Since I was probably in my mid-20s, I have often found myself in a struggle of which side of the fence I belong. I was raised in a family of long-standing military men (including enlisted, a West Point grad, and an Air Force Academy grad) alongside another long line of devout Catholics. I went to Catholic grade school, was confirmed, my brother even went to a Jesuit High School. We were a picturesque all-American family.
When the world started to change, I can't quite put my finger on it, everything changed. After 28 years of marriage, my parents separated. My mom decided to give herself a change of scenery and became a flight attendant. I had left Colorado State University to redirect my path and moved back to Denver. I was going to school and working in a local sports bar. We both started making new friends.
My mother is a fabulously classy lady. Always dressed impeccably, sparkles from head to toe, and can turn every head in the room. Who wouldn't want to be her friend? And her new best friends 30,000 feet up? A gay couple. And weren't they fabulous. These two men changed my mom's world from the skies to the ground. They made her laugh, they allowed for a different kind of confidant, and they were just FUN. And in turn, they changed my life as well. Now even though this was the early 2000s, we hadn't really had much exposure to gay culture and community - we had been sheltered.
As I was serving drinks and flirting for tips, I also made a new friend. She was petite and athletic, at least ten years older than me, and just a little different from the other girls working the bar. A true life lesbian. My first encounter (that I was aware of). Does she hate men? Is she going to hit on me? Is she "butch" or "lipstick"? Can we be friends?
The first time she asked if I wanted to go out with her and some of the other girls for drinks, she asked me if I "wanted to be gay for a day". I changed my clothes five times and finally called her back asking, "what do I wear to a gay bar?". The answer is, anything you want.
Over the course of the next few years, I would be introduced to more and more people from the gay community - a sort of underground world living right under our noses at the time. Many of those men and women would become my best friends, even through today. I have planned their weddings, watched them buy their first houses, find new partners, live their lives just like anyone else. JUST LIKE ANYONE ELSE.
So now to tie in where I came from - the world that was so different from my own had let me in with open arms, but did I believe in it? Where was my moral compass pointing in reference to this "lifestyle"? You come from a Catholic, (very) conservative, military upbringing.....and then surround yourself with gay men? What's wrong with you?
What was wrong was that I had been taught to think within a very specific guideline that I had never asked questions about. Now I was in my 20s and I could see the world through my own eyes - and it changed my life.
Now, why am I upset about Bruce Jenner? As the media frenzies around an "all-American man" finally coming into his own as a woman, I see my Facebook feed also bombarded with these images:
Which the latter isn't even true - see here and here.
I am upset because:
courage [kur-ij, kuhr-]
noun 1. the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.
2. Obsolete. the heart as the source of emotion.
Idioms 3. have the courage of one's convictions, to act in accordance with one's beliefs, especially in spite of criticism.
Wow. That's pretty strong.
I have unwavering support for anyone in a uniform that defends our country, rights, and freedoms. My father and grandfathers are some of the most courageous people I've ever met and I am uniquely privileged to carry their blood in my veins and I can only pray that they have passed along even an ounce of their courage on to me. They fought wars and battles and flew airplanes over enemies and thankfully have continued to live to see their grandchildren be born. They have true bravery.
But for anyone to try to tell someone else they aren't brave for the fight and the war THEY have to fight? We are ALL born with the right to our own courage and bravery.
We each have our own struggles and wars within ourselves. We have no cause or right to judge someone else's struggle. Courage comes in all forms - facing an addiction, losing weight, being a better parent, righting a wrong - ACCEPTANCE.
Today brings us information about subjects from all corners of the world. You may not personally care about Caitlyn Jenner's journey, but there is a much bigger picture here. Her courage and bravery is not self-serving. She is paving a path for men and women all over the world who may face this same struggle with identity. She is lucky enough to have a platform to share her journey with the world, and quite frankly, we are lucky enough to watch it. She is changing the face of transgendered life.
There is something bigger than all of us happening here. This story is the spark that should allow anyone to see how to believe in themselves and set themselves free from their demons and fears. It's not just about gender or fame or courage even. It's about loving yourself and standing up for what you believe in - THAT is bravery.
Every soldier that leads onto a battle field is fighting for what they believe in. Every Gay Pride Parade is a celebration of people allowing themselves to be free from judgement. Every breastfeeding mom is taking part in thousands of years of instinct and right.
So before you post that mean comment or hurtful meme, think of this - how would you feel if someone told you your fight didn't deserve to be called courageous? That courage is only reserved for warriors and your fight doesn't measure up? I don't know about you, but this woman will go head-to-head with anyone who tries to tell me MY fight isn't worth it. They all are.
Be good to each other. It's all we have.
"I am the new normal." - Caitlyn Jenner
The world lost an amazing gift last week - Robin Williams. I was especially sensitive to this tragic loss for several reasons. First, he was one of my childhood heroes. Always one of my favorite actors, comedians, and voice over actors, I followed him literally all of my life as "Mork & Mindy" started before I was born and I was enamored with him from as early as I can remember. Second, I've been touched by depression and suicide several times throughout my life and I find it one of the hardest losses for loved ones and those left behind to endure and understand.
I am often think back to a commercialized depression drug that asks, "Who does depression hurt? Everyone." It's true. When you are the one suffering, you don't think that your actions hurt the people around you, but they do. And then add suicide to that horrible equation and you have a debilitating scenario.
The thing that struck me the most about Robin's death is something that I felt I could personally relate to and that is this - how could someone who brought so much joy and laughter into the world, be hurting inside so much to choose to take their own life? After an incident like this happens, people's reaction are often "they had so much going for them - everyone loved them - he was always so happy". Well, obviously there was a lot more going on than his smile let on.
I think back to my very tough early high school years. I wore the "mask" that Robin probably also wore. I was a cheerleader and in choir and theater and felt the pressure to always be "on". But I had a lot of trouble adapting after moving from years of private Catholic school into a public middle school with three times the population. Trying to find yourself as a teenager isn't easy for any kid, I don't think, but having a complete personality crisis as a 14 year old is an emotional mess.
I think the first time I tried to hurt myself was around 16. I swallowed probably 30 aspirin. I went to sleep and hoped I wouldn't wake up. But I did wake up and everything was still the same. There was a time in college I thought I would cut my wrist but turns out all I had in my car was a broken CD and not enough guts. I did get a scar though. In my 20's I learned that around 7 Ambien at once won't slow your heart enough to kill you, in fact, it does just the opposite and I didn't sleep for 3 days.
These "cries for help" as they are often referred to, always left me in a very reflective state of mind. Don't get me wrong, I am by no means romanticizing suicide. But there was a reason that none of those failed (and mostly half-assed) attempts left me here to face my demons. I must have still felt there was something to live for.
As I watched the Emmy's tonight, I was moved to tears through the tribute to Robin Williams. A man surrounded by joy and laughter, and I hope love, didn't feel worth enough to ask for help. That is the most inhumane part of depression - it can take even the strongest of character and shred them down to nothing. You can't ask for help. You don't want to be helped. And you certainly don't want to become more of a burden to someone else. That is why it is up to everyone, as humans, to look for the signs and offer to help. Sometimes it is just the simple act of asking that can change a person's entire reality. When their reality is a dark hole, a shred of kindness can be the light.
It may sound a little far fetched, but this super social world that we live in could just be the cyber road that leads to the end of suicide in America. We all use it for different reasons - to promote, to hide behind and judge, to share, to educate, enlighten even. I am guilty of all of these things including rants and tirades, and to ask for a pick me up. And it is so simple. Not too long ago, I was having just an off day and needed a little reassurance. I sent my plea in the form of a post out into the world and I was welcomed with joyous open keyboards sending me love and encouragement. It was just what I needed.
SMILE. I'm in hospitality and it's hard for me to smile some days. But I feel so much better when I do smile at someone and they smile back.
SAY THANK YOU. To the woman in the grocery store who asked me where I got my dress after I had been feeling insecure and sucking in for the last 2 hours - thank you. LOVE. To my husband who sends me a text in the middle of the day when he can feel that I am getting stressed out - I love you.
LISTEN. My mother goes beyond her needs to make other people feel special and loved. I admire her so much because I know that even when she is dealing with her own stresses, she listens to me and sends me a book in the mail to encourage me though.
And watch for the masks. Offer your help. Look deeper than you think is necessary - chances are you can feel when something is wrong. It's not Spidey-sense, it's human-sense. Depression and suicide are serious and they are all around us. DO your part to be decent, kind, and helpful and you just might save someone's life. Someone saved mine.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance
So I know this is only my second entry, but I'm just going to put it out there - I'm overweight. It's not a secret. In fact, I am constantly thinking about it all day, every day. ALL THE TIME. But I also constantly find myself in this dichotomy state of mind about it. I feel that it has become a larger topic of discussion for the general public (well, for the internet, at least - I mean, I'm not sitting around discussing my overweight-ness with my friends). The point is, there is a lot of "big is beautiful" talk going on but, is anyone really believing it?
Israel was the first country to ban underweight models in advertising and on the runway. Gap was just under fire for a horribly skinny model featured in their recent campaign. Celebs like Kim K and Nicki Minaj are loved for their curves. Everyone loves Adel even though she's "fat". And I can't get enough of "All About That Bass" (the song AND the video) by Meghan Trainor. But my question still remains, is this the truth? We are still bombarded daily by ultra thin models and nearly naked Sports Illustrated covers. Yet when a gorgeous well-rounded female like Christina Hendricks or Kate Upton graces a cover, the first thing people dwell on is the fact that they aren't the cookie cutter 100lb Barbie doll. Why can't we just accept a beautiful healthy woman for who she is?
It's the never-ending battle of popular culture and "the real world". The simple fact is that Americans in general are larger than in generations past. There is so much to blame for this that I can't get into it all right now. But how do we stop it? Who takes responsibility? Where a medium drink is the size of your head and every meal at a restaurant could easily feed three people - why is a woman who is a size 10 dress considered "plus sized"? For someone like me who is in-between "regular" sized stores and "plus" sized stores, it is a carousel of self hatred and love.
Do I wish I were skinnier? Yes. Does it bother me that I am heavier than I have ever been - without being pregnant? Yes. Am I doing anything to change it? Well, no. I work full time and I have a husband and two small kids at home. I am lucky that I get the 9pm hour to myself to relax each night at all. I rarely drink soft drinks. I hardly ever eat fast food. I could probably drink more water - but I just can't lose the weight. So what do I do? I have to try to be happy with how I am today, because I am healthy otherwise, and hopefully one day I will have more time to devote to myself and get back to the gym. I dress for my size - which is hard sometimes but I would rather be comfortable than try to squeeze my ass into something too small just to appease a number.
The most important thing I can do for myself at this stage in my life is to remember that I am more than my weight. I have been with my husband for seven years and he is still attracted to me. I know it when he grabs my butt and hugs me close, and when we are intimate (which I am sure he wishes was even more often). I feel beautiful (most days - but that's a woman for you) and I will occasionally still get hit on when I go out, which always helps.
In the end, I am for loving yourself at any size. If you are one who embraces the BBW that you are, go for it. If you are a healthy size 2, rock it. I am me and you are you and that has nothing to do with one another. I have to stop judging myself against other women. I hope each of you will do the same. And so I leave you with this -
So this is my tiny little corner of the internet. This is the place I have created and will continue to evolve to act as, well, a release of sorts, and a place to share my views and thoughts and stories about my life as a mother, wife, and career woman.
I always had an affinity for words - 31 in English on my ACTs...13 in Math, haha. But that was years ago and now the wonderful world wide web can allow us to practice and hone our words to be sent out into the world.
Born in Lubbock, Texas to a beautiful young wife and an Air Force Pilot, we traveled to Bitburg, Germany where my younger brother was born. As a family, we returned to the states in and I've since lived in Washington, Arizona, Colorado, and Florida. But my heart will always live in the Rocky Mountains.
After many hard earned life lessons, including moving to Orlando to follow a man a "find myself", I did so much more than just breathe in that crisp Colorado air again, I let it fill my lungs and clear my head so that I could meet my soul mate. My husband and I have now been together seven years (married for almost three) and have the most amazing "mini-me"s - Stella (2) and Baby Jon (7months).
What a whirlwind to get to this place! And I feel I still have so much to give and learn and share and love. I can't wait. Thank you for taking this journey with me. I appreciate feedback, compliments, criticism, and even friendly quarrels to my views. After all, what a boring place the world would be if every bird sang the same song.