From Tracie

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

This Is My Fight Song

I've been meaning to write something for Dean and Courtney's That's What She Said link up for weeks now, and today I'm actually sitting down to do it. The prompt is a line from Rachel Platten's Fight Song...

This Is My Fight Song

If I was to get very literal with you (the real meaning of literal - not the new ridiculous meaning where "literally" somehow means not literal at all), I would say my fight song for many years has been Be Wise, Be Strong, Be You. It is the song I put on repeat when I write hard things. It is the song I have sung, clung to, screamed, written out on paper when there were no other words, cried with, danced to, and shouted...
"If they shut one door then you open another
There's no telling where you'll go from here
And if they take your spirit keep your soul under cover
Make your path and just stay in the clear
So be wise, be strong, be you
There's nothing that you can't do."
- Be Wise, Be Strong, Be You - Cee Cee Michaela
I have a playlist on Spotify named "Tracie's Power Music" that is all of my fight songs. It is one of the few playlists I've taken the time to cultivate - only really great songs that are full of heart words make the cut. Songs that weave a mantle of strength around me.
"'Cause I have been where you are before
And I have felt the pain of losing who you are
And I have died so many times, but I am still alive
This is not the end of me, this is the beginning."
- I Belive - Christina Perri
What is my fight song in less literal terms? What is it that helps me to take back my life, to make me all right, to turn up my power, and make me strong? Words. Writing. This space.
"Nothing's gonna hurt you the way that words do
When they settle 'neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you
Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave."
- Brave - Sara Bareilles
If writing online is a poem that builds an incredible portrait of what it is like to be alive now - then this really is my fight song. Even thought this is the piece of me that I give to the world, it is also the piece I keep very much for myself.
"But you've gotta make your own kind of music
Sing your own special song
Make your own kind of music
Even if nobody else sings along."
- Make Your Own Kind Of Music - Mama Cass
In writing, I can be truly and honestly me in ways that aren't always so easy out there in daily conversation. I can take the time to be thoughtful. I can take chances and take flight.
"Get up and go
Take a chance and be strong
Or you could spend your whole life holding on
Don't look back; just go
Take a breath, move along
Or you could spend your whole life holding on."
- Go - Boys Like Girls
And maybe, on occasion, I can write the things that are in your heart, too.

Just like any good fight song.

What is your fight song? 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Keep Your Kids On Track For A Safe Summer

Tracking Pixel My childhood summer days were comprised of hours of reading punctuated by bike rides and occasional adventures in the woods. When I was little, there were a lot of safety rules my mom taught me over and over again - only jump in the water feet first, look both ways before crossing a street (preferably while holding the hand of an adult), don't talk to strangers, no playing or gathering blackberries near the train tracks, sit on your butt while sliding down a slide, mind the warning flags at the beach, and absolutely stay away from the half burnt down house in the woods.

Now that I'm the mom, it is my job to share those safety rules with Katarina. And I'm not off the hook because she is in her tween years. I only have to think back to the time I thought it would be a good idea to jump off of my friend's roof when I was 12 years old to remind myself that tweens and teens need safety rules, too.

That is why I am excited to work with Shriners Hospitals for Children® this summer to help promote their On Track For A Safe Summer Campaign. Because parents need all the help and support they can get as they teach their kids about safety.

Shriners Hospitals For Children Safe Summer Event

National Safety Month

June has been designated National Safety Month. It is the start of summer - or what public health and medical professionals in the United States call "trauma season," because serious injuries and unintentional deaths increase dramatically among children during these months. Scary.

Shriners Hospitals For Children Logo
Katarina and I recently attended a safe summer event at Shriners Hospitals for Children® in Tampa. It was pretty awesome. The kids and their parents were taken on a journey through several safety stations to learn important tips. I'm going to share some of my favorites with you today, so you can help your kids get on track for a safe summer.

Safe Summer Tip: Wear Sunscreen EVERY Time You Go Outside
I'm all about sunscreen now that I'm an adult, but kids just want to run outside and play as fast as they can. I remember those years of not caring about sunscreen, and I remember the second degree burns I got after I spent nine hours at the beach without any sunscreen when I was a teenager. Ouch! As you might guess, I took Katarina straight to the sunscreen station to reinforce the lessons I've been teaching her since she was little.

Shriners Hospitals for Children® knows what kids like. They made the stations both informative and fun, as you can see in the picture of Katarina getting ready to go outside. She has her shoes, hat, and sunscreen and is all ready to go!

Safe Summer Tip: Life Jackets Are NOT One Size Fits All
Water safety is a huge deal - especially when you live in Florida with beaches and pools all around. Did you know that life jackets aren't one size fits all? Everyone (kids and adults) should wear a life jacket that is Coast Guard approved and fits snug anytime they are boating or participating in water sports.

Always wear Coast Guard approved life jackets when you participate in water sports.

A few important things kids need to know about water safety:
  • Kids should always have an adult with them if they are going to get in the water, even if the water is shallow.
  • Kids should always jump in the water feet first the first time until they know how deep it really is.
  • Kids should never dive in the shallow end of the pool or into an above-ground pool. 

Learning about water safety at Shriners Hospital For Children. Kids should never play in the water without an adult present.

Safe Summer Tip: Marshmallows Belong In Fires - Kids Don't!
I love s'mores, probably more than most people, but as great as it is to gather around a campfire and roast marshmallows to a perfect golden brown, you need to be safe while you do it. Kids should never start fires or be left by themselves to roast marshmallows or cook on a grill. You always need a fire extinguisher or bucket of water nearby when you are going to start even a small fire.

Learning about fire safety and planning for a safe summer at Shriners Hospital For Children. Always have a fire extinguisher or a bucket of water with you if you are going to build a fire.

Safe Summer Tip: Playgrounds Are MORE Fun With Rules
Rules? Yes, rules! They are very important for playgrounds especially, because every year emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related injuries according to The Centers for Disease Control.

A few basic playground rules to keep summer fun and injury-free:
  1. No pushing or shoving on the playground!
  2. Never go down the slide head first! Always slide down feet first, one kid at a time.
  3. No standing on the swings! Swing sitting down, and wait for the swing to slow down before you get off. 
  4. Play at playgrounds with shock-absorbing material. 
  5. Wear shoes when you play outside to prevent cuts and other injuries - and don't forget that sunscreen we talked about earlier! 
Remember all of these tips, and share them with your kids, and you will be on track for a safe summer! For more safety tips and activity pages for your kids, visit the Shriners Hospitals for Children® website.

Summer Safety with Shriners Hospitals for Children in Tampa, Florida

No matter how careful you are, accidents can happen. While Shriners Hospitals for Children® hopes to help reduce the risks of accidents and prevent injuries this summer, they are available to help if a child gets hurt. Their staff provides expert surgical and rehabilitative care to children with orthopedic conditions, spinal cord injuries, and burns, regardless of the families’ ability to pay. They will even send someone to pick up a child for appointments if the family has transportation issues that prevent them from getting to the hospital.

What is the most important safety rule you taught your kids? 

*This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Shriners Hospitals for Children®. All opinions, love of s'mores, and stories about unsafe choices in my teen years are my own. Much thanks to Deb Pope Photography for sharing her pictures from the On Track For A Safe Summer event. 

Monday, June 01, 2015

Flash In The Can

Because sometimes you need a little flash fiction....

Flash In The Can

More berries. More veggies. More tomatoes.

The work never ends.

She leans over the hot stove, stirring her many pots.

Canning season they call it. She remembers her grandmother saying that. Although everything she made was going into a jar, and not a can, so that name seemed wrong. But jarring season didn't sound so great, either.

She was building quite the collection of filled jars. They filled the shelves in the basement nicely.

Jars of preserves lined up on a shelf

There was a time when all these things could be bought in a store. She went to one of those when she was very little, walking hand in hand with her mother down long aisles with tall shelves. Her mouth watered just thinking about the little chocolate cakes they bought that day.

But it has been many years since a store was a reality. Not since the storms.

Many things had changed.

And now it is can or facing starving in the long winter months that will surely come soon.

She stirs her pots and whispers gratitude that this abandoned farmhouse had so many jars in the basement when she moved in three years ago.

She is so intent on her work that she doesn't even notice the flash of light reflected in her vegetable stew from the lightning outside, or the smell of rain on its way.

Storms are brewing.

.....what do you think happens next? 

Monday, May 18, 2015

I Am... {Old School Blogging}

I am transitioning.
I wonder what the next step is.
I hear Bearcat. Every day.
I see words. Beautiful words. Everywhere.
I want more.


I am alive.
I pretend all the time.
I feel deeply.
I touch the keyboard all day long.
I worry way too much.
I cry when I'm frustrated, when I'm happy, when it's Tuesday afternoon.

white flowers

I am growing.
I understand everything. I understand nothing. I'm sure I fall somewhere in the middle.
I say "I love you." (Even though the autocorrect on my phone ALWAYS tries to change it to "I lube you.")
I dream lucid dreams at night.
I try my best.
I hope for good things to come my way and yours.
I am not alone.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Louis C.K.'s SNL Monologue Compares Child Molestation To Eating Candy Bars

I know something big happened on tv when I wake up to 58 emails that have Saturday Night Live and child molestation in the subject line. Louis C.K. hosted SNL last night, kicking the show off with a controversial monologue.

Louis C.K.'s monologue started with the observation that he grew up in the 1970's and that theme carried through each topic on which he touched. He continued with observations of how he has mild racism, progressed into comparing the Middle East to his fighting children, and ended with comments about child molesters and candy bars.....
"In the 70's there was a child molester who lived in my home town. And it wasn't a big deal, it wasn't like, 'We caught a child molester!' It was just like, 'Yeah, that's the house where the child molester lives. Hey kids, don't be stupid, or you will get molested. Just stay away from the child molester house. I know because he did something to me when I was your age, so just stay away from the child molester house.
We really did. We had a town child molester. His name was Jean Baptist. This is a true story. He liked teenaged boys. That was when you would find out, because, I was a teenaged boy. He didn't like me. I felt a little bad.
He would drive up next to teenaged boys and say, 'Hello would you like to go to McDonalds?'.....I had one friend who used to get in the car. He would be like, 'Sure, I'll go,' and he would get in the car. He would go to McDonalds and eat a burger, and then he'd say, 'See ya!' and just take off. And Jean Baptist was like 'Doh. I did not get to have sex with that child. Foiled again!' but he would always try. 'Maybe this time!'
Because child molesters are very tenacious people. They love molesting childs. It's like their favorite thing. I mean, it's so crazy, because when you consider the risk in being a child molester (speaking not of even the damage you are doing, but the risk), there is no worse life available to a human than being a caught child molester. And yet they still do it! Which from, you can only really surmise, that it must be really good. I mean, from their point of view. From their, not ours, but from their point of view. It must be amazing for them to risk so much. (How do you think I feel, this is my last show probably.) 
Because, look I can't key into it, because I love Mounds bars. I love Mounds bars, it's my favorite thing, right? But there's a limit. I mean, I can't even eat a Mounds bar and do something else at the same time. That's how much I love them. Like, if I'm eating a Mounds bar, I can't even read the paper. I just have to sit there with it in my mouth and go, 'Why is this so good? I love this so much,' because they are delicious. 
And yet, if someone said to me, 'If you eat another Mounds bar you will go to jail and everyone will hate you,' I would stop eating them. Because they do taste delicious, but they don't taste as good as a young boy does, and shouldn't, to a child molester. Not to me. Not to us, because we're all awesome."
There were some loud groans (prompting that aside about this probably being his last show), but many more loud laughs in response to this monologue. You can see the monologue in it's entirely here.

Louis C.K.'s monologue on SNL compared child molestation to eating candy bars.

Child Molestation Is NOT Funny

First, and most importantly, let me tell you this: Child molestation is not funny, just like rape is not funny. To remind you of how serious child molestation is, I encourage you to always replace the words "child molestation" with "sexual assault of a child" when you hear or read them. Do not let the less shocking term "molestation" lull you. There are no forms of sexual assault about which you should be making jokes.

What did Louis C.K. Say About Child Sexual Assault On SNL?

Now let's look closely at what exactly Louis C.K. said last night on SNL.
"Yeah, that's the house where the child molester lives. Hey kids, don't be stupid, or you will get molested."
If this was a representation of how things have changed since the 70's, well, they haven't. Not that much. I don't disagree that this victim blaming was rampant then - placing the onus on the child to stay away from the child molester, to not be "stupid" and get sexually assaulted. Not much has changed in 2015. And while we might make a bigger deal about people who sexually assault children now, while there may be stronger sentencing (not strong enough), restrictions on how close a child molester can live to a school, and registry lists, these things have not stopped 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys from being sexually assaulted before the age of 18.
"Just stay away from the child molester house."
If only it was this easy. The registry lists we have today provide many people with a false sense of security, creating much the same situation as Louis C.K. describes in his childhood. We can all easily look on the computer, and find exactly which houses contain a convicted child molester. And it is absolutely a parent's responsibility to keep their children away from those houses. But what we can't find on the registry list are the houses that contain a child molester who has not been convicted. And these houses, they are dangerous. They are prevalent. And they are visited by children every day.

This advice to stay away from "the child molester house" is great - unless that is your home. Your grandparents home. The home where your parents take you for family gatherings. The home of your babysitter. The home of your mom's best friend. The home of your scout leader. The home of the respected neighborhood doctor or lawyer. Not all child molesters are creepy guys riding around in a car trying to lure kids to McDonalds. In fact, that is the profile of very few child molesters in the 1970's or in 2015. Most people who sexually assault children are in a place of trust or power in a child's life. They are, at the least, usually someone the child knows. They very well could be neighbors, but often are the neighbors from whom no adults suspect nefarious behavior.

Kids aren't stupid. They do not want to be sexually assaulted. And in the real world, when it isn't a joke line designed to show how "even the child molester didn't find poor Louis sexually attractive when he was a teenager - poor teen Louis just couldn't catch a break, would he EVER get laid?" there are no children who are hoping someone will sexually asault them. There are children whose reality is being sexually assaulted every day, often by the very people who should be protecting them.

As for the kid who foiled the child molester, time and time again? That story just serves to further the mindset that children are responsible for the behavior of predators. Louis' friend was able to get all those free Big Macs without being molested. He probably even got a side of fries and a milkshake. Those other kids just weren't as smart at playing the game. Stupid molested kids. They were basically asking for it.

Molesting A Child Isn't Comparable To Eating A Candy Bar

Let's move on to the Mounds bar comparison. I've listened to the monologue several times, and I still don't have a clear understanding of what I am supposed to take away from this section. Should I feel sorry for these child molesters who are so very addicted to young boys that they just can't stop sexually assaulting them? Should I now understand a child molester's drive to continue sexually assaulting children? Should I step back and wonder how something that just feels so good could really be wrong? 

If Louis C.K. wants to approach child sexual assault as an addition, he will get no amens from me. While, yes, addiction can have far reaching consequences, and other people may be hurt by the addict and his actions, sexual assault is a crime that always hurts another human being. Period. There is no true comparison that can be made between addicts and child molesters.

I have no minutes of my life that are worth wasting on wondering how amazing the experience of raping a child must be, so I can finally understand why child molesters commit their crimes.

The same is true for rapists who sexually assault adults. Or serial killers who take great joy in not only murdering their victims, but also enjoy keeping their bodies close, or even eating them. Maybe dead humans taste really great like a Mounds bar. Hey, Louis C.K., shall we have a conversation about the taste of dead human flesh? Maybe we can help everyone understand it a little better, so we can further normalize murder and cannibalism the way society and the prevalent rape culture continually strive to normalize rape and child sexual assault and abuse?

Child Molesters Are Tenacious And Manipulative

Louis C.K. was right about one thing: child molesters are tenacious. Most child molesters groom their victims, often working slowly over a period of months or even years to set up the situation perfectly. They thrive on making children feel like it is their fault, and teaching the child that the child will be in trouble if anyone finds out what happened. When a child believes the molestation, the abuse, the sexual assault, is their fault, they will not tell anyone it is happening. 

THIS is why it matters that his monologue played up the idea that only stupid children get molested with the narrative children should just stay away from the child molester house unless they are smart enough to beat him at this own game and get a free burger.

The only thing he accomplished with this monologue is spreading the same, tired, rape apology, and reminding child sexual assault survivors that they deserved the abuse and rape because they were just too stupid to avoid it.

One last thing. Louis C.K. said,
"they [Mounds Bars] don't taste as good as a young boy does, and shouldn't, to a child molester. Not to me. Not to us, because we're all awesome."
Are we all awesome? The entire SNL audience? No. We are not, Louis C.K.

When you make jokes, rationalizations, and otherwise irresponsible comments about child molestation, or any form of sexual assault, you are not speaking to audiences who are all awesome. There are child molesters and rapists listening to your words. And even as you say young boys shouldn't taste good, you are being dismissive about what child molestation really is. Being a child molester is much worse than just not being awesome.

In this monologue, Louis C.K. set aside the very real damage to the victims and survivors of sexual assault. When you normalize child sexual assault and the predators who commit these crimes, you reinforce the believes of rapists that there is normalcy in their actions. Nothing about this monologue challenged rapists, child molesters, or rape culture. It was not a smart commentary on a difficult subject. It was just another joke about rape that wasn't funny.

Remember that this monologue was prepared in advance. Louis C.K. had time to think about what he was going to say, and most likely said it in front of other people during rehearsals. Since he specifically spoke about the rape of young boys in this SNL monologue, we can set aside the (incorrect) common belief that rape is just a women's issue. Unlike what Louis C.K. said in the wake of the Daniel Tosh rape joke situation, calling out inappropriate jokes about sexual assault (about the rape of an adult or a child) is not just women saying "This is how I feel and my feelings should be everyone's primary concern." And the conversation we have about his monologue does not have to place men and women on different sides, because jokes about sexual assault are everyone's concern. They send a seriously dangerous message out to the world, harming both women and men, boys and girls.

Rape is not funny. The end.