12 April 2017

Managing anxiety in the current political climate

The news is scary.

And the more days that pass, the scarier it seems to get.

People in power are making decisions that have serious and long-lasting implications, and they don't seem to realize or care about those implications. Their sights are set elsewhere.

For someone like me who struggles with anxiety, the political climate can be even more scary. There are measures being enacted that have a direct and significant impact on millions of Americans and people all over the world. There are people in this country who are dying because of measures being passed and actions being allowed in this country.

We live in a country that claims vehemently to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, but because of how the people in charge are behaving, the people who are brave are not free. The people who are free are not brave. And the people who are benefiting from anything and everything that's happened since January are perfectly willing to turn blind eyes to all the pain and heartache they're causing.

They aren't impacted because they pass measures that protect themselves, not the American people.

So for people who have anxiety -- like me -- it's hard to be a social justice warrior. It's hard to look at everything that's happening and not feel it. But neither can you just ignore what's happening. Once you see social justice issues and what's actually happening in this world, you can't not see it anymore.

So what do you do?

Remember that self-care is health care.

Taking care of your mental health needs are essential. Engaging in today's politics is emotionally and mentally taxing. For someone with anxiety, it can be even more difficult. You have to remember that this fight is a long-term fight, and it won't be over in a few days or weeks (or months). Very probably, we will be fighting for the next four years. If you don't take care of yourself through this process, in whatever capacity that means, you can't resist. You can't engage. You can't fight. Self-care is health care.

Fight from where you are.

Every person has different talents and skills. Some people are organizers, some are marchers/protesters, some are talkers, some are writers. Due to my anxiety, I'm probably not going to organize a march in my community. I probably won't give a speech at a rally. But I can blog and share articles on Facebook and tweet and engage in digital conversations. So to keep my anxiety from keeping me from resisting, I have to do what I do best: engage online. If I try to do something that's outside my talents and skills, I'll be much more likely to be highly anxious, and may not be able to keep fighting. So it's important to fight from where you are so you can keep fighting.

Know that you are not alone in this fight.

Sometimes it can be easy to look at everything that's happening and think it's too much to do. "I'm just one person. What impact can I have?" Of course, there are many, many stories about individuals who fought to change the world and were successful. But you have to remember that even those individual people who have made such significant changes didn't do it entirely alone. They started the process, but they relied on lots of others who also helped them accomplish their goals. An individual may have started the conversation, but others amplified the voice. Others marched alongside the individual. You don't have to do it on your own. All you have to do is what you can do. Let others pick up slack, let others support you, let others help carry the weight. You are not alone.

There's a lot to cause anxiety in society these days. And it can be hard to fight for what's right when you're trying to stand against your own anxiety. Don't let the anxiety win. Take care of yourself so you can keep fighting the good fight.

And I'll be here to fight with you every step of the way.

10 April 2017

I am here.

I've been spending time away from social media and blogging for the last couple of months. It wasn't intentional, but it happened. There's lots of reasons.

My personal life has been a bit chaotic lately, which happens from time to time. Just when I think things are starting to settle down and we've established a good routine, Something Happens and my life is sort of shifted sideways or backwards or in a weird spirally circle thing, and I have to get my bearings before I can push forward again.

This is me. Well, it's Clara, but we're a lot alike, so it works.
This time, it came in the form of health problems, both physical and mental. I had to have a surprise minor procedure to correct a problem I was having (I'm fine now!), and the recovery was slower than I would have liked because the procedure put me in a fibro flare because my body hates me. I have the all-clear now, so now I'm trying to get back into my exercise routine to offset the days I wasn't exercising after the procedure.

In the midst of all this, my anxiety levels have been elevated (probably because of all this), so I've been tapping into all my coping skills to try and overcome my anxiety and keep it from getting out of control. Don't worry -- I'm taking care of myself! I'm using all the skills I have and techniques I know to remind myself that ANXIETY LIES and that everything is going to be okay.

So I've been spending a lot of time doing what I need to do for myself to stay healthy, and that has meant more self-care and less blogging.

But I'm venturing back into the outside world. Slowly. Slowly. I'm trying to be social again. I'm doing things that I know will make me feel better. I'm letting people take care of me when I need them to so that I can take care of others when they need me to.

So I'm venturing back into blogging.

Blogging helps me. It gives me a way to talk about my experiences and even if no one comments, I have the hope that someone somewhere reads what I write and says, "Yeah, me, too" so I feel a little less alone.

I am here.

15 February 2017

Explaining politics to kids

We voted!
(November 2016)
Our kids are homeschooled, and I used Election Day as an opportunity to introduce the kids to American politics.

On Election Day they went with me to the polls and I explained why it's important for people to vote and who is permitted to vote.* Wyatt informed me that even though their dad's dog Suros should be able to vote because he's an American husky, he can't vote because he's not old enough.

One of the volunteers was kind enough to give the kids their own voting stickers, which made them feel involved.

That night, we watched the returns. Wyatt was really excited as results came in. He kept track of where the candidates were and how many points they needed to win. Eventually, he went to bed, but I promised to tell him the next morning who won.

After we left the polls the kids asked me who I voted for, and I told them I voted for Clinton. When Wyatt asked me why, I told him.

I explained that it's important that the president represent the people and make decisions that protect the health and safety of everyone who lives in the United States. That's why people get to vote for president. So that whoever is elected president is elected because that's who most of the people in the country want to lead and represent them.**

But I explained that the reason I didn't vote for Trump is that when he talked about what he wanted to do as president, he wants to do things that will hurt people instead of protecting them. I explained that a lot of people who worked with him on the campaign think that Bo and I shouldn't be married. And I explained that there are a lot of people who want to come to the United States because it's safer for them, but he doesn't want them to be allowed to be here.

To which Wyatt said, "That's silly. America is supposed to let everyone in."

Yes, my dear. That's exactly right.

When I explained to Wyatt and Lilly that Trump won the election, they were disappointed in their don't-quite-understand-it way. They knew I voted for Clinton, so they wanted her to win. And they know that I don't like the outcome. They know I'm worried about what the new administration is going to do.

So I reminded them of the importance of voting. I told them that when they're old enough it's important to vote so their voices are heard, and so they can be sure that whoever is in charge -- at whatever level -- is working to protect people. And I told them that if the people in charge aren't doing their jobs, it's important for them to speak up about it and make changes. That it's their right and duty as Americans to be active in their government.

They get it.

They're five and seven years old.

*I kept it simple: Americans of at least 18 years old.
**Again. Keeping it simple, y'all.

31 January 2017

Check your privilege. Then use it.

Last week I had the privilege of speaking with a friend of mine about politics for her podcast on SpareMin.* Before our talk, Abi told me she didn't really have an agenda for the conversation. She was really leaving it open to anything having to do with politics or my post-election life.

Image source
That's a really broad topic.

As the conversation progressed, we talked about how to make a difference from where you are and what it means to be an ally. And that's what I want to address here today.

There are people I know who claim to be allies in this fight. They share memes on Facebook and make rainbow profile pictures and talk about how they're advocates for LGBTQ rights and want to fight for people like me, for families like mine.

But so much of the time, these people are allies because they want people to see them being allies. They want people to know they're allies. It becomes much less about advocacy and ally-ship, and much more about the appearance of advocacy and ally-ship.

There are people who come from a place of privilege (white cishet folks, for example) who are protesting and talking about protests the way tourists talk about cities. They want others to see them as allies and they want the experience of being known as allies.

That's not what people need.

As a lesbian, I am a minority, and under the Trump administration, my rights are under threat. My safety is under threat. While I once walked down the street with my wife and children worried that I might get side eye, now I fear that someone will physically put their hands on my wife or on me. Or even worse, on the kids. There have been moments since the election that I literally fear for my long-term safety in this country. Because the election of Donald Trump normalized and legitimized hatred and bigotry in this country.

And there are people I know who claim that they understand that fear when they don't. There are people I know who say they know how I feel. That they have experienced the same kind of hatred I have experienced. That they are in fear, as well.

But they aren't.

How can they be?

The vast majority of cishet folks have no idea what it's like to be hated because of who they are and who they love. They have no idea what it's like to be questioned when they say they are attracted to someone. To be asked, "Are you sure?" or "How do you know?" or to be told that your soul will burn for all of eternity because of your genetics. By people who are supposed to love you.

But everything happening in this country lately is changing people, and making them think that because they disagree with this or that policy, they're the same as the people whose lives are in danger because of those policies.

They're tourists. Not allies.

Here's the thing. Unless you actually experience the issue addressed, you can't claim to know what it's like.

You may have similar (but different) experiences. For example, I have experienced hatred because I am gay. This is similar (but very different) from the experiences of people of color who experience hatred because of their ethnicities or skin colors. But because I am white, I cannot know what it means to be a person of color in this country and in this social climate. I can empathize. I can be angry and react. But I can't know.

That's why it is so important for allies to understand how to be allies.

As a white woman, the most important thing I can do to be an ally for others is to share their stories. I have privilege as a white woman that others do not have. And instead of trying to stand on my sexuality as a way to say "I know how you feel," it's so much more important for me to use my privilege to extend their voices. To give them a voice where they do not have one. To share their stories so they are heard.

So often, when I want to be an ally on Facebook or Twitter, the best and most important thing I can do is share articles and tweets and status updates from people who are actually experiencing the issue.

If I want to bring attention to the Black Lives Matter movement, how can I possible speak about race in this country with any kind of credibility or authority? But what I can do is to amplify the voices of people who do have authority and credibility. I can use my privilege as a white woman to give voice to women, men, and children who are overlooked and ignored.

People listen to me because I'm white. So why wouldn't I use that privilege for good?

The same is true for people who want to be LGBTQ allies.

It's not about rainbows on Facebook or sharing memes or going to parades and throwing glitter. Because all that is show. It doesn't change anything in this country, and it doesn't mean you understand what it means to be gay in today's society.

You can't pretend you don't have privilege. So don't. Instead, use it for good. Lift up the voices of others with your volume. Amplify their voices so theirs stories can be heard.

Use the power you are granted because of who you are to share what others need to get the rights they deserve.

Check your privilege.

Then use it.

*For more important conversations on SpareMin, check out Abi's profile.

16 January 2017

Should we be scared?

One of the things that has been concerning to me since the election (really, since the campaign, but before Election Day, there was still hope....) is that I am a gay woman married to a gay woman and we have two children.*

And I live in a very red area of the nation.

Image source
Immediately following the election, there were so, so, so many reports of violence against so many people following the election, and the queer community is among those who have been targeted. Despite Trump's efforts to bridge the gap between his campaign and the queer community with a half-hearted wave of a rainbow flag on a stage, he's not exactly a friend to those who identify as anything other than cis and straight (and white and male, but that's for another post).

And people's overt reactions to the queer community following the election are a pretty damning statement of what it means to live in "Trump's America."

Because here's the thing. It doesn't matter whether Trump does what he said he would do during his campaign (though evidence is mounting that he will). Because the fact that he built his campaign on the promises he did means that he collected a gaggle of like-minded followers who are reveling in the fact that "they won" and are strutting their pride on the streets all over this country.

No matter what happens in the Oval Office or in Congress or in the Supreme Court, the fact remains that there are millions of people who voted for this man because of his campaign. They wanted him to win.

So what does that mean for my family? For me?

I am out. I have been for about five years. My wife is out. I don't shy away from the word "gay" around our kids and we explain that it doesn't matter if you love someone who identifies as male or female or who is androgynous (or any other variation of gender).

But there are people around us who are getting more bold about disagreeing with a "lifestyle" like mine. Or the fact that there are immigrants who live in this country. Or that not everyone is a Christian. Vocally. About taking action (even violently) to protest what they believe to be wrong.

And people are getting hurt.

And the government is not stepping in as it should. In fact, quite the opposite in some cases, like in Ohio.

That makes me afraid. The people who are supposed to be protecting Americans and American residents are taking legislative action to instead discriminate against Americans and, in fact, take actions leading to grave harm.

Did you know that the Affordable Care Act is in the process of being repealed? (My wife and I currently have health insurance through the marketplace, and we both have pre-existing conditions. She is a cancer survivor, and I have fibromyalgia.)

With everything going on in this country in the last couple of months, with all of the hirings and firings, with all of the legislative changes and bold violent acts of hate, I can't help but worry for the safety of my family and myself.

We are on the outside in "Trump's America." We don't fit into the narrow mold he has created for what America looks like.

And I shudder to think what is going to happen in the future as he, his administration, and the people who voted for him begin working toward creating that America.

Trump talked about "draining the swamp."

But what he didn't tell you was that before he did, he'd be populating it with alligators.

So all I can do is protect my family. And I will fight every day from where I am (this blog, social media, among my family and friends) to let anyone and everyone know that

this is not okay.

Trump's words and actions are not okay. The election was not okay. The actions of the American people under Trump's name are not okay. And it is my right and duty as an American citizen to fight for my rights.

I may be scared. But I will never stop.

*Puck and Tink are from my first marriage (to a man), but Bo and I raise the kids when we have timesharing (Florida's term for visitation) with them, and she is their mom as much as I am.

05 January 2017

This is only the beginning.

I am fearful this month.

There's a big part of me that's excited about a new year, seeing 2017 as a fresh start and the next step on my path to achieving my goals and dreams. I'm making big, positive changes in my life to get healthier and to be able to do what I really want to do.* We're four days in, and I've made good choices, I've held myself accountable, and I'm more motivated than I've ever been to do what I need to for myself and for my family.

Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
And then I look at my Facebook feed, and I see the appointments Trump is making and the legislation being passed and repealed in various states. (Of course, legislation isn't happening only at the state level.)

And I get this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Because here's the thing.

We (meaning Americans and others) have been fighting for a long time to try and achieve equality. For white cishet** men, the fight began in the 1700s and was achieved by....1776? Everyone else is still fighting.

Let's think about that for a minute.

For hundreds of years (and longer), anyone who is not a white, cishet man has struggled and fought and been beaten down and continued to fight for the meager measures of equality that have been granted. Paltry concessions.

And those successes have come with white cishet men as allies in the government and in the streets.

In the aftermath of the election, there are scores of people who have been emboldened to act on their hatred, bigotry, and ignorance.*** The people who want legislation to work backwards are no longer held at bay by a measured hand in the government and the expectation of politeness. The president-elect has changed all that.

I've heard people say that we should wait and see what the incoming president does. (Even if that were a valid point, I think he has already shown who he really is.) That doesn't matter. Because the fact that he got elected on the platform he ran means that there are people who agree with that thinking. They voted for him because they wanted a president who believed those things and would act on them.

They wanted a president who is blatantly and violently against women.

They wanted a president who doesn't care about the health and safety of minorities.

They wanted a president who would mirror actions by a man who rose to power and led directly to the death of millions of innocent people. (You know who I'm talking about.)

That means that all of the people who think that way and want those things believe that the election of this president is a blank check to do whatever they want to whomever they want because, after all, the president-elect has their backs.

That's where we are.

So it doesn't matter if the president-elect keeps his campaign promises or not. Because he has told the American people that it's okay to behave the way he does. And even now, when he has been elected and must have some idea of what is expected of him, he continues to say and do things that undermine all the work the government leaders before him and the American people have accomplished.

He won't do what he should do in order to show that he's serious about this role that he's taken on.

He doesn't care.

This is a game to him. Because he's bored. It's something to do instead of Celebrity Apprentice.

This man is literally holding people's lives in his hands and is more concerned with the way he's portrayed on SNL than what the American people need in order to feel safe.

Inauguration Day is January 20, 2017. But just because that man is sworn in on that day does not mean we have lost.

January 20, 2017 is only the beginning.

It is our right as Americans to stand against what is happening right now.
[...W]henever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
We are not safe.

We are not happy.

We will not stand by and allow it to continue.

And I will fight every day. In every way I can.

I will stand on the right side of history. I will fight. I will not give up. It's not over.

It's never over.

*I really want to be a full-time fiction writer.

**cis (born and identify as male) het(erosexual)

***When I say ignorance, I am referring to a lack of education and unwillingness to learn rather than as an insult.

19 December 2016

Prioritizing fiction in 2017

I spent a lot of time on my WIP in 2016, and I made good progress.

But it was also a chaotic year full of obstacles and schedule changes and lots of medical appointments for Tink and Puck. So there were many times that my fiction writing was pushed back and de-prioritized.

In 2017, I am going to continue to make time to write fiction. And, more importantly, I'm going to prioritize my fiction more than I did in 2016.

I've read a lot of articles and listened to TED Talks and podcasts about time management and achieving goals. And one point that comes up again and again is that achieving your goals is not about rearranging your life or quitting your job (though sometimes it is about that). It's about prioritizing your life so that the things you want to accomplish are at the top of your list.

When it comes down to it, we make time for the things we have to make time for. You may think you don't have an extra few hours in your schedule this week, but what a pipe burst in your home? What if your child were ill?

We make time for the things we have to make time for.

So if you prioritize fiction-writing or writing music or starting your business, you'll have the time you need to make it happen.

Yes, that means that things that are less of a priority may have to fall away. But it comes down to priorities. Is it more important to write another chapter in your book or watch the season premiere of Dancing with the Stars?

You only have so many hours in the day. So you have to decide what you do with those hours. I'm going to write fiction with them. (And some other stuff, of course.)

What are you going to do in 2017?

What are you going to do today?

10 October 2016

I'm out for those who can't be

I haven't been blogging lately (obviously). I haven't been doing much of anything.

The end of September and beginning of October was difficult for me. Because depression lies. Even though I had an editorial calendar to help prompt me to blog when I didn't want to, I just couldn't get myself in front of the computer. Because depression lies.

But I'm coming out of a dark personal storm, which coincides with coming out on the other side of Hurricane Matthew* and on National Coming Out Day.

Oh, yeah. And we're moving at the end of the month. So that's fun.

I try to write about National Coming Out Day each year for a lot of reasons. Yes, I've been out for a while, but it's important for me to keeping coming out because there are a lot of people who can't. They might lose their jobs. Or their homes. Or their lives.

This blog is a safe space.
Yes, our nation has marriage equality. Yes, there have been improvements in anti-discrimination and efforts to improve equality for queer** folks.

But it is still dangerous to be queer in a lot of places. And even in places you'd think it would be safe, like Orlando, being queer can be dangerous.

It doesn't surprise me that there are people who are fearful of being out. Truly.

Because they can't, I will. I will be out and an advocate. I will be vocal about fighting for equality and protection for others (including myself). I will give voice to the voiceless and let them know that there are people fighting their corner, even when they can't.

I'm an out lesbian.

Happy National Coming Out Day.

*We live in central Florida, so we did get hit with some of the weather; we were safe and didn't have any damage.
**My use of the term "queer" is intended to encompass all LGBTQIA orientations.

12 September 2016

Now that summer is over....

Now that we're into September, I'm shifting gears mentally into the fall. There's a lot we're looking forward to for this fall.

I'm launching a website.

I'm expanding my freelancing work to include specialized marketing services, so I'm building my website. I was hoping to have it up by the beginning of the month, but I ran into some complications, so now it'll be up at the end of the month instead. Either way, I'll have the website up and running soon, along with content to generate inbound leads.

I'm looking forward to it, and I think it'll be good for my career to get some private clients. I've kind of reached a plateau with the clients I currently have. So I'm ready to take the next step with my work and build a client base creating content marketing for a niche market. It's a demographic I'm passionate about, and I'm looking forward to immersing myself in that community in order to build clients and help businesses build their own customer bases.

We're taking a family vacation.

I graduated from college ten years ago, so this year's Homecoming at my alma mater will be a reunion Homecoming. I thought it would be a good opportunity to take Bo up to Illinois to meet the rest of my family, some of my friends, and to see the town I consider to be my hometown.

The original plan was that it would be a trip just for Bo and me, but now that the munchkins are homeschooled, they're coming with us, and we're turning it into a big field trip for school. Bo and I are making booklets for the kids to take with them that will include worksheets (math problems, geography, etc.) and activities (mazes, puzzles, journal prompts) to do each day. By the end of the trip they workbook will be complete. When we get back we'll print some pictures from the trip and the booklet will be part scrapbook and part workbook for school.

We're continuing to homeschool.

The kids have been out of public school since April, and we started officially homeschooling on June 1st (though we started unofficially before then). Now that it's autumn and public school is in full swing, we're continuing to push forward with homeschooling. Bo handles math and science, Monty handles social studies, and I handle Language Arts (reading, writing, spelling, grammar, etc.).

It's a dynamic that works well for us, and I love being able to teach what Puck needs to know by allowing him to write short stories. The kids are thriving academically, and we have the flexibility to do things like taking a family vacation in October since we can make workbooks to take with and continue their education even when they're in the car.

Autumn is going to be busy, but happy.

05 September 2016

Reconnecting with family

Wifey and I had a mini-vacation over the weekend. We spent part of Labor Day weekend at my sister-in-law's house with her, her husband, and my parents-in-law. It was a quick weekend, but very fun. We went to the local museum of science and history where there happened to be a dinosaur exhibit. (We took lots of pictures for Puck!) We only stayed one night, but it was nice. We got away for a little bit and got to spend some time with family.

Sometimes those kinds of trips are the best for me. Between my introvert-ness and fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, short trips are just about all I can handle. I get the benefit of reconnecting with family and friends (and leave the apartment) without overwhelming myself or doing too much.

Sometimes those kinds of trips are just what I need. They give me a break from the chaos of the everyday without taking too much time away. I can recharge, but I don't have to plan for a vacation away from work.

It's one of the advantages to having family leaving nearby enough for weekend trips. I can take little trips and recharge and I don't have to leave the state.

That doesn't mean I'm not really excited about our upcoming family vacation, It'll be our first big roadtrip as a whole family, and even though it'll be taxing and take a lot of planning and organization and preparation, it's going to be a wonderful trip.