Wednesday, October 30, 2013

North Dakota Woman Wants to Give Letters to Obese Kids: So Angry I Could Spit

Imagine walking up to your neighbor's child and saying, "I bought presents for all of your friends, but I don't think you deserve one so I'm giving you a flag that says, 'LOSER'. You can show your flag to your parents. They will know why." Now imagine the hurt in that child's heart. Imagine yourself as that child when your friends all look at you and giggle. Put yourself in the place of that child. Imagine how terrible you'd feel knowing that aside from all of your friends taunting you about what they consider to be a defect in your personal appearance, that the neighbors (grown adults) want to point out too. Do you feel that? Imagine how disgusted you'd feel about yourself. Now imagine going back to school tomorrow and facing the almost disguised giggles and the outright snickering with fingers pointed in your direction.

Stop. Are you happy with what you've created? Are you proud enough in yourself? You bullied a child. In typical fashion, you reached out to someone smaller than you, with less clout than you, and you've made them feel both huge... and incredibly small at the same time.

A woman in North Dakota has decided it would be a good idea to hand out letters, instead of candy, to children on her trick-or-treat route that she deems to be overweight. Obviously, she has chosen to be anonymous because even she knows her decision would lead her to being ostracized in the community. I'm sure she probably started this with the belief that only obese people with obese children would be offended.

Unfortunately, she forgot the human factor. We didn't all grow up in the thin group. Personally, I grew up fat. My parents weren't the cause. You could have shamed me until the moon turned blue. I'd have just gotten fatter or I'd have stopped eating altogether and my body would have decided to grow thicker body hair to heat my ever withering frame. Those are the reactions to eating disorders, to one extreme or another. THAT is what shame does to a child.

I'm sure this woman does not consider this to be shaming behavior. She's wrong. No matter who this letter is aimed at, the child will know who the letter came from. When other children reveal the contents of the letter, and they will, classmates will have witnessed the letter being handed out and to whom. Children whose parents receive this letter WILL be called out by classmates. Shaming will occur.

Let's talk for a minute about eating disorders. Eating disorders don't only occur on one end of the spectrum. People who overeat to fill a void suffer the same issues as those who under eat. In both cases, organ damage, self-esteem, confidence, levels of happiness, and realistic body image face a powerful blow. In one case the person feels they can never be thin enough to reach the goal and continue to try until their organs give out. In the other case the person feels there is no hope, so they eat until their bodies cannot support their organs and eventually those organs give out.

This, my friends, is what shame causes. It causes people to forego natural activity and behavior and hide it away. Thin people will never feel thin enough. Heavy people will be so ashamed that they won't seek help. How long does this have to go on? How many people will we see shunning fitness programs because they grew up with a neighbor who couldn't even give them a piece of candy on Halloween without singling them out for being "fat"? How many kids will stop eating because they worry that next year they might get that letter?

Ms. North Dakota, whomever you really are, I hope you realize your actions are nothing short of bullying. This might be legal on your doorstep, but morally, it is completely ill-conceived and hurtful. Take a moment, before Halloween arrives, and consider the following; You had enough time to consider writing a letter, buying paper and envelopes, printing it, and throwing your plan on social media, but that time could have been spent; Encouraging young people to participate in a program at the local park, inviting your neighbor child to walk with you and your pet, playing at the YMCA or YWCA, or countless other programs. This time could have been spent at the local after school program where you could have lovingly taught children a better way of living. You could have volunteered with a group of children in a local youth organization and gone on a hike explaining the importance of healthy food when sustaining their bodies.

There are SO many things you could have done with your time... and there is still a little time left. Grow a heart. Get some compassion. Learn what it really takes to reach children. Shaming parents and person doesn't work. Example does. Reach out. The world is waiting. Instead of ruining a childhood holiday, think of the end goal and choose a healthy response. Isn't that what you're asking them to do?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Searching for Home: My Gypsy Heart

I was not one raised on fairy tales. My earliest childhood memory of reading is of my mother reading Charlotte's Web to my brother, sister, and I when I was merely 5. My desire to roam is certainly not attributable to the stories I was raised on, nor my later readings. Much of my early education outside of the public school system I can attribute to my grandmother, Zona. Whether it was information she'd gathered through experience, education (which to be honest was far more diverse than that of a typical American student today), or through her own endeavors to broader her horizons she is the one that encouraged me to learn. 

While both my grandmother and my mother were housewives by common definition, neither discouraged education and exploration. Perhaps it was a dream of both to travel and experience the world. My mother listens with a smile as I recount my travels or experiences. My grandmother has always been diligent in uncovering her ancestry as well as that of my grandfather's, her late husband. It almost seems a way of saying, "We are more than what you remember. We are more than what you see. We have history an ocean away from here, and you should know it. Find it. I've done what I can. It's your turn." 

So while one part of my family traces it's roots to England, the Normans, and Eric the Red, the other, my biological father's side, traces it's roots to historically royal blood in Norway. Our quest to reclaim our bastardized, common, far flung claim to a long forgotten throne has yet to be realized and never will be. All of that withstanding, there is always a memory, though not my own, of home. I wonder at times if this is the same for all "young" Americans. Perhaps many of those who still have family in Europe have dreams of a country not our own but hopes that it one day could be. After all, what is more American than the belief that nothing is beyond our reach? 

This is what astounds me most about having stood on the soil of my forefathers... the instantaneous feeling of coming home. I've mentioned it before, but the only time I've ever felt truly at home were the moments when I stood on English and Scottish soil. Obviously, there is the chance that I simply reveled in the countryside and embraced it as what I knew of home in Iowa. Still, there was a feeling of peace I've never felt anywhere in my life, not even in the US. The only other two places I've felt absolutely alone, yet at peace, were Belfast, Ireland and Montreal, Canada. I would place the onus on the lack of language barrier, but it was more than that. I felt at home before speaking or interacting. 

When I speak to others about my desire to leave, it's often mistakenly construed as an insult to my country of birth. It's as if there is some unspoken belief that when you don't feel you belong it is somehow your fault. I fit in to many places in the United States. The only thing I can describe it as is "passing". I pass as an American. I have some of the same beliefs that our country was founded on. I am indescribably Nordic or English in appearance, not quite this and not quite that, but obviously pale... until I tan my skin and color the grey from my hair to match the darkness of my mother's. Then I look somehow foreign, but still passable. I've heard everything from French to Italian to Jewish, and a few times, Eurasian. My Norman pale is generally most common. My home, however, can only be described as wandering. 

Romani? Perhaps, though, hair color not withstanding, which type of traveler is undecided. Gypsy for sure. While some might consider the term derogatory, I personally find it welcoming. Would I willingly leave my "home" and work jobs in various locations to guarantee my shelter, sure. Do I have a traveling trade, most definitely not. I'm simply seeking home. Maybe home truly is where the heart is. While I love my family, and feel briefly at home when we are all together, I don't truly feel like I belong where I am. Perhaps I am more than what I remember. I am more than what I see. I have history far from here, and I should know it.

Oddly, as I write this, my friend David (truly Irish), experienced his very young daughter's enthusiasm for the fire department. I simply said, "Pretty sure this is some Irish tendency to honor firefighters and policeman. You can suppress it all you like, but eventually one of your kids will join a house or a force or the priesthood. Sorry... that's just how it goes. It's like the guarantee that, as Norman-English and Scandinavian one of my family will take on alcoholism as a sport or farming as an occupation." My family has done both. I like my cocktails, and though I don't farm, I envision a life where I can grow tomatoes, zucchini, and basil year round. In the US I think that makes me a Californian, but my heart tells me that's not it. 

As I gaze upon my impending release from parental responsibility I wonder where I'll go. Obviously my family will be welcomed no matter where I land. Shall I do a gradual move east? Will I change countries and maintain continents? Is the move to another continent inevitable? Is leaving the continent the absolute goal? I don't know at the moment. Right now I only know where my heart is, and aside from my immediate family, it is not here. I used to look to the west as a means of settling, whether it be settling down or settling in general. As 40 approaches I find myself looking east, perhaps with the realization that I am not finished exploring and I am not ready to move toward the ultimate finish, but push toward the ultimate fulfillment... home. 

I'm not seeking a fairy tale. I'm not looking for Prince Charming. My desire to travel is not based upon a story written to draw the reader in with dreams of a better time or a better world. I'm simply seeking something I can't quite grasp. It's there somewhere, if only I can find what it is and where it resides. 

Where are you at home? Is your home merely where your family is or do you feel drawn elsewhere? 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Farewell, Sprocket Ink

I've taken a little time away from writing of late, mostly as a way to clear my head of the junk that rattles around in there. After determining a couple of months ago that I'm not actually insane, well... not in the "get the straight jacket" sort of way, it seemed wise to simply revel in my peace for a little while. Now that I've done that, it's time for me to get my head back in the game.

As many of you know, for the last year I've been writing with Sprocket Ink. It was an honor to collaborate with such an terrific group of bloggers, but sometimes life gets in the way of the best plans, projects, and intentions. Sprocket Ink will close this week, but these folks will continue on in other projects and internet infamy.... You should go find them.

nicholeNichole has a great life in the Midwest. She lives comfortably in a house made of glass with her hubby while her tiger sleeps in the garage out back. She has a fake boyfriend known to most people as “Jon Stewart.” She believes that most of life’s lessons can be learned through The Brady BunchSeinfeld, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. She falls asleep to Ira Glass’s voice on This American Life as often as possible. She’s both a news junkie and a reality TV show junkie… somehow she makes that work.
Andrea is the quirkiest thirty-something writer slash photographer, crazy cat lady this side of the Mississippi. She’s a California girl turned Portlander and she has the plaid shirts and Valley Girl accent to prove it. She  wonders how the hell she ended up with a big girl job, spends her weekends dominating the Portland karaoke scene, and blogs when she feels like it at Crazy with a Side of Awesome Sauce. Andrea was lucky enough to be with Sprocket in its conception and is ever so stoked to be back snarking it with the best of ‘em.
Becky lives in Texas with her hubcap, Chuck and two tiny dogs, Pants and Scratchy. She moved to Texas when she was nine but she doesn't call herself a Texan, maybe in another 20 years. She pokes animals with shiny needles (only to help them!) during the work week and relaxes at night with a sharp and gluten free knife. On the weekends you will find her in the pool with a good book or a kindle in a waterproof case and her waterproof camera around her neck. She started her blog in 2006 when she discovered boyfriends watch a lot of football. Like a lot of football.

Brahm lives in northern Canada with his patient husband, adorable dog, and handsome step-dog. When not living his double life as an international man of mystery, he dabbles in pop culture obsession, watches The Big Bang Theory over and over, has a career in retail, runs long distances very slowly, and blogs at Alfred Lives Here where he rants and raves about TV, movies, morons, books, gay life, and why the Kardashians really are a sign of the coming apocalypse.
Bre works to support all sorts of habits outside of the job that include, eating, watching movies, buying Kindle books, and buying toys for the toddler that will go unused.  A full-time mother, employee, and social networker, she enjoys everything from Friends to Fight Club.  As full blown Texan, she believes everyone is y’all, honey, but wouldn't be caught dead near a horse (unless it’s Rodeo time).  You can find her discussing being a parent, life, and even posting the occasional work of fiction on her blog at
 When Handflapper is not trying to encourage one of her many disliked dogs to play in the road (shh, don’t tell her husband!), she might be crafting or reading or playing on the internets, but she’ll most likely be napping. She always thought she’d be a writer when she grew up, but she somehow became a special education teacher instead.  Now that she’s retired* from teaching and actually getting the chance to write, she’s discovered she’s as lazy about that as she is anything else. She’s either a hippie or a nerd, depending on whom you ask, but definitely too liberal for most of her neighbors in rural Arkansas (redundant, right?).  She raised two boys who have turned out just as cynical as she.  She has a half-ass blog at where she over shares the intimate details of her life. Trust me, it’s not as exciting as it sounds.   *had a nervous breakdown and quit her job*
Jessie Bishop Powell has two perfectly useless Master’s Degrees from the University of Kentucky. The degree in English prevents her from writing, and the one in Library Science prevents her from reading, so she’s pretty much up a creek. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her egghead husband and their two bookworm children. For all her erudite background, her favorite words all start with the prefix fuck, and she makes her mother blush on a regular basis. You can read her ranting and fiction over at her blogging home, Jester Queen.

Kath is Jersey, baby. After all these years she still has no clue what she wants to be when she grows up. She has a bad attitude, that doesn't make her a bad person. Give her music and she is tolerable…barely. She rants about life on Kat’s Theory of Life and bitches about what passes for music, on Kat’s Theory of Music.

Untitled-Grayscale-01Kellie Maliborski is a cubicle dwelling office worker from Queensland, Australia who works in a library during the day and writes silly things on the internet in the evening … well, she writes them when she’s not obsessively refreshing her Tumblr feed or reading Stargate Atlantis fan-fiction, because she’s essentially a fourteen year old girl inside the body of a thirty mumble year old woman. You can find Kellie at her blog Delightfully Ludicrous .

KristiKristi is a robot masquerading as a writer. She figured it would be the best cover prior to the inevitable droid take over. Supported by these humans in her house, the snark flows out of her through her writings. Sometimes the filter is broken. You've been warned.
Find her ramblings on The Robot Mommy or parenting advice on Mom 365.

Lance, from My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog, is an anxiety ridden, sarcastic, punk rock loving, sports, music & politics obsessed robot-human hybrid writer living in the deep south with 4 women and not talking about Fight Club. Lance Burson is a published author of two books, The Ballad of Helene Troyand Soul To Body.

LindaLinda is a writer/musician. She’s grateful that the word “snark” has been introduced into the vernacular since people just used to know her as “the chick with the bad attitude”.  She feels strangely akin to Larry David and will criticize your parallel parking abilities to prove it. She blogs at elleroy was here, fronts the Indie Americana band Jehova Waitresses, is a staff writer at Aiming Low and writes a music column at Funny Not Slutty.  Connect with her at Twitter and Facebook and Google+
NatalieNatalie DeYoung, a reading addict with a penchant for making up words, lives the life of a misfit freelance writer/editor in Southern California with her adorable cat, her annoying dog, and her long-suffering husband. You can find her perpetually enrolling in grad school for esoteric subjects and scheming of ways to travel the world with no money. She runs a personal blog at The Cat Lady Sings and a professional website at One Word in Front of the Other, and has appeared on The Huffington Post.

Sarah has the husband, kids, house, job, and the stressed-induced insomnia to prove it. She lives in the Midwest with the above-mentioned menagerie, and works in academia. She revels in nerdiness. When she’s not working, she ignores the mountains of dirty laundry and blogs at La Casa di Frigerio; mainly about tortilla chip-induced panic attacks and keeping the vermin at bay.

Shane finally realized that the whole socialization thing wasn't going to work out in college when, while trying to fit in, he overheard a frat boy tell a woman he ‘didn't like ballet because the guys always look like they have a pickle in their pants.’
So he left for Austria, where it’s so much easier to like people when you’re trying to figure out what they’re saying most of the time.  He now lives in state-subsidized housing, working in IT, nipping at the teat of the welfare state and raising 3 children with a wife who can’t figure out how the hell we got here but is sure that it will all work out for the best in the end. He does most of his writing very early in the morning, when the birds wake up, forced into being a morning person by fate and circumstance and goddamn kids.
Keep in mind that he didn't used to be this way.  He used to be quite lucid, before making chocolate milk at 3 A.M. became such a priority. Did we mention that he loves you?  Each and every one of you.  Just don’t get too close.  He bites.  Not in a fetish way.  In the other way.

Vinny C
From the shores of Trinidad & Tobago comes Vinny C. First sighted on As Vinny C’s It, not much is known about this international blogging enigma. What is known is that he is married (apparently to a very patient woman) and holds a strange obsession with coffee. Evidence also suggests he tends to favor humor, Japan, pop culture references and drawing crude stick figures – often with large breasts. Even more mysterious is how he manages to continually breach our security in order to leave his writings behind.

Damon Rallis, formerly of The Six Fingered Monkey (and various other well known, widely acclaimed, and all around outstanding representations of literary ability), is currently sporting a new haircut and working on new goals. You can find him at Damon Peter Rallis, where he is working toward a better community and a better world, dammit! He's a father, partner, and freelancer (of the working kind). 

So with that, I'm going to get my ass out of here for today. I'll actually be back sooner than later, but it's probably best that I spend more time doing my job while I'm at work than blogging. For today anyway.

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