Thursday, July 6, 2017

I'm Famous.

So a couple of weeks ago I was walking through my local Hannaford and I got sucked into the book section. "Really?" you think. "The book section of the grocery store, Aleena? The only books there are weird romance novels." Well, yes. I would mostly tend to agree with you, which is why I don't often peruse the book section of the grocery store. I can always tell when I haven't been to any bookstores recently because I find myself totally sucked in by the sight of any books whatsoever. (ALSO, I would like to state that the book section of this particular Hannaford totally had some pretty decent non-romance-novel-ish books that I actually considered buying. Just saying.)

Anyway, I was standing in the dairy aisle, glancing around at the books, when this bright pink one caught my eye.

I was like "Oh cool, a book about the Women's March that I attended! I'll flip through that!" So I grabbed it and looked at some of them. The book is pretty cool because it shows images from different marches that took place in cities all over the world. Neat, right? And I was like "I wonder if there are any pictures from the Portland, ME march!" Because, you know, I was at that one. Now, most of the pictures were from much bigger cities (D.C., New York, Boston, etc.) but there were exactly four pictures from the Portland march. And one of them featured two women wearing hijab that looked pretty familiar to me. And then as I look at the picture closer I noticed that I AM TOTALLY IN THE PICTURE, TOO!

That's right, folks, my face made it into the book about the women's march. How cool is that!?! Was obviously super excited and decided to buy the book, even though I'd had no intention of doing so. 

I also made a surprise appearance in the background of a picture of a high school track meet that was published in the Kennebec Current (super low-key newspaper that isn't a big deal at all haha). 

AND I did a voiceover for a PSA about service animals that my brother-in-law made for the Maine Human Rights Commission. (You can watch it here, if you would like to hear my voice and also learn alllll about service animals!)

So yeah, basically I am famous. 

BY THE WAY, in case any of you never knew this, I was totally in a music video once, too! It was filmed a few years ago, right after I moved to Minnesota; a friend of mine asked if I would be in it with her because her friend was directing it and they needed extras. The song is called "Kill the Fun" and it's by a Minnesotan musician Haley Bonar. You can watch the video here! ( I am very much just an extra in it. I'm one of the women "going to work in the factory" in the back of the truck. You can see my face if you pause the video around seconds 18-20, and the back of my head is totally in seconds 52-54ish- I'm the one in the red scarf with purple flowers. But honestly, if I didn't actually know where I was sitting and what I was wearing there's no way I'd have been able to see myself.)

All this to say: you guys should probably get my autograph now before I really make it big and don't have time for any of you anymore. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Life Lately.

A week or two ago I deleted my Facebook. Some of you may have noticed, some might not have. (I usually only notice things that appear rather than disappear- also, I read an article recently about how our brains are hardwired to do that, so whatever.) I haven't missed Facebook at all, though. There have been like two instances where I wanted to be able to look someone from high school up and see where they are now and wasn't able to, but otherwise I've hardly even noticed. I do NOT miss scrolling aimlessly through my Facebook feed looking for something to entertain me. Not at all.

I probably would have deleted it sooner if I knew that you can keep messenger while your profile is deactivated. (Shoutout to my friend Liam for letting me in on that secret!) So now I'm Facebook free and loving it. Not sure anyone will even read this post though, since I think people only see them when I publish to my Facebook wall, but oh well. We'll deal with that later. Right now, I'm simply updating you on my life these days.

It's the end of May and I leave for Europe in just a few short weeks. I have no idea what I'm going to do alone in Greece for a week, but I'm planning to mostly just bum around on the beach. Seems legit to me. Maaaybe I'll come up with something else to do while I'm there, but honestly if all I do is the beach bum thing, I think I'm fine with it.

Last weekend I got to see my childhood camp friend, Hillary, get married to her high school sweetheart. It was a beautiful wedding and honestly one of the most fun weddings I've ever been to, I think. Even though her little brother is totally afraid of me now because I tried to pressure him into dancing (I KNOW he's good at it! I've seen the videos on instagram and stuff!) and he's a 15 year old boy who is not about peer pressure from 26 year old women that he doesn't remember (even though I've totally known him since he was like six!) oh well. After the wedding I got to see my dear friend Simon host and perform in a burlesque show which was also super fun.

All spring long, I've been going to as many of my brother Jon's track meets as I possibly can. Yesterday I had the extreme pleasure of watching him make a new school record and PR by successfully clearing a high jump of six feet four inches. It was incredible. He's also got the school record in hurdles and tied the school record for pole vault. What a champ! He's been all over the Kennebec Journal (our local paper) sports section. If you've missed all that (I almost did, because of not having Facebook) here's the article they wrote just about him. It's pretty great. He's also been mentioned in a few other articles over the past couple weeks because he's basically everyone's favorite person to watch at the meets. Seriously, it's hilarious- all the boys are always whispering "What's Jonny doing now?" and "Has he done his high jump yet?!?" like he's some big celebrity. Also, when he made the 6'4 jump, I swear half the people at the track came over to watch.

Also a few weeks ago my brother Zac graduated from Thomas College- whoop whoop!- and then Jonny went to his senior Prom later the same day. In case any of you missed the photos of that, I will admit that my sister and I dressed up in our own old prom dresses and went down to the boat landing to take pictures with him and his girlfriend. Because obviously my sister and I are the highest quality sort of siblings. (It was actually my idea, and when I mentioned it to Britt that morning she said, "That's the best idea you've ever had!" So then we were definitely doing it even though I think she wanted to chicken out.) It was actually totally hilarious though. We didn't tell anyone we were going to do it and my mom almost fell over laughing when she saw us. I think Jonny was entertained, too.

Other than that, life has been pretty normal around here. I've been trying to get more exercise lately, even though some days it feels like it's going to kill me. I've gotten to eat fiddleheads a few times this spring, which I have enjoyed immensely. Last week I even took showers on two consecutive days (and I might even do it again tomorrow!) so basically I'm killing it on the self-care. You can be proud of me. I'm proud of myself.

Monday, May 8, 2017

A Drive Around a Crater.

So after leaving the redwoods, I decided to detour(ish) inland a bit to check out Crater Lake National Park. Because I was really trying to hit as many national parks as I could. And I am so very very glad that I did, because Crater Lake was totally my favorite of all the parks that I went to. Granted, I only spent about an hour there, and there really wasn't that much to do. But it was just so damn peaceful up at the top. And still. Even with a zillion tourists milling around, I found it completely zen because the lake at the top of the crater is just so serene looking. It was really just totally wonderful.

Also, the little volcanic rock island in the middle of the lake (you can see the very edge of it in the left-hand side of the picture I'm in) is called Wizard Island. And what's not to love about that?

It wasn't until after I left Crater Lake that I started having problems. First of all, the park is seriously in the middle of nowhere (okay, most of the National Parks are, but whatever) and I was a little afraid I was going to run out of gas. But I didn't so that's good. Although, it turns out in Oregon you aren't allowed to pump your own gas which sucks because I kind of hate letting other people pump my gas. But whatever, I lived.

But then, as I drove along the curving roads of Oregon, I was getting a liiiittle bit tired of driving and wasn't focused as much as I probably should have been and I popped off the road a bit. On a normal road, this wouldn't have been that big of a deal. I probably would have just kicked up some gravel or something and fixed it. But on this particular road there was no gravel. Just a 6 or more inch drop off from the pavement. Going down over it wasn't that big of a deal, but when I corrected it and went back onto the road, both of my right tires popped. It all happened in about a second or two, but I knew immediately that something was very very wrong. I managed to pull over in a kind of decent area (but like I said, the road was very curvy and there wasn't really a shoulder) and called AAA to come help me. Obviously, I don't drive around with two spare tires, so it required a tow. I wasn't going to get anywhere for new tires before businesses closed, so I called the Costco (my original tires were Costco tires) in Eugene, Oregon and asked if I could have my car towed there and leave it there for the night in their parking lot. They said yes, and I just had to wait for the tow truck man to arrive. Luckily I had a few books packed, and I also utilized the time updating my budget to include the new car expenses. I booked a hotel using hotwire from the tow truck and managed to get a place that was only a mile or two from the Costco where I left my car (but the tow truck dropped me off there for the night and I only had to walk in the morning).

It actually made me feel better that something went wrong. I was more than a third of the way into my trip at that point and I had spent many many hours driving. I tried really hard not to speed that much, but I tend to drive a little on the fast side and sometimes I don't even notice cause I'm just in the zone. I'd been a bit uneasy, sure that I would have some sort of problem over the course of my monthlong trip, and flat tires was wayyy better than a speeding ticket (or, god forbid, an accident) that would have probably been more costly and potentially made my insurance go up (barf). So with this snafu under my belt, I felt a bit calmer about the rest of my trip.

Also, while I sat in the back seat of my car waiting for the tow truck to arrive, I found the receipt for the tires I purchased at Costco (they were less than a month old) and was then able to present it at Costco the next day. Lo and behold- my tires were still under warranty and I was able to get two brand spanking new ones put on completely for free. SCORE! It was pretty damn exciting, really. So with that whole catastrophe I was only out about seventy extra dollars. Not too bad, really. Praise the Lord for Costco's really excellent return policy/customer service guarantee.

And with that, I continued on my merry way to Portland. It was a day later than I'd anticipated, but all's well that ends well, I suppose.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Camping in the Redwoods.

(See, I TOLD you I had some more posts ready!) 

So, we’re at Thursday, August 11th and I am leaving San Fransisco (I just wanted to put that in there in case this timeline and eight month delay has gotten confusing for anyone). I drove North toward the Redwoods. Now, there are a few different national parks where one can observe Redwood forests. One is Redwood State and National parks (duh) and one is Sequoia National Park. Apparently, Sequoia National Park is more impressive because that’s where the really wide trees are. Apparently the Redwood National Park has tall trees that are also wide but not as astonishingly wide. The internet seemed to think that if you’re only going to see one, you should head toward Sequoia. Well that’s cool and all internet, but Sequoia national park wasn’t on my way. At all. So Redwood National Park it was. 

Along the way I passed an advertisement for a drive through tree. So I went. I paid five dollars to go down a twisty road and drive my car through a tree but then I wimped out and panicked because I wasn’t sure my car would fit, so I turned off and parked my car on the side. Let’s take a moment here to appreciate the fact that I drive a sub-compact car, and if any car was ever going to fit, it was probably mine. But again, panic. Then I walked through the tree. The hole in it was wide enough that I couldn’t touch both sides with my arms extended. I checked later and determined that I can do that in my car, so my car would have fit. Of course. Damnit. 

Anywhoo, you can take highway 101 all the way up through and see some pretty incredible trees, but there’s also this scenic detour you can take and I figured, “What the hell, the whole point of the rest of this day is to see Redwoods. Might as well detour!” And so I did. The road was winding and slow moving but it was so, so beautiful. The trees were ginormous! I was driving through it in the late evening and the sunlight was barely making it through between the trees at that point. Pictures really didn’t do it justice, especially since I didn’t couldn’t get a human in with it for perspective. 

I camped out that night at Elk Prairie Campground in Redwoods State Park. It was pretty lovely and there were a zillion huge ferns all around my camp site. I kind of wanted to make friends with some people at the camp ground (like the dude I could hear playing guitar for his friends) but ultimately was too much of a chicken. Oh well. It was still lovely.

In the morning I went exploring to a part of the park called "Fern Canyon" and I will say that while it was cool and very pretty, there was no place that looked like a canyon with walls completely covered in ferns. I was disappointed, not gonna lie. But I did climb up in a huge redwood tree and self time a photo that I later used on my Christmas card, so it wasn't a total loss, I guess.

After that I hit the road for Oregon and left California in the dust.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Some Thoughts on Spring and New Growth.

What is it about spring that makes me so introspective and self-aware? Maybe I’m always like this and I only notice when the sun starts shining more.

I’ve been walking home when I get the chance (when the weather and other obligations don’t eliminate it as a possibility) and it’s wonderful and refreshing and also sad. The plants are starting to peek out of the earth. On my walk last week I stopped to look at the most delicate purple flowers already blossoming, despite the fact that no other plant life around it was really thriving yet.  It was beautiful and it broke my heart a little.

I think Easter is very conveniently timed during Spring. Is there a more appropriate analogy for Jesus bursting back from death than the beautiful flowers that lay dormant in frozen earth finally bursting forth with dazzling colors? I think not.

But this year the flowers remind me of myself, too. I feel like I’m coming back to life after a winter during which I was struggling to feel normal. This happens to me every year, of course. But it seems a little more pronounced and profound than usual this year. And the flowers remind me of myself even more than that; so delicate and so fragile and still, against all odds, pushing through. When I looked at the little purple flowers it was like I could see myself struggling to grow and change and push against the shape of me. 

Sometimes my heart breaks for myself. Has that ever happened to any of you? Have you ever thought about your poor little broken, shitty self and just felt deeply sorrowful for it? Maybe that’s weird and/or super self-pitying sounding. It doesn’t feel that way though. It doesn’t feel like I’m saying “boo-hoo, feel bad for me!”… it’s more like I can stand outside myself and acknowledge that I’m a person and I’m extremely broken and have some really genuine empathy towards myself. Anyway, I’ve been feeling that profoundly this Spring. Like, “Oh look, you were this weird, sad little grub all winter, but now you’re finally a worm and you’re able to stretch and squirm and someday soon you’ll be a butterfly. That’ll be nice. Let’s stick it out til the butterfly stage, okay?” (Yes, I know that was a ridiculous mixed metaphor and that those three things aren’t ever the same creature, but I don’t care. Let me be me.) And it's nice. It's nice to recognize my own brokenness and allow it, consciously, to exist. It's nice to take a moment and realize that I'm growing and stretching my skin and changing shape and becoming something just slightly better than before.

So yeah, that’s where I am these days.

Unrelated: Keep your eyes peeled over the next few weeks because I finally (!!!!) have some more posts from my road trip queued to publish. Maybe I'll actually get my whole August road trip onto the interwebs! Although...don't hold your breath.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Sunshine and Books.

It's officially been Spring for nearly a month now, but here in Maine it just started feeling like it within the past week or two. Beautiful, sunny days have arrived. Which means occasionally walking home from work, eating ice cream outside without freezing, and things starting to grow from the ground.

For me, Spring also means feeling like a human being again. It always surprises me how much more I feel like doing when the sun wakes me up in the morning and is still up when I get out of work at night. It's like a damn miracle. (Or it's like seasonal depression, you know, whatever.)

The past week of my life has been especially beautiful and lovely. Can I say that? I spent a considerable amount of time last weekend "spring" cleaning (honestly just regular cleaning, but I feel like I finally got my room to the place I wanted it to be for the first time since I moved back to Maine) and then went for a walk on the rail trail with much of my family when it was gloriously sunny last Sunday. I've been trying to walk home from work if it's going to be nice out (shoutout to my sister for driving my car home those days even though driving isn't really her thing- I appreciate you, Britt!) and I even wore my bright yellow shorts out to the patio at the Quarry Tap Room. I love those shorts and I was seriously SO PUMPED to be wearing them, even if I was the only person out in shorts. Who even cares? I wasn't cold so it's fine.

Today I went for a walk in Vaughan Woods (aka the woods behind my house) and it was truly lovely. I watched the water cascade down from the dam, I looked at all the flattened ferns that appeared after the snow melted, I let the sun warm my skin. It was glorious. Days and moments like that always remind me of the line "God bless the daylight / the sugary smell of springtime" from the song "We Looked Like Giants" by Death Cab for Cutie.

Anyway. As some of you may have seen on instagram, it is one of my goals for 2017 to read 50 physical books. My official Goodreads book goal is 104 (right now...I may add to my goal later, depending on my progress), but a lot of my books are consumed in audiobook format. It helps to be able to do laundry or cook or clean my room while I'm "reading" and it allows me to entertain myself a little better during some of my more mindless tasks at the office. But this year I want to consume as many (okay, almost as many) books with my eyeballs as I do with my ears. So I've been working on it. Making terrible progress at this point, but whatever.

I just finished the book "The Hate U Give" by Angie Thomas. It was incredible. I would like to request that anyone I know read this book. Especially if you are white. And extra especially if you don't understand the Black Lives Matter movement. The premise of the book is that the main character is a teenaged black girl who witnesses her childhood friend get shot and killed by the police. So basically, it's a fictionalized version of every white-cop-kills-unarmed-black-person story you've heard. It's the story of every person who got a "Justice for _____" hashtag. And it is a powerful look at what it means to be privileged in America today. There are also many other topics and issues covered in the book that were eye-opening to me, and probably would be for you, too.

So please, read the book. It's one of the best I've read in a long time, definitely the most worthwhile book I've read this year. If you live near me I would be more than happy to lend you my copy. If not, I have seen it for sale in every book store I've entered recently. Do yourself a favor and buy a copy and read it and then lend it to your friends who want to read it, too.

Happy Spring and happy reading, everyone!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


As most of you probably know, I read a lot of books. For instance, last year I read 154 books (though admittedly only about 36 were physical books that I sat down and read and the others were audio books that I listened to while commuting or working or cooking or cleaning. You know, the joys of multi-tasking!).

I would say that many of the books I read are new books, either simply new to me (a first time read) or actually freshly published. I follow lots of book blogs and libraries on social media, and Goodreads is really good at sending out monthly notices about new books from authors you've read etc, so I am constantly seeing brand new books that look interesting and adding them to my To Read shelf on Goodreads. I've never watched Gilmore Girls all the way through, but I have seen episodes here and there and I remember catching an episode where Rory goes into a tizzy about how many books are published each day and how she'll never be able to read them all. Sometimes I think of that, and it's a sad thought. Even more sad is the fact that I probably won't even get a chance to read all of the books that I've added to that To Read shelf. Let's not talk about it.

It helps that sometime during or after college I gave myself permission to STOP reading books I don't like. Throughout my childhood, I'd follow through and finish every book I started even if it took me ages because they dragged on and didn't keep my attention. As I've gotten older and had less available free time, I've learned that nobody has time to suffer through books they don't like. And, more importantly, if you're wasting time on books you don't like, you're missing out on the possibility for books you love! That said, I admit that I still finish most books I start (also, confession: I have pretty low standards. I'm very easy to please and don't usually even care about bad writing. Soooo...yeah.) and rarely feel the need to put one down. A recent book that I started and just couldn't finish was "The Zookeeper's Wife." I picked up a copy of it years ago and have always wanted to read it- I was sure I would love it. With the movie coming out, I decided now was the time and pulled it off my alphabetized-by-author's-last-name bookshelf only to start reading and decide that I didn't like the book at all. Don't get me wrong; I still think I'll love the story and am totally planning on seeing the movie which I think I will enjoy. But the book was a total drag and I was struggling to read it after 25 pages. I think the author just got too bogged down in portraying the historical accuracy because it's a true story and she had access to pictures and journals and all sorts of primary evidence, and she presented it all in the book, at the expense of my interest. The movie will be able to show all that info rather than telling it all in excruciating detail, and I think I'll enjoy that more.

Anyway, with all the new books there are to read every single day, it can seem a little silly to re-read some. But I do it anyway. For instance, every year or so I like to read "Ella Enchanted." It's pretty much my favorite children's book of all time and I seriously read it like four or five times as a young person before I realized it was a Cinderella retelling (is that an embarrassing thing to admit? my point was just that it's SO well done and doesn't really fit into the cookie-cutter Cinderella format. I think Gail Carson Levine did a fabulous job with it!). I also like to re-read the Harry Potter books every few years because...well, it's self-explanatory, isn't it?

A few other books that I have re-read many times are "Bloomability" by Sharon Creech (she's probably my favorite children's book author, by the way), "The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd, and all of Sarah Dessen and Megan McCafferty's books.

Then there's another type of re-reading. The kind where I pick up a book that I read years ago and loved but haven't read since and decide I want to refresh the details. It's happened a few times in recent years. When this happens, I usually find my experience reading the book the second time to be completely different than the first, which I find completely intriguing. An example would be that in high school I picked up a copy of "Mother Night" by Kurt Vonnegut and started reading it out loud to my friends in a British accent just to be a goof, and suddenly found that I was totally into the story and read the entire book over the course of the rest of the day. At the time, I'd never before heard of Kurt Vonnegut, and I absolutely loved "Mother Night" and promptly dove into the rest of his books. In college, I had to read "Mother Night" for a class, which I didn't mind since I considered it my favorite Kurt Vonnegut, but I found the book to be not nearly as beautiful and wholesome as I'd remembered. It was really weird. In five years or so, I'd had so much more exposure to the human condition that I no longer saw the actions of the main character as truly heroic and wonderful. It was more complicated, the character more complicated, than I'd realized upon my first reading at 15 or so. Or maybe I'd understood the complexities and simply not remembered them. I don't know, but while I still liked the book after the second reading, I was surprised by it.

Last weekend I picked up a copy of "Flowers for Algernon" by Daniel Keyes and decided to read it for the first time in probably almost ten years (I don't remember exactly when I read it, but I know it was in high school). I know that I loved it the first time, and I remember the general premise of the story, but re-reading it has been very different from what I remembered. I think part of that is because a huge part of the book deals with the relationship the main character had with the world around him when he was a special needs child, and since the last time I read it I have personally spent a few years working directly with special needs children- if that wouldn't change my perspective on a story I don't know what would. But I think there's also just the component of being older, of understanding more about human nature, of considering how a character's actions compare with those of people I know in real life and with my own.

What I've learned is that as I live and learn and grow I can have a completely different interpretation of something than I had before. I know, this isn't an earth shattering revelation, but it still kind of baffles me. I think it has to do with the fact that despite being completely self-absorbed, teenagers (or at least me, as a teenager) don't actually understand themselves all that well. And the experience of reading is sort of a meta one, where you learn about yourself through stories and experiences of others. If you don't really know who you are, you might be blown away by a story, but it isn't going to fold into you the same way.

Anyway, that's just something I've been thinking about lately. I'm sure there are other books that I would get more out of if I re-read them now, and I'm sure there are books that I haven't read yet that I will enjoy more greatly if I read as an adult anyway.

Have any of you had a completely different experience with a book upon reading it a second (or third! Or more!) time? If so, what book? Are there books you think are important for me to read in my mid-twenties because I'll be able to relate to and understand them better now that I would have earlier? If so, drop me a comment!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Reflections on 25.

Tomorrow I will turn twenty-six. I am not that excited about it.

Actually, I was equally disturbed a year ago when I turned twenty-five and it ended up not being that bad. But with each year that comes, I turn an age that seems like a more grown up age than I am ready to accept for myself. A year ago, twenty-five seemed too old for someone who was still living the life of a twenty-two-year-old. But now, twenty-five seems pretty normal and it is twenty-six that is intimidating and weird.

Really, what it comes down to is that every year I think, "I can't be *insert number in the twenties here*!! Twenty-_____ year olds have their shit together! And I don't!!!"

And yet every year I learn that people who are that age really don't have their shit together. Or at least I still don't. But people don't really seem to be judging me for it (or if they do, it's not in a way I can perceive) which leads me to believe that it's pretty normal.

It's still scary though. And it really doesn't help when I fall into the Facebook trap of looking up a zillion people I went to college with and getting glimpses into their very adult-ish lives. Why do I know so many people who are my age and married?!?! How do I know so many people who are my age and working at seriously grown-up jobs and/or jobs that really make a difference in the world and/or include health insurance?!?! Am I the only person who feels guilty about not having started saving for retirement yet??? OR am I the only person my age who hasn't started saving for retirement yet?!?!?! (Also, can we just spend a minute appreciating how unfair it is that people are supposed to start saving for retirement well before they finish paying for college? Thank you.)

Anyway. Twenty-five has treated me relatively well. I took a solo road trip across the country and lived to tell about it (and not tell, since I only ever posted about the first half of my trip-whoops). My sister had a baby so now I'm an aunt and it's basically my favorite even though my niece recently started making noises that lead me to believe she may be possessed by a demon. I'm making moves toward having a grown up job. For instance, I've applied to some grown up jobs. (For the record, a grown up job, to me, is something that includes health insurance and ideally is salaried.) Unclear whether anything will come of these applications, but it feels like progress all the same. And really, I guess small steps of progress are all I can accomplish right now.

In other ways, I feel like I slid backward on the scale of adulthood during my twenty-fifth year. I'm living at home again. The end of my temp job is fast approaching, so I spend insane amounts of time trying to figure out what I'm going to do next. I don't have friends in the area, so I only spend time with my family (and I love them, but it's still kinda rough). I don't feel like I'm moving forward.

Maybe that saying about the journey vs. the destination means that we're never grown up, we're just constantly growing up. Maybe nobody ever feels like they've made it to the land of adulthood.

I don't really know what I'm trying to say with this post. I guess I'm just admitting that I don't know what the hell I'm doing with myself, and hoping that others feel the same. I guess I'm just letting it release some of my anxieties.

So here's to twenty-six. May it bring security and self assurance and hopefully a grown up job!

(Also, if any of you know of any jobs that meet my standards for grown-up-ness and are hiring and you think I'm qualified for them, please let me know!)

Monday, January 23, 2017

I Marched. Because It Matters. (here's my reasoning and also an apology for those who need it.)

On Saturday, I was one of thousands of women who participated in Women's Marches all over the world. I only decided on the Wednesday night before it that I wanted to attend. Obviously it was a bit too short notice to make it all the way to the march in DC, so I opted for the Portland, Maine location instead.
Here's a picture of me before the march with my childhood church camp friend!

You might be wondering why I decided to go three days before the event when it had been planned for weeks (or even months?) already. That's a great question! But I'm not totally sure I can answer it. I'll try.

It occurred to me that night that I want to be part of this. That in fifty years I want to be able to say that I participated in a march against Donald Trump's presidency and for the rights of future women. Now, here's hoping that his presidency will not be the scandal that I fear it will. Just imagine a world where we ALL survive the next four years unscathed! I am all for it! But I don't hold my breath for that to be the case. I didn't vote for him; I did what I could to keep that petty, hateful person out of office. But it wasn't enough. It happened anyway. And I want to have done more to speak out against him than just having cast a ballot in favor of his opponent. I want to be able to look back and say that I stood up against whatever garbage I fear will come of this. (And I know- I KNOW- that being in the women's march is more of a symbolic gesture than a productive measure, but it's more than nothing. It's a start. Not the end.)

I have also read many, many facebook posts and blog posts and articles written by the many women who did not go to the marches for various reasons. And I hear you. Some of you felt excluded as women of color. Some of you felt excluded as Christians. Some of you felt excluded as indigenous people. Some of you felt excluded because you are pro-life. Some of you opted out because of the vulgarity and hate that came forth at the marches. I understand those reasons, and I want to say that my participation in the march was in no way intended to alienate you, and I'm sorry that it happened and that you felt that way. (Here is one such post written by a woman of color, and here is a blog post by a conservative woman that also quotes a popular facebook post of the same nature within it. I read these, along with several others, and think that they are valuable and that you all should read them, too.)

Also, I loved this sign! Touché, man. I'll do my best to see you there.
In brief response to women of color who felt excluded by this march: I am sorry. I am sorry that I haven't been out on the front lines fighting for black lives, that I haven't participated in any of the marches and protests that you have organized to support your cause. I have let you down. I own this and I apologize. It is my hope to step up more in the future. I want to be there for you because you deserve it. Because your lives absolutely matter and I think it is completely disgusting that a movement like Black Lives Matter needed to happen when it should have ALWAYS been obvious that black lives matter. People matter! You are people! You matter! Again, I see this march not as the end of my stand but as the beginning. Please continue to call out white feminists on our exclusion and single-sightedness. Because we need it. As embarrassing as it is to admit, my white privilege often allows me to completely look over your problems; I just honestly don't see them until you speak up. And again, I'm sorry for failing you in this way. But the only way for me to realize these errors is for you to continue speaking up. I will do my best to listen when you do.

In response to pro-life women who felt excluded: I am sorry. I am sorry that you feel the pro-choice movement is trying to undermine your womanhood. I am sorry that you felt attacked. That surely wasn't my intent, though I cannot speak for others who attended the marches. Please allow me to explain why I am personally pro-choice though I am in no way pro-abortion. I am pro-choice because outlawing abortion DOES NOT stop them from happening. They happened before it was legal, and they would still happen if abortion was outlawed (and additionally would very likely be less safe for all involved). I have heard the argument that abortion can be psychologically damaging to women for the rest of their lives; from what I understand, that isn't the case the majority of the time but I realize that it surely is the case some of the time. To me, that means we need to better care for women who have had abortions. We need to love them and support them anyway, ensure they have access to appropriate mental health care, and stop shaming them for their choices. Outlawing abortion won't make these women feel better. And ultimately, I feel the best way to prevent abortion is to make better alternative options. Why would it be beneficial to de-fund planned parenthood? That is an organization that promotes protection in order to avoid abortion. Because let's face it- people are going to have sex regardless of the risk of unwanted pregnancy. The BEST way to prevent abortions is to provide accessible birth control to those who want it. The second best way to prevent abortions is to ensure that pregnant women will have the resources and assistance they need to care for a child if they birth it. How can we expect women to want to bring a child into the world that they feel they cannot support? If we want them to have a baby, we need to make sure that the baby will be cared for. Otherwise, it is not okay to judge them for viewing abortion as an acceptable option. All that to say I support you, pro-life women! I value your opinions and your womanhood. I completely respect your opposition to abortion. I also implore you to be fully pro-life, not simply pro-birth or anti-planned parenthood. These things are not the same. The absolute best way to reduce the number of abortions performed is to increase availability of birth control, not to restrict it.

In response to the women who have posted rants with #notmymarch: I agree. Many of the civil liberties that seem in jeopardy right now are so basic that I don't even think about them. But it is really REALLY important to understand that that is not the case for everyone. When it comes right down to it, this probably wasn't my march either. I am white, I have plenty of money to get by, I am able to work because I am able-bodied enough to be gainfully employed, I have never been abused, sexually or otherwise, I got to go to college. This is called privilege, friends, and not everybody has it. I am learning to accept that my basics for life are not guaranteed to everybody equally. People born into poverty, people from abusive homes, people who came to this country seeking refuge from their own tragedies, people who aren't heterosexual, people who do not have bodies that work the way I take for granted that mine does, and especially people of color do NOT have the same access to opportunities that I do. It is a hard thing to realize and accept. It takes time and lots of examples and a huge amount of empathy to start the process of "checking your privilege" but it is something that we need to do as humans. So to those of you for whom this march "was not" I say this: you're right. It wasn't for you, it was for them. And it is probably your job, as it was mine, to use the privileges we have been given in order to help others.

In response to the accusation (presented in the post I linked to above) that marching for the rights of American women is absurd when there are women with real problems out in the world, I would agree on some level. But again, I implore you to check your privilege. Just because you don't personally face real and present danger in America today doesn't negate those sort of experiences many women have had. And I would also direct you to the Global Gag Rule which President Trump reinstated today. If you don't know what that is, please look it up. Please be aware of the repercussions that action will have on women in countries throughout the world, and how negatively it could affect those women that you have just said deserve our real support.

(I would also like to say that when you posted pictures of women with expletives on their signs and and used them to denounce hundreds of thousands of march participants as crude and vulgar, that may have been short-sighted. To those of you who showed these pictures with "This is supposed to represent me?!?!" I would say that no, those women wanted to represent themselves, and I think they are probably well aware that they aren't the majority and that you are, which is why they took the opportunity to speak for themselves when it was presented. To me, the march was an expression of individuality, where we could all put ourselves out there and be accepted. We accepted those people as a valid example of femininity and we accept you, too! You do not need to feel encompassed by that if you don't want to. That is completely acceptable. But don't shame others for expressing themselves.)

So, finally, I say this: I marched because I care. I care about people of color, I care about immigrants, I care about women who feel abortion is their best option, I care about everyone getting the right to express themselves and being able to represent their own opinions and not be falsely represented by others. I care about women who were sexually assaulted and now have to see their attacker supported as the President of the United States. Because that happened and I cannot possibly imagine how completely traumatic it would be to be in that position. If you're reading this, I care about you. You are valued. And the same is true for those who aren't reading this. To me, the women's march wasn't about judgement or exclusion, it was taking the opportunity, when I had it, to show support for those who need it. I don't feel that I personally needed the support, but I hope that if there comes a day when I do people are willing to give it and not condemn me. If I would ask others for this then I feel the need to provide it back.

In the words of the wise and eloquent Brené Brown, "I don't know Donald Trump so the most respectful thing I can do is take him at his word. And, when it comes to women, immigrants, African-Americans, Latinos, and our Muslim sisters and brothers, his words have been threatening and dehumanizing. I march to say that's not acceptable or American." 

P.S. I tried really hard to be kind and understanding with this post. I am trying hard not to judge any of you, and just to be sympathetic to your perspective while illustrating my own. But this blog post also articulates really well what many of us are feeling after seeing those posts. Be careful, that post isn't trying as hard as I was to respect your perspectives. But it is powerful. And I do agree with it.