Feminist, Not a Man-Hater

Last weekend, I watched with pride the fabulous speeches at the Women’s March on Washington. Celebrities such as Ashley Judd, Scarlett Johansson, Alicia Keys, and Madonna spoke passionately about equal rights, rising above tyranny, and not allowing government to control women’s bodies.

Soon after, there were images on social media comparing a toddler throwing a tantrum to the ladies who protested, claiming these women were throwing hissy fits just because they did not get their way.

To compare intelligent, politically-informed, mature women to a toddler who does not understand the world or his or her emotions is incongruous. The protests are not about someone not getting their way; they are about standing up to misogyny—to actions and words aimed to destroy equal rights for all people. They are about being heard and refusing to be silenced by a new president with an old agenda.

In addition to comparing the Women’s March on Washington to a toddler throwing a tantrum, articles appeared completely misunderstanding and misrepresenting feminism. A few years ago, Emma Watson, Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women, gave a moving speech, chronically events in her life leading her to become a feminist.  At the age of eight, she could not figure out why she was considered bossy because she wanted to direct plays yet the boys who wanted to direct were never given that title. At the age of fourteen, she was sexualized by the media.  At the age of fifteen, she saw her female friends quit sports out of fear they were becoming too muscular. And, at the age of eighteen, she was saddened that her male friends felt they could no longer express their emotions.

She then went on to say that, unfortunately, the term feminism has become synonymous with man-hating; while by definition, feminism is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.

Articles misrepresenting feminists as man-haters upset me. I am a feminist, and I do not hate men. Sure, I do get frustrated with the behavior of some men at times, but I also have some great male friends who are sensitive and help me to view the world from other perspectives. I appreciate them, especially because they also believe that women should have equal rights and opportunities.

It is sad that there are still women in our society and around the world who make less money doing the same job as a man. I am fortunate to live a privileged life with the opportunity to receive a good education that has led to a great career where I do not have to worry about being paid less because I am a woman. And, I have employers who did not overlook me for a promotion when I was pregnant.

As a single mom, I can support myself and my kids; I do not need a man for financial support, and that is liberating.

As a mother, I have always stressed the importance of education to my daughters, so they will be able to make their own decisions and support themselves. Furthermore, I feel blessed and honored to have the opportunity to raise strong, intelligent, well-informed women.

The protests will go on, and society will continue to progress as women and men stand against archaic policies and attitudes.

Weight Gained, Weight Lost

Weight Gained: 20 lbs.

In the fall of 2015, I went for an 8K run, and I felt some pain in the back of my leg. I ignored it, thinking I had just strained my muscle, and I continued my run. The next day, the pain was still there, and I panicked, thinking my sciatica from a few years earlier had returned.

I went back to physio therapy, without seeing a doctor (too busy), I stopped running, and I resumed my core strengthening exercises.

By February, I was still in pain, and with some prompting from my physio therapist, I finally decided to go see my doctor. As it turned out, my sciatica had not returned; instead, I pulled my hamstring. I was prescribed a topical pain medication, and my physio therapist added exercises to strengthen my hamstring, as well as acupuncture and Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS).

It took me a few weeks to fill my prescription; and when I applied it, I broke out in hives. I went back to my doctor, and I was prescribed Amcinonide, a topical corticosteroid.

At the time, I was unaware I was allergic to class A and B topical corticosteroids. All skin exposed to the cream (my hands and both my thighs due to sleeping in shorts) broke into a rash that within a few days blistered and spread all the way down my inner legs.

I was in Las Vegas at the time, and I went to a clinic where I was prescribed Prednisone. For four weeks, I was on a high dosage, and I wore the same yoga pants every day as my skin scabbed, flaked off, and healed.

It took another two weeks to wean off Prednisone, a horrible but effective drug.

Through all the inactivity and medication, I ended up 20 lbs. overweight.

 

Weight Lost: 40 lbs.

I was able to start running again, but just for ten minutes at a time, and I was given a strict schedule to follow, so I would not reinjure myself. The only way I could lose weight was by changing my eating habits which included daily sugary chai tea lattes, Coca-Cola, alcohol, and sweets, as well as eating too much at supper and snacking in the evenings.

So, I came up with a plan.

The first thing I did was buy some pretty clothes. I know it seems counterintuitive while trying to lose weight, but I wanted to feel good about myself just the way I was.

Then I waited until summer, and I came up with a list of gradual changes for my eating habits, along with a game I created with myself: I would weigh myself once a week, and if I did not lose at least one pound, I would make one change.

Here is my list:

  1. Give up hard alcohol
  2. Substitute sugary Chai Tea Lattes with London Fog sweetened with just a small amount of honey
  3. Substitute Coca-Cola with non-caffeinated pop
  4. Give up all carbonated drinks
  5. Stop eating sugary foods
  6. Only take one plateful at supper, and eat slowly
  7. Stop snacking in the evenings
  8. Give up red wine

In the meantime, I ate a lot of vegetables, as well as eggs, fish, and some chicken. I also continued with my physio therapy exercises, and I was gradually increasing my running.

I lost weight with each change, except when I gave up Coca-Cola (I gained two pounds), but I knew that would happen. It was more of a step in giving up carbonated drinks. In the end, I did not have to give up red wine to lose weight.

By October, I lost 15 lbs.

Then my marriage ended, everything went crazy, and I did not feel like eating as much.

As a result, I lost another 25 lbs.

I feel healthy, and the weight loss has made running easier and more fun. I now deviate from my list every now and then, but overall, I have developed good eating habits. And, it was not too difficult.

 

 

 

 

Motherhood

I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when I was seventeen, and I was indoctrinated with the need to find my eternal companion. A year later, I met him between classes at university. Two months later, we started dating, and in four months, we were sealed in the temple for time and eternity. We were poor university students, living in low-income housing, but we lived with the hope that we were on the right track, and things would get better.

A year and a half later, we had our first daughter, Julianne. It was March and I was near the end of my third year of university; he was finishing his second. We planned ahead by arranging our schedules, so we could both complete that year.

I am the youngest of two kids and as a teenager, I never babysat. So, I did not have any real experience with babies. Yet, it didn’t bother me; I had faith that I was capable and that it would all work out.

When Julianne was born, I experienced an intense need to take care of her, so I constantly held her or put her in the baby carrier to go for walks. And I also brought her in to bed to cuddle.

Having no money at the time, I was so appreciative of friends, family, and church members who gave us a crib, a high chair, an umbrella stroller, a swing, a bouncy chair, a diaper service, and clothes.

She was born on a Friday, and a week later, I bundled her up, and my husband and I took her on the bus to go to university where we took turns caring for her while the other one was in classes.

We did that for another year, so I could complete my university degree.

The greatest adjustment to becoming a mother, especially one still in university, was that I had no time for myself. The moment she napped or was in bed for the night, I studied.

Then we had another baby just before my husband completed his degree and then a third when he was done, and there definitely wasn’t any time to myself.

I didn’t mind, because I loved taking care of my kids, and I cherished every moment.

When my youngest was four, I separated from my first husband, and eventually had the seal to our eternal marriage broken.

He had the kids every second weekend, but often could not make it. For me, it was a busy time: I took the kids to early morning figure skating practices, I taught piano lessons, I dealt cards at a casino, and I went back to university to complete an after degree in education.  Every week, I had at least one day where I worked until 2:00 a.m., got home just before three, and got up at 4:30 a.m. to take the kids to their skating lessons. Then they went to school, and I went to university. Fortunately, I am capable of napping anywhere, and I survived those days on catnaps, as well as Coca-Cola, and the support of my parents who kindly took us in.

A few years later, I remarried, and my first husband asked my second husband to adopt the girls. Then he was out of their lives.

Now I am going through another divorce, and we have a six year old and an eight year old. This time, things are different. Their father advocated for shared custody, and it scared me, because I love my little girls, and I did not want to be away from them for extended periods of time.

He had them for a week during Christmas break, and I cried when he picked them up. He is normally a black-and-white thinker and I thought he was incapable of being flexible, but he surprised me by inviting me to come see them throughout the week.

We have a two day, five day arrangement, and this weekend was the start of his five days. For the first time in the twelve years I have been teaching in the inner city, I did not look forward to Friday. My older kids still live at home, but they all work and have boyfriends. Normally, I don’t mind being by myself (that’s why I like to run, read, and write), but for the first time since becoming a mother, I was coming home to an empty house. With that, came the realization that I wasn’t needed. And to make it worse, I was alone, with no one to give me a hug and comfort me.

Instead of reading, writing, or going for a run, I flopped onto my bed, and I cried all night.

The next day I was able to pick up my six year old, Sophia, in the morning to take her to a research project I signed her up for. I then took her for lunch afterwards, dropped her off at her dad’s, then went home, flopped on my bed, and cried some more.

Today, I was able to take the kids skating all afternoon. They fought with each other and complained, but it was great to see them. After dropping them off at their dad’s, I felt sad again, but for the first time this weekend, I actually felt like writing.

And, I haven’t cried yet.

I’m sure that will come later.

In time, I know I will adjust and things will be easier. For now, if I feel like crying, I will.

My Week Without Alcohol

Between the ages of 17 and 28, I abstained from alcohol due to religious reasons. Then I separated from my first husband, also a separation from the religion, and I had a few drinks. Nearly four years later I remarried, and I abstained from alcohol while trying to get pregnant, as well as during pregnancies and nursing.

When I was on my last maternity leave, I watched a lot of Dr. Oz, and he talked about the benefits of drinking red wine: good for the heart and high in antioxidants to help reduce aging. Because I was a somewhat older mom (in my late thirties), and I was tired due to the lack of sleep that comes from having a baby, the thought of something that could make me feel younger appealed to me. So, when I was done nursing, I started drinking red wine, occasionally and proportionally (5 to 6 oz.) with my dinner. To be honest, I didn’t really like it at first, and I forced myself to drink it.

Over time, I developed a taste for it, and I found that during the day, I looked forward to dinner and my little wine buzz.

Eventually, I discovered that drinking wine while making supper made a mundane task fun, so what was one glass a day turned into two glasses a day.

After my second separation, I found myself drinking further into the evening more and more. It always made me happy, never miserable, but I found myself stating that I was not proud of my drinking and apologizing for some of my behavior. It’s not like I did anything too shocking (well, my mom, my dad, my kids, and some friends might find it shocking . . . . best to keep a few things to myself), but I felt I needed to make a change.

So, a week ago, I gave up alcohol, and here are my notes from the week:

Day 1: I feel low, hungover, like the party is over. I am zoning out, I have no motivation, I want to cry, I am tired, and I am just not myself. I woke up this morning cringing over the night before, and realized I need to stop this. I messaged a friend who was aware I was drinking too much—but never judged me for it—that I needed to make better choices. I appreciate the support; that, taking things one day at a time, and willpower will get me through this.

Day 2: I messaged my friend in the morning excited about going a whole day without alcohol, and the response was “Great work.” That made feel good, but I am not going to message every day about my progress because that makes me feel pathetic. It was a long day today due to a whole afternoon of mediation, but some good progress was made. When I got home, it was late and I did not feel like cooking. Two of my older daughters were home, and we decided to go to the bar for fish tacos. Wine was half price, and people around me drank it, but it did not bother me. My girls did not drink either, and it was funny that they still had to provide identification.

Day 3: I woke up in the morning with an overwhelming desire to go skiing in the mountains: something I have not done since my teenage years. So, I went online, booked a trip for tomorrow, and waited until 9:30 to wake my older daughters up to see if any of them could come as well. My nineteen year old daughter Odessa was available, so I booked her a ticket. Then we devoted the rest of the day to getting ready for the trip. When we finished shopping, I told her it was my third day without any alcohol, and her response was, “I’m proud of you, mama. That’s a good change, and think of all the money you will save.” I love her.

Day 4: It’s 4:00 a.m., and I feel good, alive, excited, and energized. This tops feeling buzzed any time. Can’t wait to hit the slopes.

Day 5: Being outdoors yesterday, doing something fun, rejuvenated me. I need to get my younger kids into skiing. It’s a shame I never got my older kids into it; yesterday was Odessa’s first time skiing in the mountains. She loved it, and I had fun skiing with her. As far as drinking goes, I don’t miss it. I like having a clear head and not having to straighten myself out by drinking water part way through the night. I feel confident, and I like myself.

Day 6: It feels normal now to drink water with a splash of lemon juice at supper instead of wine, and I like that I can accomplish more in the evenings. I also realize that I am still a fun person without alcohol.

This is day seven of my week without alcohol, and I have learned that it is possible to change habits, that grapes and blueberries also contain antioxidants to reduce aging, and that I am a naturally happy and fun person capable of facing life without getting buzzed every day. It doesn’t mean I will never drink again, but I can go another week and another . . . until I feel I can do so in moderation.

 

 

 

Keep Reading

It’s a new year, and I am dedicating this blog to some of my favorite books I read, or listened to commuting to and from work, last year. I have eclectic taste, and I am always looking for a good read, so feel free to comment about your favorites. Happy 2017, and here’s to curling up with a good book.

Hausfrau by Jill Alexander: This novel is a modern Anna Karenina, so I know damn well where it is going and I hope it doesn’t go that way, but I know it has to. It’s about a housewife who has affairs, and the most brilliant part of the book is when her son, on a field trip at the zoo, sees her making out with another man; she is brutal in convincing him he didn’t see what he saw, and of course everything unravels. So beautiful.

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf: What a wonderful story about an elderly widow and widower who make a pact to meet at night, not to have sex, but to talk and cuddle because they miss that connection. Their grown children eventually meddle by telling them what they are doing is wrong, but they keep finding each other. A truly touching story.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff: I love Lotto’s sensuality, purity, and dedication to Matilde, as well as Matilde’s manipulation, practicality, and unraveling of her darker past. It is a love story so beautifully told from each perspective.

Suicide Stitch: Eleven Stories by Sarah L. Johnson: I met her at Chapters, and I told her she had ten seconds to tell me what her book was about, and all she said was it was dark and sexy. I told her she had me at that, and I bought her book. She was right: it is dark and it is sexy. Through a series of short stories, she takes the reader on a journey to forbidden places.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher: This novel came out in 2007, but I just discovered it this year. It is YA fiction dealing with the suicide of a teenager who leaves cassette tapes telling her story to those who victimized her. A story so brilliantly told.

Fairest and Winter by Marissa Meyer: YA fiction and both part of the Lunar Chronicles. I found Fairest to be more disturbing with the rivalry between two sisters: a delightful read. I love the whole series because it combines fairy tales with science fiction, two of my favorite genres.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins: How could you not love a middle aged, slightly overweight, alcoholic heroine with memory lapses caught up in a mystery? I listened to this one on CD, cherishing the lovely British accents of the three women interweaving their stories.

Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, and The End of Watch by Stephen King: I have been a fan since reading the Bachman Books when I was in high school. What I like about Stephen King is his stories are clear, easy to follow, and fun. My favorite is still 11/22/63, but I love the whole aging detective Bill Hodges series.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King: I have read a lot of books about writing, and this one is by far my favorite because of the basic practical advice of improving one’s craft through continued writing and reading. At the end of the book, King provides an extensive list of all the books he read, or listened to, in the year he wrote the book. Also, he writes about his wife’s support in overcoming his alcohol and cocaine addiction, as well as getting back into writing after his accident.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson: This is a memoir of Stevenson’s work as a defense lawyer for wrongly convicted African Americans on death row in southern United States. While reading this book, I had to shake my head several times over the structural violence existing in society. Thankfully, Stevenson wisely offers suggestions at how to improve the system.

Marilyn Monroe: My Story combined with Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters by Marilyn Monroe. I enjoy reading about the starlet’s life, and the two books combined provide for a more complete read. My Story ends abruptly at her honeymoon with Joe DiMaggio while Fragments includes her brilliant poetry as a drama student in New York. Both stories depict an amazing dedication to a craft.

Chris Hadfield: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: Such a joy to learn about life in space: something foreign to most of us Earthlings. In addition, I absolutely love Hadfield’s optimism; here’s a guy who prepares himself for future endeavors despite seeming impossible. I also enjoyed his children’s book, The Darkest Dark. Yesterday, Col. Chris Hadfield posted on his Facebook page 46 positive stories of this past year, and that just adds to his coolness. https://www.facebook.com/AstronautChrisHadfield/posts/1502900363061029

Some books I look forward to reading in the next few months include Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noha Harari, Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, Leave Me by Gayle Forman, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany.

Keep reading and love to all.