Going home

On my way home from work the other day, my mind began to wander back to Texas. We’ve been lucky enough to get a few visits from family since we moved out West, which has done a lot to lessen my homesickness. Since I’m not a big phone person, I never call like I ‘should’ although I do try to send letters and cards. Mostly, I just feel guilty and think about them a lot.

I wasn’t in a great mood that day, anyway. At a red light, I fished my iPod out of my bag and started a new shuffle for some distraction from my thoughts and shitty work day. What I got instead was a mix that made me miss my people even more.

Houston – Dean Martin

I had no idea this song was even in my collection. I got a killer deal on Dino’s Greatest Hits on Amazon a few years ago, and while iTunes wants to play That’s Amore every fifth song, I’d never heard this one before.

Lonestar – Norah Jones

This feeling I’m trying to fight/It’s dark and I think that I would/Give anything/For you to shine down on me

Cowboy Rides Away – George Strait

These days I listen to everything more than I listen to country, but as a kid that’s all I’d want to hear. My big sister loves country music, and George Strait is one of our shared favorites. My first love will always be Garth Brooks, but for emotionally charged honky tonk slow dance jams, you can’t beat King George. (Desperately, anyone?)

Just a Ride – Jem

I love Jem, and I love this song. Don’t forget, enjoy the ride – indeed. Needless to say, I rolled into the driveway with a smile on my face.

Note:
In the spirit of full disclosure, the last song that played on my drive was Jay-Z’s 99 Problems. A great song that isn’t really relevent here, although I did just read a great legal analysis of that song [pdf] by an associate professor at Southwestern Law School, who is probably a lot of fun at dinner parties. I love it when seemingly important and busy professional people take time out of their lives for this kind of silliness.

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Fight for the right

This is going to be about another sort of independence, one I’ve been thinking about a lot the last few weeks. We’ve been slow at work, leaving plenty of time for me to sit, think and worry. Sick of stressing out about the future, I starting mulling over my past. Turns out, I’ve come a long way, baby.

I grew up poor, and as my siblings and I got older, our situation drastically improved. We were never well off or even lower-middle class, but we had food and a roof, and lots of little tricks to keep it all together.

A few months before graduating high school, my mother sat me down with an ultimatum: stay at home and get help with college, or move out and you’re on your own. Considering I was 17 years old and knew everything about everything (excuse me while I wipe up my tears of laughter) I decided to move in with my boyfriend and his sister in their trailer and be A Grown Up Person. Three months later, I left him and got my own apartment. It was a 525 sq. ft. studio – one big giant room with a teeny little kitchen, a joke of a bathroom and a walk-in closet. I was thrilled.

Keeping that apartment meant busting my ass at work. I was a payday loan office manager, making just over $7 an hour. Most weeks I clocked over 60 hours at that awful place, and still barely managed rent, nevermind food and other bills. I was 18 years old and scared to death of failing before I’d even left the gate.  I was on week two of eating only canned vegetables and soy sauce when my dad came down for a surprise visit. A few minutes after he arrived, having spent six hours in the car, he got right back in it and drove me to the grocery store. I was so concerned about how much it cost, he practically did the shopping for me. Rotisserie chicken never tasted so good.

I learned a lot that year. I learned how to talk to the credit card companies, so a few missed payments wouldn’t impact my credit. I learned how to make friends with the right people, so a late rent check would be “unnoticed” and car repairs were free. 99% of my furniture was used, given to me as a gift. Especially, I learned about sacrifice, doing without, and how to be humble.

One month near the end of my lease, I had no money.  It was summertime in Texas, my electricity bill was through the roof and I was broke. Literally, I was deciding between tampons or toilet paper, and there was zilch left over for rent. I had just been let go from my job and unemployment hardly covered my credit card payment, my parakeet needed seed and I felt I had nobody to turn to for help. My sympathetic landlord referred me to a Christian charity that ran a thrift store down the street and granted assistance on a case-by-case basis.

I met with a kindly older woman who shook my hand, quietly listened and then handed me a check for $600 dollars, no strings attached. I made it all the way to the sidewalk before I burst into tears. Yeah, I learned a lot about being a Grown Up Person, and my overly large britches shrunk accordingly. I had plenty of other hard times between 19 and 25, but that first year on my own seemed like the toughest by far.

These days, things are better. I never did make it to college, but I’m married to a man who is starting back to University in the fall. I live in a pretty nice place and together we make enough to get by with a little extra for a night out from time to time. I am very grateful.

Had I stayed home, I would have had it hard in other ways, but I would not have gained as much real world experience, and I believe my outlook on life would be completely different. I am proud to be (to quote my husband) ‘a strong independent woman of means’ but no matter how high I climb, I will always remember my father loading cans of soup into my pantry, and the understanding eyes looking back at me as I poured out my life story, overdue bills and overdrawn bank statements.

My independence is one of my proudest accomplishments, but I didn’t win it on my own. To the woman at the charity, the guy at Auto Zone, the manager of that little complex and, particularly, to my parents: Thank you for setting me free.

Yoga is good

We signed me up for the gym a few days ago, and I swore to myself I’d do the yoga group class on Sunday. I have been tentatively looking forward to it, sort of in the way you look forward to going to the dentist and fixing your toothache. I didn’t buy any new outfits or do anything special, but I was trying something new. I haven’t stepped outside my comfort zone  in a long time. I was so determined to do it right, I filled the water pitcher and the hot water pot before bed. I even started this post Saturday night, knowing I’d be unable to face the shame of deleting the draft if I chickened out. Preparedness is key.

My husband extols the virtues of working out in the mornings. His reasoning is, if you do it first thing, you won’t feel bad about spending the rest of the day in your underwear, playing video games. I see the wisdom in that, and underwear + video games was my afternoon plan until yoga was actually finished. I felt – and still feel – so good, ready and raring to go. I’d only been home an hour, and I’d already done the dishes, cleaned the bathroom and made myself lunch.

Then, I headed to the neighbors for a few glasses of champagne. Yesterday was definitely worth celebrating. Namaste, folks.

PS: I did the Eagle Pose for the first time and didn’t fall on my face:

From Yoga Cats calendar

It was very affirming.

All in

I’ve been reading a memoir called Half-Assed between appointments over the last few days. It was written by a weight loss blogger I’ve never heard of but she seems very nice. The story itself is light and quick, so it isn’t one you’ll need a quiet room and a fireplace for, but I’m liking it so far.

I got mine for free on Kindle but it doesn’t look like they’re doing that anymore.

I love memoirs. There are so many people I will never meet who live interesting lives and have insightful things to say about themselves. I’m not so crazy about biographies, however  – if I want to read what someone else thinks of another person, I’ll read a tabloid. Other people’s opinions tend to be shaded with unfair bias. Yes, people will see themselves a different way than they truly are (a point the book brings up again and again) but that attitude colors how they interact with others and how they live their lives, and becomes part of the larger story.

Which brings me to my point: I fell in love with this book on page 130, when I read and re-read the following passage…

I convinced myself to tie up my running shoes after I repeated an old saying: You wouldn’t care about what other people think of you if you knew how infrequently they do. In other words, “Everyone else is a self-centered bastard too.”

I never wanted to exercise as a kid because my childhood asthma didn’t let me move the way I wanted to, and being out of breath made me feel self conscious. Rather than run, I read. Rather than join a team, I played alone. Not much has changed over the years, and as I face down 30 I know this sedentary habit needs breaking. My husband, Zeus love ‘im, is so supportive about getting me to work out with him, but he always frames it as, “No one is looking at you, no one cares what you’re wearing/doing/look like”. I know he means well, but that statement is just not true.

I have ears. I hear what gets whispered and giggled over out in public, whether its at the zoo or in a waterpark. I have always been very aware of myself when I am with other people, even those I love and trust. This quality most likely is a result of all the people-watching I’ve done in my life. On the plus side, I never (okay, almost never?) get very drunk in public, but I can also never really relax. Getting sweaty in a huge room full of other sweaty people, in my ugly ass running shoes and ratty ass yoga pants, all of us jiggling away on various machines, is not appealing. I don’t care if hitting the gym five days a week will make me look like a movie star and help me live to 163 years old, I don’t want to. I don’t want to because it makes me uncomfortable, and I don’t like being judged.

People will look, and they do judge, but there’s not much I can do about it. I have within my reach the power to make myself healthier and fitter, and I’ve let what some person might possibly think at some point hold me back for five fucking years! The worst part is, I’ve never thought of it that way until I read that line. It makes so much sense.

“Everyone else is a self-centered bastard too” is my new mantra, and after reading it I picked up my cell phone and told my husband I wanted to join his gym.

We’re going tonight to sign me up. I’ve heard it’s a pretty nice place, and they even have yoga!

Fallen friend

This Memorial Day, I am thinking of Shawn.

KIA October 26, 2009 in Operation: Enduring Freedom. 3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. Afghanistan.

When I think of him, and what he was to me, a flood of old stories sweeps through my head. In my memories, he is as alive (and as full of bullshit and sick jokes) as ever. When I try to verbalize them, my mind fails me and I am unable to find a way to describe him, or capture the essence of this person who is now dead. Every word feels empty, and in the end I have nothing to say. Even now, almost three years later, I am failing. I am speechless.

I am still grieving for him, as I knew him years ago. While he lived, he set the world on fire. As it is now, all I can do is remember.

Self-Love

Happy Love Your Body Day! *

Loving your body doesn’t mean you have to love every minute you’re in your skin – we all have bad days, big zits, water weight or a regrettable hair coloring decisions to contend with. Now and again, we all look like a hot mess on a wet day and there’s nothing we can do about it, no matter what your mother or the commercials say. Entire industries are built on the idea that you’re not enough – not thin enough, muscled enough, manly enough, feminine enough, good enough – for the faceless Them. It’s enough to depress even the most esteemed of individuals.

I had another twelve paragraphs of rambling personal actedotes and encouraging words, but then I stumbled across this:

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, ladies – just because the Miss Universe competition uses these characteristics doesn’t mean we all do. Someone out there loves you, you can be sure of it. [via]

Truer words are rarely spoken, especially on the Internet. Hey, I feel better already.

Perspective is important. In the words of Mary Schmidt: “You are not as fat as you imagine.” But remember, loving yourself entirely is just as, if not more, important than just loving your body. There is so much more to who we are beyond how we look. When others think or speak of you, the size of your heart and the way you treat others will weigh more heavily on their opinions than the size of your ass or the way you walk.

Need some guidance?

See also: The Society Pages: Love Your Body Day

Be free.

* Okay, Love Your Body Day was actually yesterday but I left my post draft on another computer, so here we are. Also, I’d like to take this opportunity to say Happy Birthday, Snoop Dogg! Snoop’s always been a big proponent of being yourself, living confidently and learning from your mistakes.

Baby girl wanna be grown
She got a Facebook page and a cell phone
Her daddy getting money her momma on the go
She moving too fast but she really don’t know
Life is a trip lil mama don’t drink that
They telling you it’s cool baby don’t take that
Cause if you do ain’t no telling
You’s a good girl why you fighting and rebelling
If you keep that up you gonna end up spread
Misled better yet sick in the head
So stop trying to be like them and be yourself
Stop look and see yourself

Sex trafficking: Won’t someone think of the children?!

Jezebel’s (blessedly now employed elsewhere) Irin Carmon asks: Do Anti-Sex Trafficking Ads Really Need To Be This Graphic?

Short answer: Yes, obviously.

Longer answer: For many in America, sex trafficking looks like this:

These two yahoos are behind The DNA Foundation, created to promote awareness and stop child sexual slavery and trafficking, using other celebrities, YouTube and ass kissing media articles to get the word out. You may have seen their PSAs online. Their website is vague and clearly self serving, but gosh is it all so nice and clean, attractive and funny.

DNA claims to be global but the PSAs make it clear this is a wholly American campaign. The “real man” stereotype is popular in US movies and TV shows, the videos are exclusive to YouTube and their “action plan” conducted entirely online.

No real screen time is given to why we’re watching all these well-known American movie stars bumble about for 45 seconds. The uncomfortable conversation of millions of children raped, kidnapped, killed and drugged is never broached. Americans, generally, don’t like actual sex or, to a lesser degree,  violence. Combining the two is a recipe for disapproval and complaint letters, so the otherwise explicit  subject becomes glossy and easily digestible; an unfortunate side effect of our collective delicate sensibilities is that it also becomes easily forgettable, like any other part of the media machine.

We prefer such shiny posturing over the much harder realities of life, so is it any wonder that’s what we get? Is it any wonder why nothing is ever accomplished, why nothing gets done?

No man, real or imaginary, should rape children, regardless of their grasp on the concept of cereal. Women should not only prefer but demand a man who does not engage in sex with prostitutes, especially underage. These are not radical words or ideas, so there is no need to soften their impact with fluff. Bradley Cooper is not realistically standing between a man and his final decision on if he is comfortable buying a child prostitute, so why involve Bradley Cooper at all?

Meanwhile, around the world, governments and non profits are working to show the reality and repercussions of sexual slavery – even on humorous but relevant levels – and America clutches her breast and gasps, “Is this too graphic?!”

No, it is not too graphic. I wish it were possible to make it more graphic. It isn’t easy to talk about, but it’s happening everywhere, and the victims deserve more than half baked gender jokes and a lot of lip service. Real men, and women, are facilitating this violence every day.

I bet some of them even know how to make a sandwich.