Moving on . . . .

I just wanted to let everyone who has followed this blog know that I just started a new blog. If you are interested, you can check me out at Worth the trouble you got into.

I’m planning to post semi-regularly . . . . . and I will likely be taking some of my favorite posts from here and cleaning them up a bit before transferring them over.

I’d love to reconnect with those of you I’ve lost touch with since horribly neglecting this blog!

The new one is a work in progress, but I do hope you enjoy it 🙂

#BlackLivesMatter . . . This is so much more than Michael Brown and Eric Garner

15855236526_cdaf252dc3_kI’d like to set aside the high emotions of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and many others. Regardless of your opinion on these three separate and individual cases, regardless of which side of the debate you fall on, it is appalling to me if you cannot grasp the big picture of how our society treats young black men and boys . . . Because it starts long before they become the “thugs” who are killed with impunity.

To say we are not a post-racial society is an understatement that barely grazes the issue. To say there are too many people who have no understanding of what white privilege means doesn’t do the least bit of justice to the extent of the problem. Because this starts long before the protests and the incidents highlighted on the news. It starts before these kids come to me and others in my field . . . . before they don the label of “conduct disorder.”

I bring my field of work into this because I think the issues are very much tied together. I work in children’s behavioral health. “Youth from minority racial/ethnic groups are approximately one-third to one-half as likely to receive mental health care as White youth.” Children of color are more likely to be seen as criminal than as needing of mental and behavioral health services. Children of color who do receive treatment are more likely to be labeled with conduct disorders over oppositional defiant disorder. But it starts long before this.

It starts with the biases people refuse to acknowledge. It starts with willful ignorance. It starts with those who hear words like “privilege” and “inequality” and automatically go on the defensive . . . who derail legitimate conversations of systematic oppression by gas lighting anyone who has the gall to point it out.

Because let’s be clear . . . . this is, absolutely, about race.

And to understand that, you really don’t have to go any further than the reactions to any of these cases. Scroll through a few comment sections and attempt to stomach the blatant racism . . . or even the veiled racism by people who can’t even see that they’re racist. Because if your reaction to an unarmed black man being choked to death after calling out over and over and over again, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” is “well, he shouldn’t have resisted arrest, you’re part of the problem.

My supervisor did an exercise at work a few weeks ago in an attempt to help us acknowledge our own biases . . . . because the truth is, we all have them, whether they are tied to race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, or whatever else. We all have ingrained preconceived ideas about people. And the only way to overcome these biases is to acknowledge them. That’s something I’ve been doing for decades. It can be ugly sometimes, but it’s necessary.

When your first reaction to “privilege” and “inequality” is to deny their existence, you’re also denying your own biases. You’re feeding into a society that calls young black boys problems before they offer them help. You’re feeding into a society that calls the cops on a black man for walking down the street in the cold with his hands in pockets.

You’re feeding into a society that labels black men and boys as expendable.

Photo Credit

Homelessness is sooooo funny, right? Right?!

I love Halloween. I love dressing up. I love seeing other people’s costumes, particularly when they get creative and have something unique and clever to show the world. Kind of like this guy.

But it seems that lately my favorite holiday has been turned into an amalgam of racist, sexist, and all-around bigoted costume choices. From black face (often including things like domestic violence, i.e. Ray Rice and murder victims, i.e. Trayvon Martin) to caricaturized costumes of Native Americans, Mexicans, and more . . . . it’s disgusting.

You know what else is disgusting? Making a joke out of people living in poverty. But, of course it’s Halloween, so there’s always bound to be some douchebag who not only doesn’t think anything is wrong with it but also scoffs at “oversensitive liberals” who call out their offensive bullshit.

A dear friend of mine, Stephanie, was scrolling through her Facebook feed when she came across the picture below. The woman on the right is a friend of her friend and the sign she is holding reads, “”HELP M3 I’M POOR.” Stephanie was quickly unfriended for speaking up . . . . and honestly, good riddance. But people need to know that this is not okay.


Steph wrote the perfect comment, so instead of continuing with my own rant, here’s hers:

Hey there random Facebook friend… just want to make sure I’m not jumping to any conclusions, but is that girl in the picture with you dressed for Halloween as a homeless person? If so, that’s pretty freaking offensive, and it takes a hell-of-a-lot of privilege to think that dressing as a (apparently stupid, judging by the sign) homeless person is a good idea.

So what kind of people end up homeless?

“Families experiencing homelessness are similar to other, housed families living in poverty. In fact, many poor families – homeless or not – share similar characteristics: they are usually headed by a single woman with limited education, are usually young, and have high rates of domestic violence and mental illness.

Some families living in poverty, however, fall into homelessness, usually due to some unforeseen financial challenge, such as a death in the family, a lost job, or an unexpected bill, creating a situation where the family cannot maintain housing.”

What about those heroes who put their lives on the line for our country and come back ravaged and broken to a system that doesn’t give them the support to heal from the mental and physical wounds that they received while defending your picture-friend’s right to be an ignorant twat?

“According to data collected during the 2014 Point-in-Time Count, 49,933 veterans experienced homelessness on a single night in January 2014.”

What about those in our country who are suffering from severe mental illness, through no fault of their own?

“Approximately 26 percent of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness and an estimated 46 percent live with severe mental illness and/or substance use disorders.”

We are all only a few poorly-timed circumstances away from ending up homeless and on the streets.  Stigma and mockery like that shown by your picture-buddy (i.e. – homeless people are dirty and stupid) are HUGE barriers to people seeking the help they need to pull themselves out of an already fucked up situation. It’s nothing to laugh at. It’s nothing to mock. It is something to be shamed by and something that could potentially affect someone you love, someone in your family, you, or (heaven forbid) your offensive friend from that picture.

Listen, I’m not trying to attack you.  I’m hoping that you were an innocent bystander to this girl’s poor costume choice. I know this was not you that was dressed this way, and that it was probably not meant to be offensive, but it is every decent human being’s responsibility to take a stand and let people know that things like this are NOT OKAY.  I encourage you, and anyone else who knows that girl, to speak up and let her know how terribly offensive her costume was.

To read some more statistics on homelessness, check out the following links (where the quotes came from):

End Homelessness – Families

End Homelessness – Veterans

NAMI Fact Sheet

Today, I wore a bathing suit

Clementon 1More specifically and more importantly, I wore a bathing suit and nothing else – no pants or shorts, no t-shirt, no cover up of any kind. Today, I wore a bathing suit in public, and ya know what? It was okay.

(I don’t have photographic evidence because, well, progress not perfection.)

It’s been about 6 or 7 years since I’ve worn a bathing suit without a shirt and capris over top . . . and that was about 80 pounds ago. I was still fat then, but I wasn’t this fat. I hated how I looked back then too, but not this much.

Today, my family went to Clementon Park. It was a bus trip with my daughter’s summer camp, so she did have some friends she could go on rides with (I only did the log flume and the Ferris wheel because I’m not sure I’d fit on the others). But around 3pm, my daughter wanted to go in the wave pool and none of her friends were around . . . and, honestly, I wanted to go in too. I love roller coasters and I love the water and I love doing fun things with my daughter . . . and while I may still be too fat for the roller coasters, I am not too fat for the wave pool. So, I decided to join my daughter.

I didn’t bring a second pair of pants, and I knew if I wore my capris in the pool that I’d end up back on the bus wet and uncomfortable. I made a decision . . . and for the first time in 6ish years, my thighs saw sunlight.

This is a big deal, and not just because of my insecurities about my weight (though that’s certainly a nice size chunk of it). Some of you reading this might already know that I’m a (mostly) recovering self-injurer. My thighs have always been my burning and cutting location of choice because I’ve always felt fairly confident they would never be seen. I have scars from lighter burns and razor cuts, some from my most recent relapse, which was only 3 months ago. I can write about self-injury, and I can talk about self-injury, but I have not put myself in a position to allow the world to see my scars (not this fresh, not this noticeable) for about 17 years.

Clementon 2I can’t say the decision to remove my capris came without anxiety. I spent more time than I care to discuss thinking about the possibility throughout the day. But in the end, enjoying the moment with my daughter was more important than my insecurities.

And guess what . . . I had a great time. We splashed and played and jumped waves for nearly an hour. My daughter didn’t notice my scars; she couldn’t have cared less about my fat. She just enjoyed playing with mommy, getting flipped and dunked by mommy, laughing and being silly with mommy.

Next year, I hope to ride those roller coasters with her, but in the meantime, I can still be an awesome mom who does fun things with her kid . . . . even when . . . . especially when that means overcoming my insecurities.

Dear Parents (from someone who works with your kids)

Dear parentsI read a blog post the other day written by a parent of a child with special needs. The post is titled Think Before You Judge An Autism Parent: Until You’ve Walked in My Shoes and it covered two main topics – one, don’t judge the parents of children with special needs because, quite simply, you have no idea what their lives look like or what their children need, and two, health care providers, child care providers, behavioral health workers, mental health professionals, etc. don’t care about your child – they just want to shove meds on your kids and collect their checks at the end of the week.

To point one – I 1,000% agree . . . 10,000%, 100,000% . . . . as much as you possibly fathom an exaggeration of completely effing agree, that’s how much I agree. Though I would elaborate to say that we need to stop judging parents all together. Whether it’s a rowdy kid in a supermarket or a tantrum in a restaurant . . . or whatever . . . as the person standing on the sidelines, we have NO IDEA what the situation is really about and we would do well to remember that.

It’s the second point that I’d really like to address in this open letter. The one that says that we don’t care about your kids. I have worked with children, both with and without special needs, in several different capacities for 20 years. I babysit, provided personal behavioral support, I taught elementary school kids in both special education and general education, I taught preschool, worked at an afterschool program, and am currently a therapeutic support staff for children with behavioral health needs. . . . I won’t lie and say that I’ve loved all of the children I’ve worked with. I won’t even say that I’ve liked all of them. What I will say, quite emphatically, is that I have, without a doubt, cared about every single one of them.

I’ve never looked to blame parents, ignore parents, get parents in trouble, or in any way make parents’ lives more difficult. In fact, I’ve always tried to do the exact opposite . . . listen, take everything they say into consideration, and help make their lives easier, if at all possible.

I know that all of us aren’t like this. I know there are bad teachers and bad therapists and bad doctors and, well, bad everything out there. I’ve seen people who were supposed to be working with kids sit and play on cell phones all day. I’ve read about teachers who say things like this. I will not discount the author’s experiences, though they do sadden me. But I know I’m not alone. I know I’m not the only one who cares . . . . and it’s heartbreaking to think that some parents may avoid getting services for their children because they think anyone who is paid to work with them doesn’t care.

Here’s the thing. Yes, it’s my job. Yes, I collect a paycheck for what I do. But honestly? I could make more as a waitress . . . . and without the stress of being cursed out by preschoolers or almost having my nose broken by a 12-year-old or cleaning feces off of playroom walls. I’m not in this for the money. I need what little I make to live, but I do what I do because I care about your kids.

I really can’t stress that enough. I care about your kids. I care about how they’re feeling and it makes me sad when they’re upset. I care their progress and light up when I see them achieve a new success. I care about what I can do to help them succeed . . . so much so that I think about it on the bus on the way home and talk about it while eating dinner and even get out of bed write down some new ideas to try the next day.

So, please, all I ask is that you don’t judge us . . . . in the same way that we should not judge you. We’re not the enemy. And the best way to help your children is if we work together.

Photo Credit

To the man who yelled “fat ass” out his window

Fat ass

No way!?

Thank you. I’m sure you were just trying to be helpful. Your words were truly enlightening. I had no idea prior to your comments that I do, in fact, have a fat ass. Even has I pulled my size 24 pants on this morning, I just completely missed the fact that my ass is fat. So, thank you.

And although you didn’t have time to elaborate as you drove past, I’m sure you were really just trying to point out my obesity in order to remind me of health risks, such as diabetes, heart disease, and sleep apnea. Of course, those are all things I would never have thought to discuss with my doctor (whose office I had actually just left) if you didn’t take the time out of your busy day to call me a fat ass.

You’re not the first, ya know. I’ve heard various forms of “fat ass” throughout my life. All that fat must clog my brain and make me stupid because I obviously need constant reminding. So, of course, you won’t be the last either.

I’m sure you’re an expert on all that is me. You learned all you needed to in those few seconds. I’m sure you know how lazy I am and that all I do is sit on the couch, watch TV, and eat Twinkies. It must have just been a rare occasion for me to peel my bulbous behind off the sofa. Just looking at me, it’s obvious that I’m undisciplined, unmotivated, and of course, sedentary.

But, you know, just in case you have a few things wrong, or you’re even remotely interested, here are some real things about me . . . . good and bad:

~I have a 9-year-old daughter who is my world.
~I watched my mom die when I was 16.
~I battle anxiety and depression every day.
~I’m a sci-fi/fantasy geek . . . and am particularly obsessed with Doctor Who and all things Joss Whedon.
~I wasn’t always fat, but I’ve always thought I was.
~I work with kids with special behavioral needs. It can be incredibly stressful but also incredibly rewarding. I love what I do.
~I started working as a freelance writer/editor four years ago. It was something I had wanted to do since adolescence but never thought I’d be able to pull it off.
~I’m a (mostly) recovering self-injurer and I’m working on a book to help myself and others realize they’re not alone and self-injury does not just affect teenage girls.
~I want to learn how to sew just so I can learn how to make better costumes for comic cons, renaissance faires, and Halloween.
~I’m an adult child of an alcoholic.
~I have an obsession with books.
~Even at 300+ lbs., I can still walk a 15-minute mile.
~I’m an emotional eater. I’ve always had difficulty loving myself and I learned a long time ago that food is a comfort when I can’t find it elsewhere. I’m fighting to break free from that.
~I’ve always wanted to travel, but I’ve never made it out of the United States (and I haven’t even traveled much within the country).

This is just a small sample of the things you can’t possibly know about me just by looking at me, but, of course, my fat ass trumps them all.

Street harassment is not “friendly conversation”

Note: Street harassment can be perpetuated by men or women and can happen for a number of reasons. For the purposes of this blog post, I’m specifically referring to gender-based street harassment by men and against women. In no way am I saying that other types of street harassment don’t exist.

15 – I was sitting in the back of the bus with my cousin and her friends when a guy put his hand on my thigh and said, “Anyone ever tell you, you have nice legs?”

17 – I was waiting at the train station for my boyfriend when a man came up to me and said, “I bet some people think you’re fat, but you’re perfect for a black man.”

21 – I was speeding through the station trying to get to my train when a guy who passed me turned around and yelled, “Hey shorty can I get your number?” After I said no, he continued to follow me and talk to me until I got to my train.

27 – I was squatting in front of a shelf at work straightening the products when some guy waiting in the pharmacy said, “Damn girl, you’re flexible.”

31 – I was speed walking down the street when a man said to me, “I like fat girls. They’re great in bed.”

33 – I was waiting for a bus when a guy came up and asked if I had a boyfriend. When I said yes, he proceeded to talk to me, ask me for my phone number, and then asked me if I wanted to move in with him.

34 – I was standing at a bus stop reading a book when a man started talking to me and asked if I had a boyfriend. When I told him that I did, he asked if he could give me his number “just in case.” When I said no, he said, “Okay shorty,” and grabbed my hand and tried to kiss it.

Street harassmentThis is, by no means, an exhaustive list . . . just some of the more memorable examples. Each one of these encounters made me uncomfortable. Some were outright terrifying . . . when my personal space was deeply invaded, when I’ve been pinned against the back of a bus, when I’ve been touched and grabbed.

These are not compliments. This is not “friendly conversation.” This is harassment. And it’s not uncommon.

It’s this kind of street harassment that inspired Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s art project Stop Telling Women to Smile, and it’s that art project, or rather, some of the responses to that art project that inspired this blog post.

There seems to be an overwhelming number of people who think “women are being oversensitive” or “women don’t know how to take a compliment” . . . people who think that this campaign demonizes men for just trying to talk to women . . . people who don’t understand the difference between friendly conversation and harassment . . . and people who just don’t realize and can’t seem to understand how frequently these things happen. So, I’m going to try to break this down as simply as I can.

No one is claiming that all men act like this. No one is even claiming that most men act like this. A woman might pass by hundreds of different men while walking through the city or traveling on public transportation, and the vast majority of them will mostly likely never say a word to her. They won’t invade her personal space. They won’t try to touch her. This campaign and anyone speaking out against street harassment are not targeting any of those men.

However, while most men will not behave this way, most women (particularly those who live in an urban environment) have experienced this behavior from men . . . on multiple occasions, some damn near every time they go out. At best, it’s uncomfortable and annoying. At worst? It becomes violent.

Hollaback! is another excellent campaign working to end street harassment.

Hollaback! is another excellent campaign working to end street harassment.

Speaking out against and trying to education people about street harassment is not being oversensitive. Telling a complete stranger she has a nice ass, must be good in bed, has great tits, etc. is not complimentary or flattering. It’s creepy. Telling a complete stranger to “smile sweetheart. It can’t be that bad” isn’t sweet. It’s condescending.

Here are some things for men to think about before approaching a woman they don’t know –

–Is she busy? Is she walking somewhere, on the phone, reading a book, or talking to someone else? If so, leave her alone.

–What is your motivation? Are you actually interested in having a conversation or do you just want to get her in bed? If it’s the latter, leave her alone.

–Would you say this to another man? If not, leave her alone.

–Does she seem engaged in this conversation or does it look like she’s trying to get out of it (looking at her phone, nodding and giving one-word answers, stepping away)? If she’s doing the latter, leave her alone.

–Is she physically moving away from you? If so, leave her alone.

One of the posters in Ms. Fazlalizadeh’s campaign states “Women do not owe you their time or conversation.” This is the most important and the most all-encompassing statement for me. To act as if a woman must engage in a conversation with any man who speaks to her or that she should thank him for “compliments” that most likely made her uncomfortable is dehumanizing and arrogant.

Or if all of that is still too difficult to grasp, try remembering this – women deserve to be treated as human beings and “are not outside for your entertainment.”