Archive for the ‘People’ Category

If you see something, say something: just few random thoughts on Robin Willams

August 12, 2014

At the cube farm today a few people passed judgement on Robin Williams and suicide. For various reasons (ok, mostly one), I didn’t bother to speak up about the lack of maturity. I chewed on my lip and thought how lucky they were.

Yeah, you read that right. Lucky.

Only somebody who has never watched another struggle with major depression would say something that stupid.
Only somebody who has not felt the smothering lack of energy where even brushing teeth seems like a monumental task would say something like that.
Only somebody who has not curled up looking for a sliver or a moonbeam to cling to would say something like that.

The absolute tragedy, is, of course, that yesterday thousands of people yesterday killed themselves. One person’s death filled social media spaces. We do a lousy job about talking about mental health. We talk about it after a tragedy for a few weeks and clamor for more funding and less stigmatization. Nothing happens.

Probably because we don’t want to admit it’s us.

We don’t want to admit we are the ones who have fought demons with the help of medication and professionals.
We don’t want to admit that there are times (still) when the mountain seems to be without a trail.
We don’t want to admit how hard the battle was because there is still shame in the battle.
We don’t want to admit that we know it could have been us.

I don’t know what drove Robin Williams to suicide. I know what its like to sit in that darkness and not feel. I only hope he has found his peace.

Happy #FathersDay to my favorite feminist

June 15, 2014

I was raised by a feminist: but not the one you think. Truth be told, my dad was probably a better 70’s era feminist that my mother (and she was a feminist). My parents raised three children in the chaos that was the era of bad car seats, no helmets and toys with lead. Amazingly, we all survived (although sometimes my sister and I wonder if feeding my brother lead based paint because we were told kids liked the taste explains some of him).
My dad has never found it necessary to use a monosyllabic word when an uncommon polysyllabic word sufficed. More importantly, after stating whatever SAT worthy sentence he was discussing, he’d then explain the statement in normal human language (it’s because xxx). He never spoke to us as children: he translated adult into kid. One of his favorite stories is about a toy I had as a toddler: it had various shapes (circle, rectangle). My father taught me alternate words: rhombus, parallelogram, trapezoid. My grandmother played it with me once asking me the shape and instead answering rectangle, I provided ‘parallelogram’ as the answer. My mother said it was the last time my grandmother played the name the shape game with her daughter’s children.

Having daughters in the early days of Title IX meant that we could participate in the various sports leagues. Let me be clear: participation was playing the minimum, as catcher in T-ball because we had a tendency to pick flowers in the outfield or otherwise be disinterested. And we were bad: really bad. Our team didn’t lose – but that was not due to the contributions of my family. My dad would spend parts of each weekend playing 2-1 basketball games. Dad is 6 5. We were under 5 feet. He blocked our shots: he didn’t let us ‘win’ per se: if we scored before time was up we ‘won’. He also shot sky hooks (seriously). Barbie dolls, baseball bats, books: all were fair game. He taught me how to keeps score at a baseball game, he let my sister have peanuts and whatever else she ate. He didn’t view one over the other: he nurtured our interests and spent time with us.

Once, somebody made the comment to my father about how my dad had to ‘babysit’ the three of us: my dad said, you don’t babysit your own children: unheard of 30 years ago. He gave quirky advice as we headed to college “don’t ever call home after a night of drinking”. We would call my mom for the idealism: we would call my dad for the pragmatism. But the pragmatism wasn’t gender based: it was reality based. Take an economics class, take statistics. He raised two daughters and a son who work STEM based careers before it was trendy (and the one with a history degree finally figured out math).

I’ve always thought fathers receive the short end of the parenting stick. My dad cooked, did some of the housekeeping, gardening, helped with the canning. He avoided the laundry (budgetary reasons) and wisely stepped away from the decorating the house for Christmas. I’ve been told ‘most’ men don’t do this. The feminist ones do: and they are responsible for many of the cracks in the glass ceiling.

Love you Dad.

What I’ve learned in 33 days

March 9, 2014

It has been a month. A month? Really? It feels like yesterday. It seems like a decade. At various times in my life as a corporate drone, I’ve heard “this is going to get worse (name of issue) before it gets better”. I hope this gets better. I’m making a list; partially as a gentle nod to my mom and mostly so I can remember. In no particular order:

1) Sadly, I have family and friends who have lost their parent(s) too early, too quickly, and/or without warning. I need to remember when they say “I get it”: they do. They may not get the complexity of a relationship but they get the watching Law and Order at 12:43 am while writing a blog post.
2) This sucks. It sucks because even in the hardest, most complex times of a complicated mother-daughter relationship, I knew, somewhere, that if I needed shelter, she would have welcomed me (and the cat collection) home.
3) I have wonderful, amazing, beautiful friends. I have people in my life who I have known since Girl Scout days who have made sure I’m ok. I have college classmates who reached out and continue to make sure I am ok. I have friend who DESPITE bad news checked in and kept checking in (person who turned me on to half marathons and your spouse, I’m looking right at you).
4) I struggle with the mitzvah’s. From the randomly strange to the sublime love (the asking if I needed a peanut butter sandwich as I tried to get back to Knoxville, to the making sure I had cash, to a pet sitter cleaning my home, to a friend spending 3 hours helping me remove 3 FEET of snow from my car, to the TSA guy helping me get through security), I have no idea to how to repay the kindness.
5) The pain, I am told, is a good pain. It shows the love. Ok, whatever. File that under one day I’ll understand.
6) As painful as this is for me, my grandmother buried a child, my father buried his wife. It must be worse for them. No matter the age, even I get that your child dying before you must tear you in a way that makes no sense.
7) I am lucky/blessed/grateful for my friends. The ones that just sent random insane texts to try to make me laugh, the ones who understood when I said “I can’t talk”, the one who listened to me babble for an HOUR while stuck in rush hour.
8) There are people who came out of the woodwork to show their love and support. There are people who never acknowledged my mother’s death who I thought “would always be there”. Both surprised me; one day, maybe I’ll let go of the anger regarding the second part.
9) My paternal cousins. You’ve been there. You know where we are. You’ve called, e-mailed, texted, Facebooked and poured wine into a glass.
10) I’m learning what is important. No crazy changes for a year: but I’m learning.

Next week March Madness starts. As crazy as my mom was for college football, she loved basketball. She’d call me: Are you watching Boise State vs Alaska-Fairbanks? (um, no). You need to be a student of the game! I’d laugh. I like my teams. She loved the sport. I’m flying back to Knoxville and will be attending the women’s Final Four in Nashville. In my fairy tale ending, it’s The Ohio State University vs University of Tennessee and it goes to 5 overtimes (I don’t care who wins). Or Uconn (then it better be UT) – my mom liked the program Geno runs in Storrs. I know sitting next to my dad will be hard: my parent’s and I would met for the Final Four in various locations even when things were hard in our relationship and have a good time. I know my Dad and I will have a good time. I know we will have a hard time. And I know we will have a good time.
This month has been hard. I completed my second half-marathon. I feel myself un-numbing from the death of my mother. I’m trying to remember the advice somebody gave me: one good step at a time.

They are #cats. Really.

July 26, 2013

Last night I popped open an e-mail from somebody I’ve known for roughly 9 years.  We crossed paths in graduate school and I have, what I would have termed until yesterday, an extremely causal acquaintanceship with this person: meaning if we were at the same party, I’d go over and say hello but not much more that a superficial relationship at best.

“Hi.  I believe in honesty.  I just wanted to let me know that in light of the Trevon Martin decision, I found your link on FB to demonstrate latent racism on your part.  I’ve seen a few of your posts about your cat who you call ‘the world’s dumbest animal’ and now this link about another person referring to a black cat in the same manner.  This IS racism.  I’ve expressed my concerns to you before regarding the names of your animals.  Please consider these types of posts and naming of your animals going forwards.  In Christ’s Peace. . . . “

What. The. Hell.  Ok, get a grip you dumb ass New England Liberal, or more correctly, get your head OUT OF your ass.  Lafitte is a cat. (You know, 4 paws, whiskers, tries to catch birds/mice and meows).  He also is quite dumb.  Cute but dumb.

Jackson IS named after Andrew Jackson.  Yup, there are some aspects of the Jacksonian Era that are questionable, there are also some pretty good things (the start of the national banking system) and some quirky things (oh, big block of cheese, to the victor the spoils and that almost burning down of the White House thanks to a party). And depending on who you are, credit for starting the Democratic Party.  If you knew something about history, you’d get that Laffite was Jackson’s side-kick in the Battle of New Orleans securing the port during the War of 1812 (albeit after the war had ended).

But here is the thing: they are C-A-T-S named after (one could argue) moderately important figures and legends in early American history.  One is orange, one is black.  I had Lafitte’s named picked before I even saw him.  I got him because Jackson needed a side kick.

I’m not denying the very real racism that exists in this country: I’m not denying that as a person of European descent I do not fully grasp the complexities of racism (but when you want to chat with me about sexism, discrimination based on sexual orientation or disability, give me a call).

I am stating for the record, having a dumb black cat named after a pirate doesn’t making me a racist.  But sending me an e-mail telling me I’m one, and then signing your e-mail using religion only re-enforces my entrenched beliefs about over the top liberal idiocy regarding issues and the looking for oppression around every corner in and demanding an apology.

Not everything has a hidden agenda people.  Sometimes, you just name your pet after a few quirky personalities in history.  It’s not like I named him Mussolini.  Now *that* would have been offensive.

And for the record? The writer of the e-mail is a white, heterosexual male.  Not that it should make any difference.

Julie #Hermann: Not Just A #Rutgers Issue (I’m Looking at You #Tennessee)

May 27, 2013

I follow the University of Tennessee Lady Vol Athletic programs. I started following them the way of many non-alum by way of their program flagship for women’s athletics, the basketball program which until this year had been coached under the legendary Pat Head Summitt.

I am not sure where the line is on Hermann and saying 1996 was a different ‘era’ (it has been 17 years) as far as how players expect (yes, I wrote expect) to be treated.  In the article published in the NJ Star-Ledger, the paper reports on a letter delivered to Joan Cronan (then the AD for the women’s athletics department, Tennessee merged their programs less than 5 years ago) which The Star-Ledger summarized as:

“Their accounts depict a coach who thought nothing of demeaning them, who would ridicule and laugh at them over their weight and their performances, sometimes forcing players to do 100 sideline push ups during games, who punished them after losses by making them wear their workout clothes inside out in public or not allowing them to shower or eat, and who pitted them against one another, cutting down particular players with the whole team watching, and through gossip.”

The letter was given to Cronan in the spring of 1997.  1997 is a critical year in the time line: the basketball team had just completed their second title run during which the team had 10 losses.  HBO would run a documentary called A Cinderella Season: The Lady Vols Fight Back. The promotional information from DCTV?

“Winners of the 1996 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship, the University of Tennessee’s Lady Volunteers seemed poised to contend for the trophy again. But halfway through the 1997 season, the team were not living up to their promise. They were losing almost every important game of the season. Injury to a star player, Kellie Jolly, didn’t help. It seemed that even the remarkable efforts of Chamique Holdsclaw would not keep the team from falling apart. Could this team really win again?

A Cinderella Season: The Lady Vols Fight Back follows the legendary Lady Vols for an entire season, from 6:00 am torture runs to inside the locker room, from the bench during games to bus rides, broken bones, and broken hearts. You will feel like a member of the team as they turn tears into triumph at the 1997 NCAA Championship.

The film also captures the intensity and drive of Pat Summitt, the Tennessee coach, as she molds her team into winners.”

In her second book, Pat Summitt states, Raise the Roof, Pat Summitt writes “Anybody who had gone through our 29-10 season had run miles and miles of wind sprints” (page 32).  The 29-10 season? The 1996-1997 academic year. Later in the same book, Summitt discusses the relationship with the off guard in the 1997-98 team which would win a third consecutive national title “You’re being selfish and stubborn.  You are acting like a brat.  Is that who you really are?” (page 168).  Summitt states this was offered as a challenge to then freshman Semeka Randall.  Name calling a player by a high profile coach, later acknowledged in a published book: zero consequences.

There is more from the same book:

To LaSonda Stephens in an open practice “You need to grow your little ass up”.  (page 196)

Bringing a copy of an unflattering newspaper article to Semeka Randall for her to read.  (page 208)

From Pat Summit’s first book, Reach for the Summitt:

“I saw the spot on the wall where I had thrown a cup of water in frustration with my center, Abby Conklin.” (page 4) in the presence of Conklin and the coaching staff (page 16).

Making a team practice in un-washed game day uniforms (page 107-108).

Notice a pattern here? The difference, of course, is that Pat Summitt’s players didn’t revolt.  The stories in and around the Lady Vols program around Pat Summitt are legendary.  For many years, Pat Summitt was considered THE coach in women’s athletics.  A young volleyball coach arrives to Knoxville and bears witness to behaviors which has created a beloved coach and a winning program.

Fast forward 20 or so years, where are the criticisms for the University of Tennessee for not investigating (remember, Hermann quit coaching and became an administrator at Tennessee) now? The outcry in Knoxville is a bit alarming.  Yes, Summitt stepped down due to early onset Alzheimer’s but her behavior of disrespect to players was openly accepted.  And Hermann’s replacement? 4 transfers this year under heavy questioning over verbal abuse of players.

I don’t know where the line is; I do know this.  I don’t believe for one second Hermann forgot all of the incidents (maybe some of the finer details) but her behavior on the Knoxville campus mirrored the documented behavior of the iconic basketball coach that continued after Hermann’s departure from the Knoxville campus.

Where is the line in the sand? And why is only one former coach being criticized?

#IntlDayAgainstHomophobiaAndTransphobia? Support a #ballez

May 17, 2013

Really.  There is a day (ok, several different days) that basically say it’s not ok to hate the non-heterosexual community.  I’m going to spare everybody my rant on that simply because I’m tired of writing it, saying it, and above all thinking about it.  Put it this way, every day, I’m reminded of how I’m “different”.  I’m over this.  Over it.  People blog about the sexualization/objectification of Disney FEMALE characters, has anybody looked at the images they present to boys?

Katy Pyle’s re-interpretation of The Firebird, a Ballez is MORE than just a queer ballet.  It is so much more than that.  This show re-examines how we present people.  Take a look at the picture below taken by Chrissy Pessango:

Chrissy Pessango Picture

Chrissy Pessango Picture

What do you see? More correctly, what do you see? Look at the different body types, look at the gracefulness each of these dancers holds.  Maybe one, ONE, presents the body type you would expect to see in a ballet.  One.  And here they are a dance corps, musicians who identify as non-heterosexual but teaching a much broader lesson: the presentation of the craft is the important part.  Shaking up gender expectations is huge: doing so with health body images? Well that’s nothing short of spectacular.

The show opened last night as St. Mark’s church (an Episcopal Church in NYC).  Yes, a mainline church supporting queer art.

The $10,000 Pyle is hoping to raise is to provide better pay for those who have contributed so much to this project.  Please help fully fund her.  The show is sold out.  The importance of this re-envisioning is not just important for the queer community but for every person.  None of us are that “perfect” image.  Pyle’s work is groundbreaking.  Pyle’s dancers are taking very real risks in their professional lives.  The church that is supporting them will undoubtedly draw (more) criticism.  That is the risk of being a ground breaker.

This is the link to the KickStarter campaign.  Please give what you can.  The project is so close to being fully funded.

And no, I was not paid to write this review (and I wish is I was in NY so I could go see the show!!!)

The Firebird, a Ballez #queer #dance #kickstarter #feminism

May 16, 2013

“This ballet is the one I wish I had seen” . . .words, of course, you would expect to hear from the artistic director. The reality is that in the context of  The Firebird, a Ballez this is much more than a true statement.  Katy Pyle has re-envisioned Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird in a new image.  A queer image.  The clip from Kickstarter IS the ballet I wish I could see if I was in NYC this weekend.

I am far from a lover of ballet, I am impressed with the skill it takes to dance on ones toes (I’m thrilled to get through one day with stubbing a toe) but I’ve never felt a connection (I vaguely remember The Nutcracker and by vague, I remember this idea of child running around and the prince/princess and always been freezing cold in the theater) to ballet.

I clicked on the Kickstarter campaign because the artistic director is the sister of a college classmates.  I believe in projects in Kickstarter: we are all on this planet together and well, in this country we really don’t grasp “the arts” or funding for the arts.  As I watched the clip and listened to Katy’s reasoning for funding the project, I went back and watched the clip again. Without sound.

I saw me: not just the gay me.  But me.  The person who doesn’t look like a dancer. I saw people of different ethnic origins.  I saw not male/female roles but artists expressing their craft in a very gender scripted medium.  Yes, there were dancers who looked like dancers but compare the clip above to this one I grabbed from you tube.

Pyle’s project is more than just a “queer ballet and orchestra”.  The dancers look like everybody.  They present healthy body images with varying frames.  As I’ve replayed the clip in my head all day and thought about what I wanted to write about this amazing project.  I realized that Pyle is correct, this is a ballet I wished I would have seen.  Maybe somewhere in the back of my childhood brain I knew I was gay.  Maybe somewhere in the back of my head I knew I never had the body type to BE a dancer (even if I had the coordination).

The LGBTQ community has spent much of the spring in celebration as states grant the right to marry.  Now it’s time to show how it’s getting better in different areas of life.  The myths and fables of childhood which provide many of the gender norms which continue to be presented as acceptable need to be broken: not just for the LGBTQ community but for everybody. Every time I think of this ballet, I am amazed at the creativity.  I am in awe of the courage and I give thanks.  Maybe there will be a child watching who when s/he grows up s/he will realize s/he is LGBTQ and that the ability to dance doesn’t cross a gender bounds, that the stories presented in the struggles, the fantasy, the mythology of dances can be presented not as straight or queer but as what they are: human struggles.

The insanity of attempting to use your #fsa and #insurance plans. #mangledcare

May 13, 2013

The flexible spending accounts (FSA) are one of the more under utilized benefits by many of my co-workers.  The net is that you can legally allocated up to $2500 (as a single person) designated from pre-tax dollars to pay for prescription medications, physical therapy, medical co-pays, etc.  Usually (keyword) it works like a charm; you go to the pharmacy to pay with the debit card and it’s done.

Until one day, you receive in the mail letter stating that they company managing the FSA system (in my case PayFlex) sends you a letter stating they need “an itemized receipt for the treatment received”.  It’s a Dante worthy ring of hell adventure just this side of having to be the unfortunate soul to cuts Donald Trump’s hair. Really.

Being a proper Gen Xer, I first tried to solve this issue on-line.  Being a total type A, save documentation you probably don’t need person, I pulled out the “Welcome to PayFlex” guide.  Any reasonable, logical, sane person would have waited until Monday to handle this over the phone.  After spending a few hours playing with the web site, I gave up and called.

I swear on Jackson’s life that the reason why costs care are what they are is because of the sheer ineptitude of the industry to become seamless.  It would save them money (increase profits), probably decrease secondary illnesses related to things like increased stress from dealing WITH insurance companies.  The reality is that none of these the issues I’m have their roots in the currently being enacted Health Care Reform Act/Obamacare.  My hope is that the new act will only LESSEN the frustrations.  I don’t have hope because the system is so entrenched.

So back to the attempt to use my FSA account. . . .

I mailed back the detailed receipt as requested.

They denied the claim.

I called.  Why was this denied? You didn’t use our form.  Uh, great but it doesn’t say to send a claim.  I read her the letter (really) and it didn’t mention a claim form.  A few transfers letter, they’ve agreed to re-review bill without the form since, you know, they don’t require it.

Back and forth, they ask if they can fax me something (no, I don’t have a fax number).  They are stunned.  I’m stunned.  I ask them to send me the form in the mail (true story: my printer broke and since I can use the printer at work? Why bother: most of my life is paperless) since I don’t have a printer.

Back on hold; they aren’t sure if they can mail me the form since it’s on-line.

More conversation, she keeps suggesting to me to use the online feature(s).  I wholly agree but I point out to her that since I am using my iPad, there is an encryption mismatch.  I agree to use my notebook to register for the services.  Turns out, my employee ID number wasn’t long enough: I needed 2 leading zeros. Turns out the zip code that I’m supposed to use is not mine but my employers (not in the information).  Log in.

Very first line? “New mobile applications for iPhones, iPads, Andriod and Blackberry.”

Somebody just send me Bully Boy Vodka.

 

And we are stunned by #Abercrombie & Fitch #feminism

May 9, 2013

I’ve seen variations of the following article discussing the idiocy of Abercrombie & Fitch in various versions all of over social media. This is the latest one to hit my Facebook feed.

Here is the deal: this isn’t like the CEO of Macy*s saying such a stupid remark.  A&F has a long, long, long history of questionable business ideas.  Deciding to boycott A&F now ranks up there with the idea of “Hey, I wonder if we can land a person on the moon?”.  Abercrombie & Fitch has long been worthy of a boycott, banishment and a simple refusal by sane people to not purchase their clothing.  Here are some of the highlights:

 

1) Employees are refered to as ‘models’.  Yup, you read that right, models.  I’m not going to go on an anti-model rant but in the context in of the 21st century model is just this side of “allowing for objectification” and “we won’t hire ugly people.”

2) In 2005, the company was subject to a federal consent decree due to a hiring and promotion practices.  A consent decree essentially means that the federal government has found their violations of federal laws has been so egregious that a third-party is required to monitor such activity.  I work in a heavily regulated federal industry, it’s extremely hard to wind up with a consent decree when matters of health, medicine and transportation are involved.  It’s damn near impossible when clothes are concerned.

3) A&F has a history of discriminatory practices against Muslims and people with disabilities.

4) Countless ads that objectify and/or sexualize children, ads that are xenophobic, employment practices that are far out of line cultural norms.

Look, this is a company that has united feminist groups, Bob Jones University, liberal religious traditions and several unions.  Yes, they did donate $10 million dollars an emergency department at a children’s hospital.  But the larger question is this: this is a company that at every turn manages to purposefully offend every non-white, thin, attractive member of the population.  Ten million dollars probably doesn’t even begin to cover the damages they have done.

The bigger question is this: Why the hell have people been shopping them for so long?

Angry Lesbian Rant Year After Amendment One #lgbt

May 8, 2013

FB this morning is that it’s been a year since NC declared I’m not an equal person. Most days, I shrug states rights. Ok, no days do I think that. But the year anniversary the day after Delaware made me completely disheartened.

You know, I’m sick of defending the South and Southwest where a chunk of my family and friends live. I pretty much think your states all suck. How you can look me squarely in the eye and say you don’t think I deserve the same rights as every other citizen is beyond me. This isn’t about marriage in the religious sense but about marriage in the legal citizenship sense. Don’t flatter yourself: a gay guy or a lesbian woman isn’t looking at you or your spouse plotting how to break up your marriage so we can ‘convert’ you. Really. And if you are worried about that? Find a therapist. Homophobia is curable.

If you can say you feel my right to marry a woman is “immoral” ok. Chances are you’ve done things in that Bible you want to shove in my face I could probably find a list of ‘immoral acts’ you’ve committed: starting with the shellfish argument, the clothes you wear, the fact you are ‘casting a stone’ created completely in your own mind(s). While I’m at it, while you are shoving your morals on my rights, do you even bother to attend church let alone tithe? Or do you stand on the judgement of others because you think it is your God-given heterosexual right?

Here is the piece which you probably won’t read. Gay people probably aren’t going to run a church that they know is gay unfriendly asking to be married. If you attend church, you probably know that the minister of a church usually retains the right to perform the ceremony. Marriage is both a civil and religious ceremony. I could give a rats ass about your church polity. My church polity allows for marriage, unions, blessings of same-sex couples. My state grants the same rights (it’s the part where the minister says “by the power vested in me from the state of xxxx”). You can keep your interpretation of God. I demand my civil rights: as a tax payer, as a citizen, and as a human. Until then, I think 39 states suck.