Making Wishes

Yesterday I was working on a REALLY long, intense, detailed job application for a position at an organization that I deeply respect and would love to support.

The position had my name all over it. It was perfect. I’ve been wanting to work with or for this organization for a couple of years now and seeing the job posting made me think, “This is it. This is the moment.”

But… I’d been working on putting my application packet together for two days and I wasn’t any closer to finishing it. I was frustrated and annoyed and kept finding ways to procrastinate actually doing the work. And the worst part was, I wasn’t even procrastinating in productive ways. My overabundant garden delivered another 5 quarts of cucumbers, gallon of yellow squash, bushel of onions, trough of beets, bucket of hot peppers and a few boats worth of Zucchini. Not to mention the tomatoes, the apples, the beans, the cabbage, the edible wildflowers…

But I wasn’t processing any of that for storage, I was dinking around on facebook and twitter. I wasn’t finishing any of the 5 promised posts that are currently waiting to go up in this space. I was just moping and delaying and feeling guilty about it. I was spiraling and I couldn’t figure out why.

I called my mom. (Yes, even 35-year-olds sometimes need to call their mom and kvetch.) She gave me the “Honey, the universe is on your side, you just have to decide what you want from it.” speech – which, okay great, but how does that help me NOW? (Yes, I was feeling petulant.)

So, I cornered my hubby (Sorry hubby.) and vented (exploded) at him.

I listed all of the things I felt like I needed to be doing and all of the things I wanted to be doing and asked how in the world I was supposed to make any of it happen.

I lamented the amount of time this application was taking, because I had OTHER SHIT I needed/wanted to do with my time. (Which was why I was on facebook and twitter instead of busting out the application… Can you say “self-sabotage”?)

We talked about what I REALLY wanted and, finally lightning struck.

I wasn’t finishing the application because… I didn’t want the job.

Yes, it’s a great organization, and yes, I want to support them, but when I picture my life 5 years from now, I am not hustling money from behind a desk – I am dancing in a kitchen and sharing awesome food with incredible people. (Incredible food with awesome people?) and getting paid to read (edit) and write books.


To the point of this post, now that you all have the back story.

I’d like to make a couple of wishes, and I’m asking out loud because maybe some of you can help me make them come true.

I wish that sometime in the next three months I’d get hired to cook a fabulous brunch feast for a group of wonderful people who enjoy good food.

I wish that I’d get hired at least once a month to create custom, exotic regional and international feasts for small groups of travel minded people who are missing a taste of their favorite place. (Or homesick transplants who are missing the flavor of home.)

I wish that I would finish designing and printing my jam labels so they look professional and gorgeous when I sell them to my Colorado folk. (I still need to check into the legality of selling them across state lines because they are made in my home kitchen for now.)

Jams and jellies by Kitchen Bravada

Stay tuned, more flavors are on the way!

I wish that I would give myself the time and space to get back to food blogging once a week, or at least once a month for goodness sake. (Hey, maybe if some of you follow me over there it’ll help encourage that!)

I wish that sometime in the next 6 months one of my out-of-state friends would hire me to cook for one of their events. (Hint, the cooking is free if you cover the airfare and let me crash on your couch while I’m there!)

I wish that one year from now I have enough die-hard clients and supportive friends that when I announce my kickstarter to get either a food truck or a commercial kitchen to expand my offerings it succeeds.

I wish to get hired by some new to home gardening urbanites to help them process and store their harvest bounty before the snows come.

And next year, I hope to get hired to consult some urban gardeners as they get started so that I can keep them from making the same mistakes I’ve made.

In the meantime, I wish to have enough editing clients to keep me in books. :)

In short, I wish to make enough money doing what I love and sharing it with the world that I can keep doing what I love and sharing it with the world.

(And for the record, I wish the same for all of you.)

Last, I wish that anyone who thinks that youth deserve access to comprehensive, inclusive, evidence based sexual health education please stop by Colorado Youth Matter and donate what you can. They’re a great organization and they work really hard to help the youth of Colorado get this vital need met, and since I won’t be working for them after all, this ask is the least I can do.

And now, I’m heading back to the kitchen, using Feminist Frequency as my soundtrack.

I’ve got a whole heap of summer veggies to store for the winter.

harvest time

One Week’s Harvest.


Filed under Business, Marketing, Naive idealism, Things that work

Teaching the wrong lesson – Scary Man Syndrome

Last night I got a disturbing email from my school district. It warned parents of a “safety incident” and attempted to put us all on high alert.

Apparently a student was walking home (in the rain, it is worth noting) and someone in a car pulled alongside and offered her a ride. She did what all kids who have been taught stranger danger are told to do – she said no, and then went back to the school and reported the incident. The school *of course* called the police.

The police are now increasing patrols. The district sent out this email to alert all district parents of this safety incident – the email includes a description of the driver – a white male – and his car. The description was thorough enough that I imagine people in the nearby area have probably identified this person.

scary man syndrome

It’s a MAN!

Here’s why this email concerns me.

It sends the wrong message, it teaches the wrong lesson – it criminalizes the actions of a man without any due process. It assumes the worst of intents from this man and broadcasts that assumption out to his entire community. It perpetuates “Scary Man Syndrome” and we REALLY don’t need anymore of that.

Here’s what I imagine happened – some guy saw a drenched kid trudging home in the rain and thought, “Gee, that sucks. If I was that kid I’d be wishing for a ride. Hey, wait a minute – I have a dry car, I could offer her a lift.”

offering help

Wet, sad, maybe this kid needs a lift?

He probably didn’t think past that. He probably didn’t think, “stranger danger!” because he knows he’s not a dangerous guy.

When the girl said, “No thanks, I’m okay.” (Or, alternately screamed in his face and ran away – the email isn’t really clear on this.) he pulled away and went home.

The email certainly doesn’t imply that he continued following her, harassing her or that he stopped and got out of his car or tried to force her into it in any way.

It sounds like a nice guy tried to help a kid, was told no, and left.

And then… His entire community was put on high alert and given a description of him as a possible safety threat.

He was tried and convicted of being male in public without due process or the benefit of the doubt. His community has been told that he is guilty without any presumption of innocence.

And this happens to men ALL. THE. TIME.

And that is a HUGE problem.

Now – I know, I have previously talked about how threatened women can feel moving through public space, and I’ve talked in-depth about the idea of Schrödinger’s Rapist and why it is not unreasonable for a woman to be cautious and wary of males. And so perhaps you are wondering why this bothers me so much. After all, didn’t I once say that all men are potential rapists?

Here’s the thing – No. I didn’t. I said that on an individual, personal level, I understand and respect caution.

To me, the idea of Schrödinger’s Rapist is not so much something that tells me to be scared of all men always – and treat them as criminals – but a way of explaining to men who are upset when I (or another woman) am standoffish in certain circumstances (ie, when I feel unsafe or threatened), why that might be, and perhaps even ways to approach those situations differently if they don’t want to trigger a fearful reaction. (Want to offer me help late at night? Start by respecting my personal space – don’t corner me, grab me, or shout at me. Those are not reassuring actions. If I say no thanks, respect it and carry on with your life.)

Stranger danger is the child’s version of Schrödinger’s rapist – it is a way of advising personal caution, it should NOT be used to pre-emptively criminalize all men.

I think it was wise of this girl to say no to getting a ride from a stranger – it is what I have taught my children to do. It is what most of us teach our children to do. We don’t get in cars with strangers. (Unless they are taxi drivers.)

I think this girl was justified in telling a trusted adult about the incident. Again, this is what we tell children to do.

The child did not fail. The adults did.

The adults were wrong to warn the entire community about the risk posed by this man without first investigating to see if there really was a risk.

Just as I would be wrong to treat every male as a potential threat by calling the police every time an unknown male spoke to me, said hello or offered to help me with something, or by posting a photo or description of the man and warning people to watch out for this guy who is going around offering to help women change their tires, or is offering them the use of his phone when their battery has died, or is approaching women and giving them directions to the restaurant where they are supposed to be meeting their friends, etc.

By sending out this email, what the district did was not warn parents of a potential safety threat, what they did was tell all parents, “Don’t help kids. You will be assumed to be guilty of child-endangerment and we will turn your community against you.”

They took the idea of “stranger danger” and acted as if it was true – as if all strangers ARE dangerous. As if all strangers, especially male strangers, ARE a threat – and the community must be alerted.

That is a message that we all too often send, especially about men. And to men.

BUT – NOT ALL MEN ARE DANGEROUS. Not all strangers are dangerous. AND there WILL come a time in every child’s life, in every person’s life, when they will NEED to rely on a stranger for help.

What we need to be teaching isn’t blanket fear – but reasonable caution.

We can’t do that when we post a warning about a “safety incident” every time a man tries to help someone.

My husband and I sat our kids down after we processed this email and talked to them.

We asked them what they would do if they were walking home in the rain and someone they did not know offered them a ride.

“We’d say no thanks, and that our house was close and keep walking.”

“What if it was a woman?”

“I still wouldn’t get in the car. Women can be kidnappers too.”

“Would you call the police?”

“No. Why would you do that? They were probably just being nice, but I know not to get in a car with a stranger.”

“What if they followed you and kept asking?”

We talked about how, if they were more than a block from our house, or were feeling really threatened, the best thing to do was to turn into the next drive way they saw and act as if it was their house, and that they could go as far as ringing the bell or knocking on the door and asking to use the phone.

Read that again – the advice we gave our kids if they felt threatened by a stranger was to GO TO A STRANGER’S HOUSE AND ASK FOR HELP.

We did not say, “But if a man answers the door, run away again.” We said, “Ask the next available stranger for help. Period.”

Because MOST PEOPLE are not dangerous, and if you really are being threatened, you need to take that leap of faith and GET HELP.

The other day some kids showed up on my doorstep and asked to use my phone to call their mom, who was running late getting home from work.

Of course I invited them in, handed them my phone, listened and made sure that everything was okay, mom was on the way, and then made sure they felt safe waiting at their house for her.

That is the most likely scenario if my kids ever need help from someone – that they will get it. I need my children to know that, and trust that because life is uncertain and sometimes shit happens. Sometimes we need help, and a stranger is the only person around to ask.

A couple of years ago my husband was driving home and saw a group of boys surrounding another boy, who was crying. He pulled over, got out of his truck, walked over slowly and asked from a few feet away, “Is everything okay here?”

“Our friend is hurt! He can’t breathe!” One of them said.

“Do you need help?” my hubby asked.


He walked over, helped the kids, made sure the injured boy didn’t need medical attention, helped him get up and made sure that the group had a safe house and an adult to go to while the injured boy caught his breath and recovered. He made sure the boy was mobile enough to get there and that his friends were helping him and then he came home.

What the district’s email told my husband is that his actions in that moment should be viewed as threatening and dangerous – that those boys should have been scared and should have reported my husband.

That is a terrible message to send – to my husband, who is a good person and likes helping people, and to kids who might someday need to trust a stranger in order to get help.

Treating all men as dangerous criminals is a terrible policy and it degrades the community by eroding trust and expanding fear.

Yes, some men – and women – are bad people, but most of them are not. And we need to empower the “good guys” to take action and be helpers when they see people in trouble, not punish them for trying to help or make them too afraid to offer.

look for the helpers

Strangers can be helpers too.

So, how could the district have handled this differently?

First – listen to the child. Get the description of the car and the driver. Get enough details from the girl to ascertain whether there is a reason to suspect this person poses a threat. Again – did he listen when she said, “No thanks”? If he did – he’s probably not a threat. Notify HER parents, and carry on. If he continued to follow her, harass her or got out of his vehicle and tried to grab her – his threat level just went up exponentially. Call the police.

Then it is up to the police to use her description, locate the driver, interview the driver and determine whether he is a genuine threat to anyone’s safety, or just a clueless guy trying too hard to be helpful. He might need to be educated about “no means no, even from a child you are trying to help.”

Only if there was an ACTUAL, GENUINE threat should everyone in the district have been notified to be on the lookout for this man and his car.

I remember an older man back in Oregon who loved to give candy to other people’s kids. He hung out at our grocery store and would walk up to kids and give them candy from his pocket.

The first time he tried to do that with my daughter I told him no thanks because she was too young for candy. He thanked me for being so polite and confided in me that so many parents these days got upset with him and that some had even called security.

I asked him, as gently as I could, if he knew why. He was truly, honestly baffled.

I explained the new fears of stranger danger and men with candy, and how his actions might be perceived as threatening or dangerous. He was shocked. And hurt. He was just a nice, lonely old man who lived in a nursing home and liked making kids smile.

“Next time, try asking the parent first – before you talk to their child. See if it helps.”

The next time I saw him, he shook my hand and said that he had much more luck, and that even though most parents still wouldn’t let him give their kids candy, they at least let him say hello and talk to them for a minute. That was all he had really wanted. He just didn’t know how to navigate the new standards of behavior.

I remember another story from a man who drove past a girl who looked distressed on the side of the road. It was raining and there was a small flash-flood. He thought about stopping to offer her a ride, but he was scared to do so because he was alone and he knew how that would look – single guy picking up a young girl in his car – so he kept driving.

The next day the front page of the local newspaper had a picture of the girl. She had slipped, fallen down an embankment and drowned in the swollen ditch at the bottom.

He has never forgiven himself for not offering her a ride. But his fear of OUR fear prevented him from offering her the help that would have saved her life.

This is the consequence of demonizing all men, or criminalizing all men, or teaching fear of all men.

When we slap men with the predator label and treat them as if they are guilty until they prove their innocence, we create a box that we can’t see through, trapping men in our negative assumptions of them. We cloak them in our worst first thinking and they never have an opportunity to prove us wrong.

If a guy trying to help a child get home safely is labeled a threat without due process, what hope is there for all the many, many men who are trying to be helpers?



Filed under Naive idealism, Of Course I'm a Feminist

Pregnancy is not risk free, stop treating it like it is.

If you are too young, too immature or not mentally or emotionally competent to choose an abortion – you are too young, too immature, and not mentally or emotionally competent to endure 9 months of pregnancy and childbirth.

38 states in this country have some level of parental notification laws for minors seeking an abortion. Some of those states require full dual-parent consent. Some only require that a parent or legal guardian be notified.

parental notification laws abortion

How many hoops must a pregnant teen jump through to NOT have a baby?

There are plenty of articles out there that talk about why this is a TERRIBLE policy and the many ways in which this harms youth and further sends the message to female bodied people that they do not own their bodies or have the right to make their own choices about what happens to it.

I’m not going to re-hash all of that. You are all intelligent people, you can follow the links or do your own research into those issues.

What I want to address is the idea presented in this whole parental notification, parental consent, judicial bypass discussion that abortion is inherently risky (thus the need for parental involvement) and pregnancy is a cake walk.

It turns out that, especially in the first trimester (when 89-92% of all abortions take place) abortion is SAFER as in LESS RISKY than pregnancy.

Pregnancy, even a completely normal, healthy, ideal pregnancy comes with lasting consequences.

I mean, first – it produces a child. A living child that needs things from the moment it takes its first breath. Infants are demanding, needy little creatures. And – not everyone is ready for that. I would argue that a person who is deemed incompetent to make their own reproductive choices is inherently incompetent to deal with a live child.

Now, I know, that person could put the infant up for adoption – problem solved, right?

Except… No.

Because before that moment, there were 9 months of pregnancy. 9 months where a zygote grew into an embryo, grew into a fetus and began to move, kick, squiggle and during which the pregnant person was asked to take extra good care of themselves “for the baby.” The zygote goes from being an idea, a possibility, to being an actual real fetus that is clearly alive. As this process happens, the pregnant person’s body is FLOODED with “attachment hormones” that encourage us to bond with, nurture and take care of the little purple alien that is feeding off our body. Even people who act as surrogates and deliberately and directly get pregnant for the sake of delivering someone else’s child report some feelings of loss when they relinquish the baby, imagine then if you were less sure of that choice, or if you felt you had been bullied into making it.

If you were deemed not competent to choose to end (or keep) a pregnancy, how can you possibly be competent to decide what to do with a live baby 9 months later?

If a pregnancy goes to term, and everything goes well physically, it ends in child birth.

Even in an ideal scenario, childbirth is not a joke. And it is not something that anyone should be forced to endure against their will.

To tell a young person that they are too immature to NOT HAVE A BABY and that therefore they must undergo 9 months of pregnancy and childbirth is ridiculous and cruel.

And that’s assuming that the pregnancy goes well, that the youth has parental support during their pregnancy (Which, if they can’t talk to their parents about it without being forced to by law they probably don’t and now we have an abused or homeless pregnant teen. Yatta?) and that the birth goes smoothly and they have insurance to cover the $4 – $45,000 that childbirth costs in this country and they were able to make an informed and supported choice about whether to put the child up for adoption or keep it and raise it themselves…

NONE of that is easy.

None of that is easy for an adult, who actively chose to get pregnant in order to parent a child and has the support of a partner and their own parents and their community – things that many pregnant teens do not have.

Even in perfect circumstances, pregnancy is hard. Childbirth is hard. Parenting is ridiculously hard.

Now imagine doing all of that against your will and without any sort of safety net.

Because for a teen, the chances of everything going well and being any sort of “cakewalk” are slim to none for many, many reasons.

First – you’re in high school, or junior high. (Yes, this happens.) And you’re pregnant.

How do you think your peers are going to treat you? Your teachers? Your community?

In some states/districts pregnant teens are forced out of school – leading to again, increased rates of homelessness, poverty, etc. Pregnant teens are often slut shamed (because only sluts get pregnant, right?) Even teens who are not forced out of school by district policy are often bullied out of school or drop out for other pregnancy related reasons. Being pregnant in school is really, really hard.

And… Since we’re talking about teens who don’t feel safe talking to their parents – well, you can only hide a pregnancy for so long and then, you sort of have to talk to your parents about it, because you become the elephant in the room.

In families where there is a history of abuse, an unplanned pregnancy will often provoke more violence. In some families a youth who becomes pregnant will not be supported and will be thrown out of the house to fend for themselves.

There are many possible negative consequences to requiring teens to discuss their pregnancy with their parents. Youth know their families. Yes, in a perfect world all youth would be safe talking to their parents about life, the universe and everything. But we don’t live in a perfect world, we live in this one. And large swaths of this world are fucked. In some houses it is not safe for youth to talk to their parents about these topics and forcing them to do so puts them at risk.

Now that just briefly touches on the social consequences of forcing a teen to keep a pregnancy.

But we aren’t done yet.

Because pregnancy comes with some serious physical risks as well.

Possible physical side effects of pregnancy include anemia, gestational diabetes, hyper tension, preeclampsia, placental abruption, miscarriage – which comes with its own set of additional possible complications and risks…

Some of these physical risks are mild, like nausea. Others carry a significant risk of death.

Only the pregnant person in consultation with their doctor can determine what risks are acceptable when deciding whether to proceed with a pregnancy or not.

So when someone says that a youth is too immature to decide to NOT HAVE A BABY and must thus face all of these potential risks in order to maintain and keep a pregnancy they did not plan for and do not want… I feel compelled to call bullshit.

Youth are not required to notify their parents or guardians of a decision to keep a pregnancy and try for a live birth (and I say “try for” because no pregnancy is guaranteed a positive outcome.) despite the much larger potential risks, including the risk of death. So why should they be required to notify their parents of their decision to not remain pregnant?

And… We’re still not done, because pregnancy also comes with some heavy emotional risks.

There is the very real, though not very talked about risk of post-partum depression. Something that is finally being studied more as people realize that it has real, lasting consequences.

There is an elevated risk of depression during pregnancy as well, and this risk is increased in teens – see the above social ramifications of teen pregnancy for a hint as to why that might be. Add in a heaping dose of body image confusion and raging hormones and you start to see why this might be problematic.

If the youth has a successful pregnancy and produces a live baby there is still the “raise it” or “give it up for adoption” choice to be made. Adoption is not an emotionally easy choice. Then again, neither is parenting.

If we really wanted to “save the children” from themselves, and looked honestly at the risks and rewards of having an abortion vs carrying an unplanned pregnancy to term, the math says teens would need parental notification or judicial bypass to try for a live birth. They would have to prove they had the necessary support in place to be successful and that they could handle the potential physical, social and emotional consequences of pregnancy and childbirth. (Or pregnancy and loss, because again, not all pregnancies end in birth – and that loss comes with its own physical, social and emotional risks.)

Pregnancy is far more dangerous than abortion.

So, when we talk about parental notification laws, let’s stop pretending it’s about protecting the pregnant youth and start acknowledging that these laws are designed to put up barriers to abortion access. Let’s admit that they are not about helping children make the best choice for themselves, but about forcing them to maintain a pregnancy and produce a live child.

Just like the many laws being passed that put up barriers to abortion access for adults in this country.

Last – for the record, I do not think that abortion is the correct choice for every pregnant teen (or adult). This piece probably sounds like I think all pregnant teens should be forced to have an abortion – I don’t. I simply think that teens who have made that choice should be respected. They know their life and their dreams and their options better than anyone, they know if it is safe to talk to a parent, they know how to find other safe adults to consult with, and they know what is in their own best interest when it comes to whether or not they are ready to face 9 months of pregnancy, child-birth and whatever comes after.

Some teens have the support they need to successfully face pregnancy and have a child. Some don’t. Just like some adults are ready/able to have a child and some are not.

It is not my place, your place, or anyone else’s place to make those choices for them.

This post was really just to say that keeping a pregnancy should not be the default expectation, it is not always in the best interest of the pregnant person and regardless of your views on the life, humanity and value of a fetus – the actual living, breathing person’s rights come first. Period.


Filed under Of Course I'm a Feminist, Rant

A quick idea for the fiction writers out there

I’ve got rants brewing.

In the meantime, I am still trying to practice peace & positivity and in that light I wanted to share an idea I had a couple of years ago because… I think it’s a good one and could help writers get paid for their work, as we should.

This idea is really for the fiction writers out there, though I supposed it could be adapted to other artistic mediums.

The basis for the idea comes from Hollywood movie funding.

See, when you watch any movie you’re really paying to watch a 2 hour advertisement. The producers of the movie sell product placement, tweak scripts to get characters to name drop brands, eat certain foods, wear certain clothes, drive certain cars, etc. and those marketing dollars help seed the production budget for the film.

I think it is time for fiction writers to start doing something similar.

I know, many of us already have enough work to do just getting the book written, and finding an agent or publisher – or doing all the layout, design, etc. ourselves and self-publishing. And then we have to market the thing, and create a fan base on social media to interact with and…

It just seems like we should be getting paid for all that work.

Product placement could be the answer.

I know it won’t work for every book, or every story, or every genre every time – but…

I can’t stop thinking about a certain drinking partner of mine with a writing problem. He’s published, he sells well, his character drinks. He could totally sell product placement rights and have his character drink a specific tequila or whiskey.

Do you care if I get paid to tell you what brand of tequila this is?

Do you care if I get paid to tell you what brand this tequila is?

I keep thinking about my novel, freshly dusted off, and some of the places where I don’t care what brand of car, gun, etc. is used, and I’d be happy to fill in the blank mad-lib style if someone cared enough to bribe me with money.

There’s a part of my artist’s heart that thinks this is corrupt and terrible – but then I think about how little our culture tends to value artists, and I think about how capitalism works, and I think about wanting to feed my family from my art – and… So I have my character drive a Chevy instead of a Toyota, or smoke one brand of cloves instead of another, or get sick on Mad Dog instead of Mike’s Hard Lemonade the first time she gets drunk…

As for working the deals – for those with agents, perhaps this is something agents would like to offer their clients, after all, agents take a percentage of profits, so that would be in their best interests, clearly.

For the un-agented authors out there, yes, it’s more work. And I don’t even know if it’s possible to get this type of sponsorship until you’re published, but who knows – maybe some local businesses would like to see their names immortalized.

I have another writer friend who publishes locally based novels, I could totally see him selling word count to some local hot spots to drive traffic.

My daughters and I are in LOVE with F.T. Bradley’s Double Vision series and want to take Double Vision Paris and Washington DC tours. We’ve been begging the author to get her publisher to create some Link Baker tourism maps of those towns for fans. I think the publisher could probably get them paid for by the places they will highlight. They will drive real traffic, and thus real dollars.

Anyway, that’s my positive action thought of the day for writers and artists.

Do with it as you please.

And readers – chime in, would it cheapen a book if you knew the author had been paid to include specific products in place of generic items?


Filed under Marketing, Things that work

Some Thoughts on Ferguson and Race in America


It seems there are two types of people in America right now – those who know that what is happening in Ferguson, MO is fecking awful and has EVERYTHING to do with race relations in America, and those who think that some *ahem, black* 18 year olds “deserve” to be executed on the street for jaywalking. (Please remember that EVERYTHING else about Michael Brown – the alleged robbery, the potential marijuana in the bloodstream, etc. ALL of that came out after the teen was dead on the street and NONE of it was known or even suspected by the officer who shot and killed an unarmed youth. In fact, none of it is KNOWN now, these are still just allegations from a police department desperately trying to cover its own ass.)

This ties in to the promised – and not yet delivered – posts on gun culture in America, the need to reform the “justice” system and the “correctional” system in America – starting with addressing racial disparity in judicial outcomes and demilitarizing our police forces…

But in the meantime, while I take care of myself for a few days and collect my thoughts and try not to get swallowed by the GRRRRRR… A friend of mine, Jessica McDonald, wrote this and I think it’s worth a read. (Note, emphasis was added by me, as was the link at the bottom to a site for people who want to support Mike Brown’s family or offer aid or support to the people of Ferguson, MO.)

I know my regular readers are awesome and thoughtful commenters. If you’re new here, play nice in my sandbox – you are free to disagree, we like intelligent conversation that challenges our assumptions. However, asshats, trolls and rude people will be nuked. I have no tolerance right now for that kind of shenanigan.

A Quick Word About Mike Brown, Ferguson & Race in America:

By Jessica McDonald

I haven’t said much about Mike Brown and Ferguson. Partially because I just haven’t been online much, and partially because I have had a hard time collecting my thoughts. But I’ve been watching, and reading, and the things I’ve seen and read have made me by turns enraged, ashamed, shocked, and so depressed I want to crawl in a hole.

I’ve heard people say things like, “I wouldn’t want to be a cop in the inner-city.” I’ve heard people call the victim a thug, and all but flat-out say he deserved to be killed. I’ve heard these things from otherwise intelligent and progressive people. It leaves me reeling and deeply misanthropic.

I don’t care if he stole cigars. I don’t care if he lipped off at the cop. It doesn’t matter. IT. DOESN’T. MATTER. He was 18-years-old, and nothing he did warranted being shot. Consider for a moment that the Aurora theater shooter–who KILLED twelve people, injured 70, and rigged his apartment with the intention of harming both civilians and officers–is alive to stand trial. Police took him down without killing him, without roughing him up afterward, without beating him. Consider that this is common when a shooter is white–if they end up dead, most of the time it’s by their own hand.

Consider also we live in a country that instituted a media blackout in Ferguson, that barricaded the city, that has officers removing their IDs and badges so that they can’t be identified. Consider that the United States has now been condemned by Amnesty International. Consider that if this were happening in another country, we’d call it a gross violation of freedom and democracy.

Consider that there are only two real positions here. Either you think the police were justified, in which case, if you’re arguing there was no racial angle, you have to believe that lethal force is a tenable solution to teenage stupidity, or you don’t. If you honestly believe the police are justified in all of their actions since August 9th, consider what that says about the kind of country you’d like America to be. Consider that we have fought *wars* to prevent that kind of behavior abroad.

Consider also that if you are white, you will never experience this world the way people of color do. That’s not an attack; it’s the truth. An uncomfortable truth, maybe, but that doesn’t change its nature.

So when I say that it doesn’t matter what Mike Brown did or did not do, those are my reasons why. He wasn’t an isolated victim. We have a problem with race in this country that festers beneath the surface, because we Americans have never been good at facing the ugly side of our culture and history. This is the outcome of that willful ignorance. It’s dead teenagers in the street and people blaming the victims for their own deaths. It has to stop. We, as a country, have to stop pretending that everyone is equal, that everyone is treated the same, that privilege doesn’t exist and that somehow racism just disappeared with the election of Barack Obama.

Stop and *listen* to the people who deal with this every day. Consider what you would do if the tables were turned. Consider *why* you are so eager to place the blame on the victim, why the issue of race makes you so uncomfortable, why you are so willing to relegate an entire group of your fellow citizens to a second-class life.

It doesn’t matter what Mike Brown did.

It matters how we respond to his death.


Filed under Rant

Retreating toward happiness

It’s been a fuck of a summer.

Globally, locally, domestically, it’s been – well, let’s just say the last few days I’ve cranked up my tunes, hid in the garden and kitchen and “fiddled while ‘Rome’ burned.”

lindsey sterling elements

Lindsey Sterling knows.

It seemed like the right thing to do. Or, rather, it seemed like the only thing I could do if I wanted to live and remain even close to sane.

I’ve checked in on the world here and there – twitter, news programs online and on the radio… And, the  world is still burning.

It was seriously bumming me out and making me a not so good mom or wife or friend or person… So I did a little experiment, I stopped caring for a couple of days. Not all the way, because, well, I’m me and not caring isn’t really how I roll, but I took a few GIANT steps back and took some time to breathe and take care of myself and… I stumbled into happiness.

See, it turns out that most of what I was all worked up about was stuff I couldn’t change, stuff so far away and so big and so not about me that all I could do was watch and wring my hands and rage in vain. Nothing I did, no action I took, no petition I signed, no march I joined was going to push the needle even a little.

Some things really are outside of our control and getting all worked up about them doesn’t help anyone. And it really, really doesn’t help us.

*Waves and winks at my friend who is reading this and nodding and thinking, “I told you so.” VERY loudly. Hi Mike.*


Rule #1.

Anyway, today I celebrated the first day of school by taking the dorkalope for a hike and going to the library and getting some books to help me sort out how to preserve my summer garden bounty. Those of you who follow me on twitter or facebook have seen the daily harvest pictures. It’s, um, a lot.

harvest time

One Week’s Harvest.

Tomorrow I’ve got big plans to heat up the kitchen and turn a few hours of sweat into months of great eating.

And… I’m breathing again. It’s a nice feeling.

The world is still spinning, and the people who can help in places like Ferguson, Gaza, Ukraine, Iraq, and everywhere else that is on fucking fire right now – they’re there, they’re doing what they can. And yeah, there are some assholes who are making it harder than it needs to be, and who might just fuck everything up irreparably, but me getting angry about it won’t change that.

A couple of months ago it all came to a head for me when I read an article about the roads in Yellowstone National Park melting from the geothermal heat. There was speculation that it was a sign that the super-volcano under the park was getting ready to blow. There was further speculation that if it happened, we were looking at an extinction level event.

My first thought was, “That could be a good thing.”

So you know, I was in a dark place. My brain traveled down all the other non-man-made ways that we might all go out – and while this sounds like a morbid and depressing exercise, I’m not normal, and so for me it was actually kind of empowering and uplifting because it brought me back around to that Buddhist truth of impermanence.

I don’t know when, or how, or by what means – but I do know that some day we will all be gone. Not just everyone alive today, but people.

Yes, we could all kill ourselves with global warming, or nuclear war, or a million other stupid, preventable, dumb fuck things. Or, Yellowstone could erupt.

In the end, it won’t matter.

In the end – all we have is RIGHT NOW.

And I was wasting it. I was wasting my right now by being angry and frustrated with things I couldn’t change.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not giving up on the world entirely. There are LOTS of things that I CAN make a difference in.

Tomorrow I can spend *another* day in the garden and the kitchen preserving 10 pounds of yellow squash, 10 pounds of cucumbers, 2 pounds of beans, 5 pounds of zucchini, a metric shit ton of tomatoes, etc. and make sure that my family has awesome food (and low grocery bills) all winter long!

good eats

Good food = love.

On Wednesday I can go down to the local sexual & reproductive health center and help them with their “Get out the word” campaign to make sure that people in my area know of this awesome place and the incredible services they offer. So that’s rad – and doable – and helpful.

I can keep working on my governor and state to regulate fracking and work on separating the organization that is tasked with promoting oil and gas development from the organization tasked with regulating the industry…

I can work to make sure that all students in my district receive age appropriate sexual health education, as required by Colorado law.

I can make sure that people know that Colorado’s Amendment 67 is a horrible, horrible idea and to vote against it in November, at the same time they vote against Cory Gardner for Senator (He’s been my district’s representative since I moved here, so I am not saying this based on ads or political BS, but on actual interactions with him and based on his voting record on issues I care about.)

I can work every day to make my life, my family, my neighborhood, my town, my school district, my state a little better.

And… I can get back to that novel I finished 2 years ago and finally finish those revisions, and work on some picture books I’ve been talking about for ages, and tell stories that open hearts and minds and create more room for more people to find their path to happiness.

But it starts with remembering to breathe. Remembering to take care of myself. Remembering to tickle my kids and kiss my one in particular every chance I get. It starts with walking the dorkalope so he stops eating my damn shoes. It starts with turning off the news, and disconnecting from the rage filled people on twitter – not that there isn’t plenty to be outraged about, it’s just that… It’s too easy to get caught up in the GRRRR and forget to check in with the things that make us smile.

And at the end of the day, if I’m just another rage-bot – I’m not helping the problem, I’m adding to it.

What if tomorrow we all woke up and acted as if it was our last day on earth? What would we do differently? I know I would spend more time hugging and laughing and saying thank you – and a whole lot less time being mad at people.

What if tomorrow we all woke up and practiced compassion and forgiveness. Cut off in traffic? Maybe that person really does have somewhere more important to be… Someone is rude to you? Maybe they’re having a shitty day too… We can’t know where other people are coming from, so what if for one day, we tried giving them the benefit of the doubt first.

What if, for one day, we only saw the good in the world…

I know it seems like the world is burning, and some of us are in places where we can help put those fires out, but for the rest of us, maybe the best thing we can do is stop adding fuel to the fires, maybe the best thing we can do is practice peace.

My peace is in the garden, in the tipi, in the kitchen, and in the stories that are sighing impatiently in the back of my mind, waiting for me to stop raging and start listening…


Filed under Naive idealism, Rant

Challenging the Roots of Violence

Just a quickie before I dash out the door -

I’m on my way to an interview that has me thinking about violence – a lot. (Again.)

So often in our society we react to violence – we pick up the pieces, we console the victims, we incarcerate the perpetrators. But we rarely talk about or implement policy, or take action to really address the root causes of violence – to actually work to bring the number of violent crimes down.

When I think about the conversations I’ve had on this topic, so often I’m told that there are just violent people in the world, there’s nothing I, or anyone else, can do. This is why so often the onus for prevention falls to the victims themselves. Or why we are told that if we are scared we should get a gun so we can escalate the violence in our favor

But, while I was getting ready for this interview I was thinking about what I understand are the root causes of most violence – a desire for control coupled with a fear of loss of that control. (Read that advice about getting a gun in order to escalate violence in your favor again – it is driven by a desire to control the situation and a fear of what will happen if control is lost.)

That’s a really simplified break down, clearly – but if you look at most conflicts – that’s what it boils down to. Hamas vs Israel – both want control of land and the people in it – both fear the loss of that control, and the subsequent loss of their people.

My kids arguing in the backyard – both of them want control over the same swing, both fear that losing control will mean they won’t get to do their trick before I call them in for dinner.

Then I think back to my childhood. During my early childhood my dad has some serious anger management issues. He had what you might call an explosive temper – most often taken out on toys, pillows and the occasional wall. We spent tax season tiptoeing on eggshells. We learned to feel the energy in the air and tiptoe away when it started getting volatile.

One day my dad crossed the line, he got physical with my sister. It scared her more than it hurt her, but my mom drew a hard-line in the sand – he had exactly zero seconds to figure his shit out or she was done. If he couldn’t learn to control and/or express his anger in healthier ways he would NEVER see her or us again.

You kinda don’t want to fuck with my mom.

But here’s the thing – it worked. My dad realized that he was letting his anger win, and that by doing so he was risking losing the people he cared most about.

He took a long walk, and he got his shit together.

He learned to sense when he was getting “hot” and to take a step back, to go for a walk, to go for a bike ride, to go work in the garden… He also learned that sometimes the best thing to do with his anger was to point and laugh, to see the crazy humorous side of whatever was making him mad. He learned that it was okay to cry. There was no shame in that.

I have some things in common with my dad. I feel my anger in a very physical, visceral way. My blood rages, my vision clouds, my ears thrum with static, my breath catches, my fists clench…

I too had to learn more productive ways of managing those feelings that seemed too strong for my body to contain.

Yes, I’m making Hulk analogies because they are apt.

Like the Hulk, my dad and I – and many people like us – have the ability to go full rage machine, and to do real damage in the process.

But, like Bruce Banner, we spent time away with our anger and our emotions and we learned how to feel them coming, we learned how to sense when our triggers were being pulled, we learned how to blow off steam in healthier ways than with fists or knives or guns – or even explosively hurtful words (most of the time).

We had help doing this. My dad had my mom, who after informing him of the consequences of his actions, stood by him while he learned new ways to process and express his emotions. I had both my mom and my dad who helped by validating my emotions while steering me toward non-destructive, or at least non-harmful outlets. (Destroying bubble wrap, balloons and other things that make good loud noises can be super cathartic while also being non-harmful. Sometimes we “need” to squeeze/hit/scream – there are healthy ways to do that.)

I think about the violent criminals who are in jail right now – and yes, some of them are psychotic, sociopathic, sadistic individuals – but many more, I think, just didn’t know how to handle what they were feeling in that critical moment.

I think if we want to prevent violence, instead of just cleaning up the pieces after someone loses it, we need to start by teaching kids how to name and express their emotions. I know that a lot of this work is being done in some schools, many of the preschools my daughters went to worked on this sort of thing. But it needs to continue beyond pre-school and keep going through high school.

I was at a training this past week for Askable Adults, the last segment of the training came from two groups working to stop teen dating violence. They had some really powerful educational tools that helped break down what violence looks like, what the warning signs are and what the triggers are, so that victims and potential victims could identify if they were in a harmful or potentially harmful relationship and create a safety plan to get out – but that still leaves the onus of prevention on the victim.

Those same tools could be used to educate perpetrators and potential perpetrators – people at high risk of becoming violent. They could start a conversation about that need to control, and those fears of what will happen if they lose control. They could lead into great conversations about alternatives to violence, ways of calming that rush of RED HOT energy that starts pumping through you.

I know that education won’t reach all people, I know that some people have genuine psychological and mental disorders that genuinely make them resistant to non-violence. But I truly believe that there are far more people out there like my dad who just need to be taught better, healthier, safer ways of managing those crazy strong emotions. And I think if we can reach people when they are young, and teach them early and give them opportunities to practice, we’d see a whole lot less people “losing it” and hurting people they love. I got lucky, I learned these skills in my youth, I still consciously practice them today.

I think too often we write off violent offenders as “monsters” or paint them as hopeless. We lock them up, but we don’t ever really help them address what caused their violence. Then, a few years down the road, we let them out and… somehow we’re surprised when they bounce right back into the system. But the system hasn’t given them any tools for change. Our prison system isn’t about rehabilitation, it’s about punishment – doing your time to pay for your crime.

I listened to this news piece on NPR this morning about a liberal and a Republican coming together in Alabama to reform the prison system and reduce the prison population. The Republican Senator Cam Ward mentioned that many of the prisoners in Alabama have mental illnesses and drug addiction going in to the system, and that prison is not set up to address those issues, so when those people are released, those underlying issues are still there and, as he says, the public is no safer than before.

I would say that reforming our justice system to address mental illness, drug addiction, poverty, lack of education and other underlying causes of crime would do wonders not just to lower prison populations, but to make society stronger. As part of this, every prison should have a violence prevention and education program to address those root causes of violence and teach real alternatives.

But then again, I’m a naive idealist. I really do think that most people want to be “good” people, most people don’t want to hurt others – but there’s that fear and that feeling of being out of control and needing control, of something, anything. And too often violence feels like control, even if only for that second.

I think we can change that conversation though. I’ve seen it work. I’ve lived that change. I know it’s possible. I’m hoping to begin working toward creating that change on a larger scale. I’d love it if some of you wanted to join that conversation.


Filed under Naive idealism, Rant