Monday, July 31, 2017

Birthday? What Birthday?

I've been asked by a few people what I have planned for my birthday this year, and for good reason.

I usually use my birthday as an excuse to invite friends over and show them a good time.  This is usually a big night for s'mores, sometime sparklers and roman candles, or backyard camping... an adult slip-n-slide down the hill....  Just general fun, and not too much different from the many other little campfire nights I host, save an activity or two.

So a few have expressed concern over their missing invites this year. Not just for the birthday, but for the campfires and cookouts in general.  They are worried I'm upset with them, or depressed, or...

No need to worry.  I'm fine and I'm not angry with anyone.  I'm not for, or against, celebrating my birthday. That was never really the point of these gatherings in the first place.

Truth be told, I have a long list of reasons I haven't invited anyone over this year.

First, my ankle injury was a little more severe than we had hoped. I was stuck in bed keeping weight off it to let it heal for longer than I would like, and it still has been giving me grief.

Time, would be another factor as I have been very preoccupied with searching for a job, and there was also a wedding I was in which I had happily dedicated a few weekends to for showers and parties.

Following that, as I am still job hunting, and well... Unfortunately those gatherings I host do cost a bit. I mean, I'm good at planning on a budget, but I just have to be extra cautious with my cash at the moment.

And lastly and the biggest reason?  It has been a VERY wet year.  Not the best year for living along water.  The yard is still a little mushy since it flooded last spring and never dried up it seems. And even if we could dry out the fire pit area enough, you would be drained of blood before you could toast the first marshmallow. I have never seen mosquitoes swarm quite so bad.

So it is just not meant to be, and that's okay. Hopefully, come fall, the fates will be a little more accommodating.

All this said, I do miss you all, and look forward to being able to hang out again for some backyard shenanigans soon.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Don't Invite Me To Your Wedding: A Rebuttal

Hey all,

Wow, do I know a lot of people that are getting married right now!  Congrats by the way!  This world needs a little more love in it, so I couldn't be happier for you.

Some of these weddings I've been invited to. Some I am not.  And that's okay!  Weddings are expensive stressful events, and like any decent person I am not going to begrudge you for not having room on your guest list to include me. I've been there! You can not realistically have everyone you want to attend show up.  Stay strong and stay sane, and remember it is YOUR special day.


But for some reason, people seem to be forgetting what weddings are all about. The celebration of the love that has brought two people together.  Maybe it's because I know so many people tying the knot right now but I've been seeing a lot of articles like this one here,

"Don't Invite Me To Your Wedding If: A Comprehensive List"


Hrmm.  Um, excuse you!  It is not your day!

If you didn't click the original list/article, don't worry, we will get to it; point by point. And point by point I will illustrate what a self centered asshole you are acting like. (With the possible exception of one.)


Point 1:  If you're having a dry reception.

Now I get it.  Especially in American culture. All of the best commercials on TV would tell us a good time cannot be had without alcohol. And true, having a sip or two can relax us some, and make tolerating some obnoxious people a little easier, as the article points out.

Here's where you're going to feel like an ass as I point out, they probably have a reason for eliminating alcohol. I will lead with a personal example.

I have gotten married before.  I wanted a dry reception.  I didn't get a dry reception because for some reason many on my mother's side of the family said they wouldn't come if I didn't have alcohol. Many people that honestly took seats away from friends that I couldn't fit on the guest list, no less. But they were important to my mother that they could attend so I compromised and allowed beer, wine coolers, and similar.  Nothing too "hard."

What resulted was a bunch of loud Italians saying some pretty embarrassing stuff, an uncle walking around with a little cooler full of his BYOB, who eventually stripped down to his wife-beater style undershirt, and pinned my 11 year old brother by the neck against the door for "monkeying around at his sisters wedding."

Do you maybe see why I didn't want alcohol?
Do you understand that maybe the bride and groom perhaps don't want to deal with drama on their special day or have to remember an anniversary as the day a close friend or relative died in a drunk driving accident?
Do you understand that some people have alcoholics or newly recovering alcoholics in their family that they don't want to tempt fate with?
Do you understand that maybe the bride or groom may even be the recovering alcoholic?
No?
Oh, right, tell me more about how the day is all about YOU the guest.

I mean... it's not like anything bad has ever happened where alcohol where alcohol was involved, right?

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Point 2: Having a Band instead of a DJ

Okay, I get that your taste in music might be more in line with remixed heavy bass beat drops. Or maybe you like some country line dancing, or the classic Chicken Dance.  (I know it's a favorite in Wisconsin!)

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I have nothing against DJ's. And personally, yes I prefer a DJ as well. I have some very close friends who DJ/KJ for a living and I would love to support their businesses. But that opinion is about a wedding I would have, not one that I would attend as it is not "my" day, it's the bride and groom's. I merely wish to point out that there are ups and downs to both sides of this flipped coin on this one as I also have friends who are in bands.  Talented artists and musicians who want a little more exposure and could really use the gig.

So my point is, don't tell anyone who to hire on their day!  You don't know their reasons.  You don't know their budget.  You don't know if the band performing isn't in fact a member of the band's gift to the bride and groom.

And there is also one more little awesome thing you may have overlooked in your quick to judge--make it all-about-you ultimatum.  Even many of today's famous, most sought after musicians, had to start somewhere.  And that somewhere is often performing at little gigs like weddings.  You can get a list here which includes Idina Menzel!  One of my favorite Broadway performers of all time.  (You may recognize her as she played Maureen in the film Rent, was the voice of Elsa in Frozen, but my favorite was her role in WICKED.)  How cool of a story do people have who attended weddings that she sang at once upon a time!?

Yeah, your welcome for an attempt at a unique experience, you ingrate.

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Point 3: Your families are "beefed out" and there's any chance of a fight.

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Did you skip that bit about how you should know better than to complain there's no alcohol?  Maybe you should go back and read again.

Seriously, there is little to no chance that the day will be 100% drama free this "special" day.  I don't suspect that many fist fights break out at weddings.  I have not seen one yet. But there are precautions you can take by just not inviting people who are full of drama. We all have that one racist elderly person in the family, or a vegan who thinks the buffet is a tribute to torturing and murdering animals and won't shut up about it. (Or... and I'm looking at you, person who picks apart every wedding ever... That person who is going to find a flaw about your special day, broadcast it to the world, and prove they really just aren't a worthy enough friend to be included in the first place.)

So, if you are getting married, don't feel bad about having to have a very blunt conversation with these people. Tell them it is your day, not theirs (like I'm doing now) and if they don't think they can behave in a respectful way it is their responsibility to keep themselves in check or they will be asked to leave early.

If you can't do that, leave them off the guest list. No one has time or money to waste on people who are going to ruin your day.

If you can't do that without causing further undue drama, then have a destination wedding where guest lists are short and only the REALLY close people are invited or will be able to make it. (But we will get to that in another couple points.)

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4: Ring Bearer is a Pet.

I cannot even begin to express how ridiculous this one is to be upset about. Nor can I hide my astonishment that it is one of the most agreed with points on the list.

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I just don't understand the reasoning behind this.  The author of the article goes from saying "Your dog doesn't care about your wedding day. The humans there barely care so your pet really doesn't," to complaining that you are denying children in your family.
Never in the history of ever, have I ever been to a wedding where the children in the wedding actually wanted to be there throwing flowers and carrying rings. In fact, the only reason we have this tradition in the first place is because it was thought that the marriage is doomed if the groom accidentally dropped either of the rings. It was a sign he didn't want to get married, or the marriage can't last.  Less bad luck if someone else drops it.

There are reasons why an animal may be a better choice though.  Maybe not for me, but I understand and support it if you have this at your wedding for these reasons.

A.  While it's true that "Fido" may not understand or care what's happening, let's be honest that neither does the 3 year old. What's important is what you, as the bride and/or groom, care about.  If the pet is important to you? If it is a life that you and your partner have bonded over through years of caring for it together etc. then don't let the haters stand in your way. If someone would rather not be invited to your wedding over such a mundane detail, they are not your friend and don't deserve the invite.

B. You have 3 or 4 nephews all about the same age and you just know which ever one you pick is going to cause a big family fight and a bunch of backhanded compliments and snarky comments on your day.

C.  A pet is often better trained and more reliable to go from point a to point b without a fuss. I cannot count how many times I've seen ring bearers get stage fright, not know what to do, or make a b-line for mommy or daddy instead. The entire flow of the ceremony is interrupted, music starts to run long and the piano player starts to panic as daddy tries to wrangle a crying toddler down the aisle.

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5. Republicans Present?

This is just ridiculous.  I'm sorry, NO.  What!?

You're being close minded, prejudiced, and all around insensitive again.  Now, let me say with absolute clarity, that I think Trump is a terrible choice of president.  And let me shout it even louder that my opinion doesn't matter!  We aren't at the inauguration, we are at a wedding.

This may once again surprise you but it isn't YOUR wedding.  Saying you won't go to something because there are republicans there, is just as ridiculous as saying you won't attend because there are liberals present. Or black people present. Or Asian people present. Or gay people present. Or white people present.... etc. and so on.

If you can't put aside a political agenda for a single day, (and I don't care WHAT that agenda is) for a friend, then you need to be a grown up and dismiss yourself from the guest list. Not the other way around and expect your friends to read your mind and un-invite you. They have enough to worry about without the added stress of worrying who you are going to get along with.

Chances are the reason you feel so strongly about this is because you don't want to be stuck at a table debating things that you know you can never change the other person's mind about. So please realize that the bride and groom can't help it if grandma is a republican any more than you can. But guess who is probably a higher priority on the guest list.

PS. Most brides and grooms do take this stuff into account with this magical thing you've probably never heard of called a seating chart, you child.

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6. It costs more than $700 to arrive at your wedding destination.

Okay, this one is really hitting me hard. And yeah, I wouldn't be able to afford to go to that either. But recognize that sometimes, invitations are a politeness.  A "wish you could be here" gesture.  I don't think everyone is expected to attend that gets such an invite.

It's not jury duty. Your presence is not required by law. This goes both for friends who are invited from out of state to your location as well as local friends who are invited to a destination wedding. This seems less the bride and groom's problem of inviting you, and more your problem with not being able to say "no" or admit that you can't afford it. But remember there is no rule against sending regrets and a congratulatory card instead of flying off somewhere.  The end.

Now, my thoughts on destination weddings are a little more complex and here comes what I promised to continue earlier.

Weddings are expensive.  No, I mean REALLY out of control expensive. The markup for the word "wedding" alone is ridiculous.  Don't believe me? Call a venue and ask for a quote to rent the hall for a party... (A birthday party, or office party, or whatever excuse you want to make up.)  Wait a couple days, call back and ask for a quote for a wedding.  90% of the time the charge will be triple for the same damn services. The return on your investment is limited, and the more I learn about weddings the more I realize that guests don't really give a shit about the food or venue most of the time.

Maybe the closest 20 people to you do, but for many, it is a bit of a waste. So the solution for many couples is to plan a destination wedding for a close select few instead of having a big party that comes with a year of stressful planning for just one single evening.

While I'm not getting married anytime soon, my current partner and I have talked about the ridiculous costs and drama of weddings at length.  We have decided that instead of spending 10 grand on venue, food, music, photography, etc. for 300 people that you barely know the names of, it would be much better to choose the 20 closest people to us to share in an experience for half the price.

Basically, I have found that you can treat 20 family members and friends to a little vacation where all they need do is find some time off work and cover travel costs. Lodging, activities, food, and drink, for the entire week, can be provided for half the cost of a big fancy wedding.  And instead of having dozens of people complain that they weren't included in your 300 person guest list, you can have 280 people that "hate traveling" glad they had an excuse to not attend with disingenuous "sorry" rsvps,

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Now the last one on the list is a difficult one to talk about....
Point 7. If I'm your only black friend.

Awkward. The issue of "race" has really come to the forefront of discussion in recent days and it breaks my heart to see so much going so wrong so fast.

So I will preface my response to this one by saying, if you don't feel comfortable in any setting because of the color of your skin or your heritage, (no matter what ethnicity you associate yourself with,) if it were my wedding I would personally understand the need to decline an invite.

And if you feel you are the "token" friend of any demographic invited, and were only invited because of your skin color, sexual preference, or being differently abled, (insert demographic here)... Well screw that. You deserve better and shouldn't let the bride and groom use you to make themselves look like "good people."  Yes, I do recognize that there are people out there who try to "collect" friends to make themselves look good or trendy or... whatever. It's sickening.

But that's not the impression I got from this article complaining.

So I will just leave it at this: If you don't feel you will have a good time for this or any other reason, don't attend. Simple as that. But also, don't deny yourself a good time because you might be a different ethnicity than others at the party and assume you won't have anyone to connect with. That's every bit as racist.

Personally I refuse to eliminate someone I would like at my wedding from my guest list because of the color of their skin, or religion, or etc. compared to the rest of my guests. The decision of whether a friend feels comfortable enough to attend or not should be left up to them, not an assumption made by me.

I also cringe at the thought of misguided individuals going out and trying to find more people of any demographic to make their "one" friend more comfortable.  This is not okay. But people are dumb, and I can see some doing this in reaction to that article now...

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All summed up:

I guess the point of all this is, as a guest, it is not YOUR day.  It is the bride and groom's day.  Don't make it all about you before you are even invited. Everyone has reasons behind the choices for their own wedding day. If you want to make a list of "rules" someone should follow before inviting a person, make a list for yourself for YOUR wedding. Not others.

At the end of the day: Be kind. Be a gracious guest. Understand that these two people probably spent thousands upon thousands on this party for you to come and have a free meal, dance, and be jolly celebrating their life event. If you can't do that for them without alcohol, or because a dog is carrying a ring, something is wrong and maybe you should just send a "regrets" RSVP, because you are not as dedicated of a friend as they are to you. Did you forget that was an option? Declining so they can make room for others on their list of potential invites? Be an adult who knows when to simply politely decline the invite.


And if you are getting married, don't let articles like the one discussed here get you down.  There are too many expectations for "proper" weddings without picking over these guest demands too. Make it the experience YOU want. If the classic wedding in a church and banquette hall is what you like, then that's great for you. If you want a vacation wedding on a beach, where the photography is done with a camera app on guests' phones, the music is shuffled on an ipod, and the bartender is the grocery store liquor section... that's cool too. Have the setting, music, food, and everything else you want. Let "Fido" bark down the aisle.  Drink or don't drink, as you wish.

Never forget whether or not it's YOUR wedding day.

It's unfortunate how many people I won't be able to invite to my kick ass wedding someday, because by sharing or liking the article I picked apart here, they clearly don't want to participate.  Their loss I suppose, but I hope they remember when the day comes that it was their choice.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

International What Day?

I saw a lot of people criticizing "international women's day" this year. Some of them, women themselves. Most of them men. Let me start by saying this, you have a right to your opinion and I respect if you don't want to celebrate. However, knocking others observing the day is a little cringe worthy for me, and here is why.

1. The main complaint I heard was in the name of "equality." Or more pointedly, "Pffft, international women's day? That's dumb! When is international men's day?" This complaint is mostly about, if women don't want to be treated as "special" or "different, they need to stop demanding special treatment. But to all this I would have to respond: International Women's day was on March 8th, 2017 (this year.) International Men's Day is November 19th. Thanks for playing. And yes, I agree, if men can have an international day celebrating the extraordinary accomplishment of having a penis, then I guess in equality's name, we should have one for the counterpart vagina. 2. Having a "day" doesn't accomplish anything useful.

You're not wrong. It is a pretty useless thing to just name a day in recognition of something and expect ALL of the problems facing that thing to just float away. February 4th is World Cancer Day, and yet, we still have cancer in the world. Guess that didn't solve much, huh? But who's to say? I mean, this does kind of give a time and place to set aside a few thoughts and maybe even a couple of dollars to research in combating cancer. Just like International Women's day kind of organized a time and encouraged a little bravery for the women of the world to voice opinions to newspapers, employers, legislators, etc. about oppressions that go unnoticed, equal pay, or reproductive health rights. Many times this day is used for women working at unfair wages or without recognition to go on strike to fight for the women in their company. 3. Having a "day" belittles women. It shouldn't be just one day but "always."

I'm not sure what this complaint is exactly. I mean, yes, I agree that women should be appreciated just as much as anyone else in the world. There are many degrees to a spectrum for gender and sexuality, and each and every person, no matter their alignment on that spectrum should be treated as anything less than a person. Plain and simple. But "not" having a day? Come on. Turning a nose up at being given a day goes back to the equality thing. You can't want equality and then whine a stomp your feet when something is given to you. Imagine a room full of children being given candy. and when a child is missed they demand that it isn't fair that they didn't get what everyone else got. So, the adult hands them a piece of candy at the realization that the child was overlooked. Chances are, realizing that mistake is going to inspire the adult to pay closer attention next time to make sure no child is left out again, especially this child. But then the child complains that the candy isn't the flavor they wanted. They wanted the blue piece, not the orange. Well. Now they get nothing because the adult in charge of the candy is upset now for their efforts in remedying things not being good enough for the child. (Before you read too much into this metaphor I'm not trying to compare women to petulant children, or to paint men as the "adults." If anything "society at large" is the "adult" in this scenario, and behaving petty as well.) Problem is, this is a step backward for everyone. So I want to enlighten others to another way of thinking about "days." We have a National Doughnut Day, June 8th We have a National Talk like a Pirate Day, September 19th We have a National "Color" day, October 22nd I'll repeat that, we have a day set aside in the calendar to recognize that color exists. Now as an artist I am a huge fan of color. I like that it exists. But I'm pretty sure most of the world is already aware of the existence of color. I'm pretty sure having a day for it isn't accomplishing anything more or less than having a day set aside for recognizing being female or male. Pretty sure we would all survive if we didn't designate a day to recognize pirates or doughnuts too. But no one is getting up in arms about eliminating these days. Why? Because they are pretty harmless to just be left alone, right where they are, wouldn't you say? But what does it say about our society when we have no problem allowing people to celebrate, "We Love Broccoli Day" (Today March 22nd 2017, yes it's real) but throw tantrums about people who are observing International Women's Day? Are women not as worthy of having a day marked on the calendar as Men, Doughnuts, Pirate Vocabulary, Pallets of Color, Lefthanders, Broccoli, Fried Chicken, "Sauntering," and more? Yes, some of those are pretty great and deserve a little recognition. I just think women are too. And while I may not recognize every "Day" on the list, I'm not going to sit here and lecture others for making the effort to celebrate something silly. We need a little more silliness in the world. And putting others down for an effort to raise awareness, raise funds, make change, or just to be a little silly at times... well that would be foolish.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Unfriend Zone

Many tensions are high right now, and like many out there I felt a need to unfriend people who voted for Trump.  This does not mean I don’t love these people or don’t wish them well.  I’m just as afraid for many of them and the safety of their families as I am for my own and putting them in the unfriend zone hurt me more than I can express.  So if it hurt me to do so, why did I do it? Well, put simply, I did not unfriend you because you voted for Trump, but to protect myself and other loved ones.

Let’s start off with the number one presumption and accusation.  “All Trump supporters are, racist, xenophobic, bigoted, evil, (insert the negative adjective here.)”  No. Some are, some aren’t. To overgeneralize everyone who voted for Trump as (any one of) these things is the same as thinking all Mexicans are thieves and rapists, or all Muslims are terrorists.  This irony has not been lost on me.  No, I do not think all Trump supporters are (again insert discordant adjective,) just like I can’t think all Muslims are terrorists. In fact, leading up to the election I even went around making sure people understood this about Trump supporters. My ENTIRE family voted for the man and that gave me some insights and opportunities to sit down with people and find out why they would vote for him if they aren’t racist etc.? There are reasons, if we haven’t had the chance to talk about that yet I apologize as this is not the time. This post is about why I would defend Trump supporters one day and unfriend them the next.
Trump is the adult version of the prom King. The high school leader of the In-Crowd, who not only sits at the cool kids’ table but is seen as the one running the show.  Is he a bully?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  You’ve never seen him do any physical harm to another personally. And maybe the only reason he says some of the outlandish things he says is because, for whatever reason, he feels a need to impress some of the people who sit at his table. That’s just business. He needs those votes for prom king after all, and you’re okay with that because you understand this political move. And hey, as long as you’re sitting at his table, he may let you have some of the pizza he ordered and invite you to his kegger that weekend. Good times are in store for you personally, and that’s what you need to focus on during these tough times. You’re just doing what’s right for you.  Yeah, yeah, you know he egged on a couple of the others at the table to not let that “homo” from glee club get to his locker after 5th period, but that’s not your business.  You personally don’t have anything against gay people. In fact, you secretly can’t stand those two that gave that kid a swirly. But who are you to say anything to the prom king about reeling in those others at the table?  The prom king is your friend. Your compadre.  He’s still got your vote and are those other lackeys really his problem?  Nah.

But they are. And for many, that’s exactly what those protests are about. They aren’t just people whining that they didn’t get their way. (And before you argue realize that if you want the benefit of the doubt given to you, you must extend it as well. Don’t condemn others and then whine about being condemned as a racist yourself.) Silence is a form of approval. If you don’t speak up and say “hey, you’re my friend, but that’s not okay. Please stop, it bothers me when you say racist stuff,” you’re going to be seen as someone who is perfectly in alignment with those views. Those “friends” of yours are never going to have a reason to stop giving swirlies to the gay kids, or throwing spit wads at the kids who are black, or chanting about deportation at the kids with parents from Mexico, or tripping the kids with disabilities. You KNOW this. This is the same reason why so many of you have been shouting from the rooftops that all the Muslim leaders and communities have to publicly chastise those who are doing violence in the world.

Problem is, most of you haven’t even been saying, “Okay that’s far enough. Reel it in, Trump.”  Most of you have not been telling Trump, now that it’s over, to start turning things around. And that is scary, not only for myself, but for MANY that I love. So yes, it’s likely that you were unfriended to protect myself and my other loved ones, because honestly I’m not sure I know who you are anymore or that I can really trust you. I have reason to question it.  As someone who works with students with disabilities. As someone who has many friends who are either black, Muslim, Latino, or gay or trans. Not only do I feel I’m at risk, but that my friends are. This is a very slippery slope we are on as a nation. And I am not required to give you access to my facebook, my friends list, and other information, that could potentially lead others to myself or my friends to be a victim of a hate crime.  Because yes, you may not be a bigot, but I don’t know who is sitting at your table and can overhear things. If that bully can see me post something they don’t agree with because you “liked,” “reacted” to, or commented on it… now they can identify me.  Now they can raise a stink about me working in a school with their kids.  Now a racist or xenophobe may be able to know where all my friends who practice Wicca are, or when I’m planning to meet a friend who happens to be black for drinks.  I will not put myself or others in jeopardy like that.

Now I have gotten a lot of interesting reactions to this.  People think I’m being childish, or overreacting, or that I’m unfriending people because I don’t like that they don’t agree with me 100%. That’s not the case anymore than it’s the case that 100% of Trump supporters are racists.

What I would like people to know and remember about me is, when I was in school I was kind of the leader of the misfits.  I had friends who were in wheelchairs, or socially awkward, or who was the only outed gay kid on the playground.  I tried my very best to rise up and defend them whenever I could. And what did it get me? Relentless teasing. Books thrown at my head from the second story stairwell. And when my mother found out that her favorite of my friends, whom she even called “son,” was gay, he was suddenly no longer welcome in our home.  People stood by and let it all happen, when it could have been stopped with just a little speaking up for kindness. Now tell me how I’m overreacting when my life experience and history identifies all of this as happening again.

So, no, you are not the one throwing the books at my head. Not yet. But you aren’t stepping up to stop it from happening either. Not yet, and honestly I have very little reason to trust you to do so at this point. Here’s why:

1. A great deal of trust has been betrayed.  Most of my friends have claimed to want to be defenders of the environment, and rights of all people, not just themselves. But have voted for someone who is appointing a climate change skeptic as leader of the EPA and have promised to sign an act that will allow people discriminate against others based on their religious views. That’s right, in case it escaped your attention, Trump has promised to make it legal to be prejudiced against a person based on a religious view and make it so that the government can’t punish someone for telling me that because I’m divorced (and they don’t believe in divorce) that I can’t work for them, or live in an apartment I apply for, etc. (https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2802/text)  And the fact that the words in this legislation are “or ACTS in accordance with beliefs,” How long will it be before women are stoned because the old testament says she cannot divorce her husband but has slept with another man?  Or a man is beaten in the street for loving another man.  Or “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” (Exodus 22:18) remember that classic? Please, tell me again how I’m overreacting and shouldn’t be afraid.

2.  All of Trump’s talk about the “media” lying and urging people to cancel subscriptions to anything that says anything REMOTELY negative or critical about him (whether true or not.) He has banned newspapers from covering his campaign simply for having a headline he didn’t like. I’m a writer. You are supporting censorship, and that scares me more than anything I can possibly express.  One day very soon I could face some very serious consequences for writing things people don’t agree with if our first amendment continues to be demolished this way.

3.  One of the reasons the polls so inaccurately predicted Trumps victory is because so many felt they had to hide who they supported out of shame. Don't you feel that should say something about who you supported. The fact that you’ve only come out about it now that you feel validated by others who also feel like you should say even more. And now you may understand why those who were so vocal about hate may feel validated enough to actually act on it now.  It's what you're feeling but ten fold. So, no, just telling everyone you aren’t racist or a bigot isn’t going to convince people when you are sitting at the same table as them and doing nothing about it.  People now have reason to suspect that you merely have the decency to still feel some shame there in hiding at least that much.

In summation of that, many of my “unfriends” have claimed to be against abortion themselves, but told me that they think it’s every individual’s very personal decision that should be left between her and her doctor. I was okay that with that.  Many said even though they personally feel it’s a sin, they support the LGBTQ community and think they should be protected and feel safe as American citizens as that’s their right. I was okay with that too.  They said they are all for protecting the environment.  They said they respect women and would never tolerate listening to a person disrespect a woman so vulgarly because chivalry isn’t dead… But no matter how you want to spin it, at the end of the day, they voted in a way that proved the opposite of these things they said to me, and I feel like I don’t even know them anymore.  And if after years of friendship these people couldn’t be honest with me, why would I want to continue that toxic of a relationship?

If you’re standing up for your religious and ethical beliefs or principles by voting for Trump, that’s fine.  So am I by removing you from my friends list.  And I’m sorry to say.  You don’t get to criticize me for doing the same thing you’re doing.  Because the thing is, after all that, how can I believe you?  How can I trust you?  How can I feel like when people like the KKK come for me because they don’t view me as a “real” Christian, and I have friends who are black, gay, have had to have an abortion, or because I own a tarot deck… How can I trust that you’ll help me and not just say, “well, that sucks for you but I can’t get involved because I have to think of the safety of my family.”  And yes, of course you do. But can I even trust you to not say, “hey, I know where you can find her” to really assure your own safety?


So no.  I haven’t unfriended you because I don’t agree with your politics.  I just unfortunately feel a need to protect myself from everything you voted against—everything that makes me… well, me. Against my home, my job, my health, my well-being.  You voted for a person who has put those things at risk because it meant it was what was best for you. I forgive you for doing that, but understand that unfriending you now is what is best for me and the rest of my friends who I feel compelled to protect. You have an entire government sworn to protect you now (at a cost to me.)  I simply must take that action upon myself by refusing access. By making my voice heard that this is not okay. And I know you feel like I am the one that is making us enemies here, but that's where we must simply agree to disagree.

Be well, be safe, be happy, my "unfriends."  I'm just as worried for you in these coming days.



UPDATE:  I have already encountered "I'm paranoid" responses.  Well, as someone who has already lost jobs for sticking up for coworkers of various ethnicities, been blackmailed by a pastor, and had family shun me and give me an entire collection of Bibles in hopes to "reach" me...  forgive me if I'm of the persuasion that it is better to hopefully just be paranoid and safe, than it is to be foolishly trusting and sorry.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Swagbucks Updated

So the Swagbucks site recently updated and that has caused a lot of pandemonia for many who have been using the site.  In other words, many seem to be experiencing this:





But change, especially THIS change, is nothing to be that concerned about.  Most things are still on the site, and work exactly as they had before.  The only things that are really that different are the layouts and how to earn with watching videos.  So here are all the ins and outs of the NEW face of Swagbucks (as well as the old) and how I earn about $75+ a month.


TIPS AND TRICKS

It took me a long time to figure out the ins and outs of the site on my own.  And there's still more to learn!  But these are some basics that will send you on your way and a step ahead of the rest.

The best/fastest ways I find I earn are...

1. Video Playlists in the "watch" tab

      This is found to the left on your homescreen under "EARN"

      -Every set of videos you watch will give you 1-3 swag bucks (depending on the length of the set.)
      -You don't have to watch each of the videos in full.  You can either click on a set and let it autoplay and complete the list itself, or you can keep an eye on the tab and click to the next video in the set a little faster.
      -Either way, Multitask while doing this!  Open a new tab for the other tasks that follow, and splitting screens also helps.  Don't waste the time these videos are playing.  Complete other tasks in the meantime!
       -Come back to this tab at the end of the last video to select a new playset.

2.  Play/Games
        Again, this is found to the left on your homescreen under "EARN"

             -Find the game called "Swag Jump."  You will be awarded 2 swagbucks for every second game you play no matter how high or low you score.  Just grab about five icons in the game and you'll be good.      -Swagjump is the fastest that you can play and "lose on purpose" without consequences.  Ie. you still earn.      -There's a limit of 10 swagbucks per day for games. (In other words, 10 games earn 10 SB.)      -It helps to let the game "rest" between rounds.  Give the computer about 20 seconds or so before starting the next game so it knows that you completed the last round and thus should be credited the next.  I've found if you play too many too fast the computer will think you're still on your first round.


3.   Search 

      (located at the top of your homepage, in the box that says "web" and has light gray lettering "search the web &earn SB.")  

   
      -It's just like you do with Google search.  I usually sit back and just type in random words in the Swagbuck Search Bar. It doesn't matter what you type in to search.  It all works the same.      -Every so often it will reward me with anywhere from 5 to 30 swagbucks.  Since the update I've been getting 12-15 SB pretty consistently.  


      -SUPER easy but to make sure I don't go "too fast" or disqualify myself from the service I usually only let myself win once per day and give it a few seconds between each search.  (though I think they allow up to 3 wins per day?)


4.   "Most Popular Ways to Earn" is at the top of the main section of the home page.  


      -Here you will find 3 amazingly simple ways to earn.  NGAGE, JUNGROUP, or DISCOVER/Watch and Earn.  In short... look for these guys:



      -I keep these ways to earn up on half of the screen with the "watch" videos open on the other half.  Resize the windows to whatever fits your needs.  You can pretty much hide the secondary windows (the windows that pop up after clicking next, altogether.)  Just make those as small as you can on the screen so they don't annoy you. My desktop usually is laid out like this:





And while I'm sure this looks overwhelming at first, it's REALLY simple after you make an attempt the first time or two.  Then I sit back, watch tv or play a video game, and just wait for the buttons to turn green to click "Next" and earn effortlessly.
      -You will either have to sample watch a few seconds of each video, or one commercial then click it to "interact" with an add to earn 2-3 swagbucks.  This can make your earnings add up SUPER FAST when your doing all the tasks at once!




5    Swag CODES


      -There is a little "gear" icon at the top of your homepage where you enter it for free swagbucks.  (Usually 3 or 4 each code.)

      -Sometimes codes are exclusive to certain countries, and some can only be redeemed through the mobile app, or the toolbar extension.  But really a swag code is the easiest way to grab some pennies.  Just copy and paste.
      -I find my swag codes through http://sbcodez.com/  as it tells you where to enter it, who can redeem it, and when it expires.


6    Shop.
      -If you're going to shop at Kohls.com, Walmart.com, Bestbuy.com, Hotels.com.... etc.  You get cash back by letting Swagbucks refer you to those sites.
      -Installing the swagbucks toolbar extension for your browser helps to never miss one of these cash back opportunities too.  Nearly everytime I visit a site that qualifies it asks me if I want to activate swagbucks shop and earn rewards before purchasing!  YAY!




7    SMARTPHONE TV APPS      (after downloading to your phone just sign in with your swagbucks sign in info.  It automatically connects it to reward you.)

     SBMobile TV app


          -REALLY fast (use the skip feature) to earn 2 swagbucks every 5 videos.
          -Unfortunately, this is only good if you have a smartphone with free wifi connection and has a limit of 36 swagbucks per day.

      EntertaiNow TV app
           -This is similar to EntertaiNow, but has a daily limit that can change from day to day.
           -A little slower, as you have to complete 14 videos instead of 5, but there are fewer commercials
           -Limit of 12 SB per day

     There's also LifeStylz TV app and Sportly...  and...  really there are a lot.  You could probably earn your daily goal easily off these alone!


8    Special Offers
     Again to the left of the screen there will be a tab that says "Discover" under "Earn"

     -Here is where you'll find a lot of videos and slideshows that are worth a swagbuck or two just for clicking on them.  EASY BUCKS!!!  (I like the "Radium One" tab in this feature.)  You want to pay attention to the details of how to earn on each one before clicking though.  Look for things that say "slideshow" or "video" in them.
      -The easiest earnings come from the videos, slideshows, and quizzes designed to help you "learn" about diabetes, or MS, or ADHD, or....  whatever.  They're paid for by the pharmaceutical companies that run adds on those "educational"       -While yes, there are other "better paying" offers here too PROCEED WITH CAUTION.  I really can't stress that you shouldn't fall into that trap, enough.     -Remember never enter a telephone number or credit card number unless REALLY MEANING TO.  Even for "trial offers"  They usually don't cancel on their own and you'll get a bunch of telemarketers calling your number if you aren't careful.  Just remember this is not Swagbucks collecting that info, but the advertisers Hiring Swagbucks to connect them to you.




OTHER IMPORTANT TIDBITS for earning:

    -Pay attention to your "daily goal" meter at the top of the homepage.  (Hover the mouse over it and it will reveal what your goal is for the day and track your progress towards it.)

          *This is where the REAL bucks come in. If you meet your goal every day for 7 days, you will not only get your daily bonus but a winning streak bonus too.
          *Bonuses are credited to your account on the 5th of every month.  So anything you earn the rest of this month will be credited by or on the 5th of next.
              *You only need to reach your first goal to have it count towards your winning streak, BUT, I recommend going for the second amount.  The more you win the higher the goal becomes, and the higher the goal becomes the more your bonus will be.  For a while I was at a second rung goal of 230 swagbucks a day, and that got me an extra 25 swagbucks a day.  Doing the math, that was a bonus of 750 swagbucks a month, not counting winning streak.
           *Completing winning streaks are important.
                  7 days= 25sb
                14 days= 100sb

                21 days= 200sb
         a full month= 300sb

   -Stay away from the surveys!  They are often pointless, really long, and usually "disqualify you" at the last second anyway.  SUPER FRUSTRATING!  This is the biggest complaint people have on this site.
    
    -Watch for CONTESTS.  (Usually seen as an icon at the top left of your home screen.)
          *You have to "sign up" or agree to be assigned a team.  But in one of the last contests I got a bonus 100 swagbucks for being on the LOSING team. (The winning team got 500 I think.)

    -NEVER ENTER CREDIT CARD info!----unless you're really meaning to buy something through the "Shop and Earn" feature.  (I stay away from all the "special offers" things, as they can be very spammy.)  Don't waste the money you're earning buy signing up for useless services!


    -Redeeming for gift cards can seem tricky the first time and takes about a week to credit, so it's natural to be nervous.  But just give them time to "process" your request.  You'll get your money!  And I will help you with all of that when you get there too!



some FAQ


How do you get paid?: 
 In "gift cards," or so they're called.  But I usually select the PayPal gift card option, which deposits to my bank account after verifying with PayPal.  It takes about 10 days for this processing to go through but it's never failed me yet.

Is it a scam?:
No, I have been paid every time I've requested my rewards and I've been doing this for a couple years now.  (But you do have to be patient for processing sometimes.  Remember they have THOUSANDS of prizes to process every day.)

How can they afford to pay people?: 
Think of it this way--Have you noticed all the ads on facebook lately?  Do you realize how much money Facebook is making off of that?  Well, Swagbucks is a lot like Facebook, but without "friends" (or as much drama.)  It's a social hub that advertisers are paying for space on, and Swagbucks is giving you a cut of that money as a reward for clicking on links, or shopping at certain stores.  Swagbucks isn't really paying you, the advertisers are!

Do I have to enter a credit card or anything like that?: 
 NO!  AND DON'T EVER DO THAT!  (See sections about Special Offers and Shopping)

How much are Swagbucks "worth?":

Every 100 Swagbucks is about 1 dollar.  So it's a slow build, but think of it like putting change in a piggy bank every day.  It adds up FAST.  I average $75 a month.  (That's an extra $900 a year for doing practically nothing!)

How do I sign up?: 
Easy.  You can even connect it to your facebook account so you don't have a pesky login screen to type in each time.  But if you could do my a HUGE favor, let me refer you!  It will help us BOTH out in the long run.  (Referrals earn 1 cent for every 10 cents you make outside of bonuses and similar earnings.)  All it takes is you signing up via this link:  www.swagbucks.com/refer/Katartr53190ive


If you have more questions please leave them as comments.  My referrals will have priority in Q&A of course.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

To Breathe or... Dammit, Wisconsin!



This sculpture by Isaac Cordal pretty much sums up how many feel about the state of politics. Politics in the U.S. arena has become an American football game; everybody seems to love what's at the heart of it, but at the end of the day it's mostly about penalties, flags, replays, challenges, sponsorships, and watching the clock run down to the end of the quarter.  And of course, on occasion you get some a-hole cheating by deflating the game ball, or pumping steroids.  Point is, politics have become a game in this country, and nothing more.  Many love the underdog but the rich kids with the best sponsors score the most often.

But this sculpture is directed at a pretty specific subject hitting the political walls; climate change. And I think the statement the artist is making with this sculpture entitled, "Politicians Discussing Climate Change," is hitting things a bit on the nose this week.

Recently the U.S. took a pretty small step in the direction of, well not "fixing" the problem, but maybe slowing it down a little.  We have a new "plan" taking effect soon to limit carbon emissions from fossil fuel power plants.  This plan has a deadline of a whopping 15 years.

To see the announcement of this plan, you can watch this video...  Just bear in mind that there will be a lot of videos in this post for full comprehension:



If you want to fully understand what climate change is, why it's a problem, how we know it's happening, and the science behind it,  I highly recommend watching this video.  However it's an hour long, so if you have to save it for later and come back to it, just keep reading for now.

Here's a very condensed version.  Long story short, this is happening:







Now, why am I giving you the chance to educate yourself about all of this? And why now?  Because for some unknown reason, Wisconsin Governor, and now Presidential Candidate, Walker, has decided the correct way to react is by joining a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency.  Yeah... For citizens of WI this shouldn't come as that much of a shock to those who know about his history with the Department of Natural Resources in WI--though it's still something alarming.

While the EPA's Clean Air Plan is being considered "innovative" as it is the first federal requirement, it is NOT the first plan in the United States.  In fact there was a suit not too long ago (in 2004) in which 8 states sued major power companies to reduce their air pollution, during which, not one of the defendants denied that climate change is occurring.  In fact, many power companies have already begun reductions, and have come up with plans for doing more for "clean energy" in the future. (You kind find all this information in that PBS documentary shown above.

The point is, there is very little argument on that end--which leaves me very confused about presidential candidate Walker's response and joining a lawsuit against this plan of action:

“Yet again, President Obama is taking unilateral action and overstepping the limits of his authority to pursue a political agenda.  The Obama Administration ignored the significant, overriding issues that will increase costs for Wisconsin ratepayers by up to $13 billion, unnecessarily harming families and killing manufacturing jobs.We will examine the final plan in detail, but clearly Wisconsin’s extensive, constructive comments to the EPA have fallen on deaf ears in Washington.Wisconsin has taken every opportunity to express that the Obama Administration is not only exceeding its authority by issuing the EPA’s final rule, but is pursuing the least efficient way to make environmental gains.Today, I am asking the Attorney General to take immediate action to protect Wisconsin ratepayers and workers from the devastating impacts of the Obama Administration’s actions.In addition, I am directing the Department of Natural Resources to work with the Public Service Commission to evaluate the financial impact of the final rule.”    
*Source -- http://fox6now.com/2015/08/03/clean-power-plan-pres-obama-unveils-major-climate-change-proposal-gov-walker-responds/
So let me calm a few feelings you may be experiencing from that statement down before you keep reading.

1. Yes there may be a small increase in some costs while we adjust to the new plan, but that will not be anywhere near the the number Walker made up in this statement. It will not cost WI 13 billion, and nor will it destroy jobs. People want to live and work in a place that they can also breathe.  If anything, the formerly pristine state would draw more to it for it's environmental hospitality. And our individual health care costs will decrease. (Again watch the PBS video to find out why allergies and asthma are becoming more of a problem)

2. It's a joke that Walker wants anyone to take his comment about working with the DNR seriously. He fired half of the DNR scientific staff on April 22nd of 2015. (Earth Day.)

3. Walker doesn't just "seem to think" but he KNOWS without a doubt that if he uses language that associates this EPA plan with President Obama, the people who already hate Obama will automatically side with Walker without giving it much more thought. Don't fall for that. You're better than that. Take the issue out of the political realm and simply decide if breathing clean air is something you want for you and your children.

And 4. We have 15 years to take action with implementing a plan of choosing for each state.  That's right, each state is being allowed the flexibility and a large degree of autonomy in this "plan" so the states can do what is right for them and their citizens.  Think about this.  15 years ago, a CD walkman with "no skip" feature was the height of personal tech.  Now we have phones that can email, take and edit photos, show our faces while talking to a person, and store thousands of songs and videos for our entertainment in our pockets.  Imagine the technology that can come along in that time!  15 years is a long time to work on low cost and efficient energy tech.



But it's simple really.  We NEED to keep our air clean! I like breathing, and not getting cancer for doing so. I find it funny that the state I live in banned smoking in all public buildings, but is joining a lawsuit against keeping these other harmful emissions under control.  It's the future, here and now, and there are alternatives to power sources that are cleaner and wiser. And if you want to make this an "economy" justification let me stop you right there and explain how this lawsuit will HURT not help our economy for YOU.

Besides a good economy is a scapegoat, BS, buzzword catch-all, political entity anyhow.  I mean... China has a booming economy, right? Always lending us money? Okay. I'll go with that for now. However, that doesn't mean that the people of China are well off. The average pay in 2012 (most updated figure found) was the equivalent of 4,755 dollars. And yes, limiting pollution and such out there has been known to have some negative effect on the "economy" overall. But as pointed out, a good economy doesn't equate to decent living wages or conditions. I encourage you to take a look at the article I'm posting as the first comment on this to see what it's like in China. Pay attention to #1 in that article. They have a FAKE SKYLINE for tourists to take pictures with because their air pollution is SO BAD you can't see it properly.

The economy doesn't have to hurt as a result here. We have skilled workers such as laborers, scientists, technicians, etc... to build, run and maintain new solar plants, and wind farms. It's an opportunity to create new jobs in place of the old ones. No one looked at the automobile and said, "But what are the people that make horse buggies going to do now!? Stop the popularity of the automobile!" No, people adapted and so did the workforce around it.

The bottom line is, I want to be able to swim in lakes, go for a run, eat picnics, and see the stars! And those things are priceless to me!  Tell Walker, and the other 4 Governors in this lawsuit that are trying to stop progress, that you don't support what they are doing. Not supporting a single decision they make doesn't have to mean you don't support THEM, but let them know what you care about so they can too. Tell them that you don't want your tax dollars going to waste paying for a lawsuit that will only prolong the inevitable. More efficient and cleaner power will happen eventually.  Let's not leave our states having to play catch up with the rest.

Tell them that you like to breathe.




Also, for the science about the ozone layer and how cfc's affect it, you can try and wrap your head around this (which is college freshmen level intro to chemistry btw.)

Monday, July 13, 2015

The "Semi-Colon" and Tattoos



I've been reading a lot of controversy lately about the Semi Colon Tattoo.  People hate it, people love it, and people are fighting over it.  For me, possibly the most ironic thing realized while reading the slew of hateful internet comments about the punctuation mark tat, is that the grammar and spelling in those comments are so atrocious that I can't believe that any of these individuals would know what a semicolon is or how to properly use it in a sentence anyway.

For those of you who don't understand grammar rules surrounding the semicolon, I'll just leave this here:  http://theoatmeal.com/comics/semicolon    Explore at your own pace.

Weird


So, here is the reason for the controversy. (For those of you who are in need of playing catch up.)  This hated-by-college-professors-everywhere punctuation mark is being caught in a tug of war struggle between two main factions.  First there are those who have lost a portion of their colon (the organ) due to any disease, (though mostly cancer or crohn's victims.)  This is a quite literal and clever play on the symbol's name: semi-colon.  Ha!  Get it?  Because they, or someone they love, don't have a whole, functioning....  ah, nevermind...
The other faction trying to stake a claim on the mark is all about suicide prevention and mental health, and thus they are emphasizing the metaphoric rule of the semicolon: where you thought a sentence would have ended it continues anew.  It wasn't the end at all!  Surprise!  Just like you thought you were gonna...  um, well...  yeah...

Now let me say right now that BOTH are worthy causes, and worthy of claiming the mark.  (Even if you don't understand how to use it in an actual sentence.)  I have lost friends and loved ones to suicide.  I have lost friends and loved ones to colon cancer.  It doesn't matter who had "claimed" the mark first.  There is room for BOTH factions.  After all that's what a semicolon does, you idiots!  It takes two separate clauses and joins them together showing they are related though stand on their own.  Members of both factions have faced hardships and have overcome, or continue to struggle to overcome, them.  It is so insanely silly that people who have been through hell and back would point fingers at the other party and say, "how dare you use the same symbol I use."  Especially when it could be seen as something beautiful that brings these individuals together.  Surviving, or battling darker days.

So, here are a few rules and tips I'm putting into place for a better, and more peaceful understanding of all this commotion.

1.       How to tell the difference.
A person who has a missing portion of their colon will likely place the tattoo on a shoulder, or arm, or stomach, or just about anywhere, really.  Meanwhile a person raising awareness for suicide prevention often has the mark across their wrist.  It’s something easily visible to them when reaching for a razor blade or bottle of pills, hopefully stopping them—savvy?

2.       Don't get one of these tats if you can't handle questions about it!  Or at least get it in a discreet place that won’t prompt unwanted questions.  People are going to be curious about any tattoo.  It’s natural to ask, and getting affronted is not going to help anyone.  Unless if they are being jerks about it, look at it as an opportunity to educate others and raise awareness for your cause.  (Which is why many people are getting the tattoos in the first place. Duh!  Raising awareness!)

3.       Don't assume you know what it means.  If you haven’t caught on by now, (then I don’t know what you’ve been reading this whole time,) but two very different factions are at war over claiming this symbol at the moment.  If you see a person with this symbol tattooed on their person, it could be for either thing.  Or maybe they just like grammar.  Who knows!?  Ask if you really must!

4.      And Lastly, don't hate on someone for putting a visual reminder of a hardship they lived through on their body. I already explained that there is room for both groups in this.  The symbol can join them, and keep them separate at the same time.  But that’s not what this rule/tip is about.  This is for all the haters out there who are saying this is a horrible “attention seeking” tattoo—especially for those facing suicidal thoughts.  Raising awareness, is not the same as "attention seeking," and neither is reminding yourself of the potential for better days ahead.

I read so many comments like this one responding to an article about suicide awareness/prevention, (I left the bad grammar intact of course):

“Can do it without a tattoo. Don't need to come part of a fashion and show off the fact you had something hard to deal with in your life and just like the attention of it. Grow up. People love drama. Just get on with it. You ent the only ones how have problems. Shit happens. Deal with it and move on. Having this tat means you keep that shitty past with you forever.”

To this ignorant comment I had the pleasure of responding: 

“Or it's a reminder that whatever happened before, wasn't the end.  There is always more to be said.  A happier life to move forward to.  I find it funny that the tattoo is supposed to represent exactly what you're saying.  'Move on with your story.'  Some people just need to remind themselves that.  Everyday.  If YOU can do it without a tattoo, then bully for you.  Why tear down others that need a little help, or reminding?

“Oh, and just FYI...  one of the demographics that have the highest statistics for suicide rate?  Veterans.  1 takes his or her own life every 65 minutes.  Way to be a dick and tell people to "just get over" the suffering they did on YOUR behalf.”

The long of short of it is…  If you are an individual who has been lucky enough to not deal with either of these issues, suicide or surgery, then shut up.  You don’t know what you’re talking about, and hopefully never will. You may be right, “everyone has problems.”  There’s just no need to add on to someone else’s pile, okay?  Don’t be a dick.  And if you’re an individual that falls into one of the demographics using this symbol as a tattooed reminder, remember that there is room for everyone.  You, of all people, should know that life is far too short to be petty and angry over a tiny little mark that so few know how to properly use in a sentence to begin with.