Deserved to die?

A while back an article was brought to my attention about Mollie Tibbetts, a 20-year-old University of Iowa student who was murdered while out jogging over the summer. This wasn’t a straightforward, fact-based news story detailing the tragic death of a promising young woman, but an opinion piece by a judgemental “Christian” woman calling herself The Thinking Housewife who suggested that Mollie was at least partially responsible for her own death. Yep, she pointed an accusatory finger at the girl who was abducted, killed, and dumped in a corn field. Please tell me I’m not the only one who thinks this is ludicrous. The author of this blog post speculated that Mollie was a target for a man to murder simply due to her clothing choices and their effect on her attacker’s impressionable male brain. Here it is in her own words.

“Feminism is also to blame for her death. A society that says female modesty and restraint are oppressive does not protect young women from potential predators. No amount of feminist social engineering can change the facts of nature. A woman who jogs in skimpy clothes on country roads — or even in the city — is a serious temptation to a small criminal element. Jogging in revealing clothes – or even just jogging alone – is dangerous. Safety depends on modesty and restraint.”
The Reckless Female Jogger

This is blatant victim blaming. Heaven forbid some “ladies man” has to control not only his lustful thoughts, but his violent sexual tendencies in the presence of an attractive woman. From the news reports I’ve read, Mollie’s alleged murder got angry when she rejected his advances, and his response was to attack and kill her. First of all, females running outside (or inside, even) are not doing so for the benefit of onlookers! Believe it or not, we exercise for our own health and well-being and not as a pretense to beguile the opposite sex. Additionally, society has convinced men that they are entitled to the attention of any woman they want just for having a penis. We ladies are supposed to be flattered, bat our eyelashes, and thank our lucky stars when a member of the male species deems us worthy of their consideration. These are lessons that we all need to unlearn.

As you can see in the above photo, the members of my running group don’t wear anything remotely provocative. Some of the ladies are in great shape, but the rest of us aren’t quite so fit (including myself!). Still, even though I don’t look like a fitness model, I wear tight shorts or pants when I run (because if I didn’t I would have serious problems with chafing), and I wear fairly close-fitting shirts too (because otherwise the fabric would move against my skin and cause rashes in terrible places). No, I don’t run in short-shorts or an exposed sports bra, but my outfit still wouldn’t be considered “modest” enough for The Thinking Housewife. According to her, if some man approached me with ill intent it would be at least partially my fault for enticing him with my provocative clothing choices. How dare I wear an outfit that’s appropriate for my current activity! I have been on the receiving end of unwanted attention while running, and I’ve responded in the most rational way possible – I flipped the bird at those jerks. But I’ve been one of the lucky ones who hasn’t been physically assaulted – not because of my outfit, but because I was extremely fortunate. What a woman is wearing rarely has any impact on a man’s bad behavior, and implying otherwise does a disservice to both sexes.

Searching for the correct diagnosis

“Not only do I still have twitchy legs sometimes during the day, but I’m so tired all the time. And some days I just can’t get out of bed at all. I can sleep all day, and it doesn’t feel like a choice I’m making. I just wake up in the afternoon/evening and feel depressed that I’ve lost yet another day to my poor health.”
8/10/18 webpage post

On Thursday I went back to the neurologist as a follow-up to my first appointment a little over a month ago. I’ve been taking gabapentin every night, in addition to the Requip, and that combination of drugs seems to be keeping my legs remarkably calm before I fall asleep at night. I haven’t had trouble with muscle spasms plaguing me after I get in bed, at least. (Unmedicated I’m still a huge mess. I dozed off on my couch the other evening and my legs immediately started twitching. It’s super frustrating.) It’s a major improvement over the situation I was dealing not that long ago, before I started taking any medication specifically for Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). Unfortunately, I’m still feeling tired all the time so, while there has been definite progress, I’m not completely back to normal. When I told the doctor about my constant exhaustion he had a couple of thoughts. First of all, he theorized that the prescriptions I’ve been taking are meant for RLS, but might not be giving me the best results if I have Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD). This is what one previous doctor and the technician at my sleep study thought might be the root of my leg spasm problem. With that in mind the neurologist gave me an additional prescription for Klonopin to see if that helps me get some actual restful sleep at night. (Yep, that means I am now taking three different anti-seizure/convulsant drugs every day. Fun!) But if after a few weeks of this new protocol that doesn’t work, he suggested that I might have narcolepsy.

Narcolepsy is a condition that I knew very little about before Thursday. With my limited knowledge I thought it meant that sufferers had a tendency to simply doze off at the drop of a hat, but obviously it’s more complicated than that. From what I read, in addition to excessive daytime sleepiness (which I certainly have trouble with), narcoleptics experience abnormal REM sleep. The neurologist told me that in order to get a diagnosis I would need to do another sleep study where I would be allowed to fall asleep for several short periods of time to determine whether my brain goes through the proper progression into REM sleep. Narcolepsy apparently causes people to go directly into REM sleep without the usual hour and a half or so of NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep beforehand. While it sounds a little far-fetched, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this is the cause of at least some of my medical problems. I hate to admit it, but I doze off at work sometimes. Only for very short periods of time, but it happens. Especially in meetings, and especially if I haven’t had enough caffeine. Fortunately I don’t seem to have any of the other, scarier narcolepsy symptoms – like cataplexy (periodic loss of muscle function), hallucinations, or sleep paralysis. That also means that narcolepsy might not be the right answer. We’ll see. I have another appointment with the neurologist in six weeks to discuss a path forward. I have some hope that we are zeroing in on something.

On the plus side, I’ve been able to start reading again! I’ve always loved reading, and I used to look forward to immersing myself in a good book when I crawled into bed every night. It was the way I wound down and calmed my brain after a busy day. It usually made me drowsy too. But before my days of taking any RLS drugs I started getting twitchy legs when I was stationary for more than a short period of time – either lying in bed or sitting on the couch. This really put a damper in my reading habit. Books by my favorite authors that I was dying to read piled up in my Kindle app while I was desperately trying to avoid the muscle spasms that made me want to crawl out of my skin. But now that I’m fully medicated at night I can read for a while before falling asleep without worrying about leg craziness. It’s a miracle! Even though I haven’t yet reached the end of my road to recovery (or remission), I’m still so grateful to modern medicine for improving my quality of life. Maybe one day I’ll even feel normal again!

State #36

Back in 2014 I made a New Year’s resolution to visit as many new states as possible. By the end of that year the number of states I had personally visited rose from 27 to 33, thanks to an East Coast road trip and a Yellowstone National Park vacation. 6 new states in one year wasn’t too bad. Then in 2015 I added another two states to the list (New Jersey and Alaska). But since then my travel has stagnated somewhat. However, I am happy to announce that in 2018 I have finally added state #36 – Oregon! It’s hard to believe I’d never been there before considering how long I’ve been living on the West Coast. Fortunately I had the outstanding excuse of a friend’s wedding reception to get me there in 2018. It was an extremely short trip, but I had a great time.

I arrived in Portland later than I expected the day of the wedding reception due to my connecting flight from Seattle being delayed twice. Yes, I had to fly past Portland to Seattle on one flight only to backtrack to my final destination on my second flight. Very annoying. Knowing that my flight was delayed, I applied my makeup in an extremely crowded Seattle airport bathroom to save myself a little time later. Then, when I collected my checked bag in Portland, I changed into my dress for the reception in a nearby bathroom. I was way behind schedule. I had originally planned to take the train from the airport to my hotel, I had even pre-purchased a $2.50 ticket, but it was going to take too long so I reluctantly took a taxi instead. It took about 30 min and cost $60. Ugh. But I got to the hotel in just enough time to stash my bag in my room and catch an Uber to the wedding reception with some of my friends. Phew!

The reception itself was lovely. We ate mini cupcakes as appetizers (genius), deconstructed tacos for dinner (delicious), and tres leches cake for dessert (the best cake I’ve ever tasted). But the most meaningful part was hanging out with my online friends who I don’t get to see very often. Several of them I was meeting in person for the first time, and the others I vacationed with in Hawaii in 2015. (A couple have been to LA since then so I was able to spend time with them at Disneyland, but that’s the exception.) I am so lucky to have found this group of women. It’s remarkable, really. Over the last 13 years they have been there for me through everything, both good and bad. They have changed my life for the better and I seriously don’t know what I would do without them. Flying all the way to Portland for a little over 24 hours was completely worth it.

That night after the reception I was exhausted and passed out early after taking a much-needed shower. Unfortunately that meant I missed a lot of shenanigans that happened after hours, including a midnight trip to Portland’s famous Voodoo Doughnut. I am so annoyed that I didn’t get to go, but my body apparently needed almost 12 hours of sleep! The next morning we all headed over to the bride and groom’s house for a donut reception. Yes, more donuts! We had a great time gorging ourselves on sugary pastries, laughing, chatting, and being our usual weird selves. And attempting to ingratiate ourselves with the resident cat, Nibbler. At one point I picked him up to prevent him from escaping out the front door, but he didn’t appreciate that. He bit me several times. (Just little warning nips on my arm so nothing serious.) Fortunately he forgave me later and purred when I pet him. My friends and I reveled in spending all this time together. One of the ladies had already hopped a flight back home, and other folks had to take off for the airport throughout the morning and afternoon, so it was a little sad that our brief reunion was coming to an end.

After the donut reception I went back to the hotel, retrieved my bag, hugged everyone goodbye, and started making my way to the airport. This time I was able to take the train and it was fantastic. I only had to walk a few blocks from the hotel to the train stop, the train was clean and not crowded, and the trip to the Portland airport was scenic and relaxing. Totally worth the $2.50 fare (and way more cost-effective than my taxi ride the day before). And I had a direct flight to Orange County this time so my travel home was completely uneventful. I was upset that my trip to Oregon was over so quickly, but I will definitely go back and spend some more time there in the future. It was way too beautiful not to revisit. Plus, I have friends who live there and have a guest bedroom! It’s a shame that my online friends are scattered all over the country because seeing them makes my heart happy. I am going to do my best to organize another get-together next year so that we don’t go three years between reunions again.

Offended vs. offensive

In case you were wondering if there was any resolution to the issue in my last post, the McGaugh Elementary principal apologized in an email to school families on Thursday. From what the online article quotes, it sounded like a half-hearted apology to me. One those that basically says, “I’m sorry if I offended you,” where the inclusion of the word “if” means that the author isn’t really admitting fault. Instead, the blame is put on others for being offended. This seriously pisses me off, but it’s not up to me to forgive her. That’s for the families and the school district to decide.

As a follow-up to my previous blog post I thought I’d address a similar situation – one that involves me this time. In February 2017 I posted a statement on my Facebook wall after a shocking interaction with a friend that left me nearly speechless. In one afternoon this friend managed to make derogatory statements about blacks, transgender people, immigrants, ComicCon attendees, and the homeless. I didn’t even know it was possible to display that level of insensitivity in a single day. In general I don’t think it’s my job to try and change people’s opinions, no matter how different they are from mine, but in this instance I could only hold my tongue for so long. After she attacked homeless people for “checking out of society” I finally challenged her views. It didn’t really make a difference, but I couldn’t just passively listen to her stream of ignorance any longer. I was so upset that when I got home I posted something vague about it on Facebook. Here’s what happened next. (Note: Other than my own, the names have been changed to avoid further conflict.)

  • Lauren: I’ll preface this with the fact that I’m a liberal and a feminist, but I’ve had all the intolerance I can stand. I just don’t understand how inclusiveness, sensitivity, and avoiding offense can be a bad thing.
  • George: Taken from Reddit – “There’s nothing wrong with being offended by something.
    There is a problem with not being able to personally deal with your own feelings of offense, and trying to regulate/control other people so that you won’t be offended. It’s selfish, bigoted, and myopic. As they say; offense is taken, not given.”
  • Jane: Translation – “I want to be able to do whatever I want, and if anybody holds me accountable, I would like to pretend it is because they suck, not because I am sometimes wrong, or because being a human who has social relationships with other humans necessarily means sometimes being told I messed up and apologizing.” Seriously, George, this quote is bizarre. If you were walking down the street and someone punched you in the face, would you be wrong to say, “What the hell, man?!” Being racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, etc. is repulsive, hurtful and preventable, and it’s actually peak fragility to think one must never get pushback about it.

Some people don’t seem understand that there’s a difference between “offended” and “offensive.” I am not a member of any of the groups that my friend disparaged that day so I wasn’t directly offended by what she said, but her comments were undoubtedly offensive to blacks, transgender people, immigrants, ComicCon attendees (nerds like me, actually), and the homeless. Just because a person’s insulting statements don’t apply to anyone in their audience doesn’t mean that they aren’t still insults. I wasn’t to blame for objecting to my friend’s comments, but that’s what George’s response above would have you believe. I used to be married to a man who blamed me for everything so this behavior of making the opposing party the one at fault isn’t anything new. But that doesn’t mean it’s right. Never feel like you are “selfish, bigoted, or myopic,” as George said, because you call out someone for offensive things they say. We have to continue to challenge abhorrent views and behaviors or humankind will never make progress. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

Subtext is important

It’s an extraordinary day when the daily post from my least favorite blogger isn’t the thing that gets me the most riled up (although today she wrote about the “sin” of obesity so it was a close call). Nope, today it was something from my own little community that disturbed me the most. When I woke up this morning I saw a thread in the Seal Beach Facebook group regarding law enforcement and news crew activity at the local elementary school. Fortunately it wasn’t something life-threatening like a shooting or a hostage situation. Thank goodness! After reading the associated article on the Orange County Register I learned that the McGaugh Elementary School principal posted something contentious on her personal Facebook wall regarding the Nike ad featuring Colin Kaepernick. Yep, another social media scandal. We can’t seem to learn from even the very recent past when it comes to these situations. Here’s an excerpt from the OC Register article.

Along with thousands of other people around the country expressing similar viewpoints, Roni Burns-Ellis turned to Facebook Tuesday, Sept. 4, to condemn Nike for featuring controversial quarterback Colin Kaepernick in an ad. But as principal of McGaugh Elementary in Seal Beach, Burns-Ellis drew her own controversy. Above her photo of a Nike T-shirt cut into pieces, Burns-Ellis wrote on her personal Facebook page: “My newest rag! When Nike signs an anti-American thug to represent their brand, I will not support, wear, purchase or endorse their product.”

I added the bolding myself because that is the root of the problem. After reading the principal’s FB post, a Seal Beach resident went to the school administration’s office to complain about her use of a racist term to describe Kaepernick. This woman is in a position of leadership over not just adults, but also children. It’s understandable that parents would be alarmed by racist views expressed by such leadership, right? The elementary school has students of many colors and backgrounds so the principal’s FB post is not just generally offensive, but directly offensive to black students and their families. Seems straightforward to be, but unfortunately not to everyone. The main dispute in the Seal Beach FB page thread was over whether “thug” is in fact a racist term. So many people cited the bland dictionary definition to prove that race was not an implication in the principal’s use of the word. The shortsightedness of this argument is astounding. Unfortunately, there are untold numbers of words that have meanings beyond than the ones in a large, dusty, probably outdated volume. How many times have you had to consult Urban Dictionary to ascertain the current usage of a word or phrase? (I am old and out of touch so I use Urban Dictionary a lot!) We are all aware that calling a person of color an ape, baboon, or monkey is overtly racist, especially due to a few high-profile cases this year, but you won’t find words explicitly defining those terms as racist in your home dictionary. I found an NPR article that explained it better than I ever could – “One of the things that Americans have a whole lot of trouble with…is that words never keep their meanings over time. A word is a thing on the move. A word is a process. And that’s what’s so confusing about the N-word. And that’s what’s so confusing now about this word, thug. Any discussion where we pretend that it only means one thing is just going to lead to dissension and confusion.” The bottom line is that subtext is lost on folks who willfully ignore it. Luckily there was one encouraging comment from a woman in the FB thread.

A vast majority of McGaugh’s military families are minorities. Military members who take off their uniform at the end of each day and step out into the civilian world, only to face discrimination because of the color of their skin. Minorities in the military are not safe from unjust treatment by people in positions of power. I hope all of you parents/community members reading this will take a step back and remember that behind a parent’s job title, there are people and families of color, including black husbands and sons like my very own, who benefit from people like Kaepernick speaking up for them. Calling a black man a “thug” just because you don’t agree with the way he’s exercising his freedoms as an American is racist. It truly is. Please remember that every single service member past and present, signed an oath to defend the constitution and the freedoms that it grants. I don’t pretend to speak for all military families, but I do know many local military families (and thousands across the country) share my sentiments. And I hope you all will help hold those who are supposed to advocate for all of their students, students of color included, accountable for not doing so.

I couldn’t have said it better myself! In a post back in May, I stated that “Some people don’t understand that free speech means that in the United States you can’t be arrested or executed for your opinions, but it does not mean you are completely free from the consequences of what you choose to say. Hate speech can absolutely get you fired.” Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequence! We’ll see how this plays out for the McGaugh Elementary School principal.

It was the right choice

I’m working on another post to share all of the details about my fantastic trip to Portland last month, but I wanted write something about my wedding reception dress choice first. That’s the most important part, right? As the line in A Cinderella Story goes, “In true L.A. fashion, it’s not about who you are, it’s about what you wear!” I wouldn’t be a true Angeleno if I didn’t describe the apparel!

As you can tell by the above photo, I ended up wearing my red lace Mormon church dress to the wedding reception in Portland. And it was perfect. Dressy and flattering, yet also pretty and comfortable. Plus, I wore it with my Converse for the ultimate quirky, yet sensible ensemble. I loved it. (I had to change into the dress at the airport because I was so time-crunched before the reception, but I’ll save that crazy story for my other post! Even though I wasn’t flying that far, it wasn’t the most relaxing travel day by a long shot.) So what made me change my mind about the dress? Well, the weather in Portland turned out to be absolutely lovely the weekend I was there so I didn’t need to worry quite so much about getting hot and sweaty. It felt like fall. The high temperature earlier that week was in the 90s (gross), but by Saturday afternoon it was barely 70 degrees when my flight landed in Oregon. The original dress I had selected (I’ll write another post about that one later) was sleeveless due to the possible heat, but with the more temperate weather I was perfectly comfortable in something with two layers and a tad more coverage. I was actually happy to have the elbow-length lace sleeves on my arms when it got cooler that evening. No cardigan or hoodie required! I’m so glad I listened to my BFF and kept the Mormon church dress even though it was a bit fancier, and a bit more expensive, than what I was looking for. I like it a lot more than I expected to, and now I’ll have something dressy hanging in my closet in case I need it again. In fact, I’ve been filling out my wardrobe with a lot more dresses lately because I realized how useful they are while summer is still lingering here in SoCal. More on that in yet another post!

September 1st (Retail therapy #2 revisited)

I went to Target today because I was down to my last roll of toilet paper at home. So as a responsible adult I headed out to replenish my stock of bathroom essentials, but I was also hoping to browse the Halloween section of the store. This was a less “responsible adult” inclination, I admit. Unfortunately I was disappointed on that account. The back corner of the store that’s usually dedicated to selling products related to the next holiday on the calendar was sadly still decked out in back-to-school fashion. What a shame. I know some kids don’t start school again until after Labor Day, but it’s finally September, for crying out loud! Time for the holiday festivities to begin! But maybe that’s just my own impatience talking. I’ve been waiting eight whole months for this day! (One of my friends actually started decorating her front yard for Halloween today so I’m clearly not the only one who is excited for this time of year. And if my Halloween door hanging wasn’t tucked away so far in my closet I’d have started decorating today too.) However, I did find one holiday surprise in the bath products section of Target. Remember how last December I was obsessed with getting my hands on a bottle of Mrs. Meyer’s Apple Cider Clean Day Liquid Hand Soap? Here’s an excerpt from my retail therapy #2 blog post to refresh your memory.

“When I saw that Mrs. Meyer’s had a limited edition apple cider hand soap I just had to have some. Unfortunately I was late to the game because it was more of a fall scent, and therefore not readily accessible in stores. So I turned to Amazon, my usual tried-and-true source for everything under the Sun. Of course it was available from one seller, but it wasn’t cheap, as far as standard amounts of hand soap go. As you can imagine, in my holiday-fueled hysteria I wasn’t thinking clearly and purchased a bottle. It was silly, but it made me happy.”
2/24/18 webpage post

Well, as of today this previously coveted hand soap is available at my local Target at a reasonable price. Makes me feel silly for going to such great lengths last year! Not that I’ll be lining up to buy any this time around because I realized that I can experience the same scent profile from the Suave Kids 3-in-1 apple shampoo that I use at the gym! However, I did find Mrs. Meyer’s pumpkin hand soap, a variety I was previously unaware of, sitting on the same display shelf. I was intrigued. I bought so many bottles of holiday hand soap last December that I won’t even get close to finishing them by the end of 2018. So, thinking practically, there was absolutely no reason I needed to purchase pumpkin-scented soap today. In fact, my pledge to be more frugal for the rest of the year (I have two Disney World vacations coming up, and those aren’t cheap) is a prime reason that I shouldn’t have put any of the pumpkin hand soap in my shopping basket. But I did anyway. What can I say? My resolve weakens when I’m faced with special edition holiday stuff! Luckily hand soap is on the low end of the spectrum, price-wise. Let’s hope I have more willpower when it comes to other, more expensive and more compelling items. Like the gorgeous glass pumpkins at Pottery Barn. I must be strong!