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Throat Punch Thursday

glioblastoma, what not to say to cancer patients

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Today’s Throat Punch is a bit of an emotional express train, but it’s an important one. Because while I fancy myself a bit of a comedic truth-teller most days, some situations require putting the funny-lady shtick aside momentarily. This is that moment. Apparently, we all need a tutorial ( a “What Not to Say to Cancer Patients ” for Dummies” if you will) so people can stop saying stupid AF and insensitive things to cancer warriors; to people we know and love. If you don’t stop hurting the feelings of people already dealing with the hardest moment in their life, I may have to put on my ass-kicking superhero outfit and throat punch you for them. You’ve been warned.

What is Glioblastoma?

We’re talking about cancer in general but glioblastoma, in particular, today -according to Cleveland Clinic, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most common type of malignant (cancerous) brain tumor in adults. Cancer cells in GBM tumors rapidly multiply. The cancer can spread into other areas of the brain as well. Rarely, the cancer spreads outside the brain to other parts of the body.

Glioma tumors like GBM start in glial cells. Glial cells are vital to nerve cell function. GBMs specifically form in glial cells called astrocytes. GBMs are the fastest-growing astrocytoma (tumor that forms in astrocytes). It’s the kind of diagnosis that punches you in the gut and sinks your heart straight through the floor, no matter who you are.

I’ve had more friends than I care to recount bravely fight the cancer monster over the years. I’ve seen it turn vibrant humans into mere shells, ripping away independence, cognitive abilities, and bland normalcies we so casually take for granted each day. Right now, someone I love is facing the kind of diagnosis that knocks you to your knees. She’s one of the bravest and most brilliant women I know and the last thing she needs is to the suffer fools saying stupid ass shit to her online or in person. Thats why I’m writing this because you all need to use your common sense and ask yourself BEFORE you open your mouth, “How would I feel in her situation if someone said what I’m about top ask her?” and then shut your mouth. 

It’s a different kind of nightmare when the thing you’re battling resides in the very home base operating your entire physical existence – your brain. Glioblastoma is quite literally your own body turning against you in one of the cruelest, most insidious ways imaginable.

So if you’ve never been impacted by a loved one facing this reality, trust me – just be quiet and send up some gratitude. Because it’s a hell that vastly exceeds any offense my usual Throaty subjects could ever dish out.

But since we’re being radically candid today, I do have ONE thing I’d like to firmly THROAT PUNCH into submission:

What NOT to Say to Someone Battling Cancer

We’ve all been there – someone we care about gets dealt a world-shattering health prognosis. Glioblastoma, or otherwise. And despite our utterly pure intentions, we WILL say inadvertently awful, cringeworthy things in the aftermath as we grapple with how to act.

Comments that make us smack our foreheads in private, realizing we just barged straight into a fully-body-fazed moment of profound uncomfortable silence.

I’ve been that foot-in-mouth airbag inflater more times than I can count. I’ve also been the recipient of stupid and insensitive comments when I was at one of the hardest moments of my life. We want so badly to provide comfort, to say the “right” thing that’ll take away the suffocating weight, but we often shove our foot directly into the wound instead.

So consider this your official game plan for what to SHUT UP about when supporting someone going through hell:

  • No Comments About Causation, Vice or Fault

“Did you smoke/drink/eat too many processed foods when you were younger?”

No, Karen, they didn’t “do” anything to “cause” this. Cancer is an indiscriminate monster, period. Unless your genuine medical advice was solicited, stop trying to diagnose a way to rationalize the unthinkable.

  • No Platitudes or Toxically Positive BS

“Don’t worry, you’ll get through this! Everything’s gonna be just fine!”

Oh wow, super cool! I didn’t realize this was armageddon allergies and not, you know, a terrifying brain cancer! While positivity has its place, false reassurances often just gaslight away the person’s very visceral fears and struggles. Let them feel how they need to feel.

  • No Narcissistic± Sidetracking

“I once had this cousin who had a scare, and let me tell you…”

For the love of God, STOP. This isn’t your moment to make an irrelevant grand pivot and arrogantly make things about yourself for 28 minutes. Exercise restraint and make this about THEM.

  • No Unsolicited Treatment Instructions

“From what I’ve researched online, you shouldn’t be doing chemo – only natural remedies and a dairy-free juice cleanse!”

Unless “Dr. Facebook School of Health” is an accredited medical dynasty I missed, keep your unqualified treatment recs to yourself. Ask how YOU can best support whatever THEIR medical team suggests.

  • No Weird Existential Probing

“So…do you believe in the afterlife then?”

I CANNOT stress this enough: the name on the Grim Reaper’s ominous guest list is not yours to shortcut RSVP for! Blatantly morbid Qs only amplify fear and discomfort, so shut your literal forever piehole.

…And Above All Else: NO MAKING IT THEIRS

  • “Your/The Cancer…”

This fire-breathing monster FORCED its way into their life uninvited. It was not some assumed decision or claimed identity. It’s simply an unfair, horrific circumstance beyond their control that they’re being outrageously strong in fighting.

So make damn sure you don’t go accidentally making this THEIR personal “thing” to have with possessive language. It’s NOT THEIRS – it’s the disgusting affliction they have the profound audacity to keep rallying against each day. So afford them that vital distinction.

At the end of the day, someone facing a cancer nightmare doesn’t need your wacky armchair expertise or stifling social niceties. They need two very simple human superpowers from you:

  • A stubbornly present supportive ear to listen…

  • And a soul strong enough to look the dragon’s flame straight in the eye alongside them without flinching.

Just show up and BE THERE, through all the scary valleys and occasional picturesque peaks this horrendous road is sure to bring. Let them lead the conversation where they need it to go.

Do NOT co-opt their grief. This.Is.NOT.about.You.

I don’t care how terrible you feel, I know it sucks. but you need to be cool bitch. Hold it together. Only speak affirmations of your unwavering faith in their ability to keep fighting, and that you’ll be their kick in the pants when they need it most:

“I don’t know what’s coming, but I know YOU – and you’re stronger than whatever bull$#%* this thing will throw your way. I’m locked in, strapped in, and not letting go for a second until we’ve kicked cancer’s ass together, side-by-side. Whatever you need from me – whenever you need it – you’ve got it.”

Because at the end of the day, that’s all any of us really needs when facing the abyss:

The validation that we don’t have to be stronger than we’re capable of.

Just strong enough to never have to be stronger ALONE.

So let’s all take a big collective breath and do BETTER at being present for those being swallowed whole by this nightmare.

Say THE right things – or just shut up and SHOW UP with the strongest heart you’ve got. That’s more than enough to start.

Sending all my love and strength to every last warrior still waging this heaviest of battles today, especially my girl, Jill. You are the bravest souls, and you’ve got infinite love, light and support behind you for the hearty fight ahead.

If you know someone going through a cancer struggle, I implore you – check in on them. Ask how you can tangibly lighten any load, no matter how small. Offer to lend an ear without caveats. Stay involved in their journey without forcibly inserting yourself as a hype-person. Send them a meal for the family. Pick up the slack. Drive the kids to school. Do the laundry. Load the dishwasher. It might seem mundane but when you’re going through a life changing struggle, the little things matter. 

And most importantly, if they’re a parent facing this terror…ask what you can do to support their child or children too. The psychic/emotional/physical tolls of this beast impact entire families. Do what you can to ease that unbearable burden in any way they need.

We’re all in this life thing together – let’s start showing up that way for those doing the hardest pushing and shoving against darkness to keep seeing brighter days ahead. 

While you are here, if you want to do some good you can start here:

I don’t ask for much ever but Jill Smokler is one of my dearest friends and favorite people in the world. She is facing one of the most challenging moments in her life.
 
glioblastoma, what not to say to cancer patients,Jill Smokler
To know her is to love her and I f@cking love her… so much. She has made it her mission to help moms and women all over the world; from making them laugh and cry their way through motherhood, to putting Thanksgiving meals on tables for families who otherwise would have none, to helping us Gen Xers and Millennials laugh our way through our perimenopausal rage. She’s always been there for us and it’s time we’re there for her.
 
If you’ve ever enjoyed her stories on Scary Mommy, listened to the She’s Got Issues podcast, sat around a table or a pool under the warm Florida night or had the privilege and honor of knowing her, loving her and being her friend, please donate!
It is our turn to show up for Jill by relieving her of some of the massive financial burden that this fatal disease is causing so she can focus on fighting and being present for her three kids without the added stress of paying for medical expenses, experimental treatments and everything they entail, rehab, and the list goes on.
 
Let’s show Jill that this massive community she has touched is still here and in this fight with her!
Please donate here ( if you can) and please share this fundraiser far and wide!
 
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Black Ohio Mother, Brittany Watts, Faces Felony Charges After Suffering Miscarriage

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In tales from the “what the fuck is going on?” and/ or another episode of “Let’s demonize women for existing,” or “misogyny gone wild” a black mother in Ohio, Brittany Watts, is facing felony charges after suffering a devastating, near fatal miscarriage.

Brittany Watts is facing felony charges for “abuse of a corpse” after suffering a miscarriage at nearly 22 weeks into her pregnancy, on September 22, 2023. Now, her case is headed to trial. The 33-year-old, Watts, is being accused of miscarrying her pregnancy while using the restroom and then flushing the fetal remains down her toilet.  * Newsflash, that’s usually what happens.

According to a GoFundMe page set up to help with mounting legal costs for Watts, “Brittany Watts suffered an agonizing miscarriage in the bathroom of her home in Warren, Ohio on September 22, 2023.

Brittany did nothing to cause her miscarriage. Her doctor had told her that her 21-week pregnancy could not survive, and she would miscarry. When the bleeding and the pain from the impending miscarriage got severe, she did the same thing that many women who miscarry at home do. Brittany went into her bathroom, miscarried into her toilet, and flushed. What happened after that is something that should only happen in Margaret Atwood’s Gilead, and certainly not in the United States of America.

Within hours of Brittany’s admission to the hospital for her life-threatening hemorrhaging, police removed the toilet from Brittany’s home and destroyed it searching for fetal remains. Brittany, a woman with no criminal history, was charged with felony gross abuse of a corpse, even though there is no Ohio law dictating the “proper” disposal method of the remains of a miscarriage. On November 2, Brittany sobbed as she sat in a courtroom listening to police officers describe the details of the most intensely personal moments of her life and then vilify her to the world, all while being recorded by local news media.”

Okay, this is a whole lot of what the actual fuck is going on here. As someone who has suffered a miscarriage (and that is exactly what happens to a woman when she miscarries…she suffers mentally and physically), there are no words to describe the kind of hell a mother endures when she loses her child. This is a deeply personal, painful, and private matter and one in which is difficult to navigate. No one knows what to do in this situation. It happens to you unexpectedly and you try to survive it in the best way you can. Believe me, for the mother, it is almost unbearable.

According to the National Library of Medicine, an estimated 23 million miscarriages occur every year worldwide, translating to 44 pregnancy losses each minute. The pooled risk of miscarriage is 15·3% .  Miscarriages happen to women not because of them, so why does the government and legal system want to punish us for what is already so devastating?

To add insult to such a grievous injury, the Ohio legal system is not only blaming the victim (because that is exactly what any mother who miscarries is) for a medical emergency, a fetus that failed to thrive through no fault of the mother; they are actually bringing women up on felony charges. This is one of the most demented and misogynistic things a society can do.

Watts has gone through one of the most painful and life changing experiences any woman can go through and now she is being demonized and prosecuted for disposing of the biological matter. What the fuck was she supposed to do? Women are not taught proper disposal of our miscarried babies when we watch the movie about menstruation in fifth grade! No one teaches us proper sex education in schools, we are taught abstinence in hushed tones and discouraged from asking any questions. We are told that we are sluts and all kinds of other insults if we dare to even inquire or try to educate ourselves and now, we are even blamed and held legally responsible when our pregnancies miscarry. It’s not bad enough that they list miscarriages on insurance bills as missed abortions and that the government has taken away our right to choose, now, they are actively charging women for being a victim of nature’s cruelest punishment.

I’m tired of men making laws on women’s bodies. Men have no idea what it feels like to live in a woman’s body and to suffer being a female. Because yes, for as much as I love being a woman, our misogynistic society keeps us in shackles and punishes us at will for no reason other than what lies between our legs. We are punished daily, in every aspect of our lives, simply for being born with a vagina.

Women are treated like second class citizens. We constantly have everything we say and do questioned, and that’s when we’re not being completely ignored. W are not even given domain over our own bodies. We are leered at and sexualized at every turn from birth till death. Sex is weaponized against us. Rape is a consequence for existing. We can’t even choose when, where, how or if we want to have children. Do you know what giving birth is like? It is the most painful thing a woman can ever endure. It is so painful that it makes you want to die to escape it.

The act of giving birth is one done out of complete love and sacrifice, and we do it over and over again because of that complete and unconditional love we have for our children. But make no mistake, it is no easy task. It is the most difficult and intense experience any human being can go through.

Imagine choosing that, knowing the full weight of that sacrifice, and choosing it over and over again. Then, imagine losing your pregnancy. The emptiness, the sorrow, the void a mother feels is mind bending. The loss of what might have been, the promise of holding and loving your child is mind breaking. The physical pain, the failure of your body, the failure of your child to thrive…so much loss and all that love with nowhere to go. There is nothing as painful in this world as a full heart and empty arms.

I did not miscarry at home. In fact, my pregnancy was intact. I’m not sure if that would make me more or less of a villain in my miscarriage story. My child no longer had a heartbeat. You don’t know devastation until you’ve heard these words uttered to you. My child, who looked absolutely perfect on an ultrasound, had no heartbeat and my body would not let go of it, so I had to have my pregnancy surgically removed. My other option was that I could have taken a wait and see approach and possibly gone septic and have risked death. It was like going through labor with nothing to show for it in the end but a broken heart. So many women must labor only to go home with empty arms and broken hearts…broken hearts that never heal. I left my child behind at the hospital. My child became biomedical waste. No one asked me what I wanted to do with the remains. I was not offered cremation or burial. There was no counseling offered to me. I simply arrived with a pregnancy and left a mother without a child.

In Watts’ case, the miscarriage happened at home. The fetus’ remains were uncovered by local law enforcement on Sept. 22, per the Warren Police Department, after they removed the toilet from her home and tested it for fetal matter.

Now, Watts faces this felony charge even AFTER a forensic pathologist testified last month that her fetus was not born alive and died before passing through the birth canal; further, he said the fetus ​​was “nonviable because [Watts] had premature ruptured membranes—her water had broken early—and the fetus was too young to be delivered.” Watts’ defense attorney, Tracy Timko, told media last month that her client “learned days before” her miscarriage that this outcome “was inevitable and that the fetus could not survive outside the womb due to gestational age.”

None of this makes sense. None of this vilification of this mother is logical or reasonable. Brittany Watts should not be on trial, Ohio should be on trial for the cruel and unusual punishment of a living, human woman.

What are your thoughts? I am disgusted and flabbergasted but I am not shocked in the least because this is what the world does to women time and time again, throughout history. 

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school shooting, gun violence, gun control, Nashville Covenant elementary

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

I’ve been so sick this week. Down with an awful stomach virus. Projectile vomiting so much that I’ve been bedridden. But I’ve seen the news. Three 9-year-olds and 3 faculty members dead in Nashville, Tennessee. Did I ever tell you guys that I was briefly an elementary school teacher in Tennessee? I was. I gave it up to take care of my own girls. Right before the pandemic, I was back in the classroom again. I’ll never go back. You couldn’t pay me enough money to risk a school shooting in a country where guns outweigh children’s life.

Do you know how much teachers love their students, especially those little ones? People don’t become teachers because they don’t care. It’s a calling. Teaching is a job you do out of love. It’s hard and thankless but we are rewarded in 1000 tiny ways by those precious children and that’s why teachers do so much for so little. But now, they’re supposed to be expected to risk their own lives just to educate someone else’s child?

Just another day in America

I’m not even shocked anymore. I’m angry and disgusted at our country’s constant failure of our children, our teachers and parents. No mother or father should ever have to drop their children off at school, at their own risk which is exactly what we’re expected to do. No teacher should be expected to use her body as a shield from the gunfire. No child should have to know the protocol to survive an active shooter situation.

Every morning since my daughters started school, I drop them off at the front door of school and say a prayer that they are still alive when I pick them up. Every morning, I feel sick to my stomach. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard sirens and called the school to check on my kids or driven there just to be sure. I live in constant fear. I’ve lost a pregnancy and I don’t think I could survive losing another child.

I don’t know about you but I didn’t create, a house and push my precious girls out into this world through excruciating pain just so someone else could so callously disregard their lives. I mean FUCK YOU those are mine. I did the work. No one else has the right to destroy what I created. They exist. They matter. This is human life. Not fucking collateral damage. One life is too many but in the United States, we’re being sent the message by our politicians that our dead children are a small price to pay for the right to bear arms. Maybe we need new politicians who care about all of the “we the people” and not just the gun enthusiast.

Just Another Day in America

The thing that pisses me off the most is that politicians place a higher value on guns than on human life. Because guns are a more lucrative business. Guns make money. The NRA has money to burn and throw around Washington. Only our children’s lives are worth more than any money. They are priceless. The saddest part is that we are all becoming desensitized to it. We hear that there’s been a shooting and we get sad and then we move on to the next day and the next group of unsuspecting children who get slaughtered while learning their ABCs.

What about the excruciating pain of a mother and father’s broken heart? Have you ever had the misfortune of hearing or expelling your own primal scream into the world? There is a howling that comes only when you lose a child. It’s unmistakable and un-recreatable. It comes from deep within and it is the breaking of a human being. It sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard before. When that happens, both the child and the parent are destroyed. Parents and their children are invisibly tethered for life and when our children are ripped from this world, a part of us dies too.

Incredibly, there is more to be gained in gun sales and by appeasing gun aficionados for politicians to even care or consider any kind of common sense gun control. What is boils down to is that the politicians believe our children’s lives are expendable. Well, I believe I speak for all parents when I say, no child’s life is expendable.

How many children need to die to make them care? Whose child needs to die for them to care? Because from where I sit, it looks like money is more important than our children’s safety and lives.

Just Another Day in America

No wonder so many of our children are suffering from anxiety and depression. The law mandates that we send them into a fucking war zone every morning with no protection. A child should not have to practice active shooter drills. A 9-year-old shouldn’t have to fear for her life every morning when she goes to school. How can our children even breathe? They know they’re at risk. RISK? They are risking their lives to get an education.

How do we even make it make sense to our children when it doesn’t even make sense to us? What are we supposed to say when our child is looking at us to be their savior and we can’t protect them? How are we supposed to live with the guilt of sending them to the slaughter? We have to fight harder.  

Just Another Day in America

How many mothers need to drop their sweet children off at school and never get to pick them up before we care enough to stop the government from putting guns before babies? When will the government fight as hard for our school-aged children as they do the unborn ones?

I’m pissed off and you should be too. If you want things to change, you have to be willing to fight for change. Wishing won’t work. You’re going to have to put your money where your mouth is. You have to fight like your child’s life depends on it, because it does. We have to be relentless so that our children are safe. Our politicians are failing our children, we don’t have that luxury.

Lift your voices to protect our children. School shootings are unacceptable. We need to draw a line in the sand for our children’s sake. Children being slaughtered can never be just another day in America. Every time it happens… it’s the worst day in America.

Imagine for a moment the unthinkable. Imagine that the child never comes home again, the smile you’ll never see again, and the tiny arms around your neck are those of your child. Be brave. Take a stand. Scream at the top of your lungs. Tell Congress to stop glorifying guns and ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines now! You can start by signing this petition at MomsRising.Org

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“I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.” Those are the words Amy Cooper wielded as a threat to birder, Christian Cooper, when he insisted that she put her dog back on the leash in a leashed dog park in New York’s Central Park in an area called the Ramble, known for its wildlife and birds that live there. But she didn’t just make an idle threat because she was upset that this man dared to ask her to leash her dog, she literally threatened his life with those words and by calling the police. What threat was she under? Not being able to exercise her white privilege.

I keep hearing that we’re all in this together but I know that’s not true.  We’re all in a boat in the ocean of life but some are yachts and some are 2 popsicle sticks held together by bubblegum and hope. One thing we all know, whether you are black, brown or white, is that being black or brown in America is dangerous every single day, even during a pandemic which you’d think would be the great equalizer.

READ MORE: Michael Brown

Amy Cooper was so angry that this black man had the audacity to request that she live by the same rules as the rest of the world and check her privilege that she threatened his life, because we all know that is exactly what that was. She was like a toddler throwing a tantrum with a semi-automatic weapon. You don’t just randomly call the police on anyone especially not a person of color for no reason. She knew that by making that call she was putting this man’s life in danger and she either didn’t care or cared more about getting her way, than his life.

For those of you who don’t understand this, let me catch you up, if you are not white in America, you do not receive the same rights as those who are white. We have to work twice as hard for half the pay. We have to be respectful and hold our tongues, as the minority, or suffer the consequences. We have to check self-respect, self-dignity and equality every single day of our lives on some level and defer to white America because they remind us every single day that it’s their America and we’re just living in it and our human rights can be revoked at any minute, if we are even afforded them at all.

READ MORE: Criming While White

There are white people of privilege, then there are white people who have no privilege but yet still hold some sliver of privilege because of the very color of their skin. Then, there are the rest of us. The darker your skin, the worse you’re treated by racists because the skin is not something you can hide. You can’t just blend in when your skin is proudly announcing your arrival.

People of color worry because just the act of existing outside of our own homes is dangerous. Actually, even staying inside our own homes doesn’t keep us safe. We’re taught to be quiet, blend in, be respectful, show our hands at all times, and never talk back even when we know we’re right because the price we pay is our life. The majority holds the power and that is why Amy Cooper thought it was ok to cry wolf in the middle of the park with no consideration for Christian Cooper’s life. Racist aren’t sorry for their hatred, they are only sorry when they get caught…sorry that they got caught, still, unapologetic for their fundamental hatred of anyone different than themselves.

READ ALSO: Trayvon Martin

I’ve long held a theory, take it as you will from this white Latina who grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood, some (not all) white people are afraid of black people. As far as I can see, there’s no logical reason for it but I think maybe it’s genetic. As in white people have been treating people of color so shitty for so long that somewhere in their DNA they know they’re wrong for it and that causes a deep-seated fear of retaliation that manifests as preemptive, blind anger. Karma people. If you go around being a monster for centuries, maybe be afraid that one day, God’s going to get you. So, instead of changing the shitty behavior, they go on the defensive and just keep on treating people of color like they are less than. Rather than, treat us all like human beings they double down on the hate and so goes the vicious cycle of white privilege and racism.

As if the Karen in Central Park choking her dog wasn’t enough. We’ve got a whole neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia (let’s just call a spade a spade) lynching black men in the street. There are so many things wrong with the Ahmed Aubrey situation that I can’t even begin to start to point them out. You have eyes, you are intelligent, I don’t need to be Captain Obvious but something most definitely stinks in suburbia. I’m calling bullshit on the whole thing. This family of racists and their neighborhood buddies went on a hunt in broad daylight and Ahmed Aubrey was the prey of the day.

READ ALSO: When Racism Happens to Your Child

Next, we have the video of George Floyd, a 46-year-old father of 2, killed while Officer Derek Chauvin, pinned a handcuffed Floyd down on the ground. Officer Chauvin’s knee was on Floyd’s neck with the other on his back pinning him down, restricting his intake of breathable air, even while Floyd begged for breath. All while 3 other officers helped to subdue or watched Mr. Floyd take his last breaths and go limp as he died on the pavement below Chauvin’s weight. The police were responding to a call from a grocery market about an alleged counterfeit $20 bill.

In the video, Floyd is seen moaning and struggling, as bystanders urge officers to place him in the police car. “Please,” Floyd pleads. “I can’t breathe,” he continues to moan. An officer keeps insisting he get in the car, while the man repeatedly says he can’t.

READ ALSO: Charleston Shooting

“My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Everything hurts. … (I need) water or something. Please. Please. I can’t breathe, officer. I cannot breathe. I cannot breathe.”

The police insist that Floyd was resisting arrest. Let me be perfectly clear on this next part, I don’t care if he did actually try to pass a counterfeit $20 bill or not (it’s irrelevant) because no matter what he did or didn’t do, it shouldn’t have cost him his life and if those officers had any respect for this man’s life, they would have relented and taken the knee off the neck. Therein lies the issue. They did not treat this man like a human being because they do not see him as their equal. They saw him as less than they are. This is racism. This is hatred and self-loathing resulting in murder. The four officers were fired Tuesday; on Wednesday, Mayor Jacob Frey called for Chauvin to be criminally charged.

READ ALSO:  Dear America

There were more instances of blatant racism in the news this week and that was just in the past few days. But this was not the first time these things have happened and it won’t be the last. Racism is not new. Social media is. Racists have been out here living their best lives, assaulting and murdering people of color since the beginning of time, but now, we all can see it. Now, we can share it. Now, we can call out for justice and bring these transgressions to the light of day. There is no denying culpability when you’re caught on tape. The world cannot continue to turn a blind eye when the truth is viral.

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Alabama state Republican Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday signed into law a controversial abortion bill that would punish doctors who perform abortions with life in prison. Sound familiar? Sounds like something right out of the Handmaid’s Tale if you ask me.

“Today, I signed into law the Alabama Human Life Protection Act, a bill that was approved by overwhelming majorities in both chambers of the Legislature,” said Ivey.
The Alabama Senate passed the bill 25-6 late Tuesday night. The law only allows exceptions “to avoid a serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother,” for ectopic pregnancy and if the “unborn child has a lethal anomaly.” Democrats re-introduced an amendment to exempt rape and incest victims, but the motion failed on an 11-21 vote.
Ivey noted in her statement that the new law may be unenforceable due to the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in all 50 states. But, the new law was passed with the aim of challenging that decision, Ivey said.

I love the United States. It is a country born out of asylum. My mother’s ancestors fled here seeking religious freedom. Her other ancestors were already here; our great nation’s original citizens, Native American.

READ ALSO: A Priest who Doesn’t Condemn Abortion

But that is not where my love ends, it’s the country the provided my father a place to come to make a better life; to rise above his circumstances. This is the same country that made it possible for my mother and father to meet and have 6 first generation Mexican-Americans. This is a country based on freedom and built on opportunity. We live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. But do we? Do we have the basic human right of choice and domain over our own bodies?

It’s a beautiful dream. A nation built of people with arms open to welcome their fellow human beings seeking that same freedom, escaping persecution in their own nation, willing to leave behind all they know in search of something better for their children. What a beautiful dream it is. Only that’s all it is. The reality is opportunities are boundless if you can check all the boxes to meet the criteria.

READ ALSO: My Father the Immigrant

It’s not about open arms to help anyone. It’s about a master race, defaming anyone else who would dare to pursue that American dream. We grab them at our borders and punish them for even trying to take refuge in our nation’s bosom. For some reason, we don’t believe they should be afforded the same chance at freedom as our own ancestors were given.

But should we be surprised? For centuries now, we have withheld those rights from American citizens even born in this country. Those with the misfortune of being born anything other than Caucasian male, those citizens born female and even those who dare not to be Christian. I’m a Latina daughter of an immigrant, so I’m twice on the outside.

My life has consisted of straddling a very fine line of trying to blend in and not be seen and standing tall and speaking up for those of us who cannot do so for themselves. I’ve been speaking out and standing up a lot more than I used to need to.

READ ALSO: Will all the Politicians Kindly Back the Eff out of My Uterus

Women and minorities have always been treated less than. In fact, misogyny, racism and bigotry is something we had all developed an acceptable threshold for. We knew it was wrong and we hated it but, it was better than it used to be. Black people are no longer sold into slavery and women can own property and vote. This is all de jure, not always de facto.

Women are still treated like second class citizens with our government almost always with one hand in our uterus and well, black people may not be chained any longer but there is an epidemic of black men being shot dead in the street for no reason at all other than being born black. And apparently, all Mexicans are criminals. Our crime? Being brown?

We got the vote and then we got reproductive rights. Well, we weren’t given anything. We fought long and hard to be treated equal but it never really took so we live this emboldened half-life where we are brave and strong but only as much as society allows us to be. That was as good as it got for us.

READ ALSO: Women’s Reproductive Rights are not the Same as Animals

We almost had a female president. Almost. Now, we are in danger of losing our God-given human rights because the misogynists feel it’s more important to control our reproductive rights and enslave our sexuality than to have a president who misused her email privileges. Moms all over the United States are bulk buying Plan B so that they can ensure that their daughters have a choice to make when the time comes in 5/10/15 years. This is our America. We are going backward. Which begs the question, whose America is this? If it’s not mine or yours or hers, whose is it?

I feel like there is a cleansing being put in place by our administration.  I expect a purge and my smallpox blanket in the mail any day now. All I want for my children is what my dad wanted for his, what so many immigrants who built this country wanted… a land of opportunity. A haven in a world of shit. A place where hard work is rewarded.  A place where good people do good things and everyone is treated as a human being. A place where human respect, dignity and freedom are givens. A country where equality isn’t something that has to be fought for but is given because what makes one human life more valuable than another human being’s life?

READ ALSO: Let’s Build Something Beautiful for our Daughters

I want my daughters to be treated as human beings and not inanimate objects. Women are more than what lies between their legs and no one else has the right to control what we do with our bodies. I never quite understand where men get off trying to tell us what we can do with our bodies and what we can and can’t do.

Women are goddesses. Without us, there would be no men. We create the world you live in. We are not weak.  We are stronger than anyone has ever given us credit for. We grow and deliver children and it’s hard. Harder than anything any man has ever done. Who is anyone to tell us what we can and can’t do? Without us, there would be no you.

Stay woke ladies, the Handmaid’s tale is not just some dystopian novel.

It is fast becoming our reality. We need to stand up against the Kay Ivey s of the world before they destroy the country we love so much. Also, can I just say how disgusted I am that a woman would sign this bill?

 

 

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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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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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I think maybe Kanye West, (or is it Kanye West Kardashian?) is having a midlife crisis, an identity crisis or flat out needs some attention. He is running around Twitter posting pics of himself wearing Make American Great Again hats. Tweeting that Donald Trump is his “dragon energy brother”. Did your brain just go, “WTF” too?

We all know that Kanye West has always been about the drama and loves to stir every pot counter-clockwise. Attention is his middle name. Part of what makes him and Kim work, they get each other. Plus, they are both so busy looking at themselves in the mirror and snapping butt selfies that they don’t have the time to be bothered with what kind of crazy the other is involved in.

After Kanye West posted the pic of himself wearing the “Make America Great Again” hat and criticizing former President Barack Obama, there was backlash from fans. 

Kanye West, Donald Trump, Make America Great Again, Dragon energy brothers

 

Look, I get it. As a Chicagoan, he has his right to have his opinion about the state of Chicago and, even though I loved President Obama, it wasn’t always smooth sailing ( remember how the gulf oil spill seafood situation was handled?) But he knew what he was doing and to be fair, he was handed a giant bad of crap when he took office. 

There’s been some beef (in Kanye’s mind) between Kanye West and Barack Obama since the President called Kanye a “jackass” in 2009 after the Taylor Swift incident at the VMA’s in 2009. Didn’t everybody?

READ ALSO: My Father the Immigrant

As one who thrives in drama, after the backlash started to roll in, Kanye West tweeted this about Donald Trump. 

Kanye West, Donald Trump, Make America Great Again, Dragon energy brothers

“You don’t have to agree with trump but the mob can’t make me not love him,” West tweeted earlier Wednesday. “We are both dragon energy. He is my brother. I love everyone. I don’t agree with everything anyone does. That’s what makes us individuals. And we have the right to independent thought.” 

Fuel meet fire. Twitter exploded. Kim Kardashian may have broke the internet with her ass a few years ago but I’d say Kanye West gives her a run for her money with his penchant for drama in the public eye and especially on the internet.

Of course, Donald Trump, who also loves Twitter attention had to tweet back to Kanye West, obviously, quoting his dragon energy brother. 

Kanye West, Donald Trump, Make America Great Again, Dragon energy brothers

“Thank you Kanye, very cool!” Trump tweeted on Wednesday, quoting West’s tweet.

The series of tweets comes after fans lamented a report this week from Hot 97 radio host Ebro Darden that West recently told him, “I love Donald Trump,” and defended a previous tweet in which the rapper complimented conservative commentator Candace Owens according to CNN.

I’d like to say that I am shocked but nothing Kanye West Kardashian does shocks me anymore.  I am kind of sick in my stomach that any person of color could support an openly racist man who feels that people of color are less than he is. Also, I thought we all figured out in 2016 that “Make America Great Again” was code for “Make America White Again”? Maybe Kanye was too busy stirring up his own drama that he missed the memo or maybe he is keeping his enemies closer. Maybe he is the smartest man out there or maybe he is straight up batsh*t crazy. 

READ ALSO: Eminem’s the Storm Says what All of Sane America Feels about Trump

I do agree with one thing Kanye said, we do all have the right to independent thought and freedom of speech so I guess we don’t have to like what he tweets or thinks or who he loves and supports, even if it is Donald Trump. We have the option of turning the channel and not reading his tweets, not engaging and not reacting because isn’t that why Kanye does everything? For the reaction of the public. Isn’t that his brand? Maybe this latest series of tweets on Twitter were nothing more than Kanye West once again stirring the pot counter clockwise.

What are your thoughts on Kanye West’s tweets on Twitter yesterday about Donald Trump?

Real dragon energy brotherly love or just one more way for Kanye to keep his brand front and center in the public eye?

Also, I still don’t get On Fleek or why that Walmart singing boy is so funny to floss to so can you please explain to me what the hell “Dragon energy” is? Is it like dragon breath but in energy form?

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florida school shooting, gun control, alan feis, Nikolas Cruz, Parkland Florida, High School shooting

Yesterday, 17 unsuspecting students and adults, including Aaron Feis, were murdered in a South Florida school shooting massacre by 19 -year-old, Nikolas Cruz. Gun control failed us again. The gunman, Nikolas Cruz, 19, pulled the fire alarm shortly before 3 pm at his former high school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. As the students and faculty exited the building, he started shooting at them like fish in a barrel. But that wasn’t enough for Nikolas, he followed the people running back inside for cover and targeted those huddled in classrooms hiding. Then, he blended in with the students exiting and evacuated the school. He was arrested later that day in Coral Springs.

They’re calling it the “Florida School Shooting” to differentiate it from the other recent school shootings because they happen so frequently now. This is how we measure life and death now, by geographical location. Quick somebody drop a pin so we know where to send the SWAT team next. I’m not being funny. I am utterly disgusted at how little life means to the people of this country. We’ve done nothing since Sandy Hook. Gun control is still the same shit show it ever was.

You know, the world makes fun of helicopter moms but we’re just being rational in an irrational world. How are we ever supposed to let our children go out into the world without worrying ourselves into an early grave? No wonder so many people homeschool now because at least there you can keep your child safe. Thank God for men like Aaron Feis.

Are you there God? Where were you on Ash Wednesday 2018 when 17 people were murdered by a disgruntled ex-student, Nikolas Cruz in the Florida School shooting? What makes a person hate the world so much that they want to kill anyone and everyone that is not as miserable as they are? Don’t tell me mental illness. It’s meanness. It’s calculated. It’s evil and its people killing people with guns because they can because everywhere you turn guns are readily available. If you can’t buy the gun you want, you can buy a gun and modify it. If they won’t sell you a gun because by some miracle your crazy ass is on a list, you can build it by buying parts on the Internet. Why is this not regulated?

Nikolas Cruz has been charged with 17 cases of premeditated murder. News at 11. It was said on one newscast so matter a factly that you would have thought they were talking about a baby monkey being born at the local zoo. What kind of world are we living in? Where is the outrage? Where are the grief-stricken parents of the living students with pitchforks and torches demanding that our government do something? I mean, of course without a whole lot of people make a whole lot of stink the government is not going to do shit because they got paid a whole lot of money not to.

Former classmates said they were not surprised at the identity of the suspected shooter. Cruz loved showing off guns, student Eddie Bonilla told CNN affiliate WFOR.

“We actually, a lot of kids threw jokes around Iike that, saying that he’s the one to shoot up the school, but it turns out everyone predicted it. It’s crazy,” Bonilla recalled.

Why did no one call the police on this kid? He was clearly exhibiting unstable behaviors.

Cruz had once been expelled from the high school over disciplinary problems, Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said.

 

He purchased the gun legally. He passed the background check. At 18 you can buy an assault-style weapon but you have to be 21 to buy a handgun. Let that sink in for a minute.

I find it interesting that as they were interviewing former classmates of Nikolas Cruz they were saying things like yeah, sure, Nikolas was the guy most likely to shoot up the school. He had lots of guns. The faculty at one point forbid him from carrying a backpack because of the fear that something exactly like this might happen. Yet, here we are. It happened and instead of anyone stopping him, they all just shake their head and go, we knew he’d do something like this. What the f*ck?

“This has been a day where we’ve seen the worst of humanity. Tomorrow is gonna bring out the best in humanity as we come together to move forward from this unspeakable tragedy,” Runcie said.

This is supposed to be our consolation. Humanity is going to be “better” for a few days.Celebrities are going to tweet out their prayers and condolences. Regular people are going to feign outrage without actually ever doing anything about it becoming themselves willing parts of the problem. Yeah, like the days and weeks after Sandy Hook. Nothing has changed. There are more school shootings than ever. I mean, what are the statistics for the likelihood of your child getting shot or murdered at school these days?

What’s worse, our government makes sure that these weapons are available because it’s a “constitutional right”. So when it’s your kid, or your wife or your husband or mom or dad who gets shot in the face and murdered just living their life tell me how important the freedom to have guns really is. I dare you to. I wouldn’t stand too close to me when you did it.

I keep seeing images of the teacher with ashes on her head, the hero Aaron Feis and a girl with a mylar balloon. It was probably one of the best days of this teen girl’s high school life and now, it will always be one of the worst days of her life. It’s traumatic and I think it’s the worst kind of monster who attacks people at their most vulnerable. Why do these shooters never open fire where there are trained people ready to protect themselves? Because they are cowards and they are afraid. They want to exact horror by murdering innocent, unsuspecting people because then they have the upper hand. Better yet, be a real man, come pick a fight…hand-to-hand with someone your own size and get your ass kicked the way it deserves to be. But they won’t because they are cowards of the worst kind.

But you know who are the bigger cowards? The politicians who allow the NRA to buy their votes. They value money over human life. Worse still the parents who fight for the right to bear arms and then send their children into the world to be slaughtered by people with guns. If not for yourself, do it for your children. Unless we are going to train and start sending every student to school with a weapon to protect themselves or impose real gun control, then we need to all be sterilized because I’d rather not bring a child into this world than to bring one into this world to be murdered by an NRA enthusiast.

We live in a world where every drop off good bye could be “the goodbye”. I know this. You know this. We choose our words more carefully. We hold tighter. We coddle. We spoil because any minute could be the minute someone sprays the hallways of the elementary school with bullets and paints the walls red with the blood of babies… our babies..my babies and your babies. Anyone’s babies because that is the truly scary part, no one is safe. Not even the child of a parent who is a staunch supporter of the NRA because a gunman with a semi-automatic weapon doesn’t stop to ask.

How do you explain to a parent who’s lost everything that your right to bear arms trumps their child’s right to life?

It feels like I’ve written this piece a few hundred times before because I think I have. Why have I? Why does this keep happening? Why does our government stand by and do nothing but come up with sound bites and excuses? Why do we the people accept this? When is enough too much? When it’s our own child whose tiny body lays limp and lifeless in the quad? When it’s our child who cowers and hides for hours as some person with a gun plays a sick game of hide and seek where if you’re found… you’re dead? When it’s your child, who even if they’re lucky enough to survive they are damaged forever. They are not the same child you sent to school that morning and that child may not have died but they are never coming back.

Nikolas Cruz, Parkland Florida, High School shooting

We live in a world where our children have to think fast enough to put their backpacks full of books on before running for their lives just to try to avoid getting shot in the spine. They have to remember to bob and weave. They have to stay silent and stifle tears and terror while their friend a foot away is shot dead in front of them. They have to play dead and pray the shooter doesn’t issue a kill shot to the head “just to be sure”.

Do something!! Stop waiting for your government to figure it out. Demand that they do something to protect our children. When is enough ever going to be enough? How many children have to be slaughtered in the streets, how much blood has to be on our hands before we have the balls to stand united and demand that there be stricter gun control and regulations on parts being bought? We need to make it impossible for everyone to get guns. It shouldn’t be a right, it should be a privilege and if you don’t earn it, you don’t deserve it. If you are not mentally equipped and stable enough to own and trained to operate a weapon, you should not be able to purchase one.

I know gun advocates like to say they need guns to protect themselves from intruders and government. To you I say, 1 you are more likely to be shot with your own gun from an intruder and 2, no gun can protect you from a corrupt government.

But amidst all of this horror, remember the victims like Football coach Aaron Feis who died while using his body to shield three female students. He threw himself in the line of fire to spare them. He suffered a gunshot wound and died after being rushed into surgery. The thing is he shouldn’t have had to die.

“He died the same way he lived — he put himself second,” Lehtio, a student and football team member, said. “He was a very kind soul, a very nice man. He died a hero.”

 

Don’t let the Florida School shooting and the lives of Aaron Feis and the other 16 people who died yesterday have been in vain. Take action. Demand our government to change our current gun control legislation.

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Have you ever heard the names, Elle Darby or Paul Stenson? Me neither until today. Talk about an influencer’s nightmare, I’m not sure it gets too much worse than this. A British Youtuber, Elle Darby, had the “audacity” to privately email a hotel, the Charleville Lodge Hotel, and ask for accommodations in exchange for “exposure” of their property. The property owner, Paul Stenson, clapped back by not only refusing and ostracizing her but doing it publicly on the establishment’s social media channels.  Therein lies the snafu and now, in response to Influencer backlash, he has banned all influencers from his establishment.

Obviously, I am being facetious. If you have worked in this space for any amount of time, at least in the United States, you know this is a common practice. Not necessarily that all influencers cold pitch businesses to ask for product in exchange for promotion. That’s a bold move and to do that, you need to have some serious confidence and influence to back it up. Seasoned influencers know this. We also know if you don’t ask, it’s always a no but there is always a chance of a no and it does not feel good, even in private.

Just to put this in perspective, brands and PR firms have absolutely no qualms about reaching out to influencers on a daily basis and asking us to work for free, for “exposure” (I keep putting this in quotes because I find it simultaneously hilarious and insulting because I can’t feed my children “exposure” and if I am spending my time away from my family working on promoting a brand, I need to be compensated) or for product. I prefer cash because that’s how I pay my bills but if the product/event is something that I am interested in and the value is equivalent to what I charge for work, then I definitely do consider it. Everything is negotiable except for my opinion, which is honest and if not positive, I always give the brand the option to opt out of the post going live. You know, the whole if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all thing.

I’ve been pitched, in the early days, to write positive reviews on products without even being provided the product. Obviously, I didn’t do that because I can’t tell you about or promise a positive review on a product that I’ve never tried. Also, crafting a well-written post, editing photos, creating video and promoting on social media all takes time and effort. No one would expect a marketing executive or an advertising firm to work for free, why would you expect an influencer to work for free?

First, I think a couple things need to be defined in this space. Why does anyone care if I (an influencer) promote a brand? How do I influence anyone? Why does my opinion matter? For any of this to make sense, you have to understand what being an influencer means.

What is an influencer?

A Social Media Influencer is a user on social media who has established credibility in a specific industry. A social media influencer has access to a large audience and can persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and reach.

Why does this matter?

Using social media influencers in your marketing is the practice of building relationships with the people who can build relationships for you. Whether an influencer’s audience is small or large, an influencer can reach consumers via their blogs and social networks that your brand may not be able to.

You see while some influencers may have little influence, some have a huge influence. It’s about more than numbers, it’s about engagement, credibility and connecting with your audience. If an influencer has developed a following over time and that audience has become invested in that influencer’s life, they do care what that influencer has to say, in the same way they might value a friend’s opinion over a brand’s commercial. Of course, there has to be taken into consideration the influencer’s integrity. Are they going to give an unbiased review? That really depends on the influencer.

After years of influencers being approached by brands to work in exchange for hosting, attending events and product we know that this is common practice. It is not unreasonable or even rare for an influencer to make this ask in return. In fact, many venues/events have media inquiry pages with forms just for this sort of ask.

I am fully aware that it sounds sketchy and maybe even entitled when you randomly find out about this practice from a salacious story on the Internet about a ghastly influencer who dared ask for something like this. Pay your own way, you think. But that’s because the general population is not aware of these practices in the digital space. I can tell you, and any brand will agree, it is easier to get paid $20000 in product than it is to get paid $1000 in cash but sometimes you don’t want $20K worth of kidney beans or bras or baby toys. That has everything to do with budgets and write-offs for the companies.

Again, if you work in this space, you already know all of this but the average person does not. My brother still doesn’t understand how “the internet” pays me. I think he thinks checks fall from the sky out of thin air. I tried to explain it once but his eyes glazed over and I could see he was hearing the Charlie Brown “Wah wah wah wah” thing. So I gave up but not today, Satan.

Elle Darby, who I had no prior knowledge of before this story blew up was just trying to “live her best life” (Generation Z you make my chuckle) working with what her mama gave her. We influencers know that if a company isn’t willing or doesn’t have the budget to pay us so we can pay for those things we need to live, it’s perfectly acceptable to (what I call) work for food, or in this case a holiday. The end result is the same.

We promote their brand to our audience (which is usually their target audience because we do our research) and in exchange they provide us with a good or service that we would have bought with the money had they paid us. We’re the new pioneers. It’s called bartering. It was the original form of payment. Google it. I’m kidding…don’t Google it. I’m sure people paid for goods and service with rocks or some shit a long time ago in caveman days

The problem is the person who did the clapping back is a skilled shit stirrer. Elle Darby made one fatal mistake and that was of asking the wrong person, Paul Stenson. The wrong person got her email or rather since he is the owner, she should have googled him before she emailed and then she would have known better.

Don’t get me wrong, full disclosure, I went to his blog and Paul Stenson is funny AF and I quite enjoy the wit and honesty, with which he writes. He gives his truth and doesn’t give a flying flick what anyone else thinks, generally, I admire that quality in a human being. He doesn’t take himself too seriously and I think that may be why he was so annoyed by the Youtuber’s gall to ask for this hosting in exchange for her work. I don’t know for sure but his blog seems like a personal blog and maybe he doesn’t work as an influencer for his own blog. After all, he has owns The White Moose Cafe and Charleville Lodge that I’m assuming his salary is in cash money. Lucky bastard.

Here is where my problem stems from, the message Paul Stenson posted on FB along with his message (both below) were not coming from his personal account but from the business account which was very unprofessional. He could have simply replied with a, “No, thank you.” No harm, no foul.

Had Mr. Stenson did the same thing from his personal account, that would simply be his opinion but as he did it as a representative of the resort and released a private business email then proceeded to chastise Ms. Darby over standard practice on behalf of the establishment, reflects very poorly on his establishment. I don’t think he’s a bad person, I just think he did a social media f*ck up under his business account. He should have hashtagged that shit #hacked.

 

Paul Stenson, Elle Darby, Elly Darby, The White Moose Cafe, Charleville Lodge, Dublin, Ireland, influencer, social media influencer, ban

 

Dear Social Influencer (I know your name but apparently it’s not important to use names),

Thank you for your email looking for free accommodation in return for exposure. It takes a lot of balls to send an email like that, if not much self-respect and dignity. 

If I let you stay here in return for a feature in your video, who is going to pay the staff who look after you? Who is going to pay the housekeepers who clean your room? The waiters who serve you breakfast? The receptionist who checks you in? Who is going to pay for the light and heat you use during your stay? The laundering of your bed sheets? The water rates? Maybe I should tell my staff they will be featured in your video in lieu of receiving payment for work carried out while you’re in residence?

Lucky for us, we too have a significant social media following. We have 186k followers on our two Facebook pages, an estimated 80k on our Snapchat, 32k on Instagram and a paltry 12k on our Twitter, but Jesus Christ, I would never in a million years ask anyone for anything for free. I also blog a bit which as far as I’m aware is another way of saying “write stuff on the internet”. The above stats do not make me any better than anyone else or afford me the right to not pay for something everyone else has to pay for.

In future, I’d advise you to offer to pay your way like everyone else, and if the hotel in question believes your coverage will help them, maybe they’ll give you a complimentary upgrade to a suite. This would show more self-respect on your part and, let’s face it, it would be less embarrassing for you. Here is a little video I produced which you may learn from. (just Google it)

Best regards, 

Paul Stenson

P.S. The answer is no.

And Paul Stenson isn’t changing his mind anytime soon. Of course, now that I see this tweet, I feel a little skeptical about the entire situation. Was it all a media stunt for publicity? Maybe the two did collaborate, after all?

 

Paul Stenson, Elle Darby, Elly Darby, The White Moose Cafe, Charleville Lodge, Dublin, Ireland, influencer, social media influencer, ban

 

I do have to say, Ms. Darby’s “over 30” reference left a bad taste in my mouth too but let’s chalk it up to youth.

Either way, what are your thoughts on this situation who do you side with the Elle Darby or Paul Stenson?

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