That’s so Gross, Mom

This is how conversations go in our house:

My oldest daughter was singing “Can’t go to bed ’til you’re legally wed, you can’t you’re Sandra DEE!” I said, “You can’t even go to bed after your legally wed. Just don’t go to bed at all. Or wait. You can go to bed after you’ve been wed for ten years.”

“That’s so gross, Mom.”

Then I amended and told her seriously, “Aw well, someday you’ll go to bed. Just don’t do it too soon, and don’t do it with too many people, and use protection.”

“That’s so gross, Mom.”

Then I said, “If you’re with a guy and he says he wants to have sex and you don’t want to have sex, and he says not having sex will cause his penis to shrivel up and fall off, or his testicles will explode, don’t believe it.”

“Wow, Mom. No one would say that. That’s so gross.”

“No. It’s true. It’s been said. But don’t believe it because it’s a lie.” I said this with assurance, just in case she was thinking of believing some lie about a shriveled up man part.

“It sounds fake. I would never believe anything as stupid as that.”

Good thing, daughter of mine.

Multidimensional and Pining

I remind myself of the Laura Linney character in Love Actually. Except not at work. Just her pining. I am oh so boringly pining.

Sometimes my job doesn’t offer all the answers. I don’t like this. I want to be able to help. I get it that it’s not possible to help everyone all the time, but my poor bleeding heart wants to and is disappointed when it can’t.

I don’t want to live in this flat world. I want to live in a multidimensional soft world. I want to go live in a small space among growing things and make the world a better place. I do not want to run and run and run and realize I have gone nowhere. I do not want to wake up on my deathbed and realize it is all gone. How to be present in a world that longs to flatten us?

SOAR: Your Concept of What’s Possible is About to Change

SOAR – Your concept of what’s possible is about to change
By Susan Hess Logeais – Hot Flash Films PDX

Almost two years ago, Melissa St. Clair invited me to Jefferson High School to film a duet she had choreographed for two sisters, Kiera Brinkley and Uriah Boyd. When she’d told me that Kiera was a quadruple amputee, I couldn’t picture what their duet might look like. How would she move let alone dance? But Kiera had a reputation in Portland. Other dance teachers I asked confirmed that she could, in fact, dance. So, camera and tripod in hand, I went to Jefferson to meet Melissa and film them.

It only took Kiera a cartwheel out of her wheel chair and I was a fan. But as the music filled the room and she and Uriah started to dance, my appreciation grew to encompass them both. Yes. Kiera was amazing—fluid, graceful, and so full of heart. And… so was Uriah.

Through my camera ‘s viewfinder, I saw how Uriah’s effortless grace moved the space around her. Everything connected in an endless flow. Watching Kiera, I saw how her movement radiated out from her heart to extend beyond her amputated limbs. Their dance was exuberant and playful. When the music ended I finally exhaled.

As my 2nd camera operator gushed with praise for Kiera, I saw so many things. Kiera would always be remarkable for just being who she is. And yet Uriah would probably receive less praise and attention even though she was equally beautiful and mesmerizing to watch. In so many ways Uriah’s life would be easier than Kiera’s, but growing up in the shadow of a powerful person leaves its mark as well. Perhaps I’m projecting, but as the third child born to a couple with two adopted children, I know what it is to be told you’re special in private and yet not be treated that way in public.

Now, I’ve been watching dance since I was 5-years-old. My life was ballet from age 7 until I turned 18, and the last year of that period was spent studying and performing with the San Francisco Ballet. Even in my mid-50’s I continue to study movement and dance whenever I can. So I consider myself a movement specialist, and when I saw Uriah and Kiera dancing together I knew that Uriah had learned to move using the space around her body from watching her sister’s example. With ease they exude what students in all disciplines of movement spend decades struggling to achieve.

In that moment I knew that I would help them tell their story if they wanted me to— because people needed to see it. They needed to know what is possible when someone gets the love and support he or she needs to challenge potential limitations. People also needed to know that those in a supportive role are equally benefited from their caring.

I’ve cried more than once while editing our footage together. The first time happened as I edited the duet Soar and watched Kiera pour her heart into the dance. Her courage reminded me of humanity’s potential for good. The second time was when I edited Uriah’s interview and she talked about what it was like to be Kiera’s little sister. The depth of her maturity and dedication to her sister surprised me. And although I’d guessed she needed to step away to define herself, I was still touched by her willingness to reveal the pain underlying the decision. Many times I’ve been overwhelmed with gratitude for having witnessed their lives. There is so much about them both that stirs my heart and fills me with hope.

To be honest, there have also been moments when I questioned what Kiera might be able to do – such as become a nurse – but she has proven me wrong every time. And there have also been long periods of silence. As a mother of two teenagers and a full-time student myself, I had plenty to keep me busy. But I did wonder at times if we would ever see this project through to the end.

Thankfully, we always manage to reconnect and finally we are about to draw our documentary project to a close. I’ll admit the finale is staged—literally, as on the stage of the Newmark Theater here in Portland. I like organizing performances that bring people together in honor of a good cause. This will be my fourth such event and it’s the biggest yet—this time celebrating arts as a way of overcoming adversity.

To cover the costs of the concert and a whole host of other expenses we are crowd funding to raise money. It’s all or nothing with Kickstarter, but I’m realizing that this platform is the future for creative people who want to sell their work directly to the public. The outreach and marketing it involves builds the network to receive a project when it is finally finished. Even still, it feels a lot like jumping off a bridge and hoping your parachute opens.

One thing about getting older—I have more experience of both succeeding and failing and that makes taking risks frightening at times. When I remember that life is a process and I will learn something from everything I do then it gets a little easier. In any case, I am a better person for knowing Kiera and Uriah. My gift to them is directing and producing this documentary so that more people will know these two courageous and beautiful young women.

To learn more, visit the production’s website here.

I’m Boring

My god, I’m such a cliché. I have been so busy with nonsense for weeks and weeks on end, I can’t even remember life with pauses. I don’t want a life running. I like the pauses, but circumstances haven’t worked in my favor.

There is a problem with sliding through life like it’s a giant luge. Time passes more quickly. I don’t want to get to the end yet; I want to experience now and not get whiplash watching it disappear in a blur as I pass it by (could one sentence be filled with more clichés, just like me?).

One consequence of this Speedy Gonzalez existence is the same byproduct I’ve lamented in many posts. No writing here. I have even considered just shutting it down, but even that takes time I don’t want to spend that way. So here I am again, saying nothing and the same thing. BORRRRRING.

Good Adult Crush Ideas

I read an article that said adult crushes can be more difficult than adolescent crushes because you can’t give your best friend a note to hand to the guy in 4th period and my immediate thought was, “Why not?” Maybe you can’t do it in 4th period, but you could get your best friend to hand the guy a note somewhere else, like perhaps the water cooler at work if the guy you have a crush on is at work, or perhaps on the playground if the guy you have a crush on is another parent. Maybe you could pass a note via car windshield wipers. Just leave a note that says, I ❤ U. Maybe he’ll have a crush too and wonder if it was you that left it (or he could think he has a weird stalker, but just pretend that isn’t a possibility). You’ll just know it was him when you get the note back with a “2″ written after the U. Plus there is no reason you couldn’t get your friend to leave the note. This might help prevent any stalker suspicion as well, especially if you have lots of good friends who could do this for you. And you could also do all those crush things you did as an adolescent like “accidentally” waiting for a drink at the water fountain. This works especially well at work with the water cooler. You just saunter over casually with your cup and get some water when he does. If he’s liking you and he’s sauntering over to the water cooler too, then you’ll both end up drinking a lot of water and this could result in a lot of bathroom trips at the same time and maybe, just maybe, you might bump each other on the way. Squeee!!! Isn’t the thought just too much?!?!?

This has real potential. I have to disagree with the author of that article. She didn’t have enough imagination about this. She probably doesn’t really have any crush as an adult. She’s probably married already and doesn’t need a crush. Her editor told her to write an article on adult crushes and she couldn’t think of anything to say except boring things like passing notes in 4th period. That editor should give me the assignment. I could come up with some really great adult crush ideas that aren’t difficult at all. I just know it.

Bully Nation

Bully Nation  (Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission)
by By Yale Magrass and Charles Derber, Truthout | Op-Ed

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has appropriately been called a bully. This has implications well beyond Christie. His calling out has the potential to shift the growing public conversation about bullying from a psychological narrative about abusive individuals to a new discourse on institutionalized bullying, carried out by ruling institutions and elites.

The current focus on bullying – like much of the discussion about guns and gun violence – has tended to focus on individuals and mental health. It is a therapeutic narrative. Bullying is seen primarily as a psychological problem of individuals. The victim needs therapy, better communication or adaptation skills. Bullies are characterologically flawed and need therapy or perhaps legal punishment.

But there is little or no discussion of larger social or cultural forces in the United States and the American institutions or leaders who bully other countries or workers and citizens at home. Institutionalized bullying is endemic to a capitalist hegemonic nation like the United States and creates death and suffering on a far greater scale than personal, everyday bullying, as important and toxic as the latter might be.

Moreover, much of the everyday bullying that is the current media focus must be understood as the inevitable consequence of a militarized corporate system that requires a popular mind-set of bullying to produce profit and power. The individual bully is the creation of the bully nation.

The United States openly views itself as the world police force, a benign hegemon morally ordained to impose its interests and values on the rest of the world and justified in the name of freedom, human rights and antiterrorism to do to weaker countries what it wants. It spends more on weapons than its next 20 largest competitors combined. President Obama proclaimed “[S]o long as I’m Commander-in-Chief, we will sustain the strongest military the world has ever known.” To peasants living in small countries in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia – where the United States has sent armed forces, used drones to bomb, and often overthrown the government – polls show that a majority of people see the United States as the greatest threat to their security, and fear it. Hegemony here seamlessly unfolds as morally sanctioned, institutionalized bullying.

America makes heroes of bomber pilots like John McCain and offers them as role models for children and adolescents to emulate. They see the media applaud the bullying behavior of their own government that dispatches police, soldiers, FBI and CIA agents into foreign nations to kill and wreak havoc – from Afghanistan to Somalia to Columbia. If you kill enough, whether in a just war or not, you may win the Congressional Medal of Honor.

If bullying brings esteem to a nation, then surely that is a behavior to strive for. Potential recruits for an aggressive military need to be immunized against scruples over violence and bullying. This becomes an implicit part of their education, whether or not it is ever publicly admitted. Accordingly, schools and adult authorities often turn a blind eye toward bullying. After two world wars, the Army lamented that a majority of combat soldiers never fired a weapon. They called for a change in the training of soldiers and the education and upbringing of children to correct that. By that measure, they have been successful. In Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, the majority of combat soldiers killed.

Sports has played a vital part in preparing children for institutionalized aggression, bullying and combat. In football, the goal is to attack the opponent and knock them down, a hard hit that keeps the opponent dazed on the ground is sometimes encouraged by coaches and cheered by the crowd. In schools and campuses, the athletes are often the popular heroes and also the bullies, involved too often in sexual violence or drinking binges in bars that lead to fights or crimes.

Only recently would they expect sanctions against bullying. Indeed, the more they bullied, the more popular they would be. Even before World War I, President Theodore Roosevelt insisted that elite universities like Harvard would have to enhance their football teams if America were to dominate the world. He declared: “We cannot afford to turn out college men who shrink from physical effort or a little physical pain.” For the nation needed men with “the courage that will fight valiantly against the foes of the soul and the foes of the body.”

The aggression and competitiveness of bullying pervades civilian life as well as military. As the beacon for the rest of the world to emulate, the culture the United States wishes to export is capitalism. Capitalism’s staunchest defenders proclaim competition to be its fundamental operating principle. The monopolistic corporations and the wealthiest 1% have been the most aggressive, bullying anyone who stood in their way by outsourcing their jobs, lowering wages, stripping away benefits and firing those seeking to organize unions.

The bully demonizes their victim. In American capitalism, elites have long defined the losers in the competitive struggle with the words used by Mitt Romney to defame the 47%: undeserving “moochers.” They are weak and lazy and don’t have the stuff to prevail. As victims, they deserve their fate and must submit to the triumphant. Those, like the wolves on Wall Street who bully their way to the top, should be there; those who couldn’t or don’t, belong where they are.

Bullying is the means through which the corporate empires were built. Carnegie and Rockefeller intimidated and threatened their rival capitalists to cede them an ever-larger share of the market. They brought in Pinkerton goons to beat striking workers into submission. Workers were forced to either sign “yellow dog” contracts and pledge not to join unions, or be thrown into the street. Similar bullying practices continue today. Corporations warn entire communities they will shut down factories and undermine the local economy if they do not accept low wages and minimal regulations. Banks entice consumers to borrow through predatory loans and then raise interest rates and threaten foreclosure. The corporations are clear they have the power and will not tolerate challenges from weaklings who fail to know their place.

Bullying enhances the ideology that the strong are strong and the weak are weak, and each deserves to be where they are. This attitude pervades America’s culture, government, military, corporations, media, schools, entertainment, athletics and everyday life. The first step to a solution is shifting the conversation to institutional bullying, moving beyond simply a therapeutic narrative to a political one aiming toward transformative social change. As long as the United States embraces militarism and aggressive capitalism, systemic bullying and all its impacts – abroad and at home – will persist as a major crisis.