Uncategorized

I have the best wife in the world, but she is one of the hardest people to buy gifts for. Plus, she is super competitive, and she gives the most thoughtful, romantic and unique gifts ever. For instance, the Christmas after we got married, she had a scarf made (I love scarves) with our wedding vows printed on it! It’s hard to compete with stuff like that because she does not have many things that she loves, and she is well, a dyke.

I have found myself on numerous occasions Googling “Unique Gifts for Lesbians or Dykes or Girlfriends or Wives,” only to get the disappointing results of coffee mugs or girly jewelry. Her identity means that she does not wear girly jewelry. Also, she does not drink coffee, so no mugs. She is super picky about clothes, and she loves to shop, which takes clothes out of the equation.

Also, I am on a budget! I am starting two businesses, so a lot of my funds go back into the businesses leaving me little room for extra stuff.

So, as we are going on three years of marriage, I have decided to start putting my creativity to work in gift giving. If you share my struggles, you have come to the right place!

I have found that creating a gift that is based around a theme allows me to be romantic, thoughtful, and frugal at the same time. When I pick the theme, I am being romantic and thoughtful because I’m considering what she really likes and putting that into the gift. Because it is thoughtful, I can also play around with the budget.

Basically, themed gifts also become experience gifts. As you’ll see, presenting a themed gift is more than just shoving a box at someone.

Of course, these are specific to my wife, but you can take the concept and apply it to anyone. For instance, instead of using a Christmas song, you could take the music gift and create it from your couple’s song. Maybe it’s the song that you first kissed to, or maybe it’s the song that you danced at your wedding to–whatever song you choose, you can create a gift from it. With the “Channel What She Loves” theme, this could be applied to basically anything. The key is to think about what she loves, and create a bundle instead of just one thing. So, if she loves coffee, you could get her a mug, some gourmet coffee, and inside a ticket to some place that has unique coffee experiences (not Starbucks). I love a good foodie trip: it marries my love of travel and food together nicely.

THEME 1: Music

If you want to get creative, think of her favorite song or a song that has meaning, and theme the gift around that! There are lots of ways to do this, but here’s how I did it for Christmas:

This year for Christmas, I demanded that we steer clear of generic gifts (clothes, socks, books, etc.). Basically, I said that we could not buy each other anything that we would buy for ourselves. To be fair, I thought this was a good idea because Alisa’s clothes are expensive. Then, about mid-November, I started panicking because I realized that I had to come up with something meaningful and romantic for Christmas while also planning a masquerade ball and buying for my two teenagers. I had basically pitched a two-year-old fit about not wanting generic gifts, and I couldn’t come up with anything!

One night, we were riding around, and Alisa’s favorite Christmas song came on, “Feliz Navidad,” and I realized that she gets super happy whenever it comes on. That was the key. I decided to throw her a Feliz Navidad themed Christmas gift. Yes, throw. I wanted it to be an experience that she would remember even if it didn’t cost that much. Also, I am an #eventplanner, so that’s my specialty.

Decorations and food for “Feliz Navidad” Christmas gift

She has been wanting to grow fruit trees, so I thought, why not get an avocado tree as part of this gift? It kind of goes with the Puerto Rican origin of the song. That was her big gift.

Then, I did a little research and found that Puerto Ricans wear straw hats and love music. I went and bought a straw hat and some maracas to incorporate into the second gift, which was a boudoir photo shoot. Now I know that sounds a little conceited to think that she would want pictures of me as a gift, but I’m telling you, she was super excited about them!

Straw hat wreath for “Feliz Navidad” Christmas

Finally, I decorated the house and made a Puerto Rican dinner, blasted Feliz Navidad, and met her at the door dancing when she came home from work (Christmas Eve). It was so much fun, and it was a hit because she looks at her pictures all the time and is excited for her avocado tree to bloom.

A Little Decor for the “Feliz Navidad” Themed Christmas Gift
Food for the “Feliz Navidad” Themed Christmas Gift

THEME 2: Channel What She Loves

Alisa does not have little obsessions like I do. I like all things tiny. I collect vinyl. I love cheap earrings. I like scarves. All of these can turn into meaningful gifts. She, on the other hand, like Alabama football, but she doesn’t like gifts related to Alabama football. She likes her dog, but she doesn’t like gifts related to her dog. She likes sea turtles, but I’ve exhausted that gift. I’ve even adopted her a sea turtle. It’s time to move on.

Valentine’s Day is another hard one because most of the regular gifts are very specific to men and women. We do not do roses and candy. That’s just not our style. This year, I really stepped up my game.

We love to #travel, but we’ve never left the states. As our last child is nearing adulthood, we want to go overseas and explore the world. There is one major barrier to this: WE KEEP FORGETTING TO GET OUR PASSPORTS! Well, hello cupid!

Of course, you might think that I should just take her on a trip, so let me give a little disclaimer: my wife is a hotel snob. I cannot book travel. I am too frugal. I always pick cheap hotels, which ends up in disaster. She is the one who reads reviews, researches, and determines what is best. Plus, I’ve taken her on all the short/weekend trips that I can afford on my own at the moment (like NOLA). I wanted to think bigger this year.

Of course, I’m not able to just hand her a passport. I’m actually going to get the paperwork all together with the payment and put it together with the rest of her gifts.

Remember this post is all about themes, and this one is travel (what she loves).

I got her this “Crossed Paths” bracelet, and wrote this note, “I’m so glad that you crossed my path, and I can’t wait to cross many more together!” Cheesy, yes! Romantic, yes!

https://wandererbracelets.com/products/crossed-paths-bracelet?variant=37020043596

I also bought a small cork board, and painted the world on it using a stencil.

These combinations have been a great hit! Alisa cares for her avocado tree daily. She started planning adventures the day after Valentine’s Day. I have to admit that I’ve never felt so good about gifts. As a matter of fact, I usually spend a lot of money on gifts and then fret over whether she’ll actually like them or not. For these, I put a little more effort into the thought, but I knew that she would love them!

I hope that you find value in this post, and I would love to hear if you use the ideas to create your own themed gifts!

Advertisements
Uncategorized

I stepped away from corporate training for one major reason: It’s boring. Business people often take things wayyyy too seriously, and that is not me. I like to have fun, and I truly believe that most people do too at least before they get drowned in debt or so miserable in their lives that they feel they have to make everyone around them miserable too.

Fun Meetings from the Party Addict

However, I have been fortunate to meet some business people who actually are fun and want their employees to enjoy their jobs.

I recently conducted a training for one such person. I was hired for this job because of my background in corporate training, but also because the director wanted the retreat to be effective. She knows that in order to reach her employees, training should be fun and memorable rather than dry and boring.

When we were working on the planning stages, I suggested my one simple strategy for making events memorable: the element of surprise. Because of the way our brains are wired and our attention spans are shortened, if you want something to be memorable, it has to be surprising.

“So, how do we make a strategic planning session contain the element of surprise,” she asked.

I could see the strain I was causing on her brain, so I immediately calmed her by saying, “It doesn’t have to be extravagant.”

People are hard-wired to freak out when faced with change.

However, incorporating the element of surprise does not have to be extravagant. It can be rather simple.

I asked the director what she thought the employees would be expecting when they came into the meeting.

“Strategic planning,” she said.

I took this a little further for her, “They will be expecting to come in and have someone ask them questions and apply those questions to the planning, right?”

“What are they not expecting?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said, “fun?”

“Exactly. They are expecting a normal, boring meeting. They are not expecting it to be fun. That’s the element of surprise.”

It’s that simple. Think about what is expected and do something unexpected.

We wanted the meeting to be productive, so I suggested that we them the entire meeting around things that are fun while also having a strong focus on the purpose.

We used colorful markers. We provided colorful candy to snack on during the meeting. We provided street food for lunch. We got up and took selfie breaks. The group had to go outside and find the perfect spot to take a selfie during their scheduled breaks. Whenever we had made progress, we all stood up and gave ourselves applause with hooping and hollering.

All of these elements took the meeting to another level, and the group was very productive. Later, the director thanked me and expressed how surprised she was that the meeting was so successful just because of these simple things. I reminded her that that’s my job to think outside the box and make sure people have fun and that her job is to do the boring stuff! She said that the employees talked about the meeting for days.

The next time you are in need of an effective training, think about incorporating the element of surprise. It doesn’t have to be difficult. It is actually rather simple. Just remember to think about what people are expecting and try to do the opposite.

If you’d like to hire me to bring some fun to your event, check out my website: https://www.juliestillrolin.com

Uncategorized

Disclaimer: Please excuse my pics! I was rushed by the short notice of my inspiration to create this post and did not “stage” them like the Muggles do.

Because I’m a lesbian and half of my family disowned me for such, I have to spend time with my remaining family members at different times for holidays. I have two adorable nieces that remain, so I try to plan things for them that are fun and memorable. (Mostly because I love them, but partly because I know they’ll go back and talk about it to my evil mother and it will drive her mad!)

When my daughter turned 16, she asked for a Harry Potter party, so I decided to put together a feast that included a house sorting ceremony and a visit to Ollivander’s Wand Shoppe. I wanted to be able to give her a great party while still having money in the budget for gifts after buying her a car, so I hit up Pinterest posts for inspiration.

There are so many different posts, which is why I decided to combine mine for the feast here.

Also, it was such a great success that I did it again this year for my niece’s who have just gotten into the series. This one was very last minute and thrown together, but they still loved it! My sister informed me a week later that it’s all they’ve been talking about.

  1. First, I constructed an invitation. I used some card stock paper and a calligraphy pen. Then, I burned the edges on the stove for a little extra authenticity. Be careful not to actually burn the paper. (Don’t be a Weasley!) Just singe it a little for the black edges. For my daughter’s party I actually printed invitations with downloaded authentic fonts, but for this one, I didn’t have time for all that! I even simply drew a crest-mark on the back rather than melting hot wax. When they received the letter in the mail, they excitedly reported to their mom that they had been invited to Hogwarts and inquired at what age she received her letter!

2. Next, I made the wands for the visit to Ollivander’s. I bought these Wilton Bamboo Dowel Rods because I didn’t have time to go eat sushi and ask for extra chopsticks! Plus, I plan to use the extras for other projects.

I took hot glue and made the designs. This was a little tricky at first, but once I got the hang of it, it was easy.

TIP: Go thick on the end with the glue and let it dry on each side before adding more. This will help form actual shapes rather than giant blobs on one side.

After the glue dried, I painted the wands with acrylic paint. I made a sign and put the wands in a jar with a battery operated light. (Like I said, please excuse the pic!)

The girls really enjoyed this part!

They immediately went around casting spells and charms.

3. I also made floating candles using toilet paper rolls and tea light candles. These add a little ambiance and a nice touch to the atmosphere.

Feast with floating candles
LED Tealight Candles

To make these, I used Celebrate! Tealight Candles from Wal-mart, hot glue, and white paint. I glued the candles into the toilet paper roll and then made “drippings” down the sides of the rolls.

I hung them using thumbtacks and fishing pole string.

4. Of course you have to have sweets from Honeydukes!

Chocolate Frogs & Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans

I picked up these chocolate frogs & Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans at Party City, but for my daughter’s party, I ordered a mold on Amazon.

5. And, a Platform 9 3/4! I used a sponge, a Dollar Tree table cloth, and brick red colored acrylic paint ($.50). I also used a round piece of cardboard to make the sign. This got torn down before I could take a picture.

6. For the Sorting Ceremony, I found a YouTube video that asked questions and sorted the girls into their proper houses. I did it too and ended up in Slithering!

7. Finally, the feast!

This cost me around $25 altogether. I picked up a whole roasted chicken at Wal-Mart, egg noodles, a jar of Alfredo sauce, cheese, canned croissant rolls, & brussels sprouts. I knew the egg noodles would be a hit with the young ones. They didn’t touch the green stuff!

Although it was thrown together and last minute, I think it turned out rather nice!

Uncategorized

Are you sick of making new year’s resolutions that you struggle with? I know that I am. I have gotten better, but most of my resolutions are forgotten by Valentine’s Day.

I recently orchestrated a strategic planning session for a nonprofit, and it was such a great session that I decided to apply the techniques to my own life and my own business. This got me so pumped up and excited for the new year that I wanted to share.

Although I did this before the new year, I have actually think that it will be a great way to ensure that resolutions are lasting. Luckily, because I did this a few weeks ago, this is proving to be true. So far, I feel more focused and more successful with the changes that I made for my life and my business.

Here are the steps that I followed:

  1. Brainstorming
  2. SWOT Analysis
  3. Creating Resolutions

I applied these steps to my business. First, I looked at how much I have learned over the past year and the ideas that I have in the brainstorming phase. In the SWOT analysis, I started with what I am good at, which is creating events. I have coordinated the food procurement for a conference serving 200 people this year. I have also thrown a huge birthday bash for 100 guests. I enjoyed doing these things, and I am good at it. This made me decide to take my business in a new direction, well kind of. I was an event coordinator back in 2012, and I have coordinated a lot of events on the side. This SWOT analysis made me realize that I needed to bring that experience into focus and make event planning my main hustle. I was also able to recognize my weaknesses, which are marketing and asking for payment for my services. I considered these things in the analysis of opportunities and threats as well. An opportunity that I recognized is to create a marketing plan that I can accomplish. A major threat that I face is money, so I knew that I needed to really amp up my opportunities to make money. All of these and much more came out of the SWOT analysis, and it was actually a fun way to get to a better plan for my business.


After doing these steps, I put them to application. I created goals for 2019 for my business, including a weekly challenge, a social media marketing plan, and a timeline for events. I created a strong financial plan. This fueled me to updating my websites and social media platforms, and so far, so good! I am over a month in and still working towards my goals.

Here’s how you can do the same:

First, you want to do some brainstorming. There is no right or wrong in brainstorming, but I reflected on what I was happy with, what I was not happy with, and what I had accomplished in 2018. #resolutions are about growth, and I wanted to recognize the growth that I had already created in my life and take it even further.

Next, you should do a SWOT analysis. Don’t be scared, this is a good way to recognize Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats! #swotanalysis is all about improving by analyzing the big picture as well as the small stuff. I know that these are usually reserved for business, but SWOT can be applied to your life too. Here’s a sample:

https://www.liveplan.com/blog/what-is-a-swot-analysis-and-how-to-do-it-right-with-examples/
Retrieved from: https://www.liveplan.com/blog/what-is-a-swot-analysis-and-how-to-do-it-right-with-examples/

Finally, you will review these and create your new year’s resolutions.

Let’s say that one of your goals is to lose weight. I think this is one of the most common resolutions that gets thrown aside by mid-January. You would start by looking at your weight loss journey from the past year. Did you take steps to improve? If so, what steps (i.e. I started taking vertical pole fitness classes)? How did that work? Did you develop any bad habits (i.e. I started drinking soda more than usual)? After this, you would conduct a SWOT analysis. What are your strengths when it comes to weight loss? (i.e. what type of exercise/healthy foods do you like? what are you good at?) What are your weaknesses? (Do you hate to run, etc.?) What are some opportunities for improvement? Perhaps you may find it easier to exercise if you find something that you enjoy. Maybe you would eat more healthy if you buy things that you like. Taking these small but mighty steps will be longer lasting, and they can be revealed through the SWOT analysis. Finally, you still need to examine the threats. What threatens your success? Time, money, etc. If these things threaten your success, then you need to develop a strategy to overcome them. If time is an issue that prevents you from exercising, maybe you should take time away from something that is not important and replace that activity with exercise. For instance, if you spend thirty minutes in the morning on Facebook, instead go for a brisk walk. If money is an issue, then take money away from something (like your daily cup of coffee at Starbucks) and but that into an exercise class or some healthier food choices.

It’s one thing to make a resolution, but it’s another to make it last. If you truly want to make resolutions that you can see all the way through, start with an analysis that shows you the entire picture of where you are, how you can improve, why you struggle, and how you can overcome those struggles.

I hope that you are able to apply these three easy steps and create real resolutions that you can reach in this new year! As always, keep evolving & thriving, and if you would like to discuss, feel free to email me: juliestillrolin@gmail.com.

Eating, Uncategorized

My Favorite Vegetarian Lunch

Although my kids HATE the fact that we do not have a microwave, I am relentless on the issue. We have a small kitchen, and a microwave is just not a necessity to me. I’m the one who cooks, so it’s my choice. Plus, I like to live by the motto: “If it’s convenient, it’s probably not good for you.” Microwaves are all about convenience. End of story.

However, there are some great microwavable meals that are soooo convenient that I have had to find a way around not having one, especialEvol Goat Cheese and Portabello Raviolily since I’m working from home a lot these days and do not have the money to go out for lunch.

Evol is one of my favorite brands of vegetarian and healthy meals. Their philosophy is simple: Our Mission is to inspire people to care about where food comes from and how it is produced, by making REAL FOOD that tastes delicious. So, when I saw their Goat Cheese and Portabello Raviolis in a single frozen meal, I was like, gimme! gimme! gimme!

So, to overcome the no microwave issue, I put a little olive oil in a pan and dumped the frozen raviolis in there, let the ingredients warm, and viola! A warm, delicious (and somewhat nutritious) vegetarian meal in minutes at home for only $3.50 from Target.

 

Parenting, Teaching, Uncategorized, Writing

First ofblack-lives-matter all, I shouldn’t have to write “even though I’m white,” but I feel that it is necessary because I’m hoping that this will reach at least one white person who doesn’t think it’s okay to support the Black Lives Matter movement as if it will harm their white privilege in some way. Secondly, I will attempt to refrain my anger and sarcasm as much as possible, but I can’t make any promises. These are my disclaimers.

As a teacher, I have witnessed many forms of oppression in our society, especially against black people. I see that the public school system reinforces many of this oppression. What do I mean? Let’s look at desegregation. When black children were finally allowed to attend “white” schools, how much did the schools change to include their culture? Did the history books change to include positive attributes made by black people? No. Did literature books change to include a fair amount of black writers? No. The only thing that changed was that they were allowed to attend. When I look back on my education, I think about how much I did not know about black people as a child. I didn’t have the pleasure of reading Toni Morrison,  Langston Hughes, Eudora Welty, Richard Wright, etc. All that I was exposed to was the “norm.” So, looking at this from the perspective of a black child (if I may venture to do so), what would this tell me about my race? As a white child of a racist mother, I learned that white was normal, good, accepted. I was taught that black boys were rapists and violent. I was taught that black women were bitches. And, I was taught that all black people were stupid and did not belong in our society. My mother would say that she wished that black people would be sent back to Africa. I want to add here that I have long since departed from these teachings, but I’m afraid that many people still have this mentality. So, in 2016, has the public school system changed? No. They simply added a month to celebrate Black History–the shortest month of the year. Yes, they have included more black people in history and literature, but the narrative is ultimately the same. EXCLUSION OF BLACK PEOPLE BEGINS IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL.

As a college English teacher, I emphasize the fact that we are all basically bilingual. When I’m at home, I sometimes say things like, “He done started something,” or “She gone get in trouble.” This is our dialect. I know that it is technically incorrect, but I do not dismiss dialect because it brings richness, culture and identity to people’s voices. My black students are not used to this. They are not used to their speech being accepted as a language. They look at me like I’m an alien. EXCLUSION OF BLACK PEOPLE CONTINUES THROUGHOUT HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE.

Don’t get me wrong, black people are strong. I admire them for their perseverance. They have made tremendous strides considering the lack of acceptance in our society. They don’t need my support. It’s the white people who need to know that it’s okay to support them.

In fact, white people could benefit majorly from true inclusion. Look at the school system again. Now tests are the ultimate basis of knowledge. If a student doesn’t pass the test, the student is judged, the teacher is judged, the school is judged. The problem with this is that not all student knowledge can be measured by a test. And, ultimately the tests do not reflect the differences in race. This is a difficult subject because it may sound bad, but hear me out. When black people were allowed to attend white schools, they had basically no education besides the little bit that other black people could teach them. They were not up to white people’s “standards.” So, instead of changing the system and letting the black students catch up, they just kept going in hopes that they would give up. Then, legislature is passed that says that all schools must be performing. These black students who couldn’t catch up were hurting the numbers. What happens? They lower the standards. Now middle and lower class white students are also suffering. And, this is pretty much where the education system is today.

Also, some black people did give up. They recognized that they couldn’t survive this system. This system NEVER really let them in. So, what do they do? Turn to ways to survive that don’t include getting an education.

Another form of oppression is the welfare system. The welfare system was set up initially to help people get back on their feet after the Great Depression. Now, it reinforces a cycle of slavery to poverty. I once overheard a conversation among a couple of black seventh graders (ages 13-14). They were talking about naming their babies. I heard one of them say that she hoped that she would have twins so that her grandmother would get two more checks. When a person only knows one way of life, it is difficult to break out of it. It is the norm. It is a cycle. I’m going out on a limb to say that I’d bet most of our politicians know this, which is why welfare continues. I’m not saying welfare should disappear because I understand its important in helping people in need, but it should be a means to an end, not the end. So many white people disagree with me on this point because they are jealous that the government gives black people money. This is so stupid because 1. white people get welfare too, and 2. a life depending on the government is not a good one. White people say “I wish I could drive a Cadillac and get on welfare,” but that Cadillac does not make up for other hardships, and this is just nasty ass stupid prejudice assumption. Think of it this way: Do I want my daughter at 13 to be thinking about naming her child, the child that she is having so that her grandmother can get another check? Nope.

I could go on and on about the systems of oppression (a.k.a. slavery) that are thriving in our society, but this is supposed to be about Black Lives Matter. I’m writing this in response to white people trying to diminish this movement by using the term Blue Lives Matter as a rebuttal. NO NO NO! This movement was not established as a blow against police officers. It was established as a cry for help. Mothers of victims. Mother of victims. They lost their children. They lost their children to the violence of our society. Our society excluded their children, and they ended up dead at young ages. This is the problem. Stop trying to stifle their voices. Stop ignoring the exclusion. Stop saying that they can’t speak up for themselves without taking away from white people. Do white people need black lives to not matter?

No one said that blue lives don’t matter. No one said that white lives don’t matter. When a police officer shoots a black man sitting in his car unarmed, he is saying that his life doesn’t matter. When a white man shoots a black teenager for wearing a hoody and playing loud music, he is saying that his life doesn’t matter. When a child is gunned down for having a toy gun, it shows that someone believed his life didn’t matter. There are methods for preventing this violence, but they are not exercised. Are all instances of police violence about race? No. Am I saying that police officers should not protect themselves? No. I am saying that racism and oppression exist and cannot be ignored. I am saying that black lives do matter, but that does not have to take away from others’ lives. I am saying that if there are instances where a black person is targeted, then there need to consequences and recognition.

I don’t worry that my son will get shot because of the color of his skin. I don’t worry that my son will be excluded in school because of the color of his skin. I don’t worry that my son will be profiled because of the color of his skin. I enjoy white privilege in this way. I do not want to have to worry, but I want to share those same privileges with my black neighbors. I want my students to feel accepted in my classroom. I want my students to succeed and become productive members of society. I want to live in a society where we stop lying and start fixing the problem. If you want to say ALL LIVES MATTER, fine. THEN ACT LIKE IT! Until then recognize that BLACK LIVES MATTER.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art, Travel, Uncategorized

As we emerged from the Jaar exhibit, tears streamed down my face. Alisa, realizing I was crying, stopped me, astounded and asked if I was okay. All I could do was smile at her. These were not sad tears, though I was feeling pain for the thoughts of war and destruction brought to life by my realization, but they were tears of verisimilitude–my thoughts and feelings were realized by another–they were truth for me. This art was my truth.

As I stood with my lover, my partner, my girlfriend, my fiance, and she wiped my tears, the sounds of Sharon Hayes’ voice emerged from a set of speakers. I listened to the words. They spoke to my heart. Tears are in my eyes now as I write.

Here’s an explanation:

Everything Else has Failed! Don’t you Think It’s Time for Love (2007), a sound installation with framed posters, documents the period from September 17 to 21, 2007, when Hayes emerged each day at lunchtime from the corporate headquarters of UBS in midtown Manhattan to speak to an anonymous lover. Beginning “My dear lover” or “My sweet lover,” the texts Hayes spoke were addressed to an unnamed “you” from whom the speaker was separated for some unexplained reason. Woven in between comments on and about personal longing and desire were observations about politics and the trauma and dislocation of living in a time of war. By inserting “private correspondence” into a scene of public speech, Everything Else Has Failed! Don’t You Think It’s Time for Love? provokes questions about the territory of the space of the “political“ and the “unspeakable” as it relates to love and the notion of “free speech.”

This was taken from: http://whitney.org/file_columns/0003/1662/sharon_hayes_press_release.pdf.

I cannot remember the words. I cannot find them online. I wish I could. All I know is that I need this connection in my life. I need to stop being silenced from the lack of understanding.

I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.

Uncategorized

My brother has detached himself from my life. He was preceded by my mother, my aunts on my mother’s side, recently my grandmother and many cousins. I’m writing this to forgive them. I understand that my coming out as a lesbian at 33 is something that is difficult to understand. I also understand that my relationship with Alisa is hard to comprehend because it is not typical. I wish that they could hear me when I say that I love her. I wish that that was all that mattered to them, but it’s simply not. They cannot get past their own perspectives and see mine.

Many people say it’s the little things that count, and I agree, but Alisa gives me both little things and big things. I was lonely for a long time. I was miserable for a long time. I had discredited all the fairy tales and stories of true love. I had settled into the life I thought I deserved. I covered up my unhappiness, but people do not see what happens behind closed doors. They do not want to see. My closed door with my husband hid many things. It hid me sleeping alone, crying myself to sleep, and emotional abuse. Every time my husband disrespected me, I blamed myself. I paid for my previous relationship with Alisa for many years in my marriage to David. I am now so far removed from that dark time that I have forgotten a lot of it, but it no longer matters. It made me stronger to suffer. And, it made the little things matter so much more now. I have felt the guilt that my family would put on me about leaving David, but I say to that guilt: I cannot live my life in suffering to make someone else happy; I cannot show my children that abuse is okay; I cannot suppress my natural instincts in order to please my family. I tried. I gave it 13 years. 13 years is a long time to devote to something. That should be the testament that people need to show that I tried being straight. IT DIDN’T WORK. However, people still say that I’m not all the way gay because I was with a man. To that I say: I was with a man because it is what society wanted. I never wanted it. IT DIDN’T WORK. Some people say that we are going to hell. To that I say: See you there you judgmental fool.

What my brother said was that I was a coward who doesn’t stand up for my beliefs and a bitch, and he called Alisa a bitch too. This stemmed from a party where I had too much to drink and Alisa took me inside and helped me to bed. Apparently (I don’t remember) I didn’t say goodbye to him. And, Alisa made a comment about having to go to work the next morning. I write this to show that my brother does not know me at all. I am far from a coward. I stand up for what I believe in on a regular basis. I teach English and try to show people how to use Rhetoric and make connections in the world. I help my friends when they are in need. I support Hillary Clinton as presidential elect because SHE IS A WOMAN, and in 95 years of having the right to vote I think we should VOTE FOR A WOMAN. Of course, I also agree with Hillary on many of her standpoints, including education reform, which definitely affects me and gay marriage. I am stubborn and willful, so I can take the bitch comment, BUT COWARD? I am far from a coward. No one tells me what to do. My mother tried to force me to be straight. I’m gay. My ex-husband tried to force me, with physical force, to stay married to him. We’re divorced. Alisa tries on a regular basis to get me to go to bed earlier. We always go to bed late. I’ve taken my kids to New York by myself, which isn’t a big deal except to people in this small town who will never board a plane. There isn’t much that scares me except for heights, which just make me sick and dizzy.

It’s surprising to me what you learn from people when they walk out of your life. I learned that my brother was a coward because he didn’t have the nerve to tell me that he wasn’t okay with my relationship, which is what I think was really the problem. He also didn’t amount to much in my life when I considered it. Brothers are supposed to support you and have your back. When David put his hands on me, I expected my brother to defend me. He didn’t. I got what I deserved. Also, brothers are supposed to be good uncles to their nieces and nephews. Mine just criticized my daughter for liking “the black boys” (I put this in quotation marks with a sarcastic tone). He recently told my sister that she has never helped him do anything. He’s 27, still working on a bachelor’s degree in history and unemployed, so I guess he wants her to help my mother (or egg donor) to pay his bills. He doesn’t work because he can’t stop smoking pot long enough to pass a drug test, and he “doesn’t want to work for anyone dumber than he is.” He’s too good to work at a restaurant. So, when I examine the loss, I wonder why I valued him in the first place. Is it because “blood is thicker than water”? No longer a valid argument for me.

I’ve also seen the toxicity of my mother seeping through his veins. I’ve seen her evil nature causing my sister pain because my sister refuses to disown me. But, I fully expect her to go soon too. She doesn’t want to raise her daughters with a lesbian aunt. She doesn’t know how to explain our relationship to them. And, I don’t believe my sister can take the pressure of the rest of the family hating her because she doesn’t join them in their walkout.

However, despite the negativity, I’m on top of the world. My relationship with Alisa is a fairy tale, a real-life fairy tale. No, we can’t be seen riding a carriage to a ball through shimmering light or frolicking in a meadow surrounded by lavender and talking birds, but I feel loved. I think that is what we all want. Unconditional love. Every morning she wakes me up with a kiss. When something happens at work, it’s her I want to tell. We have deep conversations, but I just enjoy talking to her even if it’s just about her job or the kids. We rarely argue, and when we do, it is usually small and repairable. When we argue, I think the difference lies in the fact that I do not want to fight with her. It hurts me to be angry with her, so we get it out, fix it and get over it quickly. She goes out of her way to make me happy. She recently looked for pumpkin spice creamer for me, but it’s not out yet. Once, when I was sick, she drove me to work, and while I was teaching, she went and bought me a heating pad because mine had broken. She takes care of things around the house when I can’t. SHE DOES LAUNDRY. She plans awesome date nights. She just researched our trip to Vegas and found out that they have a plethora of IPA, which is my favorite. I could go on and on about all the little things that she does for me, but now for the fairy dust….On August 26, 2015, Alisa had planned a date night. I got dressed, and she told me she had a surprise for me. She had gotten me flowers, which was unusual because I don’t like store-bought flowers since they’re expensive and they die. She had packed a picnic. Driving to the beach in Pensacola, one of our favorite spots, she asked me about work, and we talked about the literature that I’m teaching. When we got to the beach, we listened to Kristy Lee while we ate our picnic of cheese, grapes, pepperoni and wine. Then, Alisa took out our story that she had written and read it to me. As I lay there listening to her talk about our relationship and her love for me, tears trickled down my cheeks. Then, she told me to close my eyes. When I opened them, she was holding a ring. I jumped up and grabbed her. It was perfection. I could not have asked for a better experience of romance. The sun was setting, the waves were in the background, and I thought to myself that I was so lucky. She did all this for me. Not many people get to experience being in love with their best friend and having such a connection.

There are now only a few people who have not turned their backs on me, and I’m thankful for them. My kids are happy. My daughter has come around. I could not be happier. I just don’t understand the hatred that makes people so blind that they cannot see that I’m happy and in love and that’s all that should matter.

So, as another one bites the dust, I’m swimming in my fairy dust and I don’t care who doesn’t like it.

Uncategorized

Although Alabamians knew that a civil war would be expensive, it was inevitable as the South was reluctant to bend on the slavery situation. Alabamians seceded from the North in hopes that they could come to a peaceful solution. After all, Alabama’s economy and much of its population’s livelihood depended on slavery. Cotton was Alabama’s main agricultural crop, and the production of and exportation of cotton depended largely on slavery. Because agriculture depended more on manual labor, Alabamians did not see the need for immense industrial growth, and they continued to rely on slave labor. Alabama joined the forces of the Confederate States on January 11, 1861 under Governor Andrew B. Moore. William Cobb was a Unionist from Northern Alabama who wanted the Southern states to compromise, but Alabama did not budge. The Confederates made Montgomery their first capital and elected Jefferson Davis the president. The Northern part of Alabama contained more people who were resistant to the war, but the Southern Alabamians were ready to fight. Many Alabama men became leaders during the war such as John H. Forney, Henry D. Clayton, Jones M. Withers, and General Kirby Smith. Unfortunately, the war caused Alabama’s economy to suffer more than they anticipated. Men had to leave their families, and women had to work and pick up the slack. Alabama did not have the firearms and manpower that the North did because of their industrial production. They also did not have the transportation of the railroad that the North had. The slaves saw the Unionists as ways to freedom, so they tried to join the fighting against the Confederates. Alabama did provide shelter and supplies to soldiers. Many of the men were familiar with each other, and they fought side by side with their neighbors. The Selma Arsenal made most of the Confederate army’s ammunition. Many Alabamians became generals and lieutenants. Overall, Alabama played a big role in the Civil War despite the loss of the Confederacy.

Alabama’s economy was not exactly booming before the Civil War. Many farms had just begun to see a profit. Reconstruction took many years and a lot of hard work. Alabama’s reliance on agricultural crops, especially cotton had made the state weak when the war broke out. Men had to leave their farms to fight, and production was weakened or stopped without the manpower. Homes and property were destroyed in fighting. Farms had been neglected and needed much work to rebuild and start functioning at a profitable rate again. The war also affected the class structure as it brought industrial growth and weakened the old planter class. After emancipation, there was an abundance of freed slaves that were in need of work and property. Farmers had invested in the slaves and had invested in houses and property for the slaves. Farmers had to split their land and rent their property. Former overseers became tenant farmers, and tenant farming proved to be less profitable than the farmers had anticipated. Many whites feared the freed blacks, which caused a lot of controversy, especially economically. Many of the conditions had not even changed for the African Americans after the war. Republicans actually helped Congress to consider black rights. Alabama Unionists responded to President Johnson’s plan of Reconstruction that would allow the white conservatives to return to power. Basically the war brought on radical changes, and Alabama practically had to start from scratch.

Women’s lives were very difficult during the first half of the twentieth century. Prior to the women’s suffrage movement, women had practically no rights except for those afforded to them by their husbands. They lived in a very patriarchal driven society. Any money that they earned went back to their husbands. Any property that they held went in their husbands’ names. They did all of the work for no pay. They were expected to be nurturers and enjoy their domestic place in the home. Even after the suffrage movement gained women the right to vote, it would still be a long road for them to find their place in society. During the first half of the twentieth century, they were adjusting to their new rights. However, men reacted to women gaining rights much in the same way that they reacted to slaves earning their rights. The work of women was often compared to the work of slaves as they tended to the house and got nothing in return. So, women had to push through and earn their new found autonomy. They started joining the workforce despite being paid pennies on the dollars in comparison to men. Class determined the status of women more than race did. Many wives of farmers worked in the house and in the fields. In the nineteenth century, women began to take charge of their situations and break down the male patriarchal society. Middle and upper class women in urban areas of Alabama began affecting change in the women’s movement by creating reform newspapers such as The Progressive People. Education began to rise for women, especially after Reconstruction, and this allowed women to earn more professional positions. Tallulah Bankhead was a pioneer for professional women. She was a well-known actress. She was very professional, and despite her often wild antics, she was very respected. Alabama women in the early half of the nineteenth century were paving the way for women’s place in a modern society.

Alabama women were thwarted in the suffrage movement by the image of the southern belle. Men saw southern women as these frail domestic ideal pictures rather than professional voting members of society. So, women had to free themselves of this image in order to gain their places in society. White women had previously joined with the movement for civil rights for slaves and freed slaves, but after emancipation, they separated from that cause and took on a more independent path to suffrage. They pointed out that uneducated black men could vote while educated white women could not. Black women in Alabama also joined the fight seeing that the right to vote would benefit them as well. The women first tried to have Alabama’s constitution amended, but after that failed, they championed a national suffrage amendment to guarantee their political freedom. Bossie O’Brien Hundley organized the Alabama Equal Suffrage Association in Birmingham in 1912. Unfortunately, suffrage for women was opposed not only by men, but also by women, especially those involved in religious organizations and those that felt inclined towards domesticity. But, the opposition would eventually be matched. In August, 1920, women in Alabama could vote.

After the Civil War, Reconstruction and emancipation, Alabama’s constitution was in need of a rewrite. On May 21, 1901, 155 delegates met in Montgomery as a constitutional convention. Alabama’s Black Belt leaders wanted to disfranchise the blacks in order to maintain their wealth and power. They also wanted to disfranchise white illiterate voters and keep the vote limited to those who were educated. Despite the immoral implications of the new constitution that basically reiterated white supremacy, the constitution was ratified. It limited the state’s ability to tax, diminished important education funds, and limited the state’s funding for land improvement and railroad development. Basically, not much changed from the constitution of 1875 because the Black Belt leaders found ways around the changes that were proposed.

Alabama was a center for the civil rights movement because it was the home of leaders such as Rosa Parks, who performed the bus boycott in Montgomery. White supremacy had long been the standard in Alabama, and blacks began to fight for their rights after emancipation. The vote would mean that they would have a voice in their leaders and politics. Although the state could not prohibit blacks from voting after the national decision for suffrage, Alabamian leaders turned to violence to prevent them from voting. They also imposed a literacy test knowing that many African Americans had not been afforded an education. Candidates who would back up the African Americans lost to leaders who would continue the white supremacy. Even when blacks did manage to vote, the results would be misleading. However, in 1965, the Voting Rights Act was passed, which protected the voting rights of African Americans.

In March 1931, nine black males were on a train and got into a fight with two white males who got off the train and went to the police. Two white females accused the nine males of raping them. They went to trial with no attorney and an all white jury and were convicted. The Supreme Court overruled the verdict because they were not given an attorney. When appealed, they were convicted again, but that ruling was also overturned because there were no blacks on the jury. People had mixed feelings about racism at this time. Most people who still partook in racism were uneducated. The fact that the case was overruled shows that African Americans had gained rights in the realm that mattered.

Of course, as a woman, I think that the most important event discussed above is the women’s movement in Alabama. Prior to the movement, women were undervalued and basically treated as slaves. The women’s movement paved the way for women to become educated, professional citizens and to gain some respect. Now women have the choice to become a professional or to stay at home, and both are valued. Although there are still instances of gender inequality, women have come a long way from two centuries ago.