surrounded by and listening to powerful, hilarious, brilliant, beautiful women from all walks of life.  I could go on and on about the impact of the idea sharing, motivation, and professional aspects from today, and probably will in another post, but that’s not what’s on my heart right now…

One of the sessions was centered on the #MeToo Movement; we were trusted with the privilege of hearing from two of the #SilenceBreakers from the Harvey Weinstein nightmare.  By anyone’s standards, these two women are intelligent, successful, ambitious, empathetic, hilarious, strong, determined, focused, and beautiful.  I found myself catatonically awed by the conviction in their words, and strength in their presence.  It takes A LOT to leave this opinionated, Italian-NYer speechless.  The catatonic response was short-lived, however.  I found my typically-measured emotional state quickly slipping out of my control. 

My breathing was shallow.  My fists were clenched.  I had to keep shifting positions to give my stiffened muscles a reason to release.  I could practically feel my blood boiling as it coursed through my veins.  But my body and my heart weren’t satisfied with the fierce rage… simultaneous to the anger, a visceral sense of sadness and empathy settled.  My hands were shaking, and I legitimately debated if I needed to puke or not.  It took every ounce of my strength to not fall apart in my seat, just 10 feet from the stage.  Meanwhile, these two women whom were both put in such horrific, infuriating positions by some monster, spoke with raw emotion, but held their space with a grace and strength I can’t begin to conceptualize.

This wasn’t my first experience in talking to or reading about victims of sexual assault and rape, or even my first time really learning the depth of these #HorridHarvey experiences.  Not to mention, I’m a 35-year-old woman; I’ve had many personal encounters that fall under the heading of sexual assault.  I’m honestly not sure why my emotions slammed me with such intensity this afternoon… I have read tweet after tweet on the #MeToo thread, jumped off my couch cheering for Oprah as she SLAYED THE SHIT out of her acceptance speech to a sea of supporters dressed in black displaying their unity for #TimesUp, replayed my own experiences, listened to countless friends tell their stories and question their fault in the situation...  Today still felt different. 

It’s been hours since our last session together, and that dichotomous emotional bubble is still sitting right on my heart.  When I boarded my flight, I could feel the emotions threatening to take over again, so I did what I always do when I feel overwhelmed with emotions and thoughts: I started writing.  Not soon after I started writing, did the tears finally start to fall…

Anyone who knows me KNOWS that I am *not* a cryer. I can honestly count on one hand how many people have truly seen me cry in my entire adult life… in a feeble attempt to maintain some sense of control, I jumped up and ran to the bathroom the second that little light went off.  

The tears wouldn’t stop falling...

There were angry tears for the two amazing women I had the privilege of listening to and being so real with today, and every other woman who has had to endure such horrors.

There were tears of sadness and relief for openly discussing my own list of #MeToo experiences (including one that I didn’t realize truly is under the heading of “sexual assault” until this whole movement started #PatriarchyDefined #RapeCultureDefined).

There were tears of pride for the strength of everyone who has shared their stories… over, and over, and over again…

And then came the best tears… the tears of pure love for every member of the #persisterhood – survivor, supporter, or both – and the UNIMAGINABLE sense of safety, unity, hope, and POWER of the moment, and within ALL of us, especially collectively.

I pulled myself together, thanked the universe that it’s a night flight and the plane was dark, stumbled back to my seat and picked my pen back up.  (Yes, pen.  I was writing to myself in a notebook; some people call that journaling haha.  This blog came after I had at least some sense of logic and order to the writing.  You can be the judge of that though. #trainderailing #backtothepoint)

Today, listening to Jess and Sarah, I finally felt my own personal veil of helplessness start to lift. 

It’s easy to live day after day in our own little bubbles.  It’s easy to jump on a trending topic, read some tweets, post your own thoughts, and then go about your day.  Sadly, it’s also easy to push your own experiences out of mind, and only let them bubble up when you’re supporting someone who trusts you.  In the grand scheme of things, it’s easy to detach the moment a tag drops from that trending list.  We can’t let that be the way anymore…

Pun completely intended, TIMES. UP! 
Speak out.
Step up.
Stand up.
Defend others.
Learn the true lines and trust your gut.
Don't let the #patriarchy blur those lines.
Own the truth that ONLY YES means yes.
Educate others.
Empower others.

This is the BEGINNING of a movement.  This is the true end to our terrifying, disgusting #RapeCulture.  The future of girlhood and womanhood IS truly in our hands right now.  I can’t wait to see how far we run with this and the enhanced version of the world we’re creating for our daughters and generations to come.  Do something.  #TimesUp

For Jess and Sarah: I cannot thank you enough for your strength, openness, honesty, and trust – especially in the small group setting, with moments of raw honesty balanced by complete silence.  😉  I absolutely hate it for you that you had to endure such infuriating, demoralizing experiences, but you are both clearly pure BAD ASS!  I love that you’re turning #AwfulIntoAction!  I look forward to reconnecting soon and hearing how I can volunteer or contribute to the non-profit, and any other idea that comes to mind.  You are ROCKING this and you're AhMAZING!  😊  With SO much love and admiration, Jen

Monday, November 14, 2016

A Plea from the People...

To: Members of the 2016 Electoral College
(Contact info for many of them are here. #FlipThe37)

From: The American Majority

Subject: A Plea from The People

Dear Madams & Sirs,

You have a great responsibility to our country and future, and I’m sure I speak on behalf of all of us when I say THANK YOU!  Our government and society is dependent upon our systems of checks and balances, as we all work to honor our Constitution and truly uphold the beliefs on which our country was founded.  You, our Electoral College, exist to ensure our integrity and sanctity as a nation is preserved in the highest-ranking office, President of the United States of America.  To quote Alexander Hamilton in Federalist Essay #68: “The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”  Donald Trump has himself demonstrated on more occasions than can be counted to fall far below the expected level of qualification, integrity, honor, and fairness needed and required to be our President.  The majority of Americans are holding out hope that the last check and balance in this process – you – also recognize this and are prepared to exercise your power to protect our country.

As a member of the LGBT Community, I have a full appreciation for our country not being run by “majority rule”.  Our founding fathers truly demonstrated their genius and forethought by putting parameters in place that prevent the majority groups from overpowering minorities and having an unfair balance of power and influence.  In the case of this particular election, however, the majority of Americans did make the right choice.  The only reason that popular vote isn’t directly correlated to the projected electoral votes, is a simple matter of where the imaginary lines are drawn.  I can’t walk in this country for the next 4 years without ensuring my conscience is clear and that I made my effort in identifying the insanity of this outcome based purely on arbitrarily drawn lines.  I hope you will at least hear me out and consider the impact of this momentous decision.

Donald Trump’s entire Presidential Campaign was founded on hate, discrimination, violence, and fear.  His entire professional life was based on fraud, deceit, loopholes, power, and attacks.  In fact, there is already enough evidence to impeach him, and he hasn’t been sworn in yet!  I have searched far and wide to find significant proof of his integrity and honor as a man, and sadly, I struggled to find an ounce of information to support any such claim.  He has continuously promoted a white supremacist version of society, and has both directly and indirectly incited violence as a result.  He has been caught on video on multiple occasions blatantly telling his rally attendees to “beat the sh!t out of” protestors, for starters.  His words and anger toward Muslims, Americans, Black People, LGBT People, and Women have already resulted in an enormous surge in hate crimes.  On Day 1 of Trump’s America alone, there were reports of violence, aggression, and attacks, all of which involved aggressors stating things such as “Trump is President now” or “My President will make sure all of your kind die”.  Here are just a few examples of some of the verified reports that were made on the day following the election alone:

·       A group of minority students on a bus in New York were told “shouldn’t you be sitting in the back of the bus?  Trump is President now!”
·       Teenage boys approached a group of 15-year-old girls saying “we can grab your pussy any time we want and there’s nothing you can do about it”.
·       Many Muslim women reported having their hijab ripped off/almost ripped off their heads and violence threatened against them and their family.
·       My gay cousin, on Long Island in NY had this life threatened and was told that “My President will make sure that your kind all die”.
·       Signs have been posted above water fountains reading “Whites Only”.
·       Members of the LGBT Community have been beaten, had their cars vandalized, and found letters threatening their lives, or mocking their “about to be reversed” marriages.
·       Kindergarten children were taunted that their families would be sent back “where they belong”.
·       Groups of white students were walking through the halls of their schools chanting “white power” or “build the wall”, while minority students cried and had to leave school.

That list goes on and on… and again, that was all on day 1.  Now, to be perfectly clear, my 6-year-old will be the first to tell you that I am a FIRM believer that you and YOU ALONE are responsible for your choices.  You must take responsibility for your every action and word, regardless of what emotion spurred it.  The point remains, however, that every single one of those aggressors felt validated in their actions because not only did Trump’s words incite their escalated feelings, but he went without retribution and was instead ACCLAIMED for it, so they feel invincible and “right”. 

This is not our America.  This is not acceptable behavior.  Allowing someone of that character to rise to the position of President absolutely sends a message.

It tells every Muslim that their country really does think they are all terrorists and dangerous and they don’t belong here.

It tells every Mexican that their home sees them as rapists and criminals and they don’t belong here.

It tells every Black person that they are not valued and are lesser than whites and they don’t belong here.

It tells every Mother that her role in society is irrelevant beyond tending to her children, and that her pregnancy and need for specialized healthcare are an inconvenience to her employer and no one cares.

It tells every Woman that her body is NOT her body, any harm that comes to it IS her fault, being raped or sexually assaulted should be even less reported than it is now, because a man’s ability to succeed far surpasses her right to live safely and justly, and she doesn’t matter.

It tells every member of the LGBT community that they aren’t really people and shouldn’t have any rights to feel secure in their jobs, have an ability to legally protect their children, or to be treated as American Citizens because they don’t matter.

It tells every tax payer that they are “stupid” for obliging the system and would be better off not paying, and not paying people who provide services if “they don’t do it sufficiently”.

It tells every living President, all of which have adamantly refused to endorse him, that their experience, expertise, and opinion are irrelevant.

It tells every white boy and member of the KKK that they are more powerful and respected and important than anyone else, especially if they have money, and that no one else matters.

It tells the rest of the world that we don’t believe in the science of Climate Change and will do nothing to reverse the negative impact we’ve had because we would have a Climate Denier in his Administration, so the government will support a sum total of NO assistance.

It tells the rest of the world that we are a weakened, hateful nation that will no longer take any vested interest in anyone else, and our President is daring you to personally attack him so he can enter the most secure codes on the planet.

Validation of Trump’s actions and words sends. a. message.  …and it’s not a message that any TRULY American person can stand behind or support.

The protests are warranted.  The outpouring of pure grief at the loss of any hope of safety or freedom is warranted.  The overwhelming fear for the future our children will grow into is warranted.  The demand and need and hope for the people designed to protect us from these things happening is warranted.

He has spoken out against the protestors claiming that they are media conspiracies and it’s “very unfair”.

He has threatened to put an end to shows like SNL because they “unfairly mocked” him. 

He had to have his access to his own Twitter account revoked in the last few weeks leading up to Election Day for fear of what nonsensical, immature, offensive rant he would post in the middle of the night.

There isn’t an ounce of his temperament that indicates any ability to lead this country with honor, intelligence, careful consideration, fairness, or charisma.  Donald Trump’s temperament is more reminiscent of the villainous football coach in every cliché movie, than anything resembling an impactful public figure.  He has continuously demonstrated significant ignorance in how the process of government works as demonstrated by his claims that Hillary should have changed tax law as a NY State Senator, and, most recently, his personal admission that he **googled** Obamacare *this week*.  He is one of the biggest domestic dangers we have ever faced, and will certainly have the ability to set us back centuries, if not more.

The People were right.  Hillary Clinton is THE best choice we’ve ever had for President.  She has a full understanding of our government, has always led with the people’s best interest at heart, intends to unite our country in the true American spirit, and improve the quality of life for ALL Americans.  She will serve our country with the utmost intelligence, grace, honor, and care than perhaps any predecessor.

Please, put country before party and make history as the group of Electors that recognized the threat and put an end to it before our country had the chance to implode.  Our future is in your hands…

With Respect and Our Last Ounce of Hope,

Updated food-for-thought:
She's up by 1.5 MILLION and counting, and it just "so happens" that he won in a few strategic counties to get the EC Votes? After all of the interference from WikiLeaks and Russia that miraculously stopped after the election? WAY too important to just ignore and shrug your shoulders at...
Link to info and petition:

Monday, June 13, 2016

Here we are again... unstable, known-threat, legally obtained an AR-15 and took the lives of *49* innocent Americans because he wanted to and he had the power to.   Most of the country (and world) is saddened by the significant, senseless loss of life.  Those same people are almost all angry too, because these same things keep happening and all we do is "pray and send love and strength" which, frankly, does absolutely f*****g nothing for the people who died, lost a loved one, or the ones we will inevitably lose in the next mass shooting.  

People are scared and, sadly, have every reason to be.  We are supposed to be the land of the FREE and the home of the BRAVE.  How free and brave can one be when any angry, misled psychopath can obtain an object that is ONLY designed to kill (and to kill many - *quickly*) and nothing is ever done to prevent it?

Every single one of these mind-numbingly infuriating, heart-breaking events has a ripple effect far beyond just that moment, or that city, or those loved ones.  Every single one of those events embeds itself in our psyche and changes the world... not for the better.

I grew up in New York.  That means I was raised on cultural diversity and acceptance (not the patronizing "tolerance", but true acceptancebefore it was "politically correct".  In turn, I mistakenly assumed that other human beings have the same outlook.  That they are happy to let you live your life by whatever means suit you, as long as your life isn't having a direct negative impact on their life, and we can all happily co-exist.  That is most certainly not the case.  There are many close-minded, hateful, ignorant people in our world.  Thanks to the internet creating an endless platform by which group polarization is perpetuated, and a certain Presidential hopeful making hate speech and discrimination more mainstream and "acceptable" than any other time in this Millennium, other well-meaning and genuinely good Americans need to constantly be on the defensive.

While not dismissing the impact and sadness of other similar tragedies, especially Sandy Hook, the events in Orlando hit particularly close to home.  In addition to my NY roots, I'm also a Lesbian.  Many have tried to dismiss the fact that the attack happened at an LGBT Club.  Most of those people are well-meaning in their effort to remove labels and stigmas, but well-meaning or not, it's an important fact in this particular massacre.  A specific group of people was targeted and a place they considered safe and fun was transformed into a place of terror and murder.

It IS important that this horrific massacre specifically targeted LGBT people.

I am happily married to the greatest person I've ever known.  We live out our fairy-tale-like love every day, while raising our incredible daughter, and succeeding in rewarding careers.  We cook and meal prep, food shop, clean our house, complain about working out, take family vacations, go on dates, endlessly dissect our daughter's future and well-being, plan for our future as a couple and as a family, binge watch Netflix, bicker and argue, communicate openly, follow Mom Blogs, get our nails done, and drive SUVs.  We are a normal, happy, healthy, functioning couple and family like anyone else.  We also live in one of the most archaic states in our country: Arizona, with the hopes of one day moving close to my wife's family in Florida.  That means, in either case of where we live, it is much more likely that we will encounter day-to-day discrimination, or even life-threatening discrimination.  The fact that LGBT people were targeted, IS an important fact.

As it is, we often get glares or catch people staring if we have our arms around each other, leaning into each other patiently waiting for the Target cashier.  We catch people staring when they catch us whispering "I love yous".  We have to clarify for just about every server that one check is sufficient.  We constantly answer the inevitable question with "we're both her mom".  We have to justify and legitimize ourselves every day.  

As much as the most conservative people in our country disagree, the homosexual lifestyle is certainly not "everywhere" or “shoved down (anyone’s) throat”.  I am grateful for the fact that it IS becoming part of mainstream culture and finds new ways to be "commonplace" every day.  (I wrote a whole blog on the impact of that societal construct here, if you're interested.)  But the fact remains that it is still not normalized and hate is a common, tangible reaction. It's something we face almost daily.  The fact that LGBT people were targeted, IS an important fact.

In most instances, I don't mind answering the questions or responding to the glare with a smile.  Yes, it gets old and tiresome because we want to just BE, like everyone else.  We are also happy to do our part to normalize our lifestyle, expand horizons, and help people see that we're just another family.  We politely answer questions, and smile while we explain -- especially when it's to the kids in our daughter's class who were at first confused at us "BOTH being (her) mom".  (Which, for the record, was immediately followed with "I'm not making fun of (her).  I think that's AWESOME!  I only have 1 mom".)   I don't mind educating and impacting.  I do mind when it has an actual potential to completely destroy our family...

At any moment, we could encounter one of these unstable crazy guys who has a semi-automatic rifle strapped to his back while we're holding hands in line at the grocery store, and he can decide to take matters -- and our lives -- into his own hands.  We could be getting back into our car at school pick-up and have someone take one of our lives.  We could be followed by an armed stranger if they catch us kissing at a stop light and be shot at the next opportunity.  We could be widowed or orphan our daughter with a moment's notice because precautions aren't put into place, and our lifestyle hasn't been normalized.  

Don't sit there and think that I'm blowing this out of proportion.  I assure you, I most certainly am NOT.  We have actually seen "men" in common places like grocery stores, the park, and Pet Smart strapped like they're off to war.  Hate Crimes happen every. day. and nothing is being done to stop this madness.  It's unsettling and terrifying to say the least.

Our society is still not completely open to normalizing LGBT people.  Even people who claim to “not care” or are in support of marriage equality, have something to say about “enough (being) enough”, and that networks and shows are being “too political” when they reveal a character to be LGBT, or to stop trying to “shove it down everyone’s throats”, or that they still don’t need “to see it”, or grandly claiming that we have an agenda to try to make others gay and corrupt children.  (That’s ridiculous and well outside the scope of this post.  But ridiculous to say the least… just ask my completely straight parents who raised me, and all of the kids in our life who innately understand love is love.)  The fact that LGBT people were targeted, IS an important fact.  The fact that the LGBT lifestyle is far from normalized is an important, related fact.

There needs to be more representation of LGBT people in mainstream media for ALL AGES and in ALL GENRES.  Society in general needs to rip the bandaid and remove the stigma.  People need to see themselves represented in a multitude of ways; they need to learn about and respect differences in others.  THIS is the type of trickle-down system that improves society.  There are so many ways to make this happen… 

…perhaps Disney decides to #GiveElsaAGirlfriend*** or have an LGBT character as a major role in a future animated film. 

…adults speaking in non-gender specific terms when talking to kids/teens about people they have a crush on or may one day marry. 

…comfortably using the words lesbian, gay, bi and trans without feeling the need to whisper.  (It’s okay for your kids to accurately use them in conversation as well, when it’s not intended to be derogatory or offensive.)

…removing qualifying terms from things that are not orientation-specific (i.e.: it’s just MARRIAGE, not “GAY marriage”), and help others in doing the same.

…honestly and simply discussing love and differences in family structure with kids of all ages.  (Here’s how we educate our daughter: “You are allowed to marry anyone you want as long as you love each other and are good to each other” and “Every family is different in who their parents are, how many they have, and who they live with – but they all have love”.  Done and done.)

…including sexual orientation in high school health classes.

…showcasing same sex couples and families in ads for whatever product.

…stopping bullying or shaming in its tracks.

This list can go on and on – and it should.  It needs to.  The fact that LGBT people were targeted, IS an important fact.  Normalizing the existence of LGBT people is necessary.

Who knows what would have happened if that man was inundated with a variety of definitions of what “normal” is from childhood?  Imagine if he had completely open-minded parents who spoke honestly and sincerely about people of all backgrounds and lifestyles.  Imagine if those thoughts were layered with societal messages in every form of media, education, and conversation throughout his life.  In America, this SHOULD be the case… or we are not truly brave or free.

People don’t yet have that benefit.  Society failed us with their lack of messages and education.  Society failed us with their lack of health care.  Society failed us with lenient laws that didn’t flag him when purchasing a deadly weapons.  …then he failed society by acting on his evil ways and lack of informed, loving humanity. 

To be clear, I am in NO WAY taking the blame off of him.  My 6-year-old will be the first to tell you that I am a FIRM believer that you and YOU ALONE are responsible for your choices and have to deal with your consequences.  No one can make the right choice for you, and no one should have to suffer consequences at your hand. 

HE is the reason those people are dead.  HE is the reason fear is in the heart of so many.  HE is the reason people feel unsafe and vulnerable.

I am certainly not one to run from a challenge or cower in fear.  I am sad to admit that I debated doing just that after learning about Orlando.  I questioned if WE were being irresponsible with our lives and family by being ourselves in public.  I questioned if WE need to choose a different place to live where we would be widely accepted and blend in.  I questioned if WE would be denied our right and dream of living a happy, full, safe, VERY LONG life together.  ...and I found myself at a loss of how to fix it.

I went about my day in a daze trying to sort this out.  It appeared in my "dreams" last night.  It was first on my mind this morning. Then it came out FULL FORCE when I channeled all my fear, anger and sadness into my gloved fists at my boxing class and had that heavy bag jumping on its clasp.

No ONE gets to take my feeling of security.  No ONE gets to take away from our happy family.  I refuse to allow that environment to exist in a world in which we live and are raising a family.

I got in the car with my family a few hours later to start our daily commute of drop-off and work.  My wife started the car and our song was on... the song that I was listening to when my emotions and love for her came crashing together years ago.  The song that she had playing at the end of the romantic, perfect proposal she planned the night we got engaged.  The song we danced barefoot on our beach to when we said our vows in Hawaii earlier this year.  The song that has filled me with such emotion and happiness that I've questioned if I was ever happy for a moment before then.

This blog began composing itself at that moment... with my wife's hand in mine, listening to our daughter sing-along in the backseat, watching the traffic ebb and flow, I decided I was ready to put "pen to paper" and hopefully open at least one person's mind.  Hopefully impact at least one person who was previously close-minded and tried to isolate themselves from the reality of how diverse and incredible people are.  ...and feel validated and heard and supported by my anonymous internet friends who are also looking for something on which to grasp in the aftermath of such sadness...

Society needs to do better.  People need to do better.  Love should ALWAYS be the driver.

The (colloquial) definition of insanity is to repeat the same behavior and expect a different result.

As long as our laws stay as is, this is our society.

As long as we glorify hateful people (AHEM Trump), this is our society.

As long as we continue to see mainstream inclusion of all types of people/families as negative and fight it off as a political move, this is our society.

STOP already.

Stop saying we don't have a gun problem and using your INACCURATE interpretation of the 2nd Amendment as a defense.

Stop supporting people who spew nothing but hate and an ANTI AMERICAN culture.

Stop trying to invalidate love and stigmatize families (especially when doing it “in the name of protecting your children).

Stop thinking about what YOU want for your tiny little life in this moment and think about the BIG PICTURE.

Imagine what our world could be if we didn't stop thinking at the tip of our nose, put love and people first, and actually thought about others.

Just STOP already… be HUMAN… and maybe we won’t be here again.

***FYI: If you comment on this blog and start talking about sexualizing movies for children with regards to having LGBT characters featured, I WILL delete it and not reply.  There is no room for that complete and utter bullsh!t here.  If you don’t see Cinderella and Prince Charming as sexual and inappropriate, than this shouldn’t be either.  Side note: I personally find a lot of Princess stories creepy and concerning if you break them down.  The ones made in this Century are the most comforting, frankly.  No stalking, Stockholm Syndrome, kissing unconscious people… ya know, that actual inappropriate stuff.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

It comes in waves...

They say “time heals all wounds”.  Anyone who believes that has never lost a piece of their heart…

Don’t get me wrong; in a lot of cases, that’s completely true.  Over time, some wounds heal themselves simply by life continuing to be lived.  There are other wounds, however, that can’t ever fully “heal”; losing someone who was once a piece of your heart definitely falls into that category.  How the loss happens is irrelevant.  The void and pain are the same.  No matter how much time has passed, it comes in waves and is never quite “okay” or something you’ve “accepted”.  It simply becomes how it is and you learn to live and breathe around the pain.

I’m not usually a morbid, depressing person.  I’m writing this in the middle of what I very-unaffectionately call “Hell Week”.  It starts on October 16th and ends around the 24th.  I was 16 in 1998 when my father died very suddenly on the 19th.  I was 24 in 2006 when my grandmother (my dad’s mom) lost her very abrupt, devastating battle with Pancreatic Cancer on the 22nd.  (She was diagnosed right before Labor Day of that same year and had been seemingly perfectly healthy up until then.)  All of the dates immediately surrounding those two days are filled with nothing but awful, heartbreaking, soul shattering memories that are burned into my brain and heart.  It’s nearly impossible to not be smacked in the face with that every year…

Holidays can hurt.  Birthdays can hurt.  Family events and milestones can hurt.  But the difference with each of those things compared to an anniversary is that they’re filled with years of good, happy memories with the person you lost.  An anniversary only serves to represent losing them and those unbearable, surreal first moments of life without them by your side.  No matter how much time has passed, those aren’t days you can easily forget…

If you’ve done the math, you’ll realize that this week marks my father’s 17th anniversary and my grandmother’s 9th.  …this isn’t my first rodeo.  There have been a good handful of years in there when each of these dates came and went with not much more than a moment of solemn acknowledgement.  There are other years when this week has been just as debilitating and incapacitating as when it was first happening.  This year it’s much closer to the latter.  There apparently isn’t any rhyme or reason to it.

This year in particular, I have a pretty good idea as to why it’s harder than other years have been… there are two reasons: one is a very happy reason, and the second is a very upsetting reason. 

Reason 1: I’m getting married in April!  I’ve waited my whole adult life to say those words.  Finding my true north and the person whom I truly believe was always destined to be my wife, has been the single most gratifying, life-affirming experience of my life.  I even have it on good authority that my 3 most important guardian angels (my grandfather joined the ranks in March of 2014) put us on this path to each other.  I feel their guidance and love almost as much as when they were physically here with me.  The happiest of moments, however, can also bring the saddest of feelings because they are when you desperately want them to experience it with you.  Planning for such a huge life moment and being overwhelmed with sheer happiness brings a keen awareness to their absence.

Reason 2: …isn’t really mine to share, but it’s about one of my absolute closest family members.  A huge, scary moment will happen in his life this week and it absolutely kills me that they weren’t here to be a direct guide over the years.  I can’t say for sure it would have mattered; we are all adults and choose our own individual paths.  I’d like to think that my father in particular could have played a key role in steering this path.  I take a lot of solace, however, in the fact that this event is happening on the 22nd – my grandmother’s anniversary.  I truly believe that’s her way of letting us all know that she is on it and will guide and keep him safe during this chapter.

…so I happen to have reasons this year to feel the loss more than I may have otherwise.  But take it from me, you don’t ever need to identify a “reason” to feel broken by a loss, no matter how much time has passed.  There is no expiration on grief.  There is no right way to handle it, or right time during which to “get over it”.  It permanently changes a piece of you and it’s perfectly acceptable to acknowledge that in any way that feels right to YOU personally.

Life is not a fairy tale…  Time does not heal all wounds…  But there are ways to grieve that will make you feel that you’ve honored the person and your relationship… and no one gets to dictate that for you… ride the waves.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

An Open Letter to those struggling with Target's toy decision...

Like most middle-class, American women, Target is one of my happy places.  There's a million reasons this is true, and there are plenty of posts by other bloggers expressing the feelings we all share about Target.  My loyalty to and love for Target grew exponentially with one simple decision; they are removing gender labels from the toy aisles.  If you haven't heard about this yet, get a quick update here.

Decisions like this make my heart happy.  Why should our children feel like they are confined to a certain type of toy or color of toy simply because of their biology?  Don't we want our girls to explore their inner engineers and have building toys that construct more than a pink castle?  Don't we want our boys to find their inner nurturer and have a doll to tend to?  Why would we want to perpetuate a society in which girls take care of babies and boys become scientists and "playmate Dads", but with no crossover?  Those little mindsets turn into HUGE societal mindsets: girls should stay home with their baby after giving birth, and boys can be the CEOs and play with their kids on weekends.

For those against this decision, that seems like an illogical jump and a gross over-exaggeration.  I mean, generations worth of children have survived childhood with gender designated toys and they "turned out just fine", right?  Wrong.  If that were true, we wouldn't still be battling with gender inequality, the negative stigma that is associated with stay-at-home-dads (and even stay-at-home-moms, for that matter!), women who hold high positions wouldn't be coined as "bitchy" when a man in the same position would be coined as "strong", it wouldn't be called "babysitting" when a father is PARENTING on his own...

Growing up in a society that continually sends subliminal messages about gender roles IS dangerous and detrimental to the future.  The good news is, we CAN do something about it.  As a highly educated American, a woman, a department Director, a mother, and a lesbian, I COMPLETELY support this decision and cannot WAIT to see the ripple effect!

Regardless of how I feel, however, I recognize that there are still people who don't share that opinion.  You are entitled to your opinion; I invite you to open your mind for a few minutes and consider the alternative...

My best guess is that those "outraged" by this decision who are promising to boycott Target (good luck), are straight cis men and women.  That means your gender matches your biological sex, and you consider yourself heterosexual.  I'm not making a judgment or trying to define a stereotype, but I can tell you from personal experience, that if you fit that description and are against this decision, that description is probably playing a huge role in why you feel that way.  (Important Note: I am CONFIDENT that there are hetero cis men and women who DO support this decision; I'm simply implying that those who do not support it, likely fit in that category as well.  Allow me to explain...)

Heterosexuals who also identify as their biological sex often take the social cues in the world for granted.  Everywhere you look, you see things you personally relate to.  Those of us who don't fit cleanly into a previously defined box of expectations, don't have the benefit of seeing reflections of ourselves on a daily basis and that IS damaging.

For the MOST part (and I do mean MOST), the messages in society match YOU...
    ...couples on TV are straight
    ...women wear dresses and smile a lot wear suits and have powerful jobs propose to women
    ...women want and have children go right back to work after a baby is born
    ...women stay home and take maternity leave with their newborn
    ...women take their husband's last name are expected to be the primary provider for their family

    ...this list goes on and on...

I'm not saying that each of you fit each of those descriptions.  I'm saying that most of society agrees with those "norms" and lives by them... because those are the messages lurking in every corner of society.

Here is my personal example of how impactful those seemingly little messages can be...

I grew up in an Italian Catholic family.  I also grew up in NY where people are more accepting, progressive and open-minded.  I was about 8 years old when I realized that all of my crushes on TV and in movies were girls.  (Mind you, I was *8*.  There was NOT a sexual component to those childhood crushes.  I felt drawn to them and enamored by them, the way young kids do.)  It was also around that time that I became painfully aware that none of my friends felt that way, and I started to realize that I must be "wrong".  I couldn't find examples anywhere of other girls who felt like I did.  Everywhere I turned, girls and boys liked each other.  I may not have consciously processed that when I was 8, but I vividly recall feeling like it was something I needed to keep to myself.  So I did.

As I got a little older and my crushes got more intense, I had this fear of someone finding me out.  I paid attention to who the other girls liked and picked boys that fit the classically good looking description (like Toby from Baywatch, JTT and Andrew Keegan), and decided to make myself crush them instead.  (Having an obsessive personality, this was easier to do than I would have thought, but it still wasn't "right".)  Once I had enough pinups of boys plastered on my walls, I'd pick one or two of the REAL crushes I couldn't get out of my head (insert Kimberly the Pink Power Ranger -- Amy Jo Johnson, or Topanga aka Danielle Fishel) and hang them up too.  I mean, there were enough boys up there that no one would suspect I "liked" the girls that way, right?  Sadly, yes, that was right.

The even sadder part is, deep down inside, I truly believed my family loved me and would accept me if I ever shared my secret... but I didn't want to take that risk.  My childhood and teenage years were hard enough; if I admitted that I was a lesbian, I was also accepting that everything about my life from that point forward would be harder than it was for anyone else.  That infuriated me and seemed SO unfair!  But it also solidified what society was already secretly telling me: how I felt was wrong so I should stop feeling that way.  ...believe me when I tell you, take the challenges I already had in life (see link above), add the emotional rollercoaster of adolescence, and throw the HEAPING pressure of self-loathing on top of it and, frankly, it's miraculous I survived those years.  Seriously.

I played the straight game VERY well.  Sure, I fit some stereotypes in that I was always a Tom Boy.  But I'm also girly.  I was always just as excited to sweat it up playing sports, take my brother's Hot Wheels and build intricate ramps, and beg to play Mortal Kombat, as I was to pick out a new dress, let my mom do my hair, and wear pretty accessories and shoes.  I made it a point to always talk about guys "I liked", and to show my interest in being just like Samantha Jones.  (Even though I was WAY more interested IN Samantha Jones.)  I actively dated guys and made sure that was a well-known fact.  I even joked about my interest in "becoming" a lesbian when guys were being ridiculous.  I was in serious relationships with men to the point that *3* different guys, upon breaking up with them, told me they were already ring shopping.  (I'm sorry, guys. :(  I had genuinely convinced myself that "I could be happy with this nice guy who loves me" until I realized I couldn't.)

In the middle of all this chaos, society started to shift... marriage equality jumped to the forefront of the judicial world, more and more TV shows and movies were portraying same-sex couples as NORMAL people (thank YOU Shonda Rhimes! #seriously) who happened to prefer their own gender.  It became a conversation.  It became acceptable (to most).  It became commonplace.  Sure, there were still negatives associated with it and ignorant people who are still talking about "Adam and Steve", but as a whole, it wasn't an anomaly anymore.  The evolved FAR out weighed the ignorant.  I started telling myself that it was time and looked for validation of that instinct everywhere... I had to take the leap and trust in the people I love to still love me anyway - and (with the sad exception of one "friend") they did.

After 23 years of keeping my secret, I stopped.  I am now FINALLY my true-self.  I have never been happier for a second of my LIFE, until I stepped out of that proverbial closet and owned who I really am.

If society didn't shift, I'm not sure if my courage would have either.

That brings us full-circle... let kids be KIDS.  STOP sending messages that confine them to little, archaic boxes of what it means to be a kid, or a boy, or a girl.  Let them just BE.  Let them find their own interests and passions without the suggestion of what they "should" like because of the genitals they happen to possess.  Let boys develop an interest in cooking sets and dolls so they can find they have a calling as a Chef or father.  Let girls discover their inner superheroes and architects.  Let them do that without feeling like they are different or strange because they prefer "the boy's/girl's" toy.  Remove the unnecessary stigmas.  If you love and support them, they will turn into powerful grownup versions of THEMSELVES, and they will be a MILLION times happier and more secure in life because of it.  Besides, you can't ever succeed in MAKING a person be anything -- straight, gay, transgender, or purple.  Everyone is who they are and that should be nurtured, not judged and shaped.  So, listen to the Beatles: Let It BE!

Having a gender-free selection of toys could NEVER "turn" a child gay, or result in them questioning their gender identity -- and that is NOT what this is about.  They don't need an aisle to be labeled by their gender to find their way in the world.  It certainly will NOT hurt *anyone* to remove said label, but it can do a lot of damage to not.

Be part of the evolving world which is centered on acceptance (*not* the passive aggressive, bigoted "tolerance") and help our society progress.  There is no downside to letting people be who they are and feel secure in that... they will only contribute greater things to the world as their confidence and self-esteem will encourage.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Something. MUST! Be. Done.

My heart shattered on Friday, 12/14/12... TWENTY tiny, unlived lives were taken at the hands of an unstable lunatic whose name I've refused to learn.  SIX courageous adults won't ring in the new year with their families because they tried to protect the children they dedicated their lives to.  That's. Not. Okay.

I'll admit it... typically, I epitomize complacent American.  I voice my opinion on things I'm truly passionate about, but only on Facebook and Twitter, and to my closest friends.  I'll watch a protest on TV and research it online and think "good for them", but I've never even genuinely considered attending one.  I jump in on trending topics and commiserate about the tragedies that strike our country... then I go about my day with the "it won't happen here" mentality and move on with my life.  

I'd like to think I'm a person of action because I am in my personal life.  I've accepted that I'm not a person of action in the "1 person can change the world" mentality.  A psychopath claiming children's lives in a place where kids should be the safest changed that... I'm writing this post in hopes that I'm not the only one it changed and that there are enough of us out to there to truly have our voices heard and to make sure that the people who CAN make the changes hear our voices.  Let's honor those 27 people who won't be with their families for Christmas next week by making sure their unthinkable tragedy has purpose.  Something. MUST! Be. Done.

I don't have the answer or know what that "something" is... I do believe that the answer needs to be a multi-faceted approach.  Every factor needs to be taken into consideration and we need to start taking steps to correct the underlying problems.  That means making mental health care more readily available, reevaluating gun control laws to make weapons less available, and adjusting school security to ensure that those children are TRULY protected within those walls.

Let's start with the underlying problem > the people who commit such acts are clearly not in their right minds.  You have to stop and wonder, how does it get to this point? and how did s/he go untreated?  I'm sure there's a story to each one of these people.  Frankly, at this point, I don't care what that story is because we all know how they ended.  I care about the next story.  I care about the other disturbed individuals walking among us that haven't reached their breaking point yet.  They are the ones who need to be helped to prevent tragedies like this from continuing to happen.  Mental Health care needs to be more accessible, more affordable, more SOMETHING.  Saying "take their guns away" is just a bandaid... there are still deranged individuals walking around and finding their ways into schools, malls, movie theathers... and now, an ELEMENTARY school. 

Then the question becomes, how did this guy get into this school?!  I've visited my little cousins at their schools for various events and it was like trying to get into a bank vault!  ...and even though I was frustrated at the moment that I was a few minutes late because I had to run back to my car and grab my ID, I thanked the woman at the desk for keeping my little loves safe.  If I think about it though, there really wasn't much to the security protocol once I was in the building, explained what class party I was there to attend, and produced my license... they asked if I knew where the room was, gave simple directions when I said I didn't, and let me go on my way.  Thankfully, I really was there to attend a multi-cultural pot luck in my Goddaughter's classroom.  What if I had an ulterior motive and decided to use that day and that excuse as my ticket in the door?!  Who would have known?!  Who would have stopped me?!  That thought makes me want to vomit and hire bodyguards to personally protect each one of my little cousins because it really could have been that easy.  ...but maybe I walked through a metal detector and didn't know it.  Or maybe there were hall monitors watching me that I didn't notice.  Oh!  I know - they ran my license number through a computer to make sure I didn't have a record.  Maybe.  Probably not though.

So here's where we're at so far: seriously unstable individuals easily gaining access to an elementary school.  Awesome.  ...definitely not something that has me up and blogging at 4am because I've dreamt about it every night for days.  (You read that sarcastically, right??  If not, now that you know I'm being sarcastic, go back and read that line again... thanks!)

Big issue time --> gun control.  Here's my preface for you: I'm a Liberal.  I'm a Democrat.  I'm a NYer who was raised on diversity before it was politically correct.  With every ounce of my being I believe in Marriage Equality even though I'm not gay, and would have been just as passionate about Civil Rights and I'm not black either.  I'd have been burned at the stake if I lived in any older generation because I take full advantage of my right to free speech, and wear my confidence and independence on my sleeve like a badge of pride (just ask the girls who work for me!).  I like to say I'm Catholic, but I'm really a CAPE Catholic (ya know - Christmas Ashes Palms & Easter).  I do not believe that Islamic people are the root of terrorism - their religion is almost identical to mine and they have just as much of a right to practice it.  I'm a DIE HARD Yankees girl and make that known pretty obnoxiously during baseball season... especially if you happen to be from the city north of NY that shall not be named. ;)  Clearly, I have strong opinions.  I loudly voice them and I OWN them despite opposition with which I'm faced.  Before the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, I had no opinion on gun control... 

I have no interest in ever owning a gun, but I don't care if someone else wants to.  To each their own, right?  It is one of our rights as Americans... besides, I've been of the mentality that gun laws are to violence as forks are to obesity: guns don't kill people, people kill people -- forks don't make people fat, poor lifestyle choices do.  Remember how I started this post: I used to epitomize complacent American.  In light of this horrific tragedy, it became my obligation as an American, as a person, and as someone whose life has always revolved around children to reassess.  Reassess everything.  In this issue, gun control cannot be ignored and it's ABSOLUTELY time to reassess.

Let's start with the extreme... if I could snap my fingers right now and remove guns from every civilian (aka every American who is not active military or law enforcement), I cannot come up with A SINGLE reason why that would not be okay!  Not a SINGLE reason.  Can you?!  Think about our rights... free speech, free from religious persecution, vote for elected officials.  NONE of those rights, when exercised to their fullest, give individuals direct power take the life of another person.  All of our rights are about us being individuals who can say and do what we want to the extent that we are not infringing on someone else's rights.  The "right" to bear arms is archaic and outdated...

Our forefathers wrote the 2nd Amendment to give their people faith that our new government wouldn't try to rule their lives like Great Britain did during Colonial America.  The right to bear arms meant that they could revolt against their government to be a free state just like all of the colonies revolted to gain our independence.  That reason is null and void.  Even if there were still residual fear that our government would suddenly turn into a dictatorship and we'd need to defend our freedom, how are guns going to keep you free when faced with our military's nuclear weapons?!  The need is obsolete.  The "right" is outdated.  Again, give me one good reason!

In my quest to figure out where I stand on gun control now that it can no longer be ignored in my book, I've been asking this question... asking people to give me one good reason why owning a deadly weapon is a "right".  Here are some reasons I've been given...
I like to hunt. >> Unless hunting is your family's only source of food, this isn't a legitimate reason.  Find a new sport.  Hunt virtually - technology is amazing.  Your fun weekend should not trump a 5 year old's ability to go to school without fear.

For self-defense. >> It is way more statistically likely that someone will either illegally obtain your gun and use it in a violent crime, or that a child will accidentally shoot themselves or someone else than it is that you'll have to use it on an intruder.

It's my right.  I can so I want to. >> (This one is my favorite.)  I don't tolerate temper tantrums from children; I certainly won't entertain one in an adult.  You realize that this argument is exactly the same argument slave owners probably used, right?!  "But we've always had slaves.  They take care of my house and (blah blah blah), and that's what I want!"  Okay, maybe that's an extreme, ridiculous example, but it's really not TOO far off.  In an ideal world, 200 years from now our descendants will be mocking us for ever thinking we needed to have weapons like this around and shake their heads in sadness that it took us SO long and SO MANY horrific tragedies before we learned this obvious lesson.

But let's be realistic... guns won't suddenly be abolished and, again, completely getting rid of them isn't necessarily the answer, nor is it realistic - especially in the short term.  Increased measures on gun control IS realistic though...

To be perfectly honest, I don't even know what the current laws are on obtaining and owning a firearm... I do know this though, guns that are being legally obtained, are being used in violent crimes by the unstable owner, OR someone other than its registered owner and that's where the problems lie.  Maybe the answer is to require an in-depth psychological screening before you can legally obtain a gun, or very strict guidelines on how guns must be secured and stored with SEVERE penalties for violation of such laws.  At least things like this can minimize the number of guns available and accessible and therefore the number of guns used in violent crimes... 

I don't know what the answer is... but Something. MUST! Be. Done.

So here's why I'm ranting about this and here's my hope... It, unfortunately!, took an unthinkable tragedy to snap me out of my complacent American fog and put me into action.  I'm a product of my generation and my "action" consists of this blog.  The only way my 1 voice can make a difference though, is if it spurs other voices to do the same... so join your voice with mine!

You do NOT have to agree with all or any of my ideas for this multi-faceted approach... what you do need to do is let it be known that you agree that SOMETHING MUST BE DONE.  PLEASE feel free share your ideas, your counter opinions, whatever.  But ONLY do so if you are also willing to put your name, location and age with your comment.  Yes, I just turned this blog into a petition... posting a comment implies that you agree that SOMETHING. Must. Be. Done. and that our government needs to take immediate action.  My hope is to get enough comments on this blog and enough traffic to this post that the people who can do something take notice... so comment on this with ANY opinion you'd like, but only if you're also willing to put your name, location and age.  

In order to keep the comments as clean as possible, I will not be responding.  Please know that I'm grateful for your response because you're helping to prove that the average American is NOT okay with this sad trend of tragedies and that those 27 people didn't die in vain... if you want to actually discuss this with me and get a response from me, find me on Twitter (@JENw1n525).

Again, please comment below, share this link, RT the tweet you got the link from... do SOMETHING to spread this around and get as many people as POSSIBLE to comment below so SOMETHING happens.
I appreciate the "likes", RTs, Reblogs and comments on Social Media sites; Please also leave comments HERE so this gets as much traffic and attention as possible.


To the 6 adults who died protecting those children... you are truly heroic and your actions certainly did not go unnoticed!
To the 20 tiny children... I have no words for you or your shattered families, just this: < 3 because my heart is TRULY with you!
To everyone effected by this tragedy whether directly or not... I'm genuinely sorry it took this event to snap me out of my complacent fog and can only hope I'm not the only one this impacted by it.


UPDATE 12/21/12: The NRA held a press conference addressing the Newtown Tragedy

I have many pros/cons to this "armed guards at every school" proposal...

The Con Extreme: Thinking back to a post-911 Manhattan, it did NOT make me feel safer to see armed military personnel with INTENSE guns I can't even name in Penn Station.  It scared the LIFE out of me and made me want to stay the hell out of my city that I love so much.  It was a very uneasy, terrifying moment.  With that experience in mind, I can't imagine that the presence of armed guards is going to make our kids or parents feel safer.  To take it to a further extreme, it puts even more weapons out in society and potentially accessible to someone who is still battling a major mental health issue AND can still get into the school building...

In the general "put more guns out there and give everyone a gun" mentality, doesn't hold up!  Let's say an older student or even teacher pulls out their gun to try and take the guy down... there's an excellent chance other innocents will get shot and hurt/killed in the interim.  There's also an EXCELLENT chance that a SWAT team just getting to the scene may mistake the "good guy with a gun" for the "used to be good guy with a gun who is now shooting up the place".  

The Pro Extreme: I follow the logic; we protect many high profile places and/or people with guns.  Those are people who are typically targets (i.e.: incredibly powerful politicians) or are in places that provoke violence such as huge sporting events since there is so much passion combined with alcohol.  Those are very big scale situations that are much more challenging to control so larger precautions (in the way of armed officers) are the current solution.

Regardless... this doesn't address the underlying issue!  There are still crazy people who (1) think it's okay to do things like this (and need mental health care) and (2) can get into the schools (because the security protocol aren't effective).  So putting armed guards at schools is yet another bandaid to this MAJOR challenge...

This is America.  It's not a society that should ever have to have armed guards on every street and in every public arena... protecting our schools should be a TOP priority right now; once that's achieved, there is still the matter of these people committing these acts in other places like malls and movie theaters...

So again I ask, why is owning a gun a "right"?!  I've yet to get anything REMOTELY CLOSE to an answer or attempt at justification of this in our modern society... 

UPDATE: 8/26/15
If you're NOT angry and disgusted at the state of our country, you SHOULD be; reevaluate yourself. Don't even CONSIDER questioning MY anger! MY anger is *completely* warranted.
It's been almost 3 years since this initial post and still we have ZERO progress in this area. We're essentially at the point of #NOlivesmatter!  I still stand by my above question: WHY is owning a gun a right?  That concept has been falsified by Conservative media and the NRA and WAY over-exaggerated through the years.  I will momentarily concede in that our next step is *not* going to be to eradicate guns from our society - sadly.
How about we AT LEAST start HERE and all be HUMAN about it?! >>
Laws that are ACTUALLY enforced for:
1. Who can purchase guns (i.e.: extensive federal and all-state background checks, no history of domestic abuse or violence of any sort, no history of mental illness, etc.)
2. Regulate the TYPE of guns. There is NO reason a person needs to own an assault rifle. Literally NO. freaking. reason.
3. Clear guidelines on how to store them and keep them safe (i.e.: under lock and key, type of safe/storage container, how high off the ground, etc.)
4. Mandatory gun safety course and "How To" for all legal adults living in the house where it will be stored
5. Special course of additional safety for any household with minors as even part time residents
6. Regular required screenings to ensure all regulations are being upheld (picture submissions) and being forced to renew your license/permit by retaking the courses... ya know, similar to our driver's licenses even tho most of us practice that DAILY.

7. Require liability insurance for each firearm and vary the rates based on the extra safety measures taken and prior claims/incidents/violations, again, just like you do for your car.
8. SEVERE monetary and prison consequences for violation of ANY of those laws, and even MORE extreme consequences if their failure to comply resulted in a lost life and/or their innocent child getting possession of their weapon, and/or if their gun was used in any criminal activity.
We still need a TON of funding for Mental Healthcare coupled with significant media strategies to remove the stigma and allow people to seek help just like they would for a physical illness without fear of retribution...
Look at all the jobs that get created! ‪#‎logicALLaround‬
And, for the love of whoever you believe in, STOP devoting even a SYLLABLE of media coverage to the animals that cause these tragedies.
For starters.......