Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A jar full

I came across a post from last year in which I wrote a few "goals" (because resolutions never work for me) for 2015. Thought it would be fun to see how I did.

• Get a promotion (check - November 1)

• Earn a new designation (whoops)

• Travel to someplace I haven't been (check - a fun trip to Fenway Park in July and a lovely trip to Maine in August)

• Learn to make something in my crock pot (check - I made Buffalo Chicken Dip and chili for a party a few weeks ago)

• Add to my "Rememberlutions Jar" each day (check - not every day, but it's full)

• Self-publish a book (I started it, then  got distracted)

• Less searching and worrying (check - though this is a work in progress)

• More faith that things will work out on their own (check - also a work in progress)

• Napping - because napping is important (check)

• Make a few mistakes (check)

Make mistakes? I added that to a list of goals? The point was if you're not making mistakes, you're not trying anything new. I was telling myself to not be afraid of new people, places, or experiences, no matter how great the risk might seem.

For years, I've been afraid to trust anyone with my heart. I was afraid to let anyone in, because I'd been so hurt in the past. This was one mistake I wasn't willing to risk.

I thought the only way I'd ever let anyone in my life was on my terms - no compromise, no change. That way, I was in complete control and couldn't be hurt. No risk.

If you'd asked me last December if I was willing to set aside all my rules and deal breakers, let go of my worry, take a huge leap of faith, and let someone in - I would have said no.

But I did - and that one risk has brought more light, joy, happiness, and love to my life than I ever thought possible.

Now I'm looking forward to filling a jar for next year with even better adventures, places, and fun.

Here's to 2016 - and another jar full of mistakes!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Slammed doors

Since my family's favorite holiday traditions of nagging and guilt have already started, I wanted to share my thoughts on gratitude now - while I still feel somewhat friendly and sentimental.

If I've learned anything in the last few years, it's that blessings are everywhere, even if they aren't always obvious. Sometimes what seems like missed opportunity is actually redirection towards something so much better. Sometimes, God slams a door shut because we are not smart enough to close it on our own.

There was a time when I thought my life would never be good, because it could never be what I wanted. I tried feeling sorry for myself - turns out, that doesn't really work. So I set out to make the best of what I could with what I had left. It didn't work right away, and at times I got discouraged. What I came to realize was that time wasn't being wasted - it just takes a long time and a lot of patience to build an amazing life full of joy and hope.

When I think about where I was even a year ago, I realize that if I had gotten everything I thought I wanted, I would have missed out on something so much better.

Sometimes, the most painful lessons are the biggest blessings. We have to hurt to understand what we really need. We have to go through loss to find what really matters. We have to be forced to change to figure out what we were doing wrong. But once you accept those lessons and open your heart to the possibility that you don't know everything... wonderful, amazing things happen.

This year, when asked why I am thankful, my answer will be:

I am thankful that God helped me see what I was doing wrong. I am thankful that He gave me friends who could help me navigate the loss, and make the changes I needed. But most of all, I am so very thankful that He slammed that door shut.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Red, blue, and white

In the last few days, my Facebook timeline has become quite confusing. One by one, my friends have filtered their profile photos to "stand with Paris." Hey, I get it - it's sad and tragic to see lives lost in such a senseless way.

Then a few friends took issue with those who had chosen to stand with Paris. What good does that do? Support = money, so send cash, not a temporary profile photo. Others said why Paris, but not other countries? Why do you value some lives more than others?

Well, I think the easy answer to the last one is that no profile photo filter was created for the other countries. But why Paris and not them? Paris is a US ally, and a peaceful country. As Americans I think we relate to their tragedy more than tragedy in other countries. Is that right? I have no idea, but there it is.

It's true that a red, blue, and white filter won't help those affected immediately. They need resources, too. Not everyone has resources to share -  but a kind thought or a little support is free, and easy to give. Who's to say it doesn't make the people in Paris feel just a little better knowing someone cares? It certainly can't hurt.

Besides, the filters aren't just about the victims. Something like this affects people in a lot of different ways. I think it just helps some people to feel part of something larger. That they said something, or shared something. It helps to know they did what they could.

I happen to believe that there is power in a whole group coming together with prayers and well-wishes. It helps us all heal, and feel more at peace. It brings light to help drive out the darkness.

We shouldn't assume that someone with a filter-less profile picture doesn't care, nor should we assume that a filtered photo means a person hasn't lent other support, or cares about one life over another.

Grief and loss are difficult enough, without tossing assumptions or accusations into the mix. How about we take some of that goodwill and apply it in real life, too?

I also have a couple of thoughts on refugees... but that'll have to be another time. Maybe.

Friday, September 11, 2015

I don't know much

I don't know much about much, but one thing I have learned in the last few years is that mistakes and challenges are often lessons in disguise.  People are doomed to repeat the same mistake until they finally learn the lesson it was meant to teach.

September 11 is a pretty awful day. No one has good memories anymore. Everyone talks about where they were when the towers fell. It's a sad reminder of a tragic day filled with nothing but grief and loss.

I wasn't personally affected. I wasn't in New York or Washington DC or in a field in PA. I wasn't on a plane. I didn't personally know anyone who was. But I felt the day. It triggered some terrible anxiety and worry for me - that something would happen and take someone away from me. Loss is my greatest fear, and it doesn't take much for me to feel scared.

In the days and weeks that followed, everyone everywhere saw a change in Americans. We were kinder towards each other - more accepting, understanding, and accomodating. Differences didn't really matter - if you were an American, you'd been attacked. We were all neighbors. We weren't the arrogant Americans they thought, and they couldn't weaken our spirit. The US was stronger because of the attack.

In the years since, there's been a huge shift. We're tougher on each other. We're divided over issues like same-sex marriage, guns, welfare, Healthcare, religion - you name it, we've probably used it as a reason to argue. We attack each other over political view points and personal opinions. We poke fun at one another for meaningless reasons.

Of course we are all entitled to an opinion, whether we agree or not. Embracing that right means we still have not conceded victory to the terrorists. We continue to embrace the very freedom they sought to attack. We are still strong in our belief that freedom includes the right to disagree.

I think every time we argue with each other, we weaken that freedom. Taking a side is fine; judging others for the side they choose is not. The minute we allow our opinions to become bigger than our humanity - the terrorists win, just a little.

If we really don't want them to win - and if we really don't want any of the lives lost to be in vain - we have to do better. We have to stop behaving like the pompous, self-righteous Americans they meant to attack.

Like I said, I don't know much. But from where I sit, we need to get back to respecting each other, working together, and making our whole country a better place.

We can post all the pictures and poems and memories we want one day a year. But if we really want to win, we need to bring a whole lot more light into our world every day.

Until we learn that lesson, they will have won.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Cancer season

I'm fascinated by Astrology. The rational side of my brain knows there probably isn't a ton of science behind it. The rest of me finds it to be a pretty accurate way to measure and predict moods and communication, and sometimes even events.

I came across this post about what it's like to love a Cancer (someone born between June 21 - July 22. My birthday is about three weeks into the Cancer month. I find I am (mostly) a typical Cancer (that whole "loves to cook" thing sorta passed me by - but I do love to eat, so there's that).

"Cancers continually find themselves in situations where they have to 'let go' but they have a hard time doing so.... They hold on through thick and thin but have a hard time recognizing when it’s time to finally cut the cord."

This is definitely a problem for me. I am notoriously bad at knowing when to say goodbye. I always want to give people just one more chance. Part of it is because I'm so afraid I'll walk away just when they are about to make whatever change I've been waiting for. I find myself not saying goodbye because I'm afraid my lack of patience will cause me to miss out on something great.

Recently, I have learned that while patience is a mature, positive virtue - sometimes, when your gut says it's time to say goodbye, ya just gotta listen. I've also learned that if you really don't want to listen to your gut, you should have one or two friends to whom you will listen. This is super-important.

"If we ever mistakenly forgot their birthday, [a Cancer will] remember the exact year and all the details surrounding precisely why [we forgot]. They will forgive but never forget... If there’s some debate on what to get them, I’d suggest a simple token of appreciation for all they do. That’s all these old souls really want."

It's also important to have friends who remember our birthday. It annoys us when they forget. (Also, my favorite color is purple, my shoe size is 6, and I've never met a sparkle I didn't like. Remember, I'm mostly a typical Cancer. This old soul likes cute stuff.)

"Sometimes it’s hard for the rest of us to let go of them too since we tend to feel so at home when they are with us."

This has historically been a huge problem for me. People get comfortable and they stick around long after they know they should say goodbye. If I'm distracted, I might just think they are still around because it's what they want. I'm getting better at recognizing the signs of someone who wants to leave - and also at being the one to say goodbye.

Guess I'm a little more adaptable than the typical Cancer, too.

Friday, April 24, 2015

No argument here

Recently I've been in a couple of conflicts, with two unrelated people. In both cases, I came into the situation with a completely different perspective and recollection of what had happened to get us to the point of conflict.

Both were convinced I was in the wrong.  My views were "skewed." I was laying blame. I was being selfish, doing things only to make myself look good to others.

I disagreed with both. While I absolutely know I can be selfish, I truly didn't think I was in either case. While I do an awful lot to make myself look better, this comment had more to do with actions than a Sephora purchase. As for my views... I could have listed example after example in support.

My first inclination was to do just that. I wanted to rise to the argument, and defend my feelings, perspective, and actions. But I didn't.

Sue from a few years ago may have. She may have found herself in an all-out shouting match, making sure everyone understood exactly why she was right.

Present-day Sue just can't. I let that instinct settle, and then pass. Not just because I wanted to avoid the conflict, and not at all because I didn't want to stand up for myself. Definitely not because I thought I was wrong - it all came down to feelings, and I'm as entitled to mine as anyone.

I didn't argue because I honestly didn't see the point. Both people came at me prepared to fight. They were never going to back down. The louder I protested, the louder they would have argued. All that accomplishes is a bunch of yelling and no listening - which has never, ever solved a problem.

I guess I've come to realize that if someone doesn't care how you feel, simply speaking your mind more loudly isn't going to change theirs. It's not unlike raising your voice when speaking with someone who doesn't understand your language. You can repeat yourself as loudly and as often as you want - to them, you simply don't make sense.

So I never argued. I never defended myself. I let both people walk away thinking I'm selfish and awful and that I don't care. Which, is what they already thought anyway.

I'm not sure if that's me being selfish, lazy, or mature. You can decide for yourself - I won't argue.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Is thin privilege a thing?

I've been wanting to write about this for a while, but could never find the right words. A few weeks ago I stumbled upon this post about "thin privilege" that seems to hit the proverbial nail right on the head.

For anyone who doesn't know me, I'm definitely a plus-size woman. Call it curvy, BBW, big, fat, thick... whatever. I'm not thin. I struggled with my weight for years. I was taught that I would never be pretty or worthy of love unless I was thin. People (who supposedly cared about me) went out of their way to make me feel bad about how I looked to motivate me into losing weight so I'd finally be good enough. The irony, of course, was that the worse I felt, the less I cared about losing weight. (Something to consider if you think fat-shaming is an effective motivational tool.)

Then, a few years ago, I came to this realization that, while losing weight might be good for my health, that was no reason for me to see myself as inferior to my thin friends. I am just as "worthy" of love as my skinny peers, and I made a decision that I was done feeling like anything less.

But I don't subscribe to the idea that being confident in myself requires me to tear down my size-zero-sisters. Every woman, no matter her size, shape, height, color, etc, should feel beautiful.

Still, I remember the first time I heard a thin woman take exception to a "body-positive" message, I was confused. Didn't they understand that "real women have curves" isn't intended as an insult towards them, but as empowerment towards plus-size women? Don't they realize that we need that empowerment because we're all trying to overcome a feeling of being something less?

It occurs to me that maybe they don't. If a woman has always been thin, she has no idea what it's like to have been made fun of in school, or turned down for dates, or unable to buy clothes that fit. She has no concept of how it feels to be discriminated against because of her size. Phrases like "skinny bitch,"  or "eat a sandwich," might sound harsh, but they are actually used to express envy. "Thunder thighs," and "beached whale," on the other hand, are absolute insults. People are generally not envious of bigger women.

No one questions why a woman is thin. If someone is too thin, people immediately (and genuinely) worry about her health. Overweight women are labeled as lazy and gross and shoved to the side. Ever notice how plus-size clothing is shoved into a corner, in the back of the department? That's not a coincidence. Fat is something we're taught to equate with shame. Being thin should make you proud.

I'll never think body-shaming in any form is OK. No one should be made to feel bad about herself. But if you're wondering how there could possibly be such a thing as "thin privilege," there it is. It's found in not having to excuse your appearance, or find "flattering" outfits (since you're already beautiful). It's not having to worry that your blind date will get up and leave when he sees you, or worrying that you can fit into the bridesmaid dress your friend chooses.

The privilege is in always knowing that you were good enough, and not needing empowerment in the first place.

Monday, March 16, 2015

My with yous

I like to think I am a good friend, with whom it is easy to get along. I do my best to be there for the people closest to me. I'll even be helpful to people not close to me, if I can. I rarely argue, mostly because most things are just not worth the effort. I'm pretty laid back, in that I don't really care what time we meet, what movie we see, who drives, where we eat, etc. Actually, I don't care about much. *shrug*

But on the rare occasion something does matter to me, I know I can become difficult. I over-think, over-analyze, and I worry - a lot. If I get disappointed, I get sad and maybe even a little down on myself. It never lasts long, and to be honest, it's improved. But it's definitely in those times when I know for sure who really cares for me.

This past weekend, my church wrapped up its series on relationships. The message was about how we are not created to go through life alone. At first I was like, "Really? This week?!" But then it improved. Pastor Mike Mills told us throughout life, we will meet three kinds of people.

For yous are people who encourage us to be our best, and stick around in good times. They celebrate victories, but are generally not there to support us through our trials.

Use yous are those people who are only around to support their own agenda.

With yous, though... with yous are the people worth having around. They are the people who will pick you up when you fall, and carry you until you can walk on your own. They cheer when you're happy, and cry when you're hurt. They want the best for you, and support your choices, even if they don't always agree.

When I am my normal agreeable, accommodating self, it's tough to tell the for yous from the with yous. When I'm doing for others, even the use yous get mixed in.

But when I'm broken and defeated and disappointed, and struggling to pull myself up again... that's when my with yous stand out.

I'm not at all sure what I did to deserve such amazing people in my life... but I'm sure glad I have them.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Three truths and a fib

We are having a discussion about ice breakers on Facebook. Baking Suit likes them... so far, she's the only one.

Ice breakers are basically an introvert's worst nightmare. If you're a shy introvert (ahem), you'd probably rather have a tooth pulled without pain killer than spend one minute trying to guess a stranger's favorite color.


I'm a reformed shy kid. While I still loathe ice breakers, I have been to enough meetups, blind dates, and speed dates (that's a special kind of hell; don't do it) that I can fake my way through a get-to-know-you kinda game. I just may need a nap after.

Baking Suit is playing an ice breaking game this morning, and asked us to join. So here it goes...

- I can decorate a cake.
- I talk fast, say too much, and get clumsy when I'm nervous.
- When I was a kid, my room was always tidy.
- My favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird.

One of these things is not true. Care to guess which?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

American Sniper

I am a pretty anti-war person. I, personally, feel there is a diplomatic solution to every single problem humans face.

However, I am also not an idiot (I mean not on most things; I still don't totally get football). Finding a diplomatic solution requires all parties set aside differences, and look at things from all perspectives. I know that is not always realistic. As a result, war is sometimes a necessary evil. I may not like it, but sometimes it needs to happen.

But I don't usually watch war movies. I don't like watching good people die needlessly. I don't like watching families suffer. I definitely don't like watching it all happen, knowing the stories are real.

Still, I went to see American Sniper. It's nominated for the Best Movie Academy Award, and I like to try and see the movies that make that list.

(My impression: Amazing movie, tough to watch, moving ending, Bradley Cooper should get the Oscar. But I did think Selma was a better film, and should win for Best Movie. It's tough to say who was better, Cooper or David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr. He wasn't nominated, so the point is moot. But - that's an issue for a different post.)

I was impressed by the story. Chris Kyle is portrayed as a patriotic man who was raised to believe those who can fight should protect those who can't. He's portrayed as someone who, even as a young boy learning to hunt, had a real talent for shooting. Through the movie, you see Mr. Kyle as a really good guy, who sincerely wants to use his strength and talent to defend the country he loves - and to save the men he fought alongside. (The movie follows Seal Team 3 - so there are no female soldiers in the film. At all. That's also an issue for a different post.)

The movie does a fairly good job explaining why snipers are necessary, how they are used, and the difference they make. Which is important, because it seems people think that snipers are just "murderers" or "cowards." But, if you pay attention and keep an open mind, even the most anti-war liberal would be able to see that snipers are necessary assets. (Also, if you watch the video of his interview with Conan O'Brien, you'll see he seemed like a genuinely good guy in real life, too.)

Everyone has the right to think and say what they want. Even Michael Moore and Sarah Palin - for better or worse. You can be against the idea of war, and still have all the respect in the world for a man who (literally) gave his life to protect and help his fellow soldiers, while defending his country and freedom.

Soldiers like Chris Kyle defend all rights and freedoms - including the rights of others to criticize their very actions.

Giving your life to protect all freedoms...even the right to criticize you. If that doesn't define a hero, I'm honestly not sure what could.