Death in the News

October 2, 2015 § Leave a comment

I am angry today. I’m not sad, or frustrated. I am hopping mad.
Uber conservatives think they hold the patent to “our country,” and we let them. “Take back our country,” “make our country great again,” “get out of my country.” These are all sayings you expect to hear at a Trump rally.
But you know what, assholes? This is MY country. This country that was founded on the principles of sticking a big old middle finger up at the establishment. This band of flawed forward thinkers, who knew enough to know that they didn’t know everything. Who made their Constitution malleable in case our society evolved in ways they could never imagine.
This is MY country, home of Ellis Island, Harriet Tubman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, FDR. Home of “We the People,” and “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to break free.” Home of Medicare and Obamacare, and Gloria Steinem and Alan Ginsberg and Queen Beyoncé Knowles.
I am liberal because I care about people. I care about making our country greater and more inclusive than ever before. As Malcolm Gladwell says, by casting a wider net and giving opportunity to more people, we can only benefit.
So screw you paranoid establishment, afraid of upsetting the status quo. People die every day because our status quo sucks. I will see you at the polls next year and I am sick and tired of being “understanding.”
And if you don’t like it? Get out of my country.

That Day, and Today

September 11, 2015 § 1 Comment

This morning I woke up in Madison, WI in the bed I share with my husband, and as I am wont to do first thing, reached over and  picked up my iPhone. I pulled up Facebook and immediately thought, “Oh. It’s today.”

Before we moved out here, Mr. B and I lived with my parents for a few weeks while we waited out the interim between move out/move in dates. As part of our thank you, we started digitizing the boxes of old tapes they had sitting in their living room and garage. Home movies were mixed with shows and music videos and specials taped off tv in the days before TiVo (DirectTV for those who don’t remember TiVo). One tape was simply marked “9-11-01” and I had always been curious about it but hadn’t wanted to put myself through watching it in case it was what I thought, that my mom had had the forethought to record the news that day.

She hadn’t; of course she hadn’t. She had seen the news, called her husband who told her he could see the smoke from the Pentagon down the street but he was ok and trying to make his way home, and then she did what all our parents did that day if they could: she immediately left to gather her children, to have them close and hug them and feel that they were alive.

It was a 6 month anniversary special, aired in March of 2002. In my mind, 2001 and 2002 are so many gulfs apart I had completely forgotten that in March of 2002, it had only been six months.  The special did what it could given the emotional proximity of the event, but what really struck me was the local news afterward. They discussed how well Maryland was doing leading up to the Final Four, and the exciting possibility of facing Duke for the ACC championships. They switched topics, and began the next with, “And as it looks like the War in Afghanistan is drawing to a close…” And I sat down.

We didn’t know.

We didn’t know the War in Afghanistan was going to drag on so long it would become our longest war in American history. We didn’t know our wars would create so much chaos.

We didn’t know that later that year we would be terrified by the randomness of the DC sniper’s three week reign of terror. We didn’t know that Columbine was only the beginning, or that mass shootings would eventually become so common that friends in casual conversation might say, “we were talking about… what shooting just happened?”

We didn’t know that Maryland was going to beat Duke in the championships, or that Maryland students would riot in the streets of downtown College Park, burning couches and causing havoc in their exaltation.  I didn’t know that those 2002 riots would be a constant topic of controversy and conversation while I was at school. I didn’t know I would go to UMD, or how my college experience would change me. I didn’t know that my future husband was in the same high school hallways as me on 9/11, or that in fourteen years we would live in Wisconsin and I would be finishing my second week of grad school, feeling strangely that for the first time since that day I forgot it was 9/11.

In those first days and weeks and months there was so much we didn’t know. And so much now, that we can’t know about what could have been or what will be. We didn’t know, before 9/11, just how tenuous our place in the world was. I didn’t, anyway. I didn’t know how worlds can change and fall and never look the same again. I was fourteen.

This year is a strange one for me. I couldn’t have told you in January where I would be now, and I am feeling the tenuousness and randomness of this life more than usual in my anxiety-addled heart. I am mourning things lost, and inspired by things to come. I am having trouble living in the moment.

But today, forgetting the gravity of the day and then remembering, has been an important reminder for me to live in the moment, even if that moment is strange and uncomfortable. Be in the moment knowing, not that it could be your last, but that we can’t know what comes next.

And that simply is what it is. Life in the day-to-day makes life in the long run.

Packing Memories, Pre-Move

July 29, 2015 § Leave a comment

As we prepare for our impending move halfway across the country, we are trying to pare down and consolidate all the things we have acquired over the course of our combined 6 decades of life. This includes getting rid of hardback books that we also bought in kindle edition, returning all the things we(I)’ve borrowed over the years, and opening boxes we never opened since our last move and sifting through to see if the contents still match the people we are today. Tonight I am putting any and all remaining CDs into one book, and I came across two that I apparently never took out of their outer wrapping.
I held the two jewel cases in awe, not missing the irony in that I had listened to High Fidelity on in the background as I packed for the last few hours. As I instinctively slid my nail under the sticker I expected to feel nostalgia for days gone by, remnants of a teenager who no longer exists…
But f*#%cking jewel cases are just as shitty to open as they ever were. Ten minutes and semi-permanent stickiness under my nails to throw away a crappy jewel case that isn’t even recyclable. Goodbye forever 90s era crap see you never.

Why I Incessantly Post Socio-Political Articles on Facebook

July 13, 2015 § Leave a comment

Once again I turn to my poor underfed blog because my facebook post was getting too long. This morning a friend posted this:

Coming from a childhood where “The War of Northern Aggression” was used in History class and we were all taught to revere Lee as a local hero, I find it fascinating how this war continues to be fought, 150 years later.

I have made my own Lee apologist comment in recent years but it’s really hard to stand by them any longer. Staunton has a R E. Lee school, my Boy Scout council was named after Stonewall Jackson, and I was taught in 7th grade that the war was about economics, not slavery.

Fellow Stuarts Draft/Staunton/Waynesboro folks: How have you thoughts changed/stayed the same over the years?

http://nyti.ms/1QSPlnG

And it got me thinking. On my wall, not many white friends are posting openly about racism in our country, at least from the it’s-here-and-it’s-wrong perspective (the other kind usually get a quick boot from me and then I don’t see them anymore). Of those that do, most of them, like me, are Southern transplants.

My family moved around a lot when I was a kid, but we didn’t leave the South until I was 12. I too was taught that the Civil War was an economic war, and that the North was the aggressor, and that slavery had almost nothing to do with it and we don’t talk about that nasty little business anyway.  To this day I instinctively bristle when I hear the name General Sherman. We moved to California in 1998, where I experienced intense culture shock alongside the influx of hormones that is entering teenagehood, and those feelings stuck with me. I learned how people outside the South viewed Southerners, and I learned the culture of subtlty, systematic overarching rules for society (and close-the-door-so-we-can-talk-about-it) was a uniquely Southern phenomenon. We then moved to the mid-Atlantic, which is another totally different part of the country in a totally different way. All of a sudden I was surrounded by peers who were into politics and social change, and who, living so close to DC, could see clear paths to do so in the future.

I have never considered myself a racist person, but I wasn’t always part of the solution. When I was a kid in Georgia and kids in the neighborhood would parrot their parents racist jokes, I would laugh even though I never understood why they were supposed to be funny. (Years later my husband, upon meeting my entire extended family for the first time, was told a string of racist jokes and unflinchingly looked them in the eye and said “I don’t get it.” Later, when he told me about it, I had to explain to him that he didn’t get it because he is not racist. I was so proud of him for not going along with it just to make nice, as I had repeatedly done growing up.) In middle school, one of my very best (and only) friends ultimately left school in favor of homeschooling in part from the isolation and derision she experienced as a Pacific Islander in a white/black world. I sympathized with her, but being an object of derision myself, I never stood up to her tormenters.

When we moved to California, I was so nervous on my first day of school that I threw up at lunch and had to go home.  I was on edge for my entire first semester, partially because my Georgia accent was an object of much interest and intrigue (kids would surround me and say, “say it again! SAY IT AGAIN!!” and scream when I repeated whatever drawling word I had just used), and partially because race relations were so different in California. Two best friends, Sheree and Rashida, one white with long blonde hair and blue eyes, one black with short dark hair and brown eyes, often joked that they were twins and could be mistaken for one another. It legitimately shook me to my core, because I was so afraid that someone would get upset that they were not only publicly discussing the fact that they were different, but reveling in it. Race is different in California, because the history is different. The culture is also much less rigid than my previous experiences in Georgia. I relaxed some, and started to open up more about my feelings and viewpoints. Some time later I had a friend visit me, and though usually a very talkative girl, she shut up in public places. When I asked her what was going on she said, “I don’t want anyone to hear my Southern accent and think I’m stupid.”

In college I met more people and expanded my mind and viewpoints more. I took an African American History class in my junior year that once more rocked me to my core. Even though I had lived out of the South for almost as long as I lived in it, it was the first time I was forced to face my Southern whiteness and all of the history behind it. From then on, I saw the world differently. I saw the things that people said differently.

Now I work in entertainment, which has such potential for good that it often does not live up to. I feel it is safe to say shows like Will & Grace and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy opened up the entire country to the rapid change in opinion on DOMA and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. But we still have this racial divide, this North/South divide. Non-Southerners think Southerners are stupid, and racist, and ignorant. Southerners are defensive, and fall back on old social mores and refuse to talk about it. Nothing gets done.

So I post articles. I post things that change my mind now, and may have changed my mind then. I post things that I learn from my friends who make it their lives to study this American situation, and from those who simply live it. I try to think of myself before my eyes were opened, and what may have brought me to these conclusions sooner.  I talk about it for all the years I thought I wasn’t allowed to talk about it. When I’m teased for being an intense liberal I get mad, because this should not be a liberal/conservative issue. It’s a human issue. So I just keep trying, because it worked for me.  And I feel that camaraderie with my fellow Southern expats, because they are the only people who really understand. I will be a Southerner in my heart forever, which is why I want to change the hearts and minds of my friends and family in the South, and the North, and everywhere.

It’s an old war with old, old, old hurts. The time for ignoring it is over; it’s time to talk about it and heal together.

Guest Post: Roomie A

February 8, 2015 § Leave a comment

In an effort to keep me going, and to stop writing half ranty posts that embarrass me too much to publish, my darling roomie has written a guest post for this blog. From now on she’ll be Roomie A, since Mr. B and I now have three roommates, because DC is expensive. So without further ado, Roomie A:
—–

I am almost 30 years old and I have no idea how to date. It’s not for lack of trying, though by that I definitively do not mean that I’ve never dated anyone. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. In the 10 years following my very first date ever, I had six long-term relationships. The collective time that I spent single during that decade was 18 months. The shortest period of time I’ve ever been single between LTRs was 12 hours. Yeah. That’s a thing that happened.

So I have a really good therapist.

I say that in jest because all I want in life is to make people laugh, but it’s also true. I developed an extremely unhealthy approach to dating relationships very early in life, and it’s taken pretty intense therapy to kick me of the habit. Without getting into the psycho-babble of why this happened, suffice it to say that my M.O. was to integrate myself into every aspect of my SigO’s life as immediately and completely as I could, spending as much time with them as humanly possible (and as they would allow), to the point that usually within a month or two, I was practically living at their house/they were staying at mine.

Don’t worry, I would warn them that this was going to happen. I wasn’t unaware that it was my thing. I just didn’t see anything wrong with it.

Well there was a lot wrong with it, starting with the fact that immediately and completely integrating yourself into someone else’s life often means giving up important aspects of your own person in order to make your life fit into theirs. This became such an integral part of my dating process that I ended up sacrificing more and more of my individuality and independence with each relationship, until finally by the last one, there wasn’t much left of me that was actually me. Or at least I didn’t know where I stopped and my SigO’s influences took over. I literally had no idea what my life looked like if I wasn’t building it around the man I was dating.

Once I discovered this, I did what every self-respecting 27 year old does – I freaked the fuck out, turned into kind of a selfish asshole for a while, and ruined one relationship and at least one friendship in my quest for self-reliance and independent maturity and self-awareness.

Fast forward two years… and I’m a lot better! I know myself far more intimately. I have my own independent life. I’m aware of my destructive habits and am working on identifying when I’m falling into old traps so that I can make better decisions. It’s pretty great. I like it.

And I finally got to a place where I felt comfortable getting back out into the dating world. The first two guys that I dated post-quarter life crisis fizzled out pretty quickly and never really settled into proper relationships. But then about six weeks ago I met M. (On the Interwebz, no less!) And he’s great. We really clicked and things are going really well so far. And almost more importantly, things are going really NORMALLY so far.

And I’ll be damned if I’m not completely floundering sometimes. I don’t know how normal adult-world dating works! B and I were discussing it during roomie time recently, and I reminded her that the old me would be practically living with the guy at this point. New me has wayyy too much going on to commit to that kind of chicanery. Plus, you know… it’s only been six weeks. We started out pretty slowly, I think. One date a week. Some texting in between. Maybe a phone call. In the past few weeks, things have picked up some. Some weeks we have two dates. Phone calls are more frequent. We’re slowly starting to meet each other’s friends.

I know that this is fairly standard. But still, sometimes I just sit and wonder, “Is this just how it goes?” Do we keep seeing each other once or twice a week until we either get engaged or break up? Is there a ‘ramp it up’ timetable? If we’re not seeing each other every day (because I’m being normal and not insinuating myself into his living situation), how does communication end up working? Is there a phone call expectation or protocol? FOR SERIOUS, GUYS. HOW DOES DATING WORK?

And then of course, I know the answer. The answer is that there is no answer. Or alternately, that there are as many answers as there are people in this universe. There is no “right” way to date. There’s just the way to date that makes you healthy and happy.

BUT THAT’S NOT REALLY HELPFUL RIGHT NOW.

Fortunately, the past few years have taught me the supreme importance of communication (in all things, not just in my relationships), so when I have questions about how things are or should be proceeding with M, I just ask him.

But I’m an adult. I feel like I should have a better grasp of this by now.

Sick day

January 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

Everyone in the house is sick, Mr. B and roomie have colds and I am lady-sick. I have elected to walk to 7-11 because it’s supposed to be good for me or something. A phone call.

Him: Hello?
Me: I’m just thinking ahead here… How mad at me would you be if I asked you to pick me up from 7-11?
Him: What?
Me: I’m still in the neighborhood… But I’m thinking about the walk back.
Him: But you’re on an adventure! [Note: He is quoting me here. I deserved that.]
Me: …
Him: If you’re still in the neighborhood why don’t you just turn around and get in your car?
Me: I want to walk!
Him: …
Me: So you’re not going to pick me up, then.
Him: I’m having a really hard time feeling bad for you. You’re on a walk that you volunteered for, and you haven’t even left the neighborhood, and you’re falling apart.
Me: And I put on too many layers. I’m hot.
Him: …Good talk, coach. See you out there.

You win this round, Mr. B.

Let’s talk about Pinterest for a second

December 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

And I feel I should start with the admission that I was a total Pinterest Bride, until the day that I really, really, wasn’t. Like, I was completely and utterly obsessed with the site until the day, about halfway through wedding planning, that I couldn’t even think about the P-word without having a mini panic attack because it was JUST TOO MUCH.

So I deleted Pinterest from my life, had a beautiful non-bloggable wedding, and went about my business.

But now I’m back. And I’m so obsessed. But in that comforting, “I can put this silliness down any time I like (because I know I’ll be back)” way. It’s like a soap opera: you can always feel confident in putting it down for awhile because you know when you pick it back up again you won’t have missed anything important but it will still be just as good.

So, I love this website because it’s full of hope and optimism and can-do spirit. “What Recession? I CAN MAKE ANYTHING!”

But I HATE this website because it belittles the value of craftsmanship. I am so over seeing phrases like, “some things on this site are for sale but can be copied,” and “how to make [specific brand]’s [specific product] at home SO EASY!” and “how to make a couture dress THREE SIMPLE STEPS THEY DON’T TELL YOU!”

Websites like Pinterest (and a general loss of knowledge on what it costs to buy a garment that wasn’t made by workers earning $150/mo or less.. but that’s a whooole other blog post) are the reason people come to the studio and are outraged at how much it costs to make a “simple” gown. People think “I could do that, why do I have to pay you so much to do it?”

Well the answer is A) let’s be real; you probably couldn’t do that, and B) even if you could, you are paying me to spend my time saving you time and that’s the whole point.

But back to Pinterest. The post that gave me the rage to write this blog is entitled “making a vintage (couture) dress from scratch.” And the link takes you to a blog that links to a museum collection website that is giving away a free dress pattern inspired by a vintage 1950s ready-to-wear look. Which is wonderful, don’t get me wrong, because everyone should know basic sewing skills, but it is not couture. And it is not actual vintage. And this extremely misleading post will be shared and reshared until we get a client who is SO SURE they want vintage couture when what they want is Pinterest. Like how “rustic” so quickly came to mean “just hot glue burlap to something, what’s the point of an interior decorator?”

People can’t pick out, and therefore don’t respect, true craftsmanship. And I find that very sad.

But I still love Pinterest, so I try to take the ignorant posts, and the posts that are surely destined for one of those ironic #nailedit hashtags, with a grain of salt and let the experts in where I’m over my head. Because I’m only as crafty as my sewing skills will take me; I draw the line at mason jars and empty pallets.