We Need Some Venn Diagrams

Yesterday, for some reason, (why yesterday? I really don’t know) three people shared “Caitlyn Jenner isn’t courageous because someone else is courageous” memes. Two featured pictures of wounded soldiers – two different pictures of two different soldiers – next to the picture of Caitlyn Jenner giving her ESPY speech. Both copied the meme that someone else created last week with the same picture of Caitlyn next two other wounded veterans.

Here are some things I have to say about this, in no particular order:

1) Memes are designed to create an action, a click. The more compelling the image, the more likely the click. Our clicks lead to ad revenue. A picture of a wounded soldier next to Caitlyn Jenner is an attempt at viral marketing.
2) Using a soldier’s sacrifice to mock someone else and to boost a viral marketing company’s page reach is not honoring that sacrifice. You can’t know if that veteran has given permission for his or her image to be used in this manner, and unless you do, it’s exploitative.
3) Giving one person an award for courage doesn’t create a vacuum in which ALL the rest of the possible awards for courage are destroyed. It doesn’t take away another person’s existing award for courage. It doesn’t suggest that other people are not also courageous.
4) Between 2003 and now, only two U.S. soldiers have been awarded the Arthur Ashe Award, both in 2003: brothers Pat and Kevin Tillman. Why the uproar this year?
5) Caitlyn Jenner didn’t transition publicly so she could win the Arthur Ashe award.
6) Soldiers do not take heroic action so they can win the Arthur Ashe award.

These pictures are meant to imply that there is nothing courageous about transitioning genders. The mere fact that there is a backlash like this (as Caitlyn knew there would be) suggests otherwise.

I couldn’t imagine doing it. And clearly, the people who created and shared the meme couldn’t.

Imagine telling every person you know that you are now someone else, and hoping they will still accept you.
Imagine the invasive questions you will field from strangers regarding your genitals.
Imagine the hormones and surgeries, the expense, the recovery, the pain.
Imagine the fear of losing your job, your family, your home or even your life.
Now imagine doing that in front of the whole world. That is a different kind of courage, but it’s big courage.

I wasn’t going to write about this, because I don’t know what a soldier at war or a transgender person experiences. Who am I to say anything about either? But it kept coming up all day. Then at the end of the day, this happened: India Clarke, a young transgender woman, was murdered in Tampa. I don’t know her, but I hurt for her and her family. I hope she didn’t suffer. I hope they find her murderer. I hope she is at peace. I want to acknowledge (even if I can’t begin to imagine) how much bravery it takes to just live in the world as a transgender person.

India Clarke is the 12th transgender woman murdered in the U.S. in 2015. It is dangerous to be a transgender woman in the U.S.

And now, I feel strangely compelled to say that by making that statement, I am not suggesting that it’s not also dangerous to serve in the armed forces. I’m not saying that it is not dangerous to be a fire fighter or a police officer or a paramedic. Lots of things can be dangerous at the same time, just like lots of people can be courageous at the same time.

Our veterans are routinely not receiving the services and support they deserve. I don’t believe that Caitlyn Jenner or ESPN are to blame for that. I’m not entirely convinced that juxtaposing the two issues will result in any tangible support for veterans. I also don’t believe that was the intent of juxtaposing the two. Instead, it looks like people are using the brave actions of others as a distraction from a completely unrelated issue that makes them feel uneasy. Which, if you think about it, actually isn’t very courageous.

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Don’t Play Misty For Me

Sometimes, out of nowhere, I feel… icky. Being the overly analytical person that I am, I don’t usually accept that feeling, but instead try to attribute it to something. “Oh, I’m sick!” I’ll think, feeling relieved. Because “icky” without a source, is bad news. If I’m not careful, I open a vortex of insecurity for myself by questioning what makes me me, in my hunt for the source of the icky. I break myself into pieces and examine them for problems.

I think my structure, the bones of myself or my crunchy outer shell, is made up of the things I do every day and the people I’m with when I do them. Career: I am a writer. Home: I am a wife and mother. Socially: I am a hermit, with a small group of really good friends.

I try to do these things well. I want to do them well. Especially the home things, which are the most important. I try to be a good partner to my wonderful and supportive husband, and a good mother to the adorable small man we made. I am earnest about these things, but I’m also sometimes messy and inconsistent, tired and distracted. Like everything else I do, I am uneven, lots of heart, not that much energy. I round everything off with cookies and coffee.

Inside my crunchy shell, I’m a squishy gel of potential reactions to things. Add some coffee at just the right time, and I am inspiration for a bunch of heartfelt, smart-assy thoughts. Say something mean to me, and I am a puddle of hurt and tears. Say something mean about someone I love, and I am an inferno of outrage.

Apply no outside stimulus, and I am quiet and still.

At first.

If I stay that way long enough, my brain provides a stimulus for me – a thin black smoke that settles over parts of me. It solidifies and contracts. As it draws in on itself, it drags and scrapes, and it sounds like scratchy whispers: “You call yourself a mother? A mother wouldn’t feed her child that garbage.” “When you said what you said, you were hurtful, and now everyone knows how horrible you are.” “It’s funny you think you are a good person. Look at all these terrible things you’ve done. Kneel on these stones while I read you the list.”

I know, I say. I should do better. I should be better.

Sometimes, I jump up and push my way through it, and it dissipates. I can look back and see its shadow reaching for me, disappointed and waiting. Sometimes I stand and lean forward and pull it with me. Over time and with effort, I peel it away. And sometimes it holds me in place, contracting and whispering. It gets under my skin and displaces my structure, and I am none of those things I thought I was before. Instead, I am what it says I am, until it feels like I’m nothing.

I am fortunate. The black mist hasn’t won for a really long time. It used to be constant, a relentless blanket of darkness, thickest around my heart and lungs. But it withdrew. I don’t know why. I don’t know how, so I am vigilant, and I don’t underestimate it. I look around and realize I wasn’t alone, even though I felt that way, and I memorize the people nearby so I can find them through the mist. I say sweeter things to myself the rest of the time, and I let myself rest, and I try to cut myself some slack. When I can’t, I know it’s time to jump up and try to outrun it, like I had to today.

I know what it looks like, and if I see it settling on you, I’ll say something. I know I can’t fix it. I’ll just try to remind you that the whisper is lying, and you aren’t alone. I know from the other side of it, you’ll do the same for me. The mist is humbling and an equalizer.

Robot Hugs Gets It! 

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Volunteer Vietnam

Please check out this amazing man and his life-changing work.

Rebel With A Cause

His name is Dang Van Quoc Viet, but he goes simply by Viet. He’s a child of war; what the Americans call the Vietnam War and what the Vietnamese call the American War. To him, it’s simply The War. He was one a year-old riding in a car with his family when the car hit a land mine. His father and brother were killed. He, his mother, and his unborn sister survived. It was a tragedy that caused his mother such mental distress that she could no longer care for him. He was a year old and found himself in an orphanage.

A year passed and his mother was doing better. She claimed him from the orphanage and he returned to live with her and his nine month-old sister. The war raged on for another five years. Things were tough. He finished school and went to work, saving his…

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Not So Silent Night

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The man is normal looking, average height and build with an expressive face. He’s pale and his balding head glistens with sweat. There’s nothing about him that’s intimidating, except his location. He does not belong in my house in the middle of the night.

I don’t know how he got in or what he wants. He seems confused and angry. Jeff goes to talk to him and blocks the man’s view into our bedroom. I was already standing out of sight, but our son is in bed, too far away. I motion for him to join me and for him to be quiet. He understands and creeps toward me.

Somehow, Jeff disappears, and the man’s view is no longer blocked. He sees movement, and his eyes light up. He reaches for my son. And I am an inferno.

“Do NOT fucking touch him!” My voice is high and wheezy, but I have one. Usually, in nightmares like this, all attempts to scream or cry out fail. I open my mouth and nothing happens. “DO NOT FUCKING TOUCH HIM!” I wheeze-scream again.

And I reach for the intruder. Somehow, I am behind him now and I grab his shoulder. Usually, in nightmares like this, I move too slowly or not at all. My feet are rooted to the ground, and the air is like jello. This time, my hand makes contact with his shoulder.

I dig deep into his flesh with my nails. My intent is singular and powered by my fury. I want my claws to go so far into his skin that they touch bone. While I dig, I pull back and feel his flesh give. And I love it. He’s off balance now. His pain coupled with my angered power brings him down.

I fall too but am on my knees in an instant my elbow poised above his nose. I collapse into his face with all my weight and fury. I feel a crunch but he’s still struggling. Up again and my elbow comes down on his face again. And again.

And I wake, panting and sweating. My chest hurts from not being able to scream as loud as I wanted to in my fury. And my heart is pounding, but not in fear.

Not sure who you are dude, but do NOT fuck with my family.

Pointless Superpowers

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Recently, my dear friend John looked at me and said (in awe, I like to think), “I have never seen anyone consume as much caffeine as you have and stay so calm.”

I nodded sedately. It is my gift.

That morning, he made me a double Americano which I chugged before we left for breakfast at Green Eggs Cafe. I ordered the tiramisu French toast, which in addition to espresso soaked lady fingers (btw, the name for that baked good has always grossed me out) had chocolate covered espresso beans. I ate every one of those, because I’m sane. And ordered a coffee to drink. An hour or so later I had a large iced dark roast.

As far as superpowers go, I’d have to say being able to drink a LOT of coffee without twitching violently is not a great one. I’m not going to complain about this power. It allows me to do one of the things I love most in the world: drink coffee. I’m so passionately in love with coffee, it is a character in my first book. I mean, it doesn’t talk or anything, but it comes up a lot. It’s in my acknowledgements.

However, I’d much prefer to be able to teleport or fly. Or at least have the natural energy I am trying to replace by drinking coffee. My lack of natural energy has given me other superpowers:

Apparent patience
The ability to nap anywhere
The power to make really good peanut butter fudge (trust me, it’s related)
Being able to seem really calm while I’m freaking the fuck out inside
Super strength

OK, the last one probably isn’t true and is definitely unrelated, although I can lift pretty heavy things.

Huh. When I started this post, I thought I was going to have a point, but all the points have been made these last few weeks, and by much more eloquent people than I. I am tired of being earnest and outraged. Instead, I give you:

My recipe for Peanut Butter Fudge
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup milk
3/4 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix sugar and milk in heavy bottom sauce pan. Bring to boil (watching carefully, this mixture is an evil trickster and wants to ruin your day by boiling over the second you let your concentration lapse). Boil on low until [fudge chemistry] the soft ball stage or 237 to 239 °F (114 to 115 °C), if you have a candy thermometer. Or even if you don’t, but you won’t know it’s at that temperature without a candy thermometer, unless you too have a pointless super power.

To be honest, I don’t do any of that temperature stuff. It is not a super power but a relentless sweet tooth and inherent laziness that has given me years of experience making my own candy in the comfort of my pajamas. I cook it until it looks right.

Let it cool a little, then add the vanilla (it will bubble because of science) and peanut butter (it will smell good, because of peanut butter and sugar and milk). Stir or beat until it starts to set, then pour in a buttered fudge pan. What? You don’t have a fudge pan? It’s…you know…the one other people bake stuff in I guess. 8 inch square. Put in the fridge to cool. Yeah… I don’t do that. I eat it hot and burn myself a little. Hurts so good.

How to Make Really Awesome, Really Strong Coffee

This will put hair on your chest. (note to self: wax chest)

You will need one of these

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Around 4 tbls of this (yeah, I’m not kidding around)

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and about 6 oz. boiling water. Prepare according to Aeropress instructions. Do whatever Aeropress says. Aeropress understands — it knows things. 

Add a splash of milk, if so desired. Sip and say, “ahhhh. so good. &#$&!”  That last step is involuntary.