Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thanks, my friend! (August 30)

At the urging of the formidable forces at missrepresentationorg, I've been posting a weekly tribute to a woman who has had an impact in my life and/or generally deserves recognition for all her endearing qualities.  The least women can do to support each other is to give one another some kudos from time to time.  Anyone reading these posts are also introduced to some pretty damn cool people.  

Funny, I have several friends who are so nice I've never heard them say an unkind word about anyone (or at least only in jest).  Funny because I'm the sarcastic one who unashamedly talks smack on a pretty regular basis.  Someone who never does is my friend Karen.  She's one of those perpetually smiley people who's always looking at the bright side of things and people.  I was lucky enough to meet her soon after moving out on my own and invite myself along with her friends on many an adventure, along with a few mis-adventures.  Those are the most pleasurable to remember, btw.

taking my boy on his first seado ride
Most of our pictures together are at Lake of the Ozarks, where Karen and her sisters own a cottage that has accomodated a multitude of friends, their kids, their kids' friends, etc., etc.  My fondest memories are of fun times at the lake.  I would never have tried to slalom water ski if it wasn't for Karen and her sister.  Coincidentally, many flashbacks are of Karen trying to keep the rest of in line, as she seemed to have the most level head (and that's scary).  We can always look back and laugh about most incidents.  Even the craziest episodes are funny after the fact.  

We've traveled together to Memphis, Chicago, Las Vegas, San Antonio, and gone canoeing with a group of whacky women.  Karen is always the one laughing softly at the antics but never at the expense of anyone else being such a light-hearted and kind person.  She graciously hosted my baby shower with my friend, Amy.  Karen is generous with her time, volunteers in her community, and is involved in her son's activities.  

Even though we've all tried repeatedly to convince her there's a great guy out there for her, she's perfectly content by herself.  That's the strong confidence many women should aspire to have.  Karen is comfortable in her own skin, is friendly and welcoming, and takes care of what needs to be done.  Her self-deprecating humor is also a great asset, and we can all learn a lesson or two from her example.  So for all the good times and your comradeship, I thank you, my friend!

Those interested can take their own "pledge" to discern how women are represented in the media.  Part of the challenge is to pay homage to each other in an effort to contradict the negative images and cruel criticism amongst ourselves.  We are more than our looks, age, clothes, children and careers.  My personal pledge is to: 

"... make a concerted effort to see women as allies instead of enemies; and let's stop judging other women for their success, their talents or their looks" (MissRepresentation).

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

the next step

So it's time.  Time to quantify, however loosely, my campaign against sexism.  It's grass roots.  The scale is pretty small.  But I wage personal wars against things I feel strongly about (i.e. anti-gay business practices by companies like Chik-fil-a and Hobby Lobby), especially against media-based sexism.  There's a feeling of vindication and personal pride at the front-lines of my tiny tirades.  

As the gurus at MissRepresentation suggest:

Step 3: Set a goal for your campaign - from numbers of signatures to phone calls made - and begin implementing your plan. 

Then how can I measure or quantify my little personal protest?  I read blogs and tweets from credible sources I trust almost every day, depending on online access.  It's my goal to inform myself via reading (articles, blogs, trusted news sources) every time time allows me to do so.  I hope that to be almost every day, and the plan is underway.  The Twitter tag #MissRep shows the great response of other people doing the same.  I use several hashtags to make my tweets searchable.  Maybe there will even be an official count documented here.

As I've said before, my personal protests may fall on deaf ears.  They are most likely unknown to the companies and ignored by the interns handling menial tasks like social media mining for political candidates on the campaign trail.  I've had my say in my small way, and I know it's out there.  Someone like Todd Akin will probably never know -- much less care -- what I think, but I vow to voice my opinion.  Sometimes it's the only participation available to the mass public, and I'm going to use it.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thanks, my friend! August 23

It's about time I've gotten around to this post.  My recognition of an amazing woman, Amy, is long overdue.  There's simply so much to say about her it's taken awhile to gather my thoughts.  An unsung heroine of your life is a hard one to synthesize into a single blog post. 

We've known each other for 30 years -- unfathomable -- and seen each other through all that life has thrown our way.  Amy is one of the most hilarious, hardest-working, with-it women I know.  If she's faking it, no body would ever know.  She has worked her ass off since a teenage and spent a majority of her career helping college students in CA, CO, KS, and MO maneuver through the financial aid maze.  In a respite between those locations, she immersed her heart, soul and savings into her own business.  How brave for someone to take the chance at a long-time goal previously put on hold by other obligations.  Amy turned her dream into reality by buying, remodeling and running her own salon.  I wish it would have made massive amounts of riches, but it's a tough stint for a boss to pay her employees and be the last one on the payroll.  Hers was an admirable effort, and she can be confident in knowing she gave it her best shot.  No way can she look back and wonder "what if." Taking that chance would be too fearsome for a weaker being.

It amazes me how she continues to toil through long hours and a long commute to return to a home and partner she loves.  As I've said before, Steve is a lucky dude.  And little Alleybugs is a terrier with lots of love lavished upon her, too.  

There are few people with whom I could stand to rudder a canoe with her as pilot, ride a river raft, camp out in our two-person site, bungee jump, try to out-drink, and fearlessly tackle anything.  We share a sense of adventure, and she has patiently listened to all my whining, endlessly laughed with me, shared my sarcasm, suffered the pitfalls but relished the triumphs, and dropped everything when I needed her.  There's no one else worth that praise.  

We've celebrated and commiserated about family and friends, lost our patience and our parents together, and stuck with each other since 9th grade.  Amy graciously hosted both a lovely bridal and baby shower for me.  She was the "best woman" at my wedding.  There is nobody else I'd have wanted by side.  

Once again, I raise my glass to (and with) you and say thanks, my friend!  

Tell someone important in your life just how much they mean to you.  They deserve to hear it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

my campaign against sexism

Yesterday I was especially embarrassed to be a Missourian.  The parade of idiots started long ago with US Attorney and former Missouri Governor John Ashcroft and lately continued with Representative Billy Long.  It is horrifying to see all these out-of-touch, sexist, bigoted asshat politicians hailing from our state open their fat, hateful mouths.  They further prove to the world that we live in a backwards, socially- and morally-retarded region of the United States.  And now Todd Akin is added to the muddled equation.  How did we get so lucky in Missouri?  

I love it here otherwise but wish we could kick them out.  We live in a fairly beautiful state, aside from the humidity, that is being polluted by ultra-conservatism and general jackassery.

This ignorance leads me to the subject of my campaign against sexism.  My campaign may be a feeble attempt to do something, at least a little something, to express my outrage at common-place sexism against women in modern society.  I could be challenged for my exclusion of men, but not really.  Being female places us in a constant barrage of arrogant, ill-informed, prejudice in a so-called modern day society.  We are discriminated against in wages, safety, and "good ol' boy" public opinion as second-class citizens.  "Ah, shucks, little lady.  You get paid 70 cents to our dollar.  Whatsamatter with that?  Get back to my supper and diaper that yammerin' baby while yer at it!"  

At the suggestion of the MissRepresentation team, I vow to at least continue my Twitter campaign against all types sexist behavior in comments and advertising I see around me.  It happens every day, so there should be no problem staying active.  

I heard an approximately 12-year old boy at the swimming pool this weekend tell his friends on the steps say, "Come on, guys -- you look like a bunch of women sitting there."  As an un-involved stranger and eavesdropper of his budding-little-misogynist comment, I stated in a very loud voice, "There's nothing wrong with that."  They should be so lucky.  An adult male with their group heard me and smiled back at me.  I don't know if it was a simple acknowledgement, agreement or disdain, but he certainly didn't respond verbally.

MissRep's to do list includes:

Step 1: Talk to your friends, family and neighbors, and decide what issue you'd like to tackle.

Step 2: Research your issue and decide exactly how you will take action. 

Step 3: Set a goal for your campaign - from numbers of signatures to phone calls made - and begin implementing your plan

The plan:
Tweet my disdain to any individual, especially politicians, who makes sexist comments in public or a publicized personal setting become known through "legitimate" (pun intended), verifiable sources.  Tweet my consumer declaration on non-support (#notbuyingit) to any organization that overtly or inadvertently expressed sexist beliefs or views, especially in advertising, or otherwise uses sexist policy this is widely known and provable.  This blog has a very small following, but I ask anyone reading it to take some sort of personal action.  The need to do so is apparent on an every-day basis, and to deny such is to willingly keep your head buried in the sand of patriarchy.  Think for yourselves, and stand up for women.      

photo source: Obama for Women via Facebook

Friday, August 17, 2012

Thanks, my friend! (August 17)

Through my reminiscing on friendships lately, I'm pleased to recollect how many cool classmates I remain in contact with from college. Maybe it's not an astounding feat for most folks, but I was a part-time student in my 30s while working full-time at the university. We didn't live on campus to interact in the typical ways of first-time freshman, but we made the best of our time there. The handful of quality people from undergrad who remain in my life today bring back many good memories of those days. The internet makes it possible for us to stay in touch now.

Those friends are scattered across the world, including California, Colorado and Korea. One good girlfriend moved to North Carolina a few years back, and I miss her greatly!  Shelley is a compassionate and kind-hearted soul who makes friends easily with her outgoing nature. Her professional life has been spent mostly in non-profit entities where serving people is her business. We not only had classes together but got to know each other better and become friends.  We also saw each other progress into our respective work worlds. 

Shelley's professional life changed directions with her move to Charlotte, where I know she loves living. It's closer to her family, and her devotion to them glows through her pictures online. She met a guy who makes her happy, and I am glad for them. Steve found a great partner! 

Social media is the medium I get to experience her life through now, for which I am grateful. I miss her laugh and the fun times we had in Kansas City, but I'm glad we can at least stay in touch long distance. I hope she knows how much I appreciated her introducing me to people and inviting me along with her friends. Shelley is a strong, remarkable woman, and I miss her charming tendency to call someone a "doll."  I hope our paths cross again one day.

Distance is yet another reason we should all tell our friends how much we love them. Do it today!  You'll be glad you did. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Thanks, my friend! August 1

photo - UMKC
At the impending start of a new school year, I would like to commemorate a former professor who had a great influence on me.  Even though I've sang her praises in this blog before, my latest University alumni newsletter brought fond memories back in a flush of emotion.  Dr. Carol Koehler was my instructor for an undergraduate class and a grad class, as well as the director of my internships.  She was understanding, supportive, and always there for a pep talk when I taught class as a GTA for one very long semester!

This incredible woman inspired many students under her tutelage.  She encouraged me when I graduated and moved to a small town, offering ideas for seeking contentment in an environment where I otherwise may have floundered creatively.  It was sort of a "blossom where you're planted" but remain humble kind of advice.  I had reached out to Dr. Koehler in the fall last year, updated her on my life changes, and shared my recently self-published novella with her by email.  I thanked her for the attention and guidance she had given me in the past.  As always, her warmth and praise sprang from the screen in her response email, and she asked me to stay in contact.  Little did I know she was undergoing heart surgery the next month, and it ultimately claimed her life.  A student caller seeking alumni donations for an honorary scholarship gave me the shocking news.  I hadn't responded to Carol's last email, and I'm so sorry for my delay.

Dr. Koehler was the type of person who called everybody "kiddo" but in a way that exuded her maternal nature and caring spirit.  She had a great sense of humor and affected the lives of countless people with her generous time and attention.  The messages on her online obituary continue as more people who benefited from her presence are informed of her death and express their heartfelt condolences.

We can all aspire to leave a legacy such as hers.  I learned you don't put off that email or phone call to someone you care for and appreciate.  You may not get another chance.  Each week I try to encourage readers to tell their friends you love them.  Today I want to recognize there are still outstanding people in the world who serve as excellent role models. Tell those people how they help make your life more enjoyable by being in it.

In admiration and reverence of Dr. Carol Koehler, I say to anyone reading this,"l'chaim."  Don't put off telling someone how much they mean to you.  You'll be glad you did.