Sticks ‘n Stones

In which I’m told that I’m a “White Elitist Liberal hypocritical jacka$$”.

For the most part, I’ve been really lucky with this blog. The bulk of the comments I receive are either positive or at least respectful in their disagreements, which gives me the opportunity for growth and increased perspective. I think most of you get that my posts are quite often opinion pieces, and that I’m not insisting that you agree with me. Reading your comments is one of my favorite parts about having a blog. I take your input seriously, and I learn so much from you, dear readers!

I did encounter one troll about 5 years ago who gave me pause, though. His hatred was towering, persistent, unjustified and inappropriate. I can directly quote from his pearls of wisdom because I had to save them as evidence in case things escalated.

In his eyes, I am a “White Elitist Liberal hypocritical jacka$$,” (dollar signs mine, I assure you) and I’ve been informed that I’m on his “publish when I die list”. He went on to explain that in the event of his death, the media would then show up at my door to interrogate me about what a horrible person he thought I was. (One assumes it will be a slow news day.)

This gentleman also seems to think I’ve somehow attacked him for being a Native American, but I can’t imagine any scenario in which I would have done so. Oh, and it seems that Obama and I gave away his homeland. That he believes I have that much power is flattering, I suppose, but that he thinks I would employ it so cruelly is insulting and baseless.

What seemed to trigger him were my feminist posts and my more liberal posts, and the fact that I tend to poke fun at conservatives, Floridians (having lived there for 40 years), and misogynists. Yeah, sometimes I do rant in my opinion pieces. Guilty as charged. But I don’t know this man, and wouldn’t care to, so I’m at a loss as to why he seems to find my mere existence to be some kind of personal attack on him.

His own blog, based on my admittedly brief glance at it, is riddled with hatred of women and anger at society in general. He has even self-published a few books that, he himself asserts, cast women in the role of “sexual mercenaries” whose “wicked game played upon their hapless stooge ejaculates with sex and humor.”

Whatever that means. His books don’t seem to have made it to the best seller lists. (But then neither has mine.)

I followed the standard advice and did not feed this troll, and eventually he got bored and crawled back into his cave. He’s still out there somewhere, probably pulling the wings off of more reactive flies. But now you know what I had been dealing with. That should be the end of the story.

But no. In his attacks on me, he took it to another level of fixation. Because he disagrees with my opinions, he seems to have decided that that merits a financial penalty. To achieve maximum destruction, he carried his diatribe to a different forum. I’ve only just noticed that in 2017 he left a review of my book on Goodreads, most likely because he has been blocked on Amazon. (Note: This review has since been removed. Yay!)

In the Goodreads review he says not a word about the book. I’m certain he has never read it. Instead, he attacks my blog and says, “This White Elitist author is not welcome in Spanish-Indian territory of Florida.”

His words make him look entirely unhinged. As if he determines who gets to come and go in the Sunshine State. Normally I wouldn’t give it further thought, but for the fact that at the time of this writing, my book only has 3 reviews and one additional rating on Goodreads, so his one star rant impacts my average considerably. His remarks also inject a lot of negativity into a page for a book that is all about positivity.

But by far the most frustrating aspect of this insanity is that, for the less discerning among us, his histrionics might make one think that my book espouses white elitism. That’s a belief system that I never want to be associated with, even by accident. It is against everything that I hold sacred.

Having said all that, I sure could use your help. If you have actually read my book and are willing to write an honest review of it, good, bad, or indifferent, on the Goodreads site, I’d greatly appreciate it.

When I’m asked to review a book or a service or a medical practitioner, I tend to do so. I know that honest reviews, even the negative ones if they are devoid of agenda, really matter. I can’t imagine targeting an individual in an attempt to ruin their reputation without producing a boatload of evidence of their nefarious deeds. But that’s just me.

But I can’t emphasize this enough: Please do not engage with, respond to, troll, or flame this guy in any way. Clearly he has enough problems in his life, and it would be better for both you and me if he continues to leave us alone. Life’s too short for such foolishness.

That I’m even wasting this much energy on this guy makes me sad, so I decided to get it out of my system with this post. I hope that he doesn’t turn his Eye of Sauron back in my direction as a result. I’ve said my piece. I can’t work up the energy to continue to care about what he does. In the overall scheme of things, it just doesn’t matter.

Be kind to one another, dear readers. The type of light that you choose to shine on the world will always reflect back upon you, one way or another. Namaste.

Feeling Relief Instead of Grief?

You are not alone in this.

I was talking to a friend about her mixed emotions after the death of one of her relatives. This guy had made her life a living hell when he was alive. He was an abusive alcoholic who created nothing but drama in the family. He left financial devastation in his wake, and he was quite adept at dishing out emotional abuse. The man was toxic. I found him to be a horrible human being.

Since his passing, my friend’s life has improved substantially. Her stress levels have decreased and her health has increased. She gets more sleep. Her self-confidence is much more evident now. I’m really happy for her.

Sadly, she feels a little guilty for being relieved that the guy is finally gone. He was, after all, a relative, and she did love him to a certain extent. But she doesn’t miss him at all.

I can totally relate to this. When my stepfather died, I wanted to throw a party. But of course I didn’t. People would have been horrified. They would have thought I was callous. They have no idea what the man had put me through. The world is a much better place without him in it.

Relationships are complicated, and therefore the subsequent grief is bound to be complicated. There are many scenarios in which it would be quite understandable to feel relief and/or a complex mix of emotions at someone’s passing. You would definitely not be alone in this.

For example, if your loved one had been suffering for years, it’s natural to be relieved that that suffering is over. And if you were the primary caregiver for that person for what feels like an eternity, and that care has left you exhausted and depleted and stressed out, it’s okay to be relieved to have your life back again. If you have lost someone due to an easily preventable death, or due to suicide, you may have a lot of anger and/or guilt to process.

I’ve had several people broach this subject with me over the years. They tend to speak in hushed tones and look over their shoulders to make sure no one is listening. It’s as if they’ve committed a crime. I seem to be one of those people who silently signal that if you feel the need to confess this particular offense, then guuuurl… come sit by me.

Our culture causes us to have really strange ideas about what grief is supposed to look like and feel like. It’s supposed to be pure, sincere, and it should last for a year. (Longer than that, and people lose patience. Shorter than that, and something is wrong with you.) And if other family members are experiencing what looks like a more wholesome form of grief for the person you are thrilled to be rid of, then you are expected to suppress your feelings so as not to ruffle feathers. But make no mistake: you are grieving, too, in your own way.

Grief can’t be pigeonholed. Each person’s experience is different. In fact, your grief experience will most likely change over time, and it will be different for each person you grieve. Grief can manifest as depression or sadness or anger or numbness or an inability to concentrate, and yes, it can also include relief and even joy and a sense of freedom and release.

It’s not uncommon to encounter insensitive people as you work to process and adapt to this monumental change in your life. They often don’t realize they’re passing judgment by showing their confusion, impatience, or shock at the way you are feeling or behaving. Please remember that they don’t get to decide if you’re getting it right. There is no “right” way to grieve.

At the same time, it’s important to remember that not passing judgment should be a two way street. It does you no good at all to try to force your brand of grief down the throats of those around you, who may, in fact, not be feeling grief at all, or may be so devastated that they struggle to function. You can erect a shrine, but you shouldn’t expect others to worship at it. You can throw your own party, but no one should be forced to attend. You can wear all black for the rest of your life, or cover yourself in bright, shiny colors, but please don’t dictate anyone else’s physical or emotional wardrobe.

Another thing to consider is that you’re not only grieving a person. You are also grieving change. You may be grieving the life you never had because of the life you were forced to live while you were in a toxic person’s orbit. You may be grieving the fact that you were unable to improve your relationship with that person while he or she was still alive. You may be experiencing confusion and/or resentment and/or excitement because now you have to figure out what your life will look like moving forward.

A good rule of thumb is this: you do you. Feel what you feel and allow others to feel what they feel. Give yourself and others that gift.

And if you wish to support someone who is grieving, ask that person what they want or need. Don’t assume you know. Some people, like my friend, want nothing more than someone to listen to them express their relief without criticism. I’m glad she came and sat by me.

mixed_feelings_by_salyalaverte_d3d7y8t

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An Annoying Opinion about Little Free Libraries

The very first paragraph set my teeth on edge.

In the interest of full disclosure, I operate a little free library, and it has been one of the greatest joys of my life. Based on community feedback, it has also become an important part of the neighborhood. I am proud to take part in any endeavor to increase literacy.

So when I read an article entitled, “Are Little Free Libraries helping locals survive COVID? L.A. weighs in” I struggled to avoid taking many of the criticisms therein personally. I get that it’s an opinion piece. The majority of my blog posts (including this one) are opinion pieces. But this article hit me where I live.

The very first paragraph set my teeth on edge. It discussed a LFL curator’s irritation at finding a Star Trek novel in his box, and one that is in the middle of the series, no less. He said, “Why do people give away unreadable books?”

This curator is missing the point. If you’re trying to promote literacy, you have to appeal to a wide variety of readers. Not every tome is the great American novel, and, for that matter, not every reader is looking for the great American novel. There are plenty of people out there who love to read Star Trek, in or out of sequence.

Yes, you should curate your library. I’m not going to leave porn or three volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica or books that peddle false information in my box. But are a lot of the books in my box books that I would never read myself? Yes. This is not “Barb’s Bookshelf”. It’s a humble little library to encourage people to read.

Another person interviewed for the article complained that she took a book from a LFL and it turned out to be awful, and that seems to have put her off ever using this resource again. Oh, come on. Who hasn’t read a book that turned out to be awful in one’s lifetime? You can get awful books from the library, from a bookstore, and from Amazon. Awful books exist. It’s the chance you take when you’re a reader.

Another person said that these libraries are eyesores and “supposedly-cute trash receptacles full of books that should have never been published.”

Where did this author find so many snobs? It astounds me. I’m so sorry that we don’t all meet your highbrow standards. We, the great unwashed, have as much right to read whatever we want as you do. If you don’t like little free libraries, don’t use them. It’s that simple. But most LFLs that I come across are places of community pride. Yes, you’re going to see neglected, run down ones here and there, but most are well kept.

Another person said that these libraries are “a place where books go to die.”

First of all, if I notice a book has not moved in quite some time, I remove it from my library and replace it with something else. That’s what responsible stewards do. I also recycle books that have been donated to me that are water stained or are crumbling to dust. My library is no trash receptacle. But I can’t afford to constantly buy pristine, shiny, brand new books to make sure my inventory meets with your approval. Sorry.

Another interviewee said, “We would never take a nice book of ours and put it in that trash-depository bookshelf…We can’t support that situation, you know?”

To that I say, “Why is that, exactly? Afraid your nice book might get pawed over by some dirty blue collar worker who needs something to read on his sweaty lunch break? Worried that someone who’s used to lower quality books might develop a taste for something better? Worried you might start a trend toward ‘better’ books in your neighborhood? Gasp! Scandalous!”

Yes the author posits that these “curbside bookhouses” are no educational substitute for a robust library system, but newsflash: We aren’t trying to be. We’re just providing access to books for those who can’t or won’t access them any other way. Most public libraries seem to appreciate that, and aren’t threatened by our modest efforts.

The article purports to be an opinion about LFLs and COVID, and yes, it does mention the current fear of touching anything, let alone books. Yes, I tend to use the hand sanitizer I provide, or wash my hands, before and after rummaging through my library, but let’s not overlook the fact that more and more cases of COVID are being found to be caught via airborne droplets, not physical touch. Wash your hands, yes. Wear a mask, definitely. Quarantine books before reading them if it makes you feel more comfortable.

But the main purpose of this article seems to be to portray little free libraries as the inferior, pedestrian pursuit of people who don’t understand what good literature is. And therein lies the crux of the problem with this article. It’s that sort of elitist attitude that makes these libraries so vital.

768px-Street_book_exchange_Little_Free_Library_Bennett_Park_Hudson_Heights_Manhattan

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What to Take with You

There are things that I know are true about myself.

I can’t speak for you, but sometimes I feel so completely freakin’ misunderstood that I even begin to question myself. It’s astounding how many people there are out there who are willing to tell you that you shouldn’t feel the way you feel or that you shouldn’t do what you do. The world is so full of noise that it’s hard for people to listen. And everybody’s a critic.

After enough time in that emotional meat grinder, I feel completely drained of my life force, and I start to wonder if they’re right and I’m wrong. Maybe if I just twist myself into a particular kind of knot, maybe then I’ll be viewed as saner, stronger, braver, more confident, less irrational, more well balanced, and more appealing. I, too, can be functional, if only…

“Stop being so sensitive.” “Stick up for yourself.” “It’s not that big of a deal.” “Here’s how you should have handled it.” “Why do you think that way?” “You’re making too much of it.” “This is how everyone else sees it.” “Grow up.”

It’s enough to make me want to crawl into a hole and pull a rock over the entrance. Just long enough to lick my wounds. Long enough to heal and remember who I am. Long enough to keep my wounded butt from lashing out and verbally tearing my attacker limb from limb. Because despite how much it may be merited, it never helps.

What do I take with me into that healing place? Truth. The things that I know are true about myself. The things that no one can take away from me no matter how hard they try. Everyone has a different set of things. Here are some of mine, in no particular order.

  • I am intelligent.

  • I love my dog and my dog loves me.

  • I’m a good writer.

  • I am a fantastic bridgetender.

  • People can count on me.

  • If I say I’ll do something, it gets done.

  • I’m not afraid of being alone.

  • I love a hot bath.

  • I have a great sense of humor.

  • I’m good with my money.

  • I love to learn.

  • I have a creative mind.

  • I’m curious.

  • I draw strength from nature.

  • I can be trusted.

  • I live to travel.

  • I set goals, and I work toward them.

  • I am a good friend.

  • People confide in me.

I’m proud of these things. I hold them close. They are my passions, my values, and my strengths. They are what hold me together even when I feel like I’m being torn apart.

Never forget that you have your very own set of things. Take them with you wherever you go. They are what’s best about you, even in your darkest hour.

So, hold on to your truth. Tell your detractors to get stuffed. And don’t ever, ever give up.

learn to fly

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Having Something to Say

It occurred to me recently that before you can be a writer, you must first have something to say. You have to have opinions and thoughts and ideas. You have to be good at explaining and/or describing things. You can’t be hesitant to speak your mind.

I’ve always had something to say. No doubt about it. Even when I would take those tests at school that are supposed to help you decide what career path to take, mine would always come out “writer” and nothing else. I mean, seriously, while my friends would have 5 or 6 suggested career paths, all I’d have was writer. (I strongly suspect bridgetenders are not even on the list of careers for those tests. Most people don’t even know we exist.)

My whole life I’ve been told that I have very strong opinions. But that was meant as an insult. As in, “Shut up, female, and leave the thinking to the rest of us.” People rarely accuse men of having strong opinions. And I would get that criticism from men and women alike, because a lot of women don’t realize how complicit we can be in our own oppression.

Well, I thank God for my strong opinions. Without them, this blog wouldn’t exist. And I’d be a heck of a lot less interesting.

Fortunately, I’m not the kind of person who expects everyone to share my opinions. People like that are insufferable (in my opinion). I don’t think I’m very good at pointing that out, though. It’s definitely something I need to work on. It never occurs to me that some people view opinions as coercion.

I don’t see opinions that way. I also don’t think of them as being right or wrong. Opinions are simply points of view. No two people will see things from the same angle. The world might be easier to live in if we did, but it would sure be monotonous.

If you want to be a writer, I urge you to get out there and experience life, and, yes, form opinions about those experiences. Listen and learn as much as you can. Be open to unique people, places and things. And most of all, don’t be afraid to express yourself, even if the whole world tries to shut you up.

oh-i-offended-you-with-my-opinion_-you-should-hear-the-ones-i-keep-to-myself

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Transformations

I have always been fascinated by transformations. The shedding of skin. Caterpillars to butterflies. Pollywogs to bullfrogs. Puppies and kittens to dogs and cats. Aging and maturing and the passage of time in all its many forms.

There is something beautiful about becoming who you were always meant to be. For some reason, in humans this often comes with criticism and judgment and moral outrage. How dare you turn out in a way I didn’t expect? How dare you stake your claim on gender A when I want you to be gender B? Why can’t you be like your older brother/sister/celebrity of the week? You should have been a doctor, not a dancer. You’ll snap out of it. You’ll change your mind. Get a haircut, hippie.

It’s all such a monumental waste of time when you think about it. Healthy human beings tend to know, deep down, who they are, and like butterflies, they expend a great deal of effort to struggle out of their cocoons. You can’t fight city hall, so to speak. If you wrap a cocoon in duct tape, it won’t keep that creature a caterpillar. It will kill it.

Yes, you can learn. Yes, you can and probably should be morally influenced. No matter who you are or who you become, learning respect is important. Sharing and generosity and compassion and common decency are paramount. These are the qualities that allow you to successfully share this planet with others.

But who you are at the very core is something only you can know. Your path to your becoming can’t be dictated by others. It’s up to you. And it’s the most important job you will ever have.

Be the best you that you can be. If you do that, everything else will fall into place. Namaste.

Transforming

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Strong Personalities

Just the other day I got told I have a strong personality. I get that a lot. The observation usually comes from a man, and it’s not intended as a compliment. I’m also often told that I “speak my mind” or am “opinionated”. (Uh, isn’t that an opinion?)

I can’t deny any of those descriptions. I’ll often speak up when others are afraid to. And if you ask me my opinion, I assume you want to know what it is, so I oblige you. I’m baffled as to why these qualities are supposed to be negative.

Yes. I have opinions. Everyone does. Never once have I insisted that anyone agree with mine. I’m not a bully. I never have been.

I also refuse to be bullied anymore. I was bullied half my life, and I’ve had it up to here. I stand up for others just as often as I stand up for myself. Again, tell me why that’s a bad thing?

Recently I’ve started considering the source of these criticisms. These people never make the same observations about men. Or if they do, they’re transformed into compliments. That’s interesting. And they are usually people who are, or would like to be, in positions of power over me. I’m quite sure that they’d prefer that I simply shut up and do as I’m told. They don’t want me to think, or have an opinion, or be strong, or even have a mind to speak. I’d be so much easier to deal with if I were soft and compliant.

Sorry to disappoint. Not gonna happen.

xena

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Credit Where Credit Is Due

If you were told that someone had a talent that only a handful of people on the entire planet had, wouldn’t you be impressed? Wouldn’t you be even more impressed if you knew that person was also a free speech advocate, had been in a few films, organizes for street performers, is a storyteller and has a radio show?

Meet Abby the Spoon Lady. This woman is talented beyond measure. She’s also intelligent, well-traveled, and dedicated. That should be all anyone needs to know about her.

But that’s not how the world works. If you check out her Youtube channel or Facebook page, both of which show you dozens of amazing performances, you’ll be enchanted. Unless you start reading the comments. Then, if you’re like me, you’ll be infuriated. While many people recognize her talent, trolls abound. They criticize her looks. They criticize her clothes. They criticize her lack of teeth.

It seems to me that if Abby were a man, she wouldn’t get this type of feedback. But being a woman in the music world, you’re supposed to be glamorous and perfect in every way, or you can’t be taken seriously. I don’t find Willie Nelson particularly attractive, but you don’t hear people discussing that to the point where his talent gets forgotten, do you?

Give Abby a break. I think she’s beautiful. I think her talent is also beautiful. I think the world is a much more beautiful place because she’s in it. I hope I get to see her perform live someday. And if I do, I hope the trolls stay home.

Abby_the_Spoon_Lady

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Take Your Marbles and Go Home

Dear President Trump:

Are you having fun yet? Are you getting tired of winning? Because you seem to be spending a lot of time in a rage or attempting to defend yourself.

And not a day goes by when someone isn’t either criticizing you or making fun of you in some way or another. Whether that’s “fake news” or not, it can’t be pleasant. I certainly wouldn’t bear up under that much character assassination, and I’m not even a classic narcissist.

I would think (because I’ll never know) that the whole reason for being rich is to be able to enjoy oneself. Otherwise, what’s the point? You should be able to golf on the weekdays as well as the weekends! Why haven’t you built a putting green on the White House lawn, at least?

Have you figured out what all of us already know? You’re being used. You’re the goat. The republicans can do their absolute worst without fear of retribution, because you will be there to take the blame. They’re laughing at you, Donald. And if you do get impeached in the end, they won’t care, because they’ll still be there. Nothing will have changed for them.

Why don’t you do yourself (and the rest of us) a favor: take your marbles and go home. (But wait. You lost them long ago, didn’t you?)

Surely this game has lost its appeal for you. Aren’t you bored? I suspect so.

But hey, if you do stick around, I’m looking forward to watching you defeat ISIS. Okay, I know you promised you’d do that in the first 30 days, but you’ve been busy, right? So anytime in the next month will do nicely. Seriously. Have at it.

Sincerely,

The Voice of Reason

marbles

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Pick on Someone Your Own Size

Of all the collateral damage caused by our Grand Poobah, I have to say I feel the most sorry for Barron Trump. If he’s not being criticized about being sleepy at 3 in the morning, he’s being called “Poor Little Rich Boy” or being accused of mental health issues.

Childhood is hard enough without being bullied by the internet trolls and the comedians of this world. We all have scars from the cruelties we experienced growing up, but there’s absolutely no excuse for this. Give the kid a break. There are some lines that no one should ever cross.

Barron Trump did not ask for any of this. He didn’t choose his parents or the paths they decided to take in life. He had absolutely no say in the matter. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be him. He will never experience the luxury of a normal life. His father is fair game, but he isn’t.

Satire is fine. Criticism is often necessary. Opinions have a right to be expressed. You don’t have to agree with me. I don’t have to agree with you. But direct your slings and arrows at the adults of this world. Pick on someone your own size.

Say what you will, but at the end of the day, this is just a 10 year old boy. And he’s a 10 year old boy who gets to look forward to experiencing puberty under public scrutiny. Can you imagine?

bully

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