Things We Like on the Internet: Cats and Blogs

Things that are fun on the Internet:

Rich kids of Instagram. Duh. #getonmylevel (or really, anything making fun of Instagram) But seriously, who knew there were Louis Vuitton versions of guns of all things? Not this girl.

[By “we”, I mean “I”. But whatever.]

Things that are fun on the Internet:

Rich kids of Instagram. Duh. #getonmylevel (or really, anything making fun of Instagram) But seriously, who knew there were Louis Vuitton versions of guns of all things? Not this girl.

Yep, that’s Louis.

Thought Catalog because they are sarcastic and sappy at the same time. And that, my friends, is kind of hard to do.

The Aww section of Reddit. Some people say you could spend hours on there looking at adorable kittens and cats, with the occassional random baby (that nobody upvotes).

Say it with me now: “Awww”

And then, there’s this, which is not so much fun as it is true and honest:

I should acknowledge something that my friends and family don’t know. It was something I didn’t even know was true about myself until I sat down to write this story: I have a fantasy that someday, I’ll meet a man who is good with money and also wants to be with me. It is so weird to say that out loud, but when I was writing this and scanning my brain for a conclusion to my weighty money problem, I found this solution floating around my head. And I suddenly realized it’s what I have been waiting to happen all of my adult life, instead of just taking charge and getting a “real” job, and having a realistic relationship with money.

This comes from an article on xoJane.com titled, “I’m 32 and my family bankrolls my lifestyle”; which, I’ll be honest, has a this-is-Lisa ring to it. Except, that this was actually true just one year ago and isn’t true anymore. Sort of. (Small disclosure: my phone bill is a $20 something dollar add-on to a family plan.)

I have good reasons and all that, and the past few years were spent in college, so I get a free pass for those. Thanks.

Honestly, though, I have to admit I agree with Bree when she wrote that her solution was to marry a man who was good with money. Ahem. Oops. That was my plan, too. Until a few years ago recently, I decided to just sort of be oblivious and hope for the best and accept the parental bailout that was inevitable. And then I got my shit together.

Or, as some would say, fate sort of dropped a good job in my lap. Or, more accurately, fate and 12+ years of experience on Excel spreadsheets (not the most glamorous skill, I know) landed me in my current position (which shall-not-be-named) in this biotech company (which also shall-not-be-named, because it’s YOU, the Internet and you’re full of trolls and psychos who are actually normal people but super bitchy when you’re angry and think no one knows who you are. The gig is up–we all know who you are. Duh. IP address, genius.).

So, instead of finding a man, I found a job. Not your average English major job, thank god. But a job that allows me to stop thinking stupid shit like I used to think and get it together, man. On my own. Without mom or dad or the bf.

Bloggers Getting Bullied: You’re Not Alone

I write about one of the most divisive subjects in the world-religion. Not only that, but I write with snark and am not afraid to share my opinions of working with some well-known ministers. They’re not always flattering opinions of these people, and that infuriates their followers. I do, however, write with intelligence, confidence and I have a strong sense of ethics. I don’t feel bad for what I do. Because of my unapologetic attitude, and like many bloggers I know, I get bullied and harrassed often. Opening up comments on this site and providing my email address often helps many people, but in many cases it opens myself up for a slew of harrassment. Morning. Noon. Night.

Recently a few blogger friends have opened up about bullying they’ve received and one has been driven from blogging completely. Some of their hate mail has come from trolls, anonymous (they think) readers who make up a fake name and email address thinking this covers their asses. It doesn’t. Not entirely. Although the standard troll may not know this, your IP address is visible to anyone who hosts a website. We know where you live, and sometimes we can pin point exactly who you are just with a general search and the evidence you’ve left. Even if you troll on Facebook, your information can be found. Facebook knows who you are and will release the info to authorities if needed. So, just because you hide behind lisakerrsucks@yahoo.com, doesn’t mean your identity is invisible to me. It just makes you look uninformed and inexperienced. Other hate mail my blogger friends receive is from friends who disagree with them so vehmenently, they make the argument entirely too personal.
Other bloggers, like myself, use their public identities, which puts us at greater risk for being physically harmed or harrassed, sometimes by people we know. It’s been over a year since I had to ban an old friend (and fellow blogger) from my website and all social media accounts. It’s hard to say why she snapped, but it was evident when: I was tipped off on some details of a major story within our community (we had a similar community of readers, with some overlap). My informant wanted to be anonymous, but I knew the person well, so I knew the source was reliable. In this case, I chose to leave the informant anonymous, and did some fact checking. When I confirmed the story, I published it, and then the old friend came unglued. I received texts and phone calls as early as 6 am demanding I share with her the name of my informant.

The harrassment escalated until she threatened to share “fat” pictures of me on the internet. The irony in her threat is that we were the same size and I wasn’t fat. I was deeply insecure about my weight gain, though, and it really stung to have a ‘friend’ threaten to expose your weakness.

Christmas came around and I was sitting around the Christmas tree with my family. I heard my phone beep-the sound of an email. I was getting recurring messages from the ‘old friend’ on Christmas day. This person wasn’t alone for the holidays-she had a family and a child. In addition, she was a well respected member of her local church. She was a leader there, too.

When I returned back to work, I spoke with my boss who had practiced law before going into consulting work. He sent me next door to a large firm we worked with and I sat down with one of the partners. I’d printed out all the emails for him to read. When he got to the emails blackmailing me for information threatening to expose my ‘weight gain’, he looked up. “You’re dealing with a potentially dangerous person here. I would be very careful.”

He explained to me what my options were-if it escalated. He then suggested I start with the basics-sending a cease and desist letter (email) to the person to see if it put a stop to it. In the letter, I should mention that I was consulted by legal counsel and would pursue action if necessary. My boss had also given me the name of the District Attorney in our area, saying he was a close, personal friend and would be more than happy to help. It turns out my boss was very concerned, and it helped that he was very well-connected.

Were I to blog all over again (about religion and cults), I would chose a pen name and web identity. The topics I cover induce vitriol from a group of very vocal extremists. I’m thankful that (so far) they’ve only been verbally abusive, but I take precautions to protect my safety none-the-less.

On the other hand, the benefits of meeting people who I’ve met by proxy of blogging have far outweighed the hate. I’ve met two people in particular who I consider very close friends-people I’d have never known without blogging. I’ve also gotten reality TV show interest in my blog, publishers and agents interested in my story, and other professional benefits.

I’ve come across some interesting cases of trolling and harrassment lately. One such story was a very heartbreaking even where a gentlemen was getting anti-Semetic death threats from a friend of the family’s teenage son. Leo Traynor writes “The day I confronted my troll“,

When I left Twitter numerous people thought it was as a result of an overreaction on my behalf. That my departure was a kneejerk reaction to a couple of “trolling” or “flaming” incidents or that I was attention seeking. The reality of the situation is that my wife and I were targeted for over three years.

Traynor writes about meeting and confronting his troll in person:

We had a chat. I told them about my wife and son. I told them about my recent illnesses and bereavements and about the builders having been in. I asked after their business and asked The Troll how college is going. All bright and breezy and a trip down memory lane. Then The Troll’s dad tipped me the wink and I opened my bag and took out my manila folder.

I showed The Troll’s mother and father screengrabs and printouts of his handiwork.

I showed them pictures of ashes and dead flowers.

I pointed out that one of the messages my wife received wishing me dead had arrived when I actually was gravely ill.

I told them of how I’d become so paranoid that I genuinely didn’t know who to trust anymore.

I told them of nights when I’d walked the rooms, jumping at shadows and crying over the sleeping forms of my family for fear that they would suffer because of me.

In Traynor’s case, his Troll broke down crying and apologized. Traynor didn’t press charges, but left the Troll with a weighty list of items to complete in order to stay out of trouble with the law.

Another recent story caught my eye: a news anchor being told to get off the air because she was overweight. Her critic wrote:

“I was surprised indeed to witness that your physical condition hasn’t improved for many years,” wrote the viewer, who said Livingston was not a “suitable example” for young girls. “I leave you this note hoping that you’ll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.”

The anchor, Jennifer Livingston, shares:

“The truth is, I am overweight,” she said. “But to the person who wrote me that letter, do you think I don’t know that? That your cruel words are pointing out something that I don’t see? You don’t know me… so you know nothing about me but what you see on the outside and I am much more than a number on a scale.”

Livingston continued, “That man’s words mean nothing to me, but really angers me about this is is there are children who don’t know better — who get emails as critical as the one I received or in many cases, even worse, each and every day.”

Livingston’s case resonates with me, as I shared above. Trolls and harrassing readers will find whatever they can, typically to make the insult more personal knowing it will hurt worse than a general insult would. They often research and calculate what they’re going to use against you–othertimes it’s just a random hit.

But what Livingston shares with her audience, is what’s important to remember:

“I leave you with this: To all of the children out there who feel lost, who are struggling with your weight, with the color of your skin, your sexual preference, your disability, even the acne on your face, listen to me right now. do not let your self-worth be defined by bullies. Learn from my experience — that the cruel words of one are nothing compared to the shouts of many.”

I’d like to add to that: To all the adults taking a stand, personally or privately, to be who you are, to share your beauty, your voice, your opinions with the world, remember that you are not alone. Reach out to someone when you feel the personal attacks cutting you deeply before the bullying drives you into a dark place. Look to other bloggers for support, or other individuals from the communities you find peace in. Do your best to ignore what they say, discard their emails, take a break from moderating when you need it, and remember that what they say is insignificant and a sign of the hate filled within their own hearts.

If you are a blogger, or just a member of an online community, you’ll likely face harassment.

Here are Eight Tips to Silence Internet Bullies:

  1. Many trolls or emails may start out benign and escalate. If you find yourself engaging with someone who becomes harassing, end the conversation immediately. Don’t apologize. Don’t sign off with profanity. Just leave the conversation and ignore any future emails from that account, or any with similar patterns of speech or behavior.
  2. Use a plugin or widget for Banning IPs. You can ban a single IP or a range of IP addresses. Start with the single IP ban unless the issue progresses.
  3. Keep a log of bullies and trolls. Whether a complex record, or a file in your email, keep a written track of evidence, screen shots, location, etc.
  4. Keep your domain registration information set to your hosting site. Hide your personal contact information.
  5. Don’t use Facebook check-in or allow GPS tracking on your phone, Twitter, etc. Get in the habit of ensuring your personal privacy. If you do check-in, make sure those statuses are set to a close friends group only.
  6. Make lists on Facebook and other accounts. Create a list for people who are acquaintances or restricted individuals or strangers, and double check the privacy settings for those lists. Put all new friend requests there and weed through them later. Make sure your photos, location, place of work, etc. aren’t listed publicly or on those lists.
  7. Place a Terms of Use on your site notifying the readers of your comment and harassment policy. Refer them to the terms if they have questions. If they are particularly harassing still, ignore the emails/comments. They will eventually go away.
  8. If you allow comments on your site, or if your site is critical of religion, listen to David Gamble’s talk here. He got sued by some religious nutters for a comment on his blog.

If you’ve been bullied and would like to add to this list, please comment below or email me using the form on the top left.

And remember the motto you’ll hear often: Don’t feed the trolls! Ignore them. They will usually go away.

 

Afterthought (I always think of cool stuff after I hit “publish”):

Alternative ways to deal with bullies:

1. Beat every troll to the punch, like this guy, and troll them before they troll you:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Be more like The Oatmeal:

3. Monetize the Hate, like Heather Armstrong who posts the hate mail and monetizes it:

I’m just a little angry. I went to your website. I read from the archives. Something about wanting to tell your bishop something about “how many sex positions you were in before you got married, while drinking a coke and wiping your mouth with your bikini top”. Are you kidding me? Who are you? Satan’s mistress?

Where in “hell” and I use this word literally- do you get off trashing bishops and woops, sorry-the actual church of Jesus Christ?

Because let me let you in on a little secret little sister…it really is His church…I am not usually ashamed of anyone, but I am ashamed of you…

…And your day of judgement is coming. I hope He is more merciful than I would be. You are very fortunate that He still loves you. Ironically, He’s your best, and likely your only hope when the heyday is over.

Stop spitting on Him.

4. Turn it into a blog post, like Scary Mommy, who noticed on of her website pingbacks came from “Kidless Kim” who made fun of her entire post on Motherhood Badges. So Scary Mommy just wrote about it, and carried on with her badgemaking, granting herself this cute one:

Look Who’s Graduating

 

It’s officially happening, kids! It was supposed to happen in 2011 after being one class away, but unfortunately it didn’t come together fully until this year. Regardless, it’s official and I couldn’t be prouder of myself. I’ve enjoyed my time with some kick ass professors along the way and am so happy that I went the Creative Writing route in college. I’ve come out a better writer and communicator and I found my voice. So, if you’re reading this wondering if you should go to college, the answer is YES! If you’re wondering if it’s too late for you to start, the answer is NO! I started at 25 and finished at 32. There’s no shame in working full time (or mothering children, or whatever it is you do with your days) and taking it slow. There’s also no shame in starting late in life. The bottom line is, if it’s something you want to do (college isn’t for everyone), you should do it.

grad announcement-001

Searching for Privacy: A Brief Adieu

Update: This lasted all of two days before I was going crazy wanting my blog back. Anyway, it was a really heart felt and appropriate post (at the time) so I’m leaving it here.

It may seem contradictory for a blogger to want privacy. After all, we put our lives on display-often with photos. We talk about our pets, our sexuality, our day jobs, dating, and our religious beliefs. Over the course of this year, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I not only want privacy–I need privacy. I feel…not overwhelmed, but irritated by all the noise. The idiots. The shoddy journalism. The debates about everything and nothing. The inauthentic displays. I’m quickly becoming tired of the of “my perfect life” posts. You know who these people are and you have your own set of ‘friends’ who do this. They fill their social media profiles with such perfect status updates that you’d think they should live in a 5th Avenue storefront display. They never have a bad day or get acne. They’ve airbrushed out the flaws and the moodiness and the failures and left us with their vacuous self-image to stroke.

Yet no one is perfect. With the illusions we create online, we strip away part of what is real, vulnerable, and authentic about ourselves. The struggles, the tears (or holding back from tears in order to be strong), and the moments of great tragedy that we would love to share with caring people–if they weren’t preoccupied with Instagraming their vegan omelets.

I do care–rather deeply. Many of you have noticed that and reached out to me. Over the years, I’ve formed some of the most priceless friendships with some of you.

***

I’ve created an entire blog about a subject I was passionate about for years. When I first started, I wanted nothing more than to give all the people who had really twisted their power and greed into an abusive machine a big FUCK YOU. I’ve done that–rather successfully. Each and every person I wanted to have that message now has heard it loud and clear. Some have even pleaded that I let up, and I feel pity on them now. I also realize that there is power in telling your truth. I never realized how powerful my message would be until it was capable of making change. Yet, I don’t wish to destroy anyone completely and I never have. I have ethics–far superior ethics to those I write about and yes, I will gloat about that.

I hold their fate at the tip of my fingers and yet I won’t destroy them completely. This is my one fault; my one weakness. They destroyed me completely for a time but I will show them pity and release them. 

 I’ve rebuilt myself. I am strong. I have spent two years realizing my strengths and abilities vastly outweigh my weaknesses, and I am confident in them. They don’t belong to some deity or to anyone but myself. Stella got her groove back. My anger is gone. My introverted side is back. I’ve been happily reunited with my pensive nature.

Over the course of the year, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting. I’m fortunate enough to live near some really pretty places:

Copyright by Lisa Kerr, 2011-2012
Copyright by Lisa Kerr, 2011-2012

Through that refection, I’ve realized my work here as a blogger on cults is done. You are stronger than you know and you don’t need me or anyone else to tell you that or to guide you through the steps. I never set out to be anyone’s leader or guru and I will never take on that title or position in your life, but if I can be your example now, I want you to be strong and unapologetic about your strengths. Yes, people will always be escaping from cults and coercive groups, but there are people who have made full-time careers out of helping people recover. They are called therapists. I am a writer. There are also great people I’ve met along the way whom you may find with a simple Google search, or you can get in touch with International Cultic Studies Association.

My hope for you is that you own your weaknesses fully-be honest about them and apologize to people you hurt-but experience your weaknesses. Don’t shun them and don’t beat yourself up because you have them. Do you assume it’s abnormal to be weak?

Don’t criticize yourself for being different than other people, for in your differences you’ll find your greatest assets and strengths. Don’t set out to be anyone’s hero or guide. Instead, instill in people the idea that they will be strong, too.

 

Of course many people will return to this website and over the course of time, I would love to expand the content to include things that are new in my life. I’d love to include inspiration, recipes, and pictures of pretty things. Yet, I’m not entirely sure I will rebrand at this point because I need a hiatus from giving and I need to give back to myself. I miss spending hours outside in nature, not worrying about ‘checking-in’ or my blogging schedule or returning emails. I miss spending days mulling over writing a single sentence–making it beautiful. In Internet time that’s old news-but you know me: I don’t follow the rules. I break them.

I’ve also learned that being online can be a bad thing for a young writer brimming with ideas and a marketable story because people willfully steal those ideas, even when they’re still in formation (shocker!). I’m not talking about small things but there was a time this year when I suspected this TV show was influenced by the video interviews I did for DiGa Vision. Those interviews included all the secret workings of my own investigative journalism, cult advocacy work, my own personal struggle with PTSD, and my blog’s sphere of influence. The timing of the interviews being shown to the CW executives and the development of Cults was all too coincidental. The CW offered me a six year contract for my own reality TV show and then, when the Cults pilot was announced, they scrapped the show. I may never know, but I won’t ever share that much again with something that isn’t green-lit or bound contractually.

 

Yesterday I Googled “going offline for a year”. I wanted to see if anyone had done it because I wanted to take the leap and I wondered if any bloggers had. I came across Paul Miller, a tech blogger, who announced his departure from the Internet for a year this past April. The comments were atrocious and hateful as usual. My particular favorite was “Jesus Christ, these hipsters now have themselves convinced that going to the library is underground.” Paul is a tech blogger and gamer. In no way did he strike me as a hipster. He’s a bit too smart for that. I shared the link on my Facebook along with the above comment as a bit of an experiment and got responses like “I have no words” and “Pretension has no realistic self-image.” Disdain. Of course. Miller has the luxury of having an editor who will post his articles for him, so he will continue to post throughout the year. I do not. I also have no real intention of going offline for good, but I do aim to spend less time on social media–trimming my personal Facebook down to just people I know in real life (shocking!) and actually speak to intimately. Or maybe I’ll delete it altogether. I haven’t decided. I want to go off the grid, so to speak. I envy people who don’t feel obligated to be online. Novelists like Cormac McCarthy who shunned interviews and remained relatively unknown for years. I’ve learned that I don’t operate well in the spotlight and I think it’s best to operate within your own strengths and space. Like McCarthy, I relish intellectual conversation above being acquainted with the masses:

Novelist Cormac McCarthy shuns interviews, but he relishes conversation…[He]…has proved more elusive. He won’t be found at book festivals, readings and other places novelists gather. Mr. McCarthy prefers hanging out with “smart people” outside his field, like professional poker players and the thinkers at the Santa Fe Institute, a theoretical-science foundation in New Mexico where the author is a longtime fellow.

McCarthy became commercially successful in 1992, with “All the Pretty Horses,” a National Book Award winner. Journalists did write about him then, but a quick glance at their tone and you can tell they despised his desire for privacy.

The question on every writer’s mind these days is (or should be): Can you be successful if you don’t have an online presence? I’d argue that you can’t. You certainly can’t sell books. If you don’t generate your online presence and cultivate it, someone will have to, but you’ll notice most established authors now run their own social media and many do so from their personal accounts. This is smart marketing. People are attracted to writers because they personally identify with them. For young writers still finding their voice I think social media is far less important-something I wish I’d known a few years ago. I don’t regret becoming successful at it–the skills I’ve learned are invaluable. Although I will say, I’ve learned I prefer the technical side of social media and websites as opposed to the content building. Online content as you know can often be garbage.

My favorite movie of all-time has to be “You’ve Got Mail” with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. I can quote much of it and even had a friend send me a ‘bouquet of newly sharpened pencils’ one Spring. You may remember moments of Cathleen Kelly happily reading to kids gathered around the storytime rug:

When Cathleen Kelly shuts down her store, The Shop Around the Corner it is so sad. She leaves this sign:

This is how I feel. I’ve loved being part of your lives for the past two and a  half years–walking many of you through my own story, my healing process, and my thoughts on religion. I’ve relished in our many conversations over the years and have grown to adore you. I’ve loved seeing so many of you grow into strong people–getting your voices back, finding yourselves, creating beautiful lives around who you are today (which includes the pain you went through). We have all developed this intimate community where we have gathered strength from one another, asked genuine questions and have accepted that we may not have all the answers.

In January I started working with some very special of young women at Mercy Survivors. I have seen them all become stronger than they already were. None of them are victims of Mercy. They are all far more powerful than Mercy and I anticipate that the next few years you will see some incredible stories come from their website. I would continue to watch them, if I were you.

One of my initial blogging connections was with the creator of Recovering Alumni. I am so incredibly grateful to her for introducing me to her fellow alumni. Their alumni network is so strong and vibrant. In many ways, the men and women I’ve met there have contributed to my own growth and healing like no other group has simply because Honor Academy was so similar to Master’s Commission. It was nice to ‘swap stories’ with people who KNEW how I felt and felt that same way. This is the best thing you can do for yourself as a survivor–find the community you feel most comfortable in and tell your story. Tell it over and over and over. This is what you need to do to heal. 

As for further help, or help for new readers who may come in the future, I compiled an eBook several months ago that I feel is a complete guide to sorting out the questions you may have. It’s not available in print. You can buy it on Amazon here.

As for cults, I’m done for awhile. I’ve definitely kicked ass whatever I’ve written about, but one can only exhaust a subject so much. Then it becomes forced. A writer can tell she’s lost her passion for a subject when she has nothing left to say about it. Trust me, I have plenty to say, but I’m ready to talk about something else.

As far as whether the blog will stay up indefinitely, not exactly. This is why I wrote the eBook. The blog will eventually be morphed into an inclusive website (not a blog) for information purposes only (excluding some of my personal writings which I may publish at a later date). It’s important that people know the truth about Master’s Commission and youth discipleship programs/residential treatment centers because they’re not going anywhere for the time being and I’ve always said if there had been anything available for me to read like this blog on Master’s Commission when I was applying, it WOULD have changed the course of my life. However, regardless of whether you shut a group down, the leadership will still start over somewhere else under a new name because they believe they are doing “God’s work”. So they need to be tracked.

I’ll still be updating my website here: www.thelisakerr.com and I started a personal blog awhile ago that I’ve enjoyed posting on about writing, creativity and inspiration. I hope to revisit that after I take this much-needed break. But first I need to feel refreshed and vibrant again.

You can follow me on Facebook here: www.facebook.com/thelisakerr  and here: www.facebook.com/mycultlife. I will have a more private Facebook account just for personal family and friends, which means several HUNDREDS of people may be deleted from my existing account. I do feel terrible about this, but I’ve come to realize this will serve me best. Some people will be angry at me for this, but if you’re really interested in keeping up with me, please follow those pages above. I will update those pages and my website as often as I’m able to.

I would love to hear from you in the interim. I will read all the emails you send, but I will not be responding during the holidays because I’m going to enjoy my family and friends, some jazz and all the Hallmark Christmas movies I possibly can. I’m even going to stop obsessing about writing my book and put it all aside to enjoy winter. And these guys:

The most adorable creatures on the planet, both of whom were adopted from high-kill animal shelters. Adoption saves lives and is rewarding. Just look at them.

So for now, adieu, farewell. We will meet again. For now, though, I leave you with this:

 

GO SOMEWHERE:

Spend some time with yourself, after all, you know yourself best.

Enjoy the moments you have to yourself to ponder about what is important to you.

So with that, GOODBYE. I’m off to find my new HELLO.

Things I Despise

There are things I absolutely can’t stand.

Mayonnaise, liars, and vinegar begin my list. But further down, and perhaps as I get older and more irritable, the list grows to feature things like other people’s unsolicited opinions on a regular basis.

I can’t tell  you when this first started re-appearing as a theme in my life, but it used to happen ALL the time. Then I turned mean. I cussed everyone out all the time. No one really offered their advice or their two dollar bullshit. But my pendulum started swinging back down to normal Lisa again–the one who has always been way too nice (so much so that she’s been walked on more than once). What can I say? I care. I care way too much about people who really don’t give a shit about me and I can’t seem to shake that trait. I even cry at all the dying kitties that flood my Facebook feed daily.

Lately I feel like I can’t have a conversation with anyone without hearing their unsolicited advice. “Quit your job,” “Go back to school,” “Get saved,” “Corporations are evil…you’re working for the Devil,” “I don’t think you’re ready to write this book, just stop writing it,”…the list goes on and on. It’s as if people think I’m completely incapable of handling my own life and navigating through my own decisions. The problem is, I may go to a friend to talk or vent but I rarely complain about how shitty my life is and how I just need everyone’s advice. The other problem is, my life is so “together” right now it’s not even funny so I really don’t need a bunch of opinions.

Here’s what’s really going on:

As a writer, I’m expected to write constantly–by myself and others. It’s nearly impossible to keep up the pace I need to in order to complete a book while I’m working full-time. In the past, this wasn’t always so, but with the position I currently hold it’s just not going to happen. Sure I feel a little guilty about that, but a large part of me feels relieved. A writer writes for herself first and foremost, and she needs to be careful not to be overtaken by popular opinion because that’s one of the beauties of being a creative. YOU get to decided what is art to you and what isn’t. If a writer feels like genre writing is art, then it is. However, she must then divorce herself from the literary world or be scorned forever for her “pedestrian attempt to draft a work of art” or scolded for “becoming a best seller” or making money. Ultimately I’m not sure I’m cut out for a world of criticism. This is why I never Google myself.

That isn’t to say I’m not going to complete my book, but I am going to come home from work and watch TV on weeknights instead of slave away on another draft (for now) or by building another website full of content that takes me hours to create (for free) and minutes to be devoured only to be instantly attacked in the age of instant online criticism. I’m not Superwoman as I have tried to be and all this trying really has me being on the verge of burnout if I’m not careful. I don’t like a lot of the things out there that I read and I’m certainly not going to contribute another piece to the trash pile of books. I’d rather be appreciated posthumously.

I’m also at a crossroads. Having almost finished my degree in creative writing and having surrounded myself by literary types, I find myself wanting some distance from many of them. There’s a powerful message literary writers and professors send to young writers: You SHOULD NOT write for fun or for money. In fact, you shouldn’t do anything for fun and certainly not for money. I’m becoming so fed up with poor/artsy creatives who feel they are more noble than RICH writers because they fit a certain mold. Sure the poor types win awards, but they look down their noses at anyone who makes money on their writing. THAT IS NOT ART, they scream. Damnit, shut the hell  up and let a fucking person live and have fun. Stop stifling my fucking creativity.

Maybe I’m turning Republican again. I don’t know. (That’s a joke–lest I start getting bullied by liberals angry at me for SUGGESTING I’m a turncoat.) Maybe I’m just PMSing. Maybe the person I’m in love with doesn’t love me back. I just don’t want to necessarily participate in any specific group right now. I want friends without expectations to always say the right thing or have the right opinion or to offer them advice. Why do I have to constantly fit into a mold? Why does changing my mind on something or having a different opinion make me feel like I’m bucking everyone’s system? Jesus fucking Christ. Leave me alone people and just take me to coffee.

I know I should be blogging daily, but let’s be honest. If I were to rely on the money I make from blogging to support myself, I would literally be a hobo. Or a hobo’s dog. Or the dog food the hobo’s dog eats. And because I founded my blog on a very snarky persona, which was very fun, it’s hard to keep up with that persona anymore. It’s also really fucking hard to know that people read this and email me on a regular basis all of their bullshit opinions.

For the past three months I have fantasized of deleting my blog, deleting my social media accounts and packing up to head back to 2000 before I gave a fuck about checking-in or sharing articles or debating religion and politics in cyberspace. Back to when I used to  actually meet up with people face-to-face and discuss ideas for extended periods of time or go dancing or drink the night away. Back when people wrote things of quality rather than pushing something out just to get it to post before someone else did. Before HuffPo got destroyed and all news sources lost their credibility in an attempt to be “relevant.” (Yeah, I’m turning Republican–I’m reminiscing about the “good ol’ days.” ha!) It’s so tempting to just leave cyberspace, yet one of the reasons I don’t is because there are still abusive religious youth programs out there torturing kids and I’d like to keep a presence on Google so those who leave know they aren’t alone. And you know, blogging was a really beautiful thing for me for awhile–probably until I met DiGa Vision Production company who wanted to turn my blog and my investigative journalism into a freak show (aka reality TV show). I kind of lost all desire to go public with my life after that and their 20 page contract of signing my life away and my desire has diminished more and more. I didn’t want fame badly enough…I wanted stability in my life. I also am sick of everyone wanting a piece of my life story. And I mean EVERYONE. It’s a tragic story, one that I grapple with making sense of still, and one that I certainly don’t want exploited.

I went to college with a bunch of English majors and writers. Along the way, I’ve met more writers. It seems like every writer has an opinion of what I should do with my life or my book or my career, all the while forcing their ideologies on me, and I don’t like a single one of their opinions. I wish there was a polite way to tell colleagues to shove it–I just haven’t figured that one out yet.

I really don’t want to talk too much shit about people who may read what I write here, but I’ve been very discouraged in the past few months. (I knew I wouldn’t make it through this blog without crying…here comes the water works.) I have worked and worked and worked on a memoir that needs to be published to what feels like no avail. I have written several hundred pages, edited, read other memoirs, talked with other writers. I’ve met with editors who were flakes, or trying to pull the wool over my eyes by trying to charge me way too much money to complete my book proposal. I’ve met with people who just want to serve their own vision via my talent. But I’ve met very few who really truly see what’s going on–that the trauma I’m revisiting by writing this book is really breaking me down (some of you DO understand that and you know who you are. Thank you.).

So for that reason, I’m so relieved that I am forced, via my busy day job, to pause on writing altogether. I’ve worked or thought about my book and blog non-stop for two years. I don’t know if this is good-bye–I certainly didn’t intend to say good-bye to it tonight when sitting down to write this but maybe that’s what I needed to get off my chest. I need to say this so I don’t internalize the pressure I feel from others (but mostly myself).

I really don’t know what I want from a lot of things in life–I don’t know if I want an MFA like I once thought I did. I’m not sure if I want an advanced degree in anything else right now. What I DO know I want from life, and have wanted for a few years, is a permanent residence and a family. It’s simple and it’s the kind of thing that my 20 year old self would have been shocked to hear me say, but it’s true. I’m happy with my current place in life–working toward paying off my college student debt so I can buy a house. I’m sick of spinning my wheels and investing energy in trying to change people’s minds about really horrific religious experiences when the fact is, I just don’t care about changing their minds. I care about helping people who reach out to me for friendship after leaving horrible programs. Those other people can go fuck themselves. I’m not trying to build a platform, or get a TV show or anything else. I’m not giving up, but I’m going to spend some time getting this pressure for perfection and success off my back so I can just LIVE a little bit. It’s hard out there for a pimp.

A Defining Election for Women, Or Why I Voted Democrat

I voted for Obama-Biden

Up until four years ago, I was a registered Republican. During the last presidential election, things changed and during this election I had no doubt in my mind that being a Democrat was important to me. I admit, I was a little intimidated to ‘come out’ as liberal to a Republican family. I’d become more outspoken about politics, especially on social issues like gay marriage and contraceptives access (and women’s sexual freedom), which was the deciding factor for my support for Obama then and has continued to draw me to him. No other candidate has shown they care for women’s rights or gay rights like Obama has. Sure, I was really openly cheering for Hillary Clinton way back when she was running. She’s a (well-qualified) woman. She’s smart and she works hard. She fucking kicks ass. She also was recently in the news for talking about not being paralyzed in life by unhappiness with your own choices. It’s up for debate whether Clinton meant these comments in response to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s piece in The Atlantic, Why Women Still Can’t Have it All (a piece I didn’t entirely agree with, but to some degree I find myself concerned whether my professional life will suffer when I try to balance raising children), but many people construed them as such.

Says Clinton,

“I can’t stand whining,” Clinton said. “I can’t stand the kind of paralysis that some people fall into because they’re not happy with the choices they’ve made. You live in a time when there are endless choices. … Money certainly helps, and having that kind of financial privilege goes a long way, but you don’t even have to have money for it. But you have to work on yourself. … Do something!”

“Some women are not comfortable working at the pace and intensity you have to work at in these jobs. … Other women don’t break a sweat,” she said. “They have four or five, six kids. They’re highly organized, they have very supportive networks.”

I’m absolutely sympathetic to moms–whether they are stay-at-home or working moms. I don’t see a need for a mommy war over whether one woman is a better mother or not. I’d like to think that women are individuals and as such, can choose whether they want to pursue a career or, in many cases, women choose to stay home with their children because it saves their family money. These stay-at-home moms often sacrifice their dreams for their children and husbands. Either way, motherhood is a challenge.

There are women like me who are not mothers, though, and even then, balancing work-life-school-career-passion is difficult. I’m in a position where writing and blogging is becoming increasingly more difficult because I work in a fast paced career which drains me during the week. I like to come home and unwind and my creative energy is zapped. I feel so guilty that I don’t have time to respond to emails or to work on edits, and to be honest I definitely don’t feel as creative as I did several months ago. I hope this is a phase but in some careers you have to work hard and improve your skills constantly in order to move within the company–or in many cases, to stay within the company. It’s highly competitive.

I’m grateful to have a job. Just a year ago today, I had been unemployed for about three and a half months. It was mid-October and November when I lost all hope for my situation improving. Despite my education and my smart approach to my job search, I wasn’t having any luck.

According to Google, the unemployment rate in September was 7.8% and has been declining in the past few years.

Snapshot from www.google.com/publicdata

It makes sense, as I’ve started seeing companies bounce back in recent months. So, despite some claims that Obama doesn’t know anything about the economy and hasn’t ‘created jobs’ I’d say that that’s just political rhetoric. Things are looking good.

My main concern in this election, though, was women’s rights. It seemed that contraceptives were being demonized in epic proportions and unmarried women who have sex were about to be in for a rude awakening if Republicans had their way. Every other week it seemed Republicans were bringing fundamentalist Jesus into politics and declaring a holy war on anything a woman wanted to do with her reproductive organs–but especially if women wanted to postpone pregnancy or (shock!) NOT have children. I got so concerned that I even started writing political blogs about it all here and here. When someone like Rick Santorum started making headway, I couldn’t help but get very involved. He reminded me so much of pastors I’d once worked for and I definitely didn’t want someone that extreme being in the White House. Politics began to matter to me much more during this election. Religious ‘freedom’ versus reproductive freedom began battling it out, and as a woman I had no choice but to side with the Democrats. Although I see Mitt Romney as a bit more moderate than someone like Santorum, he’s stated that he’ll defund Planned Parenthood. WHO DOES THAT?! The only people who are interested in defunding Planned Parenthood are extremists who are blinded by their bias to the point that they become radically enslaved to their pseudo-facts. In 2006, as a student, Planned Parenthood was somewhere I could visit to get yearly exams. During the next few years, when I was uninsured, I went back for my checkups. I don’t feel the need to disclose my private health issues or concerns and what really angers me is that the Republican extremists have made it so that women have to defend their doctors (in my case, Planned Parenthood physicians) and plea our case by appealing to voters using our personal health issues as credibility. It’s none of anyone’s business what goes on in my vagina and I shouldn’t have to say, “Oh, they saved me from having cancer,” just so someone doesn’t defund them. This vagina obsession has gotten out of control. For those voters, like many people I’m related to, who think women who visit Planned Parenthood are ‘immoral’ and no one should ‘have to pay for their slutty ways’, I am bewildered how narrow-minded you are. When you say those things you are defining your feelings about a woman like ME. Women like me use contraceptives. Women like me have sex for pleasure. Women like me are sometimes uninsured. Women like me are educated and hard workers. We don’t ask for ‘hand-outs’ but we sometimes need a helping hand. But even if we DID need a ‘hand-out’, what’s so wrong with helping a fellow citizen, regardless of their race, social class, financial standing, education status, sexual activity or….GENDER?

I hope you’ll vote on election day, November 6th and I hope you’ll stand with me to defend women’s rights and keep women in the 21st century. Don’t send us back to the ’50’s. Vote OBAMA-BIDEN.

Book Launch Parties

I was just checking out a fellow blogger’s book launch party pictures on Facebook. We met somewhere online and had some discussion, and then like many online acquaintances, were forgotten. She wrote a sweet book about nice life lessons, or something. Her book launch party was sweet and peaceful and it got me thinking about the book I’m writing. Do books like mine (about cults) get book launch parties? Or do we, the authors of books on cults, put on bullet proof vests and try to avoid religious nut cases coming to get us?

Maybe a book launch party isn’t such a great idea.

 

Fall is Here

Fall is around the corner. Just one more month!

I could tell the last time I stepped into Kohls. Pumpkin spice candles everywhere. Yum. That’s my favorite smell and it lets me know the holidays are coming. I can’t wait for Christmas time. Christmas movies. The smell of cinnamon spice. A fluffy blanket. Family and friends everywhere.

Fall is romantic in it’s own rite although it doesn’t quite compete with Christmas on the romance scale. Here are some gorgeous reminders of what Fall looks like in other parts of the country (besides CA). What are your favorite things about fall?

Continue reading “Fall is Here”

Kitten Diaries

Contrary to popular belief, I have two cats, not 25. Boo and Molly are their names. Look how adorable they are!

Just the two of us
Lover-cats

 

Boo is kind of a bad ass. I got him at 4 months old (we think) from a high-kill shelter. I’m surprised he survived his stay at the shelter, to be honest. He was so skiddish and couldn’t be touched when I got him. He was afraid of everything: hands, people, and being petted.

Can we say comfy?
Again with the porno-pose

Continue reading “Kitten Diaries”