#MeToo

Please be advised that the following blog post contains sensitive subject matter and may be a trigger for those who live with present and past experiences with sexual harassment, abuse, and assault.

 

Social media has been filled lately with the #MeToo stories of sexual abuse, harassment, and assault. The recent attention to the subject has been desperately needed for change. I personally have shared my story(ies) with close friends and family. This has been about as far as it as gone. I’ve seen/heard of too many of my friends and others in my life who have gone through these type situations themselves. This is an issue for both men and women. A person’s gender does not determine whether or not one can help educate, change, and prevent future instances of abuse..

While this has been in the media, I have seen my fair share of people saying things like how someone dresses or their level of intoxication is just asking for an unwanted sexual situation. I can’t explain the feelings that come over me when I read or hear of someone saying it’s deserved or asked for. First, anger, obviously. Who in their right mind would ever believe that someone would wear something with the intent of getting assaulted? This is absolutely insane. Also, I should be able to expect other people to control their primal urges no matter how I’m dressed.

Secondly, I feel a deep sadness that people actually blame the victim. They point fingers at someone who has experienced what is potentially the worst thing that’s ever happened to them.

And third, I feel a fear for every person that I care about and even those I don’t know that they may experience what I myself have.

I’ve had several experiences with harassment and abuse throughout my life. I can remember the boy in middle school who made unwanted advances. I can recall the boyfriend who thought I needed a “push” to be ready for the same things he was, but the cake topper was my step father.

He was ex law enforcement, well thought of, and popular.

I realize now that I should have seen earlier signs. There were snide inappropriate comments and smacks to my backside when it began. While this was uncomfortable, I, in my fourteen year old mind, thought it was as far as it would go. Oh, how wrong I was.

My life changed drastically. Every man I met became a potential predator. I didn’t want anyone to touch me. My view of myself changed. I disgusted myself. I was damaged with no self worth, and I felt like everyone could see it. For the past sixteen years, I haven’t felt comfortable around people. I had to admit to my sweet boyfriend (now husband) what was happening to me after he witnessed it first hand. Had he not caught my step father in the act, I may never have spoken up. Tony cornered me in my room and demanded to know how long I’d been enduring the abuse. His brown eyes were a mix of sorrow and anger. He told me that if I did not speak up, that he would. My relationship with him has been changed. He’s been so tender and understanding about the lingering issues that I’ll probably have for the rest of my life. My heart has been hardened because of what happened to me. If sharing my story will prevent it from happening to just one person, it is worth putting my private experience out there.

Please, if you feel like someone might be making inappropriate advances toward you, no matter how insignificant it may seem, tell someone.

 

Advertisements

September

September is my second favorite month. It is second only to October. We are over halfway done with 2017. I’m not complaining. 2017 is trying too hard to be like 2016, and we all know what a wreck that was. Fall, my favorite time of the year, is just around the corner… somewhere else. For Mississippi, it’s more like fall is no longer than a week, usually in November.

Summer is considered over, but we still have temperatures in the 90s until October.

Kids are going back to school, football is beginning, and we’ll be bombarded with pumpkin spice every-frickin’-thing. Places like Wal-Mart will get a jump on Christmas, and make the garden center a winter wonderland. This drives my husband crazy. He shakes his head and in his most frustrated tone says, “What about fall? It’s just pushed aside for Christmas because that’s what businesses make the most money off of.” He’s a grumpy old man at heart.

September feels like new beginnings to me. Maybe it’s the subtle shift in the air or just a new school year.

I stepped outside of my house this morning to a crisp, cool breeze. It felt like autumn. Although I’m not naive enough to think it will last, I fully intend to enjoy the current cool snap. Fall is the most wonderful time of the year for me. The leaves are falling and plants begin to die, but as for me, I’ve never felt more alive than in the fall of the year.

This time of year always makes me think of my favorite things. Things like books, fresh coffee, cinnamon, fuzzy socks, and crisp autumn apples. I want to be outside. Doing yoga. Walking. Doing anything really. I get excited about all the colors and caramel apples and spiced tea. The world seems right during the fall. If sunset were a season, this would be it. My candles go from coconut for summer to things like apple cider or cinnamon bun.

I can’t wait for the smell of burning leaves that drift over the neighborhoods. I am ready for my best friend’s tradition of carving pumpkins every year. Cool, clear nights with skies full of stars are what I’m most looking forward to. I’m ready for a harvest moon hanging low in the sky.

September is the gateway to the best of the year. 

Being a Muffin

I am not your average woman. I’ve tried to be for years only to realize that being average does not work for me. I am not domestic. I’m a fair cook, but other than that, my domestic skills are limited.

On the outside, I am long haired and when I’m feeling girly, I paint my toes. Other than this, I’m a jeans and sneakers or boots kinda girl. My hair is normally down or in a ponytail. That’s about it. No makeup, except for special occasions. I can apply a decal better than I can eyeliner.

I heard a speech P!nk gave the other night about how her daughter said that she felt ugly because she looked like a boy. I thought of myself as a preteen. I wore a ball cap and had a short haircut. I was mistaken for a boy on more than one occasion. Over the years, throughout my teens, I did all the makeup and girl stuff. However, I’ve never been totally comfortable with it. I mostly did all that because I fell victim to our society and its expectations of girls.

I’ve gone back and forth at war with myself over my appearance and being more feminine. It’s taken me almost thirty years to realize that I need to be comfortable with myself. I’d rather spend my mornings reading or writing than perfectly applying makeup. I couldn’t contour to save my life, and I’m fine with that. Shopping is not my thing. Most of my clothes are ordered or second hand. That’s fine, too. We put too many limitations on our girls.

Girls can be mechanics, techies, gamers, into sports, and things that are considered “guy things.” We don’t have to be made up and dressed like paper dolls. We don’t have to be what society expects. My femininity is not defined by how I look.

I’ve heard many names for it. Tom boy. Androgynous. I just know what’s me and what I like. I saw a little girl in a gas station a few days ago. Her shirt said, “Be a cupcake in a world of muffins.” It was written in glitter and on a pink shirt. I smiled to myself as I recognized that I am in fact a muffin. And that’s great.

For all the little girls who would rather be Batman than a princess when you dress up, who choose hoodies over dresses, who would rather play with Hot Wheels over Barbie, who think heels are a form of torture, and who think they are too boyish or rough around the edges, you are a muffin. That’s amazing, and you are pretty freakin’ perfect just as you are. And if you aren’t a muffin, if you’re a frosted cupcake who loves pink and glitter, and can’t live without makeup, you’re just as perfect.

Whether you are a muffin or a cupcake, don’t let anyone tell you that you should be anything other than yourself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told that I would be pretty if I wore a little makeup. Forget that noise. If you’re still deciding who you are, that’s great, too. Take your time. Just be authentic. Don’t fake it for the world. You will be doing yourself a disservice and denying other people the privilege of knowing how wonderful you are.

13 Reasons Why

If you haven’t seen 13 Reasons Why, it is a Netflix Original Series about a teenage girl who commits suicide. She is bullied until the point of breaking. I cried as I watched a tormented teenager’s life absolutely break her with little to no help. While my situation was never so bad as hers, I can still understand a fraction of the pain she endured.

13 Reasons Why brought back memories for me. I’ve seen reviews online that say that some of the things that went on in the show would not happen in real life, especially some of the things about the school faculty. However, I can absolutely see this happening.

It reminded me of a memory from my high school days. I had a teacher that we will call Mr. Blank since I don’t want to put someone “on blast” for something that happened fifteen years ago. It’s not a big secret that I was bullied in school. An overweight introvert with a love of books is an easy target. Throw in that I wore glasses and I might as well have had a bullseye on my back.

There was also an issue with my health. On one of my trips to the doctor, I got the unsettling news that I would probably never have kids. For a fifteen year old, this can be quite traumatic. So, in true Kacie form, I did what I did best. I wrote about it. In a letter. To a friend. I wrote something that went like I went to the doctor, didn’t get the news I wanted, but that everything would fine. Things would work out. I wrote that I hoped this didn’t change my relationship with my boyfriend (He is now my husband).

Having a bad day, feeling off with everything in life, and being an absent minded teen, I dropped the note in Mr. Blank’s class. He found it on the floor and read it out loud to his next class. He completely misread the situation. He told the class that getting yourself pregnant is no way to try to keep a guy. He had a good laugh with several students. A friend later asked me if everything was okay with me. She told me about the note, about all the laughing, and said that he even passed the note around to see if anyone recognized the handwriting. Along with her, someone else had noticed my handwriting and told the entire class. Rumors couldn’t have started faster if they had announced it over the PA system.

Mr. Blank was one of my favorite teachers. He was a great teacher, a writer, and brilliant when it came to literature. I was stunned. I couldn’t believe he would put someone out there like that. Then, after I thought about it, I found it didn’t surprise me. He often called out people on their homework and made them feel pretty small because they didn’t know as many big words as he did. At break, I went to claim my note. I explained my situation and asked him if he would kindly not talk about it anymore. I had just needed to get the words out of my hurt heart and uncloud my mind in a note to a friend. He didn’t say much, didn’t apologize.

However, I was humiliated. The initial fall out was much as to be expected. I was a fifteen year old virgin with a scarlet letter. I was fortunate that it happened toward the end of the year. It could have gotten much worse. Teenagers can seem like angels to teachers and their family but be horrid to their peers. 

There were many other instances of bullying from my peers, but when it’s instigated by a teacher, it is a whole new experience.  

After watching the show, I saw how easily this could be any teenager walking around today. My heart constricts at the thought of these kids going through the motions of life, needing help, and finding none. I hope that we as adults will stop failing these kids and letting them hurt until the point of breaking.

If anyone of any age needs to talk or needs help, reach out. To me. To anyone.


National Suicide Prevention Hotline

1-800-273-8255

They also offer chat on their website.

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

My Papaw

My grandparents are both in the hospital at the moment. My grandmother had a bad fall, and my grandfather has pneumonia and congestive heart failure. They have tried to be independent up until now.

Some of my first recallable memories are of them and their house. When I was little, Papaw, or Paw, used to sit me up on their picnic table and hand me a piece of watermelon. I would make a huge sticky mess. He would say, “It’s not good unless you get it all over you.” Afterward, he would hose me down to help with the sticky.

Mamaw always made the best grilled cheese sandwiches. They were a staple of my childhood. On Saturday mornings, my cousins and I would eat grilled cheeses with jelly with Papaw and watch cartoons. Sunday mornings Mamaw made a big breakfast with bacon, sausage, eggs, grits, and homemade biscuits. Papaw taught us kids how to mix soft butter with syrup and dip our biscuits in it. Once a month, we’d have pizza night. Mamaw would call in our pepperoni pizza, and Papaw would load me up and take me to Mr. Tom’s store. He’d get me a Dr. Pepper, put peanuts in it, and get a Mickey Mouse ice cream. Leaving there, we would go pick up the pizza. Papaw would tell me not to tell Mamaw about the ice cream before hand. It was our secret. I’m sure she figured it out.

Papaw was always singing, and still would if he could. His voice projects and is full of old Southern sound. I learned songs by Kittie Wells, Hank Williams, and Charlie Pride at his knee. We’d sit out on the swing, sing, and watch the sunset until the bushes sparkled with lightning bugs. There was always music, and maybe a little dancing. He’d take us for walks around the neighborhood and let us play in the churchyard up the street. We’d go fishing and talk more than fish. He has always had a sweettooth and been keeper of the candy.  I only heard my name from Papaw when I was in trouble. Otherwise, he called me Baby My Baby, gal, or just girl. We’d eat breakfast, and then he’d say, “C’mon girl, let’s go work in the garden.” I think that’s why I love plants. I would hold the bottom of my t-shirt out and walk back to the house with fresh vegetables or plums from the tree in the front yard.

A few days ago, when he went into the hospital, he told me that he wouldn’t come out of this. I told him that he would have to get some rest and eat some protein so he could build up his strength and get better. He took my hand. He said, “Whatever happens will happen. I’m ready.” This is not what I was ready to hear, but I know he is tired. He’s ready, but my heart is not. 

Emmett Till

emmett till

Mississippi summers can be brutal. Even late August can be excruciatingly hot. Emmett Till and his group of cousins and friends went into a grocery store to get something to drink in Money, Mississippi, August 1955. A bunch of teenage boys can be rowdy. I imagine that there was a good deal of joking and pushing and laughing. Emmett was fourteen years old, handsome, and known as a kind boy with a hint of mischief. He had polio as a child that left him with a stutter. Friends said because of that he was a bit shy. He was growing to be a young man and was having an adventure. I imagine in 1955, Mississippi was a very different world than his hometown of Chicago. After his uncle visited and told stories about Mississippi, nothing would do but for Emmett to experience it for himself.

That day in the grocery store would be the beginning of the end of Emmett’s life and would start something Emmett probably could never believe. No matter what happened inside of that grocery store on that hot day in Mississippi, there is nothing that Emmett could have said or done to deserve what happened to him. A few days later, he was kidnapped, beaten, brutally tortured, wrapped in barbed wire, shot, and tossed into a river.

I first heard his story in school. We were only told that he was murdered. Even though I understand being sensitive to young minds, we are taught far too little about his situation. His death haunted me then, but now, my heart is absolutely crushed that grown people could do such horrific things to a child much less another human being. The boy who was not of age to fight for his country had no chance to fight for his life.

When his body was recovered, he was hardly recognizable. His mother who had not seen her son for days had to see his bloated, disfigured body. She was a single mother who did the best she could for her son. Her baby now lay dead in a casket which she decided to leave open to show the world. The world should still know today.

I read an article today about the defacing of a monument for young Emmett. While I was disgusted by the vandalism, I was not prepared for the outrage I felt at the comments on the article. With the internet and Facebook, there are always people trying to get a rise out of others. However, it brought to my attention that people in Mississippi still believe these things now. Today.

The commenters stated the attacks should be expected or even encouraged with the removal of Confederate monuments. Any person who has access to any source of media knows that the Confederate monuments will be moved to a museum, battleground memorials, or Confederate cemeteries. They are not being demolished or destroyed. This is ridiculous behavior for adults. They are recommending that the defacing of a monument created to remember a child that was murdered is called for because monuments are being MOVED. They are not suggesting defacing Union memorials, but one for a child. I am floored by the insanity of this.

Another monument for Emmett Till has been riddled with gunshots. Are we really still this backward that we can’t let a murdered child rest in peace? There are always casualties with war. Although it is horrible, it is expected. What is not expected is allowing your child to visit family and for him to come home in a casket after enduring God only knows what before a death he did not deserve.

No present living person has ever met someone who died in the Civil War. Emmett Till still has living family who loved and knew him. They saw his smiles and tears, and they knew the planes of his face. They still grieve for him. I did not know him, but I am angry for him. I am angry that he suffered and died, but also that his life and what the end of it began can’t be appreciated because of those who still have hearts filled with hate and spite. I know that hate will always exist and do what hate does. However, that doesn’t mean I have to be silent about it.

 

Moana: Not a Damsel in Distress 

My husband and I are big kids at heart. We still play from time to time, we still play video games, and we still watch cartoons. The cartoons are mostly movies, but hey, don’t judge me. Everyone knows that there has always been a theme for girls. The lead is a pretty princess, she gets into some trouble, somehow a love interest gets involved, they fall in love, and everyone lives happily ever after. That’s great. A nice traditional story that leaves everyone feeling good.

Last night, Tony and I watched Moana. Now, there may be some spoilers below. If there is any chance, you may get mad at me for ruining it for you, even by accident, you may want to stop reading. I intend to tell you everything I liked about this movie even if it means giving things away. So, let’s get started.

Moana lives in a gender progressive tribe.

When we first meet Moana, she is a child being steadily groomed by her father to be become leader of her people. I felt very good about this. In traditional Disney, there is usually a king or a prince or another strong male to rule the land. For a girl who was raised with this and being from a country that has never had a female president, I feel this is so important for our little girls. Also, when Moana is jokingly called a princess, she strongly says that she is the daughter of a chief and will one day be chief of her people.

She is a strong female lead of color.

Disney and other children movie makers have gotten better at including people of color. Maybe not to the extent I would like, but progress, my friends, progress. Pocahontas was a good one, so was Jasmine and Mulan, and of course, Tiana. I’m very proud that Moana is a strong Polynesian girl. All little girls should have someone to recognize with. Pacific islanders are well represented with Moana.

She is determined and pushes limits.

Where Jasmine was confined to the palace, Moana is not to pass the reef around her island. Her father has made it law. While her heart tells her that they should venture out to save her people from ecological destruction, her father will not be moved. Moana’s determination, strong will, and desire to push the limits are what takes care of business throughout the movie. This is important to instill in the next generations of our daughters. Sometimes what’s traditional may not always be right, especially when lives are at stake. I mean, remember human sacrifices?

She is brave.

From the time she is a toddler, she doesn’t have much fear. Even when things get tough and it’s obvious that she’s in a scary situation, she musters up courage and faces whatever comes at her. Sometimes as ladies, we are taught to be meek and mild and seek help for things. While this is important at times, we must also be able to face things on our own. Like Moana, we may be the only one standing for what’s right and for what we believe. Moana faces down bad guys, a demigod, and even her own father.

She actually saves someone else.

It’s a known pattern that the princess gets saved, the bad guys are vanquished, and good wins out in the end. That makes great stories. However, rarely do we see where a female lead saves other people much less herself. As I mentioned, Moana faces bad guys. Sometimes when other people are retreating, she rouses the courage within herself and saves the day. Maui, the demigod who is suppose to be a hero, often retreats and Moana stands to fight.

There is no romance.

Let’s all take a moment to appreciate this. While there is love between Moana’s parents, there’s no love interest, no broken heart, and no romantic fate. None. I can’t tell you how refreshing this was for me. She doesn’t fall in love. She doesn’t have a crush. She is just a teenage girl who is determined to save her people and become a great leader one day.

She shows depth and compassion.

While the seemingly bad guy being misjudged is not a new concept, Moana takes it to a new level. Because she shows compassion and uses her head, she realizes that not all perceived bad things are really bad. Sometimes if someone has been treated unfairly, they react in a negative way, and sometimes a little compassion and care can change how someone sees and reacts to the world.

She saves the day.

Moana has goals in life. When things don’t go as planned and things get tough, she listens to her heart, uses her head, goes on a grand adventure, goes up against challenges, and saves the day. Our little girls may not face the same type of monsters Moana did, but we have plenty of monsters in our society that they will face. They should be equipped with the knowledge that girls can save the day, too.

England: Rallying, Not Reeling

On Saturday, England faced yet another terrorist attack. I followed along with the rest of the world on the news as well as on Twitter. My heart hurt for those who would be facing the loss of loved ones, those injured, and those who lost their lives. All the news outlets seemed to be putting a repetitive spin on things. The usual horror, sadness, and shock were noted by nearly all news sources. I noticed that Brits took a particular insult to something the New York Times stated. Their headline said that England was left reeling in light of the bombing in Manchester and attack in London. Brits took to cyberspace to let people know how they actually felt. They posted photos of people going about their lives and holding their own.

Among those speaking out about the NYT’s statement about the ‘reeling’ country was the lovely J.K. Rowling. All these people wanted the world to know that while England may be shaken, it is not backing down. This struck a cord with me. They are people of such strong constitution and were making a point that they have weathered worse before. The people of the UK intend to show reverence to what has happened and pick up and go about their daily lives.  To prove that they will not be held down, not be terrorized, and will show that no matter what, they are not defeated. Refusing to cower in the face of terrorism speaks volumes. It sends a message to those behind the attacks that while the battle may have gone in their favor, the war is not yet over.

At a vigil held for the victims, London’s mayor had strong words of encouragement for the people of his city.

“Our city is filled with great sorrow and anger tonight but also great resolve. … This is our city. These are our values and this is our way of life. London will never be broken by terrorism. … We will defeat the terrorists.” – Sadiq Khan

Dictionary.com has the meaning listed for reeling as “to lose one’s balance and stagger or lurch violently.” It seems to me that in spite of the horror and tragedy that has taken place in England the last few weeks, England is not reeling. On the contrary, I think they are rallying around one another and have both feet firmly planted.

What’s in a Name?

Being that it was the first thing people would see with my blog, the name was one of my major concerns during the planning process. I thought on it, tried not to think about it, and over thought it. I drove myself crazier than normal along with everyone else in my house. I have to say that they took it like champs. All the sighing and scribbling would have tested anyone’s tolerance.

I wrote down things about ink, about quills, and all manner of reading and writing paraphernalia. My brain was turning to mush. I commented to a writer friend that I was struggling with a name. She told me not to overthink it. I got a good chuckle when I read her response. She doesn’t yet know this about me, but overthinking is second nature to me. I overthink and second guess like its my job.

My husband and childhood friend came up with several things. They tried to play on my Southern heritage with names involving magnolia and kudzu. I was looking for something me, something original that I could grow into. I was simply going in a different direction. After I came up empty, we all agreed that I should sleep on it.

I took my dilemma to two women who have very different personalities that I respect very much. One is a technical minded powerhouse and a strong business woman. The other is incredibly creative with a flair for business design and branding. I am a person who loves a good brainstorm with intelligent people. Ideas bounce all over the place peppered with interesting debates and makes for an electric environment. I expected nothing less with these two.

After a little research and a lot of great ideas, my creative friend had a “mic drop” moment. She basically looked me in the face in her direct way and said that this blog will be me so it should carry my name. I’d never thought of myself as a brand, but upon more thought, I realized she was right. The posts will be my words, my thoughts, an outlet of myself. This blog is my baby. A blog by any other name would not reflect me as well as one that bears my name.

An Introduction

I thought for a time on what my first blog should be written about.  No matter how many directions I took myself, I always came back to the  foundation of reading and writing. Words are that foundation. They can be placed together to create something beautiful. That’s what I’ve  always loved about them. You can take a scattered group of words and  bring your thoughts together, get a point across, or teach someone about  anything. You can explain what can be understood about the universe  using words, or at least you can if you’re Neil Degrasse Tyson. Each thing that exists is given at least one word to describe it. Take  yourself for instance, there are so many words someone could use to  describe you.

Words are my passion, both the reading of them  and stringing them together as I write. I consider myself a no genre reader. I read articles all the time about all manner of subjects. I read books, fiction and nonfiction, about people, things, and places I’d  like to see. Because of books and reading, I have a well traveled heart  and mind without having well traveled feet. I’d like to remedy that one  day, but as for the now, I’ll settle for books.

As  far as writing goes, it has been my secret pleasure. I’m not as  consistent as I should be, but I love it still. I honestly write more in  my head than I do on paper or in type. This is something I need to  change. This is something I want to change. I am a writer. I write about the things I don’t have the constitution to do. I  want to be an image conjurer. I want to breathe life into dead stories.  I want to open long closed doors and let the light in. Words, writing,  books, they do this like nothing else.