What Happened, America?

What happened America?
Michelle Obama and Jackie Kennedy
This photo showed up on my Facebook timeline the other day, and for the first time in a long time I physically shook my head and rolled my eyes in contempt at my computer screen. After gathering myself and deciding against a mini-social media tirade/melt-down, I took a deep breath and contemplated the stupidity of the implications contained within it. And then sat on all of the things I wanted to say for a week.

On the left, sits a demure and silent Jackie Kennedy. Pristine and smiling, but hard as nails underneath. All the while, unable to show her strength outwardly for the sake of propriety. And then, on the right, we have Michelle Obama – passionate, confident, and animated. A woman unashamed of her beliefs, her passion and her pure physicality. All politics aside, I know which kind of woman I was brought up to be, and it wasn’t the one who would sit back and take everything on the chin while portraying an image of physical and emotional perfection. No, I personally am much more Obama than I am Kennedy.

And there’s one reason for that. One big reason filled to the brim with millions of tiny implications wrapped inside it. That thing that happened to America and happened to me is the very same thing that has had women striving for equality in the workplace and at home for the last four decades. It’s the driving force between having a choice and a voice – or not.

That thing is progress.

Progress happened to America.

I feel for Jackie Kennedy in a way. She was a prisoner of not only the times she was living in, but of the strong men around her. Her husband’s ambition and his infidelities were more important than having a public voice. She was a strong woman for sure, she didn’t bend nor buckle under intense scrutiny or pressure. But, by the same token, she did not lead Jackie ofrom the front (in fact she often stood in the background). Nor did she ever speak up against a man who did her wrong over and over and over again. Jackie Kennedy was known for her flawless body and her fashion sense. She was a mother and a wife – and she filled those roles in the way that she was mandated to. Quietly, full of grace and dignity, and seemingly unsuffering.

None of this makes Jackie Kennedy less of a person – but when put beside Michelle Obama, she seems almost meek. Obama is not only a strong woman physically, she leads by example and isn’t afraid to speak her mind and come up with new ideas and initiatives to drive herself and her own goals. In images, she is often seen beside (or even ahead of) her husband. She is his equal.

This, my friends, is the picture of progress.

Passion, intelligence, and having a voice apart from her hubby is something I really admire in Michelle Obama. One thing’s for certain, when I see her I truly believe she wouldn’t stand for such public instances of scorn and dalliance by her hubby…even if he is the current POTUS. Not since Eleanor Roosevelt has a First Lady shown who she is so openly.

Hilary Clinton is another strong First Lady – but she, too, is another woman who has hidden her passions and humor at the expense of her political ambitions. Her ambitions have always been big, strong and have matched her husband’s in a political sense. Yet, as a woman even Hilary is ridiculed and made to deal with the public scorn for her husband’s inability to keep his member in his pants. There’s still a long way we have to go to stop blaming women for the actions of their men.MIchelle

In fact, I believe we need more First Ladies like Michelle Obama and Hilary. Good mothers, strong leaders, intelligent, driven women.

So when people ask what happened to America in comparing these two First Ladies? Progress, people.

Progress.

Gratefully aware

Sometimes I find myself rolling my eyes at my computer screen. Okay, not just sometimes…often. I’m constantly shocked by how openly people complain/moan/whine/whinge online – about such trivial, boring things. I wonder, quite often, if these openly morose social media souls are like this in real life. And I hope they’re not. Because, my god they’d be insufferable!

What is it in today’s culture that makes people think that the world owes them anything? That waking up healthy and free isn’t the best gift of all – and that everything else you have is just icing on the cake? People who can’t see just how much they’ve got really get to me. Especially the ones with healthy kids, a roof over their heads, food in the fridge, and jobs they are able to go to and work hard at to earn a living.

Seriously…what’s with the negative nellies? What has changed in the age of technology and ADD/TMI Online sharing that make lots of folks think that the rest of their social world want to hear all of their complaints with the world? When did self-editing become extinct?

Thanks to the beauty of cyberspace, over the past three months I’ve been shaping my social media world to suit my own outlook on life. The boo-hooers and serial complainers are gone. Erased from all of my timelines and replaced by the folks who see silver linings in even the most ominous of rain clouds. I’d be lying if I said that having a positive place to visit online hasn’t made me an even happier person, because it has.

Practicing thoughtfulness when it comes positivity is worth the time it takes to wash your hands of friends online who only bring you down. That said, I’m not some heartless being who doesn’t believe there’s always room for true sadness and anger – real emotions – online. Of course people are allowed to share their lives honestly without fear of getting the social “chop”. But all of those repeat offenders of negativity are gone from my world – by choice. I choose the people who make my heart smile.

Go on, take 30 minutes. Clean out your timelines, your friends lists, and own your social media experience.

You’ll thank yourself.

Pondering People

 

Sometimes I wonder about people.

Most of the time I wonder about specific people – people I know well, know of, or would like to know better. More often than not, I wonder about strangers. About all of us. Humanity as a whole. Because, no matter how hard we work at differentiating ourselves from the pack, no matter how loudly we shout our individuality from the rooftop, no matter how bright a peacock feather we wear in public…we’re all, simply, people.

Which is why, I wonder about people. A lot.

Why do we all do what we do. Why do we follow the crowd, enjoy the comfort of daily rituals yet exalt in moments of madness and off-the-beaten-trackedness…? People are intriguing. Really, we’re all wonder-full.

Now, don’t get me wrong in reading the above. I’m not trying to sound deep, existential, or even obtuse. The thing is, I’ve been taking public transport daily (for the first time in my life) which has given me a lot of time to think, to watch, to listen, and to truly take in the world around me. Bus life man, it’s a trip!

And it makes me wonder.

Especially about people.
About stereotypes.
About groups.
And, about what makes us all tick as individuals verses what makes us all tick as part of a larger mass of humanity.

In theory, we all have the same basic needs (food, shelter, water, safety, etc), but when you pull an individual apart from their “pack” you get a glimpse of individuality. And sometimes, while I sit pondering the human condition on the bus in rush-hour-traffic, I start to believe that individuality is all just smoke and mirrors. Is it? I don’t know.

Take me for example: a typical Californian living overseas trying to be atypical while carving out a small niche in the world in which I am set apart from others. Yet, no matter how hard I try to be “different” I’m always lumped into the “gregarious” or “bubbly” or “insert any other social norm here” group. I guess that’s because we only get to know people superficially for the most part.

In all reality, I’m the same as everyone else. No different from the guy next to me on the bus – well, a little different (I wonder what his story is? And I wonder if he wonders about mine.) So if we’re all the same – why do we all strive to be different?

I wonder.

People, we’re funny, funny creatures. Funny, wonder-full creatures.

Letting Go – Fireflies and Summer Nights

 

Some words for my cousin, who was laid to rest beneath the Missouri ground today.

ImageHey Brad, I’ve written this as quickly as possible – because the longer I think about you being gone, the harder it is to accept. The harder it is to keep myself from breaking down in tears. The harder it is to keep anger away – to stop shaking my fists at the sky and cursing the day we lost you. My apologies if this isn’t very polished, but I know you’d understand.

I should start off with saying that you weren’t perfect Brad, but by god you were ours. We share the same blood, the same grandparents, and some of the same memories from childhood. Loving you was easy as children because of who you were. Smile painted on. Humble but confident. The sun danced in your eyes when you’d laugh. Eyes that were innocent and ornery all at once.

You were exactly the kind of little cousin that all big cousins need – and I, for one, always looked forward to summers or winter holidays spent at Grandma and Grandpa’s simply because I knew I’d get to see you and Brandon. Seeing you guys was better than spending the day at Disneyland. It was a gift. And, even as a child, I understood just how important and how fleeting our time together was.

We’d run around all day outside. In the heat, or the cold… and after dark we’d catch fireflies and keep them in jars. We’d watch them buzz around in those jars and then feel bad for them and set them free. All the while watching until the magical lights in their tails would extinguish into the vast dark night sky above us.

Like a firefly in a jar – Brad, we have to set you free and you have to fly away. Your light is a memory that I will always hold tight. I promise you I will keepFireflies our precious memories locked in a special place in my heart, revisiting them often and smiling for thinking of you.

From the little boy who started out shy and quiet, to the big man who loved the land and working with his hands, you’re a million sweet memories left in the minds of many, many people. And Brad, saying goodbye isn’t easy. In fact, it sucks. This is so hard to understand. You’ve left four beautiful babies and so many more people missing you. Thinking about your kids without you as they grow is heart breaking. But it is their reality now. I know you’ll look after them, and over them as they grow.

The last time we were together it was a warm summer’s day at our family reunion and you were telling me about your farm. Your work. Your family. Your pride and joy in life was infectious. My biggest sadness is knowing the next time we all gather, you won’t be there. I’ll never see that big grin. Never tease you about your belt buckle again. But you will live on in us.

Fly high, Brad. And know how much you were loved and will be missed. From New Zealand to Missouri, I love you, little firefly cousin. Until we meet again…

Cassie