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The Inconvenient Truth about Patrick Crusius, Guns and Racism in America, el Paso, Texas, gun control, mass shootings

I went to church this morning and I prayed for all of us. After the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas by Patrick Crusius that left 20 murdered in cold blood and dozens injured, I was feeling hopeless and then intense anger. A wave of anger that I haven’t felt since Sandyhook. It’s rage. If you’re indifferent to this violence or you’re not enraged enough to be motivated to act, why? Help me to understand your silence. Why are guns and racism still plaguing our nation? This is the inconvenient truth about Patrick Crusius, guns and racism in America.

At mass, I prayed for the families of all the people murdered this week by mass shooters. Yes, there was one every single day this week. Day after day, I got an alert on my phone and every day, I prayed. I prayed for all of you, to keep you safe. But the time for just praying has passed. We need action to protect our children.

READ ALSO: The Children of Sandyhook

As much as I love my country and my God, he can’t do everything. We’ve got to do our part. This keeps happening because we let it. We value our guns over other people’s lives. We have a million excuses why we should keep our guns, rather than change our behavior and save the lives of innocent people. Change is uncomfortable but isn’t the sacrifice worth it? People are hanging on to their guns like they’re their security blankets. They’re not.

For years, I’ve been clear on my stance on guns. I don’t like them. I hate them. They are dangerous because people are dangerous. People cannot be trusted to behave like responsible adults. They can’t be trusted to respect their fellow humans. People may pull the trigger but bullets from guns are what kill people. Those who allow this to keep happening are culpable. End of story.

READ ALSO: The Collateral Damage of Hate

I grew up with guns. Guns are for hunting and protecting, not killing and maiming the people you don’t like. You’re not allowed to grab your gun, take your sick mind full of hatred and anger and shoot at will. That’s not how this is supposed to work.

The right to bear arms was established at a time when we needed people to take up arms to defend our country against the enemy when we had no regulated or established military. The right to bear arms was not put into law to be used as a scapegoat for every low life lacking self-esteem and hating the world. Every prejudiced person with no friends should not be allowed to amass large quantities of ammunition and guns to shoot innocent people. Yes, innocent people.

READ ALSO: Zero Tolerance for Immigrants is Zero Tolerance for Humanity

Because a person is not like you, does not make them a criminal. Shopping at Walmart is not a criminal act. Attending a music festival should not mean gambling with your life. Going to church should not make you a sitting target and dancing and celebrating at a bar, should not mean that you are relinquishing your right to life. Our military fights abroad to keep us safe and free at home, not so crazed gunman can viciously murder us from within.

The real Inconvenient Truth about Patrick Crusius, Guns and Racism in America

I’ve been clear on my stance for years and I’ve prolifically called for us all to stand up for gun control for our children. I know that guns will never be banned but we need stricter control over who can get those guns, how many they can have at a time, how much ammunition they can buy, how those guns can be modified and where, when and why they can be used. There need to be consequences for breaking those mandates and a psychological evaluation made mandatory for every single person who wants to purchase a gun, of any kind, even a hunting rifle.

I’ve never minced my words but today, I am speechless. I am angry. I am disgusted and prayers are simply not enough. Yes, I too believe that through God all things are possible. I believe in the power of prayer but I also, firmly and absolutely, believe that God helps those who help themselves. We need to help ourselves. We need to take responsibility for our children’s safety by standing up for the right things. I don’t think any parent ever, under any circumstances, would choose a gun over their own child’s life under any conditions.

READ ALSO: Dear America

I am disgusted by all of these acts of domestic terrorism. But last night, when I read Patrick Crusius alleged hate-filled, anti-immigration manifesto, my anger hit a new level. It turned to rage. It spoke of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” It detailed a plan to separate America into territories by race. It warned that white people were being replaced by foreigners. Again, maybe this ignorant piece of racist garbage doesn’t know his history but Texas used to belong to Mexico. We were there first.

READ ALSO: What to do when Racism happens to your child

20 people were murdered on a Saturday morning and dozens injured for no other reason than Patrick Crusius was a small-minded, ignorant man, with a hate-filled heart who drove 10 hours to murder Mexicans. And he was able to do it because it’s so easy to get access to guns in the United States. A mother protecting her 2-month old son. Dead. An infant whose parents are left behind to live with the pain of the loss of a child. Dead. 18 more innocent people dead because this monster lives during a time where racism, bigotry and misogyny are not frowned upon but encouraged by our current state of affairs.

Patrick Crusius is only part of the problem. Guns and Racism in America are the disease.

How are we, any of us, but especially people of color supposed to feel safe when the color of our skin, our last names, the religion we follow is enough to make small men not only want to murder us but able to get a gun and do so?

We need good people, those who value all human life, who believe in freedom and equality in our country to stand up against the terrorists within our nation’s borders. Everyone is so focused on keeping the brown people out that you are locking us in with hate-fueled, narrow-minded, homegrown terrorists and giving them guns at will. How are any of us supposed to survive this?

 

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tweens, teens, Teen Girls Rebel when Teen Boys Rated Female Classmates on Looks, Teen Boys Rated Female Classmates on Looks, teen girls rebel, girls fight rape culture, #MeToo, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School

You’ve heard of burn books? We all have. I remember in high school they were called slam books; same difference. Same jerky idea, different decade. Well, a group of high school boys at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School Maryland are bringing it back. But in the wake of the #MeToo movement, the girls are refusing to stand for it. Teen boys rated female classmates on looks and the teen girls rebel. They will no longer stay quiet. Like teenage superheroes, these girls fight rape culture.

Teen boys rating girls on their looks is a practice as old as time. For as long as men have been objectifying women, girls have been getting rated by their looks in burn books, slam books, bathroom walls and in guy group texts. It’s a national pastime for men and boys. The undiscriminating discriminatory act of objectifying the part of the population born with girl parts. It’s sickening.

This time the list is in an iPhone Notes app. It included the names of 18 girls in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School’s International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, ranked and rated on the basis of their looks, from 5.5 to 9.4, with decimal points to the hundredth place. There, with a number beside it.

A number rating system for girls like they’re cattle being rated for purchase. A group of male students created the list over a year ago and it’s been recirculated. Spreading like a plague through text messages and whispers during class. One male student saw the name of his friend, Nicky Schmidt, on the list and told her about it. Within 24 hours, most of the senior girls knew about the list. Teen boys rated female classmates on looks and the girls are not having it.

READ ALSO: The Problem with Little Boys

In the past, tween and teen girls would see the list, hang their head in shame and pray no one brought it up again. It’s shameful. It’s one thing to feel ugly ( as we all do in those awkward years) but it’s quite another to have everyone at school to see your national ugly average rating in notes, much less hear it whispered as you walk through the halls. The thing about these sorts of lists is that it shakes even the most confident young women to their core. Even if you’ve always thought you were pretty, these books have a way of crawling into your psyche and taking root; growing, twisting and digging in.

As someone who suffered from eating disorders and was never sure of herself, at least in the looks department, finding myself in a burn book would have made me feel so isolated, unsure and depressed. As a grown woman, it would make me rage because of two things, 1) I know I’m attractive enough 2) I don’t care what anyone else thinks about how I look or think or exist. But this is as a grown woman, it took years to have this confidence.

Yasmin Behbehani, a student at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, found herself ranked on this list after her friend, Nicky Schmidt, let her know about the list, as a heads up. But Behbehani didn’t want to know about this list. She was trying to stay in her lane; just trying to survive high school is hard enough without extracurricular  humiliation. She’d spent her entire high school tenure recovering from eating disorders and trying to avoid this kind of triggering comparison to her classmates but there is was in a text message with a screenshot of the list, typed out in the damn notes app.

These kinds of lists are not new. And they will never not exist. As long as boys are raised to objectify women with no real consequences they will continue to do so. But today is not yesterday, or last year, or the last decade. Today, we live in the world of #MeToo.

We are raising ours girls to not take this kind of treatment. Raising our girls to know there are more important things to be than beautiful and to speak up, no to scream, when we need to be heard. We’re empowering our little girls. We are not afraid of you any longer. You can’t demean us with your stupidity and objectification because we know we are more than our parts.

READ ALSO: Raising Girls to Survive Misogyny, Sexting and Slut Shaming

The girls of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School felt violated, objectified by classmates they thought were their friends. They felt uncomfortable getting up to go to the bathroom, worried that the boys were taking notes and editing their scores.Objectification feels horrible; judged at your very existence.

The things that no one counted on in this “boys will be boys” rape culture that we live in is that  there is power in numbers. Dozens of senior girls spoke to the school administration and to the boys, demanding not only disciplinary action in response to the list but a school-wide discussion about the toxic culture that allowed the list to happen in the first place. This resulted in one male student being given an in-school detention for one day. It wouldn’t even be on his record.

Not happy with the disciplinary action, Schmidt texted 15 friends and told them to tell all of their friends to show up at the school’s office the next day during lunch, “to tell them we feel unsafe in this environment and we are tired of this toxicity,” Schmidt wrote in her text. 40 senior girls showed up, packing into the assistant principal’s office where Schmidt read a statement she had written.

We want to know what the school is doing to ensure our safety and security,” Schmidt said. “We should be able to learn in an environment without the constant presence of objectification and misogyny.”

READ ALSO: The Reality of Being Born a Woman

The girls and administration agreed that to have a meeting with the male students in the program, including the assholes who created and circulated the list. On International Women’s Day, almost all of the students in the IB program — about 80 students — met in a large conference room for what was supposed to be a 45-minute meeting during fifth period. It lasted over 2.5 hours.

The girls shared personal stories and impassioned speeches about how the list made them feel. They shared their stories of sexual abuse, harassment and the lasting effects objectification has had on them. And something miraculous happened, the boys heard them. In fact, the boy who created the list stood up, took responsibility for the list and apologized for the hurt the list caused. I am so proud of the girls for uniting and standing up and demanding that their voices be heard. Silence is the enemy of equality.

The thing this isn’t new and the kid who made the list and the ones who passed it around are not the minority. The girls who spoke up and refused to be treated like this, they are the minority in our culture. We need to make doing the right thing easier and more common. It shouldn’t be this hard for women to be treated like humans. We shouldn’t have to fight for a basic human right like being treated like people and not objects.

What will we do next time we find out teen boys rated female classmates on looks? Where will we be when our teen girls rebel?

To be honest, since the #MeToo movement began, I have shared my own stories. I shared them before but I never realized that men don’t actually understand what it feels like to be a woman and be objectified. They have always been bigger, stronger and more privileged than women. They’ve always lived in a boys will be boys culture and they’ve watched, from the time they were little boys, the world apply different rules for women and girls. Boys assault women in so many ways and all they get is a slap on the wrist, even from women. But no more.

Since the day they were born, we’ve been raising our girls to respect themselves and to value no one’s opinion over their own. I’ve taught them that no means no and if they have to scream that, then do so. We’re raising our girls to be brave and determined. They know that they are as good as any man and in some instances, even better.

This generation of moms is raising an army of feminists ready to do battle for their human respect, equality and dignity. If you can’t get on board with that, that’s your problem. It’s happening. Be ready for it. Don’t stand in their way. This is their future and their worth is more than any ranking a man could ever give them.

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Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman, William H Macy, Olivia Jade Giannulli, Isabella Rose Giannulli, college admissions cheating scandal

Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman and 31 other parents were charged in the college admissions scandal. 50 people were charged earlier this week in a nationwide scheme to fast-track students for admission to elite colleges and universities. As a parent, I understand wanting the best for your children just like Lori Loughlin wanted the best for her daughters, Olivia Jade Giannulli and Isabella Rose Giannulli, social media influence and fake USC crew recruits.

I understand wanting to give your child the world but isn’t cheating their way in doing them a disservice? They are learning that they can cheat their way to success and they either don’t care or have lost confidence in their own abilities to earn entrance. What these parents did was absurd and they should be held accountable. But now, it’s not just them but their kids too. These kids, whether they knew about what their parents were doing or not, have landed smack dab in the middle of this scandal. How embarrassing!

READ ALSO: They Wanted Better for Us

For example,  Olivia Jade Gianulli and Isabella Rose are losing sponsorships and their social media influence is dwindling as their teen fanbase are mad about her cheating her way into college. This scandal is not only going to probably get Lori Loughlin’s daughters kicked out of school, but it’s also going to ruin their reputation as social media influencers leaving these girls without a proverbial pot to piss in, well, except for the millions their parents have. They’ll be okay.

Also, let’s all be clear here. This is not the first time this has happened. This has probably been going on since colleges existed and wealthy parents wanted their kids to have a prestigious diploma to hang on their wall. It’s no different than the college athletes who are encouraged by the administration to skate by in easy classes to stay eligible to play. Privilege is nice if you’re on the receiving end of it.

READ ALSO: Everything in Life Worth Having I Earned in College

When I was 17, I applied to several universities, all very high-quality institutions of higher learning, some even ivy league. I got accepted to all of them through hard work, good grades and extracurricular activities. I worked my ass off for it. The only limitation I had when it came to choosing a school was money. I come from a blue-collar family, with an immigrant father and a stay at home mother. They had six kids, one salary and no extra.

Everything we got, we worked hard for. 5 out of the 6 of us graduated from college with real-world degrees. My brothers went to college on soccer scholarships and financial aid. They took the opportunity their athletic abilities provided them and used it to fund their futures.

I worked full-time, took financial aid loans and whatever scholarships I could qualify for as did my sister. I did whatever I had to; late nights, driving an hour and a half each way between school and work because to me, it was worth it. My parents taught us to take the opportunities we earned and use them to better situation.

My parents raised us with pride and integrity. They raised us to respect ourselves and the education system. Our parents inspired us to work hard and believe in ourselves. My parents may not have had money but they gave us what they could, believe in ourselves and self-confidence.

READ ALSO: How to Afford the Education your Child Deserves

Believe me, I get it, wanting to give your child every leg up that you can. But buying their way into college is not only not fair but not even helpful. Firstly, what message are you sending to your child that you have to help cheat their way into college? They are too dumb to get in on their own? Or worse, they are too lazy to try? Either way, you are aren’t doing them favors in the long run.

Secondly, you are actually teaching them to be entitled and promoting white privilege. There are things in life that you need to earn to fully appreciate them and if you don’t earn them, you don’t deserve them. Also, I don’t just blame these mothers, why are we not calling out Mossimo Giannulli or William Macy?

Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman, William H Macy, Olivia Jade Giannulli, Isabella Rose Giannulli, college admissions cheating scandal

(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Thirdly, putting kids into universities that they had to cheat their way into is taking the spot of someone who earned it and belongs there on merit. These students are taking spots that they didn’t earn, probably cheating their way through ( because if they couldn’t qualify to get in on their own they probably can’t keep up) for a piece of paper they don’t need because they are already wealthy. Not to be flippant, but I haven’t heard of a lot of celebrity children going into medicine, law or other scholarly fields. Most of them either go into the family business or spend their lives living off of the spoils of their parents’ careers. I see you, Paris Hilton.

Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman and all the parents who did this, shame on you and your privilege.

Meanwhile, the underprivileged, smart kids of the world who are dependent on entry into these universities to not only change their situation but their lives are screwed. Those of us who grew up blue-collar or even middle class are taught to chase the American dream and through hard work and determination we can get into the good universities and get armed with the tools to chase after those dreams.  With celebrities buying their entitled, lazy kids their way into college the kids who deserve it are losing those spots. These parents are literally stealing futures from other kids.

What are these parents teaching their children? I get it. Every parent wants better for their children then they had. It’s natural. These wealthy parents worked hard for their wealth and success. There is a sense of satisfaction and happiness that comes from working hard for something. There is pride and dignity tied to accomplishment. In the end, these parents (however well-meaning their intentions may have been) cheated their own children. They cheated all of the kids who should have earned those university spots. Cheated their own children out of the satisfaction of earning their own way.

What do you think should happen to Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin and all of these parents and the students who are part of the college admissions scandal?

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Michael Jackson, Leaving Neverland, pedophile

I’m going to be honest with you. I watched Leaving Neverland the HBO documentary alleging that Michael Jackson was a predatory pedophile with a penchant for young boys. It was shocking and disturbing to see it all laid out in the documentary. I feel torn. Not because I’m wishy-washy on how I feel about pedophiles. But I feel like my entire childhood was a lie.

Do I believe Michael Jackson was a pedophile who preyed on naïve young boys? Boys who admired him and their eager to please stage moms? I do. Not because this is new information. I believed it in 2005. I found it peculiar that a grown man, even an eccentric one who never had a childhood, would host children (that weren’t his own) in his bed. Even more peculiar was why their parents would allow it?

READ ALSO: Why Girls should be able to Exist without Men Behaving Badly

It never sat well with me either that he always seemed to have a young boy as his sidekick on his tours. It’s right there in black and white in the press; Michael Jackson walking hand in hand with some preteen boy who accompanied him on his yearlong tours. It was weird then and, as a mom now, it’s absolutely suspicious. I don’t care if it was God, you cannot sleep in the bed with my child.

The world had been conditioned to expect odd behavior from the socially awkward, musical genius known as Michael Jackson. The world turned a blind eye or maybe we just didn’t want to see it and we certainly didn’t want to believe it. The thought that such a seemingly sweet, childlike man could be a predator was beyond the fathomable. Why would a man who could have almost any man or woman he wanted in the world choose little boys?

I think we all wanted to believe that he felt a kinship with these boys. He was somehow living his missed childhood with them. Or maybe he too was a victim as a child? Isn’t that how many predators become predatory? Or maybe he was just born a pedophile? Michael Jackson will never be adequately punished for his crimes.

READ ALSO: Raising Teen Girls to Survive Misogyny, Sexting and Slut Shaming

However, if all that was said in Leaving Neverland is true Michael Jackson was the worst kind of monster because he used his celebrity to lure these families, his money and fame to blind them and the public’s opinion that he was a “good guy” to mask the monster within. If this is true, he was one of the most predatory and dangerous pedophiles to ever live because he was beyond reproach even when all the evidence said he was guilty.

Michael Jackson is dead and we will never have definitive proof of his guilt or innocence. We’ll never have the satisfaction of hearing his confession. From here on out, everything is hearsay. We only have the word of broken men who claim to have been his victims when they were boys. The stories are compelling and too similar to one another to be a coincidence. The damage is done.

READ ALSO: I just want to enjoy their childhood

Michael Jackson songs tick marked my childhood. No one ever wanted the allegations to be true because what we want and what we get are two very different things. We need to embrace the truth and disappointment. I’m having trouble reconciling what I believe to be true about Michael Jackson and my love of his music. As much as I loved the music of Michael Jackson, the thought of singing along with a pedophile who preyed on young boys turns my stomach.

Listening to Wade Robson and James Safechuck describe their sexual abuse in graphic detail made me cringey. Hearing the voicemails Michael Jackson left for these young boys, reading the faxes and knowing how he ingratiated himself into the trust of their families made me sick. He was a cunning predator. He groomed his victims. The intent behind his communications is obvious to us as outsiders. Michael Jackson’s larger than life fame afforded him allowances for his odd behavior. Alarms failed these families who were duped by his celebrity.

 More than anything, though, it was difficult to watch Robson and Safechuck clearly struggling with their conflicting feelings about Jackson in real time; they are both repulsed by him and appear to have some lingering reverence, a testament to Jackson grooming them to serve his perversions.

There is nothing we can do to punish Michael Jackson. There’s not much we can do to help his victims but hear their stories and recognize their pain. We can believe them. I can no longer willingly listen to Michael Jackson. I can’t even look at his image without being disgusted. Where I once saw an icon now all I can see is a predator of children.

Have you seen Leaving Neverland or Oprah Winfrey Presents After Neverland?

What are your thoughts?

 

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Christine Blasey Ford, Brett Kavanaugh, Anita Hill, Supreme Court Justice, rape culture, Hero for girls

I’ve been quiet about the Brett Kavanaugh and Dr.Christine Blasey Ford situation, not because I don’t believe it’s true but because it probably is. Kavanaugh aside, this story is not a new one or even an unusual one to any woman.

My girls are 11 and 13-years-old and I’ve already told them to never leave a drink alone with a guy or to take a beverage that’s already open. I’ve taught them not to walk with headphones on and to always be aware of their surroundings, especially at night. I’ve taught them how to fight back. I’ve taught them that no always means no and if someone ignores their no, fight, run and report. It sucks that we live in a world where I have to teach my girls to be on the defensive so that they can try to stay safe but it’s even sadder that we live in a world where victims are shamed, blamed and not believed.

Christine Blasey Ford is my hero and a champion for all of our little girls. A true hero is one who stands up in the face of conflict and puts it all on the line for the greater good. She came forward because she felt it was her civic duty and the price she has had to pay is nothing short of everything.

“You’ve never been afraid to walk outside alone at night?” This is the question that I asked my husband.

“No.” He looked baffled at the idea of a grown person afraid to walk outside in the dark alone. He was completely unable to relate.

My husband is a 6’5”, college-educated, Caucasian man who weighs about 250 pounds. There’s not much that scares him and certainly, walking after dark alone, even in foreign countries, does not cause him any hesitation. I, on the other hand, have never felt comfortable walking alone at night. Even when I’ve had to do it. It’s done very quickly, hyper-aware of my surroundings and terrified of what could happen.

Yet, every young girl and woman that I’ve ever known is trepidatious at the least and more so terrified. There is an entire market based solely on this premise; pepper spray, female defense classes, Tasers and little pink guns. We are born into a world with a vagina and a knowing that this very fact makes us vulnerable.

We live on the defensive. We are taught from a very young age to protect ourselves, from the clothes we wear to where we go, what we do and how we behave. It is inferred that sexual assault is preventable if only we do all the right things but the moment we step out of those lines, we have put ourselves in harm’s way and we are, in some way, to blame. We knew better. We knew we weren’t supposed to walk alone at night. We feel shared guilt and shame as if we willingly participated in our own attack by simply being born a woman.

READ ALSO: My MeToo Story

If you were to talk to a million women, privately with promised anonymity, every single one could recount at least one time (but I’m betting from my own experiences, many more) that she was sexually harassed, assaulted or raped. I don’t know a single woman who has not been, at some point or another, pushed into a corner and been made to feel threatened and unsafe by a man. Not one woman who isn’t afraid to walk alone at night.

The saddest part is that we live in a world where powerful men, which are all men by the way, are given a pass. Somehow the world roots for the rapist like he’s the wronged. He is the underdog. We are ruining his life. Yet, women are cast as the villains who are destroying their attacker’s life by bravely recounting their truth in detail.

We are less than. We don’t matter. This is the message that we are perpetuating to our little girls and women. So we stay silent out of shame and knowing that we will be humiliated more than our abusers.

Do you know how many rapes go unreported in the United States alone each year? It is estimated that only 310 out of every 1000 rapes will get reported. That’s 2 out of 3 rapes that don’t get reported. Of those 310 reported, only about 6 rapists will be incarcerated.

READ ALSO: We Are All Emily Doe

Christine Blasey Ford has risked everything to warn the world of the moral fiber of a man who is in contention to hold the highest moral position in the country. She has not only painfully recounted her story of an attempted rape which, in case you’re not aware, is just as scary as the real thing because the intention was the same. The feeling of being overpowered is the same. The feeling of helplessness and your own sexuality being used against you is the same. You are changed forever. The only thing that stood between Ford and a drunk Kavanaugh raping her was a one-piece bathing suit and a fluke interruption.

Christine Blasey Ford, Brett Kavanaugh, Anita Hill, Supreme Court Justice, rape culture

Ford walked away from that night, at just 15-years-old ( almost a child), feeling afraid, terrorized and never feeling safe again. She walked away grateful that he could not complete. She walked away feeling shame and guilt. She told no one because she felt like she bore some responsibility for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. She chose to be there, therefore she feels like she contributed. Which is insane.

The thing is Kavanaugh walked away laughing. Stumbled away drunk with his buddy. No remorse. HE felt entitled. He felt like he didn’t do anything wrong. He might not even remember it because it was so insignificant to him. He continued on with his life, kept walking around alone at night unphased or changed by the experience because he wasn’t the victim. He wasn’t then and he isn’t now. He is a criminal who wasn’t reported; nonetheless a criminal. How can he be considered to uphold the law when he himself breaks it? How can he pass judgment when he can’t even recognize that he committed a crime?

You see, sadly, the Kavanaugh’s of the world are not few and far between and rape is not just between strangers, behind dumpsters and in alleyways. Just because we know our abusers doesn’t make it less abusive and doesn’t imply consent. Men are not entitled to women’s bodies. Little boys are not just being little boys. No means no and rape is rape.

The sad thing is that we put the onus on girls, from a very young age. We teach them to cover themselves; to hide their bodies.  We teach them to feel shame when they are the slightest bit sexual. We teach them that good girls don’t get raped. We teach them not to fight because no one will believe them. We teach them to judge and be judged by other girls.

I have a young teenager and in the past few months, I have heard several stories that have made me cringe because even in 7th grade, they were being groomed to be victims. The schools are telling our girls explicitly to hide their bodies because they are distractions to boys. A little girl was run out of our school because the bullying became so bad when she refused her attention to a boy. She was relentlessly called a slut and whore (at a Catholic school) and eventually she changed schools and her family moved away. Nothing happened to the boy.

Another girl was texting a boy all summer, when he tried to take it further and she refused, he told the whole school it was a joke. She was a joke. She thought he liked her. It was implied to her that if she did what he wanted, he would recant and she could be his “girlfriend.” Another girl, kissed a boy back this summer who was “dating” another girl, he told everyone. She became known to everyone as “the side piece” even to the girls.

Another 13-year-old girl, spent the entire summer fighting off the aggressive advances of her “boyfriend”. He spent the summer being the model citizen in front of her parents all the while trying to force himself inside their daughter. She was afraid they wouldn’t believe her. She eventually broke up with him but she no longer trusts boys.

These girls tell no one but one another; the keepers of their secrets. In some cases, they tell no one. I was harassed and assaulted on various levels throughout my life and I never filed a single report because maybe I was at a party? Maybe my dress was revealing? Maybe I had something to drink? Maybe I agreed to the date? Maybe I knew the guy? Maybe we were friends? Maybe we grew up together? Maybe I misunderstood? Maybe I was a prude? Maybe no one will believe me because he’s the star football player? Maybe he was cute and I flirted with him? Maybe I let him buy me a drink? Maybe I went into the room alone with him? Maybe I was walking alone in the dark at night? Maybe it was my fault? These are some of the things that go through our heads when we’re assaulted.

 

Or maybe he raped me? Violated me? Assaulted me? Pushed up against me? Tried to push inside of me? Maybe he grabbed and groped me? Maybe I was frozen in fear? Maybe I was sleeping and woke to him on top of me? Maybe I was just at work minding my own business? Maybe I trusted him and he locked the door and overpowered me? Maybe the only thing that saved me was a one-piece bathing suit or a knock at the door? A stranger walking by? Maybe I should have reported it because he’s probably doing the same thing to someone else’s daughter? Maybe I should have been brave for my someday daughters? These are the things that go through our mind when we are older and removed from the situation and find our voice and move past the fear of what people will think about us and move toward trying to stop it from happening again. There is power in numbers and sometimes we just need to know that we are not alone to know that we are not less than.

Christine Blasey Ford, Brett Kavanaugh, Anita Hill, Supreme Court Justice, rape culture, Hero for girlsI have shared my Me Too stories, there are more. More than I can count. Starting at a very young age. I believe Christine Blasey Ford because I know it happens. Her story sounds like a thousand other stories. That’s the true crime; it’s a recurring scenario that happens probably daily to women and girls around the world. We stop it by telling our stories. There is no shame or guilt that any victim should ever bear. Her life should not be destroyed for telling the truth while our President makes excuses and supports a rapist who he calls a victim; who he calls a good man. Good men don’t lock young girls in a room and grind into them while their friend cheers them on and watches. I don’t care if he was a teenager, he has no remorse and there’s no reason he would ever stop because he can get away with it. Appointing him to the Supreme court is sending the message to women everywhere that we, as a nation, don’t care about you. As if that’s not glaringly clear from the government always trying to have one hand in our uterus, now they will have a judge holding us down by the throat while they shove their hand into our uterus.

Walking alone at night in the dark without fear may be a dream never realized by myself but I will fight for it to be a right my daughters can have. We need to teach little boys to respect little girls and to know what consent is. They need to know that little girls have human value and intelligence and needs. We need to teach our little boys that little girls are equal to them and it’s not okay to just take what you want.  We need to teach them that there are not two sets of rules, there is only one and that is to respect one another.

My question is why do we live in a world where a victim is put on trial to prove her allegations and the world wants to give her assailant the benefit of the doubt? Why does it take a sacrificial lamb like Christine Blasey Ford to risk everything to inspire a nation to give women human decency and respect? I hope she inspires them to stop a monster.

What are your thoughts on Brett Kavanaugh being considered for Supreme Court justice? Do you believe Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations? If so, what do you think should happen?

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Aretha Franklin, Do Right Woman, Pancreatic Cancer, Grandma, Family relationships, Latina, Aretha Franklin Dead

The Queen of Soul has left this world. Aretha Franklin, the original Do Right Woman, has died from pancreatic cancer earlier this morning at 9:50 a.m.

Aretha Franklin, whose voice was sweeter than honey, was one of the most admired singers of all time. She died this morning at the age of 76 after battling advanced pancreatic cancer. She died loved and surrounded by family and friends in Detroit. The Queen of Soul, a woman’s voice who has been around for my entire life, is no longer on this earth and it’s hitting me in a way that I never expected.

Yes, I loved Aretha Franklin ‘s voice and I respected the fire in the belly of that fierce Feminist woman who commanded everyone’s attention and respect. She was a woman who fought for the betterment of other women. She believed in empowering her sisters. She was a big, beautiful force of nature in this world. She was goodness and light and it saddens me that she is gone.

But, I’m sitting here sobbing and I couldn’t figure out why a stranger’s death would have such a profound effect on me. Then I realized, my grandmother died from pancreatic cancer a few years ago on July 8, 2011. She was just a couple years older than Lady Aretha. I’m not crying for the reasons you might think.

READ ALSO: The END of the World as We Know It

I’ve never written about this before because my relationship with my paternal grandmother has always been very private and personal for me. It was strained when it existed. It was the sum product of the relationship she had with my father and the way she treated most of the people that she was supposed to love. I had the misfortune of being old enough to witness and understand too much.

I found out that my grandmother had pancreatic and stomach cancer by an out of the blue phone call one night from my aunt as I was putting my babies to bed. Begging and then demanding that I get on the phone and tell my grandmother that I loved her, that I let her know things were fine between us, and I do it all in Spanish. It was a call for forgiveness after a lifetime of not caring about the consequences of her actions.

I did as I was told. I told the frail voice on the other end, “Te amo, Abuelita.” But I didn’t feel it and if all she wanted was the words to be said, I had done my part but if she had wanted more, she was left wanting. I cried when I hung up because I never wanted her to be in such physical pain, no matter our differences. I cried because I knew this would crush my dad.

This was the first time I had heard from her since my baby shower in 2005 that she had unexpectedly shown up at. She hadn’t been invited because we had no contact. Previous to that, I saw her at my bridal shower that she crashed in 1999. Before that, I think it was when she lived with us in the mid 80’s. I was not a priority to her. Or maybe she didn’t know how to come back from the painful way she had behaved when I was a child. I think maybe she wanted to have a relationship in her old age but had no idea how to reach out in any meaningful way. I had already long given up hope for one.

I was a new mom with little girls. I had long moved on from caring whether or not she cared about me. I only met her a handful of times before she moved in with us when she left my grandfather behind in Mexico to come to live in the United States with her children. My father adored her no matter what she did. In his eyes, even when he knew she did wrong, he chose to look passed it.

READ ALSO: Sometimes the Most Important Things to be Said Don’t Require Words

She fought with my dad over everything. She never liked my mom and was unkind to her. She got mad at my dad if he couldn’t give her all of his attention immediately. She gave no consideration that he was a husband and father of 6 children. To her, he was her son first and foremost and anything he did, she took as a purposeful and personal affront to her. There was no way to win. He lost because he chose his family over her every beck and call.

One day when my 4-year-old brother ran to his grandmother screaming, “Grandma, Grandma” she stopped him cold and pushed him away saying, “I am not your grandma.” My little brother, the sweetest kid I’ve ever known, walked away deflated and crying. I witnessed the deflation and, at that moment, I saw the petty, coldness reveal itself. I was 11-years-old.

I realize you can’t judge someone on one terrible moment in time but that was just one of many moments like this. I don’t want to speak ill of my dead grandmother out of respect for my father. He loved and still loves her very much. He has seen all of her faults and she has done unspeakable hurts to him as a child but he has forgiven her and so have I. I have no room in my heart for hatred. I am thankful that she brought my father into this world and, for that, I will always be grateful and love her.

But when she was dying, she wanted to make an amends with everyone she had wronged. She wanted forgiveness at the very moment I was learning what it was like to be a mother. You see, by the time she called me, I had figured out that my children were the most important thing in the world to me and there is nothing I wouldn’t do for them. Nothing. I definitely would not have taken my 9 children and pushed them to be at odds with one another to prove their love for me.

I can’t explain the whole story of her lifetime, it’s so long. But from the beginning, she had a hard life. She was orphaned, raped by someone she knew, thrown out and living on the streets and a mother by the age of 13. The world made her hard from the very beginning but even when she met my grandfather and they got married and he took on the responsibility of her child and they went on to have 8 more children together, she had been hungry for too long. She had become feral and she never softened.  She stayed hungry and autonomous.

She pushed everyone who could ever love her away. Maybe she believed herself unlovable. If that is the case, I feel sorry for her. Her children loved her blindly and unconditionally and she never could reciprocate entirely. She was too guarded.

The thing is the weeks leading up to her death, everyone came from near and far to visit her, let her make amends, give their forgiveness and be there to support her in her final days. They congregated around her hospital bed in my aunt’s living room praying the rosary and crying, supporting one another; being there for one another like only family can. I’m sure the love was palpable but I wouldn’t go. I know that sounds cold and harsh.

I wasn’t trying to withhold anything but I couldn’t go there and pretend that I belonged. We never had a relationship. I told my father that if he needed me there for support, I would go for him. But, my going had nothing to do with her. I didn’t need to say goodbye because we had never really said hello. We never really got to know each other and that’s how she had wanted it my entire childhood. She had lived withholding love for so long that she had to think about it to remember to hug us so mostly she didn’t. My dad told me that he understood and it was fine if I didn’t go. So I didn’t.

She died. I never even cried. I remember the date she died because remember that little 4-year-old brother of mine who she told she was not his grandma? She died on his 32nd birthday. Neither of us cried. Neither of us went to say goodbye.

Over the years since, I have seen a few pictures of her smiling. She looked happy in her way. I only saw her smile once in my life, that was at my baby shower. I think she was excited, in her way, that her first granddaughter was going to have a daughter. I’ll always love her for loving the idea of my daughter and loving my father, even if she didn’t love me. Or maybe she did, in her way.

Aretha Franklin, Do Right Woman, Pancreatic Cancer, Grandma, Family relationships, Latina, Aretha Franklin Dead

Today, when I read about Aretha Franklin dying of pancreatic cancer, the painful, terrible disease that killed my last living grandparent, I cried for my grandma. It took me 7 years but today, it hurt remembering that she was gone. It hurt remembering that she is no longer here on this earth for her children. It pains me knowing that my father hurts every day missing his mother. It hurt knowing that there are no more chances for redemption for her.

Today the true forgiveness washed over me and I let the pain go. I wrote about it. “Te Amo, Abuelita.” Today, these words have weight. She never did get to meet my girls. But then again, she never asked to and maybe that was her gift to me. No words to hurt, no deeds to be undone just the fond, edited memories recounted by my father with love to his granddaughters.

As I sit here listening to Do Right Woman on a loop, I hope you rest in Peace Aretha Franklin and you too, abuela.

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Mourning Orca Mother, Tahlequah, Orca Whales, Loss, J-35, Orca mother mourns loss of newborn calf

Tahlequah, also known as J-35, is a 20-year-old female orca whale whose calf died just 30 minutes after being born. This mourning orca mother has refused to let go of her dead baby calf ever since, carrying the infant either by one fin, or pushing it through the water on her head. Today marks day 17 and this grieving mother is still carrying the body of her baby through the waters of the Pacific Northwest.

The world is watching and mourning the loss with this grief-stricken Orca mother as she has swum hundreds of miles with her baby. Orca whales have a gestation period of 15 to 18 months. To feel your baby alive, growing in your body and then just as suddenly be gone is incredibly hard to process. Herself and others in her pod are in grave danger because they are neglecting themselves in tribute to this loss.

I get it. I think any mother who has ever lost a child gets it. You don’t want to let go because letting go makes it real. Being real means finality. Finality means that your baby is dead and that is a hurt too hard for any mother’s heart to bare. It is inconceivable and when you are experiencing it, you do lose sight of everything and everyone else.

READ ALSO: ALL I Can do is Cry

As much as you want the pain to go away, you want to embrace it and feel every bit of it because “it” is the only thing you have left of your baby. That pain is the placeholder of where your baby is supposed to be and some part of you never wants to let it go even when the pain is so heavy and dark that it burns your lungs to breathe. You don’t care. You don’t care if you breathe because when your baby dies, some part of you (as a mother) dies too. We feel it and it hurts beyond measure.

Tahlequah is part of an endangered pod of southern resident killer whales. There are only 75 left in the PNW. Her calf was born alive near the San Juan Islands in Washington state but died just 30 minutes later. She has since swum hundreds of miles toward British Columbia, carrying her child with her the entire way.

My heart breaks for this mother whale because I know this deep, unrelenting sadness too well. Unfortunately, too many mothers do. It has been 6 years since my baby died. I spent a month in bed sobbing and tortured. I numbed my pain with medication and solitude. I was not fit for company and I was so sad and felt such despair that I had no appetite. I had no desire to exist. All I could do was focus on what I had lost and scramble to try to hold on to it before even the clarity of the memory disappeared.

I was not logical or rational. I was grief-stricken and heartbroken like only a mother who has lost their child can be. It is a loss beyond comprehension. The pain of living in a world where your child does not is the cruelest there is. To wake up every day knowing that your child is not afforded that same luxury brings with it a guilt that one cannot begin to understand without having tasted its bitter reality for themselves.

READ ALSO: Some Things Change You Forever

Tahlequah is just doing what every single mother who has lost their baby, no matter the stage of pregnancy or life that “baby” may have been at would do, she is holding on for as long as she can because she knows that once she lets go, she will never feel that baby again. Once her baby is gone, she is gone forever.

I am glad the world is watching and empathizing with this mourning mother Orca. I am glad that this whale’s desperate actions can give words to the universal feelings of loss all grieving mothers, especially humans, feel when they lose a child. I hope the compassion spills over and the next time a mother comes into our lives who has lost her own baby, we can treat her with a little more tenderness and compassion.

We mothers who have lost our babies, we carry on. We survive. But we are not the same woman we were the day before. We are broken and we have a hurt that is eternal and can never be healed. Just because time passes and from the outside, it looks like we are ok, know that we are not and we will never be again. Our wounds leave more than our arms empty; they leave irreparable scars on our hearts. When our babies die, they take a part of us with them.

As soon as I knew that I was pregnant, I loved that baby. I love the baby I never got to hold as much as I do my two daughters who I hold every single day and I don’t think that love will ever dissipate. But where all this love lives in my soul, there is no tangible direction to guide it. It exists and yet, sometimes it feels like my third child only existed in my mind. This is why we can’t let go. We mothers keep their memories alive so that the world knows they were once here, no matter how briefly.

I think every mother who has lost a child can relate to Tahlequah on a cellular level. We wish that society could recognize how deep this loss is felt and how it changes us down to our very core. Too soon, Tahlequah will have to let go but at least she’s had these days, few as they may be. Most human moms are not privileged to have that time. We are told that our baby is dead and just as quickly, our baby is gone from our eyes, from our arms and from this world. There is no gradual time of acceptance.

Our society dictates that a dead baby is taboo. They’ve decided that it’s better for us to remove the evidence but its too fast. Our hearts can’t shift gears so quickly. I remember, quite literally, howling in pain like a wounded animal when it hit me that I had to let go of my baby. Thinking of that moment in my car, alone with my dead baby inside me, before a preschool pick-up, trying to digest it all and not die breaks my heart right now. Our culture dictated that I pull myself together and move on but I had no idea how to. I couldn’t even speak. How was I supposed to function and go on like nothing happened? How was I supposed to forget.

I know that soon Tahlequah is going to have to let her baby go. Her body will grow too weak and weary to carry on, though she will try. She may even try until her very last breath. Believe me, I get it. There were dark moments when it first happened that I wished I could just die so the pain would stop but, unlike Tahlequah, I had to carry on for my living girls. That’s what mothers do. We push through the most difficult moments of life by loving and serving others. This is not as selfless as it sounds, this is them (our living loved ones) giving us the purpose to live even when it hurts so bad we’d rather die.

Tahlequah is in a grief loop. She can’t let go but she has to. We all have to physically let go of our babies but we keep them in our hearts for the rest of our lives. Not a day goes by that I don’t remember, but eventually, you are able to breathe again.

Tahlequah is every mother who has ever lost a child.

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immigrants, border immigrants, immigrant children, zero tolerance, immigration

Zero tolerance for humanity, this is the America our President wants us to live in. A world where we dehumanize entire races and refer to them as criminals and “vermin”. Spreading the gospel through fearmongering that these “vermin” will infest our country.

A world where we rip children from their parent’s arms and put them into “camps” where child migrant detention workers are told to stop frightened siblings from hugging, denying them even the simplest comfort through the trauma of being stolen as they watch their parents being arrested for trying to seek a better life. If nothing else has made the connection for you between Germany in the 40’s, the “camps” should make it crystal clear where this all is headed.

immigrants, border immigrants, immigrant children, zero tolerance, immigration

This could be me. This could be many of you. And don’t kid yourself, if it’s being done to immigrants at the border, it can be done to anyone. Just because you had the good luck of being born inside this country does not make you better, more deserving or immune from the wrath of zero tolerance. Because let’s be honest, the only thing that makes you any different than “them” is dumb luck. You are not better in any way than any other human being. A human is a human is a human. Tomorrow, zero tolerance could be pointed in your direction.

READ ALSO:  No Sanctuary for Children

What I find to be the most sickening thing about all of this (and the list is long) is that our current leader has asked himself, “What is the quickest way to get people to give up on their dreams? What is the quickest way to stop a strong-willed asylum seeker in their tracks?” Threaten to take their children away. This is America today.

Some people value being “right” over being moral. They value getting their way, over giving in to help others. They would rather die proving us wrong than relent to make things fair. Kindness, respect and human dignity are provisional and not extended to all people. To them, not all humans are created equally.

No one is safe; not even children. In fact, they are the targets. Anyone with a brain knows that the fastest way to stop anyone from doing anything, including fighting for their own life until the bitter end, is to threaten their child’s life. We lose the ability to live for ourselves the moment we become parents because we serve a higher purpose.

immigrants, border immigrants, immigrant children, zero tolerance, immigration

As parents, we would lay down and die for our children without hesitation. It’s not even something we rationalize or think about. It is instinct. I’m not even sure we can control it. If our child is in danger, we throw ourselves in harm’s way without a moment’s regret. It’s compulsory and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

READ ALSO: We the People

But as every parent knows, that kind of all-consuming, unconditional, miracle, life-affirming love has a price. The price is that we will do anything for them and would rather sacrifice everything, including any chance of happiness and safety and peace, to make sure that they are safe and have a better chance at life.

This is why so many immigrants come to our country from Central and South America (and around the world) seeking asylum; seeking shelter; seeking safety; seeking a better life for themselves and for their children. These are third world countries where the most valuable thing you have is family and we are taught from a very young age that family is everything. To deny them even that basic right is a cruelty beyond measure.

They do not come to steal your jobs. They do not come to rape you. They do not come to pillage your towns and destroy your lives. They do not come to flood your streets with drugs and murder your children. Most people seeking entry into the United States come for one thing and one thing only, a better life. It has absolutely nothing to do with you, least of all to harm you.

When I became a mom, my entire life changed. I was no longer who I was. I was a mom. My life was no longer my own and it never will be again because I relinquished that life for a bigger more intentional one. My purpose is to care for, love and raise good human beings. I am the keeper of the future, as are all mothers and fathers.

The people who want to build the wall know this but they don’t care when it applies to immigrants because they have dehumanized this group down so much that they no longer see them as human beings, and they never see them as equals. This is how they deny culpability. This is how they sleep at night. This is how and why they rip sobbing children from the arms of their desperate parents.

READ ALSO: If we Do Not Recognize, We Cannot Heal

The children being ripped from their parents’ arms are not collateral damage of immigrants coming to this country. No, the children are being used as pawns by our administration. Give us our wall, stay on your side and your children will be back in your arms. Until then, we will take them. Displace them. Make them disappear. You will never see them again. Our government is holding their children hostage. Our President is terrorizing families seeking shelter and asylum.

immigrants, border immigrants, immigrant children, zero tolerance, immigration

Imagine coming to a country, someplace you have always believed is better than where you come from; less dangerous, less volatile, less crooked and you find yourself being so cruelly refused.  Not only are we sending you back. We are sending you back with empty arms. We will eliminate the very reason you came seeking a better life. Go back to your dismal life with your empty arms and let this be a lesson to you, we don’t want you here and your children mean less to us than garbage.

The only way any of this changes is through Congressional legislation. Even though, please keep in mind, there is currently no law requiring that families be separated at the border that is a mandate of our President. This is your America.

It is up to you and me and every single person in the United States who respects and values human rights to experience a little discomfort, step up and speak out on behalf of the sobbing, frightened, motherless children in the camps. If we don’t help them, who will? You can stop this madness. Start small.

Contact your Congressional leaders, raise your voices to let them know this is not ok and we have zero tolerance for separating parents from their children.

Contact your congressional leaders. Find them here.

Here is what you can say:

“Hi, my name is _____ and I reside in ______. I’m urging Senator/Representative ______ to denounce Trump’s family separation policy and use all of Congress’ authority to stop it. I urge you to support of Senator Feinstein’s bill, the Keep Families Together Act, S. 3036, and insist that immediate attention be given to the atrocities occurring at our border.”

Sign the petition.

I signed a petition to Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and The United States House of Representatives and The United States Senate, which says:

“Stop tearing children away from their parents. Families belong together.”

If you believe families belong together, please sign this petition? Click here 

Make your voices heard. This is our America.

 

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Anthony Bourdain, suicide

I was shocked for a second time this week when I heard the news of Anthony Bourdain‘s suicide, only days after Kate Spade was found hung earlier this week. I didn’t want to be writing about this again. Not twice in one week. But damn it, if I don’t I’m part of the problem. The problem is we don’t talk about mental illness enough. We push it aside. Drop it like a bomb and run away. No one wants to be associated with it.

Anthony Bourdain was a depressed, recovered addict but he was so much more than that. He was a father, a son, a world-renowned rock star chef. He was my husband’s idol. I mean traveling the world, eating and drinking your way into the hearts of every culture and even though he was dry and sardonic he was kind and embracing just beneath the surface. He cared. He was real.

READ ALSO: Ode to Joy a Personal Kate Spade Story

The thing is we didn’t know everything about Anthony Bourdain, as we seldom do about anyone. We knew what we wanted to see. We saw what we wanted to believe. In America, we mistakenly believe that if you have all the things, you will be happy. But, I’m here to tell you that is bullsh*t. It might be true if you don’t suffer from mental illness. If you do suffer from mental illness, the things you have is irrelevant.

I just read this People Magazine article and being someone who does have a diagnosis, I see the signs. They are all over this. Every word. He told the world but no one was paying attention. In fairness, if you have not suffered you probably don’t know what to look for or how to help.

We see what we are allowed to see. We see what we want to see. We see the surface. We are complacent and happy to accept the surface.

People these days are in such a hurry to get to the next thing. Post the perfect pic of the perfect life. No one is actually talking or caring about one another, just what they present.

This People article has quotes that I recognize. He told the world he had issues. He didn’t have a mental breakdown in front of cameras for all to see but he wasn’t hiding it.

The thing is we see someone like Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain who have so much and we ask ourselves, how could THEY want to kill themselves? By all appearances, they have everything we want.

Anthony Bourdain, suicide

If you’ve ever been clinically depressed, you know that depression and mental illness do not discriminate. It doesn’t care how much money; fame or things you have. It is not born from being without. It is an illness. No one gets a pass because their life looks perfect.

Even if you have everything and you can tick all the boxes off for happiness, that doesn’t guarantee happiness. Not when you’re mentally ill. It’s a feeling of being broken beyond repair and that causes a despair that swallows you whole. Money, family, fame and success have no bearing on it.

You try to hold on to get through the drowning feeling, especially for those you love. You suffer through and your lungs expand and you hold on to every ounce of breath in your body to survive but sometimes…you drown. The weight of the world is too much.

READ ALSO: I am Robin Williams

If you’ve never felt this way. I hope you never do. The only way to stop this is for us to look up from our phones, see the people around us, practice kindness, get educated and remove the stigma of mental illness so those who suffer can get help without feeling shame.

The shame is literally killing people. Not getting help for your mental illness is like not grabbing the life preserver when you are drowning. Please, stop making people afraid and embarrassed to grab the life preservers.

I am angry that so many people are becoming victims of their own mental illness when it can be prevented if we all just remove the stigma of getting help. It doesn’t make you weak. It makes you self-aware and healthy. It keeps us alive.

To remove the stigma, we have to normalize mental illness. Getting help can’t be a source of shame. Checking in on our friends, beyond the surface, needs to be a thing again. No one wants to be responsible for someone else’s life and you shouldn’t be, friendship should not feel like a chore. But a little human compassion and genuine caring, the small gesture of asking someone who they are and actually being present and listening with your entire self can make a huge difference.

The mentally ill don’t need babysitters, or to be told to relax or get over it. They need to feel like someone cares that they are on the planet, that their existence means something, that they can get through it. They need to know it won’t be easy but it’s not impossible.

How are you feeling after learning that Anthony Bourdain was found dead by suicide?

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Kate Spade, Kate Valentine Spade, Andy Spade, Davide Spade, Suicide, Beatrix Spade, fashion, depression, bipolar

Like many of you, I was shocked and then immensely saddened by the passing of style icon and designer, Kate Spade. I was out shopping with my daughters, ages 11 and 13, when I read the CNN blurb of her suicide, I was speechless. It felt tragically personal. I had so many questions.

Then the news began to report the details. A red scarf. A note to her daughter, Beatrix. Suicide by asphyxiation, similar to that of Robin Williams. We all know how I felt about that. It hit me like a ton of bricks. It all feels a little too close to home.

I’m still shocked that Kate Valentine Spade is gone. By all appearances, she seemed so vibrant and happy-go-lucky but, that was the brand, right? I, of all people, should know that life is not always what it appears to be. Sometimes there is madness just beneath the surface, holding us down like an anchor around our necks.

It’s not like we all go around shaking hands with every stranger saying, “hello, my name is blah blah blah. My diagnoses are…” That would be weird, right? Helpful, maybe but definitely socially awkward. Instead, many of us walk around with our illnesses on our shoulders like some sort of punishment and never seek relief out of shame. The shame is what kills us because it makes us too afraid to seek the help we need.

READ ALSO: When Mental Health is Marginalized

You’re probably wondering when is she going to get to the “personal” Kate Spade story. My story is personal and it relates to Kate Spade in the way that I can personally relate to her circumstances and depression. I have no “that one time I met Kate Spade” story for you today. But, in a way, aren’t we all Kate Spade’s, that’s part of what made her so beloved.

Kate Spade, Kate Valentine Spade, Andy Spade, Davide Spade, Suicide, Beatrix Spade, fashion, depression, bipolar

She was an American Dream success story. A girl from the Midwest who made good in the big city. She took nothing but a dream and built it into an empire. She hustled her ass off and in the process, we all fell in love with not only her bags, shoes, clothes and accessories but the woman who made them. I’ve always admired the woman as much her designs.

“Don’t rest on your laurels. The end result isn’t as important as the effort that goes into it. Jump all the way in. Don’t be afraid. And don’t worry so much,” Kate Spade.

I’ve always fancied my personal style as Carrie Bradshaw meets Audrey Hepburn meets Coachella. It all depends on my mood, as are many aspects of my life. Kate Spade helped me keep it classy; she brought the Audrey to my wardrobe. I’ve owned many of her pieces over the years and I wore them each proudly because it felt like I was finally a grown up. Her pieces are classic yet edgy. The touch of Holly Go Lightly we all so desperately crave in our lives. Even my girls love Kate Spade.

I don’t know what her diagnosis was nor would I try to guess. Diagnoses are very personal and indiscriminate. You can’t share them until you are ready and every single one of us are different. Some of us can’t hide them and everyone knows that something is “off”, some us of blend into normalcy and you never know the anguish we are suffering through on a daily basis and some of us would rather die than reveal our diagnosis.

For me, before my diagnoses, I thought I was broken. That feeling is daunting and overwhelming and nearly too much to carry. Definitely, too much to carry alone. Hearing my diagnoses said out loud gave me so much relief that I cried tears of joy because I realized then that I was only bent. But it was a humbling experience that I mostly got to experience in private surrounded by those who loved me unconditionally.

I didn’t come out to the world as mentally ill (see, I still cringe when I type that because I know that to someone, somewhere that diminishes what they think of me) until 2012. I was diagnosed in 2000. It took me over a decade to be able to be completely open about it and yet, it still bothers me to say “mentally ill” out loud. I feel like the moment anyone hears “mentally ill” they conjure up images of people in padded rooms in an asylum wearing straitjackets. I can’t imagine how someone of Kate Spade’s notoriety would deal with a diagnosis or if she even had one.

It’s obvious that she was depressed; that’s usually a given in a suicide. I read that her sister is claiming that she suffered from undiagnosed Bipolar. As I am Bipolar (I just cringed a little again) I know a little more about that disease. I know firsthand that it can make you depressed and it is a fact that 15 % of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder will commit suicide, half will attempt it and 80% will contemplate it.

I was part of the 80% in my teens. It was over a decade before I was diagnosed but your brain doesn’t need an official diagnosis for you to feel the full weight of the symptoms. You just do. And when you don’t know what is causing that pain, it’s so much worse because you assume there is no relief. You assume you are terminally broken, so what is the point of trying to live? If you’ve never felt this kind of melancholy, you are lucky. If you have, you know exactly the depth of despair of which I speak. It is unmistakable and sometimes feels unlivable. Many of us have been here.

I only dwelled in darkness for brief moments of my lifetime. For me, the darkness gave way to mania and immense irritability. My natural state is a revved up motor stuck in neutral which can be, at times, equally as painful. Imagine being chronically up and never being able to turn your brain off; that is your brain on mania.

I know it seems like I’m rambling now but my point is this, you never know what someone is going through in their life or in their minds. We all wear our protective armor and some of us are better at hiding the pain and misery than others but that doesn’t diminish how strongly we feel it, only how clearly you can see it from the outside.

I am sad that the world lost Kate Spade, absolutely gutted. I don’t know if she had a formal diagnosis, I hope that she did, if only she knew what it was because the feeling of being terminally broken is so much worse than being mentally bent. I also know for a fact that even when we are at our lowest, we can still know that we are loved and love others even if we feel we don’t deserve it. I hope she had that too. Sometimes the reasons are outweighed by the anguish and that has nothing to do with the people who love you. They are enough but you feel that you are not.

Unfortunately, there is only one way to survive this kind of depression and it is to get through it, which is much harder than it sounds because it hurts unbelievably. You have to get the help you need, whether that be getting the initial diagnosis, medication and therapy all the way through to making the choice every single day to keep fighting through the excruciating pain you feel on some days just to breathe.

If you feel depressed or you are thinking about harming yourself, please call the 24-hour Hotline National Suicide Prevention Helpline 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK).

I know when you are in that dark place, it feels like there is no way out but there is and it starts with letting someone throw you a line; someone listening and making you feel heard. Talking through it can provide enough relief to get you through to the next day.

READ ALSO: Carrie Fischer; the Warrior Princess who gave me Hope

And if you are someone who sees a loved one hurting, depressed, overwhelmed with sadness let them know that you are there for them. Listen and encourage them to get the help they need but know that you cannot force someone to feel better and they can’t simply cheer up. And no matter what their life may look like to you from the outside, you have no idea what they are going through on the inside so don’t diminish their pain by telling them that they need to “get over it”. It’s not that simple. They need your support and unconditional love. Full stop.

Kate Spade, Kate Valentine Spade, Andy Spade, Davide Spade, Suicide, Beatrix Spade, fashion, depression, bipolar

I hope her legacy is the immense joy her pieces brought to so many of us and will bring to future generations of young women. My thoughts and prayers are with those who Kate Spade left behind and though they will never fully be able to understand or accept what she has done, may they find peace in knowing that she is no longer in pain.

What is your Kate Spade story?

 

 

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