all gender

Do Your Business and Mind Your Business

I don’t normally deal with political issues on this blog. But really this isn’t a political issue and it never should have been. It’s an issue of compassion, human decency and equality. Period.

I’ve been pretty much buried in grieving Prince for the last few days so I don’t know how unisex bathrooms got to be a hot button issue all of a sudden, but all I can say is: get over it.

First of all, do I really need to point out the total wrong-headedness of equating transgender folks and gays with pedophiles? Because I sure as hell hope I don’t have to. I hope that we’ve come far enough that we’re able to realize the distinction between homosexuality, pedophilia and being transgender. Look here – when someone is a heterosexual, they aren’t attracted to every single individual of the opposite sex on the planet. That’s not how it works. Homosexual people are not attracted to every single individual of their sex, either. So get over yourself. All heterosexuals are not pedophiles, so why the hell would anyone equate homosexuality or being transgender with being a pedophile?

Let me tell you something. someone very near and dear to me is transgender and I love him like a brother. I know the struggles he’s gone through in his life. I know his heartaches and I know his suffering and I was blessed to be around to see the absolutely amazing transformation he underwent when he was finally able to start living his life as a man. HE IS A MAN. Period. I’ve known him since birth and he has always been a man. So yeah, this is a sensitive issue for me because I can’t stand to see him living in more torment and fear because of people with narrow minds.

And stop bringing up the sexual assault angle. Just stop it. If someone is bent on sexually assaulting someone in a bathroom, a swinging door and a sign with a stick person in a skirt isn’t going to stop them. And your children are safe, trust me. Stranger danger is a tired old myth. Child abductions by strangers or slight acquaintances make up one one-hundredth of one percent of all missing children. And up to 90% of sexually abused children are abused not by strangers, but by family members and other people they know. Your children are more in danger of meeting a sexual predator online or in their own home than they are in a public bathroom.

And once transgender people get into the bathroom that they actually belong in, what are they going to see? Well, if they’re identifying as a male and have a penis, then they’ll use a urinal just like every other guy. If they identify as a man and don’t have a penis, they’ll use a stall. Problem solved. If they identify as a woman and do or don’t have a penis it won’t make a damn bit of difference because there are no urinals in women’s restrooms. Seriously – when was the last time you saw anyone’s genitals in a restroom except your own? Everything private you need to do is done behind a stall door or else you’re doing it wrong.

Be honest – it’s uncomfortable. It’s new and it’s weird and it’s not the way things have been done before. I get it. Change is uncomfortable. Every time I get a new cell phone it takes me six months to figure out how to use the damn thing. But it’s not okay to discriminate against a group of people because you think something is icky. Look at the way things are headed and realize that change is inevitable. Gay people are going to keep being gay and they’re going to keep falling in love and getting married. That’s a fact of life. And transgender people have been using the bathrooms all along – you just didn’t know it because nobody was making a big issue out of it and making you feel all scared about it. So instead of digging in your heels and resisting equality, why not examine exactly what your real fears are about and think about whether they’re rooted in reality or if they’re just knee-jerk reactions because “the way things have always been done” is changing? I can assure you – they just want to pee just like you do!

I know this might piss off some of my readers, and if it does, well…I’m not going to say I’m sorry because I’m not. This is something I’m passionate about and I’m going to fight it until the day I die because it’s what’s right. But before you disregard what I’m saying, I want you to read these statistics:

  • Transgender people are four times more likely than the general population to be living in extreme poverty (making less than $10,000 a year). Many are forced into the sex trade just to be able to survive.
  • Almost 80% of transgender people reported having experienced harassment in school as children.
  • 72% of anti-LGBT murders were committed against transgender women.
  • Transgender people are 7 times more likely to experience violence at the hands of law enforcement than non-transgender people.
  • 90% of transgender people report having experienced discrimination or harassment on the job.
  • Nearly 20% of transgender people report having been homeless at some point in their lives.
  • 41% of transgender people have attempted suicide at least once. The rate among the general population is under 5%.

Not all transgender people are as lucky as Caitlyn Jenner. Most live in constant anxiety, terrified they’re going to be “found out” and someone’s going to react violently. And they’ve struggled harder than just about any other group of people just to be accepted and treated equally with other human beings. So let’s stop making issues where there are none, okay? And here’s something I really hope catches on:

you're safe

 

I hope that this catches on. If you’re in Ohio and you want to use the bathroom you belong in, ladies – I’ll go with you.  You’re safe, love.

Much love. – Mama Bear

 

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12 Tips For A Happy Relationship

My husband and I have been married for 26 years now. I don’t think this necessarily makes either of us experts on the subject of marriage, but I do think we know some valuable stuff. And we know a lot more of it than we did 27 years ago.

eiffel tower(My husband and I celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary with a trip to Paris – we’re on the Eiffel Tower and we have our handstitched berets on a la “European Vacation”.)

Now before someone who knows me personally points this out, yes, my husband and I were separated for about 2 years and divorced for exactly 11 months back in the early 2000s. We usually don’t count it because we were still very close during that time apart while we were working on our issues, and we’ve always been best friends. And though I couldn’t have seen it then, it actually did us a lot of good in many ways. I wouldn’t go through it again, but we’re stronger for it.

(Just a note: when I refer to “spouse”, I mean significant other. If you’re in a long-term relationship, I think all of this applies whether you’ve got a marriage certificate or not.)

So here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. Don’t take one another for granted. It’s very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget to nurture your relationship and your partner. But just like anything else in life, something that’s neglected will not grow. Look at your relationship as a plant or a child – it won’t grow unless you feed it and take care of it. Little things go a long way – a love note in a lunchbox, a hug while you’re cooking dinner, a message written on the bathroom mirror or just a compliment when they aren’t expecting it – little things mean a lot. And ladies – don’t discount the little gestures. We’re all raised on fairy tales and rom-coms, but this is the real world. Not every guy can write poetry and sing you ballads, so don’t expect it. Someone doing a load of laundry for you when you’re exhausted or buying your tampons when you’re crampy or giving the kids a bath so you can finish your homework is every bit as romantic as roses and candlelit dinners. Fairy tales are for little kids. And a real, honest, loving, long-term relationship is far better than any fairy tale.
  2. Relationships aren’t 50/50 – they’re 110/110. If you’re only doing half the work, you’re not doing enough. You both have to put your all into your marriage and it has to come first. I’m not saying neglect your children or your friends, but you shouldn’t be putting off date night simply because you’re parents. And you shouldn’t be spending more time with your girlfriends or your buddies than you do your spouse. Again, what you focus on will grow. If you don’t make time for each other, and you don’t put the effort in, you’re headed for trouble. As with everything else in life, you can’t be successful if you’re lazy.
  3. Don’t talk shit about your partner, don’t let anyone else talk shit about them, and if your friends are in toxic relationships, be careful how much time you spend with them. Misery really does love company. My husband has often told the tale of how often his co-workers would get in bitch sessions about their wives when he worked in a factory. And inevitably, it would be his turn and he’d be silent. So one of the guys would ask, “What about your wife?”, he’d either deflect or just stay silent. Because our relationship is private. We don’t bitch to our parents about each other, we don’t complain to our friends and NEVER EVER to our children. NEVER. I can’t emphasize that one enough. Do not involve your children in your problems. And we both try very hard to distance ourselves from people who trash talk their spouses because it’s too easy to get caught up in their drama and the next thing you know, you’re mad and you don’t even know why. I am my husband’s biggest fan, and he is mine. And everyone that knows us knows that. If you need someone to talk about your marriage with, talk to each other. If you need more help, find a friend that you know will be supportive of both of you and give you straight talk, not someone who will trash your spouse because they think that’s what you need to hear. Or go to counseling. And if it’s not “cool” to be happy among your friends, you need better friends.
  4. Get your shit together. It’s true, we all have issues but you owe it to yourself and your relationship to get your issues worked out ASAP. It’s not up to your spouse to be your free therapist and trust me when I say your odds of being in and staying in a happy relationship will improve drastically if you have a healthy mindset. Otherwise, your spouse stands to inherit all the anger, bitterness, disappointment and sadness you’re carrying around with you or they will spend all their time trying to make up for the love, approval, attention, etc you didn’t get before you met them or the damage your parents or your last girlfriend did. And that’s not fair. And if you’ve suffered trauma, GET PROFESSIONAL HELP. There is absolutely no way you’re going to be able to sustain a healthy relationship if you have untreated trauma. I wish someone had told me all this when I was younger. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with admitting that you need help.
  5. Don’t turn your spouse into your “project”. If you have a list of things you need to change about them, why are you with them? Don’t go into a relationship with someone who says they don’t want kids and think they’ll change their mind later. Don’t date Seth Rogen hoping you can change him into James Bond. Your spouse is a person, not a project. He’s not some rundown house you’re trying to flip. And guys, you can’t take a girl with a shit ton of issues and hope that your love is enough to fix all of them. Love them as they are. If you can’t take the fact that he wears t-shirts and jeans, change your outlook – don’t change him. Be with someone you don’t want to change.
  6. Learn to communicate. I think we do a great disservice to our kids by not teaching them to communicate properly. Yelling is not communicating. Neither is slamming doors. Or the silent treatment. Or trying to find their weak spots so you can hurt them. Manipulation isn’t either. Work on telling someone what’s bugging you instead of just assuming that they should know. Don’t expect them to be mind-readers. No matter how much someone loves you, they can’t develop psychic abilities and they shouldn’t have to. If you need a second to figure out how to word something so it’s not hurtful, then take a break but make sure you tell them that’s what is going on. And don’t threaten to leave. That’s cruel. If you don’t have those skills naturally (and most of us don’t), read books on relationship skills or go to couples counseling. Most of us learn by watching our parents, and most of them weren’t taught to communicate, either.
  7. Grow up. Being selfish and being immature isn’t conducive to a happy relationship. Both of you will have to make sacrifices along the way. You won’t always get to have everything you want and you have to be okay with that. You’ll need to learn to save money (another thing not all of us are taught as kids). There will have to be compromise. If you’re not ready to give up your partying to spend weekends at home with a family, realize that before you commit and act accordingly. If your single girlfriends can’t understand why you can’t go out with them all the time, that’s not your problem. If you can’t afford the man cave, the boat, the craft studio, the BMW, the 21-day European tour, the old Victorian that needs $200k of work, then deal with that reality. Don’t go crazy into debt trying to keep up with the Joneses, or make your spouse feel guilty because they can’t provide those things. Here’s a secret: no one needs to pamper you like a spoiled kitten. And “things” will never make you happy. And if you want a house, a new car, a vacation – make a realistic plan TOGETHER, save money TOGETHER, and make sure that you’re both working toward that goal TOGETHER. I always wanted a great big old house that we could fix up and always dreamed I’d have that. Then I grew up and realized a) I hate home improvement b) I don’t want to clean a 2,500 square foot house c) we could probably have that, but that meant we’d never be able to afford vacations or going out to eat or to the movies and concerts d) I’d rather not have my husband work himself to death to afford that e) We wanted one of us to be home with the kids. So we lived in our starter home for 20+ years, didn’t buy a new car every 2 years, and I stayed home with the kids and we got to go on vacations and go to concerts and spend more time together. Those were the goals we set together. And we’ve always been proud that we did it ourselves, with very little outside help and we created a happy life and a happy family.
  8. Don’t lie to each other. Just don’t get in that habit. If you have to lie about something, chances are you know you shouldn’t be doing it. And you will always get found out. Don’t lie about how much money you’re spending. Don’t lie and tell her you worked late and then go out with the boys. Don’t lie and tell her you paid the car payment when you blew the money on lottery tickets. Don’t sneak a smoke or a drink when he’s not around just because you know he’ll be upset. And again, if you have friends that encourage that, you need to take a good hard look at whether or not that friendship is a healthy one. You cannot have a healthy relationship if it’s based on lies. I know a lot of us hide things because we don’t want to deal with disapproval, but the easier solution is to talk it out or just not do whatever will bring on that disapproval.
  9. Remember that you’re a team. We got married really young, (4 days after I turned 19) and we had a 3-month old baby and I’m pretty sure there were plenty of people who thought we’d never last. That just made us more determined to make it work. Even when we were separated, we spent a lot of time talking and working on our own issues and trying to be better people. And when things got tough, neither of us went running back to our parents or friends – we circled the wagons and stayed up all night talking and arguing and crying until we got back on track. And we really are each other’s best friend and biggest fan. My husband promotes this blog more than I do! Why? It’s not making him any money or earning him any fame. But it’s because it’s something that makes me happy and because he’s proud of me. When one of us is sick, the other is there to help out. I’m even trying to understand football a bit. Not because I love it, but because he does and I want to share that with him. And because his happiness is important to me. (It still doesn’t make much sense to me, but I know when to cheer, so I’m doing better.)
  10. Learn to say these two words and MEAN them: “I’m sorry”. Let your pride go. It doesn’t make you less of a person to apologize – it makes you more of one. I’m not a huge fan of Dr. Phil, but there’s one thing he said that I’ve always tried to keep in mind: “Would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?”. There are a lot of really lonely people out there sitting real secure in the fact that they were right, but personally I’d rather be happy. Have you ever sat and listened to a couple argue over one ridiculous detail in a story and wanted to slap them both? “No, it wasn’t March 14th it was March 15th.” “No, I distinctly remember it was the 14th because…blah blah blah.” They’re both so damn sure they’re right and it makes not one bit of difference in the story but they’re gonna argue it out for the next 20 minutes anyway. How is being right THAT important to you? But we’ve all done it from time to time – I guarantee it. And if you’ve hurt someone’s feelings, apologize. Even if you didn’t mean to hurt them, you should still apologize. We taught that to our kids from a young age and I think it’s a valuable lesson. Whether you think you’re in the right or not, it’ll go a long way toward building a happier relationship. Trust me in this. (Plus Dr. Phil agrees.)
  11. Realize that things will change as you grow older but that’s not a bad thing. It seems like society always looks at the young, passionate lovers as the ideal but there’s a lot to be said for the comforts and security (and yes, still passion) of a long-term relationship. Sure, it’s great when you’re first together and you just can’t get enough of each other and it’s all x’s and o’s and all that. But as you grow older, things change and if it doesn’t stay like that, that doesn’t mean that your relationship is bad or that it’s over. Realize that relationships change and so do people. They change with having children. They change with aging and illness and a lot of other things. Learn to groove with that. Both of us have grey hair, neither of us look like we did at 18, and we’ve been through health scares and deaths and a million other hardships and struggles. But I wouldn’t trade one second of what we are now for those early crazy days together. It took me 20 years to realize that this man was in it for the long haul. Yeah, is that crazy or what? I wouldn’t go back to being that scared, insecure girl for any amount of money even if I did have a better body back then. I know without a shadow of a doubt this man will be there no matter what, no matter how old I get, no matter how infirm and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Show me a couple that’s been married 50 years that still holds hands – that’s real love.
  12. And finally – don’t go into a relationship with an “out”. Don’t go into it with the idea that you can always leave. Instead, go into it with the idea in mind that you’re going to do everything you can to make it work, even if it’s something scary (like going to therapy), even if you don’t think it’ll work. You can’t have a successful relationship unless you’re both all in. Give it everything you’ve got. Love with your whole self. Don’t hold anything back. Be stubborn in your defense of your relationship. Make it work and don’t give up until you absolutely have no other choice. And even then, keep fighting to make it work.

Holy hell – I wrote a book! Like I said, I’m not an expert, but I learned a lot of things the hard way and I really would love it if nobody else had to do that.

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Try to always make time for fun together. <3

Wishing you much love, much happiness and much laughter. – Mama Bear

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Live (and Love) With Courage

Risk to Bloom

I don’t usually do this kind of thing, but today I feel compelled to share about a movie I just watched called “Hector and the Search for Happiness”. Now this blog really isn’t about product or movie reviews, but sometimes something just fits, and believe me, this movie does.

Here’s how the movie opens:

Once upon a time, there was a young psychiatrist called Hector, who had a very satisfactory life. His world was tidy, uncomplicated. And he liked it that way. He took great comfort in its predictable patterns. Patterns his girl friend Clara was happy to maintain.

Hector was like so many of us, going through the motions in our lives, safe in our cocoons, really afraid to take too many chances, to step out of our comfort zones. Let’s face it, doing things that make us uncomfortable, taking chances, thinking too hard or digging too deeply can lead to chaos. It can make life messy. And it’s scary. So we play it safe. And for a lot of us that’s especially true in our relationships. So we live life just skimming the surface.

And we wonder why we’re not happy. What are we doing wrong? Why can’t we be happy? There has to be an answer, right?

Well, maybe the answer is more money. More stuff. Another vacation. Moving to another city. More “friends” on social media. A better job. Another drink. Another pill. A different pill. Another kid. A dog. Or maybe a cat.

We spend so much of our lives in the pursuit of happiness. Or at least we think that’s what we’re doing. We think we’re running after happiness with both hands, but it always seems to be out of reach. So what is it we’re missing?

In my opinion it boils down to one simple concept: connection.

As it turns out, the people who wrote “Hector” agree with me. Without giving too much away, Hector discovers that without deep, meaningful, imperfect, soulful and sometimes chaotic connections to others, we’re missing the entire point of being here. And we’re never going to find happiness. And true and deep connection is what’s missing from so many of our lives.

Think of it this way – how many times in a week do we see absolutely horrifying statistics in the news? __ number of Syrian refugees fleeing for their lives. ___ people suffering during an outbreak of _____ . ____ dead or wounded in a mass shooting.  Or on the flip side, ____ dogs rescued from a puppy mill. A family of ___ rescued from a fire. And the statistics leave us momentarily shocked and saddened, or if they’re positive, give us a little bit of feelgood, but then we click on something else and go on about our day.

Then someone posts a photo of one child in a hospital bed, tubes and bandages all over, his mother sitting by his side and the story becomes real. This kid isn’t a statistic. This is a real person, with a name, with parents that care for him, whose pain we can see and on some level, understand. Some part of our souls connect with him or with his parents.

Or we are brought to tears by video of a group of people standing by the side of the road at the border in Hungary, waiting for hungry, terrified families from Syria to arrive. And suddenly those Syrians aren’t just a statistic anymore. They’re families – mothers and fathers and children trying to escape war and devastation and keep their families safe. We’ve connected to them on a spiritual, human level and it’s made a difference. Hopefully those kind of connections inspire us to take better care of one another but at the very least, they remind us of our humanity and that we’re more alike than we realize sometimes.

And what about in our personal relationships? So often we hold just a bit of ourselves back. Let’s face it, loving someone, connecting with them with our whole selves, can be so frightening. When we open up, when we expose the tenderest parts of ourselves, we also open ourselves up to hurt and abandonment and betrayal. But if we don’t?

Best case scenario? We end up like Hector. Living a comfy life, skimming the surface, never really risking anything or diving too deep. And then we’re gone. Worst case scenario? We end up in intensely unsatisfying, stale, loveless relationships. We might even end up in dysfunctional or abusive relationships.

We certainly don’t end up happy.

A lot of us talk about this in terms of putting up walls. And we convince ourselves that those walls are there for our protection. We want people to love us, but we make them jump through hoops and climb those walls to prove themselves. And if they can’t or won’t? Well then it all just became some sort of sick self-fulfilling prophecy, didn’t it? Our inner scaredy cat tells us that we were right all along – it’s not worth it. Nobody is going to stick around. No one can love us like that. It’s not worth it to take the risk or to open ourselves up.

I’m here to tell you it’s absolutely, positively, unequivocally worth the risk. We can’t truly live without connecting to others, without being open to the idea that making the leap, taking the chance is going to end in something truly wonderful and lasting. Does it mean you’ll never get hurt? No, it doesn’t. But what it means is, the connections you’ve made with others in your life will bring you the strength, the happiness, the connectedness to get you through. And it means that the lessons you learned by taking a chance will help you the next time. Not everyone will treat your open heart with kindness. But if you don’t try, you’ll never find someone that will.

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I tried for a really long time to convince myself that the walls that I built were for self-protection, and that they served a good purpose. They kept me from getting hurt when people left, or disappointed me in some way. But what it really did was keep me in relationships that weren’t healthy and make the people I loved most question why I was always hesitating, holding back. And I really don’t want to live that way anymore. But I won’t lie – it’s been scary trying to make these changes. People are perfectly within their rights to reject me or to be skeptical or suspicious of the change. And like I said, opening up means I risk rejection or hurt. But I’d much rather risk that than risk living my entire life feeling that I’ve only just skimmed the surface of what my life could’ve been.

I think Hector must’ve discovered the same thing:

Once upon a time, there was a young psychiatrist called Hector, who was very satisfied with his life. His world was complex, sometimes even chaotic. And he liked it that way. He took comfort in the rich, random patterns of his life.

So my challenge to you this week is simply this: Make a connection. Connect on a deeper level with just one person in your life. It can be your significant other, your child, a good friend. Don’t hold back. Wear your heart on your sleeve and let them in. Or if you aren’t quite ready for that, make a connection on another level. Join a group online for people that you have something in common with or maybe look through the newspaper for events in your area where you can connect with others. Or just go hang out at a coffee shop or library or a park and strike up a conversation with a stranger. Don’t be afraid. The more you open yourself up to connect with others, the better and bigger your life will be. I guarantee it.

And don’t just take it from me. Watch “Hector and the Search for Happiness” (it’s on Netflix) and you’ll see what I mean.

Have a beautiful, connected, heartfelt week, my lovelies. I’ll see you soon! – Mama Bear