Personal Post

Me Too: My Story

In the wake of all of the Harvey Weinstein allegations coming out of Hollywood, women everywhere have been sharing their stories of sexual harassment and assault on social media using the hashtag #metoo. The idea being that if every woman who has suffered from harassment or assault tweets or posts just those two words, we can get at least an idea of how big this problem is. I’m going to be super frank in this post. I’m going to name names, I’m going to give quotes, and I’m going to talk about how the sexual harassment I have faced since the age of twelve has affected me. I’m also going to be totally honest here and say that if you are a woman in America, you have been sexually harassed. It’s impossible not to be. And if you are a woman reading this and thinking that you haven’t, it’s likely because we have been taught to accept the bullshit men give us. And that has got to stop.

But first, my story. The first time I remember being sexually harassed I was twelve. It was during P.E.. One of the popular boys came up to me during class and told me that he and all the other boys would hang out during laps and talk about me because they “liked to watch me run”. It’s safe to say that I was well-developed (for a twelve year old) at that point, and I was one of the few in my group of friends who had boobs. At the time, I didn’t fully grasp the meaning behind his comment, I just knew that it made me feel uncomfortable, self-conscious, and like I had something to apologize for. When I told my friends, one of my more savvy friends explained to me just why the boys liked to get together and stare while we ran around the track. After her explanation, I felt even worse about myself. I honestly don’t remember if I told my mom about the comment and how it made me feel. I definitely didn’t tell my P.E. teacher–a male well-known for ogling his female students–or anyone on campus other than my friends. At the time, I felt like I was the one who had done something wrong, not this boy who had made such an inappropriate comment.

I thought about writing about this incident back after the election when I was so angry that a man like Trump could win the presidency after the things he said. I wasn’t going to name names back then because, though this boy and I are not friends and are in no way connected on social media, I know many of my Facebook friends probably are still connected with him. My instinct was to protect him because in reality, I don’t think he’s a bad person. I think if he read this and knew how much his words still resonated with me–twenty-two years after the fact–he would probably feel bad. But that’s the problem. I’m worried about him feeling bad, when he’s the one who did something wrong. I’m worried about how something like me calling him out could possibly affect him when I am the one who has suffered from his words. And to be fair to him (again), if it hadn’t been him, it would have been someone else. But it doesn’t change the fact that he kicked off a long line of sexual harassment in my life, and maybe even more importantly, he kicked off a long line of me not saying anything, to either the perpetrators or anyone in a position of authority. So Evan Anderson, with all that being said, I need it to be out there in the world that you sexually harassed me when we were twelve. And I have never forgotten that moment and how your words made me feel.

I can’t even tell you how many times I have been sexually harassed since that first instance because it happens all. the. time. For the past twenty-two years, I have been harassed, ogled, leered at, and discriminated against by everyone from teachers and bosses to family members and students. I stopped keeping track of the incidents because there were too many to count. When I was in my early twenties and going out to clubs and bars on a regular basis, the harassment escalated to assault. Nothing ever happened that I would have considered serious at the time–lots of groping and uncomfortable dancing with strangers–but it still happened. I got to the point where I didn’t even want to go out without some of my male friends coming along to make sure it never got any worse.

And again, this is part of the problem. Strange men were grabbing me in a club and I didn’t think there was anything to be upset about. I thought it was par for the course. If you’re going to go dancing with your girlfriends, you’re going to get groped. How fucking ridiculous is that? Just typing that sentence is infuriating. I wanted to put on a cute dress and go out dancing with my friends, so my payment for that experience is to allow strange men to put their hands on me. That is such bullshit. How is this something we allow to happen? How are we okay with teaching girls that this is how the world is? And what will it take to make it stop?

As I debated writing this post over the weekend, I had almost convinced myself to let it go and not put my experience out there. And then at my wedding Saturday, a man 25-30 years older than I am came over to me while I was standing in the corner of the reception space, looked down at my bag which had a lighter sticking out of it, and said, “Is that a gun in your bag or are you just happy to see me?”

I would love to be able to tell you that I read this man the riot act, but I didn’t. I was at work, and a huge part of my job is pretending like nothing is wrong when it absolutely is. So I laughed. The man joked  with me again when I went to release his table to the buffet line. I tuned him out, but it was something along the lines of me showing favoritism to his table because of his “joke”. The next day I was angry not only with this man, but with myself. Why didn’t I say anything? Surely there must be a way to rebuke someone’s blatant harassment with something firm yet polite. And again, why am I so concerned about how I am going to look defending myself when he was in the wrong? (And for those of you who read his comment and think there’s nothing wrong with what he said, let me break it down for you: an older man who I have never met before thought it was okay to come up to me in my place of work and ask if the sight of him made me sexually aroused. If you don’t see the harassment behind that, you are part of the problem.)

I wish I could wrap all this up with some kind of solution to the problem, but the truth is there isn’t an easy one. I am going to make a concerted effort to defend myself in these situations in the future, but I know myself, and it’s going to take a lot of work for me to be able to confront someone when I am uncomfortable. I think the best thing that I can do is to raise my son with the awareness that so many of the men in my generation (and those before them) seem to lack. An awareness of how his words affect others, an awareness of what harassment actually is, and an awareness of what consent means.

If you are a man and you’re reading this and if you are having problems determining how far is too far, and what you should or should not say to a woman, use this trick: Would you be okay with a strange man making the same comment to you at a bar? If the answer is no, back the eff off and shut your mouth.

Thanks for reading my story. I’m sure it’s in no way unique, but it’s mine.

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Life Right Now

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Hello friends and welcome to another edition of Life Right Now. I haven’t done a Life Right Now post in a long time, and well, there’s a lot going on these days, so I figured I would share some updates! Things have been crazy, in a good way, and I am about a week away from wedding madness season, so life is about to get interesting (and tiring, but again, in a good way). Here’s the happs:

Making bookmarks! I may or may not be obsessed with these watercolor bookmarks.
Drinking Corona Light and lots of Chardonnay. Also lots of Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brews.
Reading so. many. amazing. books. Seriously guys, I am on fire with the YA reading and it’s so good. Some recent faves are Legend, the Firebird series, and Caraval.
Wanting to finish my YA novel!
Playing Hamilton! Four and a half months until I get to see it again!

Wishing there were about six more hours in the day.
Enjoying the new season of Southern Charm. Minus Landon.
Waiting for A Court of Wings and Ruin to come out so I can start the series.
Liking our new living room set up (the key was hiding Matt’s instruments and Squirt’s toys).
Wondering if I am going to be able to find a literary agent this year.
Loving the inspiration from the LA Times Festival of Books and YallWest.
Hoping my YA book gets published!
Needing some sleep. As always.
Wearing shorts and tees and flip flops. Welcome to summer!

Following lots of pretty bookstagram accounts, find mine @coffeebookswinerepeat!
Noticing why the term “threenager” was coined.
Knowing that summer is going to be crazy busy!
Thinking about my next contemporary romance book.
Anticipating lots of long, hot days coming soon!
Celebrating the publication of my first contemporary romance novel! Buy it here!
Laughing at Squirt (as usual). His personality is really coming out these days and he is constantly amusing me.
Feeling happy, excited, hopeful, and accomplished.

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Oh Hey, I Wrote a Book…

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So last week I published my very first book. It honestly feels weird to even write that sentence. But I did it, I can check an item off my bucket list. Something I wrote is out there in the world (and not just on a blog). And I wasn’t going to tell y’all about it for numerous reasons that I am going to bore you with in this post. You know, before I tell you to go buy my book and leave me five star reviews. But first, some history…

I wrote my first “novel” when I was eleven. It was handwritten in one of those 350 page multi-subject spiral notebooks. It was a junior high love story with a heroine who bore an extremely close resemblance to me and a love interest who may or may not have been solely based off of Jonathan Taylor Thomas. I think it goes without saying that it was not good. But I mean, I filled a 350 page notebook at the age of eleven, so there’s that.

I wrote on and off throughout my junior high and high school years. In high school I wrote for the school newspaper, and my favorite English teacher was my creative writing teacher, Mr. O’Brien. He kind of ruined me for creative writing teachers in the future because he understood my point of view and my voice without me having to explain it. See, even though my writing style has (hopefully) matured over the years, my subject matter really hasn’t. I still love to write about love. My ebook can only be described as contemporary women’s fiction. And while the genre is quite popular and can be extremely lucrative, it is one that (in my opinion) is looked down upon by those who consider themselves to be “serious” writers.

In college, I was an English major. In my junior year, I had to pick a specialty. I knew at that point I was likely going to end up teaching, but I chose to major in Creative Writing instead of English for Educators. The main thing you do in creative writing classes is workshop your writing. So you bring in twenty copies of your short story, the whole class reads and critiques it, then you revise it and turn it in for notes from the professor. My work was consistently disregarded (on the nice end of the spectrum) and ridiculed as brainless fluff (on the harsh end). It wasn’t until my senior seminar (aka the last class I had to take as a creative writing major) that I had a professor get it. This is what he wrote on my main story I submitted to him: “This is great for what it is.” Did I write some ground-breaking, award-winning, super deep and intellectual, thought-provoking piece? Nope. I wrote something fun and light, think classic summer beach read. And for the first time in college, someone was able to see it for what it was, and not think about it in light of everything it was not. The fact that it took that long for someone to get it, and the fact that I had ONE professor in four (okay, six) years of college willing to see my writing for what it was, put a huge damper on my desire to write. For most of my “career” as a writer, I felt like I was not good enough, maybe even not a real writer, because I was writing commercial stories instead of artistic stories (and yes, there are those writers out there that are commercial and artistic. I’m not one of them. At least not yet.).

A couple of months ago, I started writing again. Probably because I felt a resurgence in my desire to create after separating myself from the brain suck that was my job last year. I set out to finish a novel. Not because I plan to make money, not because I plan to make this a career. More to prove to myself that I could do it. I mean, I’ve had the dream since I was eleven. And I read a lot of contemporary women’s fiction, and while a lot of it is great, some of it I read and think I could do better. So I figured why not throw my hat in the ring. And let me just be clear here, I love this genre, I love the story I wrote, and I had FUN writing this book. And if no one reads it, or if everyone who reads it hates it, I’m okay with that. Because I did it. And I’m proud of myself for that.

So why would I not share it with all of you fine folks? Well, about halfway through writing this novel (titled Casting Call, btw) I came up with an idea for a young adult series. And once I fleshed out the idea, I realized that I NEED to write this series. It is a concept that I completely love, and it is a story that I have to tell. And it is the type of series that could potentially land me an agent and possibly even a real publisher (making me a “serious” writer). But I also couldn’t just set aside Casting Call and jump into a new project. Part of the reason I wanted to write Casting Call in the first place was to show myself I could finish it. So it needed to be finished. For a while I started writing the series while still working on Casting Call, but then I decided to put the series on hold and finish what I started.

I finished the writing of Casting Call a couple of weeks ago, and spent the following weeks editing and formatting. I didn’t hire an editor because this was not a project I intended to invest money in (#selfemployed). Luckily, I have done a lot of editing and proofreading in my time so I felt comfortable doing it on my own (and yeah, I’m sure there are typos and mistakes, please feel free to point them out ;o)). And while I do plan on looking for an agent to represent my YA series, for Casting Call, and any subsequent novels I write in this genre, I decided to self publish only as an ebook on Amazon. While I wouldn’t call the process easy by any means (formatting is a bitch), it was way easier than going the “traditional” route. And it allowed  me to publish a book I love on my own terms.

Work on my series is going to continue soon (I sent out a rough rough rough rough draft to some of my amazing librarian friends (shout out to Becky and Kristen!) for some notes). It is so different from anything I have ever written before that I am finding it is taking a lot more time and effort than what I am used to when writing. But it is also an extremely gratifying piece to work on and I hope that I can do the concept justice.

I think this is the point where I introduce you to Casting Call, and ask you to throw a few dollars my way ;o) Casting Call is a fun and light-hearted novel about a young actress named Emily who is making her professional theater debut. Things get dicey when she finds herself falling for her leading man–a guy who is off limits for multiple reasons. She has to decide what’s more important, her career or love. I loved being able to travel back to my theater roots as I wrote this novel, and I really ended up falling in love with both of my main characters. I would love to turn this novel into a series as well, assuming I can find the time to balance it with my YA series.

If you have made it this far, thank you for reading this totally rambly and personal post. I really debated whether or not I should even share this on the blog (because anything on my blog automatically gets thrown out into the social media world), but this experience of writing and publishing has meant a lot to me, and it wouldn’t have felt right to not share it at all (God forbid we have any emotions these days that don’t get shared!). If you are a fan of contemporary women’s fiction, or you want something fun and light to read, please check out Casting Call. And if you love it, please leave me a review. If you don’t love it, you can leave a review too, but just be nice about it :oP And if this is totally not your kind of read, please don’t feel like you have to read it! Reading books that aren’t your thing is rarely fun, and reading should always be fun.

Also, you might have noticed that I used a pen name for this novel. Since I am planning on writing another series in a totally different genre, I wanted to separate the two. So this book has my pen name for romance, Michele Matthews (which if you know me, you can figure out where that comes from), and my other series will have my real name (assuming it makes it to publication of course!).

I would love to hear your thoughts on writing, whether they are about my experiences or your own. I would also love to build a writing tribe sometime soon, so please reach out if that is something you might be interested in! Thanks friends, for reading this and for allowing me to always express whatever it is that is on my mind. You’re the best!

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A Day Without a Woman

For me personally, one of the many pitfalls of the current American political situation is that I can’t seem to stay away from it. Despite several promises to stay off social media unless it pertains to work, I just can’t seem to tear myself away. And while some of the tweets and articles are uplifting (#resist), most of them aren’t. Earlier tonight I fell down the rabbit hole of #adaywithoutwomen and I was honestly just disgusted by what I was reading. Not going to lie, today’s protest was not well organized. I don’t think the message of the movement and the reasoning behind the protest was well articulated, and it certainly wasn’t communicated effectively. And just to be clear, I receive multiple newsletters from feminist organizations, and I didn’t feel super informed about the mission for the day until today. So I get that there is some confusion. I get that there is the feeling that this particular protest leaves out a lot of women who can’t afford to take a day off work (and again, that wasn’t the intention of the movement, it is more a result of a failure to communicate). But the amount of hate out there is sad. And it’s really sad that so much of it is coming from women, directed at women.

Just some of the gems I found while perusing Twitter, along with many claims that sexism doesn’t exist

I just don’t get it. The same thing happened after the march in January. I would have loved to have been able to attend the march, but Matt had to work, and I didn’t feel comfortable managing Squirt and a stroller by myself on what I knew would be standing room only public transportation. I didn’t have a lot of anxiety about Squirt being at the march itself, but I did have anxiety about managing a rowdy toddler on my own in a massive crowd. So I didn’t go. I made the best decision for me and my family (#feminism). Not one of my friends, colleagues, or peers put me down in any way shape or form for not going. But I did see plenty of people attacking those who did choose to go and march, many of them women. And it blew. my. mind. Trust me, I am so happy that there are women out there who have never been sexually harassed at work. I think it’s awesome that there are women who have never been made to feel less than because of their gender. I wish I were a woman who has never been made to feel ashamed of my body–because teachers, employers, family members, peers, and colleagues have been making me feel uncomfortable and sexualized in my own skin since I was twelve. So believe me when I say that I am thrilled that there are women out there who have never had to deal with even the most minor of sexually degrading comments. But trust me, you women saying you didn’t need the march because you are equal and have never been the victim of sexual discrimination, you are in the minority.

And just for the record, if you are a woman living in the United States, you are not equal. Period. According to the World Economic Forum’s annual Gender Gap Report, America is ranked 45 out of 144 countries when it comes to gender disparity. Ranked above us are several countries in Africa and South America, along with most of Europe. The report, for which research is conducted by an independent and non-partisan firm, looks at four major areas–healthcare, education, economy, and politics. The US is actually ranked number one in education (well, tied with 23 other countries for number one), which is great. We are 26 when it comes to economic participation and opportunity. When it comes to health, we are 62. This means that 61 other countries provide better access to healthcare to their female population than the United States. This area takes into account the mortality rate (breaking it down by specific causes of death), and also includes all maternity care, and damages done by incidents of domestic violence. The final area countries are scored in is politics, which is where we received our lowest ranking, 73. This score is based off of the number of female representatives (or in our case the lack of female representatives) in our government. So for those who choose to shoot down feminists in America because women in other countries “have it so much worse”…, not so much. Are there countries where it is worse? Duh. No one would argue with that. But we have a long way to go before men and women in America are “equal”. If you would like to check out the full report for yourself, here is the link to the Global Gender Report.

Okay, so maybe issues of healthcare, education, economics, and politics don’t matter to those tearing down and demeaning feminists. Let’s move on to sexual assault and rape. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five American women will be raped at some point in their lives. One in ten American women will be raped or assaulted by her partner or spouse. One in four girls will be sexually abused before the age of eighteen. Rape is the most under-reported crime in America, with approximately 63% of cases not being reported to the police. Here are just a few reasons why victims choose not to report their rape to the police: they needed to protect themselves or others in their family from retaliation by the offender (especially prevalent since eight out of ten rape victims know their attacker), they believed the police would not believe them or help them, they felt it wasn’t important enough to report, and they didn’t want to get their attacker in trouble (RAINN). And here is what happens when victims do report: Out of 1000 rapes, 310 are reported to the police, 57 of those will lead to arrest, of which 11 cases will be turned over to prosecutors. From there, seven will be convicted of a felony, and SIX will do time. Let’s repeat that: FOR EVERY 1000 CASES OF RAPE, SIX WILL END WITH THE RAPIST SERVING TIME. Please see this link from RAINN for more information.

Last year many in the country, including conservatives, were up in arms (and rightly so) over the ridiculous sentence of Brock Turner, a college student convicted of rape. Though he legally could have been given up to ten years in prison for his crime, the judge instead sentenced him to six months. He was released after serving just three. We were all outraged. I don’t know a single woman who, during that week or so of social media blasting, said “Eh. It’s fine, he only deserved three months.” And yet, here we are just months later and women who are standing up for the rights of all women are being told that we are equal and we don’t have anything to fight for. Am I living in some sort of alternate universe? Because just a few months ago we were all demanding harsher sentencing for sexual assault, but now marching for women is whining? (For sources relating to Turner’s conviction, click here; for sources relating to Turner’s release, click here.)

So here’s the deal for today. My day is going to look much like any other. I work from home and run my own business, and I take care of my kid. I will still attend to my business because I need to. I will still take care of my kid because I need to. I won’t be doing any shopping or spending any money, and if I actually change out of my pajamas, I will be wearing red to show my support for the movement. If you are a woman and you decide to go to work today, I’m not going to yell at you or shame you because I trust that you are smart enough to make the right decision for you. However, if you are shaming women who decide to take part in the protest, then I’m probably gonna come at ya. Unless I can actually manage to stay off social media for the day (unlikely), in which case, I will probably have a peaceful day.

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January Check In Plus February Goals

Holy hell folks. Where did the month of January go?!?! Like seriously, it is February 1st and I am still thinking it’s December. January obviously flew by, and while it was a great month in a lot of respects, there is also a shit ton of stuff that I just did not get done. But, I did make some progress, and that should be celebrated, so let’s first take a look back at my goals for the first month of 2017 and how I did:

January’s Mini Goals and Priorities:

–Put together my media kit — Yeah, didn’t even start this one so it’s back on my list for February.

–Start planning my sister’s bachelorette party — Haven’t done much for this, but I did research some hotels, so it’s not a complete failure.

–Start getting my tax info organized — LOL

–Read four books — Crushed this one, I actually read seven!

–Organize stuff for @mynerdycloset (my Instagram pop-up shop) and post more items for sale, and on a more regular basis — I took a lot of product pictures, but I only posted one item, and that was technically in February.

January’s Social Media Goals: Not going to lie, I pretty much killed it on social media this month! These were my goals:

Instagram: 11.5k       Facebook: 300       Twitter: 1700        Pinterest: 7000

And here are my numbers as of writing this post:

Instagram: 12.7k      Facebook: 313        Twitter: 1732       Pinterest: 8102

Okay, so Facebook and Twitter weren’t all that impressive, but Pinterest and Instagram made up for it, and I technically hit all of my numbers. #blessed

Since February is a short month to begin with, I’m sure it’s going to be March before I know it. So here are my goals for February, that I better get started on right away!

February Mini Goals and Priorities:

–Put together my media kit.

–Contact hotel’s for Sister’s bachelorette party

–Organize tax info

–Read four books

–Write 10k words in my novel

February’s Social Media Goals:

Instagram: 14k        Facebook: 450        Twitter: 2k        Pinterest: 10k

Here’s hoping February is a productive month! Business is starting to pick up on the wedding coordinating front so I might not have as much time to devote to my blog/social media/novel goals, but I am going to do my best to kick some ass and take some names! Happy February y’all!

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2017 Goals Plus January To Do List

If you read any blogs, I’m sure you have seen your fair share of 2017 Goals posts over the past couple weeks.Well, I am no different, I just got off to a slow start already (go me!). But one of the things I love about my motto for 2017 (which you’ll see in a little bit) is that I don’t care if I’m late to the game! This year is about making a life that works for me and for my family. 2017 is the first full year I will be totally self-employed, which means the hustle is gonna be strong with this one y’all. So let’s do this!

These are my goals for the entire year of 2017:

  1. Coordinate at least 35 weddings. I’m exhausted just thinking about it, but the truth is, wedding coordinating is my main source of income so it’s time to get to it. I currently have 15 weddings booked for this year, so I have some work to do to meet my goal. But I’m gonna work it!
  2. Finish writing my book. I recently started a new writing project that I am REALLY excited about. Despite the fact that I have a degree in Creative Writing, I haven’t done anything novel-writing wise probably since college. Now that all of my brain power isn’t being sucked out in the world of education, my creative juices are flowing again and I am pumped to get back in the game.
  3. Travel to three new places. We have a couple of trips tentatively scheduled for summer time, but nothing concrete yet. I’m dying to go back to New York, but I also want to branch out a bit and try some new locations.
  4. Blog on a schedule that works for me. Not going to lie, there were a couple months in 2016 when I was KILLING it on the blog. I was posting three times a week and doing A LOT of work promoting my posts. And while I saw some moderate results traffic wise, it did not even come close to the amount of hours I was putting in. So for 2017, I’m going to post when I feel like it. I love blogging, I have been doing it in one form or another for seven years. But it doesn’t always make me happy, and it certainly isn’t bringing in the big bucks. So for now, I will blog when I have something to say and won’t when I don’t (imagine that).
  5. Read 52 new books. I was reading like fiend over Matt’s Winter Break, but now that I am back to being home alone with Squirt during the week, I have slowed my pace way down. Gotta get back on that train!
  6. Make mini monthly goals/priority lists. Last year I made some pretty strict schedules for myself and they just didn’t work for me, so this year I am going to try to give myself a little more freedom and set some broader goals each month. These will kind of be combo to do lists (like you see below) and goals for the month. I will also have some social media target numbers for each month (that will not include blog pageviews) as I do want to continue to grow my presence there (for numerous reasons which I will expand on later).
  7. Get a literary agent. Part of writing a book is the whole aspect of getting people to read it. I am still looking into going the self-publishing route, but I do want to at least put some feelers out in the world of literary agents and see what happens before I commit to self-publishing.
  8. Be present in my time with Squirt. This is hard for me because I am essentially a work at home mom. I am home with my kid, but I also have shit I need to get done throughout the day. But I need to be better about dedicating hours throughout our day together that are just for him (namely, I need chunks of time when I don’t check my email and social media accounts). I tend to justify looking at my phone every fifteen minutes because you know, it’s my job,  but in reality, I don’t NEED to do that, I WANT to. And I need to stop.
  9. Make healthier decisions. Look, I’m not going to sit here and lie and be all like “I love my body no matter what”. I don’t. But I also have no real plans to completely change my lifestyle and/or eating habits. That just ain’t gonna happen. However, there are plenty of times I can make a small swap during the day and do something better for myself and my health and that needs to happen.
  10. Be a rebel all year long. This goal is actually going to get it’s own post pretty soon so I won’t say too much about this, but  “Be a Rebel” is my motto for 2017. And yes, it has some ties to Star Wars, which you can read about whenever I decide to publish my “Be a Rebel” post.

So those are my overarching goals for 2017. This month you get a two-fer, yearly goals and my monthly priorities. I’m not going to share all of my monthly minis since some of them will be personal or specific to weddings and jobs I have going on that month. But I will share the ones that seem relevant, and I will share my social media numbers with you.

January’s Mini Goals and Priorities:

–Put together my media kit

–Start planning my sister’s bachelorette party

–Start getting my tax info organized

–Read four books

–Organize stuff for @mynerdycloset (my Instagram pop-up shop) and post more items for sale, and on a more regular basis

January’s Social Media Goals:

Instagram: 11.5k       Facebook: 300       Twitter: 1700        Pinterest: 7000

Alright 2017, I hope you’re ready for me because I am going to make this year my bitch. Let’s do this!

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2016 Year in Review

Now that we are firmly ensconced in 2017, I finally feel like I can write this post. I think we can all agree that 2016 was just a weird year. The negativity just seemed to get worse and worse and worse as the year went on, and there was a lot to be legitimately unhappy about in the year 2016. It’s interesting for me because in a year of so much hate and anger and sadness, I made one of the best decisions of my life, and personally speaking, I am the happiest I have ever been. So I promise, this post is going to end on a high note. But as Dolly Parton would say, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain. Let’s tackle the enigma (sadly not wrapped in a riddle or cash…high five if you got that reference) that was 2016.

I was bullied out of my job.

Honestly, I have been grappling with how to share this story for months, and I still don’t know that I can do it justice. I wanted to get to a point where I was emotional enough that the story made an impact, but not so emotional that it didn’t have perspective. I don’t know if I’m in that place yet, but I’m going to try. I might go into more details about this situation at a later date, or I might not, but some form of this needs to be out in the universe. Here’s the sitch: For those of you who don’t know, I spent the last eight years teaching both junior high and high school. In the beginning I was just teaching English, but for the last four years, I also got to teach theater, which was my dream job. The school I was teaching theater at is located in the kind of neighborhood where parents are overly involved in their children’s lives, and it happens to be in a suburb of LA semi-famous for shooting out teen and tween stars (like Ashley Tisdale and Taylor Lautner, to name a few). In my junior high theater program I had kids who were legit working actors, on both stage and screen. To say that the parents were challenging would be the understatement of the century. However, for the first two years I had an extremely supportive administration whose bottom line was basically smile and nod to their face and then do whatever the hell you want (you know, since I am the one with a degree and credential). When we got a new assistant principal and principal, that attitude changed. The motto became “If the parents complain about something, you change your program to make them happy.”

It sucked. And I was miserable. I was verbally abused and threatened by multiple parents, and the response of my administration was always, “Let it go”. My final year, things got pretty bad. My AP called myself and my theater teaching partner in to a meeting and accused me of going behind her back and deliberately disobeying a direct order from her. I had proof that I had not done that, because she did not give the order in the first place. When our principal was confronted with this information, he lied and said he was responsible for the miscommunication. I also had proof of his lie. When it came time for me to be evaluated by this AP–who despite the proof could not bring herself to, I don’t know, apologize for calling me a liar and placing restrictions on my program that were not in place for anyone else’s–I asked to be evaluated by someone else. My principal refused my request. I sat through multiple evaluations with the AP who had lied and accused me of something I didn’t do and listened to her tell me that my students had no direction and no purpose (even after they won multiple awards for their work). She observed me one day teaching a lesson that was mandatory for our elective department and then asked me why I would have her come in on that day since the lesson did not relate to my subject (so maybe then, don’t make me teach it?). Every one of her evaluations had comments in it that were in direct conflict with our contract and the stipulations of teacher evaluations. And she topped it off by telling me that after eight years of teaching, and four years of running the most successful junior high drama department our district had seen, that I did not meet the minimum standards of teaching.

As an added bonus on top of the bullying, I also got deal with some sexism, because why not?!?! When I told my principal I was resigning at the end of the year he said, “If that is the decision your husband and you have made then I understand.” Let’s just imagine a principal saying to a male teacher, “If that is the decision your wife and you have made, then I understand.” Right. In addition, the male performing arts teacher on campus did not have to comply with any of the rules that were enforced for my program.

I don’t like to use the bullying term lightly. As a former teacher, I have seen the effects of actual bullying, and I have dealt with both kids and parents inappropriately using the term. But I was bullied out of my job. I sent a file folder full of documents proving wrongdoing on the part of my administration to my union and never heard a word about it. In the end, I knew the only way I was going to be happy was the remove myself from the situation. So I did. I gave up my dream job because an assistant principal targeted me and didn’t relent. The sad thing is it’s only a matter of time before she’s promoted.

Okay, that was a little heavier and more detailed than I originally intended so let’s break this up with some positivity! I was bullied out of my job, but it turns out….it was the best thing that ever happened to me!

Some Highlights from my First Six Months as a Work at Home Mom:

I get to spend every day with my kid. We go to Disneyland once a week. I get to work with amazing couples on the happiest day of their lives. I have a job that allows me to be creative. I get to make my own schedule. I trained my toddler to sleep in until 9:30. I can go to Starbucks whenever I want. I don’t have to change out of my PJ’s if I don’t feel like it. During Squirt’s nap time I can lay in bed and read a book. Or take a nap. Or work on my blog. Or craft. Or watch crappy TV. I finally feel like writing again. I can stay up late. I don’t have a boss. I am not constantly worrying about pleasing other people. I get to see Squirt grow and learn and change and progress. When I have to pee, I go to the bathroom, like right then. I do what I want. Oh, and I am not completely fucking miserable every day.

The 2016 Election (aka Back to the Shitty Stuff).

I don’t think I have anything poignant to say on this topic that hasn’t already been said by people much more eloquent than I am. But here goes. I never imagined I would sit on my couch and cry watching the results of an election. It wasn’t even just November 8th that I cried. I cried multiple times in the following days, not just because Trump won, but because people in my family, that I know and love actually voted for him. That was the hardest thing to come to terms with. How can people who I know are good people put aside the rights of others, the rights of people in our own family, for a tax break? Because that’s how the moderate Trump supporters justify themselves. Trump is going to do wonders for the economy. We’re all going to have so much more money after he cuts taxes. Even if I’m a millionaire by 2020, it wouldn’t be worth sacrificing basic human rights (and tax cuts don’t turn anyone into millionaires). It is really, really hard for me to talk about these issues with my family because they just don’t get it.

I was raised in a very well off suburb of LA (see description of where I taught, above). In comparison to my classmates, we were poor. My mom was a single mom with three kids. She didn’t make a lot of money, and I had less than almost every person I went to school with. But we also weren’t actually poor. We always had a place to live, clothes to wear, and food to eat. We were definitely different from most of our friends, and I’m not taking anything away from my mom’s struggles, she worked her ass off to support us. But that doesn’t change the fact that we still grew up in a white, middle class neighborhood. In the entire 6th grade of my elementary school, I was one of two kids with divorced parents. There was one African American girl in my grade in elementary school and no Hispanics. I grew up in the epitome of the bubble. My extended family all traces back to Oklahoma and the south. I had ancestors on the second boat from England to America. I had ancestors who were slave owners. I remember my great grandfather using racial slurs liberally. My family members told racist jokes at holidays and we all laughed.

These were all things that I knew, they were just my life.I would never have dreamed of calling anyone a racist name. I would not have let an initial racially based judgment form my entire opinion of a person. But I would be a big fat liar if I said I didn’t make those judgments–I did. Mothers on welfare? Lazy. Hispanic kid falling asleep in class? Doesn’t care about his education. If a cop shot a black guy, then he obviously did something to provoke the action. I had always been liberal when it came to gay rights, probably stemming from my background in theater and the fact that I had several gay friends in high school and in my theater career in college. But I would not have been someone to stand up for immigrants or for the poor or for women who need access to Planned Parenthood. Teaching completely changed my perspective on politics. I saw and heard more heartbreaking stories than I could even begin to express here. Basically, teaching allowed me to see the perspectives of hundreds of people who were not like me. I had been making judgments based off of my American experience, and it didn’t really occur to me that others had a different story to tell. The problem with America right now is there’s a whole lot of talking and hardly any listening. Think about it: When was the last time you sat down with someone with a completely different background and upbringing and asked them what it was like? When was the last time you listened to someone’s struggles and put yourself in their shoes? Listening to and acknowledging someone else’s struggles does not diminish your own, but I feel like that is the most common defense. “Well, I didn’t have to use food stamps so why should she?” Maybe because she is not you. How about you ask her why, hear her story, instead of judging her.

I am TERRIFIED of what Trump might be able to do in his presidency. But I’m even more scared of the power of the people who voted for Trump. Are they all terrible, horrible people who are going to go out and commit hate crimes? Of course not. But by voting for Trump, you made it okay for others to do just that, and plenty of people already have and will continue to do so.

Positive Things That Came Out of the 2016 Election:

Okay, there aren’t that many. But there’s always a good side to look at. Thousands of people have spoken out in support of those who now feel unsafe in our country. People have rallied around their friends and neighbors. The majority of voters in our country voted for a female President. People like me, who may have stood quietly by in the past, have found their voice. Millenials–God bless ’em!–proved to be exceedingly in support of Hillary both in the polls (as this map shows) and on election day. So there is hope for the future.

The Death of Carrie Fisher.

I did not expect to be so affected by Carrie’s death. My love for Star Wars is a new thing, so I did not grow up idolizing Princess Leia like so many others did. My brother was a SW fan so I saw the movies often enough in passing, but it wasn’t until recently that I developed my own love for the films. I was sad to hear about Carrie because I know for many girls she was their first example of a strong, intelligent, brave, headstrong, kickass female role model. And I wish I had had that. Maybe if I had idolized Carrie Fisher I would have been more likely to stand up for myself on the countless occasions I have been sexually harassed throughout my life. Maybe I would be able to put myself out there more without fearing judgment from others, or try new things more often, or I wouldn’t just let people walk over me. Obviously, I don’t know if anything in my life would have changed if I had grown up with Carrie Fisher in my life, but the impact she made on the world in terms of feminism and mental health issues cannot be denied. RIP Carrie.

Photo courtesy of Disney

The Only Good Thing (So Far) That I Know of to Come Out of Carrie’s Passing:

A whole new audience is going to watch her movies and hopefully be inspired by her message both on and off screen. Her books are going to reach a new market of people (I ordered The Princess Diarist on Amazon about a week ago and it was the top selling book, and on back order) and they will hopefully look at mental health issues in a new light.

Are you depressed now? If so, I’m sorry. But I would like to end on this final (positive) note: Despite the shittiness that is going on in the world–not just in America, but everywhere–there is always good to be found. Mister Rogers used to talk about how his mom always told him to look for the helpers when there was a scary situation. The new incarnation of Mister Rogers, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, dedicated an episode to this statement with a song reminding kids (and adults) to “Look for the Helpers”. Remember that there are always helpers. Look for those people. Surround yourself with those people. And when you can, be those people. 2017, don’t let us down.

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