I hope you like cookies.

Marriage equality is the topic of the day. And while the important aspects of why marriage equality is important are overlooked, the uglier aspects of anything discussing homosexuality or anything not within the heteronormative sphere we’re accustomed to begin to come out. Rather than attack merits of law, we bring in religion or personal fears that lead to hateful words.

I’m an individual who strives to live her life making small impacts in others’ lives through kindness and teaching her children to respect people’s religions, cultures, lifestyles, and orientations. I teach them not to judge but to listen. I teach them forgiveness. I want nothing more than an understanding despite opposing viewpoints. I respect being able to identify when your experience regarding a subject is too limited to formulate an opinion that has justifiable weight – I have to stay quiet often and educate myself before opening my mouth myself. Research is key to any argument. But winning isn’t what matters, it’s learning – not just about a subject, but about the person you’re speaking with. And for anyone talking with me, they should know kindness and empathy are very important to me.

Sometimes I get mad. As we do. Because we are human. So let me say this: I feel like an incognito queer person, using my invisibility for good, hoping that by knowing me as a person your view of the LGBTQA community might be inclined to change to the positive, and only wind up being hurt in the process. While listening to homophobic remarks and feeling as if I can say nothing because I don’t want to hurt or offend as I’ve been hurt and offended, I turn inward and do what I do best. I heal my anger and hurt by being kind; after all, you don’t treat others with kindness because they are kind, but because you are. I give what I can and hopefully what others need. Maybe it’s a supportive word, a hug, or a plate of cookies – however I can make someone else’s day better despite mine being made worse is how I feel I can better the world.

But then that terrible asshole part of me (that everyone has) just has to laugh if someone makes negative remarks regarding sexual or romantic orientation without knowing, or possibly forgetting, or maybe not even caring that they are saying this in front of me because despite appearances, I am not straight and have been openly not straight for twelve years. I slide down the Kinsey scale faster than a firefighter sliding down a pole, only the three alarm fire in my case is an attractive person. But that’s okay. You’re firm in your beliefs and I am firm in mine. You will continue to bring negativity into individual lives of people with non-hetero sexualities that have nothing to do with your own individual existence while I continue to just try to be a kind and decent human being. And I’ll still bake you cookies.
But those cookies you ate? Queer made.
Horrifying.

meeee

Cover Ups

I’ve been extremely busy the past year.

I’ve talked to many people before about my tattoos, and how when I stopped self harming, I used tattoos as almost my cutting methadone – whenever I had the urge to cut or was suicidal, I’d go get a tattoo. Something small, a piece of something here or there, nothing that mattered to me because I just needed the sensation. I’d made the decision and had told some people that I was getting the tattoos on the tops of my wrists covered up; they were a reminder of my weakest times when I was dissociative more than present. On the inside of each wrist, I have one of my sons’ names. A month ago I got a stack of books on top of my left wrist to represent that son, my oldest. He’s a reader like me. He devours books and I’m hoping maybe one day he’ll love creating fictional worlds and writing as much as I do. He loves the tattoo and calls it ‘his tattoo.’

The inside of my right wrist has my youngest son’s name. He likes super heroes. That’s why he thinks I got this tattoo on my arm of a Wonder Woman bracer (that wound up being like armor – resembling Bucky Barnes’ metal arm in Winter Soldier but I won’t go into how my geeky heart is singing over this accidental crossover).

I have a mental health blog on tumblr, and there are people who have been there a while, supporting me while I worked toward being well, relying on my help and direction at times, witnessing my successes and seeing me at my worst. The last few years were a big deal for me. Getting BPD taken off my diagnosis, being published, overcoming social anxiety enough to attend the book launch, powering through and getting my Associate Degree in a year and starting my BA before being published again and getting to read my story to people – all of this was so hard and I am so proud. There have also been many bad days in between. There were days where I couldn’t move because of the depression. I fought off some absolutely horrifying suicidal notions for a while at the beginning of the year, and have been struggling the urge to self harm again because I keep validating my reasoning to do it just one more time – once and I’d be done for good this time. Like I said last time. But I haven’t.

During a stretch of these rough days in early 2014, my son got a Wonder Woman headband from a kid’s meal. He was bummed about it because he wanted something Batman or Superman related, and gave me the plastic tiara. It became a thing. Whenever I was crying or stressed about school when I was trying for that first diploma, he would go get that Wonder Woman headband and put it on my head. He said I was his Wonder Woman and I was a superhero, and he called me beautiful. He won’t remember doing any of that in a few years, but I will.

So after I got my book tattoos for the oldest to cover up the swirls that meant nothing to me, replacing them with something that I share with my son whose name dons the inside of that wrist, I got a Wonder Woman bracer to cover up the other. It’s huge. It’s my armor. It has nicks on it from battle. I look badass and strong, like I could take on anything. He loves it and asked if I got it because he likes superheroes, and I don’t know how to begin to tell him that I got it because he said I was his, and he put the tiara on me during bad days when I wasn’t sure how to make it to the next, and he and his brother gave me the best reasons to go on.

I’m their Wonder Woman, but they are my heroes.

Tattoo by Adrian Aldaco, Syndicate Tattoo in Manhattan, KS

Sometimes it’s hard to love yourself.

I can stand in front of the mirror and look at my body and see where the muscles used to be. I can look past the stretch marks and scars and see the smooth skin I used to have, where my skin was still squishy but pretty taut. I can see that if I had that tone now, in this new body, I would be a beast. My broad shoulders, cut in waist, wide hips, and huge breasts would look amazing with me a hundred pounds thinner. People don’t look at me and think I need to lose a hundred pounds. I carry weight well, which has always made admitting how much I weigh embarrassing. In old pictures of me with my shirt off flexing like an idiot, I weighed anywhere from 165 to 180. So when I say I need to lose a hundred pounds, I’m not exaggerating or saying I’m disgustingly obese. Though maybe I am. I’m sure most people think so.

Sometimes I still see myself that way – the beast of a girl who could leg press forty reps of 200lbs and carry on a conversation because it was as taxing as curling a five pound weight. I remember what it feels like to stand up straight and look at my body in the mirror for those two months that summer before I turned 18 and had self confidence, knowing I looked amazing. My body still has memory of that. When I put on my industrial strength sports bra and stand in front of the mirror with sweat pants hanging on my hips, I strike that familiar stance and muscle memory jolts me. My shoulders go back, my head holds high, I turn and squeeze what’s left of my abdominal muscles and feel good for a few seconds before reality sets in.

I’m hungry, but can’t make myself eat. Some days I do so well and eat properly. Other days I don’t feel as if I deserve to eat, no matter what time of day it is that I begin getting those pangs of hunger. I look at my body and ignore the rising sickness that comes over me as my stomach begs to be fed something, anything, to just make the emptiness stop. I deny it because the tape measure and the scale and the eyes of people who pass me tell me that I don’t deserve it.

I didn’t eat when I was ten to the point where I was throwing up stomach acid so often at school that my mother would have to leave work to come pick me up and watch me eat. I was only in fifth grade when I felt that being skinny was more important than me making it to lunch without throwing up that burning, foul liquid. I got an ulcer from worrying about people thinking I was fat. I wasn’t. Two years later I would put one arm behind my back and one across my stomach and if I couldn’t touch my elbows I wouldn’t eat that day. I might have a Pepsi and a Snickers just to give me sugar to make it through the day. I was forced to eat in front of my soccer coaches when they realized I wasn’t eating and was benched by another unless I could tell him everything I ate that day because my energy was too low to be on the field. Soon I was put on daily medication because I had the acid reflux of a forty year old male and would get violently sick with stomach cramps whenever I ate.

When major depressive disorder set in with other mental illness and I had back to back pregnancies, my nightmare of being fat actually came to fruition and I was everything I feared. When my mental health deteriorated, so did my physical health. Now that I’m finally getting myself together mentally, I’m left looking at the remains of what I’ve done to myself through years of sedentary depression and anxiety.

I don’t recognize the body I’m in. I don’t like the way people look at me, or how they say I dress well for someone of my size, or tell me I have a pretty face. I don’t like that I’m stared at at social events, or that people have commented on my size in comparison to my husband as if that is any of their business. I want to get healthy and am working toward being so, but the stares I get doing anything physical outside of my house has made me retreat to back roads where people won’t see me or into my basement where I have to hope that in a year or two, maybe I’ll be fit enough to exercise in public where people won’t judge me so harshly with their eyes or whispers. Maybe someone will finally call me beautiful without an addendum such as “for a big girl”.

I’ll never be tiny – I’m not built to be. But I could be healthy and strong. I could be a beast with strong thighs and core. I should not deprive my body of what it needs because I have some sense, some fear, that tells me I’m not deserving of basic sustenance. I should think of my self as Wonder Woman or some Amazonian queen because I’m beautiful and amazing and deserve to treat myself, and be treated with, respect.

I had always said that I was built like an ox, but a publisher I had been talking to at a writer’s conference noticed I wasn’t eating in front of anyone, looking anxious as people began eating their lunches. After I joked about my Eastern European build she said to me, “No honey, we’re not built like oxen, we’re built like oaks.” And nothing has been more inspiring to me than those words.

A Very Informal Essay on Beauty…and figuring shit out the hard way.

Dare For The Beautiful Ambiguity

Dare For The Beautiful Ambiguity

I’ve always been obsessed with beauty. I love beautiful architecture, art, staring at the sky, quiet scenery of secluded spots, being lost in busy cities, and people who are just too beautiful – both aesthetically and those with kind souls.

I don’t know if it was society ingrained or part of my personality disorder, but I always just wanted people to love me and think I was beautiful. I thought everyone hated me. I never had a boyfriend, while all my other friends had one after another. I concluded it was because I wasn’t pretty enough. I dealt with disordered eating and wished for beauty, because I thought it was something I didn’t have – if I was pretty, wouldn’t I have boys liking me? When I was older I thought sex was equal to someone loving me, at least for a few minutes. I had pictures from Maxim and FHM all over my walls with labels on bodies of parts I wished I had. The worst part was that I was beautiful (and had a fantastic body), and maybe I still am now (minus the fantastic body), but I don’t feel like I am. I found out years after high school from guy friends that they had been intimidated by me – everyone loved me and no one knew how to talk to me because they thought I was out of their league, which was ridiculous. I was queen of the geeks and played Risk in my friend Matt’s basement with Battlestar Galactica on in the background and another friend played WoW in another room – they were the only guys who would talk to me, and they were awesome. I spent years with absolutely no self esteem, and it was because guys thought I was some magical unicorn they couldn’t talk to, and I’ll never understand why. I was absolutely not one of the beautiful girls at school. I also thought that was weird, because girls who liked me never had that problem. I even married one of those little shits – a guy who would call me, ask me to a ball, then after dropping me off, would not talk to me until the next year, because he thought I was out of his league and I wouldn’t want to hang out with him at the pool hall. He was the only guy to ever ask me to a dance. Ever.

Now after years of depression and disordered eating of a whole ‘nother kind, I’m fat and desperate to get healthy and feel beautiful again. It’s not just that I want to feel beautiful, but I absolutely narcissistically want other people to think I’m beautiful. But more than anything, I’d like for people to look at me as if I was human and not in disgust. My self esteem used to be crippled because people thought I was too beautiful (in an outside/inside way, not in a Scarlett Johansson way because praise Jesus for that one) for them to talk to. Now it’s crippled because I can’t go out of my house without someone looking at me like I’m disgusting because of my weight. I’m a size 22. I’m not ridiculously huge, just definitely need to and want to lose a lot of weight and be healthy.

Because I’ve always placed such emphasis on beauty and it’s been such an obsession of mine (that will never go away), I’ve found it hard over the years to find the real motivation to lose weight that didn’t put me into a pit of depression when I failed to meet unrealistic goals and look a certain way after a certain amount of time. I finally realized beyond being ‘wanted’, I want to lose weight to be healthy, so I can hike the Appalachian Trail, so I can go do things I’ve always wanted to do without feeling like I’m going to have a heart attack. I want to feel beautiful and tell society to fuck off. I know I’ll never be those beautiful girls hanging on my wall, or even the me that thought she was fat and ugly when it was quite the opposite, but I can be a new me that cherishes her being as a whole and not in parts. I can be happy in my skin because it is mine and no one else’s. I can love my body for the hell I’ve put it through, and be grateful it’s still sort of working. I can be healthier, move more, and smile because who gives a fuck if someone looks at me and doesn’t think I’m drop dead gorgeous? I’m a fucking beautiful person. If they look at me and think otherwise, they’re missing out because I am awesome. I have to make myself feel good, because in my experience, society will not make any effort to do so.

Kickstarter for Sebastian Junger’s “Korengal”

Kickstarter for Sebastian Junger’s “Korengal”

Sebastian Junger and the late Tim Hetherington did a great thing. 

They embedded with our boys in the 2-503rd, 173rd ABN BDE out of Vicenza, Italy during a deployment to a remote area in Afghanistan in 2007-2008. It was a 15 month deployment for our guys (I say ‘ours’ because it was my husband’s battalion and…well, they’re my boys – always will be), and we went through a lot of loss. Out of this deployment, Sebastian wrote the book War, Tim put together Infidel, and the two put out the award winning documentary Restrepo (which you can view on Netflix). 

Before Tim was killed in Libya, he and Sebastian had talked about revisiting their unused footage from Restrepo and show a more in depth and personal view of what it was like for the guys during the deployment and after they came home. Sebastian has moved forward with their plan, and Korengal is the result. He’s trying to raise enough to get it out to American audiences in theaters, and needs to raise $75,000 by the end of May to make this happen. 

The story of the 173rd is a personal one to me, but my bias aside, this is a continuation of an important story that the public needs to see. Take the time to view the Kickstarter video and read the letter from Sebastian, back if you can, and either way – please share. 

Thank you,
Ash

Sky Soldiers.

Exhausted Writer Seeks Energy and Time Machine

I have projects. That could actually be my slogan. I’ve finished the finals on two more classes, leaving only two condensed courses from here through the middle of May until I graduate. I’m so tired. I can’t say this is as tired as I’ve ever been, because well, having a toddler with the flu and a brand new baby while having a pulmonary embolism made me pretty tired. Nothing will ever compare to that. But I am tired. And a bit burned out. Either way, I’ve got stuff to do, because I can’t stop for a moment without having yet another project beginning.

I’ve signed up to do CampNaNoWriMo with some tumblr friends to give me some focus on working on a novel I’m toying with. I haven’t looked at the one I started last January since around April of last year so I might pick that up just to look it over. It was the first chapter of that novel that was reworked into a short story and was published in the Warriors Arts Alliance Proud To Be: Writing American Warriors anthology. I’m trying to decide what to write to submit to them within the next month, and have at least one other writing contest I’m looking to enter. By the time all this finishes, I’ll have graduated with my Associate of Arts degree and am taking the summer off to write. I have a poetry chapbook I’m working on, and all my other stories that are laying around.  At least I have tons of characters to keep me company on lonely nights.

For fun I’m starting a multi-fandom Etsy shop called EndVerseCreations with metal stamped jewelry, mugs, leather bracelets, etc. Because no matter how much I have going on with school and writing and cub scouts and coach pitch and swim lessons, take the boys fishing, paint, scrimshaw, working toward a physical fitness goal, trying to keep up a YouTube page and running a ton of blogs (my mental health one growing substantially and I forgot I promised to try to write a book for them this summer), there’s never enough for me to do. Although I do really want to take some time, maybe this weekend, to read The Maze Runner.

But first, now that finals are over and classes don’t start until…Monday (today is Friday for those playing at home), ZONK.

Sex Objects and the Idea of Empowerment

Sex Objects and the Idea of Empowerment

At first I was hesitant to watch the video.  I wanted to argue and say, “But I like feeling sexy. I like being make up free and lounging in my hoodie, but I also like getting glammed up and feeling beautiful.” I thought this video was going to tell me I’m a terrible woman for feeling confident and empowered when I feel my best – even if it’s dressing like a pin-up model.

But this was not what the video was about. It’s about being portrayed a sex object – an object, not a sexy woman. It’s about dehumanizing someone for the purpose of selling something. It’s about oversexualization of younger and younger people. It’s the increase in our culture to be okay with sex trafficking, rape, and unrealistic standards of “beauty” that affect how we think, move, and speak – and even how we interact with each other woman to woman. I love my make up. I love dressing either comfortably or showing a little skin because I love making myself feel confident. But I’m not an object. I’m not an abstract idea. I’m a human being; and it’s far too ingrained in our society that conforming to a certain ideal comprises our worth when it doesn’t. 

Reminding Myself that I kick ass.

I was getting down on myself (as you do) about how I haven’t accomplished much in the past year and I really need to kick myself in the ass and get moving, and how I spend too much time on the internet (specifically tumblr) and should be writing and whatnot, but then I realized something – in 2013, I did the following:

  • Started college full-time and got 32 credit hours completed, with a 4.0 in my last semester and a 3.9 in my classes overall. Thanks to my Army experience and dual-enrollment in HS, I’ll be graduating (as long as I can pass College Algebra) this spring with my Associates (after a grueling course load) and then continuing on to work on another degree. 
  • I edited the first chapter of a novel I’m working on into a short story, submitted it on a whim at the suggestion of a friend, and it was published.
  • I got to go read my work and meet other writers and Vets, and attended a mini-writer’s conference that was a pretty amazing experience.
  • I helped my oldest son make a TARDIS pinewood derby car and made a Dalek one for my youngest. 
  • I did oil painting and learned scrimshaw. 
  • I participated in GISHWHES.
  • Made some tumblr-friends.
  • I had the kids to myself majority of the year with the Man gone on deployment, long hours at work, and school in another state for two months. I did all the yard work on top of my work and Mom duties with swim lessons, cub scouts, coach-pitch, and volunteered for book fairs. 
  • I participated in Endure4Kindness to raise money for Random Acts.
  • Ran multiple blogs with over a thousand cumulative followers – one of which helps people with Borderline Personality Disorder, Anxiety, and Depression. 
  • And I did all this while working on overcoming my social anxiety (I barely need my medication now – my progress is nothing short of amazing in the past six months alone), handling Borderline symptoms, and dealing with Major Depressive Disorder. 

So you know what? I kind of kick ass. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves of that.

Even if I do spend a lot of time on the internet. 

“The conversation no one else is having.” – The Good Men Project

How have I not heard of this? I guess because it’s the conversation that no one else is having. I happened upon this site after someone on fb shared a link to a story about why men don’t cheat, and interested in human sexuality as I am, I went to check it out. I was blown away by the response of the article and actually cheered at one point. So I ventured further, hitting up the About section, and was extremely pleased at this ‘let’s break the mold of masculinity’ stance that is feminist and makes me hopeful for a change in media coverage of men. 

“Guys today are neither the mindless, sex-obsessed buffoons nor the stoic automatons our culture so often makes them out to be. Our community is smart, compassionate, curious, and open-minded; they strive to be good fathers and husbands, citizens and friends, to lead by example at home and in the workplace, and to understand their role in a changing world.” 

This is pretty great, not just for men, but for everyone who wants to see a change in the definition of what is masculine and feminine, gender roles, and media portrayal of either sex that promotes certain expectations and condones bad behavior. While I’m sure as with any website I won’t agree with all the published material; but after a brief overview, I’m impressed with what I’ve seen. It’s kinda cool.
I like.