Let’s talk about Sexual Harassment

Statistics show that 1 in 4 women experience sexual harassment at some point in their lifetime.  I think that this statistic is wrong.  I think it is MUCH higher.  I think that many women are too afraid to speak up or admit that it is happening.  In the United States, we are seeing a wave of powerful men being outed for their reprehensible behavior, with two very different outcomes.  It seems like about every ten years, sexual harassment comes back into the forefront of our conversations, and then slowly falls back into the shadows.  I would like to share some experiences of mine with you today.  Though I do not like to talk about it, I know that it is of monumental importance to call the monsters out and not take responsibility for their choices.

Towards the end of the election season in 2016, Donald Trump was accused of harassment by multiple women, and was caught on video talking about how it is ok that he sexually assault women because he is famous. Courageous women came forward and shared their stories, which basically showed a pattern of predatory behavior.  The response?  He threatened to sue them, they were all liars, and it was a conspiracy against him to harm his chances in the general election.  The fact that he was elected demonstrates how people tend to not believe victims, or even blame victims for the predator’s actions.  “But look at how slutty she dresses, though.”  “She’s asking for it with that red lipstick.”  “Well, she should be flattered that he likes her!”  “Boys will be boys, you know…”.   Somehow, even after all of it, this monster was elected as our president.  Some may say, “…but…Bill Clinton!”  And to that, I am not disagreeing.  SAME!  He doesn’t get a pass from me.  I don’t care what your political leanings are.  If you are a predator, you are trash, and you may want to take a look at yourself and make some major life changes.


Flash forward to Fall 2017.  A powerful Hollywood producer is accused of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape.  The reaction somehow was different this time.    He was fired, and he was ousted from the industry.  His wife has announced that she is leaving.  Men in the industry have denounced the behavior.  Perhaps the tides are turning.  Perhaps we are starting to not accept that boys will be boys.  Perhaps men in power are starting to understand that this behavior is unacceptable.  I would love to believe that this is true.  However, the ‘casting couch’ has been part of Hollywood lore as long as I can remember.  These men have been at this for YEARS.  The behavior is well known by the people in their employ, and the circles that they are part of.  So why are we so outraged only when women come forward with their stories, detailing the assault?  Though I find the support of others to the actresses (and some actors (I see your Terry Crews and James VanDerBeek)) who came out against Weinstein to be applauded, why were you silent for so long?


I am just a regular woman.  I am average height, average build, average hair color.  There is nothing aesthetically overwhelming about me.  For much of my life, and at different employers, I have been sexually harassed.  The harassment comes in the form of lewd comments, ogling me, staring at various body parts, unwarranted offers of sex, and inappropriate touching.  I want to remind my readers that I have never stated my places of employment, nor will I comment on my employer’s handling of the situations, other than relaying factual pieces of conversation.  Each story I share with you is my story.  I do not know, nor do I wish to know the intent of the other parties.  I will not name names, not in order to protect these people, but rather, my current employer has a clause in the handbook that ill words may not be shared on social media about the company.  If you violate the policy, expect to be fired.  I want to be clear, I am not posting judgment, nor do I blame my employer for any of these situations.  I do blame the predators, and our culture of acceptance at large.

I have a high pressure job, and there are times that I like to take a break, go outside, get some fresh air and perspective, and unwind.  I used to walk through the employee parking lot, up one row, then down the next, listening to music and blowing off some steam.  As I was walking, a familiar car pulled up next to me, and rolled down the passenger window.  It was a man that I have worked with in another department that I generally say hello to and smile when we pass in the halls.  I took out my ear bud, and said hello.  He leaned over, looked me in the eye, and said, “Hey, I have $20…”, role playing as if I was a hooker and he was a John.  I felt like I had been punched in the gut.  Whenever it happens, I feel like I am knocked back on my heels and in a daze.  Since this incident happened fairly recently, I had at least enough wits to tell him to “F*@k off”. And kept walking.  I took myself straight back into he building, held back my tears, sat at my desk, and went back to work.  I thought about my outfit, and all of the other exchanges I had with him in the past that might have led him to believe that this would be a good idea, or I would think it was funny.  You know, it seems like more often than not, they say, “It was just a joke.  Where is your sense of humor?”

A few weeks after that, a different person from the same department, was out walking at the same time I was.  He stopped me to talk about a shared project and check in on my progress.  I folded my arms across my chest, as I often do, and spoke of the project.  Out of nowhere, he reached up and grabbed my watch.  The watch on my wrist.  On the arm that was folded across my chest.  Directly next to my breast.  “What’s this?”  He asked.   I yanked my hand back, and replied, “It’s a watch.”  “Oh”, he said.  “My wife has one just like this.”  One of this man’s subordinates was also present for this, and said nothing.  NOTHING.  I again, walked back to my desk, reviewed my interactions with this man, and blamed myself.  This time, I decided that I’ve had enough.  From the years of, “You are so hot”, and “If you ever want to cheat on your husband, give me a call!”, and “I will take you out in the parking lot right now and f*@k your brains out!”  I was done laughing it off.  I was done accepting this.  


I had mentioned a few of my experiences to someone I thought I could trust, and unfortunately, that didn’t turn out to be the case.  Though I was resigned to head that way anyway, I was summoned to Human Resources, where the interrogation began.  I don’t mean for that to sound like a prison camp.  It wasn’t. It was humiliating.  It was raw.  It was awful for me to crawl back through every experience I could remember and lay it all out, bare on the desk, asking for help.  I was asked what I would like for the outcome to be of the investigation.  I remember saying, “All I really want is to do my job, and not be afraid to go to my car, or have to deal with this anymore.  I think it is fair to ask for an environment free from intimidation.”  The investigation proceeded.  I knew that executives that I have to work with directly had been briefed (and knew my identity), and I know that women from all over the company were being called to HR to discuss possible harassment.  Women who were not aware that it was me who caused the investigation would come to my desk and talk about the investigation with nothing but disdain for the woman who reported this.  “What an attention seeker!”  “I’m sure it’s one of these ugly fat chicks who no one would even look at in the first place!”  “Ugh!  This is just where we work!  Why can’t women just accept that and stop being such prudes!”  “Whoever this is, I bet she’s a real bitch!”  Most of the time, I just smiled and said, “I don’t know, maybe we should be honest about what our experiences are and not judge someone we don’t know.  It must have been pretty bad if they were brave enough to go to HR about it.”  My heart was broken.  The women I saw as allies and friends were turning their backs on me without even knowing.  

You often hear of people reporting acts of sexual crimes years after the occurance and many people start to question why.  Is this valid?  Is there an axe to grind?  Why did they wait so long.  I can tell you why.  I had everything to lose, and nothing to gain.   The sexual predators are still employed.  Every one of them.  In fact, the fellow in the watch grabbing incident came to my desk a few months later, and was looking down my pants as I sat.  I saw him with my own eyes.  I reported it to HR.  I was asked how I was dressed, if that was a possible provocation for his actions.  When he was confronted, he reported that he did not do that, and he thought I was a ‘genuinely nice person’, and was shocked that I was offended by his actions in any way.  The fellow who offered me $20 in the parking lot?  I was asked if I thought he meant it as a joke, and maybe because I was friendly with him, I should just address it with him directly.  Women do not report predatory behaviors because they are often either not believed, or told that the men were probably just joking.  Experiencing this clear violation of human dignity once is awful.  To recount it again, and be faced with the possibility of having to hash things out with the predator, when often no real actions or consequences are taken seems, at large, not to be worth it.  Every time one of these stories comes on the news, it is like PTSD.  You are put right back into that place of fear and shame.  A fleeting moment of power for the predator results in a lifetime of consequence for the victim.  Even after all of these years and all of these experiences, I still cry, I still try to alienate myself from others, and I still attempt to protect myself from every man I come in contact with, even if I know and trust him.

These are the stories of just one of my employers, and they are by far not representative of all of the incidents I’ve experienced.  It is also not to say that EVERY WOMAN will experience anything like this, or EVERY MAN is a predator.  That is just simply not true.  Predators are highly skilled at choosing victims.  They choose women who are more likely to blame themselves than to report them.  They will choose women who they think a have lower self esteem.  They will choose women who they see as weak. Interestingly enough, women don’t always stand by other women in these incidents, as I found out first hand.  It was the women who were more accusatory towards me than the men that found out about the investigation.  Another piece that I found intriguing in my experiences is that men KNOW other men are being predatory.  Men HEAR other men talking about the women they work with in a crude and inappropriate fashion, but are afraid to stand up and tell them to stop.  They are afraid of being called a p*ssy, or made fun of, or being emasculated by the same predators.  Somehow, these people just keep getting away with it.  They keep bullying those who would stand up, and when called out, deny and act contrite, or profess that it was just a joke.


For myself, as hard as it is to keep reporting it, and as difficult as it is to find the courage to stand up to these predators, I have chosen to keep going.  I will darken the doorways of HR until they are sick of seeing me.  I will continue to tell men that it is not appropriate to call me ‘sweetie’, or ‘honey’, or ‘dear’.  I will call their supervisors and inform them of the behavior and tell them I expect that it cease immediately.  I am not employed to star in their sexual fantasies.  I am not there for entertainment.  I am a human being, and as such, I have a right to dignity.  If I stay silent, they will continue to find those voiceless others who are afraid and internalize and fear them.  My courage will spread to others.  My encouragement can change the perspective.  My voice, though it is alone, will be joined by another.  And then another.  And then another.   Until our voices are too loud to ignore.  

If you are experiencing harassment, please, be brave, share your story, stand up and say no.  It is not your fault.  You did nothing to provoke or ask for this.  I would also like to point out that it doesn’t matter what you wore that day.  Men who are trash will act like trash if you are wearing burlap sack.  Do not let ANYONE victim shame you.  Do not worry about protecting the predators.  Even if you just want to share with a spouse, or a close friend, or a sister, do it.  Cleanse yourself of their bad behavior.  Don’t sit silent as their eyes wander all over your body.  Even if you don’t believe me, I believe you.  I believe your story.  I believe that you have a right to have your dignity restored.  Come, join my single voice when you are ready.  Let us be a force for change.  

“Back down the bully to the back of the bus, ‘cause it’s time for them to be scared of us!” – Third Eye Blind, Wounded

Oh yeah, of course, you are probably NOT crazy!

Let’s talk about me for a minute…

Hello, friends!  I know that my posts have not been coming every Monday over the summer as you have grown accustomed to.  For this, I apologize.  It’s been a pretty hectic summer.  Well, that and the theiving house guest.  The good news is, I am writing today to tell you something that I think is pretty exciting!  Let me give you a little back story first…

About 10 years ago, I wrote a novel.  It is certainly not my best work.  I have a special relationship with this novel.  It sits in my nightstand  drawer most of the time. Some times I dust it off, get my red pen, and start editing it.  Truth be told, it’s not bad work, considering I was drinking when I wrote it.  I also wrote it in just a few weeks.  I was working full time while I was writing it and taking care of kids, so I think that’s pretty amazing.  The novel is 400 pages or so.  Something like that.  But the fact is, I hate it.  I hate the story.  I hate the ending.  I hate some of my characters.  No matter how much I edit it, I will always think of the time I asked my older sister to read and edit it,  and later, she accused me of basing one of the more grating characters on her, which is not necessarily true.  Were there parts of her in that character?  Yes!  But there were parts of many people in that character.  There were parts of her in other characters as well, but she only focused on some of the more irritating things of that character and assigned herself to that.  This character also happened to be a major philanthropist, which had nothing to do with my sister, but she still said I hurt her feelings with that.  So, I stopped writing.

I started writing this blog as a cathartic outlet for some of my pent up frustrations, and also as a way to share what I have learned through my crazy existence, in the hopes that it may help someone else to not have to take the paths that I chose, or to help them get off those paths, had they already been chosen.  One of my followers and best friends in the universe called me at work a few weeks back, and she told me that she needed to talk to me.  Straight faced and serious, she told me that I need to write a book.  I told her that I already wrote a book and I didn’t like it.  She told me that I need to forget that book and write another book.  So, I laughed, and I told her that if she could come up with a viable topic that I can write an entire book around, I would write her a book.  

A week later, I was talking to another follower on the phone and mentioned that I had been admonished to write a book.  I received even more encouragement, and was told that I also need to write HER a book.  I came up with my regular excuses…”I am so busy with work!”  “I barely have any time as it is to write my blog, let alone a book!”  “My writing is not good enough to get published.”  The pure truth, once the onion is peeled back a little, is that I am afraid if I write a book, it will suck.  Plus, people who want me to write books ask that I write about self help.  Let me tell you something, I am really the last person qualified to advise anyone on self help.  Which is what has led me to this point.

I was sitting with Wave on the patio this morning, drinking coffee, thinking about my life, and my topic suddenly occurred to me.  Actually two separate topics occurred to me.  WHOA!  It’s been years since I have come up with a viable topic that I can write about at length, and suddenly, here are two!  I have always felt like I wanted to write about my life, but I also detest the thought of a true autobiography.  Being that I am a Virgo, I prefer to blend into the back ground.  I am not a big fan of self adulation, and bravado.  However,  I believe I have found a way to write about what I want to write about, with humor and wit.  Just like all of us, there are some pretty dark spaces in my story.  It’s daunting to consider taking those monsters out of the closet, shaking them out, dusting them off, and sharing them with strangers.  We’ll see if they make it to othe story.

For anyone who has ever written, or attempted to write, you know what I am taking on here.  Not only the trials of the actual writing, the editing, the polishing, the give and take of the cut and paste.  But then the almost impossibility of it ever getting looked at or published.  Mountains of rejections.  I never actually got to the submission stage of my last novel.  As I mentioned, it’s still sitting, lonely in that nightstand drawer, never to see the light of day.  I never thought I would be excited about writing a book again.  Time to face the fear of rejection.  Once it’s complete, I hope I am able to find a platform to be able to share it with you all.  In the meantime, I am sure that I will still be here, at least every other week, sharing my tales of hope with you.  

Are you taking on any big challenges that will change your life?  Tell us about them in the comments section.  Thank you all for your support.  I know you are out there, reading, laughing, and thinking about what I’m saying.  And above all….

You’re probably not crazy!!! 

Finding the Courage to Ask For What You Need

I often find myself feeling overwhelmed.  Almost always, after a quick examination, it is because I have over committed to others, with things that I don’t want to do.  I understand that normal, healthy adults are able to say ‘No’ to invitations, favors, events, and commitments. It seems that I did not pay extra for that upgrade.  I am always agreeing to things, and finding myself regretful and resentful as those calendar items approach.  Do you ever find yourself stretched too thin?  Let me share a few examples with you, then I will discuss my new found favorite response…”NO”.

I am not a very social person.  Even lunch with my sisters sends me into a panic.  “Who will be there?”  “Will I end up having to pay for everyone?”  “What if there is nothing that I can eat?”  “What if she brings up that topic that makes me uncomfortable like she always does?”  My sisters are the opposite of me.  Very easy conversationalists, no worry at all.  Lunch is a wonderful way to chat and spend time together to reconnect.  I, on the other hand, am full of anxiety the entire time.  We have been meeting for lunches on each other’s birthday’s for about 4 years now.  Every time my birthday rolls around, I make an excuse that I am busy, and its fine with me if we skip.  I’ve never wanted to admit to them that it’s really uncomfortable for me, so an excuse was just easier.  This year, however, it was suggested that maybe we should just start planning family get togethers on all of the holidays and rotate houses and hostesses.  So, my excuse plan backfired in a huge way.  Not only did one sister tell me that I should reconsider because I am missed, and whatever other guilt trip was available at the time, the other sister recommended MORE anxiety filled get togethers!

FULL DISCLOSURE: That’s not really me.  But I can totally relate to this young lady.  Still.  As an adult.
I know what you’re thinking…Yes, this is my family, and I should feel comfortable, right?  Well, not all families are like the ones in the movies.  I’m not interested in airing out the dirty laundry.  Regardless, each family member’s memories and experiences are all different, so there’s no point in even trying.  I do my best to get along and be a peace maker, but at my age, I’m a bit tired of that.  In fact, as they say, you can’t choose your family.  I disagree.  I am choosing my family, and I am choosing it carefully.  I don’t feel like I have to sacrifice myself for the whims of others anymore, just because we are related.  I’m over it.

This whole situation with the get togethers and the lunches could have been averted, had I just been honest from the beginning.  “Thank you for thinking of me.  Social situations like lunches cause me anxiety, so I would like for this to not be a tradition on my birthday any longer.”  I eventually got there.  In the mean time, panic ensued.

I was also in a situation recently where we agreed to help a long lost relative out as a favor who wanted to relocate to Arizona.  We offered a place to stay until she was able to get on her feet at no charge.  We also asked a few people we know to consider her for a job.  Once she arrived, she did nothing but disrespect our wishes and acted completely unacceptable.  When the jobs didn’t come through for her, she blamed us, and said it was the only reason that she relocated to Arizona.  Things got to a point where we asked her to please find somewhere else to stay within 30 days.  She did..and stole about $200  worth of things from us.  So how could we have avoided this situation?  Simply by saying “No” in the first place.  As much as we all want to be helpful to others, we truly had no business opening up our home to someone we didn’t even know.


I think that many of us are conditioned to turn the other cheek, or to act in a way that you would like for people to act with you.  When we do that, we often find ourselves being taken advantage of by others who’s own moral code likely doesn’t line up with ours.  I have come to the conclusion recently that people who are out to take advantage of me, or guilt me into doing things for them are not worried about my feelings, or what is good for me.  So, in turn, I will no longer be afraid to say no, or at least ask for my needs to be met in these exchanges.  


I know that we are not easy hosts at our house.  We are very particular.  Dishes should be cleaned immediately.  You don’t need to use multiple cups in one day.  If you use the dryer, empty the lint trap.  Be kind, and at least ACT like you enjoy spending time with us.  For us, these situations have forced us into deciding what we are and are not ok with.  We are ok with two day max house guests.  We are not ok with anything beyond that.  We need to be kind to our guests and let them know that staying beyond that will cause resentment and anxiety, so two days is all that we are able to accommodate.

It is up to you to decide what your boundaries are, and then find the kindness to enforce those boundaries.  There is almost nothing worse than feeling like you are being held hostage in a situation.  It is just better to be open and honest upfront.  Doing so will undoubtedly save hard feelings and relationships.  Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.  In most cases, people will respect your honesty and appreciate it.  It happens to the best of us.  Don’t worry…

You’re probably not crazy!!!

Get off my nerves!!  Strategies to deal with people who know how to push your buttons.

Hello, my friends!  First, allow me to apologize for my fickle posting schedule.  I’ve had some challenges that are not insurmountable, but I’ve needed to take some time to myself to reflect on who I am, and come up with some strategies to deal with them.  For today, I am choosing this topic because this is exactly what I am dealing with on every side of my life. So, maybe in writing this, it will help me to find the courage to draw specific boundaries and retain my own sanity.  See what I did there?  

Throughout my life, I’ve been faced with people who I just do not understand.  I often joke that I was raised like a feral dog, so my sense of social mores and politeness are often baffling, even to me.  I was the youngest of 4 children, then later 6 when my dad remarried.  All of my parents did the best they knew how to do.  We were never homeless.  We always went to school.  But I never really learned manners, or how to show gratitude until I was an adult, on my own, observing others.  I am now highly irritated at the lack of courtesy and manners around me.  I guess I figure that if I was able to learn that mailing a thank you card for a gift was polite, then why should others, who were not raised like I was, be excused from this?  If someone took their preciouos resources (time and money) to give me a gift, the least I can do I’d take my resources (time and a postage stamp) to express gratitude.

I have also found out that the world consists of givers and takers.  Both are very good at what they do.  However, givers are often manipulated by takers.  They play on their good nature and sympathy to get exactly what they want, then rarely show gratitude in their actions.  A text message of ‘Thank you!!’ Just doesn’t cut the mustard.  Lately, I am finding that takers are coming out of the wood work to prey on me.  Not only to take advantage of my empathy and good nature, but to follow up with a guilt trip if I don’t follow their code of conduct and do exactly what they expect of me.


Let me get a few things off my chest, then I will move on to strategies for givers in dealing with this.  First of all, if you are staying with someone in their home, it is not your right to drain their resources.  Offer to make meals, bring groceries, help clean up the house, and don’t leave cups and dishes scattered in your wake.  Clean up your messes.  Observe how your host lives, and follow their lead.  Maybe even offer to treat your host to dinner.  Secondly, if someone goes out of their way to help you, or do you a favor, maybe consider doing something special for them.  You don’t have to spend money.  Write a nice thank you card.  Offer to mow their lawn.  Maybe even house sit.  Let your actions show that you are thankful that they sacrificed to help you and you appreciate it.  


My personality is such that my initial reaction to anything I don’t like is to avoid it.  If I feel like someone is trying to manipulate me, I just ignore them.  I don’t answer the phone.  I don’t return calls.  I am short on responses to emails.  I know that is not the correct way to deal with things, and I wouldn’t encourage it, because all it is going to do is encourage the taker to just keep calling, texting, and emailing.  Rarely is the outcome what I want, which is for them to just go away.  What I should be doing is setting my boundaries.  I should be answering the phone calls, and when the person asks me for what I am anticipating, I should say, I’m not able to help you with that.  When they ask why, I don’t owe them an explanation.  We are allowed to say no.  We have every right to put our own interests in front of others.  That doesn’t make you selfish.  It makes you not co-dependent.  It is not your job to take care of other people or their problems.  If you choose to do it, great.  But you are not obligated to do so.  The fact of the matter is, you can ALWAYS say no.  

I have learned to ask myself, “Am I willing to follow through on this?”  If I am not willing to follow through, then I must say no.  I shouldn’t be offering to help anyone move if I know that at the last minute, I am going to bail out.  I don’t know  about you, but I have a lot of ‘hinters’ in my life.  These are people who don’t come out and directly ask me for anything, but they hint at what they want.  For instance, “I really want to relocate to your area, but I don’t know where to apply for a job or where I should live.  Oh, but my current employer is abusing me and I don’t know what to do.  What should I do?  You’re so smart, what would you do?”  This person hasn’t asked me for a place to stay or for me to put in a good word at my own employer, but they are certainly using techniques to play on my emotions.  What is their end game?  What is it they want from you?   The best thing in this situation is to stay out of it.  When I was in grade school, my parents fell for this one with a step cousin.  He lived with us, for longer than he said he would, wore out his welcome, became the master of the television, and was all around annoying.  In fact, who among us hasn’t fallen in this trap?  What is unfortunate is that I believe that we all just want to be helpful.  More often than not, we just end up used, abused, resentful, and unwilling to do it again.  Side note, if you have been the person who stays with someone and wore out your welcome, I hope that you can find it in you or conscience to make things right.  


My advice is to set your boundaries.  If behavior isn’t acceptable to you, don’t accept it.  Don’t surround yourself with people who are just taking advantage of you.  Ask yourself if they would be there if you didn’t have something to give them.  Relationships should be two way streets.  There is no law on the books that prohibit you from letting people go.  If the relationship is leacherous, let it go.  Back away.  If they question what is going on, tell them that this is just not working out for you.  We don’t need to fear hurting other people’s feelings.  I mean, I’m not advocating being a jerk here.  I am saying that people who take advantage of others aren’t really concerned about the damage that they are doing.  So why are you concerned with saving their feelings?  

Now you may say, “But I can’t just let go of my boss or coworker!  What do I do?”  Well, this is the toughest situation because you are kind of stuck.  In this situation, I usually try to be pleasant and still ask myself, “am I willing to follow through on this?”  If your coworker annoys you, don’t engage them on personal topics.  Keep it to business, and be as pleasant as you can.  If they are not doing their job, and it’s not affecting my job, I ignore it and let them deal with their consequences.  If it does affect my job, I have a discussion with them, and keep all emotions out of it.  If things don’t change, I leave it with my boss. If the boss does nothing, I document.  If things fall apart, you now have a record of attempting to correct the situation.  You may consider getting HR involved at that point.  DON’T sabotage anyone else.  Keep the emotions out of it.  Follow your company’s guidelines in dealing with conflict.  And document EVERYTHING!

I do understand that this may be contrary to your religious tastes.  I get that.  You have to do what is right for you.  If you want to continue to turn the other cheek, more power to you.  I, however, will no longer choose this.  We are not on this earth to be used by others.  It is my right to say what I am and am not willing to do.  I am not bound to do everything that suits my parents because they are my parents.  If they are taking advantage of me, I have a right to say no.  I hope that you are able to courageously take a look at the toxic relationships in your own sphere and bravely stand up to those more interested in what you can do for them rather than what they can do to contribute to a healthy relationship.  Do not let the deceptions ever make you question your own sanity, as I am currently questioning mine.  I’m going to listen to my own advice here for sure…
I’m (You’re) probably not crazy!

Q & A

I am very lucky to have many people who feel comfortable enough to ask me questions that they may be too embarrassed to ask otherwise.  Today, I will devote my post to addressing the most common of these questions in hopes that you will have your questions answered as well.  Of course, you can always ask questions in the comments section of this blog and I will happily share my experiences with you!
Q:  My relative has just announced that they are going Vegan, or have food sensitivities/allergies.  How the heck am I supposed to deal with family get together’s now??

A:  I understand that your initial response may be “OH GREAT!”  Going ‘gluten-free’ seems to be the current fad these days.  There is a lot of mis-information circulating out there about gluten, and not everyone who excludes gluten needs to.  It’s always just better to assume that there is a reason for what they are doing, and it’s their business only.  Let’s use me as an example.  I have the following food sensitivities:  Pineapple, Black Pepper, Rye, Yeast, Kidney Beans, and Cow’s Milk.  On top of this, I follow a vegan diet, so I am your worst nightmare!!  My family forever wants me to have meals with them, and ask me how they can accomodate me.  The simple answer?  Don’t.  I think that people who have issues like mine understand that trying to cater to me would be a recipe for disaster.  Or, my family will say, “Come over!  I will make sure that there is a salad for you!”  At which time, I remind them that I hate salad.  SO, a few things:

  1. Vegans don’t necessarily like salad.
  2. Sides may not contain meat, but may contain items that are unfriendly to your relation’s diet goals.
  3. Don’t take it personally.

I would advise to first ask that person to help you understand their diet or food issues.  I would then try to come up with strategies together to make sure that they are able to attend, and also feel like a ‘normal’ guest.  Many times, I will eat in advance, or I will offer to bring a dish that I can eat, but can also share with others.  Interestingly enough, when I do bring a dish to share, it usually ends up being a hit.  I tend to not tell anyone it’s vegan until they eat it and love it.  Not only is it fun for me, but it also gives people who may not ever be exposed to anything positive regarding veganism to come away with a good impression.


Q:  I watched the documentary “What the Health” (Or “Forks over Knives”, or “Fat, Bloated, and Nearly Dead”, or “Super Size Me”, etc…, and now I want to eat better.  Should I quit meat cold turkey (pun totally intended)?

A:  I have done both methods:  I have gone cold turkey vegan, and I have done the frog-boiling method.  The first time I tried it was cold turkey.  I did it for all the wrong reasons.  I was desperate to lose weight, and a junk-a-tarian that I know said I should get off meat and I would lose weight.  So I tried.  I ate frozen veggie burgers, vegan cheese, chips, French fries, and I failed miserably.  I didn’t really know what a vegan actually was.  I have the most basic possible definition, which was no animal flesh or products.  Did you know that gummy vitamins are not vegan?  Or that French fries are often fried in animal fats?  Or that Mexican restaurants usually make refried beans with lard and rice with chicken broth?  Not only did I not know what the hell I was doing, I wasn’t considering that it takes time for your body to adjust.  

Once I finally did lose weight and cleaned up my diet, I started to naturally eat less meat.  It just started to not digest well with me.  I would get horrendous stomach aches and (sorry…) really constipated.  One day, I just stopped.  I thought about my meat consumption and what it was doing to my digestive tract.  I didn’t like the way it tasted unless it was drenched in sauces and seasonings.  So I just stopped.  And I haven’t eaten it since.

A few years after that, I was still having stomach aches, and decided to get tested for food sensitivities.  At that time, I would eat a hard boiled egg for breakfast, cottage cheese with pepper and pineapple (I know…don’t judge…it’s good), and lots of beans every day, including my favorite, kidney beans.  So, if you remember my food sensitivity list, I was basically ONLY eating things that bothered me.  I didn’t become vegan out of compassion for animals, or anything other than I just wanted the stomach aches to stop, which they did.  Since becoming vegan, I have definitely become passionate about animals and how we as a culture treat them.  

Long story short, for me, it worked better to make small changes over long periods to maintain those changes.  Just like boiling a frog, start with Luke warm water, and slowly turn up the heat.  Side note, it’s sick that I’m advising on how to go vegan by compairing it to boiling a frog.  Oy.  


Q:  I want to go vegan, but I can never give up baked goods.  What’s the deal?

A:  Oh man, I know what you mean.  Did you know that you can make absolutely delicious cookies, cupcakes, cakes, and pies totally vegan?  It’s true!  In fact, I gained about 10 pounds once I figure that out!!  A great baking cookbook that was given to me by one of my best friends in the universe is The Joy of Vegan Baking by Coleen Patrick-Goudreau.  You can find most of the ingredients at your local grocery store, or, I have found a lot at Amazon.  Would you believe that I used a drop biscuit recipe from this cook book and crafted a vegan gravy recipe, and now we have biscuits and gravy for dinner on the regular?  I NEVER thought I would have that again!!


 
Q:  But where do you get your protein from/But are you getting enough protein ?

A:  This is by far the most asked question.  Over the years, I have answered this question differently.  Sometimes, I ask the asker if they are getting enough protein.  It’s kind of funny, actually.  I know that I need 1/2 a gram of protein per pound of body weight, so it varies as my weight varies.  Did you know that vegetables have protein?  It’s TRUE!  My advice here would be to not ask this question to a vegetarian or a vegan.  They know where to get protein from, and if it is enough or not.  Protein comes in grains, beans, veggies, quinoa, tofu, tempeh, and seitan (pronounced ‘satan’, as in “I ate Satan for lunch…hahah).  I am not sure why Omnivores are so concerned with protein intake, other than they believe that they will ‘stump the chump’ with this question.  I promise, you won’t. In fact, I think that we could all do ourselves a favor and stop listening to the meat and dairy lobbyists and educate ourselves on foods.  

Q:  Is it better to cut carbs, or go low fat, or do Mediterranean diet, or Paleo, or what?

A:  I have the definitive answer to this question!  The best diet is the one that you can stick to for the rest of your life.  You can’t cut carbs for the rest of your life.  I know I’m going to catch hell from some of you for saying that.  Carbs are converted to energy. If you cut them, you will burn stored fat, that is true, and totally sustainable in the short term.  However, our bodies adapt very quickly to all of our brilliant plans.  You will find what worked for you for a few weeks will no longer work.  The body is in a constant state of seeking equilibrium.  It will slap back with lower energy levels, headaches, nausea, and other issues.  Same with low fat.  Did you know that your body uses fat to transport hormones?  Fats are good for you!  The key to both fats and carbs are in the quality of the macro.  Cookies are carbs.  And so are vegetables.  Which do you think are better for you?  Butter is full of fats.  And so are avocados.  Which do you think supply the greater nutrient punch?  Your body will thrive on                            complex carbs and ‘good’ fats.  Keep that in mind.  Completely restricting a nutrient is never really a great strategy for long term success.  


Q: Why do vegans and vegetarians have such a superiority complex?  What makes you better than me?

A:  We don’t, and we’re not.  It’s in your head.


Next week, I will do an exercise Q & A.  Let me know if you have any questions about today’s blog, or have a question you’d like answered about exercise, and I will for my best to answer it.  Have a great week, everyone, and remember…

You’re probably not crazy!!

An open letter to my country

This weekend, a rally was planned in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the removal of a statue of a general of the Confederacy when the United States was in civil war.  The Confederacy lost.  The Union prevailed.  The Confederacy did not want to recognize slaves as people, and argued that they would be financially ruined if they were unable to obtain the free labor provided by slavery.  The Confederacy lost.  They argued that these possessions, ripped from their homeland violently, packed into the bottom of boats, shackled, beaten, malnourished…these were savages.  The Confederacy lost.  

The history of my country is shameful.  It is ugly.  It is disgraceful.  My ancestors arrived here, murdered the native inhabitants, allowed the survivors to stay on reservations (at least until vast natural resources were discovered, then nope), shipped in slaves, and basically raped and pillaged like pirates.  They didn’t ask for anything.  They took it.  “Manifest Destiny” they coined it.  The country was built upon slavery and murder, all while praising God for blessing them so richly.

I know there may be some who read this that claim I am suffering from ‘White Shame’.  To them I say that I am indeed ashamed of the cruelty that so easily passed from the hands of generations before me.  I am not afraid to call it out of the shadows and talk about it.  I am not afraid to be honest and open and totally appalled at it.  I am not afraid to recognize that there is absolutely nothing that makes this justifiable or acceptable.  But just as Germany teaches its children of the country’s original sin, and owns its history, SO MUST THE UNITED STATES!!!

Look at these faces.  Some are smug.  Some are angry.  Some are smiling, like they are at a high school bonfire.  They are carrying their torches and chanting “Blood and Soil!”  They are chanting “White is Might!”  They are chanting “TRUMP!  TRUMP!  TRUMP!”

James Alex Fields Jr told his mother he was going to a rally in Charlottesville.  She assumed it was a Trump rally.  She stated, “She didn’t like to get involved in his politics”.  He took his sporty silver car, found a street with a clear view of counter protesters, holding signs that said “Love Trumps Hate” and “Racists go home”.  Then, he sped towards that crowd, ramming another car from behind, murdering a peaceful counter protester and injuring more that 20 others.  Look at him.  Look at all of them.  These are our neighbors.  These are our cousins.  Our sons and our daughters.  Our brothers and our sisters.  These are our coworkers.

When you sat through World History in high school, and you learned about the rise of Hitler, Stalin, and Moussolini.  When you heard the story of the Jews and Blacks and Homosexuals in Germany, how they were murdered or put into concentration camps to die, or to be science experiments.  When you learned about the Japanese Internment Camps in the UNITED STATES.  Did you tell yourself that you would have stood up for your friends, for your neighbors, for your coworkers?  Did you wonder how you would react?  Did you think that you would never let fear grip you so tightly that you would silently watch these atrocities happen?

The time has come, my friends.  How are you reacting?  I live in sunny Arizona, far from what any would perceive as a conflict area.  Yet, the seedy and disgusting racist views come out in the people I least expect.  They aren’t outwardly awful.  They’re not wearing uniforms.  But once in a while, you will hear it.  “Those dirty Mexicans.”  “DEPORT THEM ALL!”  “What are you?  Are you African, or what are you?”  The FORMER Sheriff of my county, you may have heard of him, became famous for his racial profiling orders. For harassing people, just for their skin color, demanding papers, ripping families apart.  Though our county kept him in office for 20 years, we FINALLY were able to get him out.  The fact that he held office for so long tells me that there is a lot of underlying racism in my community.  Some may argue that he was a good sheriff, but let’s be honest.  The only reason that YOU know his is because of his outlandish tactics that were covered in the national news.  America’s Toughest Sheriff?  Nah.

If you are not calling people out on the spot for racism and hatred, you are part of the problem.  You have got to find the courage in yourself to not shrink back in the face of this hate speech, but call it out.  Bring it to the light.  Confront these people and tell them that patriotism is in direct conflict with white supremacy or racism.  I often wonder how some people reconcile this idea that, because they were born in a place that was farther away from the equator make them superior to any other human being, simply because they have less color in their skin.  It is time to stand up.  Find your voice and use it.  Denounce this ridiculous notion that the color of your skin determines your worth.  

  Be brave.  Find your courage.  Do what is right without fear.  These students stood inside of a crowd of angry white supremacists.  When your conscience is nagging you, listen.  Because you’re probably not crazy.

Why not choose kindness?

My dear readers, I hope that you are feeling the same way that I do.  Do you remember when you were a kid how all the neighbors in the hood would talk to each other?  Remember when you would know everyone’s name?  My mom used to send me over to the neighbor to borrow an egg, or a cup of sugar when she was short.  What happened?  I remember being 8 years old when something seemed different.  We heard some rustling out in our garage, and went to go check it out.  A neighbor had just decided to help himself to tools without asking first.  This was more than 30 years ago, but still comes up in conversation sometimes.  Should this have been such a betrayal?  Had he just knocked on the door and asked permission, this trespass would have never been remembered.  But he didn’t.

Is this why we, as a culture, have learned to isolate ourselves from our neighbors?  Was there a point in everyone’s life when a neighbor crossed the invisible line and caused us to assume the worst instead of giving the benefit of the doubt?  Or was it always this way, and as a child, I just failed to notice that it wasn’t one giant family?  Shortly after the neighbor in the garage incident, we moved to a new town.  I didn’t notice at the time, but my parents didn’t go out of their way to meet any neighbors, unless they belonged to their church.  I still went out and met them.  I babysat for a lot of them.  It wasn’t until I got older that I started to isolate myself from them.  The kids grew up, they didn’t need a sitter anymore, and I was old enough to get a real job.  Still, my parents didn’t talk to their neighbors.  I mean, they did occasionally, as we do, to avoid the awkward moment of being outside at the same time time.  It’s that fleeting moment when you have to decide, “Do I pretend I don’t see them?  Do I run inside?  Do I just say hello?  What If they want something?”


So, what has this isolationism brought us?  It’s very easy to see.  Just look at the world’s political climate.  This is not just strictly the United States either.  I’m looking at you, ‘Brexit’!  The phrase ‘Think Globally, Act Locally’ is not strictly for good works.  When we act locally as isolationists, we translate that globally.  How else can we explain the idea that any person on this earth doesn’t belong in certain areas?  We are all on this planet together.  I didn’t choose to be here.  I was born here.  I didn’t have any say in it.  Just like people in Germany didn’t choose to be there, or Iran, or Namibia.  We all just got to where we are by chance.  I am not lobbying for breaking laws and disrespecting boundaries.  But what I am asking for is a little compassion.  Possibly, a little empathy.  


Maybe you are feeling helpless right now.  Maybe you are watching the news and you are outraged, but don’t know how you can do anything to stop what is happening.  I know for myself, I have a lot of fear.  I see shows like ‘The Handmaiden’s Tale’, or ‘Diverent’, and I am terrified of what all of this could devolve into.  Maybe you think that honesty, integrity and inclusion are dead. My process in dealing with this new and illogical reality has been slow.  I go through rage, and then I struggle with defeat.  I have decided that real change can only come through kindness.  Yes, we have to fight. Yes, we have to march.  Now more than ever it is imperative that we stand up for others.  That we make our beliefs clear.  That we understand denying ANYONE basic liberties and freedom is NOT AN OPINION!  It is morally incorrect.  If we are ever going to get through this very troubling time, we are all going to have to learn to find a common ground with each other first.  Yelling, screaming, pointing fingers has never changed a single mind in history.  


What we can do is say hello to strangers.  Meet your neighbors.   Lend out eggs again.  Offer a smile once in a while.  Talk to your kids.  Ask their opinions.  Discuss current issues and understand their thoughts.  I still kindness in those around you.  I was walking to pick up my mail the other day, and two lady missionaries were riding by on bicycles.  One of them dropped her bag on the street.  I stopped and helped he to pick up her things.  She said to me, very gratefully, “You are a kind soul!”  All I could think to myself was, “Isn’t this tragic?”  The missionaries happened to be part of the church I was raised in, but am no longer a part of.  I didn’t leave on good terms.  Quite frankly, I’m not a fan of what I witnessed in my personal experience there.  I could have kept walking and ignored them, but if I did, how would that have changed the world? How have we become a society of people who do not help ladies who drop their bags?  Does it matter how we got here?  I think that what matters is that we have a clear population within our throes that live and breathe hate.  The moment we stop fighting is the moment we die culturally.  Why not try to assume the best instead of the worst?  What will it hurt to offer a helping hand to a stranger?  You might feel better if you did.  Not only that, but it may help you to finally accept that you’re probably NOT crazy!

Take care of each other.