Monday, November 21, 2016

So, my mom is a better person than me

It has been nearly two weeks since the United States held an election, which resulted in President-Elect...I don't need to say his name. You know.

I have rolled through all of the emotions over the past 11 days. I went to bed on Monday night, assured that when the time comes, I will be able to get married, legally, to my girlfriend. I woke on Tuesday, donned my pantsuit, and bubbled with excitement of hearing the words "President-Elect Hillary Clinton."

I went to bed Tuesday night stunned and terrified that when I woke the legality of my love would be in jeopardy.

On Wednesday, the sun did indeed rise. President-Elect, ugh, was not a bad dream. He is my reality.

And, some of you may be thinking, "What's the big deal? You can still have a ceremony." To that I respond, "I don't care about a ceremony. I care about parental rights. I care about family insurance coverage. I care about next of kin. I care about my wife being able to see me when I am in the hospital getting ready to go. It isn't about flowers and a white dress. It is about my rights as a human being to love and be loved, to have our love protected by the law."

As the dust settles, I have stepped back from my egocentric response and instead focused on how many people will be affected--how many people have been affected. Hate crimes have sky rocketed. This is a fact.

And, this, this is where things get sticky. I lost sight of how much hate there was in this world. I hid behind my liberal elitism and posited and postulated without shutting the hell up and listening. I tried to reason and to debate with those who shared different views from me. I didn't listen to their undertones of fear, of hatred sugared by, "Oh, no. I don't agree with what he says about ______ group. But economics? But Supreme Court?" (Fill in the blank with literally any minority group. And, like, literal literally not the fake literally OED added two years ago.)

So, when the polls rolled on in, that wave of hatred washed over me, and pulled me into the undertow. And, there I sputtered, drowning trying to find footing in anything solid. But, everything kept slipping from under  me.

I swallowed their hate. It filled me up. I angry. And, in one of my soapbox demonstrations (held in the cozy atmosphere of my living room to a single other person), I ranted, "I mean, I can't even. I have been going high and going high and going high for the past 6 months. I just want to dig in and really go to town on how this man has bullied, mocked, and flip-flopped his way onto this ticket. I am so damn sick of going high. Where has it gotten me? What do I have?"

And, my mother, ever wise, hugged me and whispered, "You have your dignity. You. Have. Your. Dignity."

And, I breathed for the first time in what felt like forever.

This is not to say that I will shrug my shoulders and watch this train wreck of an administration collapse. But, my mom refocused me. She reminded me that love always trumps hate. Love will always, always win.

So, what comes next. Now is the time when artists get to work. We are the voice of the people. And, the time is now. So, with neither pomp nor circumstance, an open letter to American citizens aged 18-really old:

People who voted for Trump but "didn't agree with his hate speech,"
You need to go to work. Right now. You need to stop hate crimes when you see them. This man has normalised racism. This man has normalised fear of the other. This man has normalised bullying on an astronomic scale. This man has incited the words of Richard B. Spencer, "America was until this past generation a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity...It is our creation. It is our inheritance, and it belongs to us" (video of Richard B. Spencer's address to the Alt-Right party, The Atlantic). You gotta step up and say that this blatant racism cannot and will not be accepted by the Republican party. This Alt-Right movement has scary, scary resemblances to Nazi Germany. I have refrained from making that comparison, because it makes me want to vomit. But, when Spencer opened his statements with "Hail, Trump," I can stand neither idly nor quietly. And, neither should you.

Conservatives who did not vote for Trump,
We may not agree on a whole lot of social policies, but I recognise your economic platform as a reasonable approach to government funds (though I may disagree with them). But, take back your party. Let this man know that he doesn't speak for you or your party. This man is not a Republican. He jumped on a bandwagon driven by fear. You know this. Let your elected state officials know it. They must govern according to their constituents. Call up Paul Ryan and tell him that this man does not align with you. Tell him, or else he will continue to support this man's policies. He won't listen to me, but he might listen to you.

Take a hard look at how you've engaged in discourse. Was it respectful of others' ideas? Look around your world, your reality. Make sure that you are truly living according to the democratic idea. Are you helping those in need? Are you standing up for what is right even when it is awkward or uncomfortable? Liberal Elites forgot a huge section of people in this campaign. We forgot the blue collar workers who feel disenfranchised. Now is the time to push for real policies that will help even the playing field for them (not the pipe-dream promises this man has given them).

The 46 million people who didn't vote,
You live in a country that let's you have a voice, a say in who becomes the leader? This is not a universal right. Is the two-party system messed up? Yes. But, that does not mean that you abandon the system. Work to change it.

To the people who really and truly believe that this man is the best fit for president,
Please, look at the people around you. Look at the people in our nation. We are hurting. The aftermath of this man's election has raised hate crimes against people of color, against Muslims, against LGBTQ people, against women. We love. We fear. We bleed. We are humans. Please, please see us that way.


Friday, November 4, 2016

So, I threw away my shot.

Let's just get one thing out in the open: I neither believe in violence as an answer nor condone it as a means to an end.

However, Mama wants to get in a bar fight. That being said, I would never throw the first punch, but I would definitely throw words that would warrant a punch to which I would obviously retaliate.

As a nearing-30 pacifist who believes that most misunderstandings can be sorted out with words much more effectively than violence, my window of opportunity is coming to a close. The excuse of "Oh, I was dumb and in my 20s" is waning, so when I threw away my shot on Monday evening, I came to the conclusion that this weird bucket list item may not be crossed off in this lifetime.

Let me just set the scene for you.

Every Monday, my trivia team Tequila Mockingbirds (don't steal my team name; you're better than that) plays at a local catch-all pool hall/poker table/dart board having bar in suburbia. On Mondays, we share the space with a big poker game and general wayward travelers the wind blows in.

My mom, arguably the smartest lady-person as well as non-lady-person (not to suggest lady-persons aren't as smart as non-lady-persons, but gender is important here) I have ever met, just finished telling a real-life story of a Traveling Insurance Salesman who had the audacity to say to her, "blah blah blah, insurance, blah blah, numbers, numbers...Oh, don't worry about the numbers, honey, I can explain them more later." 

My mom, bubbling with Midwest Nice, decisively shows him the door and with a saccharine smile says, "I don't think we'll be purchasing your insurance, sir. Have a good day, now."

After her retelling, she wondered, "I just don't understand how someone can be so condescending as they're selling you something. What was his game plan? I wonder what he's doing now?"

I piped up, "I bet that jackass is voting for Donald Trump.*"

A guy at the bar snapped his head toward me, "Oh," and promptly dropped his glass.

I chuckled and said, "Oh, are you also voting for Trump."

Now, yes, that was rude of me. I know this. I just didn't realize that Trump supporters or people who  can believe or support a man who has campaigned on fear and hate were in my midst. I live in a privileged reality in which most of my close friends have similar political views as me. My mom, that smart lady-person from before, and I have some differing views on things, however we always approach conversations with respect, openness, and love. But, I haven't really had to go head to head with anyone politically in a while. Anyway, my big mouth opened and words fell out, for which I take full responsibility.

As I got up to help the man clean up the glass and apologize for being flippant, he said, "No, this is my fuck-up. I clean up my own messes, and you can just sit right on down, and I will be over in a minute."

I didn't like being told what to do, but I also didn't really want to pick up glass, so I sat down. I ran through the talking points I planned to address.

-I do not want Donald Trump because he has already sworn to elect a Supreme Court Justice (touchy subject: I just can't even) who could jeopardize the way in which my love is legally recognized or my rights as a uterus-having person.

I could list a hyperbolic amount more, but those are the two about which I feel most passionately.

So, Brotimes pulled a chair over, ushered his drunkdrunk friend to the nearest table and sat down. As he lowered himself down, he muttered a comment to the man sitting next to him (spoiler alert: my dad), "No easier thing to do than offend a feminist, am I right?"

My dad didn't respond.

Brotimes: Didn't you hear what I said?
Katie: I heard what you said and am choosing not to respond. (pause) First, I would like to apologize if I offended you. It came out as a flippant comment, for which I take full responsibility.
Brotimes: I am not offended. It takes a lot to offend me. But, for argument's sake, what would you do next if I were offended.
Katie: Refer to my apology and encourage an open dialogue about the thought process behind my comments and, perhaps, your perception of them.
Brotimes: Well, I'm not. So, let's talk. Sticks...sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me. That is a confusing saying. Like, words can hurt, but not in the same way as a guy pounding on you, just getting sucker punched. That hurts. Words are nothing.
Katie: While I do agree with you in that words do not physically hurt others, hateful language, and hate speech are microaggressions that...
Brotimes: (rolls eyes, scoffs, and yawns)
Katie: Your body language tells me that you don't agree with me. 
Brotimes: Microaggressions are bullshit.
Katie: They aren't. They are real ways that...
Brotimes: Microaggressions are just things that you people whine about when your feelings are hurt. They are things that are made up for  when you people can't get it together on your own. They get all the blame for when you people can't handle it.
Katie: (eyes flare,  intakes breath) I wasn't fi...
Brotimes: You weren't finished? Are you mad I am talking over you?
Katie: This is exactly the kind...
Brotimes: The kind of thing that you think is so important?
Katie: Sir. I listened to you. I listened to your speech on...
Brotimes: (intakes breath)
Katie: No, sir. It is my turn to talk. I listened to your words. I invited you here expecting to have an open, respectful, conversation about politics.
Brotimes: Respectful? Why does it have to be respectful?
Katie: If you're not interested in having a respectful conversation of ideas...
Brotimes: (muttered) This is ridiculous.
Katie:..then I have no business talking to you.

Katie exit.

Aside: I blew it! That could have been my moment! I am sure I could have gotten under his skin enough to draw the first punch, but I chose to walk away. I guess I am a Hufflepuff after all. All my grand dreams of maybe pulling through to be a Gryffindor--being real silly in the name of bravery--lost in a flurry of needing to be just out of that toxic situation.

According to my friends and family still at the table, he continued his rhetoric of "What? I just wanted to talk." And, "why did she start a fight if she didn't want to finish it." And, "Imma go find her."

My mom quickly left to make sure I didn't walk home or start any more fights. My friends got up to leave as well, and Brotimes continued, "Hey, what did I say? Why is everyone leaving?"

My dad, a Gryffindor for sure, turned to Brotimes and said something like, "You were out of line, sir. You approached it all wrong. You came in attacking her, which put her on the defensive. You spoke over her and you chose to be utterly disrespectful to her. You were wrong. You, sir, you were in the wrong here. Big time." And, he, too, got up and left.

And, this little scene, this little conversation represents a huge shift in the way in which we discuss politics. A paraphrase of my friend Megan, 'I would love to discuss policies of my candidate, but I have been too busy encouraging people not to vote for a demagogue' who spews hate and presents fiction as fact.

The complete lack of truth in most of his comments and flippancy with which he disregards the real concerns of basically anyone who is non-white or not a straight man is unsettling in any respect, but especially in someone vying for the highest office in our country.

These things have changes how some folks talk about politics. Fact are irrelevant. Respect isn't required. And, memes are credible sources. This era of immediate social media has been both a boon and a bane of this election. Real-time fact checkers source the presidential debates (are you kidding me?!). And, biased media gives a whole lot of uninformed people a platform from which they repeat his rhetoric.

This is not the America I want for me. This is not the America I want for my children. And, this is not  even the America I want for the folks who are voting for this man. It isn't going to look like the white, shiny walled in compound he's promised. It can't.

And, for those Republicans falling in line behind this man because "Well, he isn't Hillary" I want better for you. I want better for your party. I disagree with you on so many social issues, but this is not the Republican party that used to be.

This is a party of fear, of hate, of disrespect, and of fallacies. Stand up for your party. Stand up for yourself. Say this is not right. Republican Elite, your dislike of this man is palpable, and yet you're still voting for him?

You are on the wrong side of history.

*I know very, very good people voting for Donald Trump. But, this misogynistic condescension has been his basic campaign approach during the past 14 months.    

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

So, Black Lives Matter...always

So, you may be wondering why I am writing this now. There hasn't been any sort of national newsworthy police shooting recently or irrational use of police force sensationalized by the media. Sadly, though, it is only a matter of time before these events surface again. It always seems to rear its ugly head juuuuuusssssst after folks feel safe in their neighborhoods again, feel like they can trust those around them. However, there are those who never feel safe in their neighborhoods, those who are afraid to live in this country because the color of their skin combined with their gender place a target on their back before they're even born. 

And, yes, the media hypes it up. Yes, the media makes these incidents the top-of-the-hour news and spins them however their bias leans. But, the media also makes these problems visible. And, for those of us privileged enough to have been unaware of everyday racism, these stories shed light on the cracks and chasms that have been forming for decades. Racism didn't end the same day the Civil Rights Movement did. Racism didn't end the same day Black people got to vote. And racism sure as hell didn't end the same day ‘Jim Crow’ died.

So, in light of all that is happening in the 2010s, I wrote two poems. The first poem I'm leaving here, "Deferred Dreams," was written in response to the second poem (which I wrote about a month ago). It integrates lines from Langston Hughes' poem "Harlem" with America's present social and societal problems. The second poem, "Post Amble" came in a fit of twenty minutes when I was supposed to be doing homework. It is a call to White allies to do something. It uses the Preamble of the United States' Constitution to show that we need to become one whole country. If you're already familiar with the Black Lives Matter Movement and/or the total necessity to have these conversations with anyone at any time—not just in the wake of tragedy but before it, then you can probably skip over the first poem and get right on to the second one. Or, read both. I don't know. I don't tell you what to do. I'm not your mother...probably.

Deferred Dreams
My buddy Langston, he told me about 
what happens to a dream when it is deferred. 
And, right now, I just can't sleep.
I close my eyes and see
Black men and women's lives
drying up like raisins in the sun--
juice seeping from them. 

And, that, that is why Black Lives Matter. 
Because senseless violence, perpetuated
by hate, by profiling, by casual racism 
festers like a sore.

Black Lives Matter because they
run and run in an endless cycle of 
self defense, police violence, 
Black retaliation, violence, protests,
violence, death, violence, death, violence.

White standers by watch, 
They wring their hands unsure of 
whose lives matter, or if they matter at all. 
Their mere observation stinks of rotten meat. 
They participate in that casual racism that prepares
their fellow Americans for slaughter. 
        cross the street.
        clutch their bag. 
        start sentences with, "I'm not racist, but..."

There is no but. 
There is no reason for these actions.
There is no response to this onslaught of deep-seated
violence and hatred. 

The cries of 
"All Lives Matter" 
"Blue Lives Matter" 
crust over the experiences of our Black brothers and sisters--
a syrupy sweet concoction meant to pit us versus them.

We are a divided country. 
We see this every day. 

White standers by, pick up the mantle. 
Stop wringing your hands.
Use them to lift up your brothers and sisters
whom—for too long—have sagged under this heavy load. 
Be a part of this movement. 
Be upset. 
Be an ally.

Together, we explode.
Our hopes and dreams 
flare and catch, 
spreading a fire that
cannot and will not
be extinguished. 

The next poem is a more direct conversation with those who know there is a problem but do not know what to do about it. It may be enough to just let your friends know that you’re there. It may not. You have to be ready to engage in hard conversations, open those cans of worms, talk about the racial issues that make us uncomfortable. We must build a future worth living in. And right now? This isn't it. 

Post Amble
We the people
are angry. We are sick.
We are tired.

We are raising our voice
in order to form a more perfect union
with our Black brothers and sisters.

Too many of whom have died at
the hands of those who’re meant to
establish justice, who’re meant to insure domestic tranquility.

We are frustrated at those who
provide the common defense
of “All lives matter.”
But, you see, Black lives, they don’t matter more,
But, Black lives matter.
Too many of us have forgotten.

So, before we forget Alton
Before we forget Philando,
Before we remember to forget whoever is
next and next and next,
we must stand with our brothers and sisters to
promote the general welfare in our country.

Now is the time
to provide a space
in which they feel safe,
in which they feel home.

Now is the time
to help them to safety on an
elevated railroad.
Now is the time to
shout and protest and rally
from St. Paul to Ferguson.
We must secure their blessings of liberty.

Now is the time
to share this burden
wherever you are.

We, the people, do ordain and establish this
constitution of fairness, of justice,
of being on the right side of history.

Now is the time to band together.
We are a many-colored revolution
that demands equality.

Now is the time to become the
United States of America.

Friday, June 17, 2016

So, it has been about a week

Remember the shooting in Orlando? It was the one six-ish days ago. It was in a gay night club on Latin night? I'm just reminding you because we've become desensitized. It's been, like, twelve hours since someone tweeted their thoughts and prayers. When you scroll through your facebook newsfeed, you're back to how much of a train wreck this presidential election is or, you know, puppy videos. You might've already forgotten. So, I just wanted to hearken back to this event that I learned about 48 hours after the fact because I just wanted a weekend without technology. 

I'm angry. And sad. And angry and sad and angry and sad. But, mostly angry. 

I'd like to draw your attention to the fact that these shootings are no longer isolated incidents of terror. We are a country who lives in terror. We're so afraid of our own shadow. We're allowed to carry concealed weapons to use whenever something spooks us. We cry "self-defense," and all is forgiven. If you wacky liberals take away our rights to own guns, America will go straight to hell in a hand basket.

Guess what, Team America, we're already there. We live in a country that's so star spangled awesome that there was an average of 92.05 gun related deaths per day in 2014. President Obama has had to address the American public 15 times in response to mass shootings. We've normalised death. We've normalised terror. We've allowed gun rights lobbyists to usher us into a country of complacency. And we have done nothing. We've sat idly by while the entire country goes through the motions: outrage, profile picture changes, rabble-rousing statuses, flags at half mast, mild anger, new cute profile pic with a baby, #foodporn, flags fly high, complacency, comfort in knowing it could never happen here. Then, boom, another fucker with something to prove and nothing to lose gets his hands on a military grade weapon and shoots up a space of safety.

And, this, this is what breaks my heart. You wanna know the first thing my students in Korea asked me when they learned I was from America? They asked me if I knew how to shoot people. Not 'how to shoot a gun,' not 'if I owned a gun,' but if I know how to use a gun to inflict pain on another human being. What am I supposed to say to that? How do I even respond? I said, "No, no I don't. I don't know how people hurt each other like that." Their response: "It makes me sad, Kathryn Teacher." It makes me sad, too. 

This is, of course, a multi-faceted problem. But, I would really love it if the gun wielding politicians actually worked on the mental health issues on which they blame all gun related deaths. Or, take a hot second to remember that we are a country founded on immigrants. Or, figure out that the most recent radical terrorist attack in Orlando was a dude born and raised in the United States who believes in a bastardization of the Islamic faith. His relationship to Islam is akin to the Westboro Baptist Church's relationship to Christianity. It is outrageous and inappropriate. 

As a gay person, it would be remiss of me to overlook the location and perceived reason of the Orlando shooting. Gay clubs, like so many have said before me, serve as a place of solace, comfort, release of the constant tension gay people hold. Personally, I have a difficult time expressing my sexuality in public. Don't get me wrong, my rock-a-doodle haircut and proclivity towards Oxfords and trousers clearly show that I am gay, but I don't express myself as a sexual being for fear of making others uncomfortable. This is my problem, I know. But, in gay spaces, I can relax enough to show the kind of public affection that straight people so often take for granted. 

And, on Saturday night, as Latin night just started to heat up, a man disgusted with the idea of two men kissing rampaged through Pulse, flat lining 49 heart beats. 

Some cry, "Terrorism-an affront to the US." Period. Full stop. But, I shout, "Hate crime--an affront to the queer community." You cannot erase us from this history. I refuse. I am angry. I am angry about the social environment in which gay people are less than. I am angry about the erasure of mental health issues. I am angry about toxic masculinity. I am angry about people doing hate in the name of their god. I am angry about how fucking easy it is to acquire firearms whose sole purposes are to kill. I am so, so angry.  

It would be naive of me to think that there would ever be a total recall of firearms in the United States. We'd have to pry the second amendment from the NRA's cold dead hands. But, there is absolutely no reason that a citizen needs an assault rifle. There is no reason that citizens needs a weapon that discharges 600 rounds of ammunition per minute. There is no reason you should be able to purchase a firearm without showing identification. There is no reason you can purchase an AK47 at for fifty dollars and twenty-five cents...don't worry, though, it's free shipping. There is no reason for this. Absolutely no reason.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

So, I've been figuring it out

I've been back in my hometown for about six weeks. I still feel like a visitor. I still feel like I have a flight I need to catch to go back, to go forward, to just go.

I don't. This is my present, and I am really struggling to figure it out. I have an amazing security net of people who love me and want the best for me. But, I don't ask for help--and usually don't want it. Is this stubborn? Yes. Is this reality? Also, yes.

I read all the blogs about going back home after living abroad. I prepared myself for all of the scenarios. All of them. Except my own. I am back, but different. I am finding footing on a path that was. My tread is just a bit too cautious, my shoes don't quite fit, my hiking vest doesn't have enough pockets for all my new things.  I'm living a life I don't know--an adult life in the world of my childhood.

I've visited places that once held magic only to find it replaced by something new, something tangible, something real. I went to my grandparents' house yesterday. After they died, we sold the land to the city because it was technically floodplains. The entire plot was overgrown with spiky flowers so opposite of my gentle grandfather. The giant oak tree loomed above, void of life; fairies used to call it home. Short grass covered the fire pit, the birthplace of Grandma's Magic. And, they paved right over the troll bridge. Who's collecting the tolls? No one. And, all the while the Rock River rolls along, seemingly unchanged.

I see myself in this. Everything about me is different, but there's gotta be a constant somewhere, right? Or, do I make a new constant, a new anchor I trust to keep me from floating away? I dunno.

I guess, right now, let these truths be an anchor, which holds me steady:

1. I have never loved anyone as much as I love my niece(s and nephew--honorary). Or, that's perhaps unfair. I have never loved anyone in the same way I love them. I will drive two and a half hours to babysit Sweet P. I am so excited to watch her learn and grow into whatever she wants to be. I will stop what I am doing to go to the park with my best friend's children. My heart can't even handle it when T chooses me to catch her at the bottom of the slide. I need to be here right now. That's all there is.

2. I miss teaching. Apparently, it doesn't matter if it is English as a second language, To Kill a Mockingbird, or the front crawl. Teaching is my passion, and I am lucky enough to be in a position to continue learning and studying how to do it to the best of my ability.

3. Women's active wear is expensive and limited in selection. I don't have time for that kind of nonsense. Give me a pair of basketball shorts and let's go.

4. My mom is probably the most amazing woman in the whole wide world, closely followed by my sister. Their capacity to take on way more than any person should handle and come through with an air of grace and poise inspires me. I am glad to spend this time together and learn from them as much as I can.

5. The path that was is not always the path that is, and that's okay. I've just got to adventure on.

Friday, April 8, 2016

So, a picture is worth a thousand words, right?

About a week ago, my friend tagged me in the 'Seven Day Nature Challenge,' in which one is meant to post a photo of nature for seven consecutive days. I imagine it is meant to help us take in the utter beauty in which we find ourselves. Recently, she said something about the challenge, and my response was, 'Yeah, I am definitely not gonna do that.' 1) I am already inundating folks with photos of my trip. And 2) I further clarified, 'I would probably be a smart ass and do photos about, like, the nature of truth.' This idea, however,  niggled into my brain while I took in the phenomenal landscape of Da Lat, Vietnam from the back of a motor bike.

So, here is my 'Seven Paragraph Nature Challenge.' And, I nominate each and every one of you to pick the paragraph which resonates most with you and have a solid belly-button day (day of introspection) with it. If you want to message me about it later, I would love to read it.

1) The Nature of Hope
'Hope is a thing with feathers,' writes good old Emmy D. And, Imma hafta agree with her. Hope flies wildly from place to place, intention to intention, and person to person. The nature of hope is inherent. Even if you don't believe in anything, you believe in hope. It is like a phoenix, that even when it seems like there is nothing in your life but ash and destruction, there is a little baby phoenix ready to grow with you and help you soar far above anything you can imagine.

2) The Nature of Dreams
Pipe dreams have been fueling my future since before I can remember. By this I mean, grandiose plans of future seen through a telescope. And, now, as my future approaches rapidly, these dreams barrel towards me, regardless of my readiness. And, maybe that is their nature-- the exact moment when dreams meet reality and they have a gladiator style fight to see which is victorious. What happens if one consumes the other? Does the dream become reality, the reality become the dream? Maybe both, and that is their *true*(I swear to science no pipes [dreamy or otherwise] were used in the creation of this paragraph.)

3) The Nature of Humanity
Much of my recent view of humanity has been kind of negative. With all of this social media, it is easy to feel like we're drowning in a quagmire of hatred. However, I spent the past several weeks with some humans who I feel practice 'reckless optimism' (term coined by Hannah Hart). These humans have recharged my ability to see humanity as the humans with whom I choose to spend my time, I share my world. The nature of humanity *should be* bettering yourself for the communities in which you've found yourself. And, this could look radically different depending on your community. And, I must remind myself to show love and compassion to those who do not agree with me. Each person has a voice, and I must respect that.

4) The Nature of Sexuality
Let's all come to this with a base understanding that sexuality is a spectrum. The right or wrongness of various sexualities, is a gay of a different gaggle, which I may or may not tackle (hey-O!) in a different post. Sexuality is something inside each of us. It is how we express (or not express) our primal desires (or un..ummm...desires). So, why is sexuality such a taboo topic. If people talked about it as something we all have, we would have a much higher respect for sex and the power it can have. Okay, putting the soapbox away. Sexuality is something fluid, as are your feelings about who you are as a sexual being. It is.. it is like.. a Turtle( ice cream) milk shake. No, stay with me through this simile. Sexuality can be sweet and pure like the frothy little bubbles on top, but as you delve deeper, you find a myriad of other flavours, textures, and tastes. There is not only softness, but also some things can be hard to swallow without chewing them over a bit first. There are surprises and sometimes a few nuts. But, when you mix it all together you have something special, something specific, and something that is totally yours. The best part of a Turtle milkshake, though, is sharing it with someone else (Keep in mind, there are people who don't want to share their milkshake at all. And, that is totally cool. Chill out about it.)

5) The Nature of Peace
Peace comes from within--within a person, within a community, within a country, within a world. It takes every part to decide consciously that peace if something towards which you wish to stride. It is about time that we choose peace over violence. It is about damn time.

6) The Nature of Intelligence
As computers slowly take over mundane tasks such as calculation, letter writing, and almost everything else, it is time to go back to our proverbial roots. Intelligence comes from learning. Rote memorisation and book learning are all fine and good...I guess.., but I'd like to discuss emotional intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, all the other intelligence. We gather intelligence to sustain us. We hunt intelligence to satiate our need for knowledge. We share intelligence with those around us, in hopes they return the favour. Every person has a unique set of intelligence, and the world would be less without it.

7) The Nature of Trust
Trust is the most difficult corner stone for me. It takes ages for me to build trust in any kind of relationship. However, today, I experienced rapid trust with my tour guide (also hostel owner). I jumped on the back of his motorbike ready to explore the world around me. About halfway through the day and after a few jokes about me driving for the next leg of trip, he took the backseat of the bike and taught me how to drive a motorcycle, like, a real one. He was gentle and careful. He explained everything before I had to do it. He was so calming. Then, later in the trip, after a few mishaps with a head stand, I had some gravel under my eyelid. My guide blew in my eye to dislodge it. It took several quick puffs, but he finally got it. And, I am not sure about Vietnamese culture, but I think being air-bonded means we're married? So, you can send any wedding gifts to my mom's house. I could do with some Tupperware. Joking aside, I was astounded at how quickly I trusted this man. The nature of trust, then, may be an openness and readiness to explore parts of your self, parts you've hidden from others, and even parts you didn't know existed. I must approach new situations, new people with readiness to learn as much about myself as I learn about them.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

So, you only hate the road when you're missing home

Wah wah skittlesnacks. It has been a minute. The above lyrics are from the Passenger song, 'Let Her Go.' And, in the past, I have listened to this song with self-pity and a tub of ice cream. However, it wasn't until recently that I really *heard* the song.

I walked past three guys jamming with their acoustic guitars right outside my hostel in Laos. My friend and I sat down to listen to them and just take in the night. Then, they started playing Let Her Go and asked us to sing with them. I looked up the lyrics and started to get into it. As the chorus came, these words caught in my throat and I faltered. I couldn't really continue.

And, here's the rub. I've never not missed home. I have been homesick more than not over the past four years. And, now I am so close to it; I can practically taste the cheese. This long way home has shown me that I don't hate the road. I love it. I love being in new places. I love exploring. I love being able to find my way around with nothing but the sun...and a pretty solid GPS. But, there is something special about talking to my mom and saying, 'Okay, I love you. I will see you in a couple weeks.'

For anyone who's not lived abroad, 'see' can mean anything from skype to emails to letters, but it rarely means actually see with my own eyeballs. But, really, I will see my mom in, like, twenty four days. I will hold my niece and head butt my sister in seventeen. I will hug my dad in sixteen.

And, so I have been challenging myself to 'Let Her Go.' By this I mean, let go of myself. Let go of my fears. Let go of my hopes. Let go of things like past and future. I have the rest of my life to sort out all of that. I hold the present with open fingertips, allowing it to flow through them like sand, appreciating it for what it is and not trying to hold on.

And, in that, I will know that I love fully because I am truly letting go.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

So, boys will be boys is bullshit

So, this morning, I decided to go for a run. I donned my shoes, picked my music, and started to run. Up ahead, I saw a Lao man and a foreign woman talking. She walked away. He leaped from the stairs on which he sat and started full on sprinting after her. I rounded the bend and saw the woman on the ground, scraped up yelling, "Are you crazy?"

I asked, "Did you just push that woman? Why did you do that?"

He then turned to the men sitting and watching this episode and said something with utter contempt.

I asked again,"What did you do?"

He waved me off and walked back to the hotel where he works (Mountain View Riverside Boutique Hotel).

The woman got up and we walked towards the town center and stopped at a restaurant I frequented so she could wash her hands. She told me, "Yesterday, I went to his hotel to find a room. He said it was 100,000 kip [13.50 USD] per night. I said that was a little too expensive for me, and I asked him if there was somewhere cheaper. He freaked out on me and just started yelling. Me and my friend were scared, so we said we will write a bad review on trip advisor. He called us bitches, and we left. Then, just now, he called to me and said, 'I remember you, bitch.' I said, 'I remember you, too. I can still write a review, and walked away. And, then I was on the ground."

I asked her if she wanted to go to the police, and she said that she didn't because they weren't  going to do anything about it.

And, that, that is the bullshit for which I refuse to stand. This boys will be boys and men will be men mentality. Violence is not, should not, cannot be gendered. Boys will be what we teach them. If we teach them misogyny, then they will be misogynists. If we teach them kindness, care, compassion, they will be kind, caring, and compassionate. I refuse to allow the boys will be boys rhetoric in my life. Even in children, if boys will be boys by pulling little girls' hair, teach them to not pull hair. If boys will be boys means young men coming in from sports covered head to toe in mud, well, I guess I didn't earn the nickname 'Mudbucket' by having a penis. Children will be children. Kids will be kids. Boys do not have to be what boys were. They do not have to adhere to the ideas that violence is the only acceptable way for men to show emotion. And, lesbiehonest, masculinity is not a singularly male trait. It is a frame of mind. It is a way of expressing oneself regardless of gender, gender identity, or even biology.

I have known too many men (and humans along the spectrum) who would be appalled by this crass generalization of what it means to be a man. My friend Sean is one of the most gentle people I know and is unapologetically a feminist. Ben has come into every conversation about gender with strong opinions but the most open mind possible. Boot has the most patience I have ever experienced in a human being ever. These, these men are the standards by which I judge what it means to be a man. These men and so many others in my life show me that there is a way to be 'both comma and' to be both a man, and be a feminist/humanist/womanist. If we expect our young men to be respectful of others, if we expect our young men to see young women as equals, then, then our boys will be boys who value the humans in their lives. Our boys will be boys who are conscious of the world around them. Our boys will be boys who recognize their privilege and use it to balance the playing field. Our boys will be the boys we want them to be.

At breakfast, even now as I write this, a foreign man is playing peek-a-boo with a little Lao girl, patiently, gently, whole heartedly enjoying this moment he's sharing cross cultural, cross age, cross gender boundaries. And, it is a very beautiful thing.

Monday, February 29, 2016

So, it seems fitting

So, it seems fitting that I am riding backwards on the train from Busan to Seoul. At first, when I sat down, I was nervous about how my tummy has gotten really motion sensitive in my old age. But, after I realised I was being silly, I settled into my luxurious window seat next to a man in a sweater vest. I put on some acoustic jams and started looking. And, when you go forward on the train, you have a feeling of arrival, "I've got my big girl pants on. I am going places and doing stuff!!" But, going backwards has a distinct feeling of departure. Things stay in my line of vision until they disappear. I watched my city, my home slip out of my vision to The Weepies, silently replacing the high rises with rambling hills and a snow capped mountainscape.

It seems fitting that I am wearing my big girl pants. I AM going places and doing stuff. I'm wearing an outfit and personality completely different from the dress and curls clad woman who came to Korea not four years ago. I grew up here. I acquired a taste for dapper ties and snap backs, dry red wine and meaningful conversations. It is best when all four of those things happened at the same time!

It seems fitting that all of my possessions are either in a box or in a back pack. My clothes and books are in transit, much like myself. Moving from place to place, check points and safely landing on my mother's doorstep. My immediate possessions (including the game time addition of Rainbow Bunny) rest in a back pack looking down on me from the luggage rack. The world will be my classroom. Literal geography class moving country to country. Quick math for currency and science conversion. The science of people, culture, oceans, and mountains. History is everywhere. I am the student. I feel like a kindergartner on my first day of school. Kinda ready, kinda scared. Hoping that people like me and don't make fun of my polka dot and stripe overall shorts.

It seems fitting that this post seems a bit unfinished. It isn't my usual first-second-third-fourth-finally published draft of thoughts carefully crafted to note exactly how I want the world to perceive my emotions. I wrote this in one shot on the train. I arrive in ten minutes and I am not ready to finish this post. I am not ready to say goodbye to the people I've met here. I am not ready to live in a place without mountains and oceans. I am not ready.

Or maybe I am. Maybe I am ready, just scared. Just happy. Just sad. Just excited. Maybe I am all of these things. And, maybe, just maybe, that is okay.

Friday, January 22, 2016

So, I drank three cups of tea

I have a lot of feelings about this world, many of which focus on how we're heading towards hell in a stylish yet affordable hand basket. But, that's not what this is about.

My time in Taiwan thus far has been filled with some great surprises, including but not limited to amazing tour guides through the national museum and stinky tofu (thanks M and K). As traveling often goes, there have been some hitches. I have found myself in a foreign country with no access to my funds and a cell phone which doesn't charge with the immediacy I am used to. While both of these are solveable and definitely first world problems, they are frustrating nonetheless. Don't worry, Mom. I will be alright.

So, despite the steady showers, I decided to rent a bike and lose myself in foreign scenery and thoughts. As showers shifted toward downpours, I sought refuge under a tent with loads of furniture seemingly abandoned. Bonus: there was a puppy sitting on the table. So, Jericho and I sat watching the rain for a while.  I was thinking about all the small things (not the song but actual small things) that have been great in this past week.

Then, an older man pulled his bike up and told Jericho to get off the table in a string of syllables (suspicion: Jericho is perhaps not the dogs actual name). The man dried off the table at which I was having my belly button time*, then brought out a huge thermos.

Using no words, he motioned towards the thermos, pointed at me, and mimed drinking. I nodded and he pulled a cup out of nowhere and poured some tea for me. He settled into a wicker chair and had some belly button time, himself. That, that was when I started writing this, furiously penning it into a pocket notebook (in other news furious writing = cursive, I guess. I was surprised, as well). Anyway, I finished my tea and moved to a different spot on the table, so I could write more easily. Before I sat down, though, he snatched a towel and dried the seat and table to make sure my paper didn't get wet. He poured me a new cup of tea and gestured a "continue working" motion, so I listened. He settled down behind me, watching me, watching the rain, watching Jericho-not-Jericho.

And this, this is what I have been thinking this whole writing time: is this my language now? I have been slowly losing my English as I have lived abroad. I am not nearly as bombastic as I once was. I am not even close to sufficient in Korean to make up my language deficit. But, as I embark on a two month journey to all sorts of places, I'm learning a new language: one of kindness, universal gestures, yes, no, drink, friend. It is beautiful and humbling. I put so much effort into verbal communication--saying things exactly right (and often miffed when others do not follow suit). My voice is now a set of movement, a dance with intricate steps.

In that moment, I tried to choreograph the perfect way to express my sincere gratitude for the tea. So, I drew him a picture. It was in the classic Botsford style of stick figures and no sense of proportion whatsoever. I gave it to him, and he looked flabbergasted. He just kept looking at it and smiling. He put it in his pocket and then took it out again to laugh. He poured me a final cup of tea, and we sat and watched the rain fall content in our belly button company.

*Belly Button Time is a Botsfordism which means you take time to stare at your belly button and contemplate the complexities of the universe.

Note: I will update with photos as soon as I can access them.