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Slowing Down, Being Vulnerable

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This morning I woke up to about a foot of snow. As I was trying to dig my car out, I started feeling nauseated and dizzy. I kept shoveling.

When I got to the last patch of snow I needed to clear away, stopped to catch my breath. I started wondering what I was doing. My head hurt so badly that I felt I might pass out if I kept going.

I put down the shovel, went back inside, called in sick, and went back to bed. This is kind of a big deal for me. I don’t think I’ve missed class or work on account of feeling unwell in over five years.

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I’m not good at relaxing. Like really not good at it. When I try to relax, I usually end up thinking of more productive ways I could spend my time which usually results in me feeling more stressed than before. It’s sort of a problem.

If you read my New Years post, you might remember that my resolution for 2017 was to try and slow down a little. How is that going? Eh. Not great. I’m making a little progress. Sometimes I leave ungraded work at my office so I can’t work on it after hours.

Part of solving a problem is identifying the cause of it, and I had a recent breakthrough about why I have such a hard time slowing down.

A few years ago I was in a toxic relationship with somebody who made me feel inadequate every time I talked to him. After I got out of that relationship, I began focusing a lot on improving my sense of self worth. I made good progress by learning not to judge myself on my appearance or how many boys did (or didn’t) like me. The downside was that I started judging myself by my accomplishments.

When I finally realized just how toxic that relationship was, I ran. I ran as far as I could. I haven’t been able to stop running since. At the time, that was what I needed. Overcoming that meant getting as far away from it as possible.

But the next stage of moving on is learning how to stop running. I’m trying to learn not to base my self worth on a list of achievements. I’m trying to remember that my value is not a factor of what I’ve done, but inherent in my status as a human being and a Daughter of God.

It’s a work in progress. But I’m getting there. I was supposed to have a 13 hour work day today. Instead I worked for about five. The world still seems to be spinning.

The world is spinning pretty quickly, in fact. And sometimes it’s good to stop trying to keep up with it and just watch it turn.

Yes, We Do Still Need Feminism

As a child, I liked to make up fake countries and pretend to rule them. Once my uncle walked in on me playing this game and I proudly declared that I was the king of my imaginary country. He told me that I was a girl and therefore a queen. I told him it was my country and I was the king, thank-you-very-much.

He then spent some time trying to convince me that I was a queen instead of a king. However, he never once asked why I thought I wanted to be a king instead of a queen. Even in elementary school I had realized that masculinity received more respect than femininity. So I decided I would be more masculine and garner more respect. In retrospect, it’s sad that I thought I had to be like a man to be fully valued.

Lately I’ve seen a lot of social media posts saying things to the effect of “Women have the right to vote. Women can do everything men can do. What more do they want?”

Perhaps it’s this mindset that leads people to (erroneously) believe that feminist women believe they are better than men or that they want more privilege than men. But it is a valid question. What more do women want?

We want respect. We want safety. And we want to be treated like people and not bodies.

I have no doubt that women can do everything men do. Women have been doing incredible things for thousands of years, often regardless of whether society permitted or approved of it. But these achievements are hard-earned and undervalued.

Case in point: a woman does something amazing and the media chooses to focus on a sexualized aspect of her body.

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Yes, the feminism of the past has won some important battles. But the feminism of the present recognizes there’s still work to be done.

Because we’re taught from a young age to hate our bodies.

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Our bodies are objectified, compared to food.

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No, the fact that she’s Kim Kardashian doesn’t give you an excuse to make this kind of commentary on her body.

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Pole dancing is actually super difficult, by the way.

And when you treat women like objects, men start to think that they can talk to women like this (NSFW language):

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Interesting how these men think they can completely devalue a woman by attacking her appearance.

Clearly, there’s still work to do.

I’m trying to be patient with non-feminist friends. Though I would very kindly suggest that before you slam on feminism, you make sure you really understand what it’s all about. Many of the arguments I see address a dated brand of feminism, serve only as straw man arguments, and stall useful discussion. At any rate, I try to be patient. I try to explain why we DO need feminism. I used to decry feminism as well because I didn’t see how these issues affected me personally and because I didn’t want to feel like a victim.

I see the need now.

For my friends who are not feminists, I try to be grateful that they’ve never experienced anything that made them see a need for feminism. Feminism isn’t a perfect movement; it never has been. But with feminism, I see progress. I see no progress without it.

Do you know what to say to your friend when she tells you she’s been raped?

Probably not. Because there are no right words for that. There is nothing you can say that will make that right. About the only thing you can do is tell her that you will fight for her. And then you do fight for her. In any way you know how.

I hope you’re starting to see the need for feminism. But whether you do or not, you will not prevent me from seeing it. Nor will you prevent me from fighting. For my friend. For my sisters. For women I don’t even know, because they deserve it.

Because feminism isn’t about fighting against men. It’s about fighting for women.

And in the words of Rachel Platten, I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me.

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Lessons from 2016

Around the end of the year, people generally start thinking about how they want to improve their lives in the upcoming year. As a fan of self improvement, I’ve always sort of enjoyed this process. Which isn’t to say that I’ve always done a good job keeping New Years’ resolutions. But I think whether or not you reach your goals, making them can be valuable.

However, this year I’ve struggled with coming up with 2017 resolutions. To be honest, 2016 has left me sort of exhausted. It’s been a rough year for a number of reasons. It’s also been a busy year for me. I finished my MA, moved to a new state, started a PhD program, taught three different classes, continued my freelance editing business, and wrote or revised seven drafts of different novels.

So I’ve decided my goal for 2017 is actually to slow down a little, smell roses and whatnot. I want to spend less time worrying about things I haven’t done yet and more time appreciating all the good things in my life.

With that in mind, I’m going to end 2016 by reflecting on a few things I’ve learned through this crazy, roller coaster year.

  • It’s never too soon to start being one of the heroes you grew up reading about.
  • We all need to spend more time listening to people who are different from us.
  • You are a good looking human being. If anybody tries to tell you otherwise, that person is a stupid head.
  • Sometimes people will give you conflicting advice, and you just need to do the best you can.img_20161003_1750554
  • If somebody is trying to convince you that something you love is stupid, you should probably just throw glitter in their face and waltz into the sunset because you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.
  • “I never look back, darling. It distracts from the now.” -Edna Mode, The Incredibles
  • Don’t date anyone who treats you like a side quest. You are a main quest.
  • It doesn’t matter how nice you are. Sometimes people will still be mean to you.
  • Always make sure you have a solid foundation. Especially if you are a Christmas tree.img_2484-2
  • Attacking problems with kindness and positivity is great, but certain problems just need to be kicked in the shins.
  • It’s good to laugh, and it’s good not to take yourself too seriously.
  • There really is a Taylor Swift song for every occasion.
  • You don’t need to be perfect to be worthwhile, and neither do the things you create.
  • The family that wears fake mustaches together stays together.mustache
  • Do the thing you are terrified of. But wear protective gear while doing it.
  • Spend a little time every day encouraging other people.
  • Your emotions are valid and important.
  • You should dance, even if you’re bad at it (and I am really, really, really bad at it).
  • “Just think, while you’ve been getting down and out about the liars and the dirty, dirty cheats of the world, you could have been getting down to THIS. SICK. BEAT.” -Taylor Swift, Shake it Off
  • If you’re stuck, maybe you just need to kick through a door.
  • You can fix just about anything with duct tape. Including the door you just kicked through. And if you use colorful duct tape, it will be extra fabulous. img_20160620_1936149
  • It’s good to know your limitations, but sometimes you should ignore them anyway.
  • “Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!” -Ms. Frizzle, The Magic School Bus
  • The days when you realize things are worse than you thought they were are also the days where you realize that you’re stronger than you thought you were.
  • You’re doing better than you think you are, so keep it up!
  • It’s gonna be okay.

Real Gifts

Last year for Christmas, my dad and his siblings all pitched in to get my grandparents a new television. We waited until the very end of the present opening frenzy to give it to them, so all eyes were on my grandma as she broke down in tears.

I remember one of my aunts saying, “Mom, why are you crying? Don’t cry over a tv!”

She did not stop crying. She said, “I can’t help it. We’re just so blessed!”

My grandma is right (she pretty much always is). We’re an incredibly blessed family.

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We all live comfortable lives, and that’s something to be thankful for. But things like new television sets are only the very surface level of what we have to be thankful for.

As my grandma is crying over a tv, I’m looking around the room. I have probably twenty odd cousins there and aunts and uncles and siblings and parents. They’re some of the goofiest people I know (as illustrated by the above attempt at getting a cute picture of grandkids in Christmas pjs). The televisions and things are nice, but these guys are the real gift.

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Looking back, I can’t say I remember too many of the presents I got for Christmas as a child. There was a doll house, a giant teddy bear. A set of play food. And a basketball hoop that I think was maybe more for my dad than for me (though this was before my complete lack of athletic potential had been fully realized).

What I do remember is spending time with family and friends. I remember dipping Christmas chocolates, decorating cookies, and building really ugly gingerbread houses. I remember caroling at nursing homes and going around to see the lights. I remember sledding and building snowmen. I remember cutting out snowflakes and decorating the house.

I no longer play with any of the toys I received as a child (except the doll house because that thing is sick). The presents were nice, but they were temporary.

But the loved ones and the Christmas memories I’ve made with them are still part of my life.

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Christmas is a time of year for family and friends, because they’re a real gift.  And if, like me, you believe in Christ, it’s a time for drawing closer to Him, for He is another real gift. Regardless of whether you believe in Christ, this is a good time of year for developing Christ-like attributes of love, service, forgiveness, and charity.

I hope as you’re shopping for and wrapping the presents this year, you think about the real gifts you’ll be giving to others this year—your time, your attention, and your love.

Thank you all for giving me the gift of your friendship and love, however long I’ve known you. Merry Christmas!

No, You Move

Today I am hurting.

Let me be clear. I wouldn’t go through the trouble of writing a post because I’m disappointed my candidate didn’t win. I come from a family, state, and religion that is predominantly more conservative than I am. I work with people who are predominantly more liberal than I am. I can handle opposing sides and being on the losing side of a debate.

But in the words of Captain America, I don’t like bullies. It doesn’t matter where they come from. And Donald Trump is a bully.

Trump ran a campaign built entirely on hate rhetoric and won. When forced to choose between a woman who mishandled emails and an accused rapist, somehow our country decided that the man who brags about sexual assault would be a better option.

So don’t you dare try to tell me that the legal system protects women against sexual harassment. Don’t tell me that people take rape claims seriously.

Last night as shocked analysts struggled to explain how all our polls could have been so misleading, all I could think is this: The polls were wrong because people didn’t want to admit they were voting for Trump. They knew he was bad. They voted for him anyway.

What’s done is done. But if you knew he was bad and rationalized it away, I ask you this now. What you are going to do to combat the damage he’s done?

If you recognize that he is misogynistic, what will you do to fight misogyny? If you recognize that he’s homophobic, what will you do to fight homophobia? If you recognize that he’s racist, what will you do to fight racism?

I can only control my own actions, but I am promising today to do everything I can to fight for what I believe in.

What I believe in is love and kindness and treating people in a Christ-like way. I believe in offering a helping hand to those in need. I believe in listening to those we disagree with. I believe in empowering people to be good.

I don’t have much. But I have my words and I will use them. To some, this might make me a “nasty” woman.

You haven’t seen nasty yet.

Because I will not shut up. I will keep standing up to bullies and trying to make the world a better place.

We all need to take ownership of our country and our actions. Starting today.

It’s time to start moving forward.

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Avengers X Hamilton

After the success of my Avengers + Taylor Swift post, I decided to pair my favorite heroes with some of my other favorite lyrics. For some reason, these turned way more serious than the T Swift ones.

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Thank you, Rick Walton

The news comes through Facebook. Rick Walton has passed away. This isn’t surprising. Last year Rick was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After an initial surgery, the tumor returned, leaving no more treatment options.

For those of you who don’t know, Rick Walton was the author of over a hundred picture books. He taught writing and publishing courses at BYU. And to me, he was a mentor.

Rick was the first person who made me feel that I could turn my love of words into a career. He taught me that the road to publication is twisted and full of (mostly) fun detours. That it was okay if reaching your dreams took time, as long as you kept writing.

But the most important thing I learned from Rick was not how to get a book published. The most important thing I learned from Rick was how to leave the world a better place than I found it.

Rick was a dreamer. He was always talking about his Next Big Idea. His enthusiasm was contagious, and it made you want to hit the ground running to work on your Next Big Idea.

He was the type of person who believed that we were all better off when we stuck together. He was a builder of community. He was generous and supported everyone within his sizable scope of influence.

A few summers ago I was attending a writing conference (which I was only able to attend thanks to a referral from Rick) where Rick was honored for his efforts. The emcee asked everyone who had been influenced by Rick to stand. Over half the auditorium stood.

That’s the kind of person Rick was, and the kind of person I’d like to be.

On my desk, I have a note from the mother of one of the students I tutor, thanking me for helping her daughter with writing. In my inbox, I have a message from a former editing client telling me that ten literary agents have requested to see her work. I get to spend my days teaching college freshmen that they can, in fact, write and write well.

And I think Rick would be happy that I get to spend all my time putting words on paper and helping others do the same.

Thank you Rick, for helping me believe that I could be a writer. Thank you for teaching me to lift those around me. One day I hope I can say I’ve inspired half as many people as you have.

In the mean time, I’ll just keep writing.

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