This House of Love


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#BlogHer17 – More Than Just a Recap

As the thick layer of jet lag dissipates, I’ve finally set out to create a BlogHer17 recap. But as I prep my entry, I begin reflecting on my experience. What do I write about?

I think about which panels were most useful, meals the tastiest, events the most ‘worth it.’ I skim through photos and favorite the best or most intriguing. I mentally critique the product giveaways. And just as I began to write, I stop.

I realize in that moment, everything I had considered was meaningless. I saw that those trivial details, like what goodies we came home with, or what companies we met, were so very secondary to all the invaluable takeaways offered.

Like, my amazing group of new friends. The absolute best thing about BlogHer17 was the attendees. Im inclined to believe I was in the company of the world’s coolest SuperWomen all weekend long. I was blessed to create and reinforce friendships that I really believe will last a lifetime. To top it off, each friend I spent time with was so unique. This served as a beautiful reminder of the individuality that hides behind each blog URL or social media account.


Or the unrivaled family memories we made. In terms of my childhood, family vacations were something I heard about from my friends once school resumed in the Fall. So, planning this cross-country trip for four was well outside of my comfort zone. But in the end, we tackled nearly every theme park and mastered the lazy river – over and over again. And what began as a trip to BlogHer17 slowly became a test of familial patience, love, and togetherness. And I think, on a whole, we really learned to love and accept a great deal about each other in the process. It was family bonding done right.


I also arrive home with a newfound vigor and purpose. I’ve always hoped that by sharing my trials, I will help someone get through their own challenges. But, writing is scary because when hitting ‘Publish,’ our thoughts shoot out into the world at breakneck speed, and are instantly subjected to criticism. This makes it hard to not waver.

 

But BlogHer17 offered all of its attendees something infinitely special. No matter our backgrounds, genders, ages, or ethnicities, we were all given a cohesive, open arena in which we were accepted and supported.

And as I stood on the VOTY stage, surrounded by the other Honorees, I witnessed unimaginable beauty. I watched our categorical details melt away and became inconsequential. The content of our pieces did, too. What became most important in each attendee was the bravery and motivation they possessed. Their willingness to share intimate details of their lives in hopes of helping, of spreading the word, of catalyzing change. It was rejuvenating and inspiring.

Isn’t that always the case? The things we can’t see or assign a value to, those are what matter most. 

 


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Where Does Hatred Come From?

A quick disclaimer: I am in no way an expert on this subject. I have no impressive degree from an Ivy League school. However, I grew up in a household in which one of three of its members was filled with a hatred so compelling it sparked violence. Thus, Id like you to consider my theory on the subject as a result of a twenty-two year case study.  So, why did my brother come out the way he did?

I am a firm believer that no one is born with the desire to hurt others. We, as humans, naturally need each other to survive. Some of us may be more genetically inclined to be aggressive, but our relationship with others is purely social. So, why is it that some can ruthlessly murder others while others dedicate their lives to improving society? I believe the difference is simple: attachment.

I have been told Jesse seemed “different” as early as the age of three. This was the age my father left our family. This was the same year I was born. The same year my mother was forced to become a single mother. All of these factors would change someone. I have a child who is now three. I feel the incredibly strong attachment we have to each other – if I left her now, I am sure it would effect her infinitely. It would cause a little piece of her to disappear – her confidence, stability, and feeling of security in the world would lessen.

But would it cause her to hate others indefinitely? To lash out and desire to hurt people? I don’t believe so. But, imagine the pain she would feel if she was faced with several other experiences similar to this. Times when other people abandoned her or let her down. The more isolation she feels, the less empathy she would possess. This was my brother’s case.

He was short, he was teased, he was never really accepted by his classmates. He was ostracized for characteristics that were out of his control. He had been diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome as a young child, his tics making him seem even less “normal” than he already was. His behavior became more deviant as time went on, as his laundry list of diagnoses increased. He began to get into fights at school. He was angry and volatile. His school did nothing; this was not in the hyper-sensitive days of late. Back then it was “kids will be kids,” and “Do you think he’s cut out for school? Maybe he should get his CHSPE.”

So, in short, as he entered young adulthood and attempted to find connections, everyone but my mother told him he wasn’t worth the trouble. Mom believed in him infinitely. She knew he was capable of so much more than what people had begun to expect of him. The pressure to meet my mother’s standards despite everyone else’s grew too much for him, and he attempted suicide. Twice. As a middle schooler, I watched the trials that both my mom and brother were going through. I watched society tell her what she was doing wrong. I watched society tell him how much less value he held because he was different, and how he ought to behave to fit in.  It was nearly unbearable for me to witness; I cannot even begin to conceive how hard it was for both of them.

And after twenty-five years of being told he was different, feeling little connection to those around him, and being attached to nothing but his desire to make people feel as little as he had all his life, Jesse killed my mom. But, quite often people like Jesse hurt strangers. They pack their cars with guns and their minds with plans, and execute others while they’re at school, sitting in movie theaters, or celebrating their freedom. Because people like Jesse, who have never really attached to anyone soundly, often feel the need to show others just how awful this isolation can feel. That’s where the hatred comes from.

So, what can we do to change this? The solution does not lie in any one person’s control. It is not solely our government’s job to outlaw guns. It is not only about how a parent has failed their deviant child. It’s less about guns and parenting, and more about love. Whether you’re Christian or Jewish, Muslim or Islamic, Atheist or Greek Orthodox, our duty as humans is to help others. To open our hearts to others and aide those in pain and in need. Allowing people to feel part of the human race or tribe, rather than an anomaly or a member of a smaller, less important faction, that is what will end the hatred.

As the Red Hot Chili Peppers sing, “Red black or white, This is my fight, Come on courage, Let’s be heard, Turn feelings, Into words.” Let’s start a dialogue that allows the pained to be heard and the isolated to feel accepted. Then, and only then, will we see the hatred begin to melt away. And until we can open our hearts, stay safe, everyone.

 


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The Art of Saying ‘No’

I am inherently a people pleaser. I grew up in a home full of tumult and imbalance, so I did what I had to do to survive – I made sure everyone else was happy so my environment could remain as calm as possible.

As an adult, I’ve had to learn the incredibly difficult task of preserving my happiness instead of planning my actions around everyone else’s requests. In short, I’ve learned to say “No.” And I’m proud of it.

But now, as a new mother, I’m being told that saying “no” is a huge no-no. At a play date a while back, I caught my daughter shoving something in her mouth that didn’t belong there. I sternly said, “No.” Just before I could continue with “that doesn’t belong in your mouth. It’s dangerous,” the other mother gasped. “You tell her… No!?” Um, yeah. I tell her no. When she’s doing something that she’s not supposed to, she should learn that it’s wrong.

The play date then took a swift turn and the conversation led to all of the things that “THEY” say. Gotta love the nameless and faceless crowd that tells us all what to do. They are infinitely smart and nowadays, they’re telling us that saying the word “no” to your child is unacceptable.

Once the play date ended, I hopped right onto Google, and sure enough… Tons of websites were boasting articles telling me that we can’t tell our kids no. It stunts their vocabulary. It makes them feel belittled. That the average toddler hears “No” up to 400 times a day. Apparently, it’s just an all-around bad, no good approach to parenting. And since this play date, I’ve been told by numerous mothers that they too don’t use the word “no.”

I was stumped. They say that all children need firm boundaries. But “no,” the most common boundary-forming word, is off limits. I dug deep to understand this parenting philosophy. During my quest, I found an article that even suggested replacing “No, you can’t have candy before dinner,” with “Yes, you can have candy after dinner.”

Thats when I stopped. You know what? Screw that. No, my kid can’t have any $@?!ing candy. And I’m OK with being the bad guy if it means saving my daughter’s teeth. Of course I’ll explain the reasoning behind my reply, but that won’t make her one year old mind understand it any better.

But that’s the real trick – saying “no” properly. Because the word itself can’t be evil. How harmless could a measly N and O be? The danger behind “n-o” is not explaining your reasoning. If you end your sentence after just that one word, you’re becoming the “Because I Said So” parent. And we all know that benefits neither you nor your child. So, I propose giving them your reasoning, and ending it there (or after as many “Why?”s as you can handle)… But please, don’t feel bad for starting your sentence with “No.”

In the end, we all know that the Universe doesn’t always say yes. Sometimes opportunities are lost, windows are shut; it’s inevitable that our children will face rejection. Just think: one day our children will be adults and adult-sized temper tantrums are neither attractive nor charming. In my opinion, (and that’s all it is) children should be able to properly digest the notion of “No.” As a result they will either learn to accept the boundaries, or choose a different avenue to achieve their goal. No matter how your child reacts, they’re learning valuable lessons that few other words could teach them. So, they may say not to say “No,” but I say that perhaps it’s just about learning the art of saying it properly.


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“Fearless” Celebrities

I recently came across a post that caught my eye. You know those ones that circulate like wildfire, garnering thousands of hits in one day? It was entitled “Thirty Gorgeous Celebs Who Fearlessly Pose Makeup-Free.” You may have seen it, you may have not; that’s not the point. The point is, there is nothing fearless about posing without makeup.

Fearless is confronting illness head on and battling relentlessly. Fearless is having a career that benefits the greater good even though it may put your own life in danger. Fearless is standing up against the odds and coming out on top.

It is NOT being photographed without make-up on. And if this is what society deems as “fearless,” then we have our priorities severely out of whack. We should not be teaching young girls that bravery equates to a makeup-free selfie. We should be impressing upon them that bravery is working hard to reach their goals, no matter what may stand in their way. Like a shallow, self-indulgent society.

End rant.