Friday, March 1, 2013

When Did Boobs Become Such a Big Deal?

My decision to write this blog is because I have seen a lot of debates recently about whether or not women should be able to breastfeed their babies in public without a cover.

If you’re still confused on this issue, you might want to familiarize yourself with the LAW ladies and gentleman.  You might want to check out this website and learn them.  My favorite one states, “Forty-five states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private locations (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming).”

And for those five that aren’t listed (Idaho, Michigan, South Dakota, Virginia, and West Virginia):
Michigan:  laws state that public nudity laws do not apply to a woman breastfeeding a child.
South Dakota:  laws exempt mothers who are breastfeeding from indecency laws.
Virginia:  laws state a woman has the right to breastfeed her child on any property owned, leased, or controlled by the state and exempts mothers engaged in breastfeeding from indecent exposure laws.
It just seems like Idaho and West Virginia have yet to jump on the bandwagon—yeah, I’m talking to you guys in those states, get on that legislation!

So here’s the deal, I’m not a mother but I don’t get what the big deal about boobs are.  They’re not a new phenomenon, we’ve always had them.  In the United States, we are so over-sexualized that the sight of a breast now has people crying offense.  To me, a boob is a big flab of fat; so really, I don’t understand what’s so “sexy” about that.  But in all reality, these are mothers…mothers that are feeding their children!  I believe that they have the right to breastfeed whenever and wherever their baby decides it needs to eat.  If you were hungry, how would you like it if someone said you had to go sit in your car or go to a public bathroom to eat?  Not very appetizing is it?  What if someone made you eat under a blanket, especially in extreme heat, to eat?  That doesn’t sound fun either, does it?  Why do we want to place all these rules and restrictions on newborns when all they want to do it eat!

And look, I get it.  Some people are more comfortable with a cover for personal reasons.  I’m not saying that you should never cover.  But just as the woman who feels more comfortable covering, a woman who feels more comfortable not covering should be just as respected.  And, for those of you who are uncomfortable with the idea; I’m not saying breastfeeding mothers should run around topless so when their child cries they can just latch on.  However, unless you are going to make every mother who is bottle feeding a baby cover up, than you shouldn’t ask a breastfeeding mother to do the same.

Furthermore, how much boob so you actually see when a mother is breastfeeding?  I see more boobs on TV, in movies, and on magazine covers waiting in line at the grocery store.  Unless you are going to ask every woman wearing a low-cut revealing shirt to cover up, than leave breastfeeding mothers alone.

Really, my frustration at this issue is that people are making such a big deal out of it.  In most cases, laws state that a woman has the right to breastfeed her babies whenever.  It’s just a boob people—a boob that you barely see when they’re breastfeeding.  If seeing a woman breastfeed is offensive to you, than maybe you need to look at yourself and figure out why you think it’s such a big deal.  Obviously, if breastfeeding was an unnatural occurrence, breasts wouldn’t produce milk.

Aren’t there more important things that we should be worrying about in this country?  Like the economy and national debt and wars and global issues?  Are we really going to concentrate all our energy on boobs?  C’mon guys, just get over it.

I’ll keep you posted xo

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Advice to Teenagers/Young Adults

I've been thinking a lot about teenagers and young adults lately. Maybe it's because my own "little sister" just turned sixteen. I don't understand why all these kids are in such a rush to grow up. That's the beauty of being a teenager--you can still have adult responsibilities like getting a job and driving a car, but you can still be a kid. I understand these years can be hard--school is tough, peers are cruel, you're angsty and still trying to find yourself, you hate your parents because you feel like they're smothering you and your freedom. I get it, I was there. But you have to understand that your parents are trying to guide you in the right direction. Yes, you have to make your own mistakes and learn from them. Yes, you need to choose your own path in life. But you don't need to do it deaf, dumb, and blind. There is nothing wrong with a little guidance to help you along the way. You can learn from others' mistakes as well as your own.

Thanks to social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, I am connected with the current "teenage generation" and I am concerned by what I see and read. That is what has inspired this post and the advice I am about to give. Just know, dear readers, that this is not directed at a single person I know, but to a generalized person or persons I have witnessed in society within the adolescent age bracket. it goes:

  1. Work hard in school: It's important to work hard in school, but not completely overdo it. You see, I was one of those over-achievers who opted to take every honors and AP class that I could take. I ended up overdoing it almost all four years and ran on about three hours of sleep while school was in session. If you feel confident in your abilities in a certain class, feel free to take a more challenging level. But don't be ashamed to take an average class or one that moves at a slower pace if that's what your comfortable with. Challenge yourself, but don't stretch yourself too thin either. Make sure you do your homework, read your assignments, study, pay attention in class, participate, and understand that education is a very important aspect of life. There are children around the world who are denied an education so please don't take what you have for granted. Remember, it's not necessarily the grades that matter but the effort you put forth to acheive them.
  2. Don't make "being in a relationship" your priority: Look, I get it. Everyone wants to feel loved and have companionship. But you are young. Being in a relationship shouldn't be your ultimate goal at this stage in your life. It hurts me to see young people turn their backs on their friends because they are so enamored with their significant other. It's fine to date. And it's okay to be in a relationship, that's not what I'm saying. What I am saying is don't live your teenage years searching for a mate. There will be plenty of time for that when you mature a bit more, take on more responsibilities, and figure your own self out. While being in a relationship is nice, it's not necessary. Remember, you cannot be happy with someone else unless you are happy with yourself (and your singleness).
  3. Don't get involved in adult problems or issues, especially ones that deal with your parents: I am 100% guilty of this one. When I was in high school, I was continually getting sucked into family drama and issues. It wasn't until I was older and working with a therapist did I learn that I should have said "NO!" and removed myself from the situation. There is enough drama in your teenage life without dragging in adult problems as well. Furthermore, it's none of your business, and parents (or guardians) you shouldn't be bringing your children into the situations as well. If you are having a problem with your spouse, wait until your children are in bed or remove yourselves from their presence before having a discussion. Teenagers, don't be afraid to leave the room if your parents start aruging or asking for your opinion when discussing adult decisions. It is not your responsibility!
  4. Spend time with your family: Family time is extremely important. And I know as a teenager it may seem "uncool" to spend time with your family, especially your parents. I'm not saying you have to have a sit-down family dinner and quality time session every night. But get together as a family and watch a movie one evening. Or play a board game. Or go down the shore or to a water park. Have fun and enjoy each other's company. You won't realize how much you missed those movie and board game nights until everyone is too busy to schedule time together. Even though I'm no longer a teenager, I still miss being able to spend time with my family regularly. I live with my mom (and sister half the week) but because of my two jobs and our opposite work schedules, I can go days without seeing my mom. It makes me really treasure the time that we do spend together because it doesn't happen often. Take advantage of family time now while you can.
  5. Spend time with your friends: Just like with your family, it is important to spend time with your friends. It gives you a chance to be more "yourself" than you might be around your family. You are probably more laid back and at ease with your friends and you have a lot more in common. But please, realize who your true friends are. True friendships are about quality not quantity. I would rather have five true friends than fifty so-so aquaintances. Friends should lift you up and not push you down. Friends should be able to make you laugh and hug you when you cry. Friends shouldn't pressure you into anything you're not comfortable with and have the same morals as you. Friends should be supportive not negative. Find your few precious friends and hold on tight, keeping them close. But likewise, remember to be just as good of a friend back to them!
  6. If you're old enough, get a job where you can work a few days a week: I understand that you have a lot going on with school, family, friends, and possibly clubs and sports, but if you are able to get a job, do it. Even if you can only work a few hours a week, getting a job is not only an excellent character builder, but it will also give you a sense of financial freedom. Having a job will teach you responsibility and respect, but it will also give you the chance to prove to your parents that you are getting older and deserve some freedom of your own. Not to mention, some extra cash in your pocket will also be an added bonus! Just like with harder classes, you don't want to overdo it. Only work a couple of days; enough to keep your employment active, but not too much that it interferes with your schooling and makes you feel overwhelmed.
  7. Do community service: This piece of advice is very near and dear to my heart. I know a lot of schools are beginning to require this, but I think that doing it on your own is that much more fulfilling. Look, sometimes we begin to live a jaded life--we forget that our luxuries (no matter how small) are just that, luxuries, and that there are people who don't live with the necessities. I have volunteered at a food pantry, thrift shop, R.I.S.E. (which, for all intensive purposes, is similar to Habitat for Humanity), participated in INTERACT (the community service club at my high school), done charity walks, and spent nearly a month in South Africa doing missions work. I will tell you, the benefits you reap from doing community service are invaluable. It's a wake-up call to remind you that your life isn't as bad as you might have thought it was. It makes you appreciate all the comforts and luxuries you have in your own life. It helps you prioritize your life and think about what is most important to you. But most importantly, you are doing something to help someone else. Even if it's in the smallest way, you are making a big difference. One of things I like to say in terms of helping someone out is that they might not always remember your name, they might not always remember what you did, but they will ALWAYS remember how you made them feel. Putting others before yourself is one of the most amazing feelings you can experience and I think it's important, especially for you teenagers who are attached to your cell phones, iPods, and laptops, to see how the less fortunate live.
  8. Find your passion and run with it: Whether you are a singer or play an instrument, you enjoy writing or acting, you like to debate or help others, there is probably some type of club at your school for you. Get involved! There is a club for almost everything nowadays, and if there is something you are interested in but your school doesn't offer a club, speak to a couselor about starting one up! Usually you just need a certain number of members and an advisor. Chances are, if you are passionate about something, there are others that are just as eagar as you. I'm not saying go out and join every single club that you have an interest in, but getting involved in something you enjoy doing will not only expose you to new people that can be potential friends, but you will be happy doing what you enjoy. Not to mention, extra cirriculars look great on college applications if that's what you choose to do!
  9. Do not abuse social networking sites: This is a big pet peeve of mine. While I love Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter as much as the next person, I think we are all guilty of writing things that maybe we should have thought twice about. Remember, these posts are public for all to see. I'm sure you don't like it when people write negative things about or directed at you, so don't do the same to them. Facebook and Twitter are not your personal diary. If you need to vent, either keep a hand-written journal or create a blog but keep it private. Often times those that fall victim to bullies become the bully themselves when they begin to post negative stuff on social networking sites. Always read what you are typing and if, after posting, you find that you have offended or upset someone, not only apologize but remove the post immediately. Being able to stay connected is a great gift, but with it comes great responsibility. Be mature and double check everything that you post.
  10. Stay positive and hold your head high: This is probably one of the hardest things to accomplish. Kids are crueler than ever and bullying seems much more intense now than it did even when I went to school in the early 2000s. It makes me sad to see young people taking their lives because they were being bullied. So I encourage you to stay positive and hold your head high. If someone is calling you a "slut", just push back your shoulders and walk on by. You know the truth, so why let them affect you? I know it's tough, trust me I do. But the more you practice this, the easier it will become. However, I do understand that depression is a disease that effects many young people--I, myself, have been a sufferer since the age of twelve. Don't be afraid to ask for help. If you are uncomfortable talking to your parents, speak to a guidance counselor or the school psychologist. Don't be ashamed. I know it can be intimidating, but you will benefit in the long run. Also, if you know of someone who is suffering from depression, struggling with something, or being bullied, tell an adult! Whether it be a parent, teacher, counselor, etc. they are there to help. Some people are too afraid, scared, or proud to get help themselves, so helping them out is a good thing. Even if they are angry at you at first, there will come a time when they realize you were only caring about them and trying to get them help. Remember, we are all beautiful in our own way and we must hold our heads high and be proud of who we are!

So there we are, these are a few pieces of advice for my teenage and young adult friends. You've probably heard it all before, but sometimes we must have things constantly drilled into our heads until we finally grasp it. I hope that you take some of my advice and put it into practice. I only want what's best for you and I want you to live a fulfilling life. It's true when they say these can be the best years of your life, you just have to find the balance between the maturity and resposibilities of being an adult and having the care-free, fun nature of a child.

I'll keep you posted xo

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"Out of the Darkness"

The following story is something I wrote a couple of years ago for my creative non-fiction writing class. My professor spoke a lot about what is considered "non-fiction" and basically we agreed that if, in your mind, you truly believe that something happened a certain way, than it can be considered as non-fiction. The following story recounts the suicide of my uncle in 2007 and mirrors a charity walk I did in New York City for suicide awareness and prevention. What I wrote in the following story is what I believe to be the truth.

I am also issuing a disclaimer to all before proceeding. There are some intense, graphic images I disucss that may be disturbing to some. If this piece seems insensitive, I apologize, for that was simply not the case. How I choose to handle my uncle's suicide and grieve it, is through my writing. It was also my attempt to add bits of humor here or there. They actually did happen in the days that followed my uncle's suicide and I think it's important that people remember to smile and laugh even in the darkest of times. As Albus Dumbledore says, "Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light."

I dedicate this story to the memory of my uncle who passed away 5 years ago today. In 2007 we lost a son, brother, husband, father, and uncle. However, he will always live on in our hearts. I also dedicate it to all his family and friends who have had to handle this tragedy and continue to live on with the love and help of one another. RIP Uncle Gary <3

***Every 14.2 minutes someone in the United States dies by suicide. If you or someone you know is contemplating or talking about suicide please call a hotline or speak to someone who can help.***

Out of the Darkness

Every shirt blazon with a name, a smiling face of someone happy, yet through the hundreds of names and faces only one was recognizable to me—the ironed on letters and pixels of my own shirt. Despite the lapping of the water against the pier and the touching speeches blurring the honking horns and city congestion, everything seemed so still and quiet.

I don’t remember if it was a man or a woman, but someone approached me, wearing an obnoxious volunteer shirt, arms laced with hundreds of strands of differently colored beaded necklaces, the shiny garnish casting a gentle glow against the setting sun.

“What colors?” the person asked.

Unable to find a voice, I answered with a blank stare.

The welcoming face quickly transformed into an agitated one, upset that I hadn’t read my registration papers. The volunteer maneuvered the necklaces and jabbed a finger at one of the pages I was holding. After scanning the paper, a wave of understanding broke over my face as I realized each color held a different meaning; green was the first one listed and it seemed the most obvious: “I support the cause.”

Well of course I do, otherwise I wouldn’t be here.

“I’ll take a green.” I paused as the necklaces were being untangled. “You might as well give me a blue and a purple, too.”

Hanging loosely from my neck, the small beads clanked softly against a provided reflector, offering a rhythmic red light. They partially obscured the name across my chest but I barely noticed. We hadn’t even started and already my heart beat rapidly causing a dull thudding in my
ears. Suddenly, a car back fired, a loud bang echoing around the seaport.

~~ ~ ~

I didn’t even know he owned a gun. It was bought for protection, as I’m sure so many are, due to a string of robberies in their small rural town in New York. Maybe he felt the need to protect his wife and sons. Maybe he just wanted to defend his home. That’s the thing about suicide; so many questions are left unanswered that it becomes hard to accept. It’s a death that haunts your mind and becomes like a leech, sucking the energy out of you as you try to comprehend not how it happened, but why it did. It had been months since my uncle had shot himself, and still, I hadn’t cried. That is why I had chosen to walk.

The sun continued to creep slowly behind the horizon, and soon office buildings began to emit that fake florescent light that many people adore about the New York City skyline. The moon replacing the sun was signal enough for those of us who had gathered to honor loved ones lost by the same fate to begin our own journey. With a pink bag adhered to my back and purple water bottle in my hand, I was ready.

Like an exposed roll of 35 mm film, my memories of the week my uncle died were fragmented; a single frame clearly depicted only to be separated by the next one with blackness, emptiness. Everything was so innocent when we found out—my mother was in her room folding laundry, I was creating a poster to advertise a bake sale at church, and my little sister was working on some elementary homework. The next moments felt as though we were trudging through mud, so slow and so heavy. The doorbell rang and it was my aunt’s sister. We thought the visit was a pleasant surprise, but she refused our hospitality. She spoke to my mom in a hushed voice at the bottom of the stairs before leaving, making eavesdropping nearly impossible. Minutes later my mother was locked in her room, frantically whispering in the phone to my father as my sister and I continued with our tasks without anxiety. Suddenly, she emerged from her room, on the edge of hysteria. Her knuckles were white from gripping the cordless phone. Her normally jovial face was taught and pale compared to her usually tanned complexion. Her whole body was shaking as if overtaken by a chill and her voice trembled terribly when she said, “My fucking brother shot himself in the head.” And then, she was gone, running down the stairs—my grandpa still didn’t know and telling a father his son is dead is no menial task. My sister dropped her pencil; I didn’t notice the pressure I was applying on the marker against the poster-board and the cookie looked like it was bleeding.

~~ ~ ~

I barely looked at the map included in my welcoming papers, simply following hand-drawn arrows placed around the city. My mind was so full I barely remember anything that night except for the excretions of my uncle’s death. I remember passing Ground Zero but not staying long; one tragedy consuming my mind was enough for the night. I walked through Soho and texted a childhood friend—she lived there now. I was in one of the busiest cities, further fueled with the hundreds of walkers, yet I was alone, too consumed by my thoughts, my frustration that I still hadn’t grieved. In Times Square I had to wait at the rest site because they ran out of water. I called my mom while I sat and waited.

Going to a cemetery after the death of a loved one is an innocent enough task—it’s expected. However, going to a cemetery to tell them one of their model employees is dead by his own hand is a completely other experience. It gives a whole new meaning to the word irony. The day after my uncle’s suicide I went to his job with my mom and grandpa because they still didn’t know and were probably wondering why Gary had not shown up. My grandpa told them first; one of the secretaries fell to the ground crying while my mom and I made our way to his office, hoping to find some note, some sign of why. He had shot himself in his bedroom, looking out the window into the woods. He didn’t leave a suicide note at home and there was nothing at his job. My aunt and cousins showed up, my mom picked out a crypt in the mausoleum that was close to where my grandma rested, and we made our way to the funeral home. We sat in a circle and wrote the obituary. We went downstairs and picked out a casket. My aunt asked me to help choose the memorial prayer card because I was a writer and knew words well.

After the hours of organization and planning, my grandpa, mother, and I headed home but not before taking a quick detour to the local Stop and Shop. My grandfather was out of bacon and enlisted me to run inside and pick some up—after all, my eyes weren’t red and swollen after heavy bouts of tears like theirs were. My years working at a grocery store had not prepared me in the proper selection of pig. There was maple, extra thick, thin cut, and dozens of other choices. After about fifteen minutes in the cool meat case, I settled upon a package, brought it up and checked out. Upon entering the car my mom and grandfather looked at me, almost angrily, and demanded what look so long—after all, I only had to get one thing.

“You don’t understand, there were so many different types, I didn’t know which one you wanted!” I yelled in protest. “That was too stressful.”

As if I had switched on a light, their faces brightened up and they began to laugh.

“Rachel, you just came from picking out your uncle’s casket and you find bacon stressful?”
my mom finally asked.

I crossed my arms over my chest, trying my best not to smile at my own absurd comment. “Yes, yes I do.”

~~ ~ ~

The blue beaded necklace swung gently, colliding with the green and purple ones. I not only represented “support the cause”, but I was a “sufferer” as well. The blue necklace wearers shared in a common bond, we too had gone through similar situations that our loved ones
encountered, some type of mental illness that could explain away the death. My poison included severe depression and a panic disorder, treated by a cocktail of pills and weekly trips to therapy. I guess I was better. After all, no one was walking for me.

Photos are a good way of remembering the dead. It becomes even harder when you have to organize photos for a wake only days after the actual death itself. It’s raw. Every time I looked at a photo of my uncle, all I could see was a ripped apart face, crimson washed white walls, my cousin Christian finding him face-down on the bedroom floor dead. But this was a task my mom and I had agreed to take on. How were we to condense fifty-four years of life into two collaged
picture frames? Those days before the wake were an endless array of phone calls and picture sorting. There is only one photo of just my uncle and me and it was from my baptism as an infant. He was my Godfather, but we never acknowledged that degree of our relationship. He wasn’t religious and neither was I; not anymore.

It was getting really late into the night and the clusters of walkers were beginning to dwindle. There were plenty of times that I was alone, only the distant backs of others could be seen down the street. It was becoming harder to concentrate on the task at hand; there was a terrible pain in my foot and I still had not come to terms with my uncle’s death. Exhaustion was beginning to lay its hand on me and my time at the rest sites was becoming lengthier. I remember collapsing on the lawn of a school yard which looked stark and eerie at three in the morning. A few stars were visible in the inky sky and the mindless chatter of my fellow walkers was peaceful enough to lull me into a half sleep.

His hands were folded gently across his lap and a long plaid shirt clung to his arms and torso. Adding to his casual appearance was a pair of faded jeans. His tan skin seemed sharply out of place in the blustery setting. I grabbed his hand, and he was cold. I tried not to look up at the white linen that covered his face, but it was impossible. It reminded me of an altar at church, pure cloths hiding away the contents of Communion. There was evidence of blood under the cloth I was staring at, but it was not a manifestation of Jesus’. This linen was withholding the grotesque features that were now my uncle’s face. My mom peeked under, saw the sunken hole of where his temple and eye socket once were intact. She said he looked like the moon, craters of
bone blown away by the bullet, only to be replaced by God-knows what to make him resemble a human once again. Maybe if I looked, I might have cried.

Walking was becoming harder, I fiddled with the purple beads of the necklace like some type of rosary. This last necklace I wore for my uncle; purple represented “a loved one taking his or her life”. It was my final connection with the walkers. I was beginning to feel tears in my eyes, but it wasn’t from the onset of thoughts about my uncle, but rather the pain that was now radiating from my foot up my leg. My walk had turned into a slow limp and I could barely stand. A volunteer on a motorcycle saw me, and phoned for the medical van to pick me up. “I want to finish,” I said to her. She gave me a sympathetic look because we both knew I would never make it time. The sun would rise in two and a half hours and I still had eight more miles to cover. I would later learn that I had been walking on a broken foot; the mileage and pressure from that single night had caused a stress fracture. “It’s no wonder you were crying,” my doctor said, showing me the x-ray.

The funeral was not unlike the wake. Held at the cemetery my uncle had worked at for years, many people shared stories of the wonderful Gary and what a hard worker he was, the attentive husband and devoted dad, how he had so much money he began collecting cars, about his loft that had become his personal theater, and the countless gadgets and goodies he had purchased off of e-Bay. My mother told all that were gathered that inside her brother’s casket, she laid a can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew. As a few tears rolled down her cheeks she smiled and explained how, as a kid, he would never eat homemade stew, only the processed stuff in the can. I wanted to tell the story of how he gave me a large donation for my trip to Africa; I wouldn’t have gotten there without him. Or when I was younger and having a lava lamp catapulted you into the
popular crowd at school, my uncle spared no expense getting my a high quality one—it was pink and purple. However, I sat in my seat, unable to move until my aunt asked me to read a poem. I wanted to read “Richard Cory” because it had the same syllables as my uncle’s name. It was an appropriate poem, practically written for him, but that’s not what my family expected, they wanted an elegy, so I read the poem on the memorial prayer card I chose.

Wrapped in a foil warming blanket I felt like a left-over. South Street Seaport had been
transformed into a medical tent and refuel station. I was given water and pain relievers, breakfast, and ice for my foot. The sun was beginning to rise; the first rays were beginning to shine brilliantly, reflecting off my foil wrapper. Walkers were returning now, proud of their accomplishments. Everyone was crying, but not me. I was given a white paper bag for the final memorial. “Write a message to your uncle,” someone said. I decided to do it, but I couldn’t find any words, so I simply wrote his name, signed mine, and placed it next to the others (being mocked by their beautiful sentiments and sweet pictures). My dad was parked across the street, and I hobbled over, clutching my foil cover as I walked.

~~ ~ ~

Every square blazon with a name, a smiling face of someone happy, yet through the hundreds of names and faces only one was recognizable to me—the glued on letters and pixels on my uncle’s crypt. No epitaph. No scripture. Just his name, dates, and the most embarrassing picture my mom could find of him. He was wearing a pink fuzzy hat and purple beaded necklace, just like my own. It’s a tradition now, rotating pictures that would have mortified him had he been alive to see them; it’s our own form of punishment. We watched as the workers scattered clear marbles inside the block that would soon entomb my uncle. My sister wept and I held her close, distracted by the grunts and hoisting maneuvers as the casket was pushed deeper. Some of the marbles crumbled to dust as the weight and friction became too much for their small shape. My sister’s body shook and I couldn’t help but wonder how long it would take for my uncle to disintegrate to dust.

I fell asleep as soon as I got home, not bothering to change out of my walking clothes, my backpack and water bottle discarded absentmindedly somewhere in my room. I slept for hours, ignoring the calls of my father and the savory aroma of home-cooked food. The only thing that woke me after my walk out of the darkness was the cool dampness on my pillowcase where my first tears for my uncle had landed.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Top 10 Types of Customers I Can't Stand

So most of you who know me, know that I have worked in a grocery store for the past eight and a half years (yeah, so much for a summer job when I was 15). Anyway, what my almost 9 years in retail has taught me is to identify the type of customers that I absolutely cannot stand. While there is a wide variety of customers that drive me crazy, here are the top ten types of customers that I really can't stand (in no particular order):

  1. Customers who want their bags specifically packed: I don't mean someone who has their own bags or wants paper in plastic or wants their bags packed lightly. I'm talking about that customer who stands there and dictates where each item should go. Frankly, if you're going to be so picky, pack the damn bags yourself. And, if you want certain items bagged together, make sure you put them on the belt that way.
  2. Customers who have no idea how to use self-checkout: I really don't get what is so difficult about the self-checkout machines--you scan the item, put it in the bagging area, and then repeat. You have these spazzes that come up to the machine scan an item, put it in the bagging area, take it, put it back in, take it out, etc. You are confusing the machine! Don't turn around and give me a nasty look because you don't know what the hell you're doing. Also, remember, you are dealing with a machine, not a person. Therefore, there will be crashes, lags, and technical problems. Use at your own risk. And please, only use if you are intelligent enough to handle it.
  3. Extreme couponers: Ever since TLC aired their show, I have seen an upswing in these type of customers. Granted, I have never had a customer with seven carts full of items and be able to pay nothing, but I have had one cartload go out the door and the customer only pay the tax. I understand that people use coupons when they are hard to do or have a big family. However, I have no respect for the people that own little shops and take advantage of our sales and their billion coupons to pay next to nothing only to jack up the prices in their own place to make a great profit. Not only is this illegal, it's also unfair to the customers that are legitimately trying to buy the sale product. I also can't stand the people who brag about their couponing and are nasty about it, espcially when I can't accept a coupon based on our policy. Don't give me attitude. If you have a problem, call corporate.
  4. Customers who stay silent when you talk to them: I'm not asking for a full-blown conversation. I'm not asking for small talk. However, I am asking for some human courtesy. When I say, "Hi, how are you today?" you should respond, "Fine, thanks, how are you?" How hard is that? When you stare blankly at me when I ask how you are, that's incredibly rude. Just be polite, that's all. I'm going to add, and don't talk on your cell phone. It's rude to me and the customers behind you. Not to mention, no one wants to hear about your family or work drama. Keep that to yourself, please.
  5. Customers who abuse the WIC program: This bugs me to no end! For those of you who don't know, WIC stands for Women, Infants, and Children, and it's a program that issues checks for certain products for families that are hard to do. I am all for government programs that help people in need...but it should really be for people who are in need. The WIC checks clearly state exactly what product and what sizes are permitted. Don't give me attitude when I tell you that the product you got is not WIC authorized. You have a copy of everything, you know what you can and cannot get. And I don't appreciate being told that I am wrong when clearly you are. Also, if you can whip out your iPhone to call hubby or wifey to find out what movie you're going to catch that night, then maybe you don't need WIC as badly as some other people. Also, you are given "X" amount of checks for the month in order to use a couple every week. If you save all 20+ checks for the end of the month, what are you doing for the whole month?
  6. Customers who give attitude when I ask for their ID: I am required to ask for your ID. I can lose my job if I don't ID you and you happen to be underage. Don't get nasty because you have to go out to your car to get your driver's license. If you want to smoke cigarettes and spend over $8.00 a pack, that's your choice, but I'm not risking my job for you. And when you tell me "to commit it to memory this time" you can bet your ass I will ask for your ID every single time you come into the store.
  7. The customers who habitually return items: I understand that sometimes we over buy, sometimes we purchase the wrong items, but there comes a point when you are returning all the time. What's the point of buying something if you're just goig to return it? Perhaps if you've never worked in retail, specifically the front desk or as a CSR, you won't understand what I'm saying. But if you have worked there or as one, you know that there are certain customers that are always coming in and returning items, most likely items that they didn't even buy in your store.
  8. The customers who put items they don't want in random aisles or in the magazine/candy racks at the registers: What is so hard about walking up the to cashier, handing them the item you don't want, and saying, "I'm sorry but I decided I didn't want this product."? Don't you realize that anytime you put an item in a random aisle, someone has to find it and put it back where it should go. Also, it's really disgusting when you put a perishable item in an aisle, and then we find it hours later and it's melted or beginning to smell. Seriously, it's gross.
  9. The customers who blame the store for their mistakes...even when they admit they were wrong: Case and point, I had a customer once who bought three items, believing that she would get an instant savings. Upon investigating on her own (i.e. rereading the flyer which clearly states four items must be purchased, not three), she says "I read the flyer wrong--I thought I only had to buy three items, not four. But you know, maybe you should hang up a huge sign so I remember what I'm supposed to buy." misread the flyer. Just because you are illiterate, I shouldn't be blamed. Just admit fault. The customer is not always right.
  10. The customers who think (and insist) that they are better than me because I work in a grocery store: I had a customer have a fit once because I wouldn't reopen a department for them at closing time. They insulted me to my face and told me that they were professionals and didn't deserve to be treated that way. Well...I'm a professional grocery store clerk and I don't deserve to be treated that way. Just because you might be on a salary and I'm paid hourly, doesn't mean I'm any less of a person. And frankly, if it weren't for people like my coworkers and me working in the grocery store, you would be harvesting your own food. Get over yourself. You're no better than me.

So that's it. Those are my 10 types of customers that I really can't stand. I'm sure I will think of more by tomorrow when I work my next shift. So until then...

I'll keep you posted xo

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

C25K-Week 1, Day 2

I just wanted to write up a quick post about my C25K Week 1, Day 2 experience. My friend, Caryn, was talking to me about the program and gave me some really good advice. Although I wanted to go to the gym to do Day 2 yesterday, she suggested that I take the day to rest, and I am really glad I did.

Today, it was a lot less crowded at the gym so I didn't feel so claustrophobic (and self conscious seeing as my cat clawed my face last night). My run was so-so today. Part of me was annoyed with myself because I had to pause for about a minute in the middle of my workout. While my hip didn't bother me so much today, I was having sharp pains in the side of my ankle and I was beginning to limp. I decided to pause because I didn't want to cause an injury. After massaging the area for the brief break, I felt better and went back to my run. The odd thing about this pain was that it only bothered me when I was doing the walking portion, not the running. Weird. Anyway, the good part was that I increased my run speed today, even though it wasn't by much. I felt comfortable at the faster pace but ended up slowing it down a tad after my leg started to hurt. My distance was about the same as Day 1. So all in all, I feel I made a lateral move--I didn't do better, but I didn't do worse so that's a positive to me! I plan on resting again tomorrow and probably doing my final run for the week on Friday.

I plan on stretching better and longer before my next run in hopes of avoiding my hip and leg pain because I suspect that that could be the cause of my aches. I also plan on drinking more water before my workout.

Oh, and I need to invest some money in a decent sports bra. Or a nice big roll of duct tape. Nancy Sinatra's boots may have been made for walking, but my boobs were not made for running.

I'll keep you posted xo

Why Do We Fall for Ones that Won't Fall Back?

Like a lot of things, I am guilty of this. I tend to fall for guys that don't fall back for me. It's frustrating right? You have these overwhelming emotions: you cry because you don't hear from them, you have those butterflies when you're in their company, you smile when you receive a text or a phone call from them. You have every stereotypical "love bug" symptom and don't know what to do with yourself.

Like I said in my last post, one of my biggest problems is my capacity to love and the fact that I can love unconditionally. While this is true, I also suffer from not being able to say it. I am so afriad of being rejected and not having the other person return those feelings that I clam up and don't say anything. In this day and age, I feel there is a lack of love and an abundance of not just hate, but "fake love" (celebrity marriages anyone?). What's so wrong with telling someone you love them? What's so wrong with loving someone so much that your heart wants to burst and you want to twirl around your living room channeling Julie Andrews as you burst into song?

I'm struggling with this now. I'm struggling because I thought I was over someone that I'm not. I'm in love and I can't say it because I don't think he feels the same way. Basically, I can't because it scares the shit out of me. No man has ever said he has loved me (I'm not talking about family love, but the "in love" kind of love). Not once has a guy wrapped me in his arms and whispered in my ear that he loved me. Okay, I'm old enough noq that I don't believe in fairy tales and I know that Walt Disney is a compulsive liar, but even a quick "I love you, Rach" would mean the world to me. More than the world, probably.

I feel like I'm being redundant. I feel like I'm talking in circles about the same thing over and over again. I'm sorry if I am; these thoughts just hit me out of nowhere and being the person that I am, I am compelled to write about it.

My advice to you all? Don't be like me. Don't be afraid to tell someone you love them. Don't be scared that they won't love you back. Maybe the won't, I can't promise they will. But at least you won't live with regret. You won't live with the aching pain I live with everday because I love someone and am too afraid to tell him. And most importantly, don't be afraid to love. It's such a wonderful thing--hard, but wonderful.

And because I can't say it to his face, I will just say it here: I love you.

I'll keep you posted xo

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Judgement of Others (and Myself)

"We can never judge the lives of others,
because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation.
It's one thing to feel that you are on the right path,
but it's another to think that yours is the only path."
-Paulo Coelho
Judgement. It's one of my biggest pet peeves and I got to thinking about it a lot this evening while I was driving home from work. In my first blog post I said one of the things I wanted to work on this year was not comparing myself to others. While I was driving, I had a sudden epiphany--by comparing myself to others I am judging them. I am taking what I see on Facebook and hear from mutual friends, and assuming that their lives are so much better than mine, so much easier, but honestly, what the hell do I know?!
I was talking to a friend today and we got on the subject of relationships. She asked about a relationship that I had recently been in, that ended about a month ago. We not only discussed relationships, but love and men in general. I said to her, "You know, I look on Facebook and I see a lot of our peers getting engaged, married, and/or having children, and I can't help thinking, what the hell is wrong with me? When will it be my turn?" I don't think it's wrong for me to be thinking these things--I have never been the most patient person--and I think my biggest problem is my own capacity to love. I tend to love unconditionally, and never receive it back. Instead of thinking, "maybe it's not my time to settle down yet" I think, "what the hell is wrong with me that no guy loves me?" But is there anything wrong with me? Of course I have my faults. I am in no way close to being perfect. But I do have a lot to offer. I am me and that should be enough.
I feel that I am judged for three main things:
  1. The way I look (specifically my weight)
  2. The fact that I still live at home
  3. The fact that I don't have a "career"

To address #1: I know I'm not beauty queen pretty. I know that I am a full-figured woman in a world where being skinny is everything. I'm working on my weight, but not because I want to conform to society's view on what is beautiful, but because I want to make myself a priority in my own life and that means being more healthy. As a verteran online dater, it's hard when I see all these people look at my profile and not say anything to me or ignore my messages to them. Why state in your profile that what you're looking for is a sweet girl with a compassionate heart who can bring out the best in you? Nowhere does it mention that you must be skinny to fulfill the position. It's frustrating to me and not to mention disheartening. I want someone to accept me for me, whether I'm a size 4 or 40. I think I have some pretty qualities; my hair can be nice when the weather cooperates, I love my eye color, and have been told that I have really nice lips. What about me is not good enough? Why am I judged based on how I look?

To address #2: I live at home because I don't have a lot of money. I am a college graduate who is trying to pay off her college loans. Mind you, they are pretty expesive and I was a commuter who went to a state school. I also live in very affluent area so to find a place for a decent price in my locale is very hard to come by. Yes, I live at home, but I also pay all my own bills. Just because I don't have my own place doesn't mean I'm irresponsible or dependent. It means that I am not perfect, I probably spent more money than I should as a teenager (i.e. when I first entered college, I needed to have all new books, none used. I would have saved myself a ton of money if I had realized used books are a lot better sooner; I could have gone to community college for free but refused to because I was too snotty), and I only work part-time so all my money goes towards bills.

To address #3: When I went to college, I opted to get my degree in something I love rather than something practical. I went for a liberal arts degree (literature with a concentration in creative writing), and didn't want to go for teaching. I have been trying for a year and half to get a full time job as a copy writer, journalist, something in a publishing company or a newspaper, secretary, office manager, basically anything full time to get myself into "the working world". To those of you that are unaware, the economy is not the greatest at the moment. All the publishing companies seem to want someone with experience, not entry level. You think I like not being able to work in my field? And to be honest, I am a very hard worker. When I realized that my retail job was just covering my bills and I had no comfort zone (I couldn't call out if I was sick because I couldn't afford it) and I couldn't get a full time job anywhere, I opted to get a second part-time job to help pay my bills. I have found that a lot of people are negative towards this, treating me like I'm garbage because I work two jobs. Umm, excuse me but who are you to judge? I actually had a coworker make a comment to me saying "well at least I didn't graduate long ago now?...and I still work at Acme." This infuriates me to no end! At least I have a job...actually I have two. I do what I need to do to pay my bills while I continue to search for a full time job.

Why can't people look at me for me? Why can't people see the girl who had to grow up at 9 years old to take care of her baby (literally, an infant) sister because her parents were getting a divorce? Why can't people see the girl that worked her ass off in high school to get into a good college? Why can't people see the girl who started working at 15 to gain some type of independence? Why can't people see that I'm a sweet, kind, caring, compassionate, loving girl who just wants to be loved in return? Maybe it's just too much to ask.

And I am just as guilty with the judgements. I get frustrated (and jealous) when I see people flaunt their "perfect lives" on Facebook--you know, they have the fiance/full time job/own place. And I'm still stuck living at home, working two part-time jobs, sleeping by myself with a heart that's been broken many a time. But the truth is, I don't know the truth about their lives. I don't know how hard they had to work to get their job. I don't know how many times they had to have their heart broken until they found the right one. I don't know them, and I shouldn't assume they have the perfect life that I so desire. It's a vicious cycle and I think a lot of us do it. And it's not right.

So, I'm going to work on stopping the cycle. I'm going to stop judging my life based on others, and I'm going to stop worrying about others judging me. Because the truth is I am me and I am good enough. And I deserve nothing less than that.

I'll keep you posted xo