Forgotten Ghosts, Abrupt Memories

Yesterday, The Pitch released an article that discussed the voucher system both DeVoss (current sham of a Secretary of Education) and Greitens (current MO governor) want you to believe actually works, when in reality, it’s been shown that it hinders: the less than average education and testing abilities of students who had used a voucher system to attend a private school, for one thing. However, it mainly focused on the dark side of public money funding private, religious schools: the emotional, mental, and often times physical abuse students are subjected to under the protective, blindly-tolerant umbrella of fundamental Christianity. Specifically, the article tears apart the carefully created, but easily destroyed image of Tri-City Baptist Church & Christian School: a monster of a church that squatted on a hilltop, cold and foreboding in the middle of Independence, Missouri.

As I began to read the article, I was not prepared for the torrential downpour, the flood of emotions that surged through my body. Memories that had been buried for 15 years came bubbling back to the surface, their slime oozing out across the waters til I was overwhelmed with it all. There was a reason I had purposely forgotten, left behind those memories I experienced, or heard about from friends and their  older siblings, or alumni of the school that I reconnected with in later years. After sharing the article on facebook, I wrote that there were far too many thoughts and emotions to include in an article comment. However, I couldn’t leave them festering in my mind.

  • I remember the prayer chapel after hearing about the 2000 shooting.
    I remember how, instead of sadness and remorse, and prayers for the husband and father left behind, everything was focused on the daughter- the adult woman who chose to leave- and how selfish and sinful her choice was, driving her mother to commit murder. I remember people lamenting that the daughter’s rebelliousness had caused her mother to take her eyes off of God. (No. The mother’s eyes were so full of self-righteous religion-based hate, that all she saw was God, and THAT is what drove her to murder.)
  • John Logan was a father of a classmate.
    I remember the church essentially forcing those he abused to identify themselves and come forward. I remember it being used as a publicity stunt for a new young boys’ program.
  • Dwight Free was the husband of the BEST teacher I ever had in my life.
    I remember the church and the pastor blaming his $1.5 million embezzlement for the $15 million in debt. (yes, he committed a crime, but being crucified as a scapegoat is prideful, selfish, and unnecessary)
  • Ed Greene would have been my youth pastor if my family hadn’t moved from Tri-City to New Hope in summer of 2002.
  • Mark Greenway was fairly prominent in my childhood- one of my father’s friends & (former) business partners, and the cause of ruined credit, financial stress and the almost bankruptcy of my family.
  • Mark Herbster was, and still is a misogynistic narcissist who used his position to better his personal finances, leach funds out of the congregation under the guise of “donating to his family doing the Lord’s will.”

I grew up in the church and school, which I attended from preschool to the end of my 8th grade year. Upon being dismissed from the final family chapel/graduation service & awards ceremony, I turned to my mom and said “Alright, I’m done. I’m sick of these people. Homeschool me.” The quote “The school operated on a caste system, which placed students whose families attended Tri-City Baptist Church on a higher rung… Tri-City would cover up the sins of families, and the families would cover up for Tri-City.” is insanely accurate.

The only reason my family was accepted the way we were: what was seen as a ‘lax’ attitude towards parenting/enforcing the ridiculous school rules, our open-minded & accepting view of Christianity, our blatantly pro-equality & feminism stance (which had been instilled in me and my sister by my mother, my aunts, my grandfather), was because the church thought we were rich. My mom remembers the underlying tension well. “The only reason we were accepted the way we were into that community was because we had a big house, people thought we were rich, and we sent all of our daughters to the school.” We- my sisters and I- were blessed with what God gave us. We would make perfect wives and mothers. We were the ideal breeding mares.
If my family had not grown up in the church (I was the first baby born to the church when they moved from Truman to their massive, white building that’s now iconic), I would have been on much rockier ground than I had been during my years at the school.

  • I read books that weren’t approved. I read more than a girl should.
  • I loved school & getting an education. I was better at it than most of the aspiring preacher-boys in class.
  • I didn’t want to ever go to a Christian college.
  • I wasn’t ever going to be a stay at home mother. I was going to have a career.
  • I loved “boy things” – sports, pants, being loud & rambunctious, fixing things, being outdoors. I was the opposite of their ideal quiet, compliant, submissive girl.

The school, and church, while as organizations didn’t publicly promote conversion therapy, it was something that was talked about in positive and glowing terms regularly – by teachers, deacons, parents, and staff.
The church turned a blind eye to congregation members who left- either the church, or the faith entirely, by claiming that their Calvinistic worldview showed ‘they weren’t predestined.’
From a friend who experienced this first hand: the administrative and pastoral staff hid their racist, pro-segregation, sexist mindset behind the guise of Christianity- forever blaming the bus ministry and those who utilized it for issues in classrooms, programs, etc. The youths who depended on the bus ministry, (who were mostly minorities and non-white) or “bus kids” as the church congregation called them, were kept in a teaching program separate from the “church kids” – those whose families were church members (roughly 95% of the congregation members were white). Supposedly, because the church kids were too knowledgeable of the teachings being given in the bus ministry, they were given their own separate program. However, over the years, busses kept being sold, funding was cut, time was stripped away, and eventually, the church completely shutting down the entire bus outreach branch of the ministry.

There was a cast-iron mold that each individual was supposed to fit into, and if you failed, you were failing as a Christian.

I remember the rampant bullying done by classmates and others, including the teachers. I remember being one of only a few voices that consistently stood up to oppose the verbal abuse. Mental illness and disorders: ADD/ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, etc., were seen as fixable issues between the individual and God. There was a tangible fear between students and teachers, because reaching out for help was a sign that your faith was weak, and you were failing as a Christian.

Body-shaming drove many of my classmates, schoolmates, and even myself and my sister to eating disorders and self harm. As women, working out was proud & selfish. You were drawing attention to your body that should only be shown to your husband (after you were married). However, you were supposed to stay thin and attractive for your future husband, which meant many girls turned to uninformed dieting, bulimia, or anorexia.

Abuse was swept under the rug in the name of Christian punishment. Spousal abuse was supposed to be tolerated, because divorce was seen as a worse sin. Divorce was a selfish decision to tear apart “what God had brought together.” Truly healthy, equal relationships were seen as strange and abnormal. The husband was the true leader of the household. He was in charge spiritually, physically, and in every other aspect. The wife’s job was to preside over the household & the children. It was the natural order of things.
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Humility was so honored and revered, it turned to pride. Self-advertisement for Christ was merely a thinly veiled way to prove, flaunt, how wonderfully Christ-like you were. Bible studies, youth group activities, boasting self-depreciating “confessions” in a class or a program, volunteering and being involved as much as you could, were all ways to wordlessly (or not-so-wordlessly) shout how Christian you were. You could spiritually boast about the gifts God gave you, but only if they were used for the church.

The more you went to church, the more esteemed and respected you were. The more you dedicated yourself to the church, the better you were. Missing a Sunday service was frowned upon-whether you were sick, out of town, or had other obligations. The more you sacrificed, whether it was healthy and wise for you to do so, the more revered you were. If your life didn’t fully revolve around the church as an organization, you were seen as a lesser Christian.

Out of all of this, there were still small, shining patches. In elementary school, I had some of the best, most inspiring & caring teachers of my life.
Mrs. Scroggins, the strongest teacher in that school, was my first grade teacher. She had the perfect balance of no-nonsense and unconditional love for each of her students. It was because of her that my mom was able to remove my younger sister from a mentally and emotionally abusive teacher. (It was also she who headed up said teacher’s firing very soon afterwards.)
Mrs. Free, my second grade teacher, was around through a lot of changes. I got glasses and was worried I would be teased- she came to school the next day wearing her brightly colored specs. I began to play the cello, an all-out weird instrument for a 2nd grader, and was teased because it wasn’t “cool, like a trumpet or a real instrument” – she had me bring in my cello for a special show & tell session. She fostered my love of weird animals like lizards. She LOVED the fact I wanted to work full time when I grew up. She fed my love of reading.

Miss DeShaun, in fourth grade, saw my bookishness and allowed me to take off with it full force. She added fuel to my fire, and inspired to be weird & quirky. She relished my dream of being a pilot like my grandfather, and my idol at the time: Charles Lindbergh.
Miss Swofford, fifth grade, was one of the most understanding, patient people in the world. She encouraged my adoration of costumes, theater, music. She loved that the instrument I chose in band was percussion. She poked and prodded me along when I was starting to feel that being smart wasn’t cool, and showed me how to break away from that fear.
Mrs. Stevenson, six grade, was there when I fully absorbed my bookishness. I began to solidify my path in becoming a librarian, and she was with me every step of the way. She gave me books, guidance, a hug if I needed it. She also made puberty feel not as scary, and in a school where the word “sex” was taboo, and sex education was seen as a way to encourage pre-marital relations, it was a welcome support.

Outside of school, my parents helped build me and my sisters up as independent women. When I was sent home with notes that my books weren’t appropriate for school (Star Wars, Catcher in the Rye, A Wrinkle in Time, were just a few), my mother showed me to switch book covers before heading into school, so an ‘approved’ book was actually an inappropriate one in disguise. She coached me in being respectful in my arguments, and how to stand up for myself and others. My dad gave me confidence in my love of outdoors & sports. Both of them taught us that equality was a right that was given by God, not taken by him, as many of the patriarchal rules and lessons taught.
The experiences, both good and bad, from Tri-City’s cult-like community made me who I am today: a loud, proud, pro-public school, pro-equality feminist, pro-argument woman who has a partner, not a governor, as a future husband.
I met my best friend in the church’s nursery, and was able to grow up beside her every year from preschool to 7th grade.
I got my love of music from their band, orchestra, and percussion ensemble programs.
I got my fierce, unbending feminist streak by being born and forged in the fire of a staunchly anti-feminist society.

My experience ended better than some. After leaving the church and school, I was able to throw myself completely into my studies, a career, extracurricular activities, and hobbies that kept me occupied, traveling, and far too busy to dwell on the emotional abuse I didn’t realize I had been suffering under for half of my lifetime.
I got lucky.
I had parents who were supportive and saw me as an equal. I had friends who kept me grounded outside of the community. I had a grandfather who was stronger, wiser, and more humble than anyone I’ve ever met, and the most kind, accepting Christian man in my life. 
Tri-City’s cult-like beehive of drone-Christians was cultivated, grown, and weeded by spiteful, hateful men who used the name of religion to further their self interests. They hid behind God’s word to spread their un-Christianlike beliefs to their following, un-apologetically leading hundreds to reject the faith entirely, families to dwell and fester in unhealthy and often abusive relationships, and causing almost an entire generation years, decades of pain, self-hate, and abuse. I’m glad their hypocrisy is slowly being stripped away, and I’m glad its survivors, including me, are able to speak. 

 

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Ice

I never have an issue with words. As Glennon Doyle Melton said, “Reading is my inhale, and writing is my exhale.”

However, over the past three weeks I’ve become frozen. My fingers are stiff, stuck to the keys like ice, the words crowded behind them like bodies shoved against locked doors with no way out.
My mind is sluggish, dizzy, unfocused, caught up in the whirlwind of emotions ruling my thoughts.
My body is on edge. While the color of my skin and my orientation grants me privilege to be shielded from much of the hate that has been brought into the light during the past year and a half, I am not blind to overlook the direct change and consequences that have roared into many of my friends’ and loved ones’ lives.

We have slim, weak glimmers of hope about the outcome. We have the mid-term elections. We have the few in Congress who are fighting tooth and nail to uphold the Constitution in the midst of the bought bureaucracy.

But still, we must be ready.

We must be ready to fight for our friends and family. If we have privilege, we must use it to its fullest to protect those that our broken society has marginalized and attempted to silence. The disenfranchised must be heard over us. We have been heard long enough. I have been comfortable in my privileged zone for far too long.

There are so many emotions trying to break free, sort themselves out, but there is not time.
The marathon as begun. The starting shot went off as soon as America swore in its 45th president. Already, our lands, our schools, our liberties, our equalities have been attacked, and we said no. We wrote, we marched, we called, we tweeted, shared, and posted. However, we cannot lose that fire. We cannot hold it so tightly that we get burned, letting it slip through our fingers to get crushed under foot. We have years left.
There is a difference between being angry and staying furious: a flash, an explosion that flings you into movement, or a quiet, seething heat that is stoked daily, kept hot and ready for the journey that lies ahead.

So research, plan, strategize, learn, and stay armed- armed to the teeth with books, statistics, quotes, dates, facts, figures, undeniable proof. Check sources twice, three times, and prepare yourself.
Study history, learn from the past, listen always, and build your arsenal.

American Politics: Rooted in the Past with no Regards for the Future

Over the past twenty-four hours, several pieces have appeared, claiming the possibility of a Hail Mary for these election results. While the polls are closed, and the nation has announced a new president-elect, the Electoral College doesn’t officially meet to cast their ballots until December 19.

How possible is this? What would be needed? How did we get to where we are? Where did the Electoral College come from? What were the Founding Fathers thinking?!

Electoral College: A History

The Electoral College: a remnant of an archaic 18th century tradition that meant the best, but has caused the worst.
At the Constitutional Convention of 1878, a system of checks & balances was put in for our checks and balances. After rejecting the ideas of either Congress or state legislators selecting the president, election by popular vote was settled. However, there was fear that general lack of information would heavily sway votes, causing the people to vote for a familiar face, or a “favorite son” of their home state, instead of a candidate who was more qualified, but less familiar. The hope was that the most informed, knowledgeable people from each state were the ones choosing  This model can be seen throughout history: the Roman Republic’s Centurial Assembly, the Roman Catholic Church of the College of Cardinals selecting the Pope. With many of the Founding Fathers schooled in classical history and political strategies, the similarity of the systems isn’t surprising. However, as the population grew, technology developed, information became more readily available, and the digital age dawned, it turned from a help to a hindrance. Just as it did with the Centurial Assembly, the Electoral College became more of an oligarchic system than a democratic one.

Let it also be realized that this system was designed to work without political parties, OR national campaigns. In Article II, Section I of the Constitution, it outlines the design and implementation of the College:

 

  • Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.
  • The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately chuse by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person have a Majority, then from the five highest on the List the said House shall in like Manner chuse the President. But in chusing the President, the Votes shall be taken by States, the Representation from each State having one Vote; A quorum for this Purpose shall consist of a Member or Members from two thirds of the States, and a Majority of all the States shall be necessary to a Choice. In every Case, after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal Votes, the Senate shall chuse from them by Ballot the Vice President.

 

This first design only lasted through four presidential elections, with the second design appearing after the messy Election of 1800 (Jefferson or Burr?). After the Electorates of their party gave each of them equal votes, the vote fell to the House of Representatives who, after 36 tries, finally took a vote that was cast in Jefferson’s favor. Not wanting to go through the same confusing turmoil again, the Continental Congress of 1804 hastily wrote and passed the Twelfth Amendment, which clarified that each Elector cast one vote for president, and one for vice-president, instead of the previous model, which had two votes for president, and the runner-up was given the vice president’s seat.

Political parties had, up to that point, been somewhat unorganized, however, America saw very quickly that the feud Jefferson & Burr had created solidly divided the still-young American political system into two very separate parties (despite both being of the Democratic-Republican Party). Since the amendment, several federal and state laws were passed that somewhat altered the timeline of the Electoral College votes, but by and large, it remains intact the same way that it existed after 1804. (One exception to this rule is the 23rd amendment, which granted the District of Columbia three electors.)

Present Day:
While all electors are chosen by voters, in many states, the names of candidates for the college almost never appear on the ballot, many times, the seats being “awarded” to persons already on the state legislature.

Across the board, electors are, in most cases, pledged to vote for the candidates of the party that nominated them to the position. However, in rare cases, individuals have refused, and voted against their party or the popular vote. These are called “faithless electors.” While there is no concrete evidence that the founders intended for the electors to be independent of any party, but it can be strongly assumed due to the fact that the original model was meant to operate without the existence of political parties at all. In fact, many scholars have the opinion that, once electors have been chose, they remain constitutionally free agents with the ability to vote for whichever candidate that meets the Presidential and Vice Presidential requirements. There are laws punishing faithless electors in 24 of the 50 states, due to a Supreme Court case in 1952, Ray v. Blair, 343 US 214, but the constitutionality of actually punishing an elector has never been decided, and electors can only be punished after the fact, which wouldn’t’ change their vote. Still, the Faithless have been few and far between, with 187 occurring in our nation’s entire 240 year history. In the 20th century alone, there have been seven, one each in 1948, 1956, 1960, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1988, and 2000- none of them swayed or influenced the outcome of an election in any way.

Electing a President:

An official election day was chosen by Congress in 1845, stopping the previous voting practice in which each state had different voting timelines spread between September & November. While not the most timely of practices, this also lead to multiple votes across state lines, and other various voting fraud practices. November was chosen out of ease for the farming population, which comprised most of America’s occupation at the time. They settled on a Tuesday because of the widespread religious practice of observing Sunday as a strict day of rest. It provided a full day’s travel, harvest was in, and travel wasn’t yet hampered by weather. While other countries around the globe have made their election days a federal holiday, or offer other tools for making voting easier, the United States has yet to update their voting process since this time.

Weeks after the general election, the electors meet in the capital of their respective states to cast their ballot. Currently, it’s the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. This year, it’s December 19th.

Why are we still hoping on the electoral college?

Simple: They do not officially cast their ballots til December 19, leaving several weeks of assumption. At the time of the election, there were four members of the Electoral College already pledging to be faithless: Robert Satiacum and Bret Chiafalo, both Democratic electors from Washington, and Republican electors Baoky Vu, Georgia, and Chris Suprun, from Texas. Suprun later told TIME that he intends to support Trump, so that leaves three. Two Democratic members who intend to abstain from casting their vote at all, and one Republican.

If, in the Electoral College, the margin of victory comes as close as it did in 2000, any one of these men could sway the vote, making it the first time in history to happen. However, there is a series of laws in place that would simply push the process down the line of state laws and constitutional checks & balances.

First, if the Electoral College results in a tie due to an elector abstaining or switching their vote, a provision in the Twelfth Amendment mandates that the House chooses the president, with the Senate choosing the vice president. Each representative in the House casts a single vote, and the majority wins.

Second, when Congress meets on January 6, 2017, they will determine if the Electoral College vote was “regularly given,” a historically ceremonial meeting. However, this meeting doesn’t have to be ceremonial: if a single member of the House and one member of the Senate objects to the results of the Electoral College (ie: the final tally is swayed due to a faithless elector), the newly elected Congress now vote. If both the decision of the House and the Senate agree, the decision is final, and a president is chosen. If they do not agree, then the Secretary of State of the state who’s electors were faithless decides. (ie: If Satiacum, Chiafalo, Vu, or Suprun’s votes were cast in such a way that it swayed the vote, than the Secretary of State for Washington, Georgia, and Texas would make the final decision.)

The contemporary number of electoral votes stands at 538, with a candidate needing 270 in order to become president-elect. Due to the current practice of awarding electoral votes, in which a candidate receives all of a state’s vote if they gain the popular vote, the electoral college stands in Trump’s favor- 290 to Clinton’s 232, as of Wednesday evening, despite Clinton winning the popular vote (making her only the fifth candidate in history to do so). So, as it stands, the chances of the electoral college vote in December actually flipping the election is barely there.

 

So, in conclusion: yes, there is more to the process, but it would defy odds for actual change to happen. What this election really tells us is  how outdated and archaic our voting process has become. Between our election day still resting on a weekday, widespread instances of companies threatening employees if they took time off or were late if they voted, voter repression, and the fact that it isn’t a federal holiday, many things need to change. Our democratic government’s shroud is wearing thin, exposing its oligarchical skeletal structure to the masses. The president elect is chosen not by the people’s vote, but by a group of politicians more interested in keeping their political party in power than they are gratifying the people’s issues. Unfortunately, because the electoral college is written into the Constitution, getting rid of it is far easier said than done. A two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate, and the ratification in 38 of our 50 states would be required. It’s been tried before, and has failed miserably. Attempts in 1934, 1966, and 1979 have all failed in the legislative branch, and over the past decade, state-by-state workarounds were cropping up in local polls.

As you can see, the dislike and mistrust of the electoral college isn’t a new issue. In fact, national dislike has been at a majority for decades. A Gallup poll in 1948 said 56% were against it. That number rose to 58% in 1967, and by the next year, 80% of the national voice was against the outdated amendment. However, it’s never been successfully repealed.

Regardless of the outcome of the electoral college, we have work to do.

 

Worth noting:
Between third-party voters and the outdated existence of the electoral college, we find the lost votes. Had Clinton won in the closest states: Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Florida, she would have defeated Trump with 307 electoral votes, securing the presidency. (This election is an eerie reflection of how the 2000 election played out, where Florida was, once again, down to the wire.) Please note that the following statistics do not show how many of Johnson’s or Stein’s voters would have voted for Clinton or Trump in the event of the third-party candidates not being on the ballot, or how many of them would have stayed home. However, we can acknowledge that the electoral map would look decidedly different in the event they were not an option.

Florida, 29 electoral votes:
Lost by 119,770 votes, with 99% reporting.
Total number of votes for Stein and Johnson: 270,026.

Michigan, 16 electoral votes:
Lost by 11,837, with 96% reporting.
Total number of votes for Stein and Johnson: 223,707

Pennsylvania, 20 electoral votes:
Lost by 68,236 votes, with 99% reporting.
Total number of votes for Stein and Johnson: 191,565

Wisconsin, 10 electoral votes:
Lost by 27,257, with 95% reporting.
Total number of votes for Johnson and Stein: 137,422

 

 

 

Sources:

US Electoral College, National Archives and Records Administration. https://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/index.html

History of the Electoral College, History.com http://www.history.com/topics/electoral-college

Electoral College: Fun Stuff, Jackson County Electoral Board, http://jceb.co.jackson.mo.us/fun_stuff/electoral_college.htm

Education: The Electoral College, Votesmart.org, https://votesmart.org/education/electoral-college#.WCSBHlUrKUk

What Happens if Faithless Electors Swing the Results?, Time.com http://time.com/4560682/faithless-electors/

The One Scenario that Could Still get Hillary to the White House, New York Post, http://nypost.com/2016/11/09/the-one-scenario-that-could-still-get-hillary-into-the-white-house/

Could Faithless Electors Change the Outcome of the Election?, Bustle.com https://www.bustle.com/articles/194300-could-faithless-electors-change-the-outcome-of-the-election-hillary-clinton-supporters-cant-rely-on-them

The So-called Faithless Elector Could Decide the Presidential Election for the First Time, Washington Times, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/nov/9/so-called-faithless-elector-could-decide-president/

How Gary Johnson and Jill Stein Helped Elect Donald Trump, CNN Politics, http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/10/politics/gary-johnson-jill-stein-spoiler/

Getting Rid of the Electoral College, Washington Post,
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/11/09/getting-rid-of-the-electoral-college-dream-on-democrats/

Aftermath: An Anonymous Letter

As the occupants of our nation mentally prepare for a new president, many mentally prepare for the new battles that will, most likely, become part of daily lives.
Over the past 24 hours, the reactions I have witnessed from friends and loved ones has gone from incredulous to terror and dread. The actions of the next presidential cabinet  will directly effect groups of our nation’s citizens such as women, those with physical and learning disabilities, the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, refugees, minorities, and more.
We are now tasked with explaining this blatant disregard to human decency to our children- why our friends, family members, made the conscious choice to put such a man in office.
Below is a letter, sent to me by a friend, who faces that dilemma every day now.


Last night, just after my Google alert notified me that the new President-Elect had been chosen, I sneaked into my daughter’s room. We recently transitioned her to a “big girl” bed- a twin mattress, upon which her two-year-old fame usually looks hilariously small.

But last night the sight wasn’t hilarious.

I stretched out on the covers next to her, and watched her tiny face as she slept, her little legs tucked under her body, her little arms crossed, just as she had been in the womb. I listened to her breath as she dozed, perfectly peaceful and blissfully unaware of the shift we are all about to experience. And in my mind, as I studied her, I apologized. I apologized for our country. For the millions who cast a ballot for the man who will lead us in January. And I apologized for you.

You’ve given me your explanations, in your way. You’ve communicated your fears about a Clinton presidency. You’ve expressed your views of Trump’s powerful presence and no-nonsense opinions. Mom, you praised the way he could “say whatever he wanted” without repercussions, citing that trait as an admirable one. I don’t think it’s occurred to you that maybe he was “allowed” to voice such blatant violence because millions of Americans still have a deep-seated prejudice against people different from themselves. Maybe you didn’t see what I did: that he was “allowed” to continue in his loud hate because half of our country heard, in his voice, their own internal prejudices. Because he wore expensive suits, and had a supermodel wife, and stood in front of microphones, and said things the ordinary among them were not allowed to say.

Except now they can.

Dad, you expressed horror at his cavalier admittance of sexual assault, but said that Clinton had “enabled” her husband by supporting him before she discovered his guilt, which made her “no better” than Trump. You said that they are “at best equally disgusting and I would argue that she is worse than he is.” A little piece of our relationship died that day. As a woman who left an abusive marriage, I was heartbroken to learn that you would not only hold Clinton accountable for the sins of her partner, but consider her equal to an admitted abuser for standing by him.

But while you tried to argue that your vote for Trump wasn’t support of him, your decision, as it has historically done, came down to money. “She will sell us all down the river for another dollar,” you said, “wipe her mouth, and tell us to eat cake.” You claimed she was power-hungry, as though it as a claim that couldn’t be applied bilaterally in this election.

And all of this, you argued, was reason enough to overlook Trump’s faults, and cast your lot in with him. You summed up your position neatly with a cartoon, shared to your Facebook page, of Washington Post reporters straining at a molehill labeled “Trump,” while Hillary’s scandals loomed as large as mountains behind them.

As I held my sleeping baby girl, I thought about that molehill, which, in your opinion, was small enough that your conscience allowed you to cast a vote for that man.

I thought about the fear he fed  dumping gallons of fuel on a fire that should never have been lit. I thought about my Muslim friends who, despite their deep religious convictions, are abandoning their hijabs out of fear for their lives. I thought about the lies he told, over and over and over, like a child who doesn’t have any understanding of modern technology or its fact-checking capabilities. I thought of the fact that your granddaughter’s healthcare is based on the good graces of the Affordable Care Act, which your candidate has pledged to repeal. I thought about the women who tried to step forward about abuse they had suffered at his hands, and who have been bullied into silence.

I thought about how economists who know what they are actually talking about have projected horrifying outcomes, should his policies play out. I thought about women across this country who may face death in a country without reproductive choice. I thought about my dear gay and lesbian friends who celebrated their marriages this year, only to have those unions thrown into uncertainty if Trump appoints the Supreme Court justice he wants. I thought about my Latinx friends who are terrified of losing their parents and grandparents to deportation.

And Trump. I thought about him. His venom toward an entire religion. His prejudice against entire races. His objectification of and violence toward women. His running mate, who thinks it’s okay to electrocute young queer people until they are “straight.” His supporters, the KKK and white supremacists, who looked at his policies and perspectives and adopted him as their champion.

I tried to imagine explaining to my tiny daughter, your granddaughter, how her grandparents, aunts, and uncles all voted to take away her health care, take away her right to choose, and take away her safety, should she discover one day that she likes girls rather than boys.

Should I tell her you were worried about your money? That keeping your tax dollars in your pocket (which won’t happen under Trump anyway) is more important that taking a stand against blatant misogyny? Should I tell her that you decided bragging about sexual assault and standing by an unfaithful partner were “equally disgusting?” Should I tell her that you allowed hate-fueled rhetoric to make you afraid of anyone different from you, so you agreed that it was safest to just deny America to those people?

Maybe you just didn’t see what he is. Maybe you were too steeped in your privileged race, your privileged sexuality, and your privileged religion, too isolated from anyone different from you, to hear all the marginalized voices screaming in fear to please don’t do this.

Or maybe you did see. Maybe you saw his racism, his xenophobia, his misogyny, his elitism, and his brutish, bullying ways, and you decided he was the lesser of two evils.

If that’s the case, then you have to understand that in good conscience, keeping you far, far away from my baby girl has to be the lesser of two evils for me.

Because no amount of fear is justification for racism in my home. No amount of suspicion is enough to vilify an entire religion in this family. No amount of tax money saved is worth repealing a woman’s rights to her own body, or a human’s right to healthcare. And any man who is able to brag about assaulting women, make lecherous and creepy comments about his own daughter, and face multiple accusations of violent rape is fit to be my cab driver, let alone my president. For the rest of my life, when you try to insist that you “don’t support” this man, who is the walking embodiment of everything I hope to protect my child from, we’ll both know it’s bullshit, because you saw what he was, and you handed him the keys to the kingdom anyway.

You failed your granddaughter and niece this week. You dramatically changed the country in which she will be raised, and not for the better. And I’ll be damned if you are ever allowed to influence her further.

Well, I did it again.

Remember this little guy?
img_3478

Well… he had a sister.
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Her name is Luna- my sister, Phoebe, is keeping her, so no, I will not be moving to Colorado with three cats in tow. I’m crazy, but not insane. Come on, people.

I KNOW. I KNOW.
but they’re so CUTE and TINY and they have SPOTS and have I mentioned how TINY THEY ARE?!
However, they’ve proven to be extremely helpful while I’m packing my moving boxes…

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I’m the only one I know who’ll impulse adopt a cat.

If you know me, and I know this post will get a menagerie of readers- some who’ve been around my whole life, some who are passerby in certain chapters of my existence, others who know me better than themselves, you’ll know that I’m a planner.
I like lists.
I love bullet points.
I thrive on knowing what I’ll be doing in two hours.
I’m the one who packs those needless “just in case” items on a weekend trip.

“Winging it” gives my brain hives. The only thing I ever impulse buy is tshirts from Target.

And yet, over the past year, I’ve become more accustomed to impulse. Impromptu activities aren’t as stressful. I’ve found a balance between planning and letting go (if any of you starts with Frozen, you’re fired). In fact, last week, I threw caution to the wind, and RSVP’d to a rap music video casting call (which just so happens to be tonight).

I can easily trace these changes back to one instance, or, more accurately, one person.
13900163_10154260010706291_7859489370529882699_nThat one. Right there. It’s his fault.

Timehop- usually a tool of embarrassment used to remind you of haphazard decisions and stances you held 10 years ago- notified me yesterday that was exactly 6 years since the first Western Civ class that threw us into one another’s lives. While our friendship built over the following 5, both of us would have laughed til beer came out our noses if someone would have told us that we’d end up being together. And yet, here we are.

Here I am, impulse adopting a tiny, fluffy, flea-bitten kitten, allowing my friend-turned-boyfriend of 1.5 years to name him, and not batting an eyelash. Here I am signing up for a casting call completely out of my comfort zone. Here I am, writing a letter of resignation to my job, notifying them that my last day will be in December, in 3 months time, when I will be moving to Colorado to finally end this long-distance torture.

Yep.
There it is. I said it.
It’s out in the open. Loud & proud.
I’M MOVING.
Wrapped nice and snug, unassuming, in a warm, fuzzy paragraph about a warm, fuzzy kitten.

I’m moving.

I adore Kansas City- it’s shitty roads, a civil engineer’s nightmare (looking at you, downtown cherry trap), on-again-off-again sports teams (Heyyyyy Chiefs…), newly great sports teams (#rallymantis), and slew of coffee connoisseurs, roasters, and hipster-like shops & bars.
I adore the family I have in the city- by blood, or by choice.
My roller derby warriors, my coaches, my kickass skate fam.
The friends I’ve grown up with, gone to school with, survived puberty and questionable fashion choices with.

But, to throw myself face first into hokey stereotypes and phrases:
Kansas City will always be my hometown, but home is where my heart is, and frankly, it’s not here. 947331_10153748923461291_2816788918412655724_n

So there it is. Most of you have seen it coming, some haven’t. However, now it’s official.

December 9th, I’m saying goodbye to a job that’s taught me so much, and saying hello to a house filled with the one I love, four cats, beer, and more books than either of us will know what to do with.

Here’s to the next chapter, and impulse adopting cats.

Time Management: Get Organized without Getting Bogged Down with Details

This is a re-post of an article I wrote for my alma mater’s blog a few weeks ago. Focusing on time management (my arrow to the knee) was difficult. My mind goes a thousand miles a minute, making multi-tasking a natural go-to. However, multi-tasking isn’t always the best approach. Below, I talk about many of the tricks and tools I’ve learned over the years.

Midterms are over, finals are almost here, and your mind is a battle ground between the necessary productivity, and the completely unhelpful spring fever, senioritis, or the age-old “summer-is-so-close-i-can-taste-it” restlessness- or all three at once, which is always a trip. When I was working towards my Bachelor’s degree, I was definitely one of those kids that had caffeine being pumped into my body via an IV (no, not literally…unfortunately)-which is something I heartily do NOT recommend. I was on track to graduating early, worked full time at a local coffee shop, had a student job at our library, and was in roughly 6-7 musical ensembles, all on top of my course load. In grad school, I worked full time on top of full time classes. Now out of school and in the professional workforce, my time is still a rare commodity. Work, various volunteer & semi-professional musical groups, roller derby training…I’m still one of those people who doesn’t like to turn down an opportunity. (or, doesn’t say “no” enough…it’s still up for debate.) Regardless of what your life & schedule looks like- because i’m sure I’m nowhere near as busy as some- making time for everything that needs to be done is never a fun, or easy task.

Time management, working/writing on the go, finding time to research, was difficult in college & grad school. Thanks to some great mentors, smart friends, and the occasional Buzzfeed article (no, not the one about the corgi beach party), I made it through, adding bits here and there to my bag of tricks. That’s why I chose this subject for my third article. I wanted to highlight tips & tricks I’ve collected over the years, which made balancing a full schedule without sacrificing sleep, social time, or sanity seem a whole lot easier. Just remember that everyone has different tricks to keep them motivated, whether it’s the carrot on a stick mentality, or the complete lock-down strategy, so if none of these work for you, don’t worry! I hope I’ll at least share some online tools that prove to be useful. (And to make it easy, anything I like to in the article I’ll also provide in list form at the end, so you don’t have to scroll through the whole thing just looking for a single link.)

Physical Space

At the risk of sounding like a Hallmark card (or your grandmother), an uncluttered desk makes for an uncluttered mind. The less distractions are on your desk, the harder it is to get distracted. Whenever I have a huge project to get done, a lot on my plate at once, or both, the first thing that helps is to re-organize. Take 5-10 minutes, declutter, reorganize, and streamline your work area.

Organize

  • Lists! I love lists. I have lists on and about everything, everyday, all the time. I’m a list-maker. I’m not suggesting that you fall off the cliff side and join me in list-omania, but a to-do list can be your best friend for organization. The reasoning behind this is simply that when you can see everything that needs to get done, it’s easier to see the finish line approaching, and it’s harder to accidentally forget a task. I start with a list of everything that needs attention, prioritize it, and those with the closest deadlines are the ones I tackle first- they’re the red letter days. Then I’ll organize my list in decreasing importance from there.
    • The Kanban method
      • Recently, I’ve started to use this method of scheduling my to do list, and it’s made a world of difference. It helps me visualize my workflow, and see my daily progress as i tackle the tasks on hand. (It’s also very easy to put up and tear down. Currently, mine is made up of 3×5 cards & scotch tape above my keyboard.)
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    • Pomotodo
      • Since most of my work has to be done on the computer, an easy way to keep me on task is this app. Available (for free!) on all platforms, Pomotodo is a great way to break up your tasks into manageable bites, as well as make it easy to track your productivity level and workflow. Have you ever sat at your computer for hours on end and feel like you’ve gotten nothing done? Based on the Pomodoro technique developed in the 80s, Pomotodo breaks up your work sessions into 25-30 minute time slots, setting off a quiet buzzer when it’s time for you to take a 5 minute break. This helps your focus to stay fresh, and your mind to avoid that mentally exhausted sludgey feeling that always happens after you’ve been straining and concentrating on one task for far too long.

Declutter

  • Minimizing distractions is most of the time impossible with the daily bustle of life, but your work space should be familiar, comfortable, and clean. I don’t mean physically clean all the time- my sister’s metal smith studio is a whirlwind of organized chaos- I mean clean of unimportant or potentially distracting things. Television, cell notifications, internet sites, etc., can all occupy focus that could be applied elsewhere. (I actually just put my cell phone on night mode before writing this article.)
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    • Internet blocks
      • Sites like Cold Turkey, Freedom, Dark Room (for Windows), and WriteRoom (for Mac), are great sites that block access to pages you don’t want to distract you. This is great for assignments where the internet is necessary (which is essentially all assignments), but you don’t want to risk the pull of social media. Google Chrome several extensions like StayFocusd and Site Block in their app store, as does Firefox (called Leechblock)

Noise

  • There’s an increasing amount of studies that have to do with the mind, focus, and music or background noise. Personally, I prefer ambient noise, instrumental music, or a combination of the two as I work.
    • Noisli
      • My newest find and now favorite background noise generator, Noisli has ambient noise that range from the classic white/black/grey noise to a babbling brook, thunderstorm, train tracks, and the clinking & murmur of a busy coffeeshop. I have this app installed on my Chrome browser both at work and at home, and typically play this in the background in addition to some mood music.
    • Coffeetivity
      • Another ambient noise generator, this is great if you want the feel of a bustling cafe, but could do without the visual stimulation (or the money spent on coffee and pastries- a personal weakness). Being able to choose from several different noise types – lunch time bustle, early morning stillness, etc., is really great.
    • 8tracks
      • 8tracks is a very old favorite of mine. I strictly used 8tracks playlists when I was writing my undergrad thesis. (I actually still have that collection of playlists.) On 8tracks, users are able to upload playlists that they’ve created. They range from pop & rock, to focus and creativity. You can customize your search down to an extreme, which is fantastic. Be careful though, it’s easy to get caught up in finding great music. I’ve found that happening to me many times.

Mental Space

Organizing your mind is just as important as organizing your physical workspace. I’m talking to myself as well as you when I speak of the importance of mental organization. I am one of the worst at this part of organization. My thoughts often look like the room of keys from The Sorcerer’s Stone, zipping and flying about at no pattern at all.

Re-center yourself

  • Often times, it’s easy to get caught up in the franticness of meeting your deadlines, and this, in turn, will hurt your productivity and focus. Before I sit down and start a project- however large or small, I take anywhere form 5 to 10 minutes to stretch and loosen my body. Being physically uncomfortable is distracting, but so is being too comfortable. I’ve accidentally fallen asleep during an assignment far too often for me to like to admit.
    • Yoga
      • I didn’t discover how helpful yoga was to both my mind as well as my body until after grad school, unfortunately, so I’m going to join the cacophony of voices singing the practice’s praise in hopes that you don’t make the discovery too late. Engaging my muscles requires my mind as well as my physical strength, and elongating my ability to focus has everything to do with elongating your body, so to speak. There are hundreds, if not thousands of focus enhancing yoga videos and stretches available, but my absolute favorite is this one, from Yoga by Adrienne. Only 10 minutes long, it doesn’t take a chunk out of your day, nor does it require lots of experience in yoga. (I am the furthest from being familiar with the exercise, and I’m also probably one of the least stretchy people on this planet.)
    • Headspace
      • Meditation is fairly hard for me, honestly. As I said earlier, my mind is a beehive of thoughts, so quieting it is a bit difficult. There’s an app called Headspace that is amazing at introducing the practice of meditation into your life. Unfortunately, it isn’t free, but signing up gets you 10 free sessions to help introduce you to the exercise of meditation.
    • Momentum
      • Momentum is a free (yay!) and easy way to keep up your momentum throughout the day. Instead of the “new tab” page on your browser, Momentum greets you, displays the time, weather, an inspiring quote, and your main goal for the day, all set against the backdrop of a breathtaking photograph. You can also add a small todo checklist that you can update and change throughout the day.
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Listen

  • When I was in college, I’d frequently battle headaches, back aches, and sometimes insomnia during or after a project. Restlessness and stress induced anxiety were plagues, and it was only til I started working with my body instead of fighting against it that I saw results.
    • Light
      • One of the first things I changed was the amount and type of light I worked in. I made sure that my area was well lit with either natural or warm light instead of the harsh blue light that is emitted from your computer screen and some lightbulbs. A free app called Flux is free and downloadable on your computer- Mac or PC- to help reduce the blue light coming from your monitor. Immediately, I noticed that my eyes weren’t getting as tired as quickly during an assignment.
    • Stretch
      • Just like resetting your body with a quick yoga session before beginning, taking breaks intermittently to stretch, take a quick walk, or just move will help keep your body from being restless. I usually try and take a 5 minute walk or stretch break every 45 minutes to an hour.
    • Write it down
      • Far from making yet another list, if pesky thoughts keep popping into your head and interrupt your productivity, write them down. This will make it easier to wipe them from your mind and focus on later.
    • Wake up!
      • I am THE furthest from a morning person. In fact, my sister posted a meme about the terrors of me before my coffee just a few minutes ago. However, I’ve noticed that over the past few months, I’ve been waking up naturally around 6, 6:30. On the days where I feel lazy and go back to sleep til my alarm goes off, I found myself dragging, unfocused, and lackadaisical. The days where I listen to my inner clock and wake up, I’m more relaxed, focused, and productive throughout the day. Part of this I blame on my cat, who promptly meows for food at around 6:15, but I also give credit to a great alarm clock app that I found. Called “Progressive Alarm Clock,” It’s in the app store for around $3, and is the best purchase I’ve made for my iphone. Instead of jerking you awake with a song or harsh sound, it uses Tibetan singing bowls to gradually lift you from sleep by increasing the volume, making for a much more welcoming morning alarm.

Articles, Sources, & Quotes:

When compiling resources and first beginning this article, I talked to a couple of the busiest women in my life on how they were able to keep focused on the job, at home, or on the go. I know that my way of keeping myself focused is unique to me, so I wanted to get other perspectives as well.

Articles & Resources:

Increase Productivity-Buzzfeed- Tactics, methods, and tricks for keeping the drudgery of the work week at bay. This article is more focused on work methods and mental tricks than helpful resources and tools.

Apps, Apps, Apps-Buzzfeed- While a few of the apps and sites I mentioned are on this list, there are many I didn’t mention that could be extremely helpful! I was actually recommended a few of them from various friends and acquaintances over the past few years.

More Apps!- Buzzfeed- Seeing a trend? I love Buzzfeed’s listed articles because of the quick and easy to read format that they’re shown in. This article is less focused on productivity, and more of an app-based show and tell, but there are a couple listed in here that are pretty fantastic tools!

Study Music – Growing up on the “Mozart Effect” for studying had its pros and cons. This article provides a brief overview of a few instrumental-based music genres and how the brain reacts to them.

Music & the Mind. In contrast to the article I mentioned above, this study breaks away from the previously praised school of thought (such as the Mozart Effect) where it was said that music with words is distracting and inconducive for productivity.

Kanban method – An easy, visual way to see your to do list, prioritize your workflow, and a great encouragement to get things done. It uses a production flow method that was first developed by the Toyota company, and applies it to every day tasks.

Pomotodo – An app that uses the Pomodoro technique to optimize your time and focus by breaking down your work day into 30 minute segments.

Cold Turkey – There’s a free and a subscription based version for Cold Turkey. It allows you to block out different kinds of sites for certain periods of time, although you can only schedule blocks of time if you buy the second tier of the subscription service. Still, this is a great app to streamline your internet use if you find yourself getting too distracted by clickbaits and social media.

Freedom – This is free, available on all platforms, and makes it very easy to block any potentially distracting websites, apps, etc., from your internet browser without needing to get rid of your internet access altogether.

Dark Room – This is the perfect tool to fight writer’s block with. DarkRoom clears your screen and monitor of distractions, making freewriting clean, minimalistic, and at the center of your bullseye.

WriteRoom  – WriteRoom is the Windows compatible style of the DarkRoom site & app.

Noisli – A simple, minimalistic ambient noise generator. You can create combinations of sounds (such as rain, a crackling fire, an ocean tide, or coffeeshop noises), or just stick with one sound.

Coffeetivity – Another ambient noise generator, this has sounds that are usually associated with more social settings- the clink of silverware and dishes combined with voices murmering at a coffeeshop, the bustling sounds of a streetside cafe, etc. If you excel at working with the sounds of people around you, but get too distracted with people watching or those really great scones in the pastry case (I am SO guilty of both of these), this is a great sound tool.

8tracks – A playlist based website where users can upload and make their playlists public. It does away with your need of spending time tailoring a playlist to what you need, because you can combine any amount of descriptions, criteria, etc. to find your perfect playlist. (ie- “instrumental” “study” “classical” or “traditional celtic” “instrumental” “focus”)

Yoga for Focus – Yoga by Adrienne is one of my favorite youtube yogis. She uploads videos regularly, and best of all, you don’t have to be a veteran to follow her sessions. This 10 minute video is perfect for getting your body stretched out and set for a study session.

Headspace – This app is great for learning how to meditate easily, without the frustration of trying to do it on your own or in a class. Unfortunately, it isn’t free, but signing up gets you 10 free sessions to help introduce you to the exercise of meditation. The audio sessions usually last around 10 minutes, which is perfect for a pre- or post-study session.

Momentum – This app replaces the ‘new tab’ page with a calming photo and a daily reminder of what you want to get done. So, every time you open a new tab, you’re greeted with the Scottish countryside, the sunset over the Sahara, instead of the blank, grey screen.

Flux – Flux dims or lightens your screen according to the time of day. The later in the day it is, the less blue light is emitted from your screen, being replaced by a warm pink or orange tinged light. It’s not as harsh on your eyes, and you don’t find yourself getting a splitting headache after staring at your screen for 8 hours a day. It’s free, and works on both Mac & PCs.

Quotes:

Anna: actress, tarot reader, woman-of-all trades-  “Well, I have ADHD so the best one I’ve found is keeping a notepad or post it nearby so I can write down things that pop into my head in the middle of a task. Otherwise, I go off to do them instead and forget all about the original thing I was working on… My planner also has a to-do list section where you put 3 that you need to get done to move yourself forward and then the rest are additional. So you can prioritize instead of getting overwhelmed. I’m using Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map planner…her whole philosophy is focusing on how you want to be feeling and building your schedule around that rather than thinking about what your goal is like, make your goals to feel ____ and then build a system to get yourself there”

Jenn: event organizer, actress, social media fiend-  “I definitely keep a to do list, as well as write stuff on my calendar so I don’t forget and I can prioritize/know deadlines.  I like the to do list with the check boxes because checking stuff off makes me feel more productive.  Our database at work has an alarm feature so if I’m remembering to contact a customer about something months later, I can set a digital alarm reminder.  Declutter is a big thing too.  I don’t keep my desk cluttered (especially at the end of the day.  If it gets messy throughout the day, I make sure to pack everything up neatly so I come in to something other than chaos in the morning).  I have trays specifically for different things I’m working on so I can prioritize that way.  I make sure to clean out my email every so often to make sure only the important things stay (so things are easier to find).  I like to focus on one task at a time (I can multitask like a pro but in terms of finishing something, I like to finish one project before I start another – because my boss is always throwing things at me to do.  Most of which are not time sensitive.  I do spend like the last hour of my day on something else if I’m in the middle of a project, just to mix things up and to make sure to get at least a chunk done of the other thing)”

 

Reading Resolutions

On the coattails of this year’s mayonnaise, all-purpose baking flour white Oscars (which is completely ridiculous, but I can only sanely handle one major equality issue per post without going completely postal), I stumbled across an article written by the author Catherine Nichols’ article, Homme de Plume, in which she discussed an experience she had in submitting one of her manuscripts under a male pseudonym. (inspired by these studies from PNAS and NEBR.) Her experiment had astonishing, disheartening results. After sending out 50 copies of her manuscript & cover letter, two requests were sent back in return. In stark contrast, when she sent 50 copies of the exact manuscript & cover letter pair, it was requested 17 times, a far cry from the 1 in 25 track record it had while under a female author’s name.
Now, I’ve always known that writing and publishing has been a male dominated world, but it wasn’t until i read the article and started doing some extra digging that I found out exactly how skewed it was.

Women, world-wide, have been found to be: 1. more well read than men, and 2. more avid readers than their male counterparts. (See various studies done by The Telegraph, NPR, and Pew Research Center) However, women continue to make up 40% or less of the authors, critics, reviewers, and publishers (See this study done by Vida). Far from a new development, this has, unfortunately, been the case since the beginning. An article that is now almost 20 years old has reached internet fandom over the past several years after the magazine it was originally published in digitized it. “Scent of a Woman’s Ink,” written in 1998 by by Francine Prose in Harper’s Weekly, attacked the idea of “gynobibliophobia” or, the illogical dislike of a novel merely because the hand that held the pen was female.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the writers of the past were only too glad to express such ideas. If Norman Mailer didn’t exist, we might have had to invent the man who could utter, in Advertisements for Myself, history’s most heartfelt, expansive confession of gynobibliophobia:

I have a terrible confession to make—I have nothing to say about any of the talented women who write today. Out of what is no doubt a fault in me, I do not seem able to read them. Indeed I doubt if there will be a really exciting woman writer until the first whore becomes a call girl and tells her tale. At the risk of making a dozen devoted enemies for life, I can only say that the sniffs I get from the ink of the women are always fey, old-hat, Quaintsy Goysy, tiny, too dykily psychotic, crippled, creepish, fashionable, frigid, outer-Baroque,maquillé in mannequin’s whimsy, or else bright and stillborn. Since I’ve never been able to read Virginia Woolf, and am sometimes willing to believe that it can conceivably be my fault, this verdict maybe taken fairly as the twisted tongue of a soured taste, at least by those readers who do not share with me the ground of departure—that a good novelist can do without everything but the remnant of his balls.

Few critics have so boldly advanced this testicular definition of talent. More often, a male writer’s true opinion must be extracted from the terms he uses to describe his female colleagues, from Walpole’s calling Mary Wollstonecraft a “hyena in petticoats” to Southey’s dismissing the enraged Charlotte Brontë as a daydreamer. In our century, Edmund Wilson complained that “this continual complaining and having to be comforted is one of the most annoying traits of women writers. . . . ” More recently, a piece by Bernard Bergonzi in The New York Review of Books began, “Women novelists, we have learned to assume, like to keep their focus narrow,” and in an essay on Katherine Anne Porter, Theodore Solotaroff referred to Porter’s “bitchiness” and “relentless cattiness,” terms used, perhaps too rarely, to scold mean-spirited male writers.

Continuing, she provides the reader of anonymous samples of works written by various sexes as a test- can you really tell the gender of a writer by the words on a page? (spoiler: you can’t)
To be up front and honest: I, too, even as recent as a year ago, was quite gendered in my reading, declaring to a group of friends that I just never ended up liking books written by female authors, regardless of if I knew who’d penned it or not. Looking back, I saw my error in judgement: the women I’d been reading were all from the same genre or two, so of course the writing style was semi-comparable.

These are the reasons why my 2016 resolutions is a list of one: each book I pick up must be written by a woman. Not only will this introduce me to amazing writers I’ve yet to discover, but it will also be a way of showing the disparity in the letters. However, this is only putting my small, handheld, and somewhat dim spotlight on just one of the issues in publishing. Disparities between cisgender & transgender, able & disabled, and the cultural divide is still extremely apparent. I’ll site Vida’s 2015 study again, where they conducted studies on WOC, sexuality, trans women, and authors with a disability in publishing as a whole. (For those who’ve never heard of Vida, they are a research driven organization aimed at increasing attention to women’s writing and gender equality in literary culture.)

We grew up with the phrase, “never judge a book by its cover,” so why isn’t that true for the author? You’re opening their book, not their legs. You’re being wooed by their writing, not the author themselves.

 

Sources- A List:

http://jezebel.com/homme-de-plume-what-i-learned-sending-my-novel-out-und-1720637627
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/apr/07/male-writers-continue-dominate-literary-criticism-vida-study-finds
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jun/01/books-about-women-less-likely-to-win-prizes-study-finds
Books about women don’t win big awards: some data
http://harpers.org/archive/1998/06/scent-of-a-womans-ink/?single=1

Walk MS, Kansas City 2016

A friend of mine was diagnosed with Multiple sclerosis early this year, just months after receiving her MS in Criminal Justice & Criminology. Meeting her at roller derby practice, I was in awe of her strength & perseverance. She was instantly a source of laughter and light, and when I found out she had been diagnosed with MS not a month prior to our meeting, I wanted to help in any way that I could. So, when she invited me to join her team for Walk MS, I did so instantly.  This year is the first time I’ve ever participated in a fundraising walk of any sort, and I’m ecstatic to be lending my hands and pocketbook to the cause.

MS is unpredictable, commonly disabling the diagnosed because the disease attacks the central nervous system and disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. MS is different for everyone, and that makes it all the more challenging to solve. The first Walk MS event was in 1988, and since then more than $920 million has been raised for research and programs to improve the lives of people living with MS. Today, there are treatments where there weren’t any before, and the dream of ending MS is becoming a reality. But there is still so much to do.

I’d love for your support as I join my teammates- an amazing group of men and women- in walking in this fundraiser, our hearts and minds joined together with one common goal: conquer the disease that has affected so many people around the world. Every cent raised will drive ongoing, ground-breaking research, support life-changing programs, and encourage a loving, supportive community for those who need it most.  The cool thing about donations is that any dollar amount helps, $1, $100, it’s all about the heart. I’m so excited to be walking with a great group of men and women united for one cause. Our team, the Auto(immune)bots, is full of strength and heart and determination to show our support of those diagnosed with the disease, while yelling our defiance in the face of MS itself.

If you have a moment, check out our team page here.

If you have more than a moment, I would greatly appreciate any amount donated to our cause.
http://main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/AutoImmuneBots_Emily

 

Live long, read often,
Em