TOP TEN…Horror Movies of All Time

Anyone who knows me knows I am obsessed with horror movies. Always have been. I don’t really know why. I can probably trace it back to having very young parents who never monitored what I watched and let me watch horror movies as a 5 year-old. I’ve loved them for as long as I can remember! I love the feeling of being scared, and knowing when it’s over that everything will be okay. And even when they’re cheesy, I still adore the concept.

So, I thought I’d start my top tens with what, in my opinion, are the greatest horror films of all time. I will try to be objective, so while these may not be MY top ten, they are the ones that I think belong there based on multiple criteria. This was an extremely difficult task for me, but I think I nailed it! So…here goes! WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!

10. SAW (2004)

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“I wanna play a game.”

Saw introduces us the the infamous Jigsaw, a brutal serial killer who tests his victims’ will through torturous “games.” The irony of the Jigsaw killer is that he is not actually a killer: his victims do the killing for him.

We start out with two strangers waking up in a decrepit public bathroom together, chained up, each with an audio tape with different instructions involving freeing themselves and killing the other, or people will die.

Saw definitely pulls a lot of inspiration from an earlier and similar film, Seven. Many of the themes are similar. As with “John Doe” in Seven, Jigsaw is motivated by the immorality he perceives in the people of this world. Saw was also a revolutionary kick-starter to the “torture porn” sub-genre. While it’s not the first of it’s kind in that category, (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I Spit on Your Grave preceeded it) it definitely sparked a new era of many gorier films to follow, including Hostel, Turistas, and 8 more Saw films.

Saw is not only gory, but psychologically taxing as well. And it asks us one of the most primal questions a person can face: Just how far are you willing to go to save your own life, or the life of someone you love? Are you willing to cut off one of your own limbs, or even kill a stranger to ensure your survival?

9. JAWS (1975)

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“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

With one of the most iconic quotes of all time, along with with of the most recognizable theme songs of all time, Jaws confirms our fears that it is in fact NOT safe to go in the water. This film, based on the Peter Benchley novel of the same name, takes Fourth of July in a sleepy island town and turns it into our worst nightmares. Playing on our innate fear of the unseen, Steven Speilberg brings those fears to life in the form of a huge, man-eating shark.

The genius that is Jaws is that you hardly ever see the shark throughout out the movie. His presence is often implied, with underwater footage and of course, that dreadful music. Dun…dun dun…dun dun dun dun….with 2 simple notes, John Williams created the score that would instantly inspire terror for generations to come. We very rarely see the shark, more often just the results of his feeding frenzy. Speilberg is genius in this effort, borrowing from some of the same strategies Alfred Hitchcock used to create suspense. “A bomb is under the table, and it explodes. That is surprise. A bomb is under the table, and it doesn’t explode. That is suspense.” Using Hitchcock’s strategy of keeping the shark “under the table” for most of the movie results in a huge payoff in terror and suspense.

8. A QUIET PLACE (2018)

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“Who are we if we can’t protect them?”

This 2018 film takes us to a post-apocalyptic world where monsters guided only by sound are waiting to kill anyone and everyone. We meet the Abbott family, who are trying to survive while remaining completely silent at all times.

As the movie progresses, we learn that the family is trying to find a way to communicate with others and prepare as the matriarch of the family will soon give birth. They know they must have a plan to cover for the noise and ensure their survival.

This movie is terrifying when you think about it. First of all, it’s brilliant. A movie almost entirely without dialogue that still manages to keep you on the edge of your seat. Can you even possibly fathom having to live your entire life not being able to make any noise, or you could be killed? Especially with children? Oh, did I mention one of the kids is also deaf, so she can’t even hear if she makes a sound? Also, Emily Blunt deserves an Oscar for the scene where she gives birth without screaming. This movie is crazy intense, and really portrays how far family will go to protect one another.

7. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)

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“One, two, Freddy’s coming for you..”

When you hear that rhyme, you know what is about to follow. A Nightmare on Elm Street introduces us to Freddy Kruger, a child murderer who got off on a technicality, and was subsequently burned to death by a group of town vigilantes. Now, Freddy is after their children, and can only get to them… IN THEIR DREAMS.

Wes Craven reignited the teen slasher genre with this new and horrifying concept: If you die in your dreams, you die in real life. This idea has been a long deep-seated fear for many, and a theory often discussed. If we reach death in our dreams, would we actually die? Is that why we always manage to wake up at the last possible second, right before death? Craven played on this question and fear with Freddy, showing us you can die in your dreams and never wake up. In fact, Craven was inspired by a true story about a group of Asian kids, all from the same neighborhood, who died mysteriously in their sleep after a string of vivid nightmares.

A Nightmare on Elm Street introduced a new face in horror with Freddy Kruger and spawned 6 sequels, proving to us that nightmares never really die.

6. THE STRANGERS (2008)

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“It’ll be easier next time.”

In The Strangers, we meet Kristen and James, a couple headed to his family’s summer home for a relaxing weekend, that turns out to be anything but. Although this movie received lukewarm reviews, in my opinion, it is truly horrifying. Again, playing on some of our worst fears imaginable: A home invasion with no escape and no one to call for help.

Starting with a knock on the door in the middle of the night, and a haunting voice, 3 masked strangers stalk and psychologically torture the couple. With no way out, how far will Kristen and James have to go in order to survive? Inspired by real life events, including the Sharon Tate murder by the Manson family, and the Keddie Cabin murders of 1981, The Strangers takes you on a slow and deliciously terrifying journey into horror.

What makes this film so truly frightening is the complete and utter lack of emotion and motivation from the killers. In one of the most chilling moments of the movie, Kristen asks her captors “Why are you doing this to us?” to which one of them responds with a blank voice, “Because you were home.” With this, director Bryan Bertino is playing by the rule of “the less we know about the boogeymen, the scarier they remain.”

And that ending…

5. FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980)

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“You’re all doomed.”

There’s definitely something to be said about a film that launched a franchise with 11 sequels. At first look, Friday the 13th may just seem like a poor man’s Halloween. John Carpenter’s hit film inspired many imitations with the use of a notable date as part of it’s premise. Films such as Friday the 13th, April Fools Day, My Bloody Valentine, Silent Night, Deadly Night, and many more were able to capitalize on this strategy. Thanks to the innovations of earlier films like Black Christmas and Halloween, we have a whole sub-genre of horror involving our favorite times of year! In Friday the 13th, we get an idyllic and seemingly safe locale. Some of our favorite childhood memories can be tied to lakes or summer camp. No one would ever expect to be murdered there.

The original Friday film takes place at Camp Crystal Lake, where a group of teens are working to re-open the camp after its closure years earlier. One by one, the camp counselors meet their untimely and grisly deaths. In this film, we only know Jason as a young boy who drowned in the lake years ago, which isn’t even revealed until the end of the movie.

Then comes the kicker: The killer in the woods is a woman, a mother who worked at the camp and lost her son to drowning because the counselors weren’t watching out for him. With this plot twist, I think the filmmakers aim to create sympathy for this killer. A heartbroken mother, who believes irresponsible camp counselors were responsible for her son’s death, and now she’s taking her revenge? Not a hard act to get behind!

Friday the 13th is cheesy but effective, and proves to us once again that no good can come from being alone in the woods!

4. THE SHINING (1980)

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“Come play with us Danny.”

Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece takes us to the Overlook Hotel, a stunning getaway for the affluent, with ominous threats lurking around every corner. Or at least, for some.

Anyone who knows me knows that The Shining novel is my favorite book. I’ve read it no less than 15 times. So, as a fan of the novel and Stephen King’s work overall, it’s important that I view this film as separate and unrelated to the novel. If you compare it to the book, you will be truly disappointed.

As a standalone film however, The Shining is spectacular. The eerie score and stunning visuals take you to another world, where ghosts roam freely and you’re truly never safe, even from those you love.

In The Shining, we meet the Torrance family: Jack, Wendy, and Danny. The family has been tasked with spending the winter alone in the Overlook, with Jack serving as caretaker for the hotel. Snowed-in with no contact to the outside world, the family soon begins to come apart at the seams. For this is no ordinary hotel. The Overlook itself is a monster, devouring everything and everyone that it desires, and it’s eyes are focused on Danny. Young Danny has a special gift: “the shine.” A second sight, psychic powers, the ability to hear the thoughts of others, and communicate telepathically with others like him.

With its sights set on Danny, the Overlook begins to work through Jack to achieve it’s goal. Soon Jack is possessed by both the hotel, and by demons from his past. With nowhere to run, and a patriarch who has gone insane, how will the family survive? The Shining is a journey both into the paranormal, and how the deepest cracks in a family dynamic can destroy them from the inside out.

3. SCREAM (1996)

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“What’s your favorite scary movie?”

Wes Craven re-invents and revitalizes the horror genre again with this one simple question. The teen slasher genre is back, and this time it’s ultra self-aware!

Scream introduces us to two unforgettable characters, Sidney Prescott, and Ghostface. Sidney starts out as just your typical final girl, but as the series progresses, she becomes not only the ULTIMATE final girl, but also a total badass! And while many different villians wear the Ghostface mask, they all have the same goal in mind: killing Sydney.

Scream has all your standard slasher-flick cliches, and even goes as far as to point them out to you. It’s a not-so-subtle irony that plays out, as the victims criticize these classic horror blunders, and then fall victim to them. The fact that the movie itself is so self-aware of what you’re not supposed to do in a scary movie brings a ton of humor to the film.

Scream is smart and witty, while still horrifying. It keeps you constantly on your toes with the whodunit clues and misdirection. The humor, suspense, and terror are all balanced out seamlessly. All leading to a shocking final twist, that even if you see coming, you won’t fully see coming. This is the case with all the films in the franchise as well. Scream breathed air back into the life of the horror genre, and not only spawned 3 sequels, but inspired future film as well. Movies such as I Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend, Halloween H20, and countless others all have Scream to thank for bringing the teen slasher flick back to life.

2. PSYCHO (1960)

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“We all go a little mad sometimes.”

In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock shocked the world with the release of Psycho. Filmed in black and white by a television crew, with a relatively low budget, Psycho was a major work of cinematic art. The film was independently produced and financed by Hitchcock himself. At the time however, it was highly criticized for it’s for its portrayal of violence, deviant behavior, and sexual activity. The film was extremely controversial, from it’s depiction of an unmarried couple in bed together, to a woman on film in a bra, to it’s portrayal of “cross-dressing.” It was also the first time someone flushing a toilet had been shown on-screen. Later, it became a stepping stone in making those things more acceptable in film.

Psycho introduces us to the lonely and reclusive Norman Bates, who runs the Bates Motel, a small motel off what used to be a main highway, but now is deserted. A woman on the run, Marion Crane, stops at the motel during a storm and decides to spend the night. What follows is one of the most pivotal and recognizable scenes in cinematic history.

Norman operates under the ruse that he runs the motel and takes care of his sick mother, who lives in the house behind the motel. We later discover that Norman’s mother is dead, and he has kept her body in the house, and experiences a split personality in which he acts as his mother, with no memories when he is himself again. This plot twist and the context of it was groundbreaking at the time. Hitchcock promoted the film himself, without allowing the actors to do their usual appearances, so that there was no way the plot twist could be accidentally revealed. Psycho is often referenced as the original “slasher film,” although there were a few that preceeded it. But none that surpassed it!

With one of the most well-known scores and death scenes in cinematic history, the genius of Psycho still holds up, 60 years later.

And finally, number one…HALLOWEEN (1978)

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“It’s Halloween. I guess everyone is entitled to one good scare.”

Finally, the coup de gras, the horror movie to end all horror movies…John Carpenter’s Halloween. A franchise so epic, it’s films have spanned 4 decades, and still continue to this day.

Halloween tells a simple story: A psychiatric patient who was institutionalized for murdering his sister when he was just six years old, escapes and returns to his hometown, where he stalks a babysitter and her friends, all while being chased by his psychiatrist.

This simplicity is what makes Halloween the genius film that it is. No blood is shown in the movie. You don’t get any death scenes until the second half of the film. (With the exception of Judith.) The movie instills terror with dark, and shadows, and heavy breathing, and a menacing score. It is also one of the first movies that really puts on display the dangers we face in our world. Prior to Halloween, most horror films, with a few exceptions, were monster movies. Or movies about the paranormal, or demonic spirits. There weren’t many that really humanized the evil that lurks in our society. Halloween gave us the confirmation that there are faceless killers among us, who kill with no purpose or reason. We never get any explanation for why Michael Myers is compelled to kill. He just…does.

The production of Halloween is also a feat in itself. The script was written in 10 days. It was filmed in 20 days in May of 1978, in southern California, with a budget of $300,000. It was filmed mostly using Steadicam, which at the time was new technology.

Halloween is also the film mainly responsible for establishing “the rules.” The horror movie guidelines you must follow if you want to survive. It put forth the criteria and popularized many themes that would repeat in horror movies throughout the years. The establishment of the “final girl.” The killing of promiscuous or drug-using teens. The use of a theme song for the killer. Filming from the killer’s perspective to heighten the tension. Halloween is one of the most widely influential films in the horror genre. It is the blueprint for so many of the slasher flicks that follow, and holds up that standard to this day.

And…it is just plain terrifying.

On That 6%…

Another day, another misinterpretation of scientific information going viral.

Last week, the CDC released a report that showed out of all of the COVID-19 deaths, 6% were caused only by the virus itself. Immediately, this information started circulating on Twitter and other social media that the numbers have been wrong, that only 6% of people have actually died from COVID, you know the drill. Even President Trump chimed in to perpetuate this misinterpretation, in a Tweet that has since been removed. (by Twitter.)

Since so many people have decided to take this as fact and run with it, I thought it might be time for a simple lesson in biology. Because, if I see one more person say “The CDC said only 6% of people died because of COVID,” I truly may lose it.

First, repeat after me: “This new info they released does DOES NOT mean only 6% of all these people died from COVID.” To explain it better, let’s first define a very key term: COMORBIDITY.

COMORBIDITY: The presence of two or more diseases present in the same person at the same time. It means that a person has multiple co-existing conditions.

Next, let’s look at a death certificate, and how cause of death is determined and the death certificate is filled out.

When a coroner determines cause of death for an individual, they typically start with the most immediate cause and move backwards to determine a sequence of events. The thing that stops their heart from actually beating and causes their death is going to be listed first. Then, they will work backwards to see what started that chain of events. For example:

EXAMPLE 1: Bob is in a car accident. Bob sustains injuries that put him in a coma. His organs begin to fail and he dies from septic shock. The IMMEDIATE cause of death on his death certificate will NOT say “Bob died from injuries sustained in a car wreck.” Bob’s death certificate will say he died of Sepsis. However, if not for the car accident, none of these other events would have occurred. Meaning, the car accident is what started the chain of events that led to him being in a coma and becoming septic, which caused his death. While his death certificate will list the immediate cause of death as “sepsis,” everyone who knew him would say he died in a car accident. Right?

EXAMPLE 2: Ann has Type 2 Diabetes. Ann contracts COVID and becomes very ill. In addition to all the virus symptoms that are wrecking her body, her blood sugar levels spike, because that’s what happens when a diabetic person contracts a virus. Unable to keep her numbers down, Ann is admitted to the hospital for diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) The amount of glucose in her blood causes her organs to start working overtime and puts too much stress on her heart. She has a heart attack and dies. Her cause of death would be listed as a heart attack, probably followed by DKA and then COVID. But the underlying cause of everything leading up to that event was her being infected by COVID. It started the sequence of events that lead to her death. None of that would have happened to her at that point in time had she not contracted the virus. While COVID would not likely be listed as the immediate cause of death, it is still listed as a contributing cause, because it was the catalyst that put this chain of events in motion. In short, Ann died because she contracted COVID.

Now, might it be fair to say that out of these deaths, some people are dying WITH COVID as opposed to FROM COVID? That’s a possibility. If you have terminal lung cancer, you’re dying, whether or not you contract COVID. However, if this patient did contract the virus and die immediately after, COVID may be listed higher on the cause of death hierarchy than the terminal lung disease. In some instances, particularly in long-term care facilities, COVID could be listed as the only cause of death. In these cases, there’s really no way to know for sure. Because, would that person still have died? Yes. But might they have lived longer had they not contracted the virus? Maybe, maybe not. So cases like these may skew the numbers slightly. But for the most part, COVID is likely going to be the root cause of death.

So, the new CDC info means this: 94% of people who have died had at least one other health condition, IN ADDITION TO COVID, that could have contributed to their death – NOT that the additional condition was the sole reason for their death.

It means that out of the 180,000 + deaths, in 94% – COVID-19 caused their body to shut down because the immune response was already weakened due to a comorbidity. In 6% – COVID-19 caused their body to shutdown with no comorbidity. That’s it. They are ALL still deaths from COVID-19.

COVID-19 is real, y’all. The U.S. has now surpassed 6 million cases. Approximately 184,000 Americans have died. That is more than deaths from World War 1, Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan and Iraq COMBINED (according to DOD and VA records.) It is now listed as the #3 cause of death in the U.S. We need to listen to scientists and medical professionals. Yes, sometimes the stance changes as they learn more about the virus. Guys…that’s what we WANT to happen. That means they’re open to changing their guidance once they have more knowledge on the subject. That’s how science works. We all have to keep reminding ourselves…COVID-19 is a new thing to us. There will be trials and errors along the way, but I still believe in science and medicine as the best sources of information in a time like this.

Bottom line: If contracting COVID set in motion the events that led to a person’s death sooner rather than later, they died because of COVID. Comorbidities do not change that.

And that’s on the 6%.

SOURCES:

https://nypost.com/2020/08/31/94-of-americans-who-died-from-covid-19-had-contributing-conditions/

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/07/30/fact-check-us-covid-19-deaths-surpass-combat-fatalities-many-wars/5535450002/

The Perfection Hypocrisy

This will be a short one, but there was just something I wanted to get off my chest. This is a point that most people aren’t addressing, or at least not that I’ve seen.

When these police shootings happen, we always hear the same things from the people who refuse to acknowledge any police wrongdoing. The justifications typically go like this:

  1. Just do what they tell you and you won’t get shot.
  2. Cops are human too and you never know what you’ll do in an escalated situation like that.
  3. There are bad apples in every profession.

Those who use these as reasons to justify unnecessary lethal force from the police are actually right….in a perfect world. The first one, for example, sounds pretty easy and straight-forward, right? Do what the police say, even if you don’t agree, and once you’re safely behind bars, the rest will work itself out. Easy peasy, no?

The thing people fail to remember in these situations is that we do not, in fact, live in a perfect world. If the police are called to a location, it’s likely already an escalated situation. If the police pull someone over, whoever is in that car is going to be nervous and on edge, whether they’ve done something wrong or not.

“Just do what they tell you, and everything will be fine.” Yes, in theory, that is what you SHOULD do. However, what we we have to realize is that in most of these situations, at least one, if not more, of these things is probably happening with the person the cops are trying to apprehend:

  1. They may be mentally impaired.
  2. They may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  3. They may be under emotional duress from whatever is happening around them, or from fear of what the officers may do.
  4. They may be experiencing very extreme and extraordinary emotions in that moment, from paranoia, to fear, to extreme rage.

In any of those scenarios, instinct, whether good or bad, is going to kick in. Adrenaline and fear are going to kick in. In these kind of situations, it is very unlikely that the suspect is in a state of mind where they can make smart, sound decisions, for whatever reason.

Police officers are SUPPOSED to be trained to handle these types of situations. They are trained to de-escalate and apprehend with the least amount of physical harm possible. Lethal force is supposed to be a last resort.

Yet, whenever these things happen, there are always those ready and waiting with “You don’t know what you would do in a heightened situation like that. The officer did what they thought was best in that moment. The suspect should have just complied, and it would have been uneventful.”

The hypocrisy there is undeniable. Why is it that we excuse police brutality because “the officer had to make a split second decision,” but we expect perfect compliance from the victims in that situation? Stop expecting perfection from ordinary citizens under duress, while making excuses for police officers in the same situation. We must hold our law enforcement members to a higher standard. And they must realize that even guilty people are supposed to be apprehended unharmed when possible. Why do police have less stringent rules than soldiers? In a war, if your shoot an unarmed person in the back, it’s considered a war crime. Police are not the judge, not the jury. Their job is to protect and apprehend, and let due process run it’s course. That is what every citizen in this country is entitled to under the Constitution.

Bottom line: the expectation from American citizens that we all receive fair and equal treatment from those trained to serve and protect is not a political issue. It is a human issue. Fulfillment of that obligation is the only way we can go from no justice, no peace, to KNOW justice, KNOW peace.

On “Black Lives Matter”

BLACK LIVES MATTER.

If hearing that phrase triggers an immediate angry or negative response in you, this post is for you. If hearing that phrase makes you immediately reply with “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter,” this post is for you.

I think for the most part, the negative response people have to “Black Lives Matter” is based on ingrained prejudice, and misunderstanding of what it means. When the movement first started a few years ago, my response was also “All Lives Matter.” It wasn’t because I don’t care about Black people. It wasn’t because I consider any race more or less superior. It was TRULY because I believe all lives matter. I try my very best to treat everyone equally and fight against any personal prejudices I have had hammered into me all the time. I believe that every single human life holds the same value, and that’s how I treat people. So in my mind, “All Lives Matter” is what we should be saying. It shows solidarity. It shows that I stand with everyone, including those being mistreated or marginalized. That is what made sense in my mind.

My way of thinking was in no way about hatred or racism. But it was misguided. And it was because I just didn’t truly understand. It took research, and talking to Black people, and reading about it to help me understand what the movement is truly about. And while I will never fully understand what people of color go through every day, I do feel I have a better grasp on it and am continuing to try to understand and help others understand what it’s all about. So in that spirit, let’s break down what “Black Lives Matter” is really all about.

The Black Lives Matter movement began to develop after the tragic death of Trayvon Martin, and not long after, Michael Brown. The movement was started as a call to action in response to police violence and anti-black racism. From the Black Lives Matter website:

“Four years ago, what is now known as Black Lives Matter Global Network began to organize. It started out as a chapter-based, member-led organization whose mission was to build local power and to intervene when violence was inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. In the years since, we’ve committed to struggling together and to imagining and creating a world free of anti-Blackness, where every Black person has the social, economic, and political power to thrive.”

Does anything about that mission statement indicate that Black people feel they are MORE important than others? That they want MORE rights and liberties than anyone else? That they hate white people and want to destroy them? No…it most certainly does not. And yet, as white people, we still have this inherent negative response to hearing someone say the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” Why? This is a question we should all be asking ourselves, and really sitting with the answer.

I think to really understand further, we also need to break down the popular phrases used by detractors to this movement.

ALL LIVES MATTER

No shit. I’m sorry…but come on. Does the word “duh” mean anything to you? Of course we all know that all lives matter. No one has said otherwise. I think the real problem here is that the phrase “Black Lives Matter” seems to have an invisible “ONLY” attached to the front of it. Even though no one has ever said ONLY Black lives matter, as white people, that is what we hear. It is on us to understand better and try to really hear what is being said. We have to step outside of our own prejudice and listen with our hearts.

I like to compare Black Lives Matter to a triage situation. If there’s a multi-vehicle car accident, when emergency workers arrive on the scene, who are they going to help first? The ones who are the most badly injured, right? Yes, because even though everyone has an injury, the ones who are hurt the worst take first priority. Just like when you go to the emergency room. If you go to the ER for a broken finger, you’re gonna be sitting there for awhile as people with way worse injuries are assessed first. It doesn’t mean that you and your injury don’t matter. It means that you are not in danger of death at the moment, and others are. So basically what it means is that while we all matter, and all lives are important, Black lives are the ones in a trauma situation right now. They are the ones in the most danger right now. So we need to rally around them and make their lives AS important as everyone else’s. Not more important…equally important.

What is most interesting is that while so many want to call Black Lives Matter racist, the truth is as a country we have always rallied around other groups when they were traumatized. When the Boston Marathon bombing happened, what did we do? We flooded our social media with statements and photos of solidarity. Boston Strong. Does that mean all other cities don’t matter? Same with the Las Vegas shootings, 9-11, Hurricane Katrina, even the Paris bombing, and that wasn’t even in America. We all shared these messages of hope and standing with those who were hurting, and trying to lift them up. Sending supplies and donating money and doing what we could to try to help.

It’s not an either/or thing. When there is a crisis, we rally around that particular group or cause. It doesn’t diminish the value of any other group or cause. It just brings awareness to the help that is needed in that particular situation.

Still not making sense? Try these analogies:

  1. If your neighbor’s house was on fire, would you ask the firefighters to spray your house too, because “all houses matter?”
  2. If you were at a fundraising walk for breast cancer, would you shout “all diseases matter?”
  3. If you were at a birthday party, would you insist they celebrate you because “all birthdays matter?”

Also, if you are going to say “All Lives Matter,” then you have to stick by it. You don’t get to pick when all lives matter. They either do, or they don’t. If you say “All Lives Matter,” then don’t demonize Muslims. If you say “All Lives Matter,” then don’t treat all immigrants like illegals and criminals. If you say “All Lives Matter,” then don’t say gay people should burn in hell. If you’re going to say “All Lives Matter,” don’t celebrate children being held in cages, or say they had it coming because they were brought here by parents trying to escape death. If you say All Lives Matter, then what are you doing to help anyone in crisis? Victims of sex trafficking? Children in foster care? Indigenous women being raped and murdered? The children being held in cages? The homeless veterans? You don’t get to choose who matters and who doesn’t. You cannot say All Lives Matter unless you truly mean it.

Next. BLUE LIVES MATTER

Blue lives are not a thing. Now, before your head explodes, let me say this: I have deep appreciation for police officers. I am grateful they exist. I know that most of them are part of the reason I can sleep safely in my bed at night. I also believe that the corrupt ones give them all a bad name, and need to be held accountable for their actions.

But here’s the thing: Being a police officer is a job. It is not a life. Being a police officer is a choice. They know they have chosen a dangerous profession, and they take that risk willingly because they believe in something. At the end of the day though, that uniform comes off. Saying “Blue Lives Matter” in response to “Black Lives Matter” is absurd. You can’t equate the color of someone’s uniform to the color of someone’s skin and champion it for a cause against the Black Lives Matter movement. Police officers get to take off their uniform when they get home. Black people can never take off their skin color. It’s not the same.

It’s also important to recognize this: police officers are upset right now. They’re angry that they are all being judged by the few “bad apples.” That is what Black people face every single day. And even though the shoe is on the other foot now, they still just don’t get it. They’re so mad in fact, that many of them are basically blackmailing the people they’re supposed to be protecting by walking off the job, because they’re upset that fellow officers are being punished for “doing their job.” It is NOT their job to kill the people they are supposed to serve and protect. In fact, their very training teaches them that deadly force is a last resort. It’s time police officers are held to that standard.

Another thing to think about…if you are the person that replies to “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter,” and that doesn’t bother you, your real problem here is the word “Black.”

Here’s the reason why it’s so important to say and acknowledge Black Lives Matter: Because they need to matter just as much as everyone else. You want to say all lives matter? All lives can’t matter if Black lives don’t. It’s important to note that while our country was ideally founded on “all men are created equal,” that didn’t include Black people. When they said “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” that didn’t include Black people. At that point in our country’s history, Black people were considered property, not people. And while many things have changed since then, so much racism and hatred and fear towards Black people still remains. The reason we have to say “Black Lives Matter” is because so many people still don’t understand the meaning of the word “All.”

And finally: Black On Black Crime

Again, not a thing. Do Black people kill other Black people? Yes. Do we see that on the news more often than other killings? Yes. Are Black people portrayed in the media as gangsters who just going around killing each other? Yes. But Black on Black crime IS NOT A THING. What that means is, Black people do not kill other Black people BECAUSE they are Black. White people also primarily kill other white people, yet you never hear anything about “white on white crime.” Why? Because the phrase “Black on Black crime” was invented to further demonize Black people and to place blame on them for the things that happen to them. In an op-ed for The Root, Michael Harriot explains it like this:

“According to the FBI’s uniform crime-reporting data for 2016, 90.1 percent of black victims of homicide were killed by other blacks, while 83.5 percent of whites were killed by other whites. While no life is inconsequential, the statistical evidence shows that—just as for blacks when it comes to black-on-black crime—whites are mostly victimized by other whites, with the vast majority of white murders committed by whites. This is because most victims of crime personally know their assailants. And while this is a truth across racial boundaries, no one ever talks about “white-on-white crime.”

Here’s a link to the full article. It’s a great read. https://www.theroot.com/why-we-never-talk-about-black-on-black-crime-an-answer-1819092337?utm_medium=sharefromsite&utm_source=_facebook&fbclid=IwAR0Q67qHkF-XpTVg0iCUnlQBvJToFYFXPIosikgxsZWmnn2Up8pv3ylLdlc

Even though we have made progress as a country, we still aren’t and never have prioritized Black lives as much as we have white lives. White people have a leg up without even trying or knowing it. I heard one person compare it to being left-handed. If you’re trying to use a pair of scissors, it’s going to be harder for you. Even though you may have everything that the right-handed person next to you has, you are automatically at a disadvantage because the scissors were not designed for you. They were designed for right-handed people. You’re already behind through not fault of your own.

It’s in everything. From what we’re taught in school, to what we see in entertainment, to what we see on the news, what we see in our government, and even how we are raised in our communities.

It’s no accident that: You learned about Helen Keller instead of W.E.B, DuBoisYou learned about the Watts and L.A. Riots, but not Tulsa or Wilmington. You learned that George Washington’s dentures were made from wood, rather than the teeth from slaves. You learned about black ghettos, but not about Black Wall Street. You learned about the New Deal, but not “red lining.”You learned about Tommie Smith’s fist in the air at the 1968 Olympics, but not that he was sent home the next day and stripped of his medals. You learned about “black crime,” but white criminals were never lumped together and discussed in terms of their race. You learned about “states rights” as the cause of the Civil War, but not that slavery was mentioned 80 times in the articles of secession. Privilege is having history rewritten so that you don’t have to acknowledge uncomfortable facts. Racism is perpetuated by people who refuse to learn or acknowledge this reality. You have a choice.”

– Jim Golden

It all comes down to this: As long as we continue to treat Black people as less than, we will continue to have the discourse we are experiencing right now. We must learn to value ALL life a much as our own. We must remember that God created us in His image. We are all human. We all bleed the same color. We must acknowledge and believe that we are all equally valuable no matter what color we are, where we come from, what belief system we have, no matter what. We don’t all have to agree. But we have to value all human life the same. Or we’re doomed. Black people have had enough. They are ready to burn this whole place to the ground just to get equal rights. And I don’t blame them.

So when you hear “Black Lives Matter,” remember this: It’s not about superiority; it’s about equality. No one is asking for more. They’re asking for what the rest of us already have.

And that’s on Black Lives Matter.

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. There is no Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

-Galatians 3:26-28

On the Confederate flag…

Once upon a time, in a not so distant past, our country was divided in half when the Confederate States seceded from the Union in 1860 and started the Civil War. The Confederacy consisted of 11 states led by Jefferson Davis from 1861-1865.

On March 21, 1861, Confederate VP Alexander Stephens described the ideology of the Confederacy to be “based upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man: that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural condition.” He also stated that anti-slavery “fanatics” were attempting to “make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.” He goes even further to quote Bible verses to support his belief that black citizens are inferior to white citizens, and that “it is not for us to inquire into the wisdom of His ordinances, or to question them.” This was part of a speech known as the Cornerstone Address. Follow this link to read it in its entirety. It’s worth the read to get a full grasp on the insanity that was the Confederacy.

https://www.battlefields.org/learn/primary-sources/cornerstone-speech

It’s an unequivocal truth that the Confederacy was founded on and motivated by white supremacy. Their only reason for existence was because they wanted to keep their slaves. They believed black people were inferior. THEY WERE RACISTS. There is no way around that fact. No way to sugar-coat it or explain it away. People died just so these states could fight to keep their slaves. It’s estimated that around 620,000 men died in the line of duty. In today’s numbers, that would be around 6 million people. And that is just soldier casualties. That doesn’t include civilians.

As time has passed, the Confederacy and it’s reason for existence has been romanticized by some, and the history is sometimes conveniently rewritten. People make claims that the states weren’t motivated by slave ownership, but rather by opposition to “liberalism” and the need for states to maintain financial independence. Churching it up doesn’t change the facts though. “Maintaining financial independence” meant the south relied on slave labor on plantations, which is where their money was made. If there is no one to pick the cotton or take care of the livestock or harvest the food, there would be no income. In fact, Mississippi’s Declaration of Secession stated that “none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun” that makes cotton flourish. While there were other financial reasons that the south seceded, the overwhelmingly main reason was so they may continue to own slaves.

During it’s 5 year existence, the Confederacy used a variety of different flags. In fact, they had 3 different official national flags: The “stars and bars,” the “stainless banner,” and the “blood-stained” banner. The one that became most associated with them was the “battle flag.” This flag was actually a rejected design, and was never an official national flag of the Confederacy. The Sons of the Confederacy adopted it as a symbol of “southern heritage,” thus trying to change the original narrative of what the Confederacy was founded on. After the war, the battle flag was tied to the memory of the war. As time went on, it was rarely displayed. That started to change in the 1930’s, when Congress nearly passed an anti-lynching bill. In 1948, a segregationist group called the Dixiecrats used the flag in their political campaign, and thus spurred the flag’s popularity. It then began being used as a response to the civil rights movements in the 1950’s and 1960’s. and has continued to be a symbol of racism, used by white supremacists and the KKK throughout history, and is still used for that purpose today.

So all of this begs the question…why would anyone own/fly/wear/celebrate the Confederate flag, or want statues and monuments of it’s leaders? Knowing that they all believed they were the superior race, that they owned slaves and would continue to do so had they won, why would anyone support that to this day?

The majority of the rhetoric surrounding this is that the flag is a sign of “southern heritage” and “southern pride.” This makes absolutely no sense to me. And here’s why:

  • The soldiers who bore the American flag were killed by those who bore the Confederate flag. The irony that the Confederate flag represents patriotism or any American values is extraordinary.
  • Why would a flag that represents being a traitor to your country be a sign of patriotism or pride?
  • The Confederacy lasted for 5 years. 5 years. Barely the length of a college education. And they lost the war. Why would you celebrate that? Ironically, the same people displaying Confederate flags are often the same people complaining about participation trophies. The Confederacy lost. There is no participation trophy or any reason to brag. Take the loss and move on..
  • Waving the Confederate flag as a sign of “southern pride” is the equivalent of waving a Swastika and calling it “European pride.”
  • You don’t see any Americans flying a British flag or building statues of Benedict Arnold. Why? Because the British lost and Arnold was a traitor.
  • There are people all over the country, outside of the south, that tout the Confederate flag image. It’s not your heritage. It’s an excuse to be racist.

The same goes for monuments of Confederate soldiers. Yes, it is important to remember our past and learn from it. However, these men are not people to be celebrated or memorialized. These statues belong in museums, where they can be properly contextualized. Where they can be explained for what they were, and what they mean today. These statues were not designed to celebrate the Confederacy. They were erected in the Jim Crow era and were designed to promote white supremacy and scare African Americans. There is a distinct difference between remembering and memorializing, and we must learn and understand that difference.

It’s important to remember that every Confederate soldier and representative took up arms against the United States. They were traitors. And just like we don’t celebrate Benedict Arnold, we must not celebrate or memorialize these men.

I know what you’re thinking: It’s a slippery slope. If we take these things away, what’s next? Washington? Jefferson? Franklin? I mean, they all owned slaves, right? Who’s to say they won’t be the next ones to be demonized? That’s a false narrative. It’s something racist people say and the media uses to make you think we are erasing history. No one is trying to erase history. They are trying to stop the idolization of racist traitors. The difference between these Confederate symbols and our founding fathers is that our founding fathers are remembered and respected for more. Freeing a nation. Writing a Constitution. Doing what, at the time, was what was needed and shaped our country. It’s also important to remember that at the time, slave ownership was the norm. Once people starting rising against it, people were able to start acknowledging that it was wrong. The fact that they owned slaves was despicable, and shameful, but ultimately they are most celebrated and remembered for the good achievements they had. What did Robert E. Lee or any other major Confederate player do for the greater good? Nothing. That’s the difference.

Bottom line: The Confederate flag is not a symbol of your patriotism. It is not a symbol of your heritage. And it should not be a symbol of your pride. It is, however, a symbol of white supremacy. Of systemic racism. Of tyranny. Of traitors. Of losers. Of death. It has no place in this country, or in the hearts and minds of any true American citizen.

Lay down your sign of a traitorous group that lasted for only 5 years. Pick up the symbol that is meant to and should represent us all, and advocate for equal justice for every American citizen under that flag.

And that’s on the Confederate flag…

Sources:

https://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/confederate-states-of-america

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confederate_States_of_America

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/aug/06/pride-and-prejudice-the-americans-who-fly-the-confederate-flag

On White Privilege…

Hi friends. I’m going to be doing a short series of posts to address some of the things going on in our crazy world today. I am by no means an expert on anything. I am, however, an empath. I feel things. I feel other people’s things. And I am the kind of person who still believes in the good. In romance, in miracles, in right and wrong, in equality and justice for all. I will keep holding on to those ideals and fight for them to my very last breath. I am NOT a bleeding-heart, liberal snowflake. I’m not fragile, I’m not overly sensitive. I am a believer in human rights. I believe that the strongest thing you can do as a human is to show empathy and kindness to others. There is nothing more courageous than love and compassion. That makes me one of the strongest people you will ever know. And I believe that even though our nation is so polarized and divided right now, that we all have good in us and we should try to rediscover it. Now, more than ever, we just need to remember to be kind humans. And I pray that someday, we all strive for freedom and equality and justice and fairness for every single American. That is the principle on which our country was founded, after all.

I’m going to say some things that will make you uncomfortable. That is the point. A lot of these things made me uncomfortable until I decided to face them, to educate myself, and to put myself in the place of others.

On bias…

Let’s start with something simple: Bias. We all have biases. No one is exempt, no one is free from it. It’s an inherent thing that we all have. And I don’t just mean racial bias. There are many kinds of bias. Most of us get ours from how we were raised, who we grew up with, where we went to school, what neighborhoods we lived in, what we saw on television, any number of things. We all HAVE biases, and we all EXPERIENCE bias. Now, before you get defensive and start yelling that you have no bias towards anyone, ask yourself these questions. Give yourself a check mark for each of these questions that you answer with a “yes.”

  1. Have you ever crossed the street or walked another direction to avoid passing someone that made you feel uncomfortable simply by looking at them?
  2. Have you ever looked at any of your neighbors, and based on appearance alone, felt they “don’t belong here?”
  3. Have you every seen a person with a lot of tattoos and thought they were “trashy?”
  4. Have you ever looked at a woman in a revealing outfit and immediately thought she was a slut?
  5. Have you ever seem a mom with a kid throwing a tantrum and thought “I would never let my child behave that way?”
  6. Have you ever heard someone speaking a foreign language and became angry at them for not speaking English? Did you automatically assume because they’re speaking their native language that they don’t know how to speak English?
  7. Have you ever seen someone pay for groceries with an EBT card and think they’re lazy people who just don’t want to work?
  8. Have you ever seen a beat down car parked in your neighborhood and thought “that car can’t belong to someone who lives here?”

What if I told you…

…the “suspicious” man is walking alone down the street because he’s walking to work and he left the one family car with his wife in case there’s an emergency with the kids?

…the family of a different ethnicity that moved in down the street is actually a cardiologist and his family who moved here to work at a county hospital and serve the uninsured and needy?

…the woman with all the tattoos has a PHD in children’s psychology and runs an elite private school for gifted children?

…the woman in the short dress is an orphaned, 18 year old waitress working her way through college, who has 4 outfits total in her wardrobe and is just doing her best to make ends meet?

…the woman with the screaming child is a mother of 4, who took her one autistic child on an outing to expose him to social situations, and it was just too much for him and he melted down?

…the family speaking Spanish to each other were actually all born in America, and English is their first language, but they like to speak to each other in Spanish to honor their heritage and expose their children to their native language?

…the woman with food stamps is fostering 5 children with nowhere else to go, and therefore receives money from the state to help feed and clothe the extra people she has graciously taken into her home?

…the old and worn down car belongs to a family with a 6 figure income, and are saving every hard-earned penny to get out of debt so they can pay cash for a new car after they are completely debt-free?

If you knew these things about these people, would it change your viewpoint? Probably. But how could you possibly know that from a glance? You can’t. Each and every one of us has some kind of implicit bias in our minds, and the only way to get rid of it is to acknowledge it and try to understand better. To try to remember everyone has a story, everyone is going through something. We don’t know everyone’s story, and we shouldn’t make assumptions to fit our own biased narratives. That’s the first step, to acknowledge the things you are biased about, and do what you can to have a better understanding of why it might be incorrect.

On White Privilege…

“White Privilege” is a very triggering term to many of us white folks. It has the ability to send people into a blind rage and cause fights among friends. And I will be the first one to raise my hand and admit that it offended me when it first started trending. I honestly wish it had a different name, because I think people hear the word “privilege” and immediately associate it with just being handed things. It triggers an immediate negative response in most white people. Hearing the term the first time made me feel immediately defensive. Here’s why:

I did not grow up as what most people would call “privileged.” Until I started high school, I was mostly raised by a single mother. She could barely make ends meet. I never had fancy clothes, or the newest tech. I didn’t have extravagant birthday parties or go on exciting vacations. Most of my clothes and toys were second hand. I shared a room with my little brother most of my life, until my mother re-married. We. Were. Poor.

I have had many, many struggles throughout my life. My early childhood had a lot of trauma and stress. I have been sexually assaulted. I have been treated less than because I’m a woman. I have been a single mother. I have had to choose between buying life-saving medication or paying rent. I have known loss and struggle and heartache, and I continue to thrive in spite of all that. In my mind, no amount of “privilege” had anything to do with it, and I took offense to anyone saying so. I never once believed that the word “privilege” belonged to someone with my story.

However, once I began to listen and really try to understand what people of color were saying when they used the term, it really began to sink in.

READ THIS STATEMENT AND ABSORB IT:

White privilege DOES NOT mean you have never struggled.

Let me say it again: White privilege does not mean you have never struggled. It has nothing to do with choices that you have made. It doesn’t mean that you haven’t suffered adversity in your life. It doesn’t mean you didn’t work damn hard to get where you are. What it means is that of none of those struggles happened to you because of the color of your skin. It’s a built-in advantage you have, simply because of your whiteness. It’s an uncomfortable fact that we MUST face: White skin affords us a lot more luxuries than we even realize. It allows us to have things that shouldn’t even be considered luxuries, they are just basic human rights, yet people of color typically do not enjoy those same privileges. It doesn’t mean anyone hates you because you are white. It doesn’t mean you should hate yourself, or feel guilty because you are white. No one has a choice in what race they were born as. No one is asking you to feel guilty SIMPLY because you are white.

What it does mean is that you are awarded a certain amount of benefits and safeties that many people of color are not. It means that statistically speaking:

  • You will not be considered suspicious simply because of the color of your skin.
  • If you commit a crime, you will likely get a lesser sentence than a person of color who committed the same crime.
  • You will have a better relationship with law enforcement than people of color.
  • You will be considered more educated or capable than a person of color with your same education and abilities.

And although this privilege does often contribute to racial bias, it is not necessarily synonymous with racism. Being white and the benefits that come with it do not automatically make you a racist. Your refusal to acknowledge that you will almost always receive better treatment because you are white, and your refusal to care or fight against that does.

Privilege exists when one group has something of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to, rather than because of anything they’ve done or failed to do. Access to privilege doesn’t determine one’s outcomes, but it is definitely an asset that makes it more likely that whatever talent, ability, and aspirations a person with privilege has will result in something positive for them.” ~Peggy McIntosh

Still don’t believe me? Still think it’s something people made up to make white people feel bad? Still think skin color doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things? If you do, I implore you to really ask yourself the following questions, and sit for awhile with any discomfort you feel with the answers.

  • Have you ever gone to the makeup or hair care aisle of a store and not been able to immediately see products tailored for your hair or skin type? Without having to find a specially labeled “ethnic section?”
  • Have you ever seen a band-aid labeled “flesh-colored” that wasn’t some shade of your skin color?
  • Have you ever had someone doubt or question your intellectual ability, education level, credit score or ability to buy something, or salary because you have white skin?
  • Have you ever been followed, interrogated, or randomly searched by police officers because you are white, with no reason at all behind it?
  • When you have watched Disney movies or sitcoms throughout your life, have the majority of the characters been people of color, or have they mostly looked like you?
  • In school, was the history of white Americans the majority of curriculum?
  • Do you ever wake up and fear that your child or spouse won’t return home that evening because of their white skin?
  • Have you ever worried that you would not be hired, or passed over for a promotion because you’re white? Have you ever been awarded a position simply because of an affirmative action policy?
  • Have you ever made a mistake or achieved an accomplishment and have the reason for that failure or success attributed to being white?
  • Do you have to think about and be prepared to advocate for the color of your skin every single day of your life?

While you’re asking yourself these questions, check out this list from Peggy McIntosh on white privilege:

If you are a white person in America, you benefit from white privilege. This is not an opinion, no matter how hard some people try to make it one. It is a fact. You reap certain benefits, and sometimes those benefits come at the expense of others. It is something that has been present throughout the history of this country. And it’s something we need to understand, acknowledge, be uncomfortable with, say out loud, and fight against. Being white doesn’t make you inherently evil or racist. But if you don’t recognize it and stand against systemic racism, if you continue to reap those benefits knowing others don’t, and you don’t care, then you a part of the problem. And if you think standing up for justice and equal rights for all Americans is “radical” or “fragile” or “snowflake” behavior, then you need to adjust your perception of what normal is verses what it should be.

And that’s on white privilege.

Quarantine Adventures – Day 1

I think by now we are all pretty well-versed in the Coronavirus conversation.  So I might as well just get right to it!

As I’ve thought in-depth about the pandemic we are faced with, I came to the conclusion that this will be an historical event in our lifetime, and will probably be studied in many more lifetimes to come.  So I thought, as someone who is going to self-quarantine as much as possible, why not chronicle this journey?  We are facing a very interesting social experiment.  All of us, especially the extroverts, are having to readjust our everyday lives and learn to be satisfied within the 4 walls of our homes, and the people inside them.  We watch movies like The Shining, and talk and joke about cabin fever as if it’s this obscure thing, that in modern day society we’ll never have to worry about.  And some ways, that is true, in regards to modern technology.  The concept of being shut in with no contact with the outside world is a scenario that at this point, is long gone.  Still, it’s a huge shift going from everyday activities like work, school, shopping, etc, to never leaving your home.  It’s going to be very interesting to see how we all learn to thrive (fingers crossed!) in these times.

A little background on my situation:  I own a house, where I live with my husband, pets, and every other weekend, my teenage daughter.  I work in healthcare, and also have Type 1 Diabetes.  When all this first started, I wasn’t that concerned.  But as it has escalated so rapidly, I have made the decision to self-quarantine as much as possible.  My immune system puts me too at risk, and if I get this, even if I don’t die, it will take me down for a very long time.  And I’ll be of no use to anyone.  Better to hunker down and wait it out and keep myself and others healthy.  My personal belief is that this is what we should all be doing.

Fortunately, with modern technology and an understanding boss, I am able to do the majority of my work from home.  Especially as our patient load right now is very light.  So here I am, ready to ride this out at home, and journal it along the way.

So here goes:  Self-quarantine:  Day 1

Although I have been staying home as much as possible for about the past 6 days, today was my first full day of not leaving the house, with the exception of walking the dog. (Which I highly recommend, even just for the 10-15 minutes of fresh air.)

I slept in a little, since I didn’t have to actually leave the house.  Got up around 7:45 and responded to some work texts.  While in my pajamas.  Score!

I did about 4-5 hours of work, sporadically.  My husband is also working from home, and we only have one office.  So I am set up at the dining room table.  I sit there to access our patient records, and can do most everything else from my laptop.  So that’s a bonus.  Down side, my husband’s booming voice echoes throughout the house, and all he does is talk on the phone, so if I want peace and quiet, gotta wear the headphones.  All in all not too bad.

I had a mimosa or two in the middle of the day.  Working from home does have its perks!  (Don’t worry, I was off the clock!)  I watched Halloween, my favorite movie of all time that never gets old.  And besides work stress, just tried to take it easy.

This evening I watched episode 2 of The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez on Netflix.  This show is NOT for the faint of heart.  It’s an important issue and case to know about, but man it is so hard to watch!  No bingeing this one.  One episode a day for sure!

Tonight my husband and I will probably commence with our usual routine.  Binge watching The Office and chilling on the couch.  I am making a mental list of things I want to get done during this time period, so we shall see if I can get through them.  Here are the main ones:

  • Read that stack of books I’ve collected
  • Work on the book I’m writing
  • Send letters and cards to friends and family to brighten their days
  • Deep clean the house
  • Regular naps
  • Perfect my cake decorating skills
  • Have fun with the hubs!!

Now I’m off to order delivery from Taste of Asia (trying to support local business!) and watch The Office.  Hope everyone is having a great day, all things considered.  Until tomorrow…

limit

How Not To Go Crazy While Under Quarantine

So the Coronavirus has hit your area, and you’re now stuck at home under quarantine.  Introverts, your time has finally come!  The homebodies are ready to continue being just that.

But what about us extroverts, the people that like to be out in society and around others?  How are we to deal with being stuck at home, possibly alone, for up to 14 days, if not longer?  How do we not go completely insane?

Well, I’m  here to tell my fellow extroverts, this can indeed be our time as well!  We just have to shift our mindsets a little.  This can be the break you never knew you always wanted! So in preparation for impending doom, I have created a list of things that I totally intend on doing, should I have to be quarantined.

1. First and foremost:  NAPS! 

spider

This is your time to take back all the naps you refused as a kid.  The older I get, the more I have come to embrace taking naps as just part of my self-care routine.  In the past, I always felt guilty about taking naps, because there’s always something that needs to be done.  But guess what?  You’re forcibly stuck at home, so there’s no reason at all to feel bad about the extra sleep!

Now, if you’re one of those people who can’t just lay down and take a nap, not to worry!  I have suggestions!

  1. In my experience, the easiest and most fun way to get into nap mode is a little “afternoon delight” with your significant other.  Or hell, even with just yourself!  I don’t know about you guys, but nothing makes me feel better after a big O than a big nap!
  2. If that isn’t an option, or not something you’re in the mood for, here’s the second best option:  BOOZE!  I recommend 1 to 1 and 1/2 glasses of wine.  It’s just enough to make you sleepy, but not enough that you’ll feel like trash when you wake up. It’s a perfect nap inducer!

2.  READ!

reading

You know all those books you have sitting around, just waiting to be picked up and devoured?  Now’s the time to do it!  This is most definitely one of my main quarantine goals, if it happens.  So many books, so little time to read…until now!

Don’t own many books?  No problem!  Check out Audible or Kindle Unlimited.  Also check your local library website.  Many public libraries now have the option to check out books online through an app.  And for free, I might add!

3.  BRUSH UP ON YOUR CULINARY SKILLS.

cook

Whether you’re like Gordon Ramsey in the kitchen, or more like our friend Hillary here, there’s always new things to learn when it comes to cooking and baking.  And with all this free time, there are tons of new things to try.  Find recipes and tutorials at Food Network Kitchen

Challenge yourself, experiment, go wild!  It’s all in good fun with, and no pressure.  Home with your family?  Have a Top Chef style challenge.  Give everyone the same ingredients and they each have to come up with their own dish.  Home alone?  Learn how to bake that cake or pie you’ve always wanted to.  Or learn how to make homemade bread.  With the internet and all the foodies out there, the possibilities are endless!

4. BINGE WATCH THE SHOW!! (OR MOVIES)

netflix

How many of us have shows or movies that we hear everyone talk about, and want to watch, but just don’t have the time to commit to it?  Well….here is your time!  And with all the different streaming services available, there’s bound to be something for everyone.  Binge those shows!  Catch up on those Oscar nominated movies you always swore you’d watch.  And do it guilt-free!!

If there’s nothing that immediately comes to mind for you, here are a few personal suggestions from me:

  • The Office (Netflix)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
  • Jack Ryan (Amazon Video)
  • Ozark (Netflix)
  • Stranger Things (Netflix)
  • You (Netflix)
  • Any True Crime documentary on Hulu, Amazon, or Netlfix
  • Hunters (Amazon Video)
  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Video)
  • The Stranger (Netflix)
  • Anything on Disney Plus!

5.  INVOKE THE KONMARI METHOD

MARIE

Marie Kondo the s**t out of your house!  We all have way too much stuff.  We hold on to things, even when we no longer have use for them.  Use this time to reflect on your belongings, get rid of some stuff, and get organized!  Move some furniture around.  Redecorate. Or if you’re not ready to part with things, do a deep cleaning of your home.  You’ll be surprised how much better you’ll feel in your home after.  If you need tips, check out Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix, or her Konmari website.

And if those aren’t enough to keep you busy, here are more ways to fill your time:

  • At home spa day
  • Exercise!!
  • Day drink
  • Clean out apps on your phone and computer
  • Learn a new skill
  • Surf Zillow and find your dream home
  • Make a bucket list
  • Meditate
  • Write!  A book, a journal entry, a blog post, anything you want!
  • Get organized with lists
  • Sex, sex, and more sex
  • Revamp your budget
  • Call someone you haven’t talked to in awhile
  • Write letters or cards to friends and family
  • Listen to some podcasts (My faves: My Favorite Murder, Crime Junkie, This Podcast Will Kill You, Office Ladies, and Marriage & Martinis.)
  • Try that DIY project you’ve always wanted to do
  • Leave online reviews for the businesses you love
  • Color –  adult coloring books are my jam!
  • Create some new music playlists
  • Play board games or video games
  • Learn more about something in history that intrigues you
  • Do a puzzle
  • Check out the website All That Is Interesting. You’re welcome

Most importantly, do what makes you happy. This will be temporary.  And remember, you will get through it.  You might as well enjoy yourself as much as possible while you do!

balance

UN-Fertilized

Growing up, I always knew more than anything that I wanted to be a wife and a mother.  I think that overwhelming desire can be traced back to my early childhood, which was not exactly what you would call “stable.” It was filled with a lot of heartache and stress. Fortunately, things turned around during my early teen years, and everything really settled into a routine.

I don’t harbor any blame or resentment about any of that, but I know that it was the driving force behind me wanting to have that “perfect family” and do things differently.  My parents were very young, and the deck was definitely stacked against them.  I love my mom and dad and I know that they did the best they could with what they had.  I think I turned out exceptionally well, all things considered. It’s taken me a long time to get to this point, but I know my early upbringing created the resolve in me to have a different kind of life for my future family. To give my kids the childhood experiences that I didn’t have, or at least felt I didn’t,  I longed for that perfect, cookie cutter life.  I wanted the fairy tale.

I quickly learned things don’t usually work out that way.  My daughter was conceived when I was 25 on a drunken night of unprotected sex.  We tried to make it work for her sake, but it ultimately ended when she was a year old.  I was a single mom at 26 who still hadn’t finished her college degree and whose career choices were slim.  How’s that for a fairy tale?

Then one day, my fairy tale finally arrived.  He wasn’t neatly packaged in a nice simple box with a beautiful bow like I’d planned.  He was rough around the edges, a bit jaded, and extremely stubborn.  But he was the second chance I had prayed for. It took time, and trust, and courage, and tears, (and a little gentle nudging on my part) but the fairy tale finally came to fruition.  I married the love of my life.  We were buying a house and planning to expand our family.  Everything was finally working out the way I’d always dreamed it would.

I stopped taking my birth control pills 4 months before the wedding, because I’d always heard how it stays in your system for awhile after you stop it.  I didn’t know if it was true or not, but it didn’t matter.  Why not get a head start?  I was 35, I wasn’t getting any younger.  I was ready to get this party started before the ink on the marriage license had even dried.

And then…nothing.  I dotted all my “I’s” and crossed all my “T’s.”  I did everything I was supposed to do.  Tracked ovulation, basal body temperature, tried to reduce alcohol intake,  kept my blood sugar numbers nice and tight, (type 1 diabetes, whole other discussion.)  But no baby ever came.  Every gyno visit was normal, both my husband and I did some tests, and everything came back clear.  First a year went by, then two, then it was four, and now it’s almost seven.  And still no sign of those blue lines that every wannabe mom prays to see.  There was just…nothing.

Why couldn’t I get pregnant?  I didn’t understand.  What was wrong with me?  I was doing everything right.  The doctors said I was fine.  So we just kept trying.  After some serious discussion, we decided against medical intervention.  First, because it’s extremely costly, and second, because it’s stressful on a body and a marriage.  And I think my husband really just wanted everything to happen naturally.  I think he believed it would.  I don’t think he ever doubted that I would get pregnant.  That, unfortunately, didn’t turn out to be the case.  But why?  What was happening to me?  The unfairness of it all left me enraged.

Then one day, I heard a phrase I’d never heard before: Secondary Infertility.

You may be asking  yourself “What does that even mean?”  So, before I move on, let’s try to define what I’m talking about, at least in the literal sense.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Secondary Infertility as “When a woman is unable to bear a child, either due to the inability to become pregnant, or the inability to carry a pregnancy to a live birth following either a previous pregnancy or previous ability to carry a child to live birth.”  So what does that mean, really?  It means you got pregnant or have had one or more babies, and now it won’t happen again.  But no one talks about this, even though it’s actually pretty common.  1 in 6 women experience secondary infertility.

Although my first pregnancy was unplanned, I ended up with an amazing daughter that I love more than life itself.  But since it happened so easily, I couldn’t wrap my head around why I couldn’t get pregnant again.  The first time I actually planned it, and really wanted it, and was so excited for it, and it wouldn’t happen.

There’s not a lot known about secondary infertility.  There are many things that could contribute to it.  Age, weight, stress on the body from a previous pregnancy, hormones, or the one that seems to plague me…the unexplained.  The ever elusive reason that just…is.  Unexplained infertility.  It’s the most frustrating and heartbreaking diagnosis, because there is no fix.  It’s just the way things are.

What is a person supposed to do with that knowledge?  How do you reconcile the previous ability to get pregnant with the current status of not being able to? Most people don’t even know it’s a “thing,” and also quickly discount it with the “At least you have one” mentality.  Yes, you’re right, I do have one.  And I’m eternally grateful.  I know there are many families that never get that gift.  That is one of the things that makes this so much more devastating.  You’re made to feel like you can’t feel the pain of infertility, because if you had a baby, you aren’t “infertile.”  And you can’t grieve the loss of the children you wanted, because at least you were able to have one.  Any grief you exhibit is immediately squashed by the plights of those who had it worse than you.

But the truth is, no one else gets to define your pain for you.  It’s not like a pie, and the person who’s suffered the most gets the biggest slice.  Another person’s pain doesn’t make yours any less real.  It’s all relative.

It’s taken me awhile to understand that, and be able to feel my grief over it, and let go of all the guilt that comes with it. I know now that it’s not going to happen.  The ship has sailed.  But it becomes difficult to deal with sometimes.  And it just sneaks up on you. It’s the pain and guilt that seep in every time someone I know announces their pregnancy.  Or gives birth.  Sometimes it feels like I’m leading a double life.  There’s the me that is truly, genuinely over the moon excited and happy for my friends.  Who can’t wait to see the babies, and if I’m lucky enough, be a part of their lives.  I share in that joy with all of my heart.  Then there’s the me that is heartbroken.  The me that is sad and bitter, and yes, I’ll say it out loud, jealous.  The me that longs for what they are experiencing, and longs even more for the future that comes with it.  I hate that person, because it all adds up to guilt.  But I’m starting to realize that I can still feel pure joy for someone, and still have my own feelings of sadness about what I’ve lost.  It doesn’t make me less of a friend or a bad person.

Still, it can be tough.  In addition to the joy your expectant parent friends are experiencing, there’s also the endless, unsolicited commentary that comes with having an only child.  The “She’s still an only child?” or “Why haven’t you given her a sibling?” and “You need to have more kids to fill up that big house you live in.”  and of course, “You don’t want her to grow up as an only child, do you?” I’m honestly still learning to handle those questions with grace, instead of anger.

Probably the hardest part for me, though, is to have to stand in front of the man I married and not be able to give him the children he wants. The guilt I feel over that is immeasurable. It feels like the ultimate failure when your body won’t do what it was created to do. And for the longest time, we didn’t discuss it. It was, at least for me, just this awkward, unaddressed elephant that follows us into every room.  Instead of talking it through and leaning on each other, we were dealing with on our own. In our own ways, but still alone.  But who does that serve? If we want to make our peace with it, we have to face it, no matter how difficult it may be.   We have to face that cloud that comes over us every time a friend gets pregnant, or we spend time with babies, or when someone asks us when we’re having more. The realization that it will just be us, for the rest of our lives.

If you have a friend struggling with infertility (TRUST ME, YOU DO) the best thing you can do for them is be caring and supportive of their grief, but also, in my opinion, keep living your best life with the family you have.  Be thankful.  Cherish those blessings.  As much as I may hurt when I see others around me having babies, I also feel so much excitement for them and the journey they are on.  I would never begrudge them that.  Seeing happy families gives me joy. And as cliche as it sounds, I truly do believe everything happens for a reason, and that God has another plan for my life than I had for myself.

If you yourself are struggling with infertility, I beg you to always keep close to your heart these two vital truths:

1. It is NOT your fault. You are NOT a failure.

2. You are still a good person if you feel envy and sadness while at the same time feeling joy for someone who is expecting. IT IS NORMAL AND OKAY.

I’m learning how to accept this fact of my life and make the best of it. I don’t want to scar my future with pain over things I cannot control. Besides…turns out there are some perks with being the parent of only one child.  But that’s a topic for another day.  🙂

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Silver Linings-True Crimes That Inspired Change, Part 1

I am a die-hard fan of true crime.  I can’t get enough of it. And nowadays with the endless number of shows and podcasts about true crime, (shoutout to My Favorite Murder!) our society is currently saturated with it.  But it is something that I have been intrigued by for as long as I can remember.  I was an OG murderino!

There are many different things about these stories that interest me.  The psychology of it all is a big one.  What makes a person kill?  What is it inside a person that turns them into a monster?  That is one thing I’ve always wished there was more research and findings about.  The other thing I always want to know more about is what can be done to prevent these crimes from happening again?  From every tragedy, I hope for some kind of silver lining.  At the end of the day, these are real people and real families whose lives were changed forever because someone decided to take a life.  That should never be forgotten in the midst of all the drama and intrigue of the stories.

So I decided to chronicle some of my favorite crimes that prompted actual change in laws and law enforcement.  While these stories are tragic, the families of these victims are also heroes.  They stood up for their loved ones and lobbied for change so that other families won’t experience the same loss and heartache.

First on my list:  The murder of Jacob Wetterling.

On October 22nd, 1989, in St .Joseph Minnesota, 11 year old Jacob Wetterling, his brother Trevor, and their friend Aaron rode their bikes to the local Tom Thumb to rent a video.

As they were riding home, a masked man, later identified as Danny Heinrich, came out of a driveway and approached the boys with a loaded revolver. Heinrich was driving in his car when he saw the boys headed towards the store.  He then turned his car around and parked to wait for the boys to return.

He ordered them to throw their bikes in a ditch and lie face down on the ground.  He then asked each boy how old they were.  Trevor was told to run towards the woods and not to look back, otherwise he would be shot.  He then ordered Jacob and Aaron to stand and face him.  Aaron was told to run away, and given the same threats as Trevor.

Heinrich forced Jacob into his car and handcuffed him.   He drove to a remote location approximately 30 miles away, where he sexually assaulted Jacob before shooting him twice, killing him.  He then buried Jacob’s body, but returned a year later and moved the body after seeing Jacob’s red jacket was showing through the dirt.

27 years later…

Although Heinrich was questioned in December of 1989, there was no real evidence to link him to the crime.  The investigation would go on to be considered seriously botched. Jacob’s disappearance remained unsolved until the fall of 2016 when Heinrich confessed to killing Jacob, after becoming a person of interest when he was arrested in 2015 on child pornography charges.  He also confessed to the kidnapping and sexual assault of 12 year old Jared Scheierl, 9 months before he murdered Jacob.  Authorities had believed the two cases were connected because of many similarities in the crimes.  Police were able to physically connect him to that case in 2015 with DNA found on Scheierl’s sweatshirt he was wearing at the time of the attack, but they were not able to prosecute him because the statue of limitations had passed.

Heinrich’s confession was part of a plea deal in which he plead guilty to one of the 25 child pornography charges brought against him.  In exchange for this plea, he agreed to lead investigators to Jacob’s body and testify to the details of Jacob’s death.  In addition, prosecutors agreed, with the agreement of the Wetterlings, not to charge him with Jacob’s murder.  Heinrich was sentenced to the maximum of 20 years in prison on the child pornography charge.

The fallout of tragedy:

The failure on the part of authorities to solve the case changed the lives of parents and children all across the nation.  Parents stopped letting their children go out alone.  “Stranger Danger” became almost a hysteria.  Kids saw PSA’s and after school specials about not talking to strangers or accepting rides from people in white vans.  Kids faces started showing up on milk cartons and parents began fingerprinting their kids in case they disappeared.  As a child that grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, I remember “stranger danger” being an almost palpable fear.  This was also back in a time when even children weren’t considered “missing persons” until they were gone at least 24 hours. Most of the time they were just considered to be “playing” or were thought to be runaways.  We now know that the first 48 hours after a child goes missing are the most crucial in finding them.  The laws that follow helped bring that fact to light and change how law enforcement handled cases of missing children.

Light out of darkness:

In 1994, The Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act (The Wetterling Act) was enacted.  The law requires all states to keep a registry for law enforcement that keeps track of all offenders who have committed sexual or sexually violent acts against children, and to form more rigorous registration requirements for sex offenders.  It also required states to verify the address of sex offenders every year for 10 years, and those classified as violent sexual offenders must be verified quarterly for the rest of their lives.  Under the law, states had the discretion to release or not release the information to the public.

That changed in 1996 when the Wetterling Act was amended with Megan’s Law, named for Megan Kanka, a 7 year old who was raped and murdered by her neighbor.  Jesse Timmendequas, who had two previous convictions for sexually assaulting young girls, lured Megan into his home by offering to show her a puppy.  He then raped her and strangled her to death with a belt.  Although he was registered as a sex offender, the Kankas had no knowledge of this and therefore did not see him as a danger to their family. The Kankas lobbied for change, stating that had community notification of registered sex offenders existed, Megan would still be alive.

Megan’s law was passed on the federal and state level. At the federal level, the law requires persons convicted of sex crimes against children to notify local law enforcement of any address change or employment after release from custody.  The notification may be for a fixed time, or permanently. At the state level, the law requires authorities to make sex offender registry information available to the public and imposed community notification.  The details of what is provided and how community notification is handled vary from state to state.

The law was last amended with the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006.  Adam Walsh was a 6 year old boy who was kidnapped from a Sears in Hollywood, Florida in 1981.   Adam’s severed head was found 2 weeks later almost 130 miles away from where he was taken. The rest of his remains were never found. His murderer was believed to be a local drifter named Ottis Toole, who confessed but then later recanted his confession to Adam’s murder.

Adam’s law, along with the Wetterling Act and Megan’s Law, organizes sex offenders into 3 tiers based on the crimes committed, with Tier 3 being the most serious.  The law mandates that Tier 3 offenders update their whereabouts every 3 months with lifetime registration requirements.  Tier 2 offenders must update their whereabouts every 6 months, with 25 year registration requirements.  Tier 1 offenders must update their whereabouts every year, with a 15 year registration requirement.  Failure to register and update information is a felony under the law.

Adam’s parents also lobbied for the Missing Children’s Act of 1982, which created a national database for missing children, and also helped found the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, established by Congress in 1984.  Adam’s father John also went on to launch and host the show America’s Most Wanted.

The deaths of these children are terrifying and heartbreaking.  Growing up, I can remember being so scared that someone would just snatch me and I would disappear forever.  Thanks to the work of these amazing families, laws were changed and safeguards were put in place to help prevent these tragedies from happening again, as much as the possibly could. Some might say some of these laws have gone too far, and to some extent I agree.  For instance, I’m not sure that someone who urinates in public should be registered as a sexual offender.  That being said,  if these laws prevent even one child from being assaulted and/or murdered, I consider that a win.

Stay tuned for Part 2….