Close encounters of the potentially dangerous kind

Or, Don’t Be Stupid While Hiking:

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That, my friends, is a rattlesnake.  We came across him while hiking on Sunday; he was sunning himself on the path and was not particularly inclined to move.  When we became insistent that he let us pass, he answered us with a shake of his rattle (not shown, unfortunately).  But he did grudgingly retreat back into the tall grass on the side of the path, and we got by unbitten.

There have been stories in the news lately about people trying to take selfies with wildlife, including rattlesnakes and bison.  And as someone who lives in an area where we get outdoorsy tourists, let me just say…DON’T FUCKING DO THIS SHIT.

So many people mistakenly think that bison are slow and that rattlesnakes are easily detectable.  Fact is, bison are fast and mean, and they will gore you.  Rattlesnakes can make noise, but are often silent until you’re right on top of them.  I very nearly stepped on the one in the picture – the only reason why I didn’t was because I was keeping an eye on the path so I saw him before he decided I was a threat.

Given the state of our healthcare system, I wouldn’t risk the hospital bills for the sake of a damn photo.

Also, if you come to Colorado, don’t play with prairie dogs.  Yes, we know they’re cute.  But they also carry bubonic plague, and while the chances of getting it are low, if you do, it’s a bitch to treat.

Don’t go above treeline when there’s lightening.  The trick to not getting fried is not being the tallest thing on an open patch of ground at a high elevation.

Watch for falling rocks when driving or hiking or climbing in rocky, mountainous areas.

And stay on the damn path.

Now, let me tell you a story about the time my father-in-law and I nearly got ourselves killed…twice…by doing three of the things I just mentioned.

Continue reading “Close encounters of the potentially dangerous kind”

Close encounters of the potentially awkward kind

Holy shit, y’all – yesterday as I was innocently wandering campus, I saw someone I haven’t seen in years and had no particular desire to ever see again.

In my last post I talked a bit about Love in the Time of Cholera, and how I once had my own personal Florentino – someone who thought he was in love with me but wasn’t, only I managed to get rid of him.  And no, it wasn’t him.  It’s been 3 years since I saw him, and I have no regrets.  But it got me to thinking about people who are no longer in my life, which was a topic in the back of my head…

…and then BAM! – one such person was suddenly right in front of me.

Continue reading “Close encounters of the potentially awkward kind”

Literary cravings

A few weeks ago, completely out of the blue, I absolutely *had* to reread Love in the Time of Cholera, which I no longer had in my possession.  A quick trip to a bookstore remedied that, and it has been reread.  This week, it was Washington Square, which led to Daisy Miller.

These aren’t books I typically reread – the only one I’d read more than once was Daisy Miller, and I’m reasonable certain I haven’t read that one since college.  (Though I did once see a passable movie version.)

My relationship with   Love in the Time of Cholera has definitely changed.  The first time I read it, I loved it, except for once small piece that was really infuriating.  Now that piece infuriates me less, and other parts bother me.  But I understand it differently now, and while there are things in it that are bothersome, I see the points Marquez was making.  I won’t wax poetic or offer in-depth thoughts, but I will say that even though this story takes place in another time period and another culture, I see threads of truth in it from my own life and experiences.

Not to mention that I had my own personal Florentino for years, until I finally shook him off in 2012.  (And I don’t plan to run off with him on a steamboat when I’m in my 6os.)  So rereading it now that I’ve managed to remove that person from my life, and I’m older and a bit more cynical about love and relationships, the story began to sing to me in ways it didn’t the first time.

I see Washington Square in a more feminist way than I had before; same with Daisy Miller, which is how I read it in college, but the years have brought with them a deeper understanding.  There’s a lot more going on in Daisy Miller than I remembered.  Or perhaps I never saw it there the first time; it’s amazing what we miss when we lack life experience, and amazing how some writers are able to create such subtly that you can read the same book over and over and see something new each time.

Same with any art form, really.  Maybe a year or so back, I started listening to early 90s Tori Amos again, and what her early catalog means to me has entirely changed.  It’s interesting, because I remember listening to these songs on repeat all through the early and mid-90s, but by the time I was in college, I had stopped.  I haven’t been drawn into her work that much since Abnormally Attracted to Sin, so I turned back to Little Earthquakes and Under the Pink.  Remembering what that music meant to me as a young teenager who was struggling rather badly emotionally, and here I am now in my mid-thirties, remembering that person…it’s like crawling inside a ghost of yourself.  But I crawled back out again and listened to these albums start to finish, listened to them like it was the first time, and they’re completely different now.  And I love that.

I’m not sure why my brain is suddenly demanding that I turn back to things that, in some cases, I haven’t thought about in years, but I’m following the cravings.  I’m indulging them.  I’m curious to see where they lead.

The questions that writers must ask…and not always answer.

So let’s talk about writing, shall we?

I’ve got a bit of an ambitious project coming up.  I’m coauthoring a novel – possibly more than one – which is best described as supernatural historical fiction.  But with a twist, because we’re very intentionally sinking some sociopolitical commentary into the story.

No matter what you’re writing, all writers must ask questions.  Not all questions need to be answered – in really depends on genre – but they have to be raised.  And the bigger, the better.  Yet when I say that, I don’t mean bigger external questions – I mean, make the internal stakes high.  You can have a successful story with little action of the internal questions and the motivation of the characters are big enough, and are questions that readers can connect to.  You can also very quickly sink an action-oriented story by not having characters who have motives and desires that feel realistic and/or become clear.

The bigger the conflict, the higher the tension, the more interesting the story.  Which means that, as a writer in the early stages of story development, you better be asking some really big questions.

Continue reading “The questions that writers must ask…and not always answer.”

Student debt sucks, but financial aid employees are not the issue

So in case y’all don’t know, I work in higher education.  I initially started out thinking that I wanted to be a professor, then quickly realized that life in the academy was not for me, and crossed over to the dark side – operations & administration.  I’m an analyst.

I read this morning about the Debt Collective – an organization for people with student loan debt to organize and advocate for change – protesting at a NASFAA conference.  NASFAA is the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, otherwise known as underpaid university workers who likely have some college debt themselves.

I support the Debt Collective – as does NASFAA incidentally – I think their protest at the NASFAA conference was misguided.  Here’s why…

Continue reading “Student debt sucks, but financial aid employees are not the issue”

A slight change in tone

I never intended to turn this blog into just a place to rant about Bad Stuff In The World, but that’s the turn I took, because that’s comfortable.  It’s easy to rant about racism and sexism and fat discrimination and all the things that Need Fixing.  It’s a lot harder to get down to any sort of personal  level.

I have paper journals for that, and even they aren’t always straightforward journals.  For years, I’ve buried how I feel in creative writing and bad poetry.  Multiple therapists have tried to make me open up and have failed.  I think when I was learning anger management back in my 20s, I actually learned emotional management and vulnerability management.  It’s control inverted – instead of striking out to try to regain control, I suppress in order to stay in control.

Continue reading “A slight change in tone”

I’m suspicious…

So I have this little carpal tunnel issue, or at least that’s the theory.  It’s some sort of repetitive stress issue.  It started as numbness and tingling in the left hand only, but now usually presents as pain in both wrists, occasionally radiating up the forearms.  Today it’s particularly bad so I wore the braces I normally only wear at home and overnight during the workday.  I probably should wear them more often during the day, so I need to get over not wanting to walk around work with wrist braces on.  It’s possible to type with them on (I’m doing so now) it just takes some getting used to.  And my doctor said that use of my wrist braces could potentially keep it from getting worse.

Usually putting the brace on controls the pain, but today it didn’t.  My right wrist in particular has been a bitch all day.  Maybe that means it’s getting worse, maybe it means I just need to wear the braces more consistently.

But as I deal with this issue, I’m becoming increasingly suspicious.

I can’t write when this happens – my hand cramps up and my wrists ache.  Typing I can do, but I need to take breaks.  I can’t hold a book – I put a pillow on my lap and the book on the pillow.  Same with my smartphone – I have ways of balancing it so that it doesn’t bother my hands.  I mean, think about all the things you do throughout the day that require hands and movements of the wrist.  I have to take the braces off to go to the restroom, and opening the door hurts.  Having this issue is really fucking frustrating.

But I’m thinking of a specific person right now, someone who I feel is a bit on the lazy side, someone who liked to be waited on, someone who always needed to be the center of attention, and who always seemed to be sick or injured or depressed or sad or having some sort of problem for which she wanted help and sympathy.   And one of the big ones was her insistence that she had some sort of RSI issues in her hands and needed to be accommodated because of it.  But I never completely believed her.  She seemed to have no pain when doing activities she enjoyed.  It only flared up when there was work to be done.

Now that I have this myself…I really think I was right.  Because if your pain progresses to the point where typing is impossible, other things which she seems to do with ease and no complaining would be difficult and painful as well.  Looking back now…I think I’m right.  I think she’s a little liar who fakes hand pain for the attention and to get others to do things for her.  I remember how she’d always be asking for help, or for people to come over and just sit with her, because she was so sad and her hands hurt.  It always turned my stomach a bit.  I always felt like she rather enjoyed being sick/injured/sad.

Right now, I’m convinced I was right.  And believe me, this is one time I really didn’t want to be right.  Because she doesn’t just play on people’s sympathy, she also took advantage of disability services, got money and support and bored everyone to death with minute details of her therapy and her progress, and that really pisses me off.  Not the boring everyone part, but the insisting she’s disabled and needs accommodation part.  That’s an insult to everyone who actually does deal with real issues that need accommodation.

If you’ve been sexually assaulted by a family member

 

I watch the keyword searches that lead people to my blog, because I find it amusing.  But today, I saw something that wasn’t at all funny.

One phrase indicated that someone was sexually assaulted by a family member, with another family member participating in or at least being complicit in the assault, and was looking online for help.  Whoever you are, just in case you happen to see this, I want you to know that I believe you, and you’re not alone.  There are people who can help you.  If you  haven’t already, please tell someone – a friend, another family member, a therapist, a trusted coworker.  Please do what you need to do to keep yourself safe.

And please click on this link to go to the RAINN (Rape Abuse & Incest National Network) to read about how their hotline can help you (800-656-HOPE), and find other resources.

I’m so sorry this happened to you.  No matter what you said or did, I want you to know that it wasn’t your fault.  Sexual assault is *never* your fault.  Whoever you are…I’m thinking about you, and hoping that you’re able to find a safe living situation.  I know how incredibly hard it is to talk about, especially when it was a family member who assaulted you, but please don’t keep this to yourself.  You didn’t deserve this.  This is not your fault.

~ Cassandra

Uh oh – Size Acceptance is convincing teenagers that it’s okay not to be thin!

Oh dear.  There’s some public health fat shaming pearl clutching happening…according this study summarized by The Guardian, it seems that Size Acceptance has convinced some a bunch of fat teens that it’s okay to be fat.

It seems that teens are are a “healthy weight” (whatever that means) are less likely to perceive themselves as fat, but a third of fat teenagers perceive themselves as being the right weight.  The Guardian and the study seem to think the first thing is good, but the second thing is bad.

First of all, I find the phrase “rates of size overestimation” appalling.  This study is coming from a position of bias – the researchers have decided what is healthy and what is not, and are measuring teenagers’ self-perceptions against their determination of what these teens should look like.  So already I’m like, nah.  Major researcher bias here.  There’s nothing about the actual overall health of these kids, they were simply weighed, measured, then asked if they think they’re the right weight, too heavy, or too light.

The result of the fact that a third of the teens that this study’s researchers decided were fat indicated that they don’t feel they’re too heavy is a lot of scientific hand-wringing about the fatties who don’t seem to think their size is a problem.  The Guardian states that “eighty-four per cent of those who were of normal weight answered correctly, while 4% of boys and 11% of girls said they were too heavy. But only 53% of boys and 68% of girls who were overweight or obese recognised the fact.”  

Oh dear…only the majority of fatties think they’re too fat.  We want ALL THE FATTIES to think they’re too fat!  Whatever shall we do?

But what really gets me is this lovely quote, from the study itself:  “There is a need to develop methods of improving recognition of overweight and obesity among adolescents that do not cause unnecessary concern over weight in those whose weight is healthy.”

In other words, how to we fat shame and break down the self-esteem these fat teenagers have and make them recognize that they’re fat and unhealthy and make them want to be good fatties who pursue weight loss…but without negatively impacting thin teenagers?

And damn you, Size Acceptance, for helping undermine public health’s mission to narrow fat shaming to people who are actually fat.  Here’s another brilliant quote:

“…mass media coverage of obesity often uses images of severely obese individuals, which could give the impression that medical criteria for overweight and obesity require exceptionally high body weights.” 

While public health campaigns urge people to maintain a healthy weight, “grassroots movements campaign for size acceptance and billion-dollar industries market diet plans and products promising rapid weight loss,” the paper says.

Stupid Size Acceptance, encouraging people to accept their bodies.  Stupid HAES, encouraging people to focus on health instead of weight.

Stupid liberal bloggers, calling out the scientific community’s bullshit biases.

 

Because I looked up this study, and here’s the astounding conclusion in its abstract:

“Overestimation of body weight among normal-weight adolescents is relatively uncommon; potentially a cause for celebration. However, almost half of boys and a third of girls with a BMI placing them in the overweight or obese BMI range perceived themselves to be about the right weight. Lack of awareness of excess weight among overweight and obese adolescents could be cause for concern.

Emphasis mine – because they think these fat teenagers are delusional.  That they’re unaware of their “excess weight.”  Please allow me to correct that false notion – fat people know they’re fat.  All fat people know it.  Fat children and fat teenagers know it just as well as fat adults.  They’re never allowed to forget it.  So I don’t think these kids are in denial, or simply delusional.  I think that maybe, just maybe, Size Acceptance has done its part to help them realize that it’s okay to be fat.  That no one owes it to society to be thin.  That weight loss is not an obligation.  The researchers asked the teens if they thought they were the right weight.  Maybe these teenagers have decided that they’re the right weight for them.  Which again underscores the strong researcher bias that led to the astoundingly idiotic conclusion that fat people don’t know they’re fat, and that public health officials/doctors/society need to make them aware of it.

They also celebrate the fact that “normal-weight” adolescents tend not to feel they’re too fat.  Why do they celebrate this?  Because when they do, it can lead to eating disorders, which leads to weight loss, which leads to people who are too thin, and thin people trying to lose weight because they feel fat is tragic and we need to do what we can do stop it.  Yet they admit they’re trying to find a way to encourage that feeling of being too fat in fat people to encourage them to lose weight.

Are they implying that fat people’s mental health and self-esteem doesn’t matter?  Are they implying that fat people never develop eating disorders, or that an eating disorder is only an eating disorder if the person is already thin?  There’s so much to unpack here.

But here’s what it comes down to – there are a lot of things that contribute to fat phobia and fat shaming, and one of those things is how the public health, science, and medical communities discuss fat.  The solution, according to The Guardian and people who worked on and support this study, is to find a way to fat shame fat people while protecting thin people.  They’re fretting over how to find a rhetorical strategy that will only impact those that this study has decided are actually fat while protecting thin people and encouraging thin privilege.  That’s an absolutely terrible and dehumanizing solution.  It continues to promote the idea that there are good bodies and bad bodies, that weight is a good indicator of current or future health, and that fat people have no right to feel good about their bodies or choose not to pursue weight loss, and that the worst thing you can possibly be is fat.

Any institution or movement which equates the concept of health mainly with physical health is already shortsighted.  An institution or movement that values the overall health and well-being of one group over another is discriminatory.  And any institution or movement encouraging a false standard of physical health (thinness) by encouraging poor mental health (wanting people to feel bad about being fat) is not an institution or movement that actually cares about people or about health.

I believe women.

I believe women when they say they’ve been harassed, assaulted, and raped.  I believe them, even if it takes a long time for them to come forward.  I believe them, even if they accuse a celebrity or someone with a lot of money.  I believe them, even when the person they’re accusing is someone who doesn’t seem dangers.  I believe them, even if the man they accuse denies the accusations.  I believe them, even if they get details mixed up or can’t remember things.

And like many, I believe it’s sickening and yet another glaring example of how deeply rooted sexism is in our culture that it took the release of a 2005 deposition in which Cosby admitted procuring drugs for the purpose of drugging women so he could have sex with them (aka, so he could rape them – let’s use the right word here) before many people were willing to believe not one, not two, not ten, but FORTY-NINE women over one man.

I understand innocent until proven guilty, but when even one woman makes an accusation, we need to listen.  When forty-nine make accusations, we need to be incredibly alarmed.

So I’m not exactly jumping for joy that Disney and celebrity supporters and his own management have finally distanced themselves from Cosby.  I’m happy for the women who finally have validation – sincerely happy, in fact – but still incredibly enraged that their validation only came by Cosby’s own admission.

I’m full of anger that there were people – including other women – who were willing to believe that forty-nine women were all lying and blindly defended Cosby because he was nice to them, or he didn’t assault them so clearly he’s innocent, or on the grounds that someone is innocent until proven guilty and there is no proof.

They’re innocent until proven guilty under the law, and the law is fallible.  Criminals sometimes go free because of lack of evidence; innocent people sometimes go to jail because of assumptions or circumstantial evidence.

Guess what?  Rape can be hard to prove.  Even if you go to the police, many cops don’t take rape seriously, and many cities have backlogs of untested rape kits that go back *years*.  That’s how much authorities in many cities value women – they leave rape kits untested and don’t think twice about it.  That’s how devalued we are – authorities who are supposed to protect us often assume we’re lying, and leave potential evidence untested indefinitely because it’s a crime not worth investigating.  It’s hard to get convictions, and there’s a pervasive attitude that women cry rape for revenge, or out of regret.

And if you’re a woman of color, it’s even worse.  You’re even less likely to be believed, taken seriously, or supported.

Even if there is physical evidence, many perpetrators will simply insist it was consensual.  Since not all women physically fight back, many will believe them.  Since these sorts of crimes often happen privately, it’s too easy to dismiss what women say because there’s no “proof.”  But that doesn’t mean women are lying.  That just means that women are vulnerable to assaults by men who have figured out how to get away with it, sometimes serially, even if it’s reported.  Men who do this sort of thing understand that the system is constructed in their favor, from legal issues to the fact that many women are to scared to report sexual assault, and they figure out how to exploit that.  They look for women who are vulnerable, marginalized, and/or impaired.

So I believe women.  If a woman comes to me and says she’s been assaulted, the first words out of my mouth are going to be, “I believe you, and I will support you.”  And they should be yours, too.

What can happen to children of helicopter parents in the workplace

I read an article on the effects of helicopter parenting on college students on Slate, and it resonated.  Loudly.

This article mainly tackles the correlation between depression and helicopter parenting in college students.  It also quotes research done by the University of Colorado, Boulder (one of my alma maters) that correlates structured childhoods to lessened executive functions – i.e., the more structure, the less that the resulting young adults can think and make decisions for themselves.

The article is linked above, it’s a quick read, and it explains how this impacts college-age students.

What I want to do is tell you what this looks like in the workplace when those students graduate and get full-time jobs.

Continue reading “What can happen to children of helicopter parents in the workplace”

When were we ever ‘one nation under God’?

Some anti-equality ‘Christians’ have been floating a meme around Facebook that indicates a strong preference for this country to ‘return to one nation under God.’  And it made me wonder…exactly when were we one nation under God?

It’s certainly not now, conservatives have made that clear.  So what is this era that they all so desperately long for, this time when we were one nation under God, where there were no divisive issues and everything was just saccharine, homogeneous Christian goodness?

Was it when we were committing mass genocide against native people because our white European ancestors felt that they were more entitled to the land than the non-white people who already lived on it?

Was it during westward expansion, when we further decimated Native American and Mexican populations already living in western territories because we decided it was our manifest destiny to expand as far and wide as we could?

Was it when we were a nation of slave owners?

Was it anytime prior to 1919, when women didn’t have the right to vote?

Was it during the Jim Crow era, when racial segregation was mandatory and when it was considered socially acceptable to torture and murder black people for minor or imagined offenses?

Was it the later half of the 20th century, which birthed civil rights and women’s rights and other less powerful movements such as fat acceptance and disability rights, which have waxed and waned since?

When was this mysterious era of perfect Christian values and social harmony?

Continue reading “When were we ever ‘one nation under God’?”