Monday, November 14, 2016

The Art of the Steal? #election2016

Anyone else feeling of two (or more) minds about this thing?

I want to be calm and compassionate and understanding. To draft a plan of reaching out to current enemies and converting them to allies. To join hands with other activists and make the world a better place.

I am also furiously angry and disappointed and so fucking terrified of all the hate crimes going down, the DT cabinet and staff appointments that creature is making, that I can barely sit in my own skin.

Did he even WIN the Electoral College?

At the risk of sounding like a birther (hey, maybe it's contagious), I posit that there may have been tampering with the vote count in significant swing states that handed the apparent victory to DT.

  • We know that, according to US intelligence, Russia was trying to interfere with the Presidential election in the months prior to November 8.  Did they just fold up their hands and go have a nice cup of chai?
  • We know that US voting systems are vulnerable to hacking.
  • We know that Russia says it was been in contact with the DT campaign during the past few months, knows most of his entourage, and applauded the news of his apparent victory.
  • We know that DT proclaimed the election was rigged. Was he telling the truth disguised as an attack on the other side, so that if Hillary or others did call foul, it wouldn't be taken seriously? #markofagoodcon
  • We have not had any election officials in key swing states verify that their systems have been tested and showed no sign of hacking.

Perhaps, that is why all the polls were so wrong. Because they actually weren't.

I promise to abandon this theory, as soon as we are presented with verifiable evidence from reliable sources that this did not occur.

Or, perhaps, I'll keep circulating it for another say, five, five and a half years. Maybe I'll keep declaring the loser of the popular vote, the alleged winner of the Electoral College, to be illegitimate and a fraud, as well as a failed businessman, con artist, and proud pussy-grabber.

Like DT did with the birther nonsense about Barack Obama being born in Kenya. #followtheleader

Kumbaya Time?

I have a fair number of friends and family members who voted for that person. Whose name in my mouth and on my fingers and makes me feel sexually assaulted. Therefore, I will not use disparaging nicknames, or even his original family name to discuss him. DT all the way, at least for now.

I believe one of two things happened. Either the election was rigged, and stolen... or America is much more intolerant and hateful and short-sighted than I realized. Either of which breaks my heart. I am experiencing serious grief, fear for my vulnerable friends, anger and sadness about the assaults and graffiti springing up by asswipes feeling emboldened by this alleged victory.

I posted this on my Facebook timeline:
Especially do not tell me how to feel or that I should "just get over it." I will get over it, IF I get over it, in my own sweet time. If my feelings right now, or those of any of your other friends make you feel uncomfortable, step away if you need to for self care. But don't try to shut me down because witnessing my pain makes YOU feel bad.
And yet, I have some of my DT supporting friends and acquaintances press the issue and tell me to "get over it." I give them one second chance, and if they kept on pushing the issue, on my page or Tweetstream, they clearly cannot respect my grief and my boundaries, and are not safe people for me to have in my life at this time. Maybe that will change someday, maybe not.

But they treated me in a way I would not treat them, if our positions were reversed. #boundaries

And yet, I don't think cutting off everyone who went in the opposite direction is productive or healthy. It is awful how polarized the USA is right now, and the blame for that can be spread liberally (haha) around. We all did it; liberals, conservatives, the media who kept playing the horse race and ratings angle, instead of actually being investigative reporters and holding candidates' feet to the fire.

One of two things is going to happen. Either things are going to be magically much better than we feared - which would be very cool. I would much rather our country thrived, than to be proven right. I find zero satisfaction in saying or thinking, "Told you so" when it comes to our country imploding.

Or things are going to get really, really bad. Like, hiding Anne Frank in the attic bad. And the third party voters and the Berniacs who blasted Hillary till the last possible moment and even the DT voters are going to need a face-saving way to come over to the Light Side of the Force. Because then we will need every possible ally to defeat the Dark Side.

Sleeping With the Enemy

I am actually not part of the "intellectual elite" who looks down their snobby college-educated snouts at the stupid working stiffs. I am currently a low level white collar worker; I had the choice between living several more years with my abusive, narcissistic father (oh, the constant triggering of C-PTSD with DT and this election cycle!) and going to college, or, getting the hell out of Dodge.

I got out. And I worked and got raped, then got pregnant a few months later, and then I was a dead broke single mom for a very long time. Never got a college degree, though if I won the lottery I would be in college so fast! All books and homework, all the time! #learningnerd

Some people without college degrees are brilliant. Some are idiots, and some people with college degrees are idiots.

There was a long piece I found about Joe Schmoe, that I found particularly insightful. I've shared it around, this is a clip of it:

You may believe, and understandably so, that some people are racist to their core - that prejudice is fundamental to their character and therefore why they make decisions, but that is almost never the case. The "racist" Joe Schmoe working class citizen of Michigan, who lost his manufacturing job as a result of NAFTA may scapegoat immigrant workers as the root of their woes but that does not mean he is fundamentally anti-immigrant, it means that he is fundamentally ashamed that he can no longer provide for his wife and three kids and secondarily willing to place the blame on someone other than himself - of which we are all capable.
Now, put yourself in the shoes of Joe Schmoe. You turn on your TV after a day of doing minimum wage odd-jobs here and there and see, for the first time in your life, a political candidate speaking not only in a language that you understand, but is also directly addressing what you care about most - restoring your dignity.

"Damn it, give me my job back."

You may or may not feel a little uneasy by the absolute terms he uses to describe certain populations of people (who may or may not be your friends) but for the first time in a long time, you have a champion. After all, he could be right about those immigrants - right?
Now, imagine that you, Joe Schmoe, are scrolling through your news feed or watching CNN or happen to stumble upon the late night show. And what do you see? You see a bunch of people talking about you. You see strangers, people you have never met in your life, making assumptions about who you are and why you would vote in a particular direction. They are claiming that Donald Trump is a racist, and by affiliation of the affinity you felt for his ideals, they are claiming that you are a racist. They are saying things like "never underestimate the power of misogynistic white males", "Donald Trump uses 5th grade vocabulary to speak to his supporters", while listing dozens of reasons for why you should not vote for Trump - none of which address your underlying and fundamental concern but all of which make denigrating assumptions about your character. You care about nothing more than providing a happy existence for your wife and three little girls but you're misogynistic? You speak at a 5th grade level? Fuck these intellectuals sitting atop their ivory towers. Why won't they actually try to understand how I actually feel?

Would you not feel enraged? Would the fact that most people are unwilling to even attempt to understand your point of view make you more or less likely to don your "Make American Great Again" hat and go to that Trump rally at Grand Rapids?

So, my DT favoring family members. I tried to employ Dr. Xavier Amador's LEAP (Listen, Empathize, Agree, and Partner) and become the Joe Schmoe Whisperer.

And I actually had some productive-feeling conversations this weekend.

Nephew Kr. 45 years old, and virtually disabled, in constant physical pain, but still working in the construction industry, because he has neither money nor education to do anything else. He's a kind person, and a real mixed bag. He is not racist (except toward Muslims, grrr!). He supports LGBTQ rights (if not T's using the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity, grrr #2). Pro-choice.

He's frustrated by the multiple environmental regulations that make it difficult for him to earn a living. He's not against a cleaner environment, he wants that, but he's been in the position of having a city inspector telling him, "Do it XYZ way," and having to fight the inspector because the thing is against state environmental regulations, and the inspector says he doesn't care. He is drowning in paperwork and regulations and has not gained any ground in the economic "recovery," but continued to lose it.

The promise that Hillary would be in effect a third Obama term was terrifying to Kr. He's barely survived the past eight years. He knows it's in large part because of a R Congress blocking everything Obama does, but doesn't see how that would magically change if Hillary was President. He agrees that the R's are dicks for not bringing forward a vote on Obama's Supreme Court nominee. But maybe shaking everything up would make a difference.

I was reminded of a story I read, several years ago, about a Haitian man with an orchard of grapefuit trees. In two years, his trees would begin producing fruit, providing a regular income for his family. But his family was hungry, NOW, and there were no other resources. So he allowed a company to chop down all his trees to convert them to charcoal, so he could feed his kids, right now. Yes, it was "short-sighted," but what was he to do?

I felt a lot of compassion for the Haitian man, and feel much toward Kr, though I also want to wring his neck sometimes. And it didn't help when we were having a fairly civil, if spirited conversation, when his mother, my sister, told him something he said was stupid. I understand her frustration, and at the same time, hearing from your mother that she thinks you're stupid - or that something you deeply believe is - does not make anyone feel good about themselves, or disposed to listen. I called her in on that, and I think she got it, but ouch!

His brother, Kv, also is battered and struggling from years in the construction industry. He's supportive of T's using the bathroom that fits their gender, but also has frustration with the regulations and paperwork in the construction industry. And we got into a discussion about off-road vehicles and California wilderness areas. In our family's favorite camping area, some of his motorcycles are banned, because they're registered with a red sticker, rather than a green one. (Of course, nobody wants to start a fire in our favorite place.)

But he has all the spark arresters, etc., on the vehicles. And if he took those exact same vehicles, with the same equipment on them, and registered them in Oregon, rather than California, he could legally drive them in that area, even though they're the exact same bikes. And he echoes the same complaints about regulations in the workplace.

So I can relate to the desire to get out from under so many stupid and frustrating regulations that are smothering them, in both business and recreationally - which is something DT has promised to do. It's a bummer about the polar bears and all that, global climate change is worrisome, but only if you think you'll still be around in a decade or two.

Another nephew, in Wisconsin, also works construction, has back issues, and is chronically underemployed. Pretty sure he voted for Clinton, but I got to witness the culture there, of working class people all struggling, working hard and getting nowhere economically. Trading favors and bartering to get vehicles fixed because nobody had the funds to simply get them fixed. I can see where "more of the same," stretching into eternity, was simply not appealing to many white working class people.

And I know, I know, POC have it even worse. Working part time is much better than being incarcerated or shot, no question. But all these men in my family have memories from their childhood where their families were much more economically secure. They are aging and in physical pain and are already working as hard as they can imagine doing, and people are telling them they've privileged? And racist, because they want to recapture that pride, that feeling like things are going in the right direction for them? Laughing at them for being stupid and uneducated? Telling them to suck it up and try harder?

The only way we can bridge the gap between the working class and the "elites" and find a way together is to stop insisting on ideological purity. The Berners who tantrummed over Hillary and never found a right wing hit piece they didn't love - and share, because they didn't think she was the prefect candidate - are part of why the alleged results weren't as strong for her. Their votes, and the voters they help make disaffected, may have handed the election to DT. I admit, I'm still more than a little bitter about that. We freaking begged people to recall what happened in 2000 with Ralph Nader. #Historylesson #enjoythe OrangeReich

If things go as badly as I fear, we're going to need every ally, not just those who were #WithHer from the beginning. Those who wrote in Bernie and sabotaged Hillary; those who went for Johnson/Weld or Stein, those who stayed home, and yes, some of those who supported DT. And the way to draw them in as allies is to try to understand what they were and are feeling, and to make them feel like we understand, and have compassion for them. Even if they aren't perfect.

And I for one, do.

Sorry this is so long.
Your thoughts?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Still Beautiful, Still Sexy, After Breast Cancer #breastcancer #surthriver

Photo by Nick Holmes Sept 2016
Ready to discuss cancer? And look at naked boobs? Can we make that a hell yes?

Estimates are that as many as 40% of Americans will be diagnosed with and survive cancer.

Sadly, not everyone will beat cancer, breast, or otherwise. I lost a dear friend, Sherwin Davis, to pancreatic cancer just last month. #fuckingcancer

But for those of us who get cancer, and don't die of it, what then? Should we pretend we died? Live a life of fear and rehash our hurts? Grovel around like beggars at the Table of Life, expressing pathetic gratefulness for any crumbs that fall to us?

Well, as discussed as CatalystCon, and in agreement with Clarissa Pinkola Estes, surviving as a goal ain't good enough.  The goal, always, should be to thrive.

This is why I call myself a surthriver. Because my life before cancer was awesome, my life during cancer treatment was awesome, and my life post-treatment (except for the Tamoxifen regimen, which sucks big fat hairy donkey balls), is awesome.

A big part of my journey has been learning to accept that my body has changed. A huge factor helping me do that has been the sexy surthrivers I've been learning from.

That Club Nobody Wants to Belong To

My friend Mina Harker might never have come into my life, except we both had cancer. Hers was cervical, and she is a BadAss, Stage 4, 5 year+ surthriver. She also had a double mastectomy because of the BRCA1 gene, and agreed to sit on my panel for CatalystCon to discuss the modifications required in her sex life because of her diagnosis and treatment.

She is awesome and über-sexy and I love her to pieces.

If you look super closely, you might notice the scars.
Mostly, you notice a gorgeous woman

And then there's my friend Jennifer Pratt, who can rock purple, silver, or turquoise hair, or a tiara. She is talented like that.

Jennifer has been battling leukemia and ovarian cancer. Because she'e an overachiever.

Jennifer hosted the best (technically, the only) pre-cancer surgery party I've ever attended. She is upbeat and funny and also writes a blog about her celiac disease, and I'm so happy we've met.

Augusta Fleming, Now treating her Stage 3B Hodgkins Lymphoma with cannabis in Colorado, after traditional chemotherapy last year offered a miserable time (months in the hospital at a time!) and no real progress. She's the mother of two little girls, a kick-ass photographer, and a true inspiration.

Because she had to be hospitalized so much, there are evil medical bills.
Her friends have set up a GoFundMe to help.

And then there's this radiant woman, Sex Educator Ericka Hart, whose proud, joyous photo from Afropunk3 went viral on social media. (Photos shared with her permission.)

You can follow Ericka on Instagram.
"Where were the dykes who had double mastectomies? I wanted to talk to a lesbian, to sit down and start from a common language, no matter how diverse. I wanted to share dyke insight, so to speak." - Audre Lorde 
#qtpoc#queers #audrelorde #breastcancer#awareness #hereandqueer #dyke#cancerwarrior #survivor#effyourbeautystandards #melanin#blacklivesmatter 

Ericka at the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Body design by artist Laolu

Read this interview with her at Posture Magazine. Ericka continually blows me away and I am following her career with intense interest.

Showing Our Bodies When We Want To

One of the things Ericka and I and other breast cancer surthrivers have discussed, is that because we have to show our breasts (and often, other body parts) to so many different medical professionals: doctors, nurses, lab technicians, and more, it can be empowering to show our bodies when we want to. Even if that's to the whole world!

You get to see my tits! And you get to see my tits! Everybody gets to see my tits!
"Before" lumpectomy picture by Nick Holmes, June 2015

My arrangement with my favorite actor - slash - pretend cowboy - slash - poet (you should totally buy his book and get a lover to read you his deliciously sensuous poems, they're yummy!)  - slash photographer, Nick Holmes, was to have him take a set of before-and-after photos. Nick made the "before" pictures easy and fun.

Getting to the "after" pictures was much more emotionally challenging for me. Even though I was so lucky, and I knew it, not having to have a mastectomy, or chemotherapy.

About two weeks post surgery. I did not expect Laverne to swell up like that.
Possibly the vigorous sex I had with three of my lovers was a contributing factor. #toomuchofagoodthing

As I got deeper into radiation treatment, Laverne and Shirley looked like they were staging an interpretative production of Snow White and Rose Red.

Radiation reddened my breast, thickened the nipple,
and caused the skin in my armpit to break down.
Fun times!

Nothing like having one of your lovers help you bandage up your 'pit as foreplay.

Eventually, the breast skin became (more) normal, though Laverne remains pinker than Shirley despite lymphatic massage. The nipple and areola are still thicker, and ridged. I've heard it may go back to normal in five years or so.

Or, never.

That was not what I wanted to hear. But that is part of this journey - learning and accepting that our bodies have changed. We have to find ways to love the skin we're currently in. Instead of waiting until we are: thin enough, muscular enough, some other "enough." We deserve to give ourselves love and compassion now. Whether we are breast cancer surthrivers, other cancer surthrivers, or just "regular" women and men, growing a little older every day.

So I decided to stop procrastinating, and booked my "after" session with Nick. These are some of my favorites.

The one good thing about having cancer, is, it helped me lose weight.
Oh, wait.

That's another thing I am struggling to accept, that chances are I can't lose weight (95% of people who deliberately lose weight, see it all come back, with dividends). That what I have to focus on is health: eating nutritious foods, getting regular exercise, drinking water, getting enough sleep. I'm not perfect at those things, but am working on 'em. Blogged about the weight quandary here.

I'm working on accepting that, at least for now, maybe forever, I have a big belly and thick thighs. Flabby batwing arms.

And to love my body anyway.

Because life is glorious!

I love my eyes and my hair in this shot!

I am very, very happy to be alive, to have this healthy, sensuous body that gives me so much pleasure. And sometimes I think the girls look pretty damn good!

This photo is NOT by Nick Holmes, lol.

If you haven't already, please consider signing up for my newsletter (right side of page, toward the top) so I can let you know about my progress with my Sex, Drugs, Rock 'n Roll, and a Tiara: How I Celebrated Kicking Cancer's Ass memoir, to be released in 2017.

Do you have stories about body image struggles? 
Or taking back your power through boudoir or other photographs?
Your thoughts?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Got Wenches?

My kittehs:
Creativity on the left,
Motivation (Mojo) on the right
So I belong to an online group of writers, mostly women, with a couple of (male) barkeeps thrown in, because somebody needs to bring us the booze.

The Wenches are scattered across the US, Canada (I think), Sweden, the UK, and Australia, so, sadly, our wine parties are mostly virtual.

Our genres are also scattered: Young Adult, Horror, Women's Contemporary Fiction, Romance, General Lit'rature, and more. Also, Dinosaur Porn.

I've managed to escape shouldering some of the not particularly onerous duties of being a Writing Wench, but they finally caught on.

So, today, I am blogging on Writing Wenches about recapturing your creative mojo, not be be confused with my kittehs, Creativity and Mojo, after taking a writing break.

Or any kind of break, really, whether your "thing" is writing or sex or interpretive dance. Whatever interference life hands you, you CAN get back on the horse. (Especially if your thing is horseback riding.)

Come check out my post, and meet my fabulous wenches!