“I just don’t care about politics…”

If we are friends on Facebook, you know what happened in my COM class yesterday.  If you aren’t, here’s a recap.

I start the class with a vocal warm-up – usually a question the students answer to practice sharing pathos and ethos.  The questions have been things like:”Who is your hero?”, “What are you most scared of?”, “What do you regret most?”  Not easy questions per se, but also not questions that really drive the students to think outside their world or past experiences.  That’s fine.  It serves a purpose.

Yesterday, I didn’t have a planned question so I asked one off the top of my head, “What do you think of the political climate in the US?”

The first student articulated his views on the polarity of our country and said that he was scared only a Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump could break the business as usual in Washington when it comes to big money lobbyists electing the next president.  He’s hoping if that is true, it is Sanders, not Trump.

The next three students said they don’t follow politics/don’t care about politics/don’t watch the news.

The fourth student said she didn’t understand the question.  Upon further exploration on my part, I realized that my use of the word “climate” threw her – she was thinking temperature, environment etc.  Don’t laugh.  This gal is anything but stupid.  She’s very smart, but if you don’t read a broad range of things, your vocabulary will be limited.

Side note: Damn it, people, read stuff!  All kinds of stuff.  Reading a diversity of books, magazines, and articles increases your vocabulary, exposes you to new ideas, and, hopefully, reduces your prejudice.

A total of two people in my class of 24 could articulate an answer to this question.  20 students said they didn’t care about politics/it doesn’t matter to them, and two said anyone put Trump for President.  And while I almost agree (because, eeew, Cruz!), that’s not really an answer to the question.

I asked by a show of hands who knew who Antonin Scalia was.

Two.

I asked by a show of hands what color Taylor Swift’s red-carpet skirt was at the Grammy’s – magenta/berry or orange.

Twenty.

And I lectured them.  Raised-my-voice-until-their-eyes-bugged-out lectured them about their apathy.  I lectured them about their responsibility to be informed.  And I lectured them about being the problem.  Not being part of the problem, but being the actual problem.

That experience stuck with me the entire day.  I went home and talked to a good friend last night hoping for something that would make the sense of doom and failure in the pit of my stomach go away.  Well, he talked; I blubbered.  The conversation  was via Facebook Messenger so he couldn’t see that I was crying most of the conversation.

I was crying over the sheer wasted talent I saw that day in class.  The waste that was each student who refused to engage outside of their own narrow world.  Or maybe they don’t refuse to engage outside their own world – maybe they’ve never been expected to do so.  Maybe they don’t know how.

I was crying because I felt helpless to fix whatever the problem is.  I felt like I didn’t have enough time, didn’t have enough energy, and sure has hell didn’t have enough talent to reach them.  To inspire them.  To give them the tools to develop their talents so they can change the problems we have oozing across our planet.

He gave me great encouragement and some background he sees in the K-12 system in his role working in schools.  He also reminded me I might not reach them all.  And he reminded me, it isn’t all on me.  They have to want to change, too.   So with that reality check under my belt,  I stayed up brainstorming how I can engage students differently.

I sent this email to my students this morning.

I wish you all could see what I see in you. I see an unlimited set of talents and opportunities. I see phenomenal intelligence and compassion. I see great strength and personal conviction. I see a bright group of people who have limitless possibilities to change the world. But. You can’t change the world without being informed about the world.
 
So, to give you practice engaging with information outside your immediate knowledge-base (and to help prepare you for your persuasive speech), starting Tuesday and for all future classes, our vocal warm-up is going to be you bringing in a news story on a current event happening in our world. Here are the rules:
  • You will find, read, and summarize a news article. You don’t have to formally write out your summary, but you do need to be able to 1) tell us who wrote the article, 2) where it was published, 3) convey the meaning and intent of the article 4) discuss any bias you detected, 5) share your opinion on the piece if appropriate and 6) answer questions from other students. This should all be able to happen in the space of a minute or two – it’s not a huge scary thing, so no one freak out.
  • You may bring the article on an electronic device or print it out if you like.
  • This has to be a current news event. For the purpose of this exercise, sensational/popular news (review your Academic Source Checklist) are excluded. These need to be four or five star sources. In this case, you will likely use more four star sources than five star sources.
I shared with you yesterday my Twitter account is only for news and my 20 minute Twitter morning routine. This is what I found out about our world in 18 minutes on Twitter this morning:
  1. Canadian Broadcast Company: Harper Lee passed away. (If you don’t know who she is, look it up and read about her.)
  2. BBC News (World): The Pope is calling out Donald Trump’s behavior towards Mexico and Mexicans as unChristian.
  3. PEW Research Center: A breakdown of the eligible Hispanic electorate in every state, including data on languages spoken, marital status, and level of education.
  4. Oregonian: The Grant County Sheriff is under investigation by the state licensing board regarding his actions/interactions with the armed occupiers of the Malhuer wildlife refuge.
  5. Al Jazeera English:  China’s economic growth rate
  6. New York Times: Pros and Cons of Apple denying the FBI access to the phones of the San Bernadino attackers.
  7. BBC Newsbeat: Discussing the two schools of thought regarding if the UK should stay in the European Union or leave.
  8. The Washington Post: An article about the funeral of Justice Scalia.
 
All of these have significant impact on your lives – know it or not/believe it or not. And all of them have strong potential roots as persuasive speech.
 
I’m excited to see what you all bring in – text me any questions you have. I’m in town this weekend.
Miss J
If you are a prayer, pray; if you are a good thought sender, send good thoughts.  I hope to give them the tools to be engaged.  I hope to inspire them to be engaged.  I hope to show them all they need to know to be an engaged citizen will not be taught in their collegiate courses.  I hope I give them the tools to think.  I hope I inspire them to think, and disagree, and change their minds.  I hope I give them permission to fail, but encourage them to keep trying.  
I have a lot of hopes.
But this is the next generation – shouldn’t we all?

Rule #5

If you watch NCIS, you know the Gibbs Rules.   Let me introduce you to one of J’s Rules.  And trust me, the very patriarchal, hyper-masculine, “Never apologize.  It’s a sign of weakness” crap doesn’t rate a spot in J’s Rules.       

Rule #5 is a rule that has put me in some disgusting and uncomfortable situations in the past, but it’s a rule upon which I stand firm.  

J’s Rule #5: Don’t ask anyone (employees and students specifically) to do that which you are not willing to do yourself.  

Because I had never been a Resident Assistant in undergrad, when I became a Resident Director in grad school, I wouldn’t make my RAs clean up vomit until I had done it myself a couple of times.  My RAs thought I was a little unhinged when I told them regardless of the time or situation, they were to call me and only me for puke patrol.  But the little dears had a perverse side and complied with a fair amount of glee.  

This also meant I was first on the scene for cleaning blood and other bodily fluids.  You haven’t lived until you have cleaned the feces – the exceptionally loose feces – of a person too drunk to know he didn’t have control of his bowels…up three flights of stairs.

Side note: corn truly doesn’t digest in everyone’s system.  

the-more-you-know

So when I was reworking the readings and think card questions for this term’s COM 115 Intercultural Communication class, I knew there was going to be a project in which I would participate.  Between week’s three and five students must seek out a co-culture they know nothing or little about and engage in learning (e.g. if someone knows nothing about GLBTQ culture, seek out someone from PFLAG or attend a PFLAG learning event, if someone knows nothing about a religion, make an appointment with an elder/pastor/priest/religious leader or attend a service), or do something that makes them feel uncomfortable based on one or more of their identities.  Then they must write a reflection on their learning, feelings, and experience.

This clearly isn’t an exercise about stepping outside of personal values and moral principles or putting oneself in danger, this is just meant for students to learn more – about themselves,  about media impact on identity development, and media impact on perceptions of other cultures/co-cultures.

And because this is an activity I find great value in as a periodic personal exercise, I’m jumping on board.  I’ve already determined what my activity is going to be: I’m running my Saturday errands and doing shopping without makeup or my hair being done.  

UPDATE: I will actually be spending a day at work, a day that includes teaching two classes, without makeup or my hair being done.  I realized last night as I was telling my students about this activity that the thought of teaching and spending a day at work without makeup was far more personally horrifying than running errands where I have a good chance of not running into anyone I know.  

Now.  If you are like my mother, then your first reactions was – “So what?  Big deal.  I go everywhere without makeup!”

Congrats.

I do not.

I’ve lived in Hermiston just shy of six years and I have gone out without make-up once.  Just once.  Back when I was a resident director and didn’t have a choice but to answer my door when someone knocked, I would wear makeup to bed.  I’m probably the only RD to ever empty a building at 2:00am with a full face of makeup and a fresh swipe of Berry Bliss lipstick.  

Don’t judge.  If I’m going to run up and down the stairs of a seven story building making sure no one decided to ignore the alarm and stay in bed, then I deserve some creature comforts in the process.  

My attachment to make-up is deeply rooted in my own personal feelings of inadequacy about my body.  Make-up, shoes, scarves, and big, gaudy jewelry all started as a way to cover or deflect attention from a body I have always found lacking.  

Those things have  gradually morphed into a part of my identity.  Truly.  Former and current students send me pictures or tag me in facebook posts about shoes.  This is something everyone, including myself, identify with me.  But not everyone knows why or how this love of shoes and accesories started.  And while I truly do love them and embrace them now for different reasons, I have never forgotten why I started wearing and embracing these things.  

As I write that, it is exceptionally odd to verbalize (I talk to my computer while I blog) the fact that something which started as a way to cover who I am has become who I am.  

I wonder if this will be a freeing or freaky experience.  I wonder if I will feel anxiety or nerves.  I wonder if this will change how I see myself or how I see anything else.  I wonder a lot.

Biggest fear at this point in time: Someone is going to ask me “What’s wrong with you?  Are you sick?”  Answer?  “No.  I’m just a damned good teacher.  Thank you Rule #5.”

Grief Sucks

I know.  I could have used a more glamorous word.  A more polite word – Mom has never liked it when I use the word “sucks”.  But I probably couldn’t use a more descriptive word.  Grief sucks super stinky swamp water.

On December 4th my fur baby and companion of seven and a half years passed away.

All the descriptors in every dictionary and thesaurus in every language in the world can’t describe how much I miss him.

How much, one month and nine days later, I still miss him.

I don’t really know how to process his loss.  I’ve tried laying my head in his kennel, on the last blanket he curled up in, and sobbing until I had no tears left in my body.  I’ve tried holding his favorite toys and sobbing.  I watched while the water in his water bowl evaporated – hoping the ache in my heart would dissapate right along with it.  I’ve tried reminding myself that people have lost their children, husbands, mothers, fathers, brothers, wives and that I just lost my dog.

At first I felt guilty for missing him so much.  For hurting so much.  He was just a dog.  Right?  I mean, it wasn’t like I’d lost my mom or my brother. And then a friend who recently lost her mother told me that grief is grief and hurt is hurt and there is no such thing as “just”.

It’s grief.

It’s pain.

It’s loss.

And it sucks.

That helped me stop saying just.  Spencer wasn’t just a dog.  He was my dog. My companion. My study buddy.  My friend. And I loved him.  Love him.  And while there is a difference between losing Spencer and losing my brother, or mother, or nephew, it’s okay to unapologetically feel anguish, and pain, and grief at his loss.

Grief is so difficult for people to work through there is actually a theory about how people process grief.  I love theory and thought it might be helpful to understand this process from a more academic side rather than a purely emotional perspective.

That is going to go down in history as one of my dumber moments – right next to dating that guy I knew I shouldn’t have dated in college.

Some things can’t be processed academically.  This is new for me.  Usually I find comfort and direction in my theories.  This time I just found extreme confusion and frustration.  I remember thinking, “I haven’t felt anger.  I need to find something to be angry about so I can move through this process and be done with it.”

No need to point out the obvious.  I got it.

Grief isn’t an academic exercise.  Not for me.  It is pure, raw, painful, and icky.  It’s emotion.  More emotion than even I, emotive drama-queen-in-recovery that I am, know what to do with.  And accepting that has been part of my process.

I did feel anger, by the way.  I was looking on a website at one of the dog breeds I am interested in as my next fur family member (avoidance of emotion is, incidentally, one of the stages of grief) and saw that a lady’s dog had a littler of puppies on December 4th.  A red-hot jolt of rage washed over me.  On the morning my heart was breaking, on the morning I kissed my boy goodbye, on the morning he pressed his nose into mine as his eyes closed for the last time, someone had the joy of watching her dog give birth to new life?!?!  How fricking fair is that?!?  I was feeling soul-sucking anguish and someone else got to be giddy and happy?!?

Please don’t anyone say something like, that’s the circle of life. True though it may be, I don’t want to hear it.

I don’t know what the rest of this process is going to feel like.  I wish this was something I could just get over.  I don’t know how people go on after the loss of a person they love.  I think I would find a hole in the ground and take up permanent residence.

I often talk to my students about the resiliency of human beings.  I don’t feel resilient.  I feel like shit.  I don’t remember seeing that on the stages of grief chart thingy, but I’m guessing that, too, is a part of the process.

People say that I will never stop missing him.  That for years into the future I might cry when I think about him.  I’ve been told to give myself time.  I’ve been told to get a dog right away.  I’ve been told to wait, and I’ll know when the time is right for another dog.

We all, clearly, deal with grief and loss in different ways.

To my friends who are struggling with loss of any kind, my heart hurts right along with yours.  Know that while I might not completely understand your particular loss and pain, I understand the overarching emotional onslaught.   Here’s a blog-hug for you.  ((((((((((you))))))))))

Let’s just own it – grief sucks.  But you aren’t alone.  Know that.

Solve for X

I’m relatively certain the downfall of mankind began when someone had the bright idea to mix numbers and letters.  Most people call it Algebra.  I call it a medieval torture device.

For a person who loves words, mixing numbers and letters is akin to serving Velveeta to an artisanal Fromager.  None-the-less, I endured two years of Algebra in high school because I wanted to be a nurse, and a math background was, at the time, very important.

Two years of agonizing equations and terrifying theorems.  Two years of my Dad yelling at me because I didn’t get it.  Two years of my Mom trying to teach me a subject with which she herself struggled.  Two years of tears.

A lot of tears.

I should have bought stock in Kleenex.

All of that agony.  All of that work.  All of those moments of feeling genuinely stupid.  All of those tears.  All wiped away as the chandelier popped, sparks flew, and the orchestra pulled me into the world of Erik (you probably know him as The Phantom, but I’ve seen the show and read the book enough, I feel like we are on a first name basis), Raoul, and Christine like a cellist glides her bow across the strings of her finely tuned, glowing instrument.

Senior year of high school, part of my graduation gift from Mom had been a trip to see Phantom in Portland.  As the music swelled and carried me along on a wave of emotion, I turned to my mom with bright eyes and said, “I don’t want to be a nurse any more.  I’m going to be…an actress!”

I’m sure this announcement came with some sort of dramatic arm motion, though I can’t remember exactly what it was.

I didn’t become an actress.  In the true sense of the word.  I learned early on that my talent was in my ability to understand the artsy world and the business world and help them work together.  I’m a far better producer/organizer than I am a performer.  But I teach.  And there is a lot of acting that happens in that profession.  Seriously.  Try answering the same question six times verbally that you have already put in the syllabus and three email announcements without transforming into a Hulk-esque lunatic.  Don’t worry, Mom; those acting classes in college were not wasted.

16 years after making the decision to pursue a career other than nursing, I have been blessed to learn why – I would have been incarcerated long ago had I pursued a career in the medical field.  A more convoluted, disjointed profession I have yet to witness.  And I work in higher education.

From nurses asking me when they put Mom’s IV in (apparently someone forgot to document this important step of the surgical process), nurses who can’t find my Mom’s pulse (they seemed confident she had one due to that whole breathing and being alive thing, but couldn’t find the pulse in her foot – I can find her pedal pulse, folks), to the insane way narcotics have to be prescribed and picked up (I hate that dishonest people make things so difficult for the rest of us), to doctors who treat you like you are stupid, and volunteer staff who assume because you have no grey hair (Clairol. Nice and Easy.  Natural tones and highlights.  Ever heard of it, folks?!?) you must be an idiot; it’s one hell of a mess.

The medical world is a frightening place to navigate.  I pity all of us who have to figure this stuff out.  And I have an extra measure of empathy for those who have to navigate this stuff on their own.  My patient has been good.  She pushes herself a little too much.  Doesn’t let me do as much as I can.  And is more resistant to meds than I would be – they scraped the inside of her knee cap and joint as well as sliced and diced her meniscus; the description alone makes me want to slam a few pain pills.

Taking care of Mom has been easy and is a privilege.  Truly. I’m grateful to be able to help her.  I’m also grateful that I had the support of my mother and was brave enough to realize the career path of high school really wasn’t a good direction for me.  I’ve found a way to serve people without wearing scrubs.  Because let’s be real – those wouldn’t do much for my figure.

And for everyone who told me that all the Algebra I took would come in handy – a pox on you.  It has not.  I’ve not used it once since I took my last math class freshman year of college.   So here’s to choosing a path and living a life that brings joy through service to others…and never having to solve for x.

Thanks for the great quote, Kathy!

Thanks for the great quote, Kathy!

The Control-Freak & The Artist

Original Art by Brandi Dayton.

Original Art by Brandi Dayton.

Markers of adulthood are weird, highly personal things.  Spa days with girlfriends.  Eating salted watermelon and Oreos for dinner in front of the TV while watching a West Wing episode…followed by a Stargate SG-1 episode.  Paying bills.  World travel.  Buying crazy shoes most folks roll their eyes at (I’m stimulating the economy, people, stop judging me!).  Staying in hotel rooms all by myself and creating pillow thrones out of the extra pillows.  These are all things that make me feel grown up.

It’s funny.  At 34 years old (yes, Mom, that’s 34…not 35…not even almost 35, just straight up 34), I am well past an age that most people consider me an adult.  Yet there are still moments in my life that make me feel like I am truly a grown up.

For about 10 or 11 years I have wanted to own an original piece of art.   It has always seemed like a very grown up thing to do – own original art.

Over the course of the years, I found artists whose work I liked, but none that I absolutely adored.  Until I moved to Hermiston and met one rather plucky artist, Brandi Dayton.  I was in awe of her work.  She uses fabulous, vibrant colors, and her work is larger than life.  I faithfully followed her around, watched her posts, and attended events where I knew she would be displaying her work in anticipation of that perfect piece of art jumping out, begging me to take it home.

And then she posted it.   Black background, gerbera daisies, in colors I adore.

But I didn’t respond fast enough.

And she sold it.

Curses!

But that’s the fun thing about artists.  They work on commission.  She volunteered to paint me an original work along the same lines of the piece I liked.   I said yes.

And I immediately had a meltdown.

Of epic proportions.

What if I didn’t like it?  What if she didn’t use the colors I liked?  What if the picture didn’t show enough stem, or worse, it showed too much stem?

I sat on my bed and nervously typed out a Facebook message outlining, in painful detail, the things I wanted in my painting.  I couldn’t press send.

She’s the artist, Jacelyn.  Let her do her thing and stay out of her way.

I tossed my phone on the bed and went into the bathroom to wash my face.

I came back to the phone determined to press send.

In the days of old, when someone commissioned artwork they were very specific about what they wanted.  Of course in those days, artists depended on benefactors for a living so shaving 30 or 40 pounds of a marchioness was literally the difference between life or death.  Hardly the system we work under now.  Stop being such a control-freak and let her create! 

I tossed the phone back on the bed.  I paced my room for 15 minutes.  Even managed to hang up clothes…which expresses the depth of my inner struggle perhaps better than words.

I finally decided to wait.  To trust the artist I know Brandi to be, to do what she does best – paint something that brings color and joy to the world.

I’ve thought about my response a great deal since that night.  I was having what I like to call an internalized-control-freak-hissy-fit.  I really like to be in control.  And it’s…disconcerting when I’m not.  Stop rolling your eyes, all of you.  I’m not the only person that feels this way.

But here’s the deal.

When are we really in control?

When we feel in control, we feel capable and invincible.   I posit that feeling of control is nothing more than an illusion.  Loss of the illusion of control reminds us just how, well, vincible we actually are.  And that’s not always bad thing.  Because it means we are vulnerable.  And being vulnerable with other people is where the true beauty of a relationship is.

Too often we are taught to see vulnerability as a weakness.  An undesirable character trait.  And the dictionary definition doesn’t help much.

Vulnerable:

capable of being physically or emotionally wounded or hurt
open to temptation, persuasion, censure, etc
liable or exposed to disease, disaster, etc
military  liable or exposed to attack

 

I’m not advocating stupidity here.  I’m talking about emotional vulnerability.  The kind of vulnerability that allows us to put aside our protective candy coating.  To put aside our ego.  To put aside our need to control the situation which is typically a socially accepted way of saying, “I’m scared and I need to protect myself so I will attempt to control the situation as a method of fear management and self preservation.”

So let’s not let fear rule our lives.  Let’s take a risk and willingly (joyfully even) give up a little control.  Every time I have managed to do this (or in some cases, when control has been wrenched away from my white knuckled grip), I have found true treasures.

When we try to control every aspect of our lives, we lose out on the beauty of the trip, the new friend we might make along the way, or a really beautiful painting by a really extraordinary artist.  I’m glad I gave control to Brandi.  It was worth it.

And guess what?  My painting has just the right amount of stem.

Like Brandi Dayton on Facebook.  https://www.facebook.com/brandidaytonartist

Like Brandi Dayton on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/brandidaytonartist

Memories…Light the Corners of My Mind

Misty watercolor memories, of the way we were. 

I couldn’t help but think of these words as I helped my grandparents pack and move over the weekend.  Memories are an incredible thing.  Joyful.  Painful.  Funny.  Comforting.   Disturbing.

In my home, the things that hang on the walls are pictures of my travels.  When I stand in front of the images of Trafalgar Square, I remember the spray of the water, the coo of the pigeons demanding snacks from the tourists, and the sound of the city enveloping me.  I remember that before I took the picture, I threw a coin in the fountain nearest Haymarket and wished to someday return and dance in the square with Mr. Right-for-Me.  At the second fountain, I wished that I would one day bring Mom to this, my favorite place in London.  Every time I go back to London, I visit and toss my coins in the fountains with the same wishes.  When I stand in front of my pictures, those memories are as real as if I am standing in Trafalgar Square.

Without those pictures, the memories wouldn’t be as strong.

As I watched Gramma make decisions about what she kept, what she gave away, and what went in the trash, I was struck by how difficult it must be to say goodbye to the things that have been around her almost her entire life.  To say goodbye to the things that help her remember.

hutch

The china hutch.  Grampa was in the Army.  He was stationed in Panama and because there was no room at the Army base, they were assigned Navy housing.  With the house came Navy furniture.  Gramma decided to keep the bookcase and she turned it into a china hutch.  That hutch has moved from Panama, to Ft. Lewis, to Centerpoint, ID, to Greenleaf…and now it resides with me in Hermiston.  And it is once again a bookcase.  That hutch has been in Gramma’s home for 54 years.  How many times did she open the doors to take out her best china for Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Easter dinner?  How many times did she reach in get out the tea set for UT or DAR?  How many times did she dust it and polish the scroll work?  These are the things I will think about when I open those doors to take out a cherished book or put in a newly acquired friend.

Phone

Grammie Great’s toy basket.  When Mom brought the basket out of the closet I knew instantly what it was.  Had you asked me to describe the basket a day before, I couldn’t have told you what it looked like, but I knew what it was the second I saw it.  Almost reverently we opened the top, and I pulled from inside a rusted phone with badly chipped pink paint.  My eyes flooded with tears.  I held the phone to my chest and sobbed.

As clutched the phone and cried, missing Grammie Great so much I thought I might suffocate, I heard her screen door slam and watched my brother and I run in to her house.  She was sitting in her chair, reading her bible, the horrid little pink macramé plant holder to her right, the sunlight washing over her through the bank of windows to her left.  She smiled at me.

“Grammie, can we please get out the toy basket?”

“Yes, dears.  Just clean up after yourself.”

And lord help you if you didn’t.

All my cousins and I played with that toy basket.  So did my mom and her cousins.  Now, that basket sits in my living room waiting for Carter to come visit so Aunt J can play blocks and telephone with him.  And tell him about his Grammie Great Great.

wastebasket

The map wastepaper baskets.  I love maps.  Love them.  One of these wastepaper baskets sat in the TV room at Home Acres near Grampa’s desk and the other was near his chair in the living room.  He’d sit in his chair and crack peanuts, tossing the shells into this wastepaper basket.  I remember laying on my tummy looking at the map, dreaming of all the places I wanted to visit one day.  I believe that was the start of my desire to travel and learn about new cultures.   As I look over the map now, I smile – Russia, Croatia, Ukrain, Kazakhstan…they don’t exist on this map.  It’s a look at the world frozen in that moment.

Memories are a little like that.  They freeze a moment in time. Memories are triggered for each of us differently.  My mom’s memories are triggered by smells.  Mine are triggered by touch.  I can see moments of my life when I hold or caress an object from my past.  I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to watch my things, the things that trigger my most precious memories, drive away to start their lives in the home of another.  Someday, when I pass these treasures on to Carter, I’ll watch them leave knowing that the time has come for someone else to build memories with them.

Some memories bring joy.  Others sadness.  Many times, it seems to be an odd mix of joy and sadness.  Memories help us remember the way we were.  They give us perspective on who we are.  And, hopefully, they give us direction on who we should become.  I hope when I pass these things on to Carter I’ve become someone that has added love and life to these treasures.   When he pulls a book from the bookcase, or holds the pink phone, or cracks a peanut and tosses the shell into the wastepaper basket, I hope he will think of me and know that he was loved.  Completely, unconditionally, and humungo jungo loved.

Let it Go

I can’t help it.  I have to.  If you know me at all, you had to see this coming.

A friend sent me the You Tube clip above.  Her daughter is in love with this song.  The kind of in love that inspires a parent to track the number of times they listen to the soundtrack up to a thousand.  After that number, who even wants to count?

I watched.  I got ridiculously excited when I realized Idina Menzel provided the voice for the character.  I listened to the words.  The song ended.  I was bugged.  I watched it again.  And again.  Soon I was telling Spencer “The cold never bothered me anyway” while I swept the kitchen floor.  It’s a catchy, girl-power tune.

But I was still bugged.

I’ve heard from friends that I would like the message in this movie.  It gives a different twist on the traditional love story.  Students from my Intercultural Communication class last term sent me emails: “Miss J!  You HAVE to go see this movie.  You will LOVE it!”   “Miss J, have you seen Frozen?  I’d love to know what you think of it.”

I’ve not seen Frozen.  I don’t know the story.  But this song bugs me.  And here’s why.

Someone.  Anyone.  Please tell me why, whenever a woman has a major epiphany it is accompanied by a make-over disguised as her finding her “true self.”

In The Mirror Has Two Faces, when Barbara Streisand’s character decided that a sexless marriage wasn’t what she wanted, she joined a gym, lost weight, learned to wear make-up, and went shopping for a closet full of new, sexier clothing.

In Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts embraces her self-worth and shrugs off the barbs of a snotty sales representative and the reproving looks of polite society only after being fitted for new clothing, having her hair done, and new, softer make-up applied.

In She’s All That, Laney stops traffic only after being plucked, buffed, coifed, and dressed in trendy clothes.

We see these moments in movies so often we have colloquialisms for them: rags to riches, the ugly duckling story, the Cinderella moment.  These stories are so prevalent and pervasive, we’ve come to recognize them as the moment.  The moment the woman has become all she can be.  She has arrived.

In Frozen, we see a continuation of this message.

Elsa strips off the offending glove and throws her cloak to the wind.  Shake off the crap that holds you back, girlfriend.

She stamps her foot and creates the foundations of a rather fabulous ice castle.  Clearly, there should be more women in architects.  Great castle.  Killer location.

And then she takes her hair down into what my mom aptly calls a “bedroom” hairdo.  With one movie, Disney brought the braid back.

Elsa throws her arms wide…but she doesn’t hug herself and twirl through her newly created Great Hall.  Nope.  She throws her arms wide and in a swirl of sparkle changes clothes.  For the record, I wouldn’t mind being able to change my clothes is a swirl of sparkles.

Her make-up changes (more, not less), and there she stands in a slinky blue dress with a thigh high slit.  And her hips?   Elvis would be jealous of the swing Elsa had going on.  No longer did she walk. That girl slithered out to her newly formed icy balcony.

Why? Why does Elsa have to step into her new empowered life this way?  It’s as if who she was pre-sparkly makeover is not good enough to fully embrace her future.  Really? Is that the message we want to send?  In order to step into your new empowered life, you need to change yourself.  Because a make-over is what it takes for you to find your true self.

No. No. No.

Be brave enough to step into a new stage in your life.  End a negative relationship.  Start a new one.  Move for a job.  Have a difficult conversation with a loved one.  Go back to school and move away from your loved ones.  Step into a new phase of your life.  Own your strength.  And know that you don’t need a make-over to do that.  You can step into your new life and be powerful, courageous, and sassy without changing a thing about your appearance.  You are enough.  Just as you are.

This catchy, girl powered tune that had an opportunity to really say something about personal choice and the courage it takes to face difficult times is wrapped in an all too familiar story.  I’m kind of sad about that.  Because I’m guessing the little girls who are braiding their hair and want to dress like Elsa aren’t internalizing the “I don’t care what they’re going to say” message as much as they are the “this is what beauty and independence looks like” message.

Does that mean we shouldn’t watch it?  Does it mean we shouldn’t let our kids watch it?  No.  It means we need to be alert and looking for the messages our kids (and ourselves – adults are hardly immune to this stuff) are internalizing.  Talk to them.  Have conversations with them.  Let them know they are enough.  And remember, so are you.