My Record Cake Collection

Score for Humantiy

To the asshole that saw me drop my iPod today,

My best friend came looking for it 10 minutes later. Thankfully, you’d already scooped it up. You must be smarter than the average person I see rummaging through garbage cans, because you’d managed to complete a factory reset on it and make it your own by the time I got home from work. Thanks for stealing all my music, you giant sack of rotting horse shit. I guess returning things to their owner just proves to be too difficult for most.

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Speaking Out

I don’t know how else to beg, except to plead with you to share this post. After Audrie Pott’s suicide began making the rounds today, I found myself in an increasingly despondent state, wondering how we can stop this from happening to anybody else. The first step is speaking out.

Stubenville. The War on Women. Audrie Pott. Penn State

In the last year, these things have been discussed to death, resurrected and put to death again. I’ve even written this post 30+ times in the interests of debating its effectiveness, but after reading about Audrie tonight, my heart is shattered. Her life was not over and neither is mine. None of the discussions we currently participate in are going to do any good until victims of sexual assault feel free to come forward and recognize that they are so much more than this moment.

Recently, I’ve been brutally honest with myself, thinking about my own hesitation to come forward, and what kind of limitations I’ve placed on my healing by refusing to outwardly acknowledge the impact of sexual assault on my life. I stand up for equal rights, for animals, against breast cancer…I even stand up for the Dallas Cowboys year after heartbreaking year, but April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and I want to stand up for myself and other victims of rape and abuse. I want to empower other men and women to come forward with their stories without feeling guilt and embarrassment. What you’re about to read is how I’m starting to do just that.

Rape. I can talk about it and lately it seems like everybody is. Until the last whisper of air is forced from my lungs, I will take up for victims, preach to them the importance of speaking out, and remind people that the fault lies with no one other than the perpetrator. However, what I haven’t been able to do until now is talk about my experience without feeling shame. I know what you’re thinking, “Rape? It wasn’t your fault.” And while I understand that it wasn’t my fault, I also know there’s a certain shame that accompanies feeling like I have to share my story in dark corners with hushed whispers. It doesn’t make talking about it any easier. Not because I think it was my fault, but because talking about it openly sometimes feels like the most isolating and horrifying thing I can do. To talk about it honestly means that I would have to open myself up to criticism, judgment, and admit something that has only passed my lips a handful of times in my life. I’m not ok.

If you’re reading this and we’re friends, you might have heard me mention it. There might have been a quiet moment when I spoke of it in passing. I might have admitted the same thing happened to me after you shared your story or maybe there was a night that we sat at the bar, had a few drinks, and the rum gave me hope that you wouldn’t judge me for it in the morning. In any case, I can almost guarantee what I said as soon as you told me how sorry you were. I told you that I was fine and that I’d been through a lot of therapy. Those were both lies. I haven’t been fine in years and although I went to therapy, I wouldn’t really say I went through it. I lied and told my therapist everything was fine, too. Enduring sexual abuse has taught me to play things close to the vest, so you shouldn’t feel slighted by my omission. I went to therapy and hid everything behind my wit, sarcasm, and self-deprecating humor; my specialties. I tried in vain to make myself out to be some kind of emotional superhero, who had magically been able to navigate the waters of recovery with deep thought and a couple of Dr. Phil books. In short, I was in denial.

I was so committed to the appearance of recovery that I even convinced myself I was ok, however, there have been tell-tale signs that I was, in fact, not. After a fairly abusive relationship and a string of bad decisions, I quit dating. I knew something was wrong with my ability to choose a suitable partner and, frankly, I hadn’t seen myself as worthy of anybody in a long time. I still find it nearly impossible to connect with anybody on an emotional level and I have a startle reflex that fills me with such violent anger that I nearly decked my eight year old nephew after he snuck up behind me in the kitchen one night. None of these are life skills I’m hoping to hang on to.

Some people will say the internet isn’t the forum to air things like this, but honestly, until you’re the one living with the aftermath of sexual assault, you’ll never understand how deafening the silence is. I’m not saying any of this for pity. I’m saying it because I’m finally tired of watching survivors carry the burden alone. Why should we? If we had been burglarized, mugged or punched in a bar, would we fear being blamed for the crime? Would we be afraid to talk about the scars we were learning to live with? We are not the ones that should feel shame or humiliation and this is not the end as we know it. I want to be open about what happened to me and encourage other people to be open about their experiences. I want to promote a world where people can come forward and get the help I wish I’d gotten for myself in the beginning. I’m not alone in this. None of us are. I spent a lot of time thinking about this the wrong way, but now I understand that talking about sexual assault isn’t going to isolate anyone. By encouraging others to speak out, it’s going to free us to heal others and allow ourselves to be healed.

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Pentagon, “It’s ok to be gay, just keep it a secret.”

It’s ok to be gay, sort of.‘ This is what I took away from the announcement that the Pentagon is rolling out new guidelines allowing homosexual men and women to enlist.

Does anybody have any idea how stupid this is? “One senior Pentagon official told NBC News that recruiters were allowed to accept applications from gay individuals, but those who were openly gay would not be permitted to enlist.”

First, how do they know they’re gay if they can’t be open about it? Is there a secret handshake?

Second, you’re only good enough for the US Military if you’re living a tortured life of denial? It’s ok to be gay, just don’t tell anybody? Those are ridiculous messages to send out to any American who is willing to enlist and serve.

NEWSFLASH: There are already members of the LGBT community serving in the military. Frankly, I find it amazing that so many of them are willing to fight for the freedom and liberties of a country that is still denying them theirs.

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Faking It

This morning I came across Lindsay Ferrier’s blog post regarding the purchase of knockoff designer bags. I’ve expressed my stance on knockoff bags enough times that I felt compelled to comment on the subject. After writing four paragraphs , I realized I was writing a post of my own.

I’ve had knockoffs over the years. In the beginning they came by way of one of my step-father’s clients who would bring bags back from New York as gifts. I got my very first knockoff my sophomore year of high school. It was a hunter green “Phooney and Bourke” backpack purse. I didn’t really see the massive appeal of a D&B bag (all that tiny lettering is too busy for my taste), but everybody in high school was carrying one and my parents were offering it to me in the interest of fairness since my private schooled step-sisters apparently needed them as a uniform requirement. Given that I went to a public high school, I’m guessing 90% of the ones I saw everyday were fakes. The other 10% were likely lifted from the carrier’s mom’s closet as soon as she was out of the drive-way and on her way to work.

College and a meager, steady paycheck brought an appreciation for accessories. I fell in love with the simplicity of Kate Spade’s patterns and designs and my next knockoff, a blue on blue stripped “Fake Spade” Sam, was given to me. I loved it, but despite, and probably because of, the compliments I was given when I carried it, I felt like I was somehow cheating fashion. I had no idea where it had come from (other than eBay), but imagined some lady sitting in her house in Ohio, picking out similar fabrics to those of the authentic bags and hand sewing the telltale labels on the outside of the purses.

I purchased a few more knockoffs over the years. However, they were confined to pieces I liked, but couldn’t afford. After society decided to bring bell bottoms back, it became painfully clear that I couldn’t rely on the public-at-large to dictate my sense of style. Besides…in the absence of a reason to get dressed up, I’m very much a blue jeans and t-shirt kind of girl.

After Jessica Simpson sparked another Louis Vuitton craze in ’03 and ’04, I’d begun to grasp the scope of the industry and no longer imagined a suburban housewife, sewing the labels on the bags. What suburban housewife had access to leather working equipment? I knew the leather fakes were most likely out of the Orient and assumed the everything else was as well. I’d heard stories about poor working conditions and knew they were probably less than ideal; however, in my naiveté, I imagined a room full of Chinese workers, slaving over their sewing machines, making a pittance for a weekly salary, then heading home to their huts where they would gleefully eat their bowl of fish and rice, ecstatic to have work that paid anything at all. I stupidly assumed that this industry, a black market, would afford its overseas workers the same basic working conditions as the mainstream clothiers claim. Of course I felt a little guilty, but surely the Chinese government had labor laws just like the United States, and even if I thought their standards were sub par, it was the prerogative of the Chinese government to dictate what was acceptable for its citizens. I needed that Louis Vuitton Piano Bag that Jessica Simpson carried on Newlyweds.

In January, 2009, I came across a piece by Dana Thomas in Harper’s Bazaar“The Fight Against Fakes”. The absolute horrors of this industry hit me head on. In the article Dana quotes a passage from her book, Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster:

“I remember walking into an assembly plant in Thailand a couple of years ago and seeing six or seven little children, all under 10 years old, sitting on the floor assembling counterfeit leather handbags,’ an investigator told me… ‘The owners had broken the children’s legs and tied the lower leg to the thigh so the bones wouldn’t mend. [They] did it because the children said they wanted to go outside and play.”

After reading this, I knew I would never again carry one of these bags in good conscience or otherwise. I couldn’t, and still don’t, understand how we can live in a world that allows human trafficking for the sake of carrying what APPEARS to be a designer bag. I don’t understand why people are allowed to die in the name of mining diamonds and those have some quantifiable value (even though it’s just a rock). But a purse? Are you really willing to condemn people to be beaten, starved and treated as subhuman just so your friends can think this bag, that you spend too much time searching through for car keys, cost you several hundred dollars? Since reading Dana’s piece, I have heard other stories; stories of children chained to sewing machines, sleeping on floors, starving, beaten and broken so their “owners”, for lack of a better phrase, can reap the rewards of their slave labor.

I recently went to New York for a long weekend with a friend.  Hell bent on shopping, she was adamant that we visit Chinatown and explore the secret shops and store rooms that make up the labyrinths behind the storefronts. I hadn’t ever been to Chinatown, but quickly became accustomed to the women and men standing in the doorways, quietly mumbling names like Coach, Tiffany and Juicy, hoping to catch our attention. At one such store they caught D’s. Quickly, they ushered inside the store where part of the wall began to give way to a doorway that would have been undetected by the casual observer. After entering the room, the door was immediately closed behind us and it was indicated that we were to follow a small woman who lead us down a hall, through another door, down a flight of stairs, across a musty basement, up another flight of stairs and into a small room where purses covered the walls. There were about six other women in there shopping when we entered. I remember thinking that taking out my phone would probably be seen as a hostile act and I wasn’t keen on being mistaken as an undercover anything. There were beautiful bags in that room. I was particularly taken with a few of them, but looking around at the bargain priced bags, belts, wallets and sunglasses, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was all wrong. What I now knew of the production of these things had taken any joy I would have found in my previous state of blissful ignorance. I just wanted to leave.

I couldn’t begin to express my philosophical concerns to the two women who stood guard in the room with us. I wondered if they had children and if their children had come to the US with them…or were they some of the children working in the mills, essentially sold into the trade in exchange for passage to a better life. I have no idea to what extent these women knowingly participated as cogs in the wheel, but standing there, I knew that I would never perpetuate the need for these things again.

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The Importance of Reaching Out

I woke up Saturday morning, ready to take on the day as I halfheartedly prepared to report to a volunteer project I had agreed to work on a few months ago. It’s not that I didn’t want to do it, but my own life is hectic at the moment with all the things we let we let clutter our day-to-day existence. My boyfriend is coming into town next weekend and I’m in desperate need of spending some quality time with my house. I need to do laundry, shop for groceries, get some writing done, transfer old blog posts, catch up on my DVR… Nothing of earth shattering importance, but it all adds up to my life, nonetheless. I sipped my coffee while scrolling through pages of Google reader, Twitter feeds, emails and Facebook, mindlessly checking in on what everybody had been talking about since I had drifted off to sleep around midnight the night before. One incredibly short post altered my state of mind.

R.I.P. Saul Juliao

I met Saul (or Chris depending on his liking that year) in the 4th grade when we moved to Nashville from Austin. Through years of what I generally qualified as torment at the time, Saul had been an on again, off again confidant and cohort. I have few clear and vivid memories of high school and I am constantly reminded of events that I took part in, of which I have little or no memory. However, I have very vivid memories of Saul. One of my favorites involved us skipping out of class one afternoon and going to his house. We sat around and sang while he strummed along on his guitar. To this day, whenever I hear Let Her Cry by Hootie and the Blowfish I think of him.

Even as teenagers, I felt like Saul was a bit of a lost soul. He wasn’t a bad kid or particularly tormented. In fact, I remember his wide engaging smile and his laugh as much as I remember his resonating voice. Saul just seemed a bit disillusioned with everything, but maybe that’s what we had in common aside from the performance choirs and madrigals we both participated in. I transferred schools and years passed by, but I have thought of Saul fondly and often.

Since learning of Saul’s suicide I’ve also learned of the problems he’d had in recent years. Drugs and alcohol had a grip on him that he couldn’t shake. I’m still heartbroken for him in more ways than I can articulate. Initially I was consumed with sadness, imagining how he must have felt. I’ve been low before (and I’m sure more of us than will ever admit it have had the fleeting or not so fleeting thought that it would be easier if life just ended where we stood), but to feel so strongly that there’s no way out and your only recourse is to end your life… I don’t care how many years had passed, I would give anything to have bumped into him or gotten the out of nowhere phone call from him. I would have given anything to have had the opportunity to let him know that people cared for him more than he realized.

I went to the Designathon for Youth Turns on Saturday, my eyes red and puffy, feeling the tears well up in my eyes whenever I was alone for more than two minutes. Having something to do helped keep my mind off the tidal wave of sadness that threatened to overtake me. My involvement wasn’t life changing. I don’t really feel like I did anything of significance actually. I took pictures, tweeted until people were sick of hearing from me and rounded up a few news segments on our efforts to boost morale. Hopefully, what I did helped. I know the work Youth Turns is doing is important for a lot of other kids who feel alone and lost. They’re trying to reach out to children of incarcerated parents and letting them know they aren’t alone, and that there are people who care about them immensely. Thanks to the work they’re doing, these kids won’t be forgotten.

And thanks to some teenage rebellion and an affection for music, neither will Saul Christopher Juliao.

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Please Shut Your Mouth, You Sound Like An Idiot

I am a peacekeeper by nature. I’m not a big fan of confrontation and the odds are pretty good that if I’ve said something to you that could be construed in the least to seem as though I were putting you in your place, I’m either extremely hurt or it’s not the first time you’ve done or said whatever it is that I disagree with (I’ve just bitten my tongue). I don’t discuss politics and religion with strangers and I’m never the one to bring it up with friends unless I know they agree with me. Since this is the behavior that my friends are used to, I feel the need to issue a bit of a warning. I have bitten my tongue as many times as I care to with regard to this issue.

If you are in my presence and decide to be the idiot that says anything to the effect of “I get that there was an earthquake, but why aren’t we helping the people in our OWN country,” I need you to be ready for the verbal lashing that will immediately follow. You probably won’t be able to hold your own, but it’s ok, I don’t expect you to. I expect that the kind of person who would utter such an uncompassionate, thoughtless, uneducated statement probably puts more thought into what kind of toilet paper to purchase than they do the words that come out of their mouth and thusly, isn’t going to have a rebuttal of any magnitude to anything I have to say. And to show what a nice person I am, I’m even going to give you a heads up on some of the talking points I’ve mulled over. Let’s break down the stupidity of your comment and I’ll try to simplify things for you.

  • Take a trip with me back to the early 1700s. Saint-Domingue (Haiti) was a French colony. The indigenous people from the island had already been enslaved and when the French needed more people to work on their sugar plantations they imported them from Africa. It was bad. By 1791 the slaves began a revolt that would last through 1803. On January 1, 1804, they declared their independence from French rule and the newly formed country (the only one born of slave revolt) became Haiti.
  • Since Napolean was dispossessed of such a money making colony, and he was looking at war with Britain, his plan for expansion in North America had to be retooled. He sold the Louisiana territory to the U.S. dirt cheap. Had the Haitian slaves not fought, or had they given up, a map of this country could very easily look vastly different today.
  • In exchange for France’s recognition of Haiti as a sovereign country, Haiti agreed to pay reparations to French slaveholders in the amount of $90 million francs. That debt was finally repaid in 1947. It took them over 100 years to repay that. They are an incredibly poor country.
  • As for what we’re doing for our “OWN” country, I must have failed to notice the natural disaster that has struck somewhere in Iowa, obliterating the infrastructure and leaving people buried alive as the government struggles to dig itself out of the rubble (literally). There are a lot of amazing people doing amazing work for people in the U.S. and to make a blanket statement like that fails to acknowledge the hundreds of thousands of people that are so giving of their time, money, homes, talents and whatever else they have at their disposal. Just because it isn’t covered by CNN as part of a media frenzy doesn’t mean that people aren’t working to better the lives of their fellow Americans everyday. What have you done lately?
  • Lastly, I remind you of compassion. After the World Trade Center Towers fell many other nations stood poised to send rescue teams, supplies, equipment and whatever else they could to help New York City and the rest of the United States recover. It wasn’t because we couldn’t provide for ourselves or necessarily needed the help. I like to think it stemmed from a need for other countries to offer their condolences and express sympathies on a greater scale.

A wise Richard Gere once said, “What we all have in common is an appreciation of kindness and compassion; all the religions have this. We all lean towards love.” Beyond anything I can offer of historical or political value, I remind you that these are human beings. These are are individuals who have lost their entire families, some of whom, no doubt, sat next to leveled buildings for days listening to the cries of people trapped beneath the rubble wondering if the muffled, pleading voice they heard was that of a loved one or even their child. I cannot imagine hearing the pleas of those trapped, but I think even worse might be the horror that comes with the realization that it stopped.

Many of those that survived have sustained such serious injuries that their lives will be forever altered. That is, if they continue to survive the lack of available medical care. See, it’s not a matter of not having health insurance there. There are no hospitals. Doctors, medical staff and supplies are spread thin, resulting in triage care to deal with the most serious of injuries and hopes of merely stabilizing the injured, never mind managing their pain or treating the injury. Imagine laying outdoors for days in unsanitary conditions with your crushed legs and no pain medication. The smell of the dead is becoming ever more present and you haven’t seen anyone you know since the men who brought you here on the makeshift stretcher left. I can’t imagine that you’d be quick to turn help away because it was coming from a stranger.

These picture that I’ve painted seems hellish, which even seems a gross underestimation of what is going on in Haiti right now. However, I hope they’ve given you cause to stop and think about the absurdity of what has come out of your mouth in the last ten days.

You choose to look at the events transpiring before us cynically and see opportunities better offered to others. I look at the same events and it gives me hope, hope that in spite of everything tragic and horrible that this world has to offer, there is an abundance of good and beauty and love.

The outpouring you see is the world’s way of expressing grief and a desire to do something to benefit another man in time of need. This is why we help. This is why we give. This is why we do.

“We can choose between the future and the past, between reason and ignorance, between true compassion and mere ideology.”
-Ronald Reagan

“Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism.”
-Hubert H. Humphrey

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Friends With Kids

A lot of my friends have kids. My best friend has three under the age of 6. I love all three of them as individual entities, but there are occasions when I’m left alone with them for extended periods of time that make me question their mother’s sanity in deciding to procreate. Last weekend could best be described as watching three dogs tree a squirrel. They can be so sweet and loving at times, but you can see that they’re plotting something when you look in their eyes.

These are the kids that are going to tie up their babysitter as soon as they know where the rope is. I don’t attribute it to parenting as much as I do their mother’s youth. Karma is a bitch at best and simply has a twisted sense of humor at worst. I’m betting karma isn’t so much worried about everything I’ve done, as it is laughing till it can’t breathe where I’m concerned. Karma knows what’s coming for me.

As of right now I’m not planning on tackling raising any Mini-Me’s anytime soon. As I type these words, the oldest of these children is trying to climb up the back of my shirt, one toddler is running around in circles wearing a motorcycle helmet and the other just handed me back what was my glass of water. I’m sure the contents now consist of two solid ounces of backwash.

I don’t plan on having kids, but the idea isn’t abhorrent to me. I just want to make sure there’s a dad around to do things like discipline them, help me out, buy stock in whatever pharmaceutical company makes Xanax and go get me ice cream if I ever find myself craving some at 3 a.m. I’ve often thought about avoiding the whole pregnancy thing completely and just adopting some 17 year old that’s already potty trained. I can just send them to college and feel like I’ve given back to society.

“Congratulations on your graduation little Timmy! Have fun in college. I’ll send a check for tuition. See you at Christmas.”

When I kept the girls over night last weekend their mom called after I had them in bed to find out how things were. When asked what I was doing now that they were asleep, I told the truth.

“I just took a Xanax. Now I’m curled up in the fetal position sucking my thumb.” It all has to come full circle sometime.

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