What did you learn today?

When I was a kid, every night at dinner my dad would ask us, my brothers and I, “What did you learn today?”

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Sometimes it would be a struggle to answer him– we would push our green beans or corn around our plates while mentally sifting through the day, scrambling for a “good” answer. Those nights, our answers would be something about a grammar rule or a mathematic formula or (this would be my brother) how it turns out that calling the teacher by his first name doesn’t go over well.

Sometimes we would already be bursting with news to share. I learned about the craziest guy in history! I’d say, and start describing a 200-year old story. One of my brothers would offer up a weird fact about science. We’d come away from dinner knowing a little something more about the world than we did before.

weird

But then there were those times when we would hear dad’s question, and all of a sudden realize, yes! I did learn something today! Something I read in a book, or heard in class, or stumbled across on the internet. Something a friend told me, or something I’d observed. The moment I realized I had learned something new while having what I thought was an ordinary, boring day, made the humble threads of daily life seem brighter somehow, and more worthy of attention.

I started anticipating dad’s question, and I would try to think of what I’d learned that day before he got home from work. Looking for what I was learning as I meandered through my day, changed the way I experienced the world around me. It gave me a sense of ownership in my own experience of learning and living.

stilllearning

What did you learn today? That question struck me out of the blue today.

What did you learn today? I learned that 1869 is the first year woman got the right to vote in America– kudos to the state of Wyoming!

What did you learn today? I learned that well-intentioned white feminists can shut out the voices and experiences of women of color by being ignorant, by ignoring the experiences of all women, by hiding in guilt, by failing to put aside ego and fear and privilege to ask all women what they need and to truly listen.

What did you learn today? I learned that I will never be too organized, too mature, or too experienced to chase after a bus.

What did you learn today? This is a question I am going to start asking myself every day. I’m going to start journaling about this, and see where it takes me. The days I scramble for anything to write, I will know I need to work harder at searching out knowledge. The days I am fired up with pocketfuls of learning, I will know what I care about enough to focus on more. And the days I find the unexpected staring back at me, wry eyes reflecting the knowledge that was there all along– ah, those are the days I know that life has more to it than we let ourselves remember.

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Lines from the great Cordelia Chase

So… What did you learn today?

Get out the vote!

Do it! Vote in the midterm elections!

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Vote Democrat- -Republican– Independent– Green Party– Christmas Unicorns– or better yet, just vote your conscience, whether or not that falls along party lines.

Just vote!

I have this crazy idea, that if we (We as American citizens… If you’re from another country and you are able to vote, please do exercise this right as well!) take midterm elections as seriously as we take Presidential elections, our country will be in a much better place to evoke change.

Think about it: The President only has so much power- and that’s a good thing. Checks and balances, keeping government honest. (Honest-ish.)

The current, fall 2014 Congressional approval rating (according to a Gallup poll), has the American public’s approval of Congress resting at an appalling (but hardly surprising) 14%, the lowest for a pre-election fall since 1974.

How many times have we heard of a bill “barely” passing through Congress, or the Senate, or not passing at all? Look what happened to Net Neutrality. Whether or not you “like” President Obama, there’s only so much he can do, and only so much our next president can do. It’s not just about passing bills, either. Local laws are important, both for their direct effect in the lives of individual states’ citizens, and for the precedence they set for the rest of the nation.

Oregon has some issues on the ballot this fall that I feel very strongly about, so I was eager to seize my absentee ballot and make my vote count. Public office is a little harder (Here’s where Republican/Democrat comes in handy, because all the candidates’ promises are vague at best. At least I’m familiar with the voting records of the congressmen and senators.). I want to make a difference in my community and have my voice heard, and this is one way to do it.

Mary Poppins throwback

Mary Poppins throwback

Yes, I voted way before Nov. 4 (My brother alleges they send out ballots to feminists first. How thoughtful of “them.”), but it’s not too late for you to go out and vote, if you haven’t already!

F-word

I identify myself as a feminist, so it’s a little weird for me to backtrack and remember that it’s not a label everyone is comfortable wearing.

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The only thing keeping me from calling myself a feminist was lack of understanding of what the word meant. Is feminism still a thing, or is it over now that women have the right to vote and work outside the home? Is being called a feminist a good thing? What exactly does it mean to call myself a feminist… and do I want to deal with the negative connotations surrounding the word? What is a feminist?

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Let’s jump back to my first semester at a women’s college. For the first time in my life, I was participating in discussions about equality, diversity, empowerment, and the power of language– I was putting things I had always thought about and considered important into words.

My parents raised me to believe in my own worth, and never pinned me into prescribed gender roles or tried to control what I wanted to do with my life. The women in my life were strong, nurturing, ambitious, successful, and incredibly hard-working. Both my mom and grandma went back to university after having kids; my grandma became a nurse after raising 5 kids, and my mom became a teacher while raising 4 kids. I ran cross-country in the fall, watched romantic comedies at sleep overs in the winter,  hiked along waterfalls in the spring, did folk dancing in the summer, and went away to college at a university a thousand miles away from home. No one ever explicitly talked about feminism, and my mom certainly never hung a picture of Gloria Steinem on the wall at home, but my family always empowered me to be my best, never limited me, and never made me feel I wasn’t equal to my brothers.

Becoming a feminist wasn’t some radical, “she’s gone to college and now she’s an anarchist!” kind of thing, because I was already a feminist. I remember choosing to label myself as a feminist with pride, once I felt I knew what it meant.

So many women and men recoil from the dreaded f-word. “Let’s not bring feminism into this!” I heard a woman say, in response to her friend’s comment that a woman could say herself (instead of being a damsel in distress). I was shocked; how is being an independent woman “bringing feminism” into the discussion?

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Let’s look at what goes into this f-word:

Yes, feminism is still a thing. Less than 100 years ago, American women were granted the right to vote. (Awesome fact: Before American women had universal suffrage, Jeannette Rankin became the first woman elected to Congress.) After the vote was gained, “second-wave feminism” came in and prized basic rights for women out of the cold white hands of the patriarchy. (Part of the fun of being a feminist is getting to use colorful imagery to make a point.)

Imagine a world where your spouse has complete control over your credit cards and bank account, where many careers are considered out of reach for you solely on the basis of your sex (or skin color, or accent, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and so on– but that’s another, related, story), where your children are seen not as one aspect of your life but as very nearly the only aspect, where you earn less for the work you do than others who do the same quality of work. Many of these are, unfortunately, not hard to imagine, because we (Americans) still have not achieved pay equality.

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Pay equality is a contentious issue, because it’s simply not as cut-and-dry as some statistics suggest. Part of the wage gap comes from more complex issues than just paychecks; there are fewer women leaders in many fields, women workers are sometimes treated unfairly because their employers believe they will become pregnant and leave their jobs, and many women haven’t been taught to be assertive about negotiating their pay the way men have. But the truth is, there shouldn’t be any kind of wage gap– and while that statistic about women being paid 78 cents on the male dollar keeps getting tossed around, when you put race into the equation, it becomes even scarier.

caucasian man's dollar

raceandgender in the food chain

You’ll notice the figures differ in these two infographics. That’s kind of my point. No one agrees on this, no one agrees on what factors should go into to finding this information, and I certainly don’t know which statistics are accurate. But I have no doubt there is a pay gap among races and genders.

I digress. Yes, feminism is still a thing. Feminism in the media is usually white, middle class, 1st world feminism– but while white middle class women are affected by sexism, it’s important to recognize that being a woman becomes even harder when you’re also a minority, or when you’re considered your husband’s/father’s property, or when you can’t go to elementary school because you’re walking 12 miles to get water for your family. Feminism is about all of these things and more; at its roots, feminism is about equality.

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Man-haters? Sure. Because wanting to be treated equally to men, to be given the same opportunities, to have my opinions and my work respected on their own, without reference to my gender, is man-hating. NO! I have incredible, loving men in my life, and I would never think of them as “bad” or anything like that, simply because they are men. Sexism is a systemic problem on a societal level, not something that every single man carries around like a weapon. Some men are awful sexists. So are some women. Some women are feminists, working for equality– and so are some men. It always seems so incredibly bizarre to me when people (mainly women) say they could never be feminist because they don’t hate men, or because they don’t want to raise women above men. I don’t want to be “above” men! I just want you to look at my abilities and contributions the same way you would if I was a man. 

So if you’re wondering whether or not you are (or want to be) feminist, think about whether you believe women and men are equal in worth, and whether you want to do something about the way our society treats women and men.

Because at the end of the day…

fundamental

Back in the Saddle Again

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This blog has been inactive for months now, but I’m going to try starting it up again. Describing my adventures abroad over at my travel blog, Sheep and Dragons, has been an utter delight (and quite the learning experience). But now the reason people choose to write blogs– we have something to say– is burning under my skin and setting my fingers itching to channel my thoughts through my keyboard onto this random blog. hellodavid

“Random” is surely the best word for this blog so far, because I started it thinking I’d write about feminism, maybe with some history and nerdy musings thrown in… but looking back, it seems to be very food-focused (weird), poetry-centric, and very faith-based. Well, my faith is a part of who I am and is sure to be at the core of what I write, but I suspect the other two will not be the focus of my blog going forward.

The posts I can squeeze in over the next six months between classes, work, my screenplay (!), and catch-up on Sheep and Dragons, will likely center on writing, feminism, books (dear heavens, prepare yourself for some passionate book reviews) and… webseries/TV series.

The latter is the reason I’m writing this post instead of working on the first scene of my screenplay, choosing which pictures to use on my Versailles post, or reading about World War I. Ever since my good friend Becca introduced me to the better-than-marzipan wonder that is The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, I have been wholly obsessed with modern literary adaptations on YouTube.

Since then, my  fascination with narrative possibilities on YouTube and my respect and admiration for these content creators have grown bigger than Hagrid’s pumpkins on Flesh-Eating Slug Repellent. I managed to work The LBD, as The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is fondly called, into a paper on author-audience interaction in transmedia that was worth half my grade last semester, I have formed lasting friendships that began with discussions over The LBD, and I have found a half-dozen truly remarkable web series to fall in love with.

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Over the next several posts, I will discuss the creative potential in web series, review the web series’ I follow, and who knows? maybe continue on my random bent.

Oh- and I’ve learned that I can use blogging as an excuse to display my favorite photographs (that I take) and gifs (that I pilfer from the Internet). So that’s what you can expect from this blog in the coming months!

goodascanbe

2014, a year to be brave

A new year, a new word. Every year, I choose a specific virtue or value to work on. It’s usually something I feel I have been lacking in my life; in past years I have decided to focus on patience, courage, strength, and perseverance, among others.

Every year, I focus on my word and make a deliberate effort to bring it into my daily life. I push myself to work on it and practice it until it becomes a part of me. Most importantly, I pray over it, and ask God for grace, especially with help on my word (virtue/value) of the year.

psalm 73Those prayers are what give me the strength to keep working on that word, and by the end of the year, I look back and find that I really grew in that part of my life.

The word for 2014 is brave.

Hermione Granger had it right in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Hermione Granger had it right in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

The dictionary definition of bravery is having courage. There are so many places in my life where I want to be brave this year.

I want to be brave in my writing; to be brave enough to sit down and write, then to edit, and finally to submit my work for publishing. Humans are supposed to be made up of 55-75% water, but when I sit and stare at a page of my own words and think of letting others read it, I feel like I’m made up of 60% insecurity.

courage doesn't always roar

I want to be brave in having my say and letting my voice be heard in a group. I communicate best on paper or in small groups; put me in a crowd and I lose my tongue. But how can I stand up for others if I can’t stand up for my own opinions? Dumbledore said it best: “There are all kinds of courage,” said Dumbledore, smiling. “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.

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And most exciting of all, I need to practice bravery because I am spending this semester abroad. I leave tomorrow for Wales, UK, my first time out of the country. I will need to cultivate bravery as I meet new people, leave my old boring routine (I do love routine) in the (American) dust, and scamper around the UK doing scary things like navigating London with friend (who shares my directional challenge) and clambering up ropes courses. 

(You can follow my Wales blog here if you’re interested. I should have something up by the end of January.)

"Belle's bravery" By Bloodonthemoon5 on DeviantArt (I don't know anything about this quote, but it's great!)

“Belle’s bravery” By Bloodonthemoon5 on DeviantArt (I don’t know anything about this quote, but it’s great!)

Bravery is about pushing past fear and doing something worthwhile, something good, despite being frightened or unsure. To me, bravery has nothing to do with a lack of fear, and everything to do with overcoming a fear.

bravery-quotes

When I look back on 2014, I want to see a year of bravery.

What about you? Do you have a word for 2014?

Wild Geese

Wild Geese
 
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
 
from Dream Work by Mary Oliver
published by Atlantic Monthly Press
© Mary Oliver
Another Mary Oliver poem. I adore this one. What a wonderful reminder that the world is bigger than just you and me. When I am stressed, or lonely, or upset, or saddened, the world seems to narrow so that my problems hang heavy and huge. “Wild Geese” comes as such a good reminder that there is so much more out there: the despair of others, yes, but also rain and geese and joy, and the world offering itself up to our imaginations.

The Journey

The Journey
by Mary Oliver
 
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.
Mary Oliver is quite possibly my favorite poet, or at least one of my favorites. I love the emotion behind her seemingly simple reflections of nature. The Journey, in particular, is one that always hits me. I tend to base much of my self worth off of my ability to help and care for others, but in the end, my own life is the only one I have control over, the only life I truly have the responsibility to change.