#MeToo: what now? (and four examples from my mundane life)

#MeToo

#MeToo

I had not yet chimed in on the #MeToo movement. I am not sure my experience adds to the discourse. It is a lot to share for someone like me, as run-of-the-mill as I feel like my experience has been.  Mostly, I have been mulling over what precisely I think about the movement.

There are clear examples of outrageous behavior that require improved accountability- the college student who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, for example. Someone being drugged and waking up to a nightmare.  In addition, though,there are also ambiguous encounters every day between young adults who are figuring out their approach to sex and to relationships. Who are experimenting with drinking, perhaps, or with drugs. Learning where their boundaries are.

Speaking as a mother of a college age boy, I do hope we remember those early and confusing days as we move toward better understanding each other. It takes a long time to master the language of intimacy. We give and receive mixed signals while we learn.

Setting aside force, which is never okay, there is also a learning curve when it comes to the difference between flirtation and seduction. Persuasion and coercion. What we’re comfortable with and what feels like violation. I’ve been married for over twenty years, but that was not a clearcut and straightforward journey, as I recall.

 

Anger feeds anger.

The tone of some of this wave of #MeToo feels like it may unintentionally swamp the need for frequent acceptance of the shortcomings of our life partners. It may replace that necessary understanding with reasonable, righteous, yet damaging anger. I wonder what this current outrage might do to the concept of lifelong relationships.

I am fortunate to be in a long-term, healthy relationship, however. If he demeaned me, insulted me, or hurt me, that would devastate me.  The balance with which I write this would disappear.

I would not presume to speak to the role of forgiveness in abusive relationships. I’ve written about the tragic connection between childhood abuse and its likely effect on a convicted adult abuser.  I implore anyone who’s being demeaned or threatened to get counseling and get to safety.

Not minimizing the harm done.

This may sound like I am minimizing the toll sexual harassment and sexual assault take on us as society. It may seem like I am trying to excuse it. I definitely am not.

I am emphasizing the need for us to forgive our loved ones when they let us down – not when they assault, demean, belittle or abuse us – but when our relationships momentarily derail. When their – or our – behavior is less than it could be. Within healthy limits. When a lapse is a forgivable event, not an abusive trend.

It is not my place to set that boundary for anyone else. It’s imperative to be vigilant about what healthy limits are. To protect and value ourselves. Many men are not aware how pervasive the belittling is that can lead us to undervalue ourselves or our gender. It’s difficult to hear if you’re not female.

Be an imperfect but necessary example.

So, I am speaking up. We need to teach our daughters, our friends, and anyone we influence how to value themselves. How to respond to harassment. How to guard against abuse. We need to immunize them against feeling powerless. That’s not solved by policy. although thoughtful laws about harassment and sexual assault are essential. Confidence, appropriate response and self-defense are taught, modeled, and hopefully absorbed by future generations.

Tell your #MeToo story. Here is mine.

So, with that in mind, of course, #MeToo. Harassment. #MeToo. Assault. #MeToo. Here are four examples from my life.

#MeToo: the socially inept harasser

Some encounters and offenders are simply unpleasant, inconsequential gnats who should not affect one’s otherwise happy life. For example: after college and before graduate school, I worked as a waitress in addition to my day job to better make ends meet. A guy who was a regular customer came in one night and had dinner. At the end of his meal, he said, “Will you come home with me?” I laughed and said, “Thanks, but no.” He said, “You might as well. I’m just going to go home and jack off thinking about you. So, why not come along?” I looked at him with irritated disgust and said, “And that’s why you’ll probably always eat dinner alone.”

That guy owns his abysmal, shameful, repulsive behavior. He does not deserve to have any effect on my life except to be justifiably mocked for behaving in such a gross way. It did not cross my mind I was in any way at fault. This was not in any way my problem. I thought what a sad little man he was to say such awful things to someone he barely knew.

#MeToo: the mentally ill harasser

Some harassment is scary, unpleasant, even dangerous, and a consequence of that person’s significant issues, such as mental illness. When I was in graduate school, I was followed through a drugstore by a homeless man who fondled himself while mouthing obscenities.

The security camera would have shown me hotfooting it through the pharmacy area looking for nasal spray at a frantic pace while throwing exasperated looks back at the foulmouthed irritant. Perhaps I should have been afraid. I was not. I was in a well-lit store surrounded by (regrettably oblivious) employees. Had I been worried, I would have asked for help.

Encountering someone like him was a not uncommon occurrence in New Orleans in the 90s, where people living on the street were sometimes in various states of intoxication or mental distress. In my mind, he was not a threat. He was a sadness.

At the time, I did not think of his action as harassment. I thought of it as a lack of self-control on his part, a blindness to boundaries brought on by whatever demons he faced. It did not cross my mind I was at fault in any way for his behavior. I was clear that in his mind, I was vaguely female and that sufficed for whatever odd script he was following in his head.

I did not think about other women being frightened of him. I thought about him needing medication. I thought about getting home. I may have been wrong to respond like that. I probably should have tried to get him help.

#MeToo: harassment in the workplace

Then there are the men who love power and don’t much like or respect women. A CEO at a company where I worked in the 90s hosted regular marketing offsites to report on what worked and did not and strategize on what we planned to do next.

He had a private plane and flew many of us to and from these meetings. The marketing managers were primarily women. Upon our return from one offsite, he walked up to us as we were lined up to leave and gave each of us a kiss. On the lips.

I’m no shrinking violet. Yet I let it happen. Words cannot express how repellent that man was, and still is, to me. But putting my job on the line by calling out his behavior was a risk/return ratio that, at that time, was not in my favor. Each of us knew he did that because he could. Not because he was attracted to any of us. It was an impulse, completely impersonal and completely about him. A casual expression of what he thought of, were he given to introspection or analysis, as dominance.

It never happened again. None of us would have let the opportunity present itself. That’s how women used to handle situations like that. They might happen once, but we would be intrepid about making sure they could not again.

I definitely mishandled that incident. It is obviously not enough to have avoided being in the situation again. Because a guy like that was not just saying his desires were more important than his employees. He was also saying that women are inferior. Less powerful.

My colleagues and I let that perception remain. I knew I could go somewhere else, continue my career trajectory, and finesse any future encounters like that one. That’s precisely what I did.

But people like him should not be in charge of companies. Unfortunately, narcissists can be really good at building companies to a certain level, so they’re rampant in upper management.

#MeToo: the assault

Then, there is assault. A young man broke into my apartment in New Orleans when I was in graduate school. I awoke to him standing over me, telling me he had a gun and he was going to rape me, then kill me.

I was lucky. The calculus in that situation went thusly. “I’d rather be dead than be raped by this man.”

So, I asked to see his gun. He told me to shut up. I repeated, “Show me your gun.” He said “No.” I said, “You don’t have a gun.”

Driven by adrenaline, I jumped up, picked him up and held him against the wall. It turns out the powerful, menacing shadow in the middle-of-the-night darkness was actually a skinny teenager, probably 110 pounds dripping wet, who’d likely taken something to give himself courage he should not have had.

Unfortunately, I lived by myself, though. Once he was up against the wall, I had nowhere to put him. So we scrambled and scuffled toward my front door of my small apartment, and he pushed the screen door open and escaped.

I called the police, then woke my neighbors up. The 90s New Orleans police were not particularly sympathetic. They actually laughed and told me “You should have beat the shit out of him.”

He and his buddies came back that night, slowly driving up and down the street. In the early morning hours, they slashed my neighbor’s tires.The police did not come back. They were a busy bunch, and, as I’d seen, rather indifferent.

So, I moved to Metairie ten or so miles away, to a secure apartment complex. I finished my time at Tulane commuting instead of walking.

#MeToo: the consequences

That incident changed me. I reflexively lock my doors now. I know how to use a handgun. I am wary.

But I am not afraid. I was lucky because the violence I encountered was not overpowering enough to rise to a level I could not overcome. Thousands of women have endured so much worse.

I was also lucky because my parents raised me to assume I could resolve whatever difficulty I encountered. To not to be afraid. To defend myself. To overcome. To always be thinking about solving the problem.

To avoid situations that put me at needless risk – advice I did not always follow when younger, I’m afraid. Many of us have to learn common sense.

Even with that confidence and eventual common sense, though, the main reason I am not afraid is because I have not yet encountered a situation I could not resolve. That is just the luck of the draw. Which is why #MeToo is important.

Great parents and subsequent good judgment provide tools for a woman’s defenses and her ability to assess whatever happens to her from a healthy perspective.. They do not, however, stop sexual violence.  They do not stop sexual harassment.

We need to address the impetus that drives some men to act this way. (And some women – I have seen the men saying #MeToo.)

Men, wonderful men

I’ll close this by noting that I respect and adore men. I treasure the deep connections that are my most sacred relationships in addition to my bond with my mother: that of husband and wife, son and mother, daughter and father, brother and sister. I have spent my life surrounded by extraordinary men.

Old-fashioned strength, protectiveness, gallantry are honorable and precious things. #IHearYou – they say, and they really do hear us. They listen. We should not throw them out because we want to get rid of the toxic behavior of violent men. The puerile behavior of immature men. The predatory behavior of sociopathic men.

The dance between the sexes is an essential treasure worth preserving as well. The subtle, sensual mutual admiration that is flirtation at its best: respectful, mischievous, complimentary and harmlessly entertaining. It is an art worth keeping.

We can have all of that and still fix this. So, with a focus on solving the problem in addition to just calling out the scope of it, and with an abundance of love and respect for the fineness of the men and women in my life – #MeToo.

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From St. Paul’s in Mobile to Christmas in Castle Rock

Christmas in Castle Rock

Christmas in Castle Rock

“What a long, strange trip it’s been…”

I just finished a volunteer project for my church – a website called Christmas in Castle Rock.  My idea was to invite others into the joy and creativity so evident in the Christ’s Episcopal Church community – an invitation particularly meant for people who are new to the Castle Rock area.

I vividly remember how homesick I was my first Christmas here, despite how many times we’d moved before. I loved Snoqualmie, Washington, where we’d lived before. I felt bereft at starting over once again. Meeting people at Christ’s Church helped me start to put fresh roots down here as well.

Creating the site took me back to my spiritual roots, and I found it a happy journey. So, I thought I’d share those.

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A good time for a great cause

October 19 11-3 at Festival Park in Castle Rock, Colorado: The Manasi Project's first annual festival fundraiser to help children get school supplies

October 19 11-3 at Festival Park in Castle Rock, Colorado: The Manasi Project’s first annual festival fundraiser to help children get school supplies

What: Music, food and fun in support of The Manasi Project
When: Sunday, October 19, from 11-3
Where: Festival Park, downtown at 300 Second St. Castle Rock, CO 80104 (Across from Daz Bog between Perry and Wilcox on Second Street)
Why: raise funds for school supplies for the children of Hopkins Village, Belize
How much: brown bag lunches for a suggested donation of $5.00; soft drinks and Krispy Kreme doughnuts available as well
More information: www.manasiproject.org; phone 720.364.6875; email (infoplease…at…manasiproject.org)

I’ve written about my son Nic’s experience with the Young Entrepreneur Academy of Douglas County, a program sponsored by the Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce. It was transformative. In just 30 weeks, Nic created a not-for-profit to help children all over the world obtain educational supplies. He was mentored by area business leaders and Chamber personnel, which simultaneously strengthened his self confidence (“These successful business people think my idea can work!”) and made him aware of areas he might need to bolster his knowledge (“I really need to get organized.”)

It began with SCUBA

YEA brought an idea Nic had nurtured for a long time to vivid life. For several years, we spent every Thanksgiving in Hopkins Village in south Belize. We live in the very center of the United States, and I grew up on the Gulf Coast, so I miss my warm water and sugar white beaches. When Nic turned ten years old, we took him to a class at Planet SCUBA in Castle Rock and got him certified in SCUBA diving. Rob, whose approach to diving is as close to Zen as I’ve seen, taught us carefully and thoroughly, and we all three did our dives with him at the Blue Hole in New Mexico. (We’ve been on several trips with Rob and Planet SCUBA since, to Mexico, and they are world class. We are so lucky to know them.)

The first trip to Hopkins Village

For our first series of dives, Ryc had already found Hamanasi, in Hopkins Village, and we took Nic there for his first SCUBA trip in 2008. It was – also – transformative. The local divemasters took care of him like he was their own. They joked with him, initiating him into that wonderful brotherhood of men who love being on and in the ocean water. He felt like he belonged.

Floods damage the area

We came back each Thanksgiving for several years. One year, the area had sustained some ruinous flooding. Houses were profoundly damaged. The school had been affected. The roads, basic by nature, were rutted and washed out.

Nic asked about what we could do. The manager of guest services, Karina Martinez, suggested he concentrate on school supplies. Life intervened back here in Colorado, and we were unable to visit for awhile. But he never forgot. He stayed in touch with Karina.

YEA provides a welcome impetus

When Nic decided to sign up for the YEA, he opted for a not-for-profit to help those kids he so vividly remembered. We talked about what to name the organization he wanted to found. We discussed the idea of charity. Nic said that charity sounded nice, yet somehow condescending. He wanted something that emphasized the respect he felt for the people in Hopkins. So, he asked Karina for various ideas in the local Garifuna language, and she suggested Manasi, which means respect.

He put together a business plan; asked people he respected to serve on his board of directors – including Karina, because having a local contact in each area is integral to his concept;  got his tax id and other paperwork in order, and his not-for-profit was born. Every step took longer than we thought it would.Every step, though, he met new people who offered help, expertise, encouragement and – once he is set up to accept it – money.

And now…we shall see what happens next

Finally, though, his first fundraiser is scheduled for Sunday, October 19. Nic is taking his first set of supplies to Belize in November. He is going to try to  make a difference for people who were kind to him when he was so young. The local business people here in Colorado have also made a difference for him by encouraging his dream. Someday, the children he helps may make a difference for someone else. That’s pretty much what life’s about, when life is good, when we share our goodness, when love and respect abound. Manasi.

 

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Speaking…for my friend

I have a friend, Pam Mazanec, who serves on the state board of education here in Colorado. She wrote an inelegantly phrased post on a Facebook group called SPEAK for DCSD about how the U.S. decided to end slavery. SPEAK is decidedly against the current school board here in Douglas County. Pam supports that school board. We’re having a locally lively debate about, among other issues, the high school Advanced Placement US History curriculum, as you may have heard. Our neighboring county, Jefferson, has seen teacher and student walkouts. Pam’s post was intended to support the idea that the US History framework should analyze the factors that make us great and the factors that weaken us as a country.

She said we ended slavery voluntarily, and at great sacrifice – and that we should teach about the nobility of our country’s intrinsic willingness to endure the necessary sacrifice to end a given evil. Her phrasing was understandably objectionable to those whose ancestors had no say in the matter. However, I am increasingly appalled by the way people who disagree with her political views are treating her.

Her casual post has offended the historical scholars (and grammar Nazis) among us. I am not sure why, since she was writing a casual post on a Facebook page that was clearly not meant as an historical treatise. I’ve not seen a single post that says, “Hey, I am having trouble understanding what you mean.” “Not sure what you’re thinking.” “Let’s talk.” But I have seen her thoroughly skewered by a media outlet that disagrees with her politics, and another is now linking with ironic disbelief to the first.

(By the way, if every Facebook post I’ve ever done is going to be subjected to a scholarly review, I am in so.much.trouble. Let’s just say that now. Go find those impulsive posts, or the ones with the magnificent typos, because I’m sure they exist.)

As for Pam, though, I understand what she was trying to say. Because I know her. She is intelligent, educated, compassionate and downright nice. She was calling out the heroism of the people of all classes, races, and walks of life who helped end slavery. She was saying that our country is, at its heart, wonderful. She was saying that, when the chips are down, she believes we do what is right. In this case, ending slavery cost our country as a whole millions of lives – black, white, slave, soldier, Union, Confederate. We persevered, even then, because we do what is right. And I still understand why the way she put it was not well received.

Because, in part, we don’t. We don’t rise to our best selves when we are not inspired to be exceptional. We don’t when all we want to do is sit in the stands and throw verbal popcorn at the people trying to make meaningful change happen. Most of all, we don’t when we are focused on scoring political points and increasing our polarization. So, the question we should each ask ourselves is whether we are on the side of mediocrity and polarization or we are on the side of dialogue, consensus and progress.

Moving apart, refusing to find common ground, belittling and insulting those with whom you disagree, leads to that sobering statement that Martin Niemöller made

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

My friend Pam is being called a moron and an idiot – by other people I consider friends, or at least friendly acquaintances – on social media. Pam is not a moron. She is, however, a conservative. An increasing number of people in social media think that it is fair play – productive, even – to insult and deride conservatives. I am not a conservative. I am somewhere between a moderate and a libertarian. That means I don’t support polarization on either side. At this point, if you’re engaging in the public vitriol, if you are coming for Pam, you are inevitably, eventually, coming for me. You either don’t understand history and consider yourself as someone fighting for the vulnerable – or you do, and you’re a political opportunist. As Joan Rivers used to say, “Can we talk”? Because, if we can’t, we’re in trouble.

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High altitude honey wheat bread recipe

High altitude honey wheat bread recipe

For the past three weeks, I have been experimenting with making bread with my breadmaker, at our 7,200 above sea level altitude. I’ve made rock hard loaves. I’ve made loaves that are soft on the inside but rugged on the outside. But, after many experiments, here is my recipe for honey wheat bread. We’ve enjoyed some very tasty loaves these past several weeks as I’ve fine-tuned the recipe for our altitude.

Vary the flour and liquids in yours until you arrive at what works for you. The rule of thumb is slightly more liquid and up to 25% less flour. (I add vital wheat gluten to my whole wheat loaves to improve elasticity. It makes a noticeable difference in the texture. I’ve read that you should use a tablespoon for every two to three cups of flour, but a teaspoon has served me perfectly well thus far.)

High altitude honey wheat bread recipe (two pound weight)

  • 1/12 cups water, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 T salted butter
  • 2 T honey
  • 1 3/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp wheat gluten
  • 2 1/4 tsp bread machine yeastPlace all ingredients, in the order in which they are listed, in your bread pan. Choose the wheat cycle, the 2 lb loaf, and whatever crust you prefer (I like medium.) I don’t usually remove the paddle, but you can certainly do so prior to the baking cycle.

    When the cycles are done, remove the bread and place it on a wire rack to cool completely before slicing. However, warm bread is almost irresistible, so if you slice off an end to see how it turned out, just put some butter and, perhaps, some of the leftover honey on your slice, and enjoy the fruits of your (bread machine’s) labor.

  • If you have any tips for high altitude baking or any recipes to share, please share it below!
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