thoughts

Goodbye, Year of Ambition. Hello, Year of Composing.

For four years, I’ve selected a single word to highlight, headline, and motivate each upcoming year. There were years of discovery (2012), dedication (2013), exploration (2014), and even ambition (2015). No two years were the same and no single year was perfect, yet each held a divine combination of mystery and intrigue, absolution and enlightenment.

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In 2015, my aim was to be ambitious, to play to my Slytherin tendencies rather than denying them. And, for the most part, my ambitions paid off.

I completed three straight semesters of grad school, with virtually no breaks in-between. On that note, I changed grad programs and distinguished myself from my classmates. I helped my parents market their home, move states, and find a new home. I drove cross-country and didn’t have a single road accident, thank you very much. I was published (twice!) in a literary journal and earned the praise of professors I had yet to meet.

All in all, 2015 was a success…albeit I spent nearly as much time biting my nails, banging my head against (mostly figurative) walls, and wanting to wring the necks of others, as I did being ambitious.

Alas, the year of exploration has reached its end.

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With that, it’s time to recognize the year of composing.

When I tried to think of my neon lit, red ink stamp, and billboard-sized word for 2016, I struggled to limit myself to just one word. In fact, “marvel,” “persist,” “build,” “write,” and even the phrase “take root” seemed to resonate with my hopes for this year.

In the coming days, I so desperately crave the wonderment of new experiences, the challenges of hard tasks, the process of putting together all the parts, the thrall of creation, and the glory of growth. But, none of those words truly suit what I wish to see and feel when it comes time to recognize the sum of 2016.

And that’s why 2016 will be the year of composing.

I ultimately chose to call this the year of composing because the word “compose” making my bones sing. The idea of making something whole, be it a story or other work, is absolutely intoxicating. I have a desire, a need to take pieces and make them whole, in whatever way I can.

In 2016, I want to compose. I want to compose the plot points I’ve been keeping in my head into a full-fledged story. I want to compose these semesters of grad school into a well-earned degree. I want to compose the divergent parts of me into someone that my younger self would admire, even as I undergo the stresses of graduation, moving, traveling, and searching for my first true job.

I want to compose something new.

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Keeping with tradition, I won’t write out (more specific) resolutions, but rather I will simply wish that at least 16 lovely things will happen over the next 365 days. That being said, feel free to post your resolutions or #oneword2016 in the comments below.

I hope that your hearts are full in the days ahead and, without further ado, let the pleasure and thrill of 2016 begin! Happy New Year!

 

 

 

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#OnlyOneAbby & #ThanksAbby: On the Importance of Sports and Female Athletes to Female Non-Athletes.

USWNT 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup Champions

As a child, the closest I got to doing anything athletic was listening to the Spice Girls and picking out which lines were sung by Sporty Spice. To put it simply, sports and I existed on separate wavelengths.

My father didn’t watch football games on Sunday, my mother didn’t keep track of Wimbledon, and my brother didn’t play on any school teams. Well, actually, my brother was the kid on the peewee soccer team who sat on the bench and drank water during every game–and then he completely quit going, yet kept bragging about being on the team.

In short, I didn’t grow up watching other people play sports.

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Over the years, I tried my hand (sometimes successfully, most of the time awkwardly) at a number of athletic endeavors. I bent over backwards for yoga. I tiptoed through the tulips for ballet. I kicked up my heels for tap. I bounced about for basketball. I even swizzled and glided for figure skating.

When university sent my world spinning topsy-turvy, I sought to turn impotent rage, complete confusion, and total exhaustion into athleticism. I ran, I lifted weights, and I did high intensity interval training because I saw getting in shape as the easiest part of adulthood’s trial by fire. It was certainly an athletic journey, but I wasn’t athletic.

Just as I’d never watched sports, I’ve never been counted as an athlete. I thought I was inherently separate form the sporting world. However, that all changed amid a whirlwind cross-country RV trip in 2013.

Truthfully, the 2013 Sochi Olympics were my intro to a new view on sports and athleticism. For no apparent reason, the lure of Sochi drew me in and held me tight. After only a month, I found myself knowing entirely too much about the mechanics of luge, the scoring system of slope style skiing and snowboarding, and the physical demands of a biathlon.

I was rooting for Russians and cheering on Czechs. I was pushing for the Polish and aiming for American wins. I still have no clue why I got drawn into any of it but, it was awesome. And, at the end of it all, I was more motivated than ever to see the world.

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Then came the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. The Olympics had left me needing another sport to focus on and learn about–I was caught in the thrall of international sports. When I told a good friend about all of this, he pulled me into the soccer fandom (Thanks, Matt!) and with each game I watched after that, it became clear that my interest was going to stick.

It didn’t matter who was playing. It didn’t matter who won the finals. I’d learned to love the game and so very many of its players. (On that note though, way to go Germany! I mean, really, hot damn!)

The World Cup showed me again where sport and a broad world vision collide.

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By the time the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada came along, I was well and truly hooked. In all honesty, the 2015 WWC couldn’t have come at a worse time because I was in the middle of moving cross-country, but I watched every game I could.

More than the Olympics and more than the World Cup, the 2015 WWC made me feel connected and involved.

The number of fouls in the Mexico vs. Columbia game had my eye twitching. The first goal by Ivory Coast in the Thailand vs. Ivory Coast game nearly had me in tears. Meghan Klingenberg’s goal-line save in the USA vs. Sweden game made me (literally) jump out of my seat.

And, it didn’t just give me a world vision, it gave me a life vision.

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In so many ways and in so many instances, these profoundly gifted women made me finally get sports. And, they also made me get me.

I loved the Olympics and the World Cup, but it was harder to relate to the pomp and circumstance of those events. It was harder to feel like I was a part of something. The 2015 WWC showed me how truly powerful women can be. It showed me how far dedication can take you. It showed me that women can flourish even when the world doesn’t try to nurture them.

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Abby Wambach (aka the G.O.A.T.) was the first female athlete that I ever regarded as a role model. I had researched her (in a typically Hermione way) during the World Cup, when I was exceedingly annoyed by the men flopping for fouls every five minutes, and she was nothing short of astounding to me.

She could make the goals that no one else could. She could get injured on the field and still stay cognizant enough to call in a substitute. She could redefine an age-old game and make it her own. She was a beast.

Actually, she still is and she always will be.

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Megan Rapinoe describes it perfectly: when I watched Abby in the 2015 WWC, I saw female fearlessness.

I didn’t see an anonymous player in an impersonal game, I saw a woman who would do whatever necessary to reach the goal that she and her teammates had committed themselves to. I saw a woman who went after what she wanted and made it happen. I saw the type of woman that I want to be, regardless of sports and athletic ability.

And, on a larger scale, I saw a team of women who were devoted to each other and the game and working together. I saw people who weren’t scared to show how they felt about what mattered to them.

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Now, after 184 international goals and years as soccer’s ultimate female player, Abby is retiring. But, she’s going out in a blaze of glory and she’s making her exit on her own terms. Plus, Abby’s exit is really just another entrance.

Even without the game, Abby is a role model. Her willingness to fight for equality in not only sports, but every other aspect of life and society, is incredibly inspiring. Her decisiveness in choosing to live the life she wants to live–with or without the fame of the game–is encouraging.

She didn’t just change the game, she changed the way it was viewed.

Or, at least she did for me.

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These days I’ve become pretty dedicated to the U.S. Women’s National Team, but I also have a growing weakness for the Seattle Reign and Portland Thorns. (Upside to being a newbie sports fan: rooting for rivals like it’s nobody’s business!)

More than anything though, I’ve come to love sports and appreciate athletes, despite not always understanding the games or knowing the players. I’ve learned that watching sports and playing sports do not have to be mutually inclusive.

And, I’ve realized that female athletes are important to female non-athletes because, regardless of the international power of mixed gender athletic competitions and men’s sports, women can uplift women in ways that nothing and no one else can.

In female athletes, a female non-athlete like me can find renewed purpose, and maybe even a bit of inspiration to try that community soccer league I’ve been eyeing.

Abby could not have won the 2015 WWC without her teammates and her teammates could not have won without her. If Abby Wambach and the USWNT aren’t #squadgoals, I don’t know what is.

Sometimes women just need other women to show them how to be fearless.  

 

Russian Food Adventures: Blini, Pirozhki, and Napoleon Cake.

It’s probably not the best time to admit this because of the Russia hate fest happening on capital hill, but, I can’t help it–I have a soft spot for Russia. The food, the music, the history, and even the politics are absolutely fascinating to me. Don’t misunderstand me, I loved and am proud of my American upbringing, but I also have a great appreciation for the world’s largest country.

Perhaps it’s because Russia was the elephant in the room of every one of my history classes growing up. In high school and university I remember my middle-aged, Cold War era teachers and professors blatantly ignoring the lands between Finland and the Bering Sea. Russia received only an honorable mention in the final weeks of each class when the World War II Allies were briefly discussed and then the events following 1945 ceased to exist.

Perhaps it’s because I don’t know my precise ethnic heritage and I could be “from” just about anywhere. My family isn’t particularly close-knit. Our family records extend back only as far as those family members which are currently alive, and even those records are questionable at best. As a military child, I’m from every part of the states, and maybe that makes it easier to believe that I’m from every part of the rest of the world too.

Perhaps it’s because there’s something fascinating about a black sheep, or a white cow (белая ворона), most especially when you’re talking about some supreme outcast on a global scale. When the western world and its media demonize the largest nation in the world, who isn’t a little curious? When a war can be fought and supposedly won without weapons or casualties, who doesn’t want to know a little bit more about what’s going on?

Regardless of why I’m generally interested in Russia, among other foreign nations, I’ve recently taken a particular interest in Russian and other Slavic foods.

The diversity of food is intriguing in and of itself. A vast collection of ingredients and procedures can result in infinite creations that can then feed innumerable people. Food identifies culture and yet it can cross cultural lines. Food speaks when people cannot find the words. Food bonds when other aspects of life would make bonding impossible. In celebration of food diversity and culture, here are a few of my favorite edible creations from eastern Europe.

Enjoy and have fun cooking!

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Blini (блины)

The first thought that many people will have when they see pictures of blini is “those are crêpes,” but, my darling bakers, they are most certainly different from crêpes. While both blini and crêpes might be called thin pancakes, blini are more sponge-like with small air bubbles throughout while crêpes are more bread-like with a fine and solid texture. Personally, after this experience, I wholly prefer blini.

The greatest commonalities between blini and crêpes are that both are generally served with a filling or spread, and both can be made in sweet or savory varieties. I tackled a (supposedly) more traditional, sweet variety because my family truly loves sugar, but plenty of savory recipes are available online for blini and blini fillings.

Perhaps it’s just a personal pet peeve, but I don’t like picking one recipe and calling it done. Thus, I ended up reading and combining the recipes from Elina of Russian Bites, Viktoria of Fun Russian: Learn Russian the Fun Way, and Florian Pinel of Food Perestroika: Adventures in Eastern Bloc Cuisine, in order to produce these blini.

Ingredients

2 eggs
2 cups milk
1 tbsp + 1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 cups flour (twice sifted)
2 tbsp coconut oil + more to rub pan

Directions

1. Beat eggs lightly in mixing bowl.

2. Stir milk, sugar, and salt into beaten eggs.

3. Slowly whisk sifted flour into the mixture.

4. Whisk coconut oil into the mixture and let rest for a minimum of 15 minutes.

5. Lightly oil a non-stick skillet and bring to medium high heat.

6. Reduce skillet to medium heat.

7. Lift skillet from heating element and pour between 1/4 and 1/3 cup of batter into the skillet at 12 o’clock. Slowly tilt the skillet in a circular motion, spreading the batter thinly.

8. Replace skillet onto the heating element.

9. Watch for browning at the edges of the blin (approximately 2 minutes after replacing the skillet on the heating element). When browning is noted, gently pry up the edge with a spatula. If the other side is golden brown, flip the blin.

10. Checking with a spatula for browning, cook the blin until the other side is golden brown as well. Slide cooked blin onto plate.

11. Lightly re-oil the skillet and repeat steps 7 through 11.

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Pirozhki (Пирожки)

Pirozhki are essentially hand pies that are filled with potatoes, various meats, onions, mushrooms, cabbage, stewed fruits, jam, quark, oatmeal, cottage cheese, or other such substances. They’re the type of food that you could pick up at a local market or cafe and eat on the go, or cook one night and eat for days to come (trust me, this recipe makes more than enough for leftovers).

I will forewarn that these take some time to make and put together–just short of 2 hours–if you’re not a master of preparing three items at once. Since I prepared two different fillings to add a little bit of variety to the meal, the three components for this recipe were dough, beef filling, and potato filling.

These pirozhki were made by combining recipes from Ann of Sumptuous Spoonfuls, JoAnn Cianciulli of Leite’s Culinaria, and Natasha of Natasha’s Kitchen. I tried not to stray too far from their recipes because I wanted to keep this traditional food traditional, but I did add my own flare with chili powder and such, so I would encourage my readers to do the same. Have fun with it and don’t stress about the details!

Ingredients

Dough:

3 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat white flour
3 eggs (beaten)
1 cup milk
1 tsp salt
3 tsp Red Star Quick-Rise (or other brand) yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp coconut oil

Beef Filling:

2 eggs
1.2 lb ground beef (lean; 90/10 or 93/7)
1/2 onion (large; peeled and chopped)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
1 tsp dill weed
1 tsp chili powder
Purified water

Potato Filling:

3 to 4 potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion (large; peeled and chopped)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dill
2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp butter
Purified water

Topping:

8 oz sour cream
(Brown gravy is also recommended; however, recipes vary so much that I’ll leave the directions for that up to my readers.)

Directions

1. Place dough ingredients into bread machine–wet ingredients first, dry ingredients second, and yeast third–and set machine to run on the dough setting.

2. Hard boil the eggs for the beef filling:

  • A. Place two eggs in a pot and cover completely with purified water.
  • B. Place pot on heating element and set heat to medium high to bring to a boil.
  • C. When water begins to boil, remove pot from heat, cover with lid, and set timer for 10 minutes.
  • D. After 10 minutes, drain water and set eggs aside to cool.

3. Boil potatoes for the potato filling:

  • A. Place 3 to 4 potatoes in a large pot and cover completely with purified water.
  • B. Cover with lid and place pot on heating element, then set heat to medium high to bring to a boil.
  • C. When water begins to boil, reduce heat to low or low medium, and set timer for 10 minutes.
  • D. Check potatoes with a fork at 10 minute increments, piercing with fork to test firmness.
  • E. When fork pierces potato easily, remove from heat, drain, and set aside to cool.

4. Beef filling:

  • A. Heat skillet or sauce pan over medium to medium high heat.
  • B. Cook ground beef and onions until meat is grey to brown and onions are translucent.
  • C. Add garlic, salt, pepper, dill weed, and chili powder to meat. Heat for 1 minute then remove from heat.
  • D. Drain any excess liquid or grease from meat mixture and set aside momentarily.
  • E. Remove shell from hardboiled eggs and chop egg small pieces.
  • F. Stir egg into meat mixture. Set aside to cool.

5. Potato filling:

  • A. Peel and mash boiled potatoes in a mixing bowl with a potato masher or hand mixer. Set aside to cool.
  • B. Heat olive oil in sauce pan over medium heat.
  • C. Cook onions slowly over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  • D. When onions have become light brown, add a splash of water, stir, and continue cooking.
  • E. When onions have become medium brown, add garlic powder and dill, heat for 1 minute then remove from heat.
  • F. Stir caramelized onions, salt, pepper, red pepper, water, and butter into potatoes, combining thoroughly. Set aside to cool.

6. Filling the dough:

  • A. Remove dough from bread maker at the end of the dough cycle.
  • B. Separate dough into portions that are approximately the size of golf or cue balls.
  • C. Use a rolling-pin to flatten each ball into circles with approximately a 4 to 5 inch diameter.
  • D. Spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons of either beef or potato filling onto each circle of dough. The fillings can also be combined in a single pirozhok (1 tablespoon of each) for an even more filling hand pie.
  • E. Fill a shallow bowl with water. Dip fingertips in water, trace wet fingers along the edge of the dough, and pinch dough together, making a half-moon shape that encloses the filling.
  • F. Dampen the outside edges of the half-moon shape and place filled dough on cookie sheets covered with parchment paper.
  • G. When all of the dough circles have been filled, take a fork and press the edge of the dough to ensure filling does not leak.
  • H. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.

7.  Bake at 350F for 15 to 30 minutes or until the pirozhki are puffy and golden brown. Cool and serve with sour cream or brown gravy.

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Napoleon Cake (наполеон торт)

If you’ve taken a single course in European history then you know without a doubt that the most famous Napoleon was not Russian, and that fact has probably led you to wonder why this recipe is even included in this post. The truth is that this dessert is of French origin and is formally known as Mille-feuille and colloquially as Napoleon. The name Napoleon was actually derived from the French adjective for the Italian city Naples and only simple word associated led it to be connected with political figures by the name of Napoleon.

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Records and mentions of Napoleon Cake in Russia have been found dating back to the early 19th century; however, the dessert seems to have become truly popular in the celebrations that followed Russia’s victory over Napoleon Bonaparte and his army in the Patriotic War of 1812. The Russian variation of the dessert, which involves a greater number of layers of pastry and frosting made from sweetened condensed milk instead of custard, became standard in the USSR and remains favored in Russia and other post-Soviet nations.

I combined recipes from Natasha of Natasha’s KitchenLyuba of Will Cook for Smiles, and Katrina of Around the World in 80 Markets, and More, to produce this particular Napoleon Cake. Perhaps the most obvious change I made from these recipes was to use more frosting and include frosting on the topmost layer. This meant abandoning the traditional crumbled pastry topping, but it did not affect taste or appeal. This was purely a preferential change. As such, feel free to go old-school and do the crumble or follow my example and add the extra frosting.

Ingredients

1.1 lbs Pepperidge Farm (or other) ready-to-bake puff pastry sheets (2 sheets per package)
3/4 cup stick butter (nearly room temperature)
11 oz Eagle Brand (or other) sweetened condensed milk
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 splash heavy cream
1 tsp sugar

Directions

1. Defrost ready-to-bake puff pastry according to packaging.

2. Cut each puff pastry sheet into fourths, creating eight separate pieces.

3. Using rolling-pin, roll each piece until it is almost double in size and thin.

4. Cover large cookie sheets with parchment paper and place rolled pieces onto the paper.

5. Use a fork to poke at least five sets of holes into each piece.

6. Bake at 400F for 8 to 12 minutes, watching carefully for excessive browning. Baking times may vary based on specific oven used.

7. Remove from oven and set aside to cool completely.

8. While pastry cools, begin work on the frosting: cream butter in a mixing bowl with a hand mixer.

9. Mix condensed milk, vanilla, heavy cream, and sugar into the creamed butter.

10. When the pastry is cooled, spread frosting on 6 of the pastries. Reserve two portions of frosting in bowl (approximately 4 tbsp).

11. Assemble the pastry cake by stacking the frosted pastries on top of one another in a lidded container.

12. Place an unfrosted pastry on top of the last frosted pastry.

13. Place a paper towel on top of the stack. Slowly, evenly, and gently press down the stack.

14. Dispose of the paper towel and frost the top of the stack.

15. Crumble the final pastry over top of the frosted stack.

16. (Optional) Place the last of the frosting in a pastry bag and squeeze over top of the crumbled pastry.

17. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 hours.

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BONUS: Banana Bread

By all accounts, banana bread is not a traditional Russian recipe or even a Slavic recipe. However, I recently discovered what my family considers the perfect banana bread by combining recipes from Vadim of Natasha’s Kitchen and Sylwia of Sweet Home Polska. Vadim and Sylwia happen to be Russian and Polish, respectively, so for love of the resulting banana bread I’ve chosen to include my recipe in this Russia-centric post.

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Ingredients

4 ripe bananas
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 + 1/2 cups King Arthur bread flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp orange extract
1 cup chopped walnuts
coconut oil (for oiling pan)

Directions

1. Mash bananas with potato masher on large plate or in mixing bowl. Set aside.

2. Cream butter and sugar with hand mixer in a large mixing bowl.

3. Add eggs to mixture and mix with hand mixer.

4. Slowly add mashed bananas to mixture and combine well, eliminating any large lumps.

5. Slowly add flour into mixture and combine well.

6. Mix in baking soda, salt, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and orange extract.

7. Use flexible frosting spatula to stir in chopped walnuts.

8. Pour batter into oiled loaf pan, scraping sides of bowl with spatula.

9. Bake at 350F for 60 to 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the top center of the loaf comes out clean.

10. Remove from pan immediately and turn over onto cooling rack.

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I hope that you find these recipes useful and enjoy your foreign food experience. I would love to see what you create or hear how these recipes may have inspired you. If you decide to give these foods a chance, and you have a free moment, please send me a picture or message through twitter (@mylifeinverse), instagram (mylifeinverse), or email (mylifeinverse@live.com). Best of luck baking!

 

Open Letter to a Potential School Shooter:

School-Lockdown

I’m not going to tell you not to do it. It’s been said a dozen times already.

I’m not going to tell you that there are better ways to handle the problems of the world than violence. I don’t know if that is true.

And, I’m not going to tell you that everything will be okay. Maybe everything is damaged beyond repair.

Instead I’m asking you to listen to a story and then I will listen too.

I wasn’t much back in high school. Oh, I did my work, I got high marks, and for the most part I played the part of the upright student who had it all under control. I enjoyed the friends I had, and I lived for the long writing assignments in my English and history courses. But, I felt older and more tired than I thought my true age would entail.

A lot of the time, I was a ghost walking through halls where I simultaneously hoped someone would notice me yet dreaded the awkward exchange if they did. Most of the time I was okay with that paradox though. I was okay with being a wallflower and an academic. But, sometimes I was incredibly uncomfortable. Angry even.

I was upset that no one saw me. I was confused by the fact that no one in the world seemed to care about anyone else. I was irritated that I was never the person the teachers noticed or my peers gravitated toward. I was enraged by the students that cheated their way to the top and the others that played their way to the bottom. And, most of all, I was infuriated with myself for being “me.”

For most of my high school career, I was that person. I might have worn neon clothing, written essays far over the minimum requirement, participated in numerous clubs, led a yearbook staff, gotten accepted to all my colleges, and laughed at lunch, but I wasn’t “okay.”

Here’s the thing: I was never consciously going to become part of the small but ever-increasing number of people who bring weapons into schools. When we were doing lockdown drills, I was never the kid that people said would bring a gun. I was more likely to be asked to help with homework or to take pictures at the dance.

But, maybe I could have been that kid at some point. Maybe, at some point, I was desperate enough to have unconsciously become that. Maybe I was closer to the edge of self-destruction than even I knew. Maybe we were all at that point once, when high school was grinding us into dust, testing us before we were even fully developed.

It really could have been any of us.

Maybe the girl behind me in class had a gun in her closet. Maybe the teacher proclaiming peace was thinking about building a bomb. Maybe the group at the end of my lunch table had it all planned out. Maybe we’re all capable. The difference being only that a select few will act–only a few will realize or exemplify the animal side of being human.

Looking back on it now, I realize that no one was okay. High school was but a moment in time. Our lives were in upheaval then because that is what growing up entails. But, eventually, it all levels off, if only we’re able to see through the clouds during those dark days.

The thing is though, in those dark days, we can’t see–or, maybe, we won’t see. Because of that, it could have been any of us.

So, I need you to do something for me.

For you.

I need you to win.

You see, if you do this, if you go after this permanent solution to a temporary problem, and we’re all truly the same, it means that we all lose. We all fail. Together and at once.

If you pull the trigger, set the fuse, or take the punch, all of us–the whole of the human race–lose. We lose the fight and the war. We cave to a flawed fate. We lose the lessons of the past, the thrill of the present, and the possibility of the future.

If you do what you are thinking about doing, we have nothing.

I need you to stop and think about this once more. I need you to decide to win, for all of us. I need you to see the fight through. I need you to shirk fate. I need you to forget about everything that is wrong and I need you to make it right.

I need you to succeed over all the people whose voices echo inside of your head at 3:00 A.M.

I need you to not do this because, we’re the same, and we win or lose together.

Put it all down. Breath it all out. Feel it all and then let it go because everything you’re experiencing doesn’t last.

Let’s show each other what we’re made of–that we’re stronger than even we expected.

Let’s win this, once and for all.

Let’s win this together, all of us.

Everyone needs this win.

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Disclaimer:

Please note that this post and the author in no way condone violence of any kind. This post is merely a written exercise intended to provoke thoughts and a conversation regarding school shootings, and the related topic of workplace violence, as both topics have been increasingly debated in recent days. It is this author’s personal belief that such topics must be discussed in order for any manner or level of societal to occur and theoretical exercises such as this may facilitate discussion.

If a given reader intends or feels the urge to commit such violence as that which is alluded to and described within this article, please seek assistance by contacting one of the hotlines listed below or emergency services by dialing 911 (US) or 999 (UK). I heartily encourage said individuals to defy any violent or dangerous urges that might come and seek help that is so readily available.

Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Abuse Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

LGBTQ Crisis Call Center: 1-866-488-7386

Additional resources can be found here.

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Share your thoughts in the comments or feel free to contact me if you would like to guest post. Best wishes, dearies.

Heterosexuality Is Not the Human Default: Stop Heteronormativity.

With the striking down of Prop 8 and DOMA earlier this week, there is a lot of talk about homosexuality and same sex marriage going on. I live in the bible belt of the American south and I don’t even want to tell you some of the words that I hear being thrown around.

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Put it this way: if this were a race issue instead of a sexuality one, people would be losing their jobs over their words and Paula Deen’s N-word usage would seem tame. Apparently it’s still okay to pull out the pitchforks over sexuality even if the lesson has been learned about race.

So, it is a sexuality-based issue, I am in the south, and I am part of what seems to be the minority here that support equal rights. Over the last few days I’ve noticed something that really ruffles my feathers.

You see, I have this thing. Or, perhaps I should say, I do this thing or I say this thing. Basically, I refuse to state my sexuality or sexual preference. If it’s easier to understand, I’m the Switzerland of human sexuality–neutrality all the way, baby.

No, I’m not a flaming homosexual hiding in my closet, waiting to come out and contemplating rainbows. And, no, I’m not a heterosexual 50’s chick waiting for the right guy to sweep me off my feet with a luscious ring. I’m just me.

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I’ll make it really simple for you: I’m nearly 20 years old and my true relationship experience is about, well, nonexistent. Even without experience, my preferences are ambiguous. I don’t know if I’m positive for those downward plus signs or headed straight for those angled arrows.

Given that I know nothing, I refuse to say that I’m straight/heterosexual/a breeder or that I’m gay/homosexual/a lesbian. It’s like picking one Christmas gift box over another, both are unknown and any number of things could be inside. My sexuality is undetermined.

But, society assumes heterosexuality as a sort of default. If you don’t say you’re gay and flash a unicorn personality, you’re automatically straight. But saying nothing supposedly says something too. Apparently homosexuality comes with a uniform, and heterosexuality suits everyone else.

I just don’t agree with that.

To assume that someone is straight is as misguided as assuming that someone is gay. It’s a completely illogical assumption. And, as my mother always said, “when you assume, all you do is make an ass of u and me.” Well, trust me, asses and I, we don’t get along.

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The logic of heterosexuality as a default is incredibly flawed because it implies that there is some button that can be pressed to revert to factory settings. It implies that there is a factory setting to revert to. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I don’t like comparing people to iPhones.

This idea of heterosexuality as a “default” also implies that something has gone “wrong” when someone is gay and that the “wrongness” needs to be fixed. It’s like saying that being gay is landing in Oz, and you need to click your heels together to go home and become straight again.

The problem is that people want me to either choose and declare, or shut up and be declared. I don’t think it is that simple, nor should it be. Humans are complex–I am complex–and I don’t see why a fact of nature such as that requires change.

Here is the lesson I want to share, plain and simple: I am not a piece of electronic equipment. I don’t have default settings that my manufacturer has built in, I cannot revert to a default as it does not exist, and I also don’t have to create custom settings just to appease users.

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So, my dear and beloved southern, northern, religious, agnostic, atheistic, democratic, republican, pessimistic, optimistic, and every-other-type-of-reader readers, I hope that you’ll garner one golden nugget from this rant: saying nothing doesn’t necessarily mean something all its own, heterosexuality is not the human default.

Comment below if you’d like to share your own opinion. I will not delete comments unless they are extremely vulgar, unrelated to the topic, or generic spam; however, please keep it polite and appropriate for all ages.

Daughter’s Salute.

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Army boots and Navy caps
Marine corps roots and Air Force taps
Early morning, out the door
Daddy learns to be so much more
Step by step, stride by stride
We are so full of pride

I’m sorry, baby girl
Daddy’s gone to war
You don’t know it yet
But Daddy’s working for all we get
He’s going to make it a safe world
For you and I, baby girl

He’ll be gone too long
We’ll be missing him during all his favorite songs
And when he rings home
We’ll send him kisses and won’t let him hear us groan
Cause he’s out there in the desert and the storm
Making sure we’re always safe and warm

I’m sorry, baby girl
Daddy’s gone to war
You don’t know it yet
But Daddy’s working for all we get
He’s going to make it a safe world
For you and I, baby girl

He’ll be too far away to tell
So we’ll send him care packages in the mail
And when he finally gets a break
We’ll hug him tight and heal all his hurts and aches
Cause he’s kept us in his mind and heart so torn
Making sure we’re always safe and warm

I’m sorry, baby girl
Daddy’s gone to war
You don’t know it yet
But Daddy’s working for all we get
He’s going to make it a safe world
For you and I, baby girl

Soldier’s battle and Sailor’s sight
Marine corps charge and airmen flight
Many more and many late nights
Daddy wants to make this world alright.