Guest post by Amanda Mills: Screw you, comfort zone

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Most of my life I have struggled with depression. This sentence is very uncomfortable to me for 2 reasons: 1. “Struggled with” sounds so dramatic and trite, but there have been times when it really was a struggle; and 2. I have never really opened up about it like this. Sure, I may have mentioned to my close friends that I was feeling depressed, but only the very closest to me know how deep it truly runs. Now I’ve decided it’s time to start talking about this. Stop brushing it under the rug, or hiding it by saying “feeling blah” or “in a funk”. No. I am depressed – I am not SAD, I am DEPRESSED. And I have dealt and do deal with many different kinds of symptoms – from excessive crying to feeling nothing; from excessive sleeping to staying up all night; from excessive eating to… well… more excessive eating. I have had suicidal thoughts, I have wanted to simply not exist, I have felt everyone was laughing at me, and I have felt like the ugliest, dumbest, most awkward person on earth. Take any random combination of any of these symptoms, throw in some momentary feelings of bliss and exuberance, and that pretty much sums up what I experience on a regular basis.
Depression doesn’t take just one form. In the same person it can take MANY forms, the symptoms can vary drastically in severity, and you don’t necessarily always experience symptoms. So you can see how hard it is to understand depression. There are times when I feel truly happy. It can last for a few minutes, hours, or even a day. I don’t know where it comes from, but it both gives me hope and crushes me when it leaves. When it’s gone all I can think about is how I used to feel happy and now I don’t anymore, so I must be broken. And the only way to “fix” myself is to pretend to be happy, to try to get it back and to avoid talking to others about how awful you feel. “Fake it till ya make it.” Anyone living with depression has surely heard that, and many have adopted it as a way to fit themselves into “normal” society. It is how I hold conversations with acquaintances and strangers. It is how I work in an office full of people. It is how I go to parties and events.
Right now I am just trying to recognize and understand what is happening in my brain. 20 years ago I suffered a major nervous breakdown and I have dealt with functioning depression since then, but last year some of the more severe symptoms started returning. So for the first time in 20 years I am once again on psychotropics, much to my disdain but very much necessary. Through all this I am trying to be aware, to make sure I don’t lose sight of myself – the true me and not the depressed me. Because I am still me and I am still here. Even though some days I don’t even feel human, I keep faith that I am still in there somewhere, and all of this is just bad chemicals in my brain. And some day I will wake up and not feel this way. I live for those days.
Some days I wish I could care less, feel less. Today I wish I could care more – to feel something. I pretend to be happy about things like camping, boating, soaping, because I know I enjoy those things, and I want desperately to feel excited about doing them. But honestly I would rather stay in bed and sleep. A lot of times our loved ones can take that feeling personally – like they aren’t enough to keep us in the game. I can see how that would seem to be offensive. But it isn’t about them. I am the only one that can keep me in this game. And I have to do that. So I wake up, convince myself that getting out of bed is the right thing to do, put forth an effort in my appearance – hair, makeup, clothes – so no one will know what is really going on inside. So I don’t hurt my family’s feelings. So my friends don’t ask me what’s wrong. Because I only have ome answer to that question – me.
If you’re reading this and experience the same thing, I am writing this so you know you are not alone. Thanks to others’ stories I know I’m not the only one who goes through this, and it is through their strength and bravery that I have decided to start sharing. Functioning depression is a real thing, it’s a serious thing, and it isn’t something we need to keep stepping around. Because the less we address it, the less we discuss it, the more alone we all feel. And when our family feels like we’ve turned our backs on them, and our friends feel like we’re shutting them out, we need each other. We need to know there are others out there in these dark holes, trying to figure out what acting “normal” entails, wondering if we will ever truly feel like we have a place in this world.
I’m pretty sure I have a place in this world, even if I can’t see it. I exist, so I take up a place, and it is my place. I am trying to do the best I can with what I’ve been given. Some days that’s not good enough for others, most days it’s not good enough for me. But my story isn’t over yet. As long as I get out of bed each day I will continue to consider that one of my greatest accomplishments.
(P.S. – I have been sitting here for several minutes with my mouse pointer over the “Publish” button, my heart racing. The thought of putting all this out there for everyone to read is tightening my chest and closing up my throat. I have read, re-read, and re-re-read these paragraphs. Good Southern Girls don’t air their dirty laundry. A Lady doesn’t discuss such personal matters on social media. But this has been on my mind for a while, and something in my soul is saying it is necessary. It is time to talk. It is time to stop being silent.)

Guest Post by Peter Tchoryk: Hello World, I’m the Dad of a Transgender Kid

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Hello, world. I’m the Dad of a transgender kid. I’m hoping our story will open some eyes, much as our eyes were opened by our son. His picture is in a powerpoint presentation given to the Michigan State Board of Education. The presentation explains this proposal: “Statement and Guidance on Safe and Supportive Learning Environments for LGBTQ Students.” My name is Pete Tchoryk. I provided feedback to the guidance and spoke at the March meeting. I posted our story to our “Friends of Dexter Community Schools” group and we feel it is now time to share it beyond our community. Our family has not been stealth about our transgender journey. But we also haven’t been outspoken in social media until now, because of the inherent danger to transgender kids and the response you see in many communities. You know, pitch forks and all that. The risks, however, are completely outweighed by the urgency we feel in explaining this issue and helping the kids who have no voice.

I’m going to tell you our story, because I want you to know the origin of my advocacy. I’m an engineer and my wife is a teacher. Looking back five years ago, our life was quite uneventful, until our daughter Jacqueline started insisting she was a boy. She was around two years old when it started. The forcefulness and consistency of her appeals led us to seek expert advice from multiple doctors and counselors. We discovered we are not alone and that gender identify mismatch very often becomes apparent at that age. The pain of being cast in the wrong identity made life extremely difficult and nearly unbearable for her. It became clear that Jacqueline was really a boy. And he was wondering why we kept trying to put dresses on him.

The first thing we found out is that it’s hard to find factual information. We decided to ‘science the heck out of it’ (yes, that is derived from The Martian and one of the best movie lines – ever) and dove into learning everything we could. It turns out there is solid science behind it and in fact a longitudinal study showing that transgender kids are not making this up. By the way, there is also a new study in the February issue of the Journal of Pediatrics showing that supporting transgender kids in their identity has a huge positive impact on their mental health. It may ultimately have an impact on the 40+% of transgender people that attempt suicide. That would be good.

When it came time for Kindergarten, our school really had no previous experience in handling transgender issues. But they assured us their job was to create a safe and supportive learning environment for every child. Every. Child. And that’s what they did. We are fortunate. The problem is that not everyone is as fortunate as we are. Many people do not believe gender identity is real – they believe it is a choice made by misguided children, rebellious teens, or fame-seeking adults. They believe it is a mental illness that can be cured via therapy. They believe it is a threat. I’m here to say otherwise and give these kids a voice.

The reason I’m telling you all this is that it was the impetus for trying to provide the best, science-based, evidence-based information to the people who are making decisions on our kids’ behalf. Our state has amazing, caring, world-class educators and I’m not just saying that because I’m married to one (well, maybe partly because of that). But there is very little information to help educators address the practical issues they face on a daily basis, especially regarding transgender or gender variant kids, and this includes compliance with Title IX.

Let’s talk a bit about Title IX, because it is germane to discussions about what Dexter Schools is doing. “The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education issued official guidance which makes clear that transgender students are protected from discrimination under Title IX. Title IX is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs and activities.” (http://www.glsen.org/…/dept-ed-title-ix-protects-trans-stud…). In July 2015, a case in Virginia resulted in this ruling: “The Department of Justice (DOJ) affirmed in Tuesday’s court filing that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects the right of transgender students to use the restroom that matches their gender identity.” (http://www.advocate.com/…/department-justice-affirms-title-…).

I will tell you my beliefs based on the data I’ve seen and what is seen in the school systems where this is in place. When you create a safer environment for LGBTQ kids, you create a culture of respect, tolerance, safety and inclusiveness for all kids. The guidance we are attempting to provide is based on studies, data and best practices from other schools and communities that have enacted similar guidance with successful results. It’s not perfect and I’m sure it will evolve. But it’s a start.

I’m right in the midst of addressing other issues that have been raised in the state about how transgender bathroom use poses a threat by opening the floodgates to sexual predators. This fear is being promoted widely, here and in other states. I have not seen any evidence supporting those fears, by the way, but there is evidence to the contrary. In breaking news, I just saw that the North Carolina Attorney General will not defend their Anti-LGBT House Bill 2 – he said it is unconstitutional (http://www.freedomforallamericans.org/north-carolina-attor…/). That’s a big step in the right direction.

If you feel your voice has not been heard, then by all means write to the state. Go to the meetings. If you have data or best practices evidence to support your claims, great. Submit it. That’s what this is all about. I applaud people raising awareness.

I just want to reiterate, my son is just like any other boy. He’s unique in many ways and typical in others. In his case, he loves wrestling. He loves football and baseball. And he loves building and inventing things. Especially with duct tape – that’s his medium. Just because he wasn’t born with the right parts doesn’t make him less of a boy. Maybe think of it like a war injury. A really bad one. It doesn’t make him a threat, any more than anyone else. Transgender students are trying their absolute best to fit in to their gender identity – not bringing attention to the fact that what’s under their clothes doesn’t match their identity. There was a recent news article that said we are trying to give them special treatment, as if it’s some big life bonus. Like a tax break. I’m going to tell my son that. Congratulations, kid, you get to use the bathroom of your identity. Knock yourself out. Oh, by the way, when you grow up you can get fired or denied housing just because you were born with the wrong parts. Yup, you got that special treatment.

I know it can be difficult to wrap your head around this topic. If you’ve never met or talked to a transgender kid or a transgender kid’s parent, now’s your chance. We can arrange a play date. Park your pitch forks by the door. Or we can talk at the next State Board of Ed meeting. Peace.

YOU CAN HELP! This was an awakening for me, personally. As I became aware of the life and death struggles of the transgender community, it also opened my eyes to the injustices and inequalities of all marginalized communities. I’m not proud that it took me this long, as a member of the privileged majority, to wake up. And I admire those who have been on the front lines of these battles long before me. But I will make up for lost time and I am dedicated to taking an active role in making this world a better place – not just for transgender kids – for all kids – and for those who struggle to obtain even the most basic civil and human rights. This is my pledge in honor of all the children who suffered unnecessarily and who took their own lives: I will not be silent. I will not allow unawareness to determine the fate of these kids. I will educate. I will advocate. I will fight for every one of them. I will fight for all kids. And I. Will. Not. Stop. Because, as Maya Angelou said, “equal rights, fair play, justice, are all like the air: we all have it, or none of us has it.”

This guidance will change lives. It will save lives. Heck, it may change the world. Please take a moment, if you can, and add your support to the comment section here: http://everyvoicecountsmi.org/…/public-comment-on-the-state…

Here are the morning (presentation) and afternoon (public comment) videos of the March State Board of Education meeting: Morning – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zo4LIXRYIwg Afternoon – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kz1I4lU7RDQ

To email, print or download a copy of this note, please visit this link –

http://bit.ly/JacqHelloWorld

 

Guest post by Jenna Brand: How to Dress for Your Body Shape

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Apple: With an ample bust and skinnier legs, a short wrap dress may be your best look.

Pear: Your hips don’t lie, that’s for sure! Try drawing attention to your top with bright blouses, a deep neckline, and that perfect necklace.

Violin: Commonly recognized as a deformity of the hips, cover your multiple lumps with a circle skirt, or perhaps a dense tutu for ultimate coverage.

Teddy Bear: Bulbous ears and an intensely huggable tummy can only be embraced. Whenever you find a fun item that fits and doesn’t catch on your fur, buy it and enjoy! Celebrate who you are – What you look like does not define you.

Kate Upton*: At 5’10” and 144lbs, your BMI is 20.7. Although this falls into the middle of the normal range, it’s time to take your body seriously. You are a fat monster and no one will love you at a size 8.

*There is an exception for the actual Kate Upton who is gorgeous and one of just two models to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated two years in a row.  

Shampoo Bottle: Varies by brand. Look for clothing items made for various bottle shapes.

Matchstick: Also known as “Spoon Shaped,” you have a lovely head on top of a barely distinguishable, frail body. You hardly take up any space at all, like an Olsen Twin! Almost any outfit will look amazing on you. Congratulations!

Ethereal: You have less of a “body” and more of a “being.” Flatter your swirling, pangendered Omega aura with a peasant skirt or just glitter.

Human Shaped: Varies by person. Look for clothing items made for humans

Jenna Brand is a wife, mother, and investment banking news aggregator. She was molded from the shores of Paradise Island and posts pictures of her pretty quilts here.

Guest Post: Suck it, Grammys by my girl Dee

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This morning I started reading ALLLLLL about the Grammys and watched all the performances online. Since I TOTALLY don’t feel like working right now, allow me to share my rundown:

I’ll start with this: Pharrell is now dressing like a bellhop.

Jesus was a regular theme among a handful of performers, including BeYAWNce who sang a gospel song which was supposed to be some highlight because she was gettin’ church all up in h’ya. Wasn’t she the person who demanded an entire natal floor of a hospital be cleared for her and Jay Z, which meant that other families had incredible difficulty getting past all the security and restrictions in order to see their own newborns??? Because Jesus would’ve definitely done the same.

Maybe Tom Jones, Paul McCartney, and Stevie Wonder could stay home and enjoy retirement, and we can blissfully remember them as they once were, instead of as the rickety, warble-voiced, prehistoric vampires they are now. Whatever Grammy board of THINKTANKS decided it would be a good idea to pair ancient performers with young performers should be fired immediately.

If I didn’t like Adam Levine and Gwen Stefani before, they gave me plenty of reasons with their performance of a boring and stabbingly awful song they sang TOGETHER. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: Two wrongs don’t make a right.

The big winner of the night was someone named Sam Smith. I don’t know who that is, so I did a little youtubing. He’s either a young British kid, or a guy in his early 50’s. His looks are too Benjamin Buttonish for me to make the call. His song that won everything is a weepy plea to a girl(guy?) and had lyrics similar to a poem I wrote when I was 11, right after the guy I held hands with at Shores Skateland dissed me for a much prettier, blonde girl who was popular. Whatever. Fuck him.

AC/DC performed too. AC/DC!!!! How many archeologists do you think it took to get those fossils up on stage?

The lead singer from ELO showed up to play a medley of songs. Read that again, and then go look at a calendar. Nope – you’re correct on both counts. I did say ELO and it is 2015. I like ELO, but I’m IN MY FORTIES. Seeing gangly Taylor Swift dancing to ELO music which she probably knows from commercials for luxury sedans, is just embarrassing for everyone involved.

Miranda Lambert performed a song called Little Red Wagon which was just the worst song I’ve ever heard… and I’ve heard a LOT of shitty songs. I’ll give her this much though – she looks like she could seriously FUCK someone up with that special kind of country crazy she’s got going. I’d shit my overalls if I ever met her alone on a dusty Oklahoma dirt road.

A new and beautiful country singer named Brandy Clark showed up to do a song with Dwight Yoakam. Yes, the Dwight Yoakam of Dwight Yoakam’s Macaroni Mouth Poppers and Dwight Yoakam’s Li’l Riblets:

dy dy2

Beck and Chris Martin performed a song together, but everyone fell into a coma before it was over and has no recollection of the performance. Chris Martin has officially become musical GHB. You have no idea what the fuck happened, but you know it wasn’t good.

There were more performances but nothing that warranted comment – even Katy Perry’s performance was uneventful. She sang some slow, god-loving song about domestic abuse (sure football association, I’ll take your money for the halftime show!!) but there were no dancing sharks and singing beachballs so no one cares.

And now that I’ve wasted a chunk of work time watching grammy performances, I can spend the rest of the day getting worked up about something else.

Deedee is a writer, dancer, cat herder, and wine drinker. Her boobs are at least four times bigger than mine. She probably doesn’t like you.

Rainbow Colors: guest post by Adrienne Losh

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I’ve tried to get married in my home state twice in the past year. Clearly I do not live in one of the nineteen (and counting) states that offer gays the sanctity of marriage. My partner and I have been together ten years and have two young sons. While I would love to marry the woman of my dreams, I get super pissed off that our state constitution denies that we are a family and prevents our sons from having the protection of two legal parents. We are currently waiting to hear what the federal appeals court says regarding DeBoer vs. Snyder and hail to the moms who filed the lawsuit seeking to protect their family and young children!
I wrote the following poem after our latest failed attempt to get married at the clerk’s office. We want what every other couple in America wants: the right to get married witnessed by friends and family in an overpriced banquet hall with a quasi-decent catered meal. Enjoy!

Rainbow Colors

In the basement
Air thick with sweat and anticipation
Bodies crammed inside on a cold spring day
Heat and clerks run overtime.

Standing room only
Come and get your equal rights
For the next four hours only!
Rang the circus call.

Kids dragged along,
Dressed in smiles and frowns
Play on phones
As they wait.

A wide eyed innocent
Passes out dyed carnations
Not of nature
Next to the store bought cake.

Take a number!
False starts
Handed out to the hopeful
Over a series of months
Makes a long morning
“They’re on number thirty now!”
Someone shouts, again.

Boredom punctuated by cheers
Jubilant tearful relatives
Every sort of officiate present
Judge, pastor, Rabbi, Wiccan priestess
Tie all the rainbow colors together.

And just like that
As the judgment was rendered
It is put on hold
The line is too long for some.
Turned out into the cold,
Breathy hope steams from them.

gaymich

Adrienne Losh is a poet/mother/wife/badass. She won’t stop standing in line for equal rights.

On Potlucks: By my girl Dee

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I was struggling for something to write for this guest blog, then I get an email for our upcoming Spring Break Work Potluck. Let the flood gates open…

First of all, it’s not spring. At all. So let’s just get that right out of the way. Second, there’s no luck involved here. Potlucks are soul-crushing events, designed to rob us all of the God-given right to be left the fuck alone. It’s a display of everyone’s sorrow and defeat in life, dumped sadly into chipped, discount dishware bought right after a divorce. Plus, work colleagues wouldn’t actively choose to be socially involved with one another. If they did, it sure as hell wouldn’t be in potluck form.

And okay, I might be a food snob. I typically don’t eat processed or pre-made foods. But I’m not so much of a snob that I can’t shut my organic, homemade piehole and enjoy that stuff if served by other people. That being said, there’s a line… and potlucks cross it. No one wants to deal with cooking or spending money on work people – half of which you know to be shitheads – so the quality quotient of what’s provided plummets to the “fuck-these-people-I-hope-they-spend-tonight-shitting-water” level.

Allow me to recap the fare at our last work potluck, and perhaps you’ll agree:

Enter 20 different pasta salads, all of which were SWIMMING in what I assume to be a mayonnaise/ranch/mustard/cream incest-fest. I could make out the rotini (because that’s the pasta you use when you’ve given up on life) but I couldn’t make out the rest. Chunks of something that were the color of my cat’s vomit that time I took her to the vet? And I guess some curd-like things? Perhaps shavings of carrots, or skin. A couple of them had what looked to be the ‘healthier’ flax or wheat noodle, though they were drowning painfully underneath a pool of milky goo.

Baked beans, brought by a secretary who mentioned she’d “hopefully heated them enough to kill bacteria.” Way to sell your dish.

Rolls dethawing in a fancy basket, gumming together in a sauce of ice and napkin. There was a corner of the gummy breadblock cracked off from where someone tried to separate a roll, but clearly gave up after losing the battle. You could still see the fingerprint embedded in bread putty. Next to the fancy basket? A stick of margarine from the early 70’s – before margarine was proven terrible for health – with some toast crumbs engraved on top. Points for the fancy basket though.

Three plates of some dip that’s apparently a potluck favorite. It’s made with a layer of red (??) and a layer of crabmeat. And by crabmeat, I mean Krabmeat. I’ll eat canned fish, but I draw the line at Krab. It’s the hot dog of the sea.

A heated tub of, oh I don’t know, maybe slices of ham? Or slices of beef? Or slices of a decayed leper? It was graybrownpink and scaly. So whatever’s that color and consistency, it was that. And it was stewing in its own wet. At one point, someone whispered, “Is that the meat?” Unclear. But go ahead and give it a try. I’ll just dial “9” and “1” on my phone just in case…

A table of six hundred 2-liters of pop. And no water. Look, I don’t drink pop, but if I did, I’d at least want it to be fizzy. A 2-liter is just pop that’s given up on life. In any case, all six hundred bottles were empty within 20 minutes. People. Love. Pop.

And then the dessert table. I mean, if nothing else, you can usually count on dessert, right? WRONG. There were plates and plates of depressing cookies, and I imagined the person baking them the night before, pissed, and sweating under a fluorescent kitchen light at 11:50pm while her distant, unloving husband watched Two and a Half Men reruns in a stained t-shirt and black socks. I chose two different cookies that looked halfway decent, but ended up tasting like a stick of butter someone carried around in their ass-crack. In the middle of the table, a beautiful coconut cake sat on a glass-domed cake stand. It looked great. It looked like salvation. And then someone cut into it, revealing the horrific innards – dry, dusty, and brown. Like Arizona’s anus. In fact, the knife kinda made the sawing sound that happens when you rip cardboard. And in that moment, you could hear everyone’s hopes die a suffocating, painful death.

So yeah, fuck potlucks. I ain’t goin’ to this one.

Caption Contest

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I finally updated my blog, y’all! For a chance to win a t-shirt from my extensive personal collection, caption the photo on the left in the comments below. You have until Friday, February 28 to dazzle me with your wit!