Death With Grace

I’ve been away from my blog for some time. A close friend of my husband died quite suddenly, and although I didn’t know him very well I’ve been struggling to write something meaningful. He died too young at the height of his success, leaving behind a wife and two daughters. So, I’ve been thinking about death lately. As an EMT, I see it all of the time. We can’t usually choose when we die, but sometimes we can choose how. If given the choice, I’d go with grace.

The first time I saw a dead person was when I was ten years old. My great grandma Doris died of kidney cancer. She never showed me her emotions, but my mother tearfully admitted that Grandma begged to live because she wasn’t ready to go just yet.

Doris was a beloved woman with four generations of living family. Her partner, a kind Swedish man who smelled like month-old sweat, dusty hay, and spilled whiskey, had not been the husband that bore those generations. The family thought of Sulo as Grandpa anyway. He did not attend the service.

I sat in a special section behind the casket that was reserved for close family. I cried silently so as not to be heard, but sucked in embarrassing breaths when my air ran low. My great aunt Jeanie sat beside me. Wishing for nothing more than a tissue for my shamefully flowing nose, she handed me a Lifesaver candy instead. The casket was opened, and the audience gasped with a new decibel of grief.

We often remember our first death the most, but losing a parent is especially hard.

I watched my dad go when he was 55 years old. Suffering from lung cancer for many years, we mostly kept silent, ignoring the issue though prepared for it. When I saw him the last time, his fit young body had turned old. His hair suddenly gray, skin ancient with old-person bruises, and multiple tubes did his breathing, circulating, feeding and emptying. He couldn’t talk, so he simply turned his hand into a symbolic gun and pointed it at his head. The nurses cried with me as I relayed the decision to take him off life support. I went home, and he made a recovery. At first I wouldn’t talk to him, because I had already gone through the grief of him dying. Eventually, I called and it was like talking to a ghost. We had many more conversations before he died quite suddenly in the middle of the night three months later.

One of the benefits of being an EMT is being constantly aware of one’s own mortality, which reminds us all of the precious gifts of life. People die in many ways, but they never die how they do on television. People lucky enough to live a long life often pay for it with a slow agonizing death. Typically, people are scared. A friend described his own mother’s death as being horrific in its fear. A woman in her 80’s you’d think she was ready to go, but she was not. Terrified, she refused to believe she was dying, and purposely failed to make out a will or assign a power of attorney. She even blamed her son for letting death happen to her.

Reactions to another’s death is equally odd. I’ve seen a woman obsess over a casserole after we found her husband dead in the back yard. Another woman turned on the television after delivering a stillborn child. A man tearlessly played with his wedding ring and talked about a beach vacation while his wife oozed blood from every orifice in a two hour demise. Even I cried on that one, but he did not. A family smiled awkwardly while explaining to me that their 10 year old daughter must have suffocated while in diabetic shock.

We all know it’s coming, but can we decide how to go? As I said before, it never happens like on television. Death is usually ugly and violent. There are often many fluids involved. It’s smelly. It’s hard to imagine that will someday be me.

It is worth thinking about just in case you do get the choice. I’m not talking suicide. I’m talking about something quite rare-a death one is ready to meet face to face.

My Grandma Betty died in this manner. She waited for her family to arrive from all over the country to her terracotta home in St. George, Utah. She’d moved there to be closer to Vegas, but the beauty of the town had its charm too.

“I’m dying tomorrow,” she told me, and I nodded skeptically. “Sure, Grandma.” I spent that day with her in one of the most wonderfully bonding moments of my life. I’d wheel her outside in her wheelchair, take off her oxygen and place a pulse oximeter on her finger. The device told me just how much oxygen she had in her blood. “Keep me alive today, Michelle. I’m dying tomorrow,” she said, and I did. I’d light up her cigarette, and she’d choke on one or two short puffs as I watched her numbers drop into the 70s. Then, I’d gently stub out the butt for later, replace her oxygen and take her back in. We did this many times during the day.

I disbelieved she’d die because she got herself out of bed and to the bathroom without help, and I disbelieved it when she sat in front of me eating scrambled eggs. She looked up from her plate of eggs and said, “This dying stuff is hard work.” Grandma’s wit wasn’t the least bit ill.

The next morning, the final members of the family arrived and surrounded her bed. She didn’t wake up, but with all of them watching she simply took her last breath. It was the most graceful death I’ve ever known, and I want it as my own.

Have you thought about death?

If given the choice, how would it look?

 

Coloring Emotions

When I was a melancholy teen, I occasionally entertained myself with drawing. As serious teenage artists whipped out portraits and dragons, I drew the best of cartoons. Before you do yourself the injustice of guessing which is the best cartoon of all time, I’ll simply remind you. It’s Darkwing Duck, who is still my hero today. I also drew pictures of my teenage heartthrob, Elijah Wood, who lost all sex appeal as Frodo. What did I ever see in him? Oh, that’s right, talent.

There was no method to my madness. I’d never taken a class, and I didn’t draw regularly. I only had computer paper and some chewed up school pencils. I did it for a while and set it aside.

A few years ago, I went to Spain. If you haven’t been there, it is the art capital of the world. No, Italy is not. Nor is France. Both produced amazing art and artists, but Spain produced Picasso, Dali, and Gaudi. In Spain, every person and every thing reflects the nation’s pull toward art. You must go. In fact, stop reading this. Go now. Your life will be better.

Now that you’ve returned, you can see how this reinvigorated my desire to draw and even paint. So, last summer I picked up real paper and a variety of pencils that my sexy artist husband gave me (Didn’t I tell you, he’s an artist? And he’s sexy?). And for Christmas, he gave me an easel and some paint. I’ve only just begun, but I thought I’d share anyway. I’m focusing on capturing emotions. These images are based on photos or video footage I’ve seen and that have often left me crying. Feel free to make comments, especially if you remember seeing some of these people in the news.

orlando2

This is the mother of a boy who was murdered in the Orlando night club shootings. I drew a before photo and an after photo. The before picture captured her expression before she knew whether he’d been killed. This after picture shows her change of expression. 

aurora2

This is the Aurora movie theater killer on trial. I didn’t get his expression quite right. The real picture has a look of, “I can’t handle your emotions” to it. This one looks more lost and boyish. It works either way.

aphrodesias

This is me visiting Aphrodesias in Turkey. I examined women ancestors from ancient time. I love the theme of time in this photo and considered giving myself wrinkles.

soldier

This was my first painting. It’s based on a made-up photo that captured the loss and “deadness” of child soldiers. It was the first time I realized girls were used as soldiers too. I bawled every time I painted this.

lion2

This one isn’t done yet. I saw this image online, and it was so intense it scared me. I’ve also never done non-cartoon animals, so I’m still trying to figure it out.

 

The “I” is in the Beauty of the Beholder

I’m dedicating this blog to all people who have felt self-conscious about her or his or trans-gendered body. Although I talk about fashion models, this blog is not intended to ridicule any models or to place values on people based on their bodies. It’s meant to call out an industry that has done damage but still has a purpose. As a former lifestyle model, I’ve seen both sides of the industry and relate it to my personal early struggle with an eating disorder.

I believe that judgment of a person based on bodily shape and size is a learned behavior and one that all genders suffer. Like a lot of girls, I wanted to be a model as a kid. Afraid of cameras, socially awkward, graceless, and fat (to be defined later), I would be an unlikely model. I didn’t want to do it because of the good pay and benefits. I wanted to do it so I would look pretty and people would like me.

Most companies prefer models with scrawny bodies, because that is what we collectively value. Statistically speaking, if we see scrawny curveless women and men with zero body fat modeling clothes, we’ll buy the product. I’m convinced that’s why we went through a skinny jeans phase.

vsmodels

I’ve always loved the Victoria Secret angels and even had my favorite, but is this what we want? These lovely ladies are usually considered too old for the job by age 23, with 19 being the golden age. (Photo by Businessinsider.com)

famewatchermale

The industry wants skinny men too. Anorexia in male models is epidemic and also understated. (Photo by  famewatchermale.com)

Because I still wanted to be a model, I starved myself on purpose as a teenager. Some would have labeled me as anorexic, but the anorexics would say I wasn’t anorexic enough. Bitches. My ribs looked like a xylophone through my skin, but my eyes hadn’t sunk into my skull yet, so I wasn’t considered a true go-getter.

Eating disorder books describe it as an illness in which we hide shamefully, frightened of our own condition and powerless to save ourselves. That inaccuracy is the failure to cure the illness itself. Like many, I loved the disorder! Where I had no power in the rest of my life, I felt completely powerful over my body. The boys finally flirted with me, and girls were jealous. Even middle-aged women told me how much they wished they looked like me. I had loads of positive attention, because we collectively value the images above. But I was not healthy.

Through the years, I found that I needed to eat to have the energy to get through college. Eventually, I had too much important stuff to deal with than getting people to like me, so I found power in other areas and eventually obtained a healthy weight and body image.

In my late twenties, I finally become a model, although I was short and fat. When I say fat, I don’t mean fat. I find the word as derogatory as the nasty words used to disregard people by race, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. When I say fat, I mean a normal, healthy weight. I use that word because the employers who turned me down said that I was “too fat” to model for them. The first time a designer said this to me, I laughed out loud. I really did think it was funny for a grown-up to call a young woman “fat”. Later, I’d shrug and passive aggressively indicate that I’d rather model well-designed clothing. Luckily, I found a handful of jobs that actually wanted people to feel good about the products they sold. Being called fat was one of the more liberating parts of my life, because I really didn’t care anymore. Doctors said I was healthy. I agreed because I had been working hard to eat a well-balanced diet with regular exercise. That some companies still rate models based on their size tells me what a ridiculously infantile business modeling can be.

You might ask me why I did it, if I no longer did it to be liked. The answer is ART. Seeing how a different hairstyle or radical make-up could alter my own perception of myself intrigued me. I experimented with it, because I loved seeing the business woman in me, the mother I’d never be, the goth chick I admired, the rich person I did not, etc. Below are a few of my favorite modeling photos:

sundress2sport1artonave1artonave3business1restaurant3reading3

Today, the market is starting to favor the beauty of all bodies, and I’ve placed my monetary vote by supporting these businesses. So, the remainder of this blog will be dedicated to a few companies that have featured lovely models working in a more honest fashion industry. These men, women, and transgendered people are healthy. Like all models, they have to exercise and skip the daily donuts, stop chewing their nails, stand in awkward poses for hours on end, and fake smile while selling a product they may never use. It’s a business and a job, but it isn’t one that should devalue people.

What are your opinions on our fashion industry? How do you decide to choose what to buy?

Ignorance is Power; Knowledge is Bliss

ramadan

This is a Chalk drawing I made of Turkey during Ramadan. Ramadan in a mostly Muslim country is like Christmas in a mostly Christian country. People are happy, lights and music fill town squares, vendors sell mass-marketed garbage and foods that’ll tack on 10 pounds. This trip was a changing point for me-Knowledge is bliss.

I’ve been having adult moments as I realize many of my friends are Trump supporters. It has led me to some serious discussions with myself. Here is a guy who made hatred and intolerance as his campaign promise. How can seemly Steve, shindig Cheryl and tenderhearted Tari like this guy?

The first friends who came out as supporters did not surprise me. We used to laugh about how I couldn’t be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen if I don’t get myself knocked up. They’d offer to do the job themselves, and I’d give them the finger. Yet, there was always part of me that wondered when they’d go quiet as the chief’s gay dad stepped into the room. It didn’t surprise me, and since they declared support based on racism, sexism and bigotry, I dropped them as fast as I dropped my bangs after the ’80s.

It’s my Trump-supporting friends I’m only learning about now that really hurts. More thought has to go into Shakespeare’s famous question, “To friend or not to friend?”

fuckrock

Fuck Rock: This rock was well placed on a steep mountain trail. Just when I thought I was near the top, I rounded the corner and saw that I was only half-way. Someone carved this into the rock when they reached the same point.

These friends are not racist or bigots. Brother Trump was just talkin’ like a dude when he bragged about sexual assault (a dude in his sixties). He never mocked a disabled man, he made the same gestures to describe Ted Cruz (a man he admires bigly). Certainly, he didn’t mean that ALL Mexicans are rapists and drug dealers. He just meant…uh, what did they say on Fox News? I forgot what he really meant, but something else. He’s right when he says that terrorists from “over there” on that one continent…not sure which…are coming over here by the thousands. They want to do all sorts of bad things like shoot kids in schools and set fire to religious institutions.

These beliefs, along with the idea that he’s Making America Great Again, stems from ignorance. I’ve approached many Americans who believe that you are either a college educated wimp who never worked a day in your life, or you are a hard-working good ‘ole uneducated person with Christian values. You couldn’t have any combination of the above. It’s the working class against the elitists. In all fairness, I’ve known plenty of people who do fall into both categories. Many people I know are either both college educated AND very hard workers, or they were never educated AND completely lazy. Many others are educated and Christian or uneducated Satan worshipers. But I’ve found that announcing your college education does more harm than good in many businesses. I’ve often been given the advice to underplay education during my interviews, or it might hurt my chances for the job. Ignorance is power.

America’s long-standing push toward ignorance is what hired DT, and the benefit will be to the historians who are writing like mad. Yet, as I watch my poor country crumble  like the retaining wall that was improperly built in my yard, there is room for bliss.

With knowledge of history and current events, I can see where we are going. Oh, it’s bad for sure. People have already been hurt. Rises like this are similar to ones that led to world wars and civil wars. There is no bliss in this, but there is comfort in knowing what may happen ahead of time. There is comfort in having the ability to prepare oneself for the changes and challenges. There is comfort in knowing that after Germany’s radical politics they became a more liberal nation, opening arms to refugees, providing free healthcare, leading in climate change alterations, and making rad beer and pretzels. Let us not forget that they got there at a terrible cost.

I’m not putting a silver lining on a cloud. I’m using science to predict the weather pattern so I know when to prepare for the flood. Because when this is all over, I’m hoping that we will determine that knowledge is power and ignorance is bliss.

sandsmiley

Political Correctness

rainbow-hazmat

(Above: I’m wearing a level A suit for a hazmat drill. I added the rainbow in support of gay rights.)

I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about political correctness. In the last month, I’ve encountered it in the following places:

  1. A church group thanked my co-workers and I with a lovely dinner and a pronouncement that, “We just don’t do that political correctness stuff.”
  2. On television, Trump vows to end political correctness. His followers ooze their orgiastic excitement all over Facebook in response.
  3. Political correctness is now a war on Christmas. I thought this one was particularly funny. How is wishing someone a happy holiday the same as a war on Christmas? I think Christmas just brings out the war in people.
  4. Small town businesses continue to refuse to make cakes for gay weddings. They claim that God will stop loving them if they extend their confectionery delights to the gay community. Other businesses are still trying to deny business to non-whites. Whew, glad I don’t believe in a god like that. It sounds like a tough life.
  5. A group of white people sprayed it across the mosque in the city in which I work. That’s classy, guys. Gets your point across.

So, if political correctness is anti-religion, anti-Trump, and anti-bigoted businesses, and anti-vandal, I should really dig it. And in a way I do. The original idea of political correctness is to apply kindness, manners and respect to minority communities. Respect is good.

samoan

(Above: My mom and I are “respecting” this fine specimen of Samoa.)

The problem with political correctness is that it just doesn’t work. As my good bloggie friend Sha’Tara says, “PC was invented by some people totally convinced that it is totally possible to pick up a piece of turd by the clean end.” In other words, the problem is not in the words used but the people using it. It’s the intent. It ignores the issue at hand.

Another problem is demonstrated by Sherman Alexie-that god-like writer I adore so much I’d probably panic and pee on myself if I ever met him. Anyway, in his books he makes it quite clear that he’s an Indian. He’s not Native American, not American Indian, just Indian. This same problem has been repeated by many in the minority classes. My family is mixed-race. My cousins don’t consider themselves to be African American. In fact, a couple of them can’t even find Africa on the map. They are black. It is their preference. My grandpa who is half-paralyzed considers himself to be handicapped, disabled, differently abled, whatever term gets him close parking and free escorts to the front of lines. In other words, the second problem with political correctness is that nobody asked in the first place.

So, like many other people I’ve wondered what to do. What do I say? Another great bloggie friend ghostspeaking (and uber-rad friend in real life) had the perfect explanation. She wrote, “We should prepare one another TO BE OFFENDED. Telling people this melting pot of culture and economic and societal differences is going to be a seamless process is a manipulative lie that allows the powers that be to squelch and silence those with confusion instead of helping them learn to communicate and use their voice. We need to prepare one another for inevitable accidental offenses, ITS CALLED A LANGUAGE BARRIER AND IT IS NORMAL AND ISNT MEANT TO START WARS, ITS MEANT TO UNITE….”

I say, “YES!” It isn’t easy, and there will be accidental offenses, but intent is where it begins. Sometimes words will hurt, but if they weren’t meant to then let’s help each other understand. And if someone helps you to understand, it is your job to listen. Embrace diversity and love your neighbor. When issues arise, ask yourself the pertinent questions. Challenge yourself and each other. We aren’t so weak, are we?

dancing

(Above: I’m dancing with diversity, for real! Except, in Kenya I’m the minority and these fine ladies are treating me with respect.)

Little Girl Lost

I don’t always reblog other people’s works, but I need time to work through my next blog and this one touched me. It is lovely and true. I hope you guys enjoy it too.  –Polymath

Little girl, stop! Look in the mirror. Look hard and concentrate, you’ll be able to see her. See the woman staring back, on the verge of giving up? That’s you, little girl, that’s…

Source: Little Girl Lost

Politically Correct: Part 1

I’m looking to write about political correctness, since the term has taken a shift in meaning and usage over the past few decades. I have put quite a bit of thought in my own ideas, but since I’ve always meant for this to be an interactive blog, I want to hear your thoughts first. What does politically correct mean to you? How has it affected you? Is it good? Bad? Neutral? An abstract notion created by boring creatures to name something that doesn’t truly exist? Words, words, words?

Please share your thoughts. I’ll post mine next week.

Elsewhere

Mahogany bookcases lined the library and burgundy rugs carpeted the oak floor. A child princess, dressed in purple velvet and white lace ruffles, removed her shoes to climb the ladder that reached the top shelf. The removal of shoes outside of the bedroom meant disapproval, but Lewin the butler attended to arriving guests, so it went unnoticed.

Princess Chrysanthemum ascended, grabbing the most colorful book from the top shelf, then returned to her bedroom. She pulled the heavy curtains shut, lit the candles beside her bed and positioned herself under layers of silk and puffy down. The book opened to reveal a life of elsewhere.

The commoner knew no other life, but one of his own making. The man awoke after two attempts at the snooze button. His wife, who had made sandwiches for the children, sent one to school, nursed the baby, and prepared the third for daycare, felt it necessary to detail this chain of events to him. Her noise pressed against him as he methodically reached for the pot of coffee. Caffeine fueled him until work. Emails broke the boredom until home. The TV filled time until bed. Bed did so until work.

The princess leaned back against her pillows, placed the bookmark between the pages, and reached for the tray on her nightstand. Upon it, in individual sterling bowls, were separate food items. A chicken leg with crispy skin shining of oil and flecks of salt. Broccoli under a slice of butter. Chrysanthemum pressed the back end of the fork against it, shoving it off the plate. Cinnamon pears under brandy syrup. First, the toasted edges of the pears were eaten in small bites. Then, the pears were bit into the middle to make a white smile. Finally, she opened the hot roll, spreading butter and pear syrup onto it. She continued the story about the man and his day that didn’t contain curtsies and governesses. It had been the most exciting moment all week.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Robert Ellis Mills’ mind wandered after hitting the snooze button. He’d soon face another monotonous day. It would begin with coffee, then off to suffer the consequences of some unknown failure at work, continue in spasms of boredom, followed by the wrath of wrongdoings at home, and finally into the most blissful moment of the day, the time when he’d sleep until it started again.

He slogged to the kitchen and reached drowsily for the pot of coffee. The fragrance lifted his eyelids and undid his cynicism. He smiled at his University mug, a relic from the days of brown-suited professors, late night study sessions, and later night sessions with the curly-haired undergrad. The mug’s colors were faded, but the coffee felt alive until at least 9:45am.

Finishing the coffee, Mr. Mills expertly aimed the umbrella perpendicular to the rain and walked quickly, kicking waves onto the sidewalk.

While passing an alley, he saw something. He might not have noticed, since he passed several identical alleys every day, but the movement of cardboard over a small figure caught his eye. A thin girl, about eight years old, sat alone under leaky refrigerator boxes. The girl, in layers of wet clothes, held a delicate hand into the air, then brought it daintily to her face. The entire scene seemed so strange, he watched longer.

She said, “Excellent tea, Lewin, but p’rhaps a bit ‘o more ice cream, right?” She shoved her chin upward, shooed Lewin away, then adjusted the cardboard overhang to cover her bare ankles.

Mr. Mills shook his head, placed his hand over his wallet, directed his thoughts toward something pleasant, and continued on to work at the tallest building two blocks further.

Shirley, a heavy secretary with bleached highlights, heavily tanned skin and long red fingernails, looked up at Mr. Mills then quickly away at her computer. Peculiar. Then Daven, the sales rep. who plays a cellphone golf app with him every second hour, deliberately kept his face directed toward the desk.

Senior Manager Allexis Mearl emerged from a center hallway, black buttoned dress lifted by her hip curves as she walked toward him. “Mr. Hill, I need you in my office.”

He felt the familiar dread of yet another demeaning discussion by the boss who can’t even get his name right, and the short walk across the room seemed miles long. Robert contemplated what he might have done wrong this time then allowed his mind to take him somewhere else. He imagined himself on the beach from a photo he once saw in a magazine. A palm tree swayed in the gentle breeze. He sipped at a straw placed in a pineapple shell filled with fruity booze. His head swam and the alcohol coursed lazily through his veins. Nobody else on the beach, except the bartender, a kind brunette. “You’ll like this, Robbie,” she said as she handed him the drink. They would not have sex. That would ruin the dream. No, she would simply serve him booze and be pleasant.

Manager Mearl held the door open for him then shut it, offered him a small chair and took a much larger one behind her desk.

“Mr. Hills.” She sighed, then tapped lazily at her keyboard. “Mr. Hills.” Sigh. “You don’t even know why you’re here, do you?”

The sound of the waves made a gentle backdrop. Blue and green against the white sand. Later, he’d go out on a boat to fish. He could smell the fish in the sea and the fish cooking on the grill. He’d been here many times. Elsewhere.

* * * * * * * * * *

“Mr. Hillllllllls. Your presentation is abysmal.” Alexis Mearl looked out her window and over the city 29 stories below. Why does he do this to me? I’ve put in 98 hours this week.

She watched him and noticed a faraway look on his face. His tie sat slightly crooked and a small faded stain glared from his white shirt. Damp stains in his armpits, though he smelled like aftershave and coffee.

Does he think I’m a bitch? Well, what do I have to do to get people to work?

“You see, Mr. Hills,” as she pulled out a black portfolio and flipped to a red sticky note. “This is incomplete. You started one thought, but never finished it.” She flipped to an orange sticky note. “Here, I don’t even know what you are talking about. Are you even talking about our company?” Yellow sticky note, “This doesn’t have direction.”

He leaned forward. “Well,” he said quietly, “I was going for something new. Didn’t you want new? I thought I’d think outside of the box.” He looked away, hands under his rear like a schoolchild.

The migraine threatened to return, starting with a flu-like ache in the back of her head. She leaned back again, seeing how wrong this presentation was from what was required. He couldn’t be trusted to work on this, not enough time. She’d have to do it herself, which meant canceling her dinner date. She wanted to grab Mr. Hills by his stained-shirted collar and yell in his face with those far-away eyes and the gagging smell of aftershave Don’t you give a damn? No, you don’t. She exhaled audibly and rubbed her eyes.

“Alright, Mr. Hills. This needs work, and I’ll be making adjustments. Why don’t you work on next week’s publication some more. No thinking outside the box, just keep to the guidelines.”

Alexis needed a walk and some fresh air to inspire creativity. Thinking outside the box did need to happen and much more quickly now. Already, a feeling of guilt clouded her thoughts. Perhaps, I was a bit rough on the Hills fellow. But damn him.

Outside, the damp air massaged the ache in her head. She turned a different direction than normal, counterclockwise, to inspire imagination, but found her mind drifting addictively to someplace else.

Alexis was eight again, playing outside. Bright sun warmed her skin, and the soft grass against her bare feet felt dry. She picked dandelions and braided them into a crown for her head. Climbing a tree to an upper branch, she called below, “Oh children of the tree nymphs, go out and bring a supper of mutton and capon.” She didn’t know what mutton or capon were, but they sounded tasty from the book she read. And so the tree nymphs returned with a platter of mashed potatoes sculpted into a swan and a tray of mini-cheeseburgers. “Ah, mutton and capon. Be away with you now.” She waved the back of her hand at them, and they dutifully obeyed.

Walking through a side street, Alexis imagined the wild winged creatures, then giggled at the dream. Surely, this fantasy could last a few minutes longer.

Before returning to the fantasy, though, she heard a skittering in a nearby alley. Fearing a rat, she shuffled away from the sound. Instead, only a girl moved, a thin girl lying under a damp cardboard box, watching Alexis soundlessly. The child’s eyes were overly large and dark in her small face.

The dream of elsewhere faded, and Alexis solemnly returned to the present.

Happy Holidays: A Feminist Roasts a Turkey


Inspired by Thanksgiving and Edward the store-bought turkey I roasted, I thought I’d write about modern day feminism. To my vegan friends, forgive my turkey eatage. 

America is far from providing equal opportunities for women. We still earn less than men when doing the same job, play a secondhand role in sports, still use initials in publishing to hide a female name, and much more. However, our feminist predecessors have secured us the right to vote, the ability to even work a job outside of the home, the rights to divorce (thank God for that one), and even the rights to hold office. Although, I’ll believe we have the right to presidency when I see it.

Feminism has come a long way. My early impression of the word yielded images of screaming waifs with shaved heads and baggy jeans, cussing out other women for wearing a bra. While most of these women did much for the movement, the anger did a bit of damage. A good friend of mine was slapped once for opening a door for a woman. If not for the fact that I know that Russell’s intentions were simply to be polite, I would disbelieve this to be the entire story. But it is. He was slapped for being polite. Now he holds doors open for men, but not women.

As a woman who has, like the rest of us, been subjected to oppression, sexism, and those infuriating cat-calls that ended my daily jogs outside, I can appreciate the anger some of the early feminists brought with them. Yet, as a modern day feminist I find the old ways more limiting of my freedom than the rules set by men. How many women have I heard criticize others for wearing pink or purple? How many times have I been ridiculed because I liked to play with baby dolls when I was a kid? Never mind that I climbed trees and sometimes used my Barbies to save my brother’s GI Joes. It seems that my desire to shave my legs has nothing to do with the fact that I like how it feels, but instead it must be due to the fact that I’m oppressed by the almighty man. That’s a joke, by the way. Hairy legs are itchy.

The most unforgivable part, though, is that I actually like to cook and that when it pleases my husband I find that thrilling. My husband, Tim, is a feminist too. In his words, “The world would be a better place if women were the leaders.” We have a happy marriage because we try to please each other without taking away from ourselves. I do the cooking at home, and on Thanksgiving I cooked Edward. Last year, I cooked John, and before that it was Frankie and Bob. Perhaps I do have some suppressed anger, since I’m always cooking boy turkeys.

This is where I bring us to modern day feminism. The new definition of the term provides complete equality. If I want to wear a lacy dress, grow my hair long, and crochet blankets, I can without feeling like it’s my obligation. If I want to wear Carharts, give myself a buzz cut, play tackle football, and oh…maybe became a firefighter, I can do that too. Because of my limitless role as woman, I decide to do what I want to do and without limitations. My husband agrees. That’s why I’ll be inspecting the septic tank and he will be doing the laundry this week.

What are your thoughts on feminism?

Fire Station Underwear

I decided to go with something lighter after last week’s post. I’m ready to laugh again, so let’s talk underwear. It’s PG-13, by the way.

Since us firefighters live with our teammates for 48 hour shifts, we all end up folding each other’s laundry, whether we want to or not. It only takes one time of coming back to a folded pile of lacy thongs, along with the friendly harassment that comes along with it, to realize that there is a certain level of strategy involved in choosing which underwear to wear at work. At first, you may be tempted to wear your nicest underwear.

(Below: Typical underwear a lady might wear on a typical day)

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(Picture from http://www.cafepress.com/+magically-delicious-delicious+underwear-panties?cat=100240)

(Below: Typical underwear a man might wear on a typical day )

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(Picture from http://www.clothestopose.co.uk/mens-swimming-thong—hot-pink-63-p.asp)

If you wore either of these, you would subject yourself to endless harassment.

“Hello, beautiful! Love the shiny panties.”

“I folded your…um…belt. Does your mother know you wear that?”

“Hey, Victoria Secret!”

If there is anything worse than that, it is the poor embarrassed fellow who attempted to fold your underwear, realized that it was descriptive, and then purposefully tossed all the folded laundry back into the dryer, hoping you will think he never saw your precious underthings.

So, you may instead be tempted to wear something a little more conservative.

(Below: Conservative lady panties—Your mom would be so proud)

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(Picture from http://www.whattoexpect.com/forums/hot-topics-1/topic/thongs-206.html)

(Below: Aged briefs worn by the semi-retired or the divorced dudes, both who’ve been wearing them since they were hired)

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When these arise in the wash, you can be guaranteed that NO firefighter will ever comment on them. At least, he will never comment on them to YOU. Instead, you might see a nice photo with a homemade caption, semi-permanently affixed to the washer for the next month, at which time it will transfer to the bathroom stall. Or it might be sent by interoffice mail to the secretary (this did happen).

So, there is a Goldilocks formula for finding the just-right pair of underwear for fire station wear. For women, it is conservative, but not too much so. For men, it is clean and new, but not too suggestive.

(Below: The perfect lady panty for the firehouse)

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(Below: The perfect Man brief-Okay, so maybe this isn’t it, but a girl can dream, can’t she?)

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(Picture from http://www.choozone.com/batman-underwear-for-men/)