On Being Safe Space Post-Truth

Since the Orange Menace, my posts are really revolving around social issues and how I am navigating through it. Being a vocal advocate to marginalized people isn’t charity, it is me actively working to make the world better for all of us. I’m not saving anyone but myself. Therefore, I’m standing with those groups, not for them. I’m an accomplice, a co-conspirator and an ally. I am willing to incur risk in order to support and amplify more vulnerable people than me.

Most of the smarties reading this understands the art of collaboration. I wont get into the differences between ally and accomplice. Rose Hackman explains the concept brilliantly in her piece for the Guardian.

Today I want to talk about how I work to be an effective accomplice and how important it is for me to turn myself (and any space I’m in) into safe space for marginalized people. It is especially important that my friends facing extreme amounts of oppression in their daily lives, to have someone who will love and listen to them. They deserve many someones which is why I am here talking about how I work at this. Daily.

These things are coming from my unique perspective, I’m not a monolith, beyond this and with all things, dig deeper.

Here we go:

Believe the lived experiences of marginalized people

When women say they don’t feel safe, believe them. When black people say they don’t feel safe, believe them. When gay and transgender people say they don’t feel safe, believe them, When people with disabilities say they don’t feel safe, believe them. When children say they don’t feel safe, believe them.

Support them, give them the room to react. Without responding or judging and especially without policing the reaction. Hold space for them to be themselves entirely. Whether or not it aligns with your own ways of being is irrelevant.

Open your heart to the fact that the experience is still valid and real even tho you can’t relate to or understand it yourself. In this way, you make yourself instantly safer and more trustworthy.

Identify and address your implicit biases.

Occurring outside of conscious awareness, implicit bias manifests itself in the form of nonverbal thoughts, behaviors and actions that influence an individual and that are suggestive of unequal treatment. – An Analysis of Implicit Bias in Medical Education

The ways in which we view the world are unavoidably influenced by cis-hetero, white supremacist, patriarchal power structures. The way to combat this is to recognize it is there, find it, and kill it. Burn it with fire.

This is a rough step because it means being brutally honest with oneself in order to “unlearn” the things you’ve been taught. It means admitting all the ways in which you may have oppressed others. It means admitting there is safety in your privilege and casting it aside.

It means admitting your isms and phobias and then actively working to destroy those biases, instead of becoming complicit in them.

Learn to listen

Understanding comes from paying close attention. Listening is a special skill and not everyone is endowed with the patience it takes to be good at it. I am not a natural born listener. I am a loud-mouth. I love the sound of my voice and I love giving my opinion (you are welcome to disagree in the comments). So listening was a learned skill for me.

I got good at it (you can disagree with me in the comments) with practice by going into spaces where I knew nothing and therefore had nothing to say. I listened and followed and listened some more. Now, I love shutting the fuck up. The people in my circle, the love I have cultivated, it’s all very brilliant and humbling.

Do your own homework

I opened books I’d never considered reading before, by authors never introduced to me in schools or by the NY Times bestseller’s list. I diversified my media and sought out resources not written by the same power structures negatively influencing us.

Google is my best friend. With it I can search both scholarly and non-scholarly articles on any topic imaginable. I’m only limited by the information available. Public libraries have long since gotten with the times and I can take out books online and read.

Lastly, I started to follow people not part of mainstream media that were reliable resources, not post-truth talking heads working over-time to perpetuate useless dogma.

I am still in this phase of re-education. The only thing I’ve fully learned so far is how much I really don’t know.

Pay reparations 

The best way to really create lasting change is to help redistribute wealth. Money is power and marginalized groups have been, thus far, barred from enjoying upward mobility. Those who can, absolutely should find ways to support black and non-black people of color. You can do that by supporting businesses owned by people of color. You can buy a subscription to safety pin box. You can donate to organizations working to bring about change.

You should tune into media that centers marginalized voices, written by marginalized people, telling diverse stories. Go see movies created by non-white filmmakers. In this way can make a statement about your priorities as a consumer.

Please understand, how you spend your money is how advertisers (and then the brands they represent) know what we want as a collective. Your searches, social media usage, web subscriptions are all collected for brands to serve you with better ads.

If you are buying from and tuning into these types of sources as a consumer, they will notice!

Be Generous with your Love

Love is a verb. It is not a prayer, it is not an idea, it is not a concept or an imprint. Love is ACTIVE, fluid, alive, and limitless. Love will not save us, nor is it the answer to societal ills. Instead, it’s the energy from which we draw our strength. Tap into and share it often and generously.

Be an earnest cheerleader. Not everyone can do everything. There are some people with the stuff to organize and lead…there are some who support and follow. I am the latter. I work to protect and support the organizers and leaders in every way I can. I brag about them to my friends and coworkers. I write about them and hang out with them and love them to pieces!

Show love to the people speaking to your spirit on this journey. Do that by amplifying and centering their voices and cheering them on, loudly and publicly!

Uplift the vulnerable among us

My privileges keep me safe. They make it so I can get away with a lot of things, under the radar, or with little to no effort. My able-bodied, cis-hetero, light-skinned self, walks through the world with much less fear than my dark-skinned, disabled, lgbtqia+, counterparts.

In matters of oppression, my perspective is limited. That means, under no circumstance should I be speaking for a vulnerable group I am not a part of. That means in order to be an effective accomplice to these people, I must amplify them.

We must center their voices, their lived experiences, their perspective.

Walk the walk

Practice makes perfect. An effective accomplice knows there is no rest for the wicked and therefore there is no rest for the weary and therefore no break for the rest of us.

The most vulnerable among us are being oppressed, maligned, endangered, and preyed upon daily. Everyday is an opportunity to collaborate with these groups in order to make the world a better place. Reach out. Your voice is needed.

If you are calling yourself an ally, you are committing yourself to all of the above in both idea and practice. SHOW YOUR WORK! By this I mean, people should know where you stand. Stop playing the fence and being vague about your opinion.

Get up. Stand up. In your own circles

Work your groups. Know where you have influence and use it to stand up for marginalized people. This is scary as fuck. It means being a squeaky wheel. One must be willing to be ostracized and isolated and even blocked from certain circles.

Silence is violence, don’t be quiet about racism, sexism, and other types of discrimination. If you have yet to speak out against the Orange Menace, for example, you have probably already been marked as unsafe to those people in your circle who are also part of the groups being targeted.

Uncover/rediscover – the business of unlearning

For me, all of the above was a process. I’m still on the journey, I’m still learning/unlearning. I’m still realizing my implicit biases.

I have dedicated myself to the business of collaboration. I am determined to make myself into safe space for my friends and family. I truly want to become and effective accomplice in the fight for equality.

There are a ton of articles, books, essays, poems, movies, etc…

7 Awful things about Poverty that have Nothing to do with Money

mindisapalaceRecently, my family fell on some hard times. My husband, a veteran, safety engineer, and EOD tech was finding it difficult to find an appropriate job. This meant that I, a marketing consultant and writer, was solely supporting my blended, family of seven. We made it work, with resourcefulness and a tight rein on our budget, we were doing pretty well. Neither of us have or want credit cards, and we were living within our means, life was pretty cool.

Then something awful happened, I was let go from my place of employment (this is a long story but I will say, people can be really petty and awful and selfish and might not have considered how I would be feeding my five kids – if you are reading this, please know I am talking about you) but I digress. I managed to pick up some freelance gigs, which held us together but things started to dry up. Times are hard and competition is fierce. We found ourselves in a position thousands of families across the country are in every day. We were out of work and running out of savings quickly and it didn’t seem like there was any hope in sight.

Soon our savings ran out and we became, in what felt like an instant, poor. Don’t get me wrong, we were never rich, but now, things were different. I was having a hard time figuring out what to do. I knew the truth about the world, this is how families end up sleeping in their cars. I was scared, we both were. Our days and nights were full of bitter anxiety and with each passing rejection letter, my self-worth and self-esteem was diminishing.

There are many awful things about being poor and none of it has much to do with money.

  1. Social Services will not come to your rescue. After depleting our life savings and borrowing all the money we were comfortable with borrowing, the time had come to look beyond all our resources and get help in the form of social services. So we applied and we waited, for weeks, to get a response, which came in the form of more paperwork and a million hoops to jump through. We faced judgement and scrutiny in the most shameful ways. “Don’t get pregnant” the case worker told me, “we aren’t putting any more of your children on this case” and in the end we were denied any help at all. The thing about social services is you have to be destitute with no other help in order to receive any services. They literally ask you “Don’t you have friends or family that can help you?” as one of the qualifying questions. They want you to basically be homeless in order to qualify. The irony of it all is that the money or assistance you receive wont help you get out of poverty because, that would be a crazy, right? Services that actually lift people from poverty.
  2. Trying to hide your poverty so the kids wont feel it. Without any social services we were really stretching our resources. “Can I have a glass of milk with my cookies, mom?” was a loaded question. I must respond “No” without explaining that we just can’t use milk for those frivolous things anymore. Confusing, right? How gross is cookies and water? Very. But I would make up excuses so my kids wouldn’t suspect the truth. Patching up holes in clothing, handing down jeans and jackets became the order of the times. They didn’t understand why I couldn’t just “Go to Target and get a new one” and I couldn’t explain why. Sooner or later though we had to come clean. They just didn’t understand why we were, all of a sudden, saying “No” to everything. So, we talked to our kids, honestly, without frightening them, by explaining that we were just on a really tight budget right now. Hiding that stress from them, denying the burden of it was hard but they are kids and kids deserve fun and they deserve to have milk with their cookies.
  3. Making constant excuses to friends and family about why we couldn’t participate in anything fun.  All of this happened right around the holiday season when parties, dinners, and social gatherings were in full swing. My pride just wouldn’t let me say “I can’t afford to come to your event.” So we made excuses about being sick or having other engagements that didn’t exist.  We missed being around our friends and family. In hindsight, perhaps we should have been more honest, perhaps if we had we would have gotten more support than we realized possible.
  4. It’s a shameful secret you carry like a metric ton on your shoulders. Being poor in America today is likened to being lazy, criminal, worthless, and no-good. Every day, I would scroll through my social media feeds and see post after post about how easy it was to achieve the American dream and if I wasn’t achieving, it was because I was just lazy or stupid. In response to that, I worked hard to hide my circumstances from others. When my child’s school reached out to find out if maybe I needed supplies from the local food bank, even though I did, I said “No,” and thought “My God, that’s for homeless people not me” I was so ashamed to need, so ashamed to be poor that it was unbearable. But I realized, poverty isn’t always self-inflicted, poverty is like a disease, it happens to you without you understanding why and the best you can do is fight hard to survive.
  5. Poverty is expensive. Every week that passed with no money and no relief in sight was adding to our collective debt. But that’s not what I mean by expensive – poverty cost me my pride, my self-esteem, my self-worth. It took my confidence and turned me into a weak, depressed, soul. My usually optimistic persona had become dark and inconsolable. I was constantly worried about my kids, my home, my husband, constantly wondering whether tomorrow would be the day the bank would come take my car, take my house, maybe even take my kids because I couldn’t afford to be a good mother. I lived in agony and felt defeated. Poverty doesn’t only cost you material possessions, it costs you a little bit of your soul too. It takes you to a dark and desperate place, which brings me to….
  6. Desperate and extreme thinking.  I use to lie awake at night trying to figure out how to make money. No one was hiring me, not even Wal-Mart (I applied but they told me they did all their holiday hiring already) and there was just no hope in sight. What would I have to do to keep our heads above water? (I am pretty sure my husband was lying in bed right next to me thinking the same) I read an article a while back about a girl who sells her panties with much success and actually thought, “well, if worse comes to worse, I can always sell my panties” Can you imagine that? Me, a mother, a professional, a feminist, was actually thinking about selling her panties for some extra cash. Being poor makes you desperate and while I would have never actually sold my panties for money, I thought about. Like, seriously, thought about it.
  7. The strain on your marriage. My husband and I are close, as close as a couple can be. We have no secrets and we talk about our deepest and darkest thoughts but something about the strain of poverty was getting to us. Where we were once easy-going and open with each other, we unconsciously became withdrawn. We talked less, hugged less, kissed less, played less. Not because we were blaming each other for what was going on but simply because the financial stress was eating away at both of us on an emotional and mental level. The side-effect was a growing distance and silence that only broke when we admitted what was happening.

I am relieved and happy to say that we are at the end of our road. My husband has begun a new position with a prestigious company and we are on our way toward healing both the financial and mental stress of poverty. I have picked up some new freelance gigs and I continue to use my blog as a way to share and vent my experiences. For us this is a happy ending but for hundreds of families across the country and throughout the world, the ending is often much more tragic.

I am not ashamed anymore, hell, even J.K. Rowling was on food stamps at one point. What I want people to get out of this is that poverty has many faces and many characteristics. I want people to understand that poverty, like cancer, can happen to anyone, at any time, for any number of reasons. I want people to know that they should not judge someone hard on their luck or assume that every case of poverty is a case of laziness. No one wants to be poor, no one wants to need social services, no one wants to need help but no one should be made to feel ashamed should they find themselves in just that position.

If you find yourself in similar circumstances, there is help, you can find support.

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Five Body Positive Building Blocks

I don’t know anyone who has a perfect relationship with their body.  If you do, please tell me how you accomplished it in the comments below, there is much I can learn from you.  If you are like me you have struggled with loving yourself, perhaps still struggle sometimes. But, I know loving myself better will help me raise body positive kids. So, I work at loving myself to ensure my kids don’t have to work as hard to love themselves.

I made a quiet promise to them, a long time ago, NOT to pass down personal body hang-ups. This isn’t always easy but it’s well worth the effort, for everyone’s sake. Recently, my youngest daughter asked if she could make her straight hair curly. When I asked her why she replied “curly hair is prettier.” (ironic, I spent most of my young life trying to coax my curly hair straight). First, I reminded her that while curly hair is pretty, it isn’t prettier than her own, very beautiful, straight hair. Next, I braided her hair so that when she undid the braid her own, usually, pin-straight tresses would have some wave to it. Then I had time to consider positive body image and my kids.

Am I teaching it? Being body positive, in my mind, is being comfortable in your own skin. It’s having a matter-of-fact attitude about our bodies and what they do. Creating this comfort depends on some essential building blocks that constantly reinforce, for the whole family, positive body image. My family’s building blocks focus on:

Each building block is an opportunity for your kids to take ownership of themselves and their bodies. Every teaching moment should encourage a healthier sense of well-being by promoting self-love, either through ritual tasks like grooming, as well as, open and meaningful conversation. My parenting style is centered around teaching my children responsibility (for self and others), accountability, and self-control. These traits will serve them well through their adult lives and life is just easier when you can love and appreciate yourself.

What do you think about it? How do you encourage healthy body image in your home? Do you or your children struggle to stay body positive? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

10 Ways to Recover from Rejection

Rejection is painful. Like hot coffee scalding my tongue but instead of my tongue it’s my heart and instead of coffee, it’s a sip of crushing disappointment.

Getting dumped (been there) or being passed up for a dream job (done that) is the type of rejection that can have some lasting effects. It gets in your head and messes with your mental well-being. Rejection can keep you up at night, binge eating cheese puffs (or whatever you like as much as I like cheese puffs).  It’s especially hard when you didn’t see it coming but even the best of us have felt the burn.

Everyone from Andy Warhol to Oprah Winfrey and even Michael Jordan have experienced rejection. It’s part of the human condition and it takes some time and effort but you have to recover as best you can:

      1. Take an aspirin. While testing whether rejection mimics physical pain, researchers gave participants Tylenol before asking them to recall a painful rejection experience. Those who received Tylenol reported less emotional pain than subjects who took a sugar pill.
      2. Let it burn. Rejection hurts, it’s normal to want to just push it aside. Don’t. Face it, accept it and be brave. You don’t have to live in the moment forever but you should take whatever responsibility is yours and move on.
      3. Don’t take it personally. There are a lot of external factors to consider when it comes to rejection, like being in the right place at the wrong time. The truth is, while rejection does have something to do with you, it isn’t solely about you.
      4. Be kind to yourself. Create an inner voice that sounds like a dear friend and not a drill sergeant. Be gentle and patient with  yourself, this is a difficult time.
      5. Stay confident. Despite the pain and humility that follows rejection, hold on to your self-confidence. My first reaction is always to crawl into the nearest cave and die a loser death. I definitely lost but I still played and that makes me a player not a loser.
      6. Stop caring what they think. Sometimes it matters what people think but mostly it doesn’t. Sometimes you just have to say “fuck it!” and walk away. It’s not your business what others think of you anyway.
      7. Don’t self medicate. Drinking, drugs, and all around debauchery may sound like a good idea at first but rejection hangovers can be devastating. Don’t let a few nights out become habit, check yourself.
      8. Find closure. Rejection is loss and all loss comes with a certain amount of grief. How you move through the stages of grief is up to you. Some people listen to sad songs, some burn pictures, while others write letters they’ll never send. Find your ritual.
      9. Refocus your energy. Grieving is allowed, obsessing over a situation you can’t change is not. Don’t get caught up, start a new fitness routine, join a book club, take up a new hobby, retreat into something positive.
      10. Spend time with people who love you. Throw yourself a pity party and invite people you love the most. They will make you laugh, let you cry, and remind you how great you are and that’s exactly what you need.

If you’ve ever had to recover from rejection give yourself a hug. It’s a process and it sucks. I don’t care how tough you are, everyone wants to be accepted. Everything stems from self-love and when you love yourself enough, it takes the sting out of it but rejection can do some damage to self-love. It has a way of keeping us self-absorbed.

Don’t waste too much time wondering what went wrong. Get out of your head as quickly as  you can. Travel, if you’re in a position to do so or volunteer. Spend time being selfless and your own problems tend to fade away. How do you recover from rejection?

10 Things About Me

I have a hard time opening up to people. I am definitely afraid of putting myself out there, I’m afraid of rejection. It’s alingering immaturity, the final vestige of the young, insecure girl I use to be. No matter how hard I try, she clings like a spoiled child.we are beautiful

I’m working hard to let her go and for the most part I don’t pay much attention to what people think of me, it’s none of my business anyway. To be honest (and I am ALWAYS trying to be honest) this is different, this blog is very much a reflection of the things I am most passionate about, so your acceptance is critical. I want you to love me. I want to be here for you, like a friend you can rely on, so you will come back and visit often.

I’m looking forward to getting to know you and gaining your trust. Your trust would be an honor. But, I know trust is built on candor. So today, I am opening up and letting you know a little bit more about who I am.

I hope you can relate:

  1. I have a filthy sense of humor, farts make me laugh, so does South Park, and my favorite movie is Robin Hood Men it Tights. (don’t judge me)
  2. Before I was a mom, I was single in NYC. I partied…A LOT…it was dysfunctional and self destructive. I didn’t love myself very much.
  3. I am riddled with self doubt. I don’t know why I can’t apply self love to my creative work.
  4. I’d follow my husband to the ends of the earth, barefoot, over glass if he asked me to. I don’t need him but I surely want him.
  5. I love and envy drag queens. There is freedom in femininity and freedom in casting off the trappings of femininity to be a man.
  6. I love my kids, they are the best thing that’s ever happened to me. But sometimes, I do feel overwhelmed and I do miss Jenina (the me I was before I was mom) and I hate admitting that.
  7. I hate shaving. It’s an intense, societal pressure and it’s so oppressive but I’m trapped by a hairless ideal of beauty and there’s no going back. I’m well beyond dying my armpit hair in protest.
  8. Cheese puffs, my most shameful indulgence. My “writing pants” are caked in Cheetos dust, it’s embarrassing. They are the worst kind of junk food but I love them so much.
  9. I have several pairs of “writing pants” they are usually flannel – I can not write in uncomfortable clothes.
  10. I think we are all beautiful. I believe in you and I will love you until it hurts, then I will love you some more.

Bonus Truth: I’m very forgiving and full of empathy but if I must pass judgement it’s usually harsh and unforgiving.

I am always learning new things about myself every day, for example, I am a passionate activist, militant in my quest for civil and human rights. I never knew that before I had kids, though I always stood up for what I believed. Also, even though I love cocina criolla, my favorite food is Vietnamese because it’s so different from the food I grew up with.

I guess these are more than just 10 truths. I tried my best not to be superficial about it, to be insightful and open in the hopes that you will feel comfortable enough to open up to me now.

Go ahead and leave me some revealing insights about yourself in the comments below. Don’t be afraid to be candid, I can handle it!