All posts by jlankford74

Denouncing the (Wood) Man

Woody_Allen_Cannes_2016I was my son Nathan’s current age – 12-years-old – when I fell in love for the first time. It wasn’t with a person, but with a world. This world was replete with articulate upper-middle-class Manhattanites of the 1980s, who struggled internally and stuttered verbally over petty, self-made neuroses far too adult for me to truly understand. Yet it (and it’s fascinating, drably, but expensively dressed inhabitants) intrigued me to my core.

The place where I fell in love, technically, was the Movies 5-7 on 15th Street West in Lancaster, CA. But I might as well have been inside the pearlescent screen that projected my newfound inamorata for the way my heart swelled with a new sense of purpose in life.
I suppose what I related to most, beyond the stunning visuals of the four seasons as seen through the lens of someone who really viewed and expressed New York as the most beautiful entity in the world, was the acknowledgement of the realities of deep-seated, but seemingly unfounded anxiety. I was battling with my own anxiety in my adolescence which I didn’t feel comfortable expressing, but which permeated my evenings and nights. It was a sort of childhood sundowner’s syndrome, where the pending hours of slumber represented all of my greatest boogiemen – heart attacks, brain aneurysms, strokes, and the granddaddy: nuclear war. Just too much for someone so emotionally and spiritually underdeveloped to quite metabolize. It was a bleak time for me.

All of that changed the day I became a die-hard Woody Allen fan. Fantasizing about being a part of his world (or the one he cinematically constructed, anyway) gave me the remedy to self soothe my dark dreads through fantasies of being one of those stark white names on the black screen at the opening credits of every one of his films. I idolized his talent, and that of so many actresses cast in his oeuvre – the queen of them all being my beloved Dianne Wiest, who I imagined in the most intricate of details would instantly become my best friend the moment I met her. (I did meet her eventually. Alas, we’re not besties, after all. Can you believe it?)

As the months passed by, like the magical images in that theatre when I was weathering the pain of peak adolescence, I projected what I loved about the world of “Hannah and Her Sisters” onto the filmmaker responsible for it. Woody Allen’s character, Mickey, was obsessed with death to the detriment of his quality of life, just like me. He spent the whole film placating his hypochondria in the unhealthiest manners of obsession, only to reach a turning point where a Marx Brothers film snapped him out of his negative perseverations.

And while “Hannah and Her Sisters” still remains my favorite movie, I soon found that it wasn’t just that classic which embedded me with deeply and naturally intoxicating ardor. Each subsequent VHS rental from the Wherehouse furthered my education as one of the ultimate Woody Allen fans. I loved his talent, and I honestly thought I loved the actual man (as if I truly knew him) during this exuberant, but juvenile epoch.

My Woody Allen themed fantasies got me through the rest of middle school and high school. I became so in tune with the Woody world that I literally began thinking in full-fledged, articulate but stuttering monologues, complete with punchlines:

“Look at these people; my supposed peers. Jeez…I’m expected…I’m expected to spend the majority of my hours every day listening to their incessant, infantile banter. Jesus, ya know, if I wanted to listen to babies cry, y-y-ya know, I’d go down to A.V. Hospital and volunteer as a…as a candy striper.”

In my freshman year of college, the big scandal broke. So effusive had I been about my Woody Allen fandom that my high school acquaintances teased me relentlessly at homecoming, I recall – the first and only conversation piece the majority of them had for me as we were reunited.
Maybe I deserved it. I had been bad mouthing them inside my own head for four years.

However, I wasn’t taking the taunting in stride. I used every opportunity I had to debate the facts of the case. The conversations generally went like this (and have continued, sporadically, up until a few days ago, and even recently with my youngest son, Joey):

THEM: How could you like that guy? He molested his own daughter. And then married his other daughter.

ME: First of all, it was proven in a court of law that his young adopted daughter was coached by Mia Farrow and he was exonerated from the molestation accusations. Mia Farrow is nuts. The day after she found out about the affair she was calling Woody Allen to talk about her costume fitting for their next film, as if nothing had happened.

THEM: Ok, but still, two nuts don’t make a moral right. He married his step daughter.

ME: Didn’t happen that way. Soon-Yi never had any type of relationship with Woody, let alone did he ever come close to adopting her, as she was already adopted by Andre Previn. In fact, she was leery of Woody, and used to hiss at him when he’d come to pick her mother up for dates. As Mia and Woody were starting to find their relationship on the rocks, near breakup, Mia suggested one night that Woody take her then 21-year-old daughter to a Knicks game so they could bond. Unfortunately, Woody and Soon-Yi bonded, alright, and fell in love. Not the most moral behavior, I’ll grant you, but certainly not molestation or incest, as she was an adult and practically a stranger to him until that night. And after all, the heart wants what it wants.

woody soon yi

I became so comfortable with the Woody-sided talking points of this case that I wrote a paper on it for a philosophy class, and confidently debated some version of the above any time it was brought up over these last couple of decades. As Woody has maintained his marriage to Soon-Yi and raised adopted daughters with her, I felt vindicated in my position. “See?” I’d say. “If it was that inappropriate, why has Soon-Yi stayed with him for all of these years?”

As I’ve aged and experienced many things in life, my vision and framing on so many topics has invariably metamorphosed, but on this topic, I never have faltered.

That is until a few weeks ago. Following the tangled web of allegations and confessions surrounding Harvey Weinstein and other entertainment industry big wigs, Woody Allen said he worried about a:

“witch hunt atmosphere … where every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself.”


And so, just like that, as swiftly as my socks were knocked off by a little film called “Hannah and Her Sisters” back in 1986, the fanatical wind was knocked out of my sails in regard to one Allan Stewart Konigsberg, AKA Woody Allen. And that powerful gust blew right into a carefully crafted, sturdy pedestal, and a certain 80-something filmmaker fell at my feet.

I hereby publicly denounce my Woody Allen fandom.

I revile his actions which I used to painstakingly explicate.

Like the climax in a good film, all of this clarity flooded into me; all of these red flags which made me realize that Woody Allen is most likely the narcissist he always claimed to be in his movies. And narcissm isn’t funny, after all, because it means that one has no real empathy, and thinks the world is theirs for the taking; it’s human and animal inhabitants their pawns for entertainment and hedonistic gains.

I guess the breakup of my marriage shouldn’t have been so shocking. I’ve been unwittingly conned by narcissists since I was just a preteen, I now realize.

So that, my friends, is some pretty big news, if you know me very well.

I don’t share this as a “gotcha” to Trump supporters, or an effort to say “See…I slurred my superstar. So, quid pro quo, my pals.”

However, the parallels of revering and excusing a powerful, rich man who lives his life as if above the laws of human decency cannot be denied. At the very least, it helps me understand (alas, not for the first time in my adult life) that denial is a powerful, nearly impenetrable defense mechanism.

I think more of the insight I’m hoping to impart is this: It took me a long time to wake up when it came to Woody Allen. My own evolution had to occur to this stage, at the same exact time that he said something so heinous and obvious that it finally broke through my stubborn, unyielding idol worship.

Perhaps the same will eventually be true for the remaining Trump zealots. For now, their feet are firmly planted in the narrative they’ve chosen to believe about someone they see as a hero.

And I now realize that when it comes to that notion, I’ve been living in a house constructed of super fragile glass.


Another Blogger Figures this Election Madness Out (Or Doesn’t…You Be the Judge)

I knew she wasn’t going to win. I knew it for months. The polls didn’t matter. His shenanigans didn’t matter. I knew because of the things I heard people saying at my place of work, in my community, on the social media sites I frequented. I wanted to be wrong, but deep down, I knew.

So now it’s over. There are whispers of electoral college upheaval and/or election tampering leading to possible audits and recounts, but I maintain the same stance I always have. A little glimmer of hope is okay, but realistically, we have what we have in this moment. And currently that’s President Elect Donald Trump. How bizarre that feels to type!

I reacted in the way I reacted. We all have.


And this has led to much scrutiny and criticism not just from the “other” side, but from within the own ranks of progressive liberals. People like me are often the more “sensitive” types which also means we tend to be harder on ourselves than others ever could be on us. It can make us sitting ducks for even light bullying – the type where people put down the way we think, feel, and process because we’ll listen to their criticisms and try to alter ourselves so as not to offend. Pleasers.

And so I have read these rants where even liberals knock their compatriots in this overly-reflective standpoint of “How did we screw this up? What did we do wrong as a political party? What is the answer to this madness?”

On all sides, there’s so much finger pointing and judgement! “This is why he won.” “No, THIS is why she lost!” “You’re all such whiners!” I’ve read so many pontifications upon this topic; so self-assured is each person who proclaims to have figured out the one real reason our country is right now in the situation we are in, and why and how we “got what we deserved.” I’m not quite so self-assured, but I do think that I have a compelling case for the real truth of the matter, if you’d care to read on.

To lay the groundwork for my viewpoint, here’s a top ten of some of the most common certainties I’ve read about as to the single reason why the former host of “The Apprentice” has been elected POTUS, AKA why we weren’t ready or willing to elect Hillary Clinton:


10. America is way more racist and xenophobic, homophobic, etc. than so many of us had any idea of. Trump overturned every neo-nazi rock in our nation and rallied the dregs of society. They call themselves “children of the sun” and they actually believe that straight white people are OPPRESSED in these modern times. Tomorrow belongs to them. So they got out and they voted in droves.


9.Liberals are super annoying with their PC crap and intellectual elitism and fancy-schmansy all-blah blah blah/no action, and the majority of “real” people are plum tired of it and are taking power back. Stop whining liberals! (This even comes from fellow liberals). You turn everyone off with your lame salty crocodile tears, sugar puffs. Feeling and talking about your emotions doesn’t solve jack diddly. Toughen up and take your book smarts back to the library! It’s time for street smarts and good old gut-level reactions to rule the roost again! Where is your dignity? Where is your self respect?

8. Hillary Clinton’s campaign sucked in a major way. And they got cocky. They were sucky and cocky. They did nothing right. It was theirs to lose and they lost it because of their cocky suckiness.

7. Media! All of it! Awful media, regular and social and otherwise. And all of the idiots who post anything and don’t check a fact and the other idiots who read the same propaganda posts and share them and the slanted headlines of all the media. It’s the media’s fault!

6. It all boils down to Obama for one of two reasons:

a. He is the worst most divisive president ever and never should have been in office let alone served two terms and after all of the terrible things he’s done (you know what they are…no I don’t HAVE to list a single one; it’s obvious) America is ready to finally clean up his crap like only conservatives can.

b. He has been the best POTUS ever, but see number ten. Racist America has not accepted him and so they rallied to take their white power back. Trump is just capitalizing on it – uniting these feckless fools for his own power and financial gain.

5. The stubbornest Bernie Bros screwed everything up with their sour grapes after the primaries.


Especially those little know-nothing-yet millennials who would rather be contrary to “the man” than face the depth of their contributions to this insanity. They jumped on the same exact bandwagon as the Trumpettes to bring Hillary Clinton down with lies and beating the same dead horses on a witchhunt.

Incidentally, dead horses are terrible at witch hunting, seeing as they’re dead and all. But I’m pretty sure that annoying chick from “Blair Witch Project” hopped a plane to Salem and took on the case with her documentary crew and she’s super at hunting witches.


All it takes is one person catching on and pointing and shouting “Witch!” to start a crucible movement. Berners and Trumpers have been shouting “Clinton! Witch!” from the tops of buildings for many months.Some of them for years! This reached the people who don’t care much about politics, don’t like to watch the news, don’t care to read, and just needed someone to tell them what to do. “Hillary’s evil? Are you sure? Well, okay, you’ve never lied to me before (that I know of). We’ll go with that and I can get back to watching YouTube videos about eating bacon and videogame folklore and stuff.”

4. EMAILS! The DNC did this (aided and abetted by  Wikileaks) with their email plotting against the King Savior our Lord Bernie Sanders because they’re just as corrupt as the alt-right! Those shady bastahds were chomping so hard at the bit to push their liberal agenda of a chick prez that they inadvertently made an already perceived “untrustworthy” Clinton look like she was in bed with Lucifer himself (while Bill watched. Smoking a cigar and eating some vegan tacos or something. Those freaky Clintons!)

This all means Bernie got screwed ,so see number 5. I am protest voting against Clinton even though I see her innocence because I want to make a point to corrupt government jerkadoos like the DNC.


Or, more prominently, Clinton and her pompous private server and 30 gatrillion emails she had destroyed by smashing all of her personal electronics with a polo mallet and then loading the pieces onto a hijacked space capsule that’s currently 200 miles deep inside a crater on the moon – how could I vote for her ever when she did THAT? Grab who by the what now? Fraud? Rape charges? Sexual assault charges? Won’t release tax returns? Trump destroyed his own electronic correspondences he was court ordered to turn over in some of the hundreds of court cases filed agains him?  Stop talking! I can’t hear anymore about any of that. All I have room for  in my head is “Clinton’s emails.” Followed a close second by Benghazi. Exonerated you say? Only because she paid them all off or they’re scared she’ll have them killed. (See number 5 – witchhunt).

3. Trump. Russia. Collusion. Tampering with the election. Intelligence exists. Investigations are pending. Trump called the election rigged up until he started winning and then he was like, “Those Russian poindexter computer nerd dudes actually put their money where their mouth is. Hot damn! I’m gonna be president.” Then his face fell as reality slapped him hard. “Holy gold-plated toilet plungers! I’m gonna be president…Maird!”

2. Too many people in our country are ignorant dumb-dumb heads and they bought a long slow con by a man named Don. They said hello to promises of jobs, tax lowering, better education, lower crime, locking up evil witches via special prosecutors, a free wall with built in salsa spickets and chip dispensers designed for protection from bad guys, and the possibility of a dream that never was – the Mayberry version of America past. They were too shtupnagal to realize that was just a squeaky clean sitcom in the 50s and there is no great America to go back to because we have continued a steady evolution as a nation, which is the very thing that makes us great ALL THE TIME already. Oh but Democrats are the whiners…sigh.

In essence, a certain tangerine swindler convinced them that we are a pathetic, dark dystopia where you can’t walk out your door without being attacked by druglords who have been sent over by backwards terrorist-based countries to bring us down because we’re so much better than them, and it’s time to fight back! Hurrah!!

They bought a snake oil infused fat shrinking wrinkle reducing sex enhancing cream that eradicates all stains (even blood) and will arrive at your door with free shipping within two weeks, packaged in a beautiful gold bottle with a sexy girl in a bikini on the label.


And if you vote now, we’ll add a second bottle FREE! (If you consider internment camps, overpopulation due to no birth control, tax cuts for only the top 1%, and a one million of our tax dollars a day to pay for double security because a certain orange someone doesn’t want to leave his golden tower in NYC “free” that is…)

And then there’s number one, and it’s my personal number one because it resonates the most with me from my own plethora of observations and the conversations I’ve had with others throughout this election cycle:

  1. SEXISM!


Yeah, I hear all of the conservatives, the centrists, and even some liberals groaning. That old chestnut. Come on! Sexism is for “Mad Men.” But yes, this is the real deal, kids. Take a deeper look. It’s systemic, and I believe it’s a very big reason why so many women voted for Trump and so many people who couldn’t stomach voting for Trump just didn’t vote at all. We have been raised for generations to trust men more with the tough stuff, to feel taken care of by men, and us women are deeply wired to kick ourselves for just about everything we do, and rely on our sexuality to feel valued.

It’s true! Don’t deny it! Get real about it or we can’t fix it. It’s a problem! So many of us still subconsciously contribute to it, in spite of knowing better, because we just haven’t come as far as we thought.

And so, a very competent woman with a great resume and just a couple of black marks which have been deeply investigated and proven to not be criminal was deemed “the lesser of two evils” at best, by so many. To others, she was simply evil. A liar. A crook. Untrustworthy. Not charismatic. Shrill. Ugly. Old. A grandma. Sickly. Obnoxiously power hungry.

Whereas DT being cutthroat made him a “good businessman” (in spite of oh so many failings and hidden tax returns that hide who knows what) HRC seen as cutthroat made her a bad seed. The worst the government has ever seen. A NASTY woman. The queen bitch at the helm of the most powerful mafia-like government corruption. Quite possibly a murderer. Probably. COME ON!!!

These were actual things people said to me during the election. ACTUAL THINGS!! And when I pointed out the laundry list of oh so many worse things that were PROOF of Don-the-cons nonsense, things that came out of his own mouth and were not just speculation like they had on Clinton, I heard “Well, yeah, but he’s something different. And we need different in our government. He’s refreshing in his honesty.” HONESTY???

We had different. It’s called give a woman a chance to run our country for once and see what happens. Think about every family gathering where some matriarch in your lineage pulled everything together and made it all happen, delegating like a master at the same time she cared about your feelings and made you feel nurtured and worked the crowd with her organic social skills and fed you kickass food. Women offer different things in the way they lead. Sexism made too many discredit Hillary Clinton before they really gave her a chance, even though she WAS the right PERSON for the job.

BUT….here’s my two (or ten, as it were) cents about the REAL reason we are in this mess of a pending Trump presidency instead of awaiting the professionalism and poise of Hillary Clinton as our new chief to hail. What is that one true thing, above all else, which caused this?


Trick question.

It’s not one thing. It’s ALL OF THE ABOVE, and then some more I didn’t even mention. It was the perfect storm of a bunch of stuff. Orchestrated stuff. Poorly timed stuff. Accidental stuff. Dust, wind, air pressure. Stuff.


When my house is a mess, it’s not just clothes on the floor. It’s disheveled couch pillows, foot piercing Legos strewn about, dismantled Star Wars action figures spread all over, videogames and electrical cords all askew, dishes piled high, litter boxes to scoop, sheets to change, toilets riddled with poorly aimed boy pee to scour – it’s all of the above!

So I say to those of us who are on the not-so-fond-of-Trump side, stop trying to point fingers at the one messiest of the messes in our house to try and figure out why it’s messy, and just get to cleaning. Because it’s all part of the mess. ALL OF IT!

We’ve got work to do. Lots of it.

Oh, and I call “not it” on the litter boxes.

Way too much crap to sift through at the moment.




Clinton Supporters aren’t Compromising


I’ve noticed something coming from a lot of people who I know, or just those I see out there in social media land, that vexes me a bit. It’s this type of statement: “Well, yes, Trump is bad, I’ll admit that; but so is Clinton. Neither of them are worth any of our votes.”

It’s the way it’s said that ruffles my feathers. It’s a sense that this is as far as they’ll ever go. These are the “I don’t know what I’m going to do on November 8th – write someone in I guess” or the “I suppose on November 8th I’m just going to have to hold my nose and vote” people. The vibe I get from them is that they believe I should be happy and sing “Kumbaya” with them because they’re giving me what they think I want – admitting that Trump is awful. But see, that’s not what I want. I already know he’s awful.

This confession of no longer supporting an admitted sexual harasser, pathological liar, and clear narcissist with fascist leanings, to them, is compromise. But so many true conservative Republicans, and on the other end of the spectrum hardcore “Berners” are just not interested in budging past the roadblock of reality, because they feel like it’s saying they were wrong, maybe?

I see it in their eyes, hear it in their voices, sense it in the posts: They want me to meet them in the middle. They have to confess that either their party’s candidate or (in the case of certain Bernie Sanders zealots) the candidate they were willing to vote for as a retaliation against what they feel was unfair during the primaries, does not serve them now; can’t possibly serve them; because they have morals and values and Trump is clearly dangerous for our country.

It’s this sense of, “Okay, okay…we’re through the looking glass now. Yes. Trump is a con-artist; a hypocrite; an immoral loser who thinks he’s always winning. He could be the last one to cross the finish line in a three-legged race against babies who can’t walk, yet and he’d be shouting ‘I won! I won! In your face LOSERS!” He’s a douche, and everyone knows douches are actually detrimental to the health and well-being of lady parts, so there’s no more arguing it.”

Okay. Good. We can definitely agree there. But…after such admissions these certain people always qualify…BUT….your candidate is just as bad. Right? Huh huh huh? You’re gonna give me that one, right?  I’m admitting that my candidate sucks and I can’t possibly vote for him. Now you do the same. It’s only fair.

No! Just no!

The difference is, I NEVER supported Hillary Clinton because she was “all my party had” or as a way to get back at someone. I do not feel like a victim of an evil, corrupt government of which Hillary Clinton is just another immoral cog in the rusted wheel. Or worse, the unholy evil damned queen of all that is wrong with the world. Just no!

Here’s the deal: I like who I’m voting for. A lot! I believe in her! I believe in her platform. I believe in her experience. I believe she has proven herself to be a good – nay, great – politician. I am certain – yes certain – that her flaws and failings are of appropriate and acceptable amount and level for someone with a challenging and long career. Doctors lose patients. Lawyers lose cases. Teachers go entire school years without elevating the educations of certain students. Politicians who, in order to get the job in the first place, must try to find ways to do the impossible – please everyone – screw up. Every single one of them has made mistakes. The question is if they learn from the mistakes and if their positive attributes and general moral fiber are enough to outweigh the black marks on their record.

In the case of Hillary Clinton, I see a few pebbles on the negative side of the scale, made smaller from genuine contrition, and boulders of good on the other side of the scale. That is how I see it. And if you see none of that, I challenge that you have refused to look very hard.

So no, I won’t like your post or meme or comment that says both candidates suck. I won’t engage in a conversation where I agree with you that this whole election is pathetic because there are “literally no good candidates.” I happen to be excited that my favorite presidential candidate in history is looking like she might soon be my favorite POTUS in history. Feel free to stay there in the stubborn middle all you want. I won’t meet you there. I am not ashamed to say I have all along been uncompromisingly and proudly with her.

Come Out, Come Out, Whatever you Think

20160726_152129I have been guilty of this:

“I don’t want to get too political on Facebook or Twitter, lest I offend friends and family who see things differently.”

Okay, I never actually use the word “lest” other than in writing, but you get the idea.

This “ruffle no feathers” mentality is typical of someone who cares very much about what others think of them, is sometimes accidentally outspoken (whose mouth has played host to their own foot a time or two) but who never intentionally aims to offend; who actually perseverates on the embarrassment when they do disgruntle; one who truly wants everyone to like them. This is typical of the type of person whose political views stem from a place of compassion and concern for their neighbors, and not just their own family or their own self. Silence becomes synonymous with not rocking the boat so that one feels they’ve done their part in trying to keep the social waters smooth; playing “nice” with others.

However, I find myself in this sudden place of empowerment and clarity where I’m tired of saying to myself, “No, Jen! Don’t post that. You might make someone mad.” Here so many of us are saying, “Oh, darn you addictive social media! You’ve turned our world negative!” but thereby unintentionally refusing to play a part in anything that can potentially turn things around to a more contented place.

There’s valor in avoiding conflict by minding your political p’s and q’s.  But recently, it hit me: We have the gift of this forum to paint the picture we want to share with others. You may think my painting sucks and doesn’t belong in a museum, but that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with me sharing the things that I feel are important for people to see and think about.

If we went to a museum together, we’d be allowed to disagree about the art we saw and still be friends, provided there was enough other things in common, right? And darn it, shouldn’t we discuss it? Isn’t that some of what living is all about – sharing and learning about each other, agreeing, disagreeing, getting to know other perspectives, formulating our own mindset through the process of conversation? Everyone says don’t talk about politics because it can ruin friendships, and I see that in the way so many are tip-toeing around during this election. I tip-toed for a while. But if someone is such a fair weather friend to you, are they a friend at all? If we can’t agree to disagree, what’s at the core of our connection anyway?

The brave ones out there who haven’t been scared of posting what resonates with them politically have allowed others of us to digest and grow from the nourishment they have offered. Or else to elicit in us that we don’t agree with that particular source or train of thought, and then we can choose to either engage in a courteous debate or move along quietly, or even, yes, weed the friend garden and say, “I’m not sure I care to stay in contact with that particular acquaintance. I think we might have too many core value differences.”

But I just want to share this fearlessness other social media pioneers have inspired in me, and encourage you to consider it. There’s value in what you believe. There’s value in what I believe. Let’s share it! We don’t have to stay in the political closet out of fear that we will offend. There’s value in you citing sources for why you feel the way you do; passing on articles, video clips, other people’s thoughts that you could have practically written yourself, they speak so much to your heart and soul. This is the time to take the reins and use any forums you want to express what you want, passionately.

People of my generation may have never thought we’d live through a time when we could be revolutionary, but the time is here. Let’s be activists for what we know is right!

And those who find that mine is a tiresome position, by all means ignore me, block me from your feed, even unfriend me if you must. If our friendship was that faulty, well, maybe we shouldn’t pretend to care about one another’s vacation pictures anyway. But I encourage each of us to use the gift we have of social media forums to share our own political breaking news as we see fit and not be embarrassed or worried that we will ostracize with our thoughtfully arrived upon assessments on our country’s upcoming very important election.

Just consider sharing your convictions proudly my Facebook brothers and sisters!!!  It’s your chance to “be the change” and other such uniquely American cliches which were arrived upon because of very moments like right now!

Every vote does, indeed, count! There are many out there still undecided. Your circumspect posts might help someone move past that nagging feeling of “what’s the point??” and arrive at a decision that they can feel good about. Your insight could very well shine a light on just what someone else is searching for.


Ms. Independence Day

declaration-of-independenceThe meaning of the 4th of July is as diverse as the country it celebrates. True to “it’s a free country” form, for some it’s all about patriotism; others, it’s about hot dogs, beer, and fireworks; and on the other extreme, it might mean absolutely nothing to certain people.

For me, I’d say up until now, I felt fairly “meh” about this holiday. I mean, I waiver somewhere between patriot and hippy, both proud to be an American, and also sometimes ashamed of our country’s teenage-like “We’re cooler than you, so there!” judgmental attitude towards other countries and each other.

Take the recent SCOTUS decision on gay marriage – now legal in every one of our states, and it seems like such a “duh” in a country that’s all about freedom. And yet there’s still so many people who don’t just not like it, but will do whatever they can to stop it. Yikes!  I mean, I am vehemently opposed, personally, to country music, but I would never waste my time rallying to make it illegal. If it’s really that offensive to you, don’t go to any gay weddings. Problem solved.

I think there’s a lot of entitled pride in our country when we still have so much to learn if we want to run smoothly as a collective culture, and truly live up to the ideals of the men who penned that old Declaration we are celebrating. And that muddles up the celebration for those of us who think too much, like me. So, while in the past I may have happily donned a $5 Old Navy t-shirt with a flag on it, cheered at a parade or two, and happily partaken in the culinary treats of the 4th of July festivities, I’ve never had a huge emotional connection to Independence Day.

It hit me today, though, that I feel a new interpretation of Independence Day for me. For many years, I was the opposite of independent. Trapped in an unhealthy marriage with no financial assets, limited career prospects, and two small children to worry about, there was nothing that felt independent about my life until my divorce, which just reached a two year anniversary. For this two years, true to the desired American opportunity and fortitude of all who have fought for the independence of our country, I was able to put my head down, further my education, and become an educator myself, complete with a graduate degree. Not too shabby.

Could I have accomplished this in any other number of countries? Well, certainly, but conversely, I could have been born in a place where I would have had to stay trapped and dependent. I could have been born in a country where I had to live a life serving someone who treated me like a possession rather than a person. While I felt trapped until recently, I still always knew that I had choices in my life, and that is certainly something to celebrate. Psychologically, those choices may have had to be forced upon me to evoke great changes, but the fact is my independence was fostered in the land of the free. And, let me say, after what I’ve been through the last few years, the home of the brave.

We’re all brave – human beings are brave. Maybe there’s nothing about the the U.S. of A that makes us better than other countries. And we arguably have a lot to learn from countries with richer history and deeper perspectives on what’s important in life. Like, hello daily siestas, 3 hour meals full of wine, conversation, and laughter, or truly universal healthcare, to name a few. Along the lines of the teenage analogy, we are in such a rush to get to the next thing, but one day America might slow down a little in maturity and start smelling those independent roses planted 239 years ago.

That said, I’m smelling my own independent roses, and on this day, they are red, white, and blue. Happy 4th of July to all!

A Tale of Frugality Over Excess

Coffee MugI’ve been broke. Like pretty much as broke as can be. But America broke. Like, never out on the streets or even close to that. Just not able to do what everyone else seems to be doing broke. Paycheck gone as soon as it hits the bank account broke. Like, just barely keeping from getting evicted, cabinets literally empty, can’t drive anywhere because I can’t afford to fill the tank, scouring the house for pennies to dump in to coin star, living-the-Los-Angeles-dream broke.

I labeled myself as being bad with money. And I also punished myself because I valued staying home with my kids and that meant being broke. But the truth is, we were broke before kids came along and I didn’t want to face the real truth of why I was broke for so long. It has a little something to do with a bad partnership and being a doormat rather than taking some control of my finances when I decided to pool them with a certain someone.

When I was cut loose from that partnership, I had lots of reasons to mourn, but there were also lots of reasons to rejoice. Facts started to become clear now that denial was no longer clouding my view like a bad, hazy nightmare. I remembered that before I ever joined finances with someone, I wasn’t actually so bad with money. I wasn’t the greatest, but rent and bills were always paid in time and in full with a bit leftover for some fun. I managed to save for a trip to Europe once. I managed a few trips to Vegas each year. I managed to support my single self and I had no credit card or other debts.

So, fast forward a decade or so, and I am living in my single mom world. I am far from well off, believe me. There are debts to be paid for years to come. There’s debts leftover from my marriage that I didn’t even know existed, but because I took his name, they are mine, like the opposite of wedding presents. Divorce presents. Jointly and severally mine. ‘Til paid do us part.

Still, I’m back in control of my finances, just like I was before marriage, and lo and behold, I have the skills to pay the bills. I still know how to keep my belt tight because I’ve had to keep it tight this whole time. Money may have been more plentiful in marriage on paper, but that paper flew away to places that had nothing to do with me and my kids. Phony business trips, as it turns out, aren’t on the company, after all.

I’m not living large, but I am living in charge. I’m embracing frugality where it can and should be embraced, and splurging in a place or two because, darn it, I work my rear off and I deserve it. But splurging isn’t splurging if you’re always splurging. I am restrained.

Example: I drink one cup of regular coffee and one cup of decaf each morning. Though k-cups are pricey, because it’s just me, when bought in bulk, this is the cheapest route to go. Unfortunately, I went a bit too inexpensive with my knock off Keurig single cup coffee maker, and the part that pierces the top of the k-cup broke off after so much use. I got what I paid for and got my money’s worth, but I realized I’d probably want to go a little higher end if I wanted something that would last.

Here’s where proud frugal Jen comes in, though. For months now I decided I am going to get every last bit of life out of this thing. Throw away a still mostly functional coffee maker before it’s time? Never! So, I figured out that I could use a wine corkscrew to pierce a small hole in the foil top of the k-cups.

Was this a foolproof plan? No. Sometimes I pressed too hard and ended up with a jagged hole, much too big. Sometimes, not enough water seemed to get through into the grounds and the cup was under brewed. But the worst part of it was that most cups ended up with a lot of grounds in them, sunk down at the bottom of my cup, hiding, waiting to strike during my last few sips.

The first time this happened was during class. I took a hasty swig of my comforting elixir and was met with a mouth full of coffee grounds. Not only was it disgusting, but I was paranoid for the next hour that I had coffee grounds in my teeth and on my lips.

Still, I wasn’t ready to make another coffee maker purchase. I had to decide what was right for me and my budget. MY budget. (It has a ring to it). I still had so many k-cups left, as well as a ton of disposable, fillable k-cups I had found on clearance at a kitchen goods store that made those single brew coffees even more cost effective. However, if I went with a k-cup compatible machine, it would have to be a good deal because that’s what frugal people do; we make due and wait until a sale, and only then do we strike.

And so that day came yesterday. I found a Mr. Coffee k-cup compatible brewer that was $20 off. I didn’t agonize about buying it because I knew I could afford it. I felt good about the price, and I felt good about the fact that I had waited, even if it meant dealing with some grounds in my coffee for a couple of months. Frugality conquered over excess, and my slow and steady approach led to the same finish line. Except that I think I enjoyed the finish line more than if I had rushed to it.

As I write this, I take my last sip of my first cup of coffee brewed in my new machine. It is blissfully free of coffee grounds, perfectly brewed, and I earned it.

Sympathy for the Devil?

Question Mark ManI want to talk about narcissism. In and of itself, the intention behind this term is societally utilized to describe someone who is full of themselves. I had no idea that there was an actual narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) until a couple of years ago. A word that was once used as more of a joking way to point out a temporary lack of perspective has now come to light as being a real affliction which many people have been tormented by.

Emotional Vampires

But who is tormented in the actual Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders version of narcissism? Is the narcissist a victim of their disorder, or do they just play a victim on TV? Narcissists are well known for their deflection and their inability to look in the mirror. I’ve also heard them referred to as “emotional vampires,” which makes the not seeing themselves in the mirror thing even more apropos. The very nature of narcissistic personality disorder is to pathologically lie, believe their own lies, and blame those closest to them for all of their problems. They are always emotionally abusive, sometimes physically abusive, and devoid of contrition no matter how much they hurt someone they once called their “soul mate.” They are in love with the part of falling in love that makes them feel like they are on a pedestal. And when reality strikes after a few years, and the pedestal degrades and disintegrates to floor level (or lower) after being sucked to dust by the greedy termites of deceit, debauchery, skullduggery, and depravity, the narcissist is now looking at someone eye-to-eye who is finally onto their shenanigans. So they go ballistic.

Does this nightmare of a person, this sociopathic human being (who so many psychological professionals say will never, ever change or improve) deserve any compassion for being inherently compassionless? Are personality disorders brought on against someone’s control? You have to guess that they must be. Who would choose that? Yet, for the narcissist, the manifestation of their mental illness involves doing nasty things and never taking any responsibility for hurting those around them. How can those of us on the receiving end of the wraith of someone with NPD wrap our minds around this?

No Character in this Character

Why does it seem so much easier to feel for someone who is bipolar – a much more well- known personality disorder? Is it because they, by and large, feel remorse for their monster-like moments when they have deeply hurt friends, family, and significant others? Is it because treatment is possible and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel; hope? Meanwhile, if you google “relationship with a narcissist” most articles will advise you to run as far and fast as you can, if possible. There is no light.

A very prominent psychologist in Texas who I truly respect once told me that there’s no cure and no medication and really no treatment at all for NPD. As he shook his head with a sympathetic look on his face he said, “I’m afraid sometimes it just boils down to bad character.” But character isn’t a mental illness. Character, to me, represents a choice we make in how we behave and live our lives. Do narcissists have a choice?

Sympathy for the Devil?

These thoughts are a part of a daily quandary for me because I am a compassionate, tenacious person who has always had trouble writing people off. No matter how mean an ex has been, I always wanted to try and at least be friends. If someone clearly doesn’t like me (especially if I have no idea why) they take up far more thoughts in my mind than they probably should. I want resolve with everyone. I want to be good with each other, and good to each other.

   Important is the warning to avoid conversations with the demon. We may ask what is relevant but anything beyond that is dangerous. He is a liar. The demon is a liar. He will lie to confuse us. But he will also mix lies with the truth to attack us. The attack is psychological, Damien, and powerful. So don’t listen to him. Remember that – do not listen.

I find myself at a two-pronged fork in the road. There are clearly marked paths in front of me. I can live by the idea that narcissistic personality disorder is an illness like any other with symptoms out of the afflicted person’s control, and so they can’t be held accountable for the evil that they do. I can see little Linda Blair’s “Reagan” inside a possessed body and know that it wasn’t her fault that she was possessed and that there was hope for her.

Or I can accept the fact that I am no Father Karris, and I’m not willing to jump out the window and give my own life for this. This exorcism, if any such thing is possible, is someone else’s problem now.