My Plaid Suit

GoogleWomen

When I was in middle school, my class put on a living wax museum presentation. There was a long list of people from whom we could choose to emulate. My fellow students picked famous athletes, beautiful celebrities, and important businessmen. I wasn’t motivated by fame and fortune. I wanted to find someone awesome. I scanned the list, complete with short summaries of the historical figures, and made my choice: Shirley Chisholm.

I didn’t know who she was before writing her name down next to mine. I remember reading that she was the first African American woman elected to Congress and the first woman to run for the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party. I remember learning that she fought for human rights, helped establish the food stamp program for women and children, and increased spending on education and health care. Once she’d worked to improve the lives of her constituents, she decided to run for the presidential nomination. There were threats made against her life. There were constant doubts. There was little support for her efforts. She said she ran, despite knowing she would not win the nomination, “to demonstrate the sheer will and refusal to accept the status quo.”

There was nothing that spoke to me more as a twelve year old than the desire to ruffle the status quo, to step outside what I was told was normal in order to create what was better. I found a plaid suit jacket and a beige turtleneck in my grandmother’s closet and proudly stood in the cafeteria as Chisholm.

I’d made a poster detailing the amazing accomplishments of this woman and was ready to explain every fact to wandering parents and teachers. People were only mildly interested. Well, to be honest, people were clearly disinterested. It could have been my natural awkwardness or my supernatural uncoolness, but I think it had a bit to do with the fact that I didn’t look glamorous or have a quickly recognizable name. I was not dissuaded. I felt strong standing up as a woman who defied expectations and odds.

When I watched Hillary Clinton become the Democratic nominee for president yesterday, I thought about Shirley Chisholm. I thought about her diligently and persistently cracking away at that glass ceiling. I thought about all the women who have been pushing up against it, decade after decade. I thought about how proud I felt wearing that plaid suit, like I was a part of this long struggle for equality and women’s rights. And I was. We all are. We’re standing on the shoulders of some really badass women. On the shoulders of Victoria Woodhull, who ran for president at a time when women were not even allowed to vote. On the shoulders of Nellie Bly, a political journalist who traveled the world to tell stories of the disenfranchised. On the shoulders of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was scorned for taking the place of a man at her university. Today, though, we have a woman running for president. Tomorrow, we’ll have a woman as our president.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. I just googled “amazing women” because I was feeling inspired and the first five results were for mail-order brides. So, we still have some work to do. I’m going to dig out my shoulder pads and turtleneck and get to it.

Worry Wart

PassiveAggressiveRaccoons

Now that I’ve shared a snapshot of what I’ve been up to while I was away from TinyHazards, I think it’s only fair to share what’s been added to my worry-list while I was gone. I’ve been off gallivanting around the country, so I’ve had a lot of inspiration.

To start, I said I would explain my new anxiety about overly aggressive raccoons. I was walking around the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, minding my own business, when I spotted a prominent sign in the gardens. I thought maybe it was tell me not to feed the ducks or to avoid littering, but it held a more serious message. It screamed, “WARNING. AGGRESSIVE RACCOONS IN THIS AREA.” That got my attention. Raccoons are strange half-human, half-beast creatures, with tiny fake thumbs and a penchant for garbage. I already have a healthy fear of them. It may have something to do with a camping trip in my youth and a midnight walk to the bathroom.

I looked closer at the warning. The sign continued, “Recent incidents suggest that raccoons in this area have become increasingly aggressive to people and dogs.” First, I need to know about these recent incidents. Are they on YouTube? Did a raccoon eat a tiny dog? Did it bite off someone’s finger? Second, I need to know if there is further action being taken to remedy this problem, besides the sign. And, finally, I need to know where exactly these aggressive raccoons like to spend their afternoons, because I need to not be there.

I didn’t get any answers or have any close encounters of the raccoon kind. I only ran into aggressive photographers, knocking me out of the way to take pictures of the columns or a bride and groom or their own faces. So I added both angry masked critters and zealous amateur photographers to the list.

But that’s not it. Apparently, we also need to be concerned about old employers stealing our identities. Well, not exactly stealing them, more like co-opting them. I learned from a recent tax document and financial report that my prior employer has been claiming they’re paying healthcare benefits and investing money into a retirement account on my behalf. Listen, old employer, I know you were sad when I left. I get it. I’m great. But it’s time to move on. I think so. My new employer thinks so. The IRS is probably going to think so. Get a grip.

Finally, and this one is probably the most important thing I added to the list, we need to worry about escaping the death-traps that are our homes. Thirty years ago, we had approximately seventeen minutes to escape our homes in case of a fire. Now we only have three or four minutes to get out. That’s it. That’s not even long enough to make a bowl of oatmeal or watch an SNL skit. No one watches SNL skits anymore, but they definitely did thirty years ago, so I think it’s an appropriate reference. The time has shortened so much because of all the synthetic furniture and building supplies we’re using. I thought Ikea was only dangerous to relationships during shopping trips, but we’re actually bringing the danger home with us. On the flip side, however, those coffee tables are so cheap.

So, that’s what I’ve added to my worry-list. I’m at a round 137,987,396 things now. And I’m posting them here so that you can adjust your lists accordingly. You’re welcome.

 

While You Were Out

DoughnutMessage

I’ve been away for a while, both from this blog and from home. I know you’ve been wishing I was here posting my thoughts and sending them out to the interwebs. There was nothing that could be done though, I was just too busy with all kinds of wild and crazy things. What wild and crazy things, you say? Here’s an incomplete list:

  1. Eating fancy donuts in New York from a food truck I’d been trying to find for literally years. I think this means I’ve accomplished all I can this summer.
  2. Eating non-fancy but delicious bagels in New York, because New York.
  3. Eating bad fake meatloaf in San Francisco. I thought San Francisco was supposed to be the hipster capital of the country, but I was wrong. Turns out, it’s mostly just people who think they’re modern geniuses.
  4. Eating great tacos in San Francisco. I considered smuggling the tortillas home with me but they snuck into my belly too fast.

Ok, let’s be honest here. I’ve been doing a lot of eating. We can move on. Here are some non-food related activities:

  1. Binge-watching a great show on Netflix about people getting sucked into an alternate universe. Consequently, watching the lights flicker in my house suspiciously.
  2. Catching Pokemon, obviously.
  3. Avoiding a stranger who decided he’d like to take a walk with me for “no reason.” I don’t think so, stranger. I know that reason and I’m not about to get kidnapped by some creepy dude. ABV. (That means Always Be Vigilant. I made it up just now but it’s legit.)
  4. Spending the night at the St. Louis airport, freezing and uncomfortable. Then spending the day in my tiny house, warm and cozy.
  5. Melting away in the swamp that is my city. For some reason, this melting isn’t helping me get in any better shape.
  6. Fighting the final throes of a battle against a nerve-attacking bacteria that really wanted to make its way to my brain. After the donuts, this is probably my second biggest accomplishment of the summer.
  7. Planning an end-of-summer trip for Dave and I to check out from the world and wander the forests of the Pacific Northwest like dirty hippies.
  8. Avoiding aggressive raccoons. Don’t worry, full story on these dangerous beasts to come.

So that’s just a snippet of what’s been keeping me from the internets these past couple weeks. Luckily, I’m now home and attached to technology, so here I am. You can end all hunger strikes and search parties. If you didn’t even noticed my absence, congratulations on having a full and adjusted life. You don’t have it rub it in by gloating to the rest of us. Jeez. Show a little compassion.

Shrink

Raining

Three times. Twice in the morning and once in the afternoon. Three times yesterday a man tried to walk through me on the sidewalk. Each time he looked straight at me, past me, around me, and kept on moving. It feels like a dare. Will I move? Will I let him pass? Will I slip my foot out a bit and trip him?

I almost never step aside. And nearly every time I keep my stride, I get a sideways glance. How dare I take up this man’s space? How dare I move along the eighteen inches upon which he is also moving? Do I not understand the hierarchy of space taker-uppers? First, it’s rich men. Then poor men. Old men. Young men. Literally every other man. And then us.

All my life I’ve been told to shrink. Make my body smaller. Make my tone softer. Make my feelings tamer. Shrink shrink shrink. If I’d answered every call to shrink, I’d be invisible. And not in a cool “look at this trick” X-Men kind of way. If I’d answered every call to shrink, I’d be a wisp, just a passing breeze. Or exactly how this man on the street sees me.

But I won’t be a breeze. I am not refreshing. I am not easy, breezy, beautiful. I am a storm. I am the strong winds in the North. I am a hurricane.

I tighten my shoulder and keep on moving. I let him try to walk through me. But through me he does not. We hit. He turns. I keep moving.

Storms don’t stop for men.

Likely Friends

PigCat

Below is an actual conversation that occurred in my home this weekend.

Dave: What are you watching?
Me: A tiny pig living in someone’s house with a bunch of little kittens. They’re best friends.
Dave: How do you know?
Me: Well, it looked like a human home. I’m just assuming it was a human home.
Dave: That was definitely not the part of the story I was questioning.

My perspective on the likelihood of unlikely friends may be skewed. I think I might be watching too many videos of adorable creatures doing silly things. Just kidding. That’s not possible. Bring on the baby elephants falling into miniature pools.

Decent

DeadGarden

Yesterday I read a story about a man who saved the farms of three Japanese-American families who were interned during World War II. He recently passed away at the age of 101 and, before that, was honored for his role in supporting these families while they were being unfairly and indiscriminately relocated and imprisoned. Basically, he just decided to be a decent person while other people around him were being incredibly undecent.

When one of Bob’s neighbors learned they would be forced out of their homes, he reached out to Bob and asked if he would help two friends in exchange for all the farms’ profits. Bob agreed, quit his job, and began taking care of all three farms. He kept a portion of the profits, but saved half for the families—filling their bank accounts while they were away. Bob’s other neighbors weren’t so happy that he was being kind, which just goes to show you that there have been and always will be jerks.

Many families lost their farms, businesses, and financial security after being interned. The three families that Bob helped came back to their homes, which is definitely something about which no one should need to boast. When Bob was honored for helping his neighbors, he said, “I don’t know about courage. It took a devil of a lot of work.” That seems to me to be the real way to help—just do the work. We don’t always need to think about being brave. We just need to think about doing the work of being considerate.

For me, this story serves as a reminder that we all have the ability, the responsibility, to be thoughtful and useful to one another. Bob could have walked in protests lines. He could have sent letters to his representatives. He could have posted messages on Facebook. JK, he couldn’t have done that. It was 1942. But he didn’t just talk about it. Instead, he responded to his neighbors call for help—an actual response to an actual call. He stepped in where he was needed. He didn’t save every farm in his state, but he helped who he could.

We can all learn a lesson in active support from Bob. Let’s not be frozen by a great need. Let’s get inspired to find those small acts of service. I don’t think I’ll use my green thumb to help anyone though. Last year I had thirteen pots full of lovely, CO2 giving flora. This year I have two left—home to a dying aloe and a wilting spider plant—a sad, sad homage to my love for all things green. Basically, I’m saying that we all have ways we can help one another and mine is probably not at the farm. But I could make cookies for a bake sale or poorly paint a wall or sit next to someone quietly.

I Won’t Be Clementine

EvilScientists

I found something new to add to the list of things about which we all need to worry. A group of Japanese researchers have discovered how to implant fake memories into peoples’ brains. They can change the way a person interacts with and remembers the world. The scientists are hoping to use this discovery to treat cognitive disorders, like depression or autism. They think they’ll be able to use visual distortions to erase terrible memories and insert wonderful ones into peoples’ minds. Once a suffering person’s brain-wires are all soldered in new directions, the person will, presumably, be happy and well-functioning.

That’s all well and good, but it’s like these people have never seen a sci-fi movie in their lives. Don’t they know that powers like this can be harnessed for good and evil? And they’re always harnessed for evil? At least at first, before evil-users are usurped by good-doers.

There are definitely memories I could stand to live without. I’d be happy to get rid of a few traumatic moments that continue to pop up in my brain at really inopportune times. I’d love to be without some embarrassing middle school moments. But I’m not going to mess with that kind of mind-melding sorcery. I don’t need to walk away from an outpatient procedure thinking I can fly on an invisible dragon or juggle rings of fire with my eyes closed. That’s exactly the kind of thing my enemies want me to think.