Monthly Archives: June 2015

Bubble Verdict: Differences of Opinion In, Differences of Heart Out

Yesterday, and for the past couple of days, my gut has felt pretty twisted up about the stuff I mentioned yesterday. And I was for seriously concerned that I had created a bubble in which everyone’s opinion was the same as my own, that I might have been setting myself up for a complete confirmation of my own beliefs with no consideration of any others.

Brene Brown (I’m in love!!) is starting to give me the language I need to talk about these feelings, and what I felt yesterday following first some arguing, then some unfriending, and much more unfollowing, was definitely shame. Throw my little self-created, opinion-lacking bubble on top and I was legit concerned. So I asked you guys what you thought… you did not disappoint.

I cannot tell you how much I appreciated these two comments, from my beautiful and brilliant friends Aimee and Nicole. So so so much that I asked if they’d mind if I reposted and expounded, because they were worth so much longer of a response than a simple comment reply could allow — they helped me to understand and to be ok with what I had done, the bubble, the story, I had created. To let go of the shame. Ahhhh, sweet relief.

Late last night (maybe not so late Alaska time, but late to me), Aimee said:

Just had this exact conversation with my folks yesterday.  I only saw a few “anti-” things and generally I’m against defriending people over politics (though I want to soooo bad!) but they had much much more.  Their friends encompass a different age group than mine AND they’re in West Michigan.

I also have a really hard time even considering the opposite viewpoint from my own.  To me, it’s a civil rights issue and shouldn’t even be up for debate.  I can only hope these people are just really scared of change or whatever they think is going to happen…  and when nothing changes (except MORE LOVE all around!) they’ll come around.  One can hope! 🙂

And then, this afternoon (same afternoon in Tennessee and Wisconsin, for those keeping track) of the timeline, Nicole said:

As a member of the rainbow club, and a scientist, I came to the same conclusion as you – but long ago. The ugliness you saw on Friday is something I experience every single day, in places you would least expect. I ran for Chair of Diversity on the postdoc council at my place of employment, and my entire spiel about being a lesbian was deleted from the ballot, leaving only a generic sentence saying something like ‘I’ll do my best to include everyone.’ Of course I e-mailed the person responsible for putting together the ballots immediately (it was late, and they weren’t in their office) – and I was given a crap apology about them not knowing my public statement was in fact public, etc etc.

But what to do? I like my friends and family because they are diverse and they all have their own points of view. People are so angry and so hateful and when they start throwing words at you, they are turning off their ears and turning off their hearts. Nothing you say or do makes any difference. I can’t live in that sea of hate, so I unfriend those people on social media and distance myself from those people in real life.

When it comes to other disagreements, I try to be more distant. We aren’t voting for the same person for President/etc – that’s a-ok – Elections are supposed to be by secret ballot anyway.

I keep people in my life who can empower me to be a better human, and who enrich me with their points-of-view. There is a huge difference between someone who spews a speech with hate and contempt, and someone who speaks firmly about their beliefs but is willing to listen.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

Man, these guys are so… dang… eloquent! And, once again, as Brene Brown would suggest, I’m not the only one. I never am!

Turns out, I did make a bubble, but not quite the bubble I thought. I can handle contrary opinions. Republican rhetoric, gun stuff, anti-abortion arguments, support of big business, anti-GMO sentiments, etc. I don’t dig those ideas myself, but I get that a lot of people do, and so long as those ideas are presented respectfully (i.e. sans hate), I can deal. No big thing. Difference of opinion — a – o – k.

There are several things I cannot tolerate, however… things that as Aimee and Nicole suggest, don’t add value to my life, don’t enrich my point of view.

Namely, and off the top of my head:

1. Victimization of any individual or group via hateful language and/or images (e.g. anti-Caitlyn Jenner memes, confederate flags)

2. Victim blaming (e.g., she deserved it because of what she was wearing/drinking/saying/has-done-in-the-past, use of the word “thug” to describe a young black man)

3. Victim language (e.g., woe is me, the poor, persecuted white/straight/Christian/male-in-America)

Those things, they’re not differences of opinion, they are differences of heart. And those differences do not enrich my life. As such, they do not belong in my bubble.

This is my life now, and I dig it. {Source}
This is my life now, and I dig it. {Source}

Life is tough when words fail me and last night, I simply could not find the words to pull me up and away from a nagging sense of shame. Thank you, Aimee and Nicole, for giving me the words. And, more importantly, thank you so much for being in my bubble — you undoubtedly enrich it in a million and one ways!

Mixed Feelings About My New Facebook Bubble

When I opened up Facebook for the first time on Friday morning, it was this… exactly this:

Image originally posted by George Takei on Facebook.
Image originally posted by George Takei on Facebook.

And it was glorious! I was so happy and so was my newsfeed. Rainbows and celebration. That was all.

But then the other stuff started trickling in. The ugly stuff. The outright ugly and the ugly couched as something else, but ugly nonetheless. I mean, if someone starts a sentence with “I’m not a bigot, but…” it’s generally a bad sign. It made my stomach turn and my skin crawl. And it was from people I know.

I hardly know what to say. Disappointment and disgust and, honestly, hurt. Hurt that people I know honestly believe that their fellow human beings are somehow less worthy of basic human rights than they are. I just cannot fathom that mindset, bible or not. Christian or not.

So I cleaned house. Whenever someone said, “Unfriend me if this offends you,” I unfriended. Otherwise I unfollowed. I just couldn’t stand to see it anymore.

I’m totally obsessive though (ob-sess-ive) and now I can’t stop thinking now about the bubble I may have set up for myself. A bubble free of all opinions contrary to my own. And maybe that’s a super bad thing. I’ve heard about information bias and the notion that we set ourselves up in this loop of positive reinforcement of our own beliefs and therefore it’s impossible to open our minds up to anything else.

But the honest truth is I refuse to entertain the idea that any individual is worth less than anyone else. That anyone should be denied the rights afforded to their neighbor. I refuse — so what’s the point in seeing it? It only turns my stomach.

I love Facebook for a lot of reasons — I like to keep up with people I rarely see, I like to see photos and posts and BuzzFeed lists of ridiculousness. I enjoy getting tagged in Harry Potter-related everything. It’s a great way to see my nieces. But as a place to spew hate (even hate couched in the language of “religious freedom” and whatnot), I simply cannot stand it. So what’s the solution? Hide, hide, hide? Say my piece and get lost in a sea of comments leading to nowhere but more ugliness? Walk away entirely? Goodness knows I’m not any good at just scrolling past and letting things go.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I can’t help but wonder if I’ve made a big mistake by tailoring my environment to reflect my own opinions. I’d honestly like to maybe just stick my head in the sand and stick to Pinterest and the crazy world of crafting for a bit, but I don’t think that’s the solution either. Not when I feel this strongly about something. I don’t know!! What do you think? What do you do?


Here’s what I think: gay people are people and people are afforded equal rights under the law. So it is ordered. Regardless of your religion (and you can have any religion you choose — U! S! A! U! S! A!), it is the law of the land. Thank goodness for that. Goodness and love and rainbows. (Now tell me your thoughts about bubbles. Please and thank you.)

I make the rockin world go round.

It’s a self-deprecating Queen reference… get me? Although, how self-deprecating can a fat bottom be if Queen rocked out about it once upon a time. Not very, am I right?

A couple weeks ago, I got a chance to catch up with a good friend from the old hood — we chatted for a good long while and lots and lots of memories came flooding back. I probably hadn’t talked to Dante in more than 5 years… maybe even 7 or 8… since whenever the last time we ran into each other at our parents’ houses on Raintree Drive…

After our conversation, I was reminded of his long ago (possibly still, but at least he didn’t use it) description of me… as an endangered moose.

Have you ever seen a moose in person? It’s a total insult. They’re enormous and goofy looking all weird legs and big body and crazy antlers. Insults were kind of what we did though, so the grain of truth in it, meh… part of growing up nextdoor to a boy the same age, I suppose.

It made me laugh to think about it again last week and it’s been on my mind.

I actually nearly ran into a moose in Michigamee one time– the town motto is “Michigamee, where the moose run loose” so it’s not terribly surprising that that’s where it would have happened. I came around a bend on US41 in my bitty little Geo Tracker and bam, there it was. Standing in the road, looking at me. We sat there like that for a while — me, a moose, looking straight ahead at the real deal.

I’m a big person — big in pretty much every way a woman “shouldn’t” be big. My body, height and width, my hair, my head, my hands and feet. Heck, even my jaw is big. I’m a big person.

These days I’m feeling a lot more ok with that. I mean, I am what I am. I can exercise and eat well and use hair products to minimize some of it, but when it comes to bone structure and genetic propensity for size, there’s not a ton I can do.

Actually, let me rephrase that, not a ton that I’m willing to do… I did spend several months thin as could be, but a little scene from Drop Dead Gorgeous comes to mind when I think about it:


“With one week to go before the pageant, I was finishing my outfit, rehearsing my talent, brushing up on current events, and running 18 miles a day on about 400 calories. I was ready.”

Yeah, I got sucked up in the wedding crazies… very little food, lots and lots of gym time, just not a life I’m willing to live.

So bigness it is.

What really surprised me recently though was how much it matters to me, even at the age of 31, that I see people that look like me, big me, being awesome.

On Tuesday night, Seth and I went with some friends to see Spy, the new Melissa McCarthy movie. It… was… hillarious. I laughed hard for two hours straight. I just loved it.

No, it’s not Oscar-worthy cinema, but it’s flipping funny and Melissa McCarthy and her amazing bestie-from-the-basement Miranda Hart were amazing.

So were Rose Byrne and Jason Statham and Jude Law and Allison Janney and the rest of the cast. But man, Melissa and Miranda. They rocked my world?


Because they were hilarious, mostly. But also, and the thing I’m trying to talk about now, is because they were completely and totally imperfect. Large and in charge, they looked like me and they were awesome.

The IMDB page for Spy -- case in point.
The IMDB page for Spy — case in point.

We all have personally defining characteristics. I can’t know how other people see me, but I know that when I think about how others see me and the way I see myself, I think big — body, hair, feet, hands, brain, jaw. All of it. Big.

So for me, to see someone else who is big being awesome? It thrills me.

And it was mostly just fun until I checked Facebook mid-post-writing last night and saw Daily Kos’s breaking coverage of the absolutely horrifying AME church shooting in Charleston, SC, and I realized that it doesn’t just matter to me that I see big people being awesome — you need to see it too. And we both need to see a lot more diverse people being awesome all the dang time. Because then maybe fat people, black people, transgender people, disfigured people, people of all different shapes and sizes and colors and orientations won’t be scary, they’ll just be people. People with the capacity to be awesome. Or funny or sexy or interesting or whatever. People that deserve to be.

I realize that it’s not really fair to compare weight bias and the expectations that society has about women’s bodies to the disgusting, pervasive, systemic racism that still exists in our country… but you get my point, don’t you?

And it was really hammered home to me when another neighbor from long ago, who lived behind both Dante and me, Heather, posted this BuzzFeed link on Facebook:

These Are The Victims of the Charleston Church Shooting

People, beautiful, awesome, amazing, real people… just like you and me. People we need to see. Not just now that they’re gone, but all the time. It’s not the answer, but it’s part of it, don’t you think. I mean, think back to the whole ridiculous notion of separate-but-equal when little black girls wants to play with little white dollies because that’s what they saw as the norm, as they good, as the worthy. I hate that. It makes my stomach turn. But it still happens on our tvs and our movie screens and our magazine pages. We can talk about and celebrate Viola Davis and Mindy Kaling and Melissa McCarthy and Laverne Cox and Peter Dinklage, yes… but those are singular names, the exceptions rather than the rule.

It’s important to see ourselves, to understand that we have the potential to be awesome. It’s also important to see others, those who are different than us, to understand that they have the potential to be awesome. We all do. We need to see it. We can all make the rockin world go round

The haftas and the wannas… plus a freshly minted MD!

I’m currently reading my friend Lara Lacombe‘s fourth book — Killer Exposure. It’s so dang good, probably my favorite she’s written thus far. I love it, but it is destroying my sleep schedule because I “one more chapter” it all the way to way-too-late every single night. Thank goodness I’m almost done.

Killer Exposure on Amazon!
Killer Exposure on Amazon!

Lara writes exclusively romantic suspense, so it may surprise you to know that while chatting with my sister-in-law this weekend, a line from the book sprang to mind.

You see, Sister Doctor has now graduated from medical school and is officially an MD, which I guess means we can upgrade her to Dr. Sister. Yayyyy!! In honor of this big occasion, we threw a big Stankowski-style party… you know… like we do.

Badger Bash! Everybody wore red!
Badger Bash! Everybody wore red!

Dr. Sister tends to be on the humble side, which is the nice way of saying she absolutely cannot take a compliment without qualifying it, deflecting credit, downplaying it, or when all that fails, just getting super awkward.

Humility is an excellent thing and all, but when you excel as mightily as Dr. Sister has, too much can be a problem. Like yesterday, for example… she just didn’t seem to be able to thank us enough. Everything was “too much” and she seemed almost stressed out by all the attention and congratulations and such. Poor thing.

Pinspired burlap banner... I have a crafting problem!
Pinspired burlap banner… I have a crafting problem!

That’s when the line from Lara Lacombe’s Killer Exposure came to mind… when the (hunky) hero gets all intense and says to the (all-too-relatable) heroine: YOU ARE NOT AN OBLIGATION. (Oh man, Owen and Hannah…)

And after thinking that over last night, that’s exactly what I think yesterday’s (beautiful, curly-haired) heroine (me) should have said to (the overly humble) Dr. Sister: YOU ARE NOT AN OBLIGATION. We did not have to have a party. We wanted to have a party. We wanted to celebrate what you have accomplished, to recognize your achievements, to give your friends and family a chance to tell you how crazy proud we are and how unbelievably happy we are that you’ll be staying nearby. Not a hafta. A wanna.


We’re all a little like all-too-relatable Hannah and Dr. Sister on her big day, though, aren’t we? It’s hard not to let the insecurity that plagues us all play on the second track when other people are doing or saying nice things, isn’t it? Almost like our accomplishments, our big moments, are in some way a burden to other people. Why is that? Because think about it — think about those moments when you are super happy for or proud of a friend or a family member. It’s not an inconvenience to you — the happiness, the pride — it’s genuine. So why do we assume the worst of others? (Dr. Sister, I am not saying this to try to make you apologize for being overly humble, do you hear me? I’m merely using you as an illustrative example. Stop over-analyzing.)

I love the golden rule, the idea of treating other people as you want to be treated. But I think it’s wrong to some extent. I think a better rule is to treat everyone, ourselves included, as we would treat our best friend. That’s what works for me, anyway. Even my therapist says to me, and I am not kidding right now, “What would you say to Melissa if she were in your shoes?” The answer is always, of course, “I love you and you’re perfect and beautiful no matter what you do!!”

For example, when I got my PhD, after all was said and done, I felt pretty crappy. Looking back on it now four years later, I can see that really, the day was quite lovely. I looked like a million bucks in my fancy dress and sky high shoes, I rocked my public defense, I survived the private defense, I earned my doctorate, my labmates threw me an amazing party, and my friends and family were all there to support me despite having to listen to me drone on about mouse vaginas for an hour (literally). All I could focus on, though, was how much I sucked because one person told me I sucked. And I cried and cried and cried…. Again, literally.

What would I have said to Melissa? I would have said: Are you freaking kidding me?! You were perfect and beautiful and have so much to be proud of!!

So much nicer.

So, Dr. Sister, and all you other doubters, myself included, accept the compliment, let yourself be celebrated, appreciate the kind words and the hugs and the gifts and the parties in your honor, and always assume that it comes from a want, a desire to show you love… you, my darling, whoever you are, are not an obligation!!


So let’s just take this one more moment to celebrate Dr. Sister, MD, in all her glory! It’s been a long journey, and Dr. Sister has absolutely taken the long way — not because she had to, ever, but because she is so determined to 1) do things right and 2) get every possible valuable experience she can out of her training. It’s amazing. She’s amazing. And the University of Wisconsin is brilliant for choosing to keep her on for her general surgery residency. So much hard work to celebrate!! Seven more years to surgeon-dom!!

Dr. Sister :)
Dr. Sister 🙂

Facebook, Grammar, and Caitlyn Jenner

By yesterday afternoon, my Facebook and Twitter feeds were full of posts about the lovely and courageous Caitlyn Jenner. Mostly using words that mirrored my own thoughts — lovely, courageous, brave, beautiful, strong, etc.

All screen captures from FB -- names removed for privacy when necessary.
All screen captures from FB — names removed for privacy when necessary.

But there were a couple that did not. A couple that were derogatory, bigoted, hateful.

(Those I will absolutely not repeat nor re-post. Not here. Not anywhere else.)

Besides the general attitude of the posts, I noticed another difference that really stuck out to me — the grammar. The grammar was 100% better 100% of the time in the positive posts.

Is my feed biased? Oh, totes ma-goats. It’s bound to be chock-full of over-educated, grammar-enthused, open-minded nerds. It’s normal to cluster amongst like-minded people, I think. It was just something interesting that I noticed. That somehow misuse of their/they’re/there and its/it’s and except/accept, etc, tended to cluster with the posts full of anger and disgust and a basic disrespect for the humanity of one very famous woman who has made a brave and difficult choice to show the public who she really is.

I get that’s it’s Facebook. And I get that even on my own blog, my own feed, my own space, I am rarely grammatically perfect. But the one thing I strive to never be, in any of these spaces, is close-minded. And why is that? Why do I have that going for me? Should I be thanking my parents? My education? My privilege in general?

I don’t know. Kind of a big question. And as much as I’d love to explore it, I’m not really sure where to go. Or how best to respond to instances in which I note disrespect, injustice, and the like.

So I fall back on something I latched onto a while ago: Promote what you love rather than bashing what you hate.

I love open-mindedness. Acceptance. The freedom of individuals to express their gender anywhere on the continuum, without conforming to the societal dichotomy of male (rawr!) and female (meow…)

I love celebration of courage and bravery. I love when people share their stories, their struggles. I love watching a family love and accept each other no matter their differences.

I love that we live in a time and place that allows a transgender woman like Caitlyn Jenner to be open and honest. Where a show like Transparent can be not just aired, but also adored. (Have you seen it? A-ma-zing.) Where this powerful message of courage and hope can be transmitted times a million via news media and social media and word of mouth to thousands and millions of other transgender individuals that currently live in fear or confusion. And perhaps even more importantly, to their friends and families who really just want to love them, for the person they are, male, female, or anywhere in between.


Yes, this world is a hard place too. There is fear and hate and anger. There are bad things. Bad things that happen to good people and some genuinely bad apples looking for trouble. But, you guys, what I saw yesterday… so… much… love! And so much progress! Even just in my relatively short lifetime. (I said relatively!) It’s a good, good thing. It’s hard not to be moved by the type of courage Caitlyn Jenner has shown us all. Or Jeffrey Tambor. Or even sweet Leelah Alcorn, rest her soul. Each in their own way.


PS: One of the best things I read yesterday was an article in which GLAAD provided tips for the media on transgender terminology — it was so enlightening and definitely worth the read. (I was definitely misusing the -ed ending!!) If you happen to notices any mistakes in the language I used above, please rest assured that 1) it is not intentional and 2) if you point it out to me, I will gladly change it. Or should I say GLAADly???

Oy. Bad pun. Can’t help myself.