Category: How To

How To Be A Liberal When There Is No God

I feel like I’ve been inundated with images of racist, classist victories. One scroll through my timeline and I see police in riot gear hitting DAPL protestors with sticks, white supremacist terrorists The Bundy Gang going free with no consequences, police at Portland City Hall pushing protestors down the stairs, hitting them with fists and batons and pepper spraying them, and for some reason a video of a 2015 arrest in which a officer kicks Hector Medina-Pena in the face, breaking his jaw while he was clearly on all fours on the ground in a prone position.

Writer and educator Annie Lamott posted an extremely nice thing for people who believe in God, but for the rest of us, “have faith” is just a little too much to ask in a world that already asks so much of us to begin with.

The first thing to do when injustice has us down is to make sure we don’t perpetuate that shitty behavior in our own lives. We have to take care of ourselves. When you’re feeling defeated, angry, tired, you’re no good to anyone. Turn off the computer, put the phone in a drawer and do something you have control over. Set the parameters of your activity so that success is assured. Then stop and do something else. This last bit I am very bad at, but this post isn’t about me.

The second thing is to embrace the gray areas. A black and white world may be easy in the moment, but it’s not the truth. When you look closely, you see that there are peaks and valleys, even in the most straightforward racist bullshit. We are not the heroes fighting a great enemy. We are the heroes fighting the heroes, both fighting a great enemy. Live in the paradox.

The officer who broke Hector Medina-Pena’s jaw believed he was apprehending a man who had just robbed a strip club and threatened the clerk with a gun, a crime Hector confessed to in May. Does committing a robbery justify a police officer breaking your jaw while you crouch on the pavement unarmed? Only a fascist would think that. Which is the problem. We’re not just fighting against the racist system that sets up white men who kick unarmed men of color in the face to be heroes, we’re fighting against a population who really believe fascism is the answer. Whether they know that or not, the eye for an eye set are frothing at the mouth for fascism.

Which is why we should closely examine the little voice that says that maybe that police officer could use a kick in the face to balance the scales. Maybe if he knew what it was like to feel his jaw fracture while laying prone on the ground as the literal boot of the oppressor crashes down onto his head, perhaps he would neglect to take such joy in future assaults? It’s important to look at our own relationship with fascist fantasies as they apply to our worldview and not just for the opposition.

Finally, we look to history. It feels bad now, but didn’t it feel bad when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on Kent State Students, murdering four peaceful protestors? Didn’t it feel hopeless when MLK was assassinated? Medgar Evers, Ruben Salazar, Malcom X? You can kill a man, but you can’t kill an idea. You can acquit a terrorist gang, but you can’t erase the footage of them bragging and laughing as they deface Paiute artifacts. You can hit peaceful protestors with sticks, hell you can shoot them, and they have before, but the wheels of progress keep turning.

The definition of liberalism is that we push the boundaries of tradition. What passed for liberal thought 20 years ago is regressive today. This is a fight we will not win. At best, we might live to become the conservative scourge we so revile. Now doesn’t that make you feel better?

How to be a #NastyWoman

Tell people about yourself. Specifically how great you are.

Fashion don’t? More like Fashion don’t give a fuck what you shitlords think.

Fuck. However you like. With whomever you like.

Call out rapists and their rape-apologist bros.

Don’t ask. Tell.

Get shit done.

Be unapologetically, blissfully ugly.

Speak truth to power. And liars.

Say no when you mean no.

And yes when you mean yes.

Always #BossBitch. #BossBitch always.

Reject trans-exclusionary feminism

Reject white racist feminism

Don’t back down. No matter what they call you.

Things I Learned on Google: “Calaveras”

We’ve already established that I am a totally crap Mexican. Therefore, I end up Googling my own cultural history more often than not and this is one of those times. Since it’s Halloween again this year and I am, once again, in the great white North, I decided to arm myself with a little education for the coming storm. And no, white friends I have absolutely no authority to say whether or not your calaveras make-up is racist, except that it probably is and no, I don’t get to make the rules. You do. Which is why it’s racist. (More about that here)

Anyway, while Googling I learned some things about the Mexican sugar skull that everybody else probably knows, but I didn’t and so here they are.

  • Sugar is not native to Mexico. It was brought to the country with colonization, and was used instead of clay by the poor native Mexicans who had an abundance of sugar but no money for expensive statues or figurines for their Day of the Dead alters. [Source]
  • Other Catholic countries celebrate the two days after Halloween as All Souls Day and All Saints Day, but the European versions of this holiday are not the same owing to the fact that indigenous Mexicans melded aspects of their traditional Day of the Dead and the Catholic holiday of vaguely similar theme. [Source]
  • The Day of the Dead can be traced back to a celebration of the Aztec goddess Mictecacihuatl, the Lady of the Dead who was said to have been sacrificed to the underworld as an infant where she grew to adulthood in death. [Source]
  • This is a two day holiday, with the first day dedicated to all the children who have died, and the second to all the adults. Despite this sad theme, the tone of the holiday is bright and happy since our dead relatives are with us again.
  • The celebration is most common in Central and South Mexico, and wasn’t celebrated or even well known in the Northern region until migration brought the tradition in the 20th century. [Source]
  • The phrase “Dia de los Muertos” is actually an anglophone back-translation of “Day of the Dead” into Spanish from English. The proper way to say this holiday’s name is “Dia de Muertos

I’m sure about half of this is wrong. Although it does actually make me feel a little better that I have no clue about the Day of the Dead. By all accounts, my family is from Baja and moved to America in the 20th century. Although those accounts, like me, are probably crap so who even knows.

How to Blog Regularly

I’m doing an experiment where I’m asking my friends to tell me what skills of mine they admire so I can either tell them how I do it, or do it and give it to them. This is because, as a part of our recent troubles, I have been trying (with varying degrees of success) to convince as many strangers as possible to find value in me and I’m starting to have trouble articulating what that is after so many interactions that are the conversational equivalent of being picked up and put down at a garage sale.

Matthew wanted to know how to blog regularly.

This is another one I feel a little silly writing about since I stopped blogging five days a week back in December, but I had previously kept that schedule since February 2012 with very few missed days. So I lasted almost five years blogging 5 days a week with no breaks. That’s pretty cool.

The most important factor in my obsessive love of blogging was a lack of creative direction at work. As soon as I started working for myself blogging became a chore, but I kept it going for two more years because I’d already changed so much about my life that I used blogging to give myself a sense of place, but I had less clicks, less traction, and more bullshit stories. Also I complained about starting a company a lot. 

When I started blogging, I felt stagnant, I wanted to make my own creative decisions and I wasn’t able to in my day to day life. I also missed writing. I was a literature major in college, I started my career as a copywriter, but at that point, writing was the smallest part of my job. So in order to feed that echoing emptiness, I started to blog.

Like working, writing for has been a huge part of my identity for as long as I can remember. For whatever reason, if I don’t write enough in my day to day life, I feel obsessively compelled to do it in any way possible. Before there was blogging, I journaled almost daily. In college I was always working on a paper, then copywriting. Writing is how I deal with stress when I can’t work.

One of the major issues since I started the company is that I write SO MUCH now. In the beginning, I blogged for my company , I blogged for my clients. Now Kate blogs for me, but I still write all the proposals, processes, and analysis. I also write for my part time job constantly. When I’m done with that writing, it’s really difficult for me to think of what to write about on my own time, although sometimes I still feel inspired.

The older I get, the more I value my ability to get my meaning across via writing. I don’t know if my social anxiety has gotten worse, or if it took 30+ years to notice exactly how awkward I really am in person, but my face to face interactions tend to leave me with a lot of stress about my inability to communicate well. I think I freak people out. I mean, I probably freak people out on the blog as well, it’s not like I’m a different person in writing or anything, but on the blog the person has the option to go away. When I’m right there in front of them saying this kind of shit, most people will also find a reason to go away, but it’s slightly more obvious for me.

Working and writing are the things in my life that belong to me the most. Which is maybe why I feel so gutted by my recent business struggles. It’s literally not business, it’s personal. Here I have invested in the two spheres of myself that have always been safe for me, and it didn’t work. I mean, yeah it worked for three years, but it isn’t working now. My happy place has become distinctly unhappy. 

Recently, I’ve been trying to answer the question of who am I without outside validation. Like the validation I got from work and writing all these years. So far, the answer is profoundly sad. 

Smart Answers to Stupid Questions People Still Ask Me About My Mother

Most of us who have separated ourselves from the narcissistic, emotionally manipulative and abusive people in our lives have been asked some really dumb questions about that over the years. Especially if the person in question is a mother. I don’t know if it’s run of the mill misogyny (“but women are naturally nurturing, a woman could never be an abuser!”) or some deeper, sadder reality (it is possible that most mothers are really awesome and we got the unfathomable end of the stick), but the concept of a child who doesn’t speak to their mother is extremely difficult for most people to grasp. Especially once the person in question learns that my abusive mother is dying.

Why can’t you just forgive and forget?

It usually shocks people when I tell them that I have forgiven her. Years of shitty daytime dramas and moralizing cop shows have lead them to believe the way abusive relationships work is that when the abuser is dying, you come to their hospital bed, forgive them, and then they die peacefully while credits roll and everybody gets to feel safe in a world where consequences are largely rhetorical and people who love each other can’t possibly hurt one another.

Forgiveness and reason are not mutually exclusive. I can forgive the stove for burning my hand, that doesn’t mean I’m about to snuggle with it. My mother is a shark. She was very literally tortured from an early age. She’s been places no person would knowingly send their worst enemy. Only an idiot would forget that about her. That she does the things she does is understandable, that I would walk back into that situation with open arms is suicidal. I can forgive her, accept her, and still stay away from her. These things can and must coexist.

But don’t you love her?

For a long time, I felt like I shouldn’t. That only a moron would love someone who had been and continued to be intentionally mean to me. But my life isn’t a reaction to hers. For awhile it was, but it doesn’t have to be and it isn’t today. Loving someone or being loved by someone isn’t a license to treat them however you want, and it’s only the fact that I was raised by abusive people who were themselves abused that I would even think that.

But she loves you, doesn’t that matter?

Of course she loves me. Lots of people love me. I am extremely fucking lovable, but just like my love for her, her love for me does not make it okay to treat me like shit.

She used to tell me that no one would ever love me like she did, and it would scare me because I was legitimately worried that no one would. When I met her, no one had ever treated me like I was valuable, or like I mattered. She told me I was precious, that she loved me, and that she would always love me. For the first time since she abandoned me, I felt like I belonged to someone. So, when she started to criticize me, when she told me that she thought I was retarded, that I was emotionally unstable, that I was incapable of doing anything but staying with her and taking care of her, I started to think she was right. When she told me that I would die without her loving guidance, I totally believed it.

When I finally moved out of her house, it’s not because I realized that she was lying and manipulating me. It’s because I was going to kill her and myself anyway, and I thought I might as move out first and die a free woman.

She still texts me sometimes, and one string of angry condescending texts from a couple of years ago ended with an emotional reminder that no one would ever love me like she did. I just laughed. I fucking hope that no one ever loves me like she does. If I had one wish for the future of humanity, it would be that no one ever loves anyone anywhere the way she loved me.

Okay, but why do you have to tell everybody about it?

If you’re reading this, and you’re thinking “TMI,” you have the option to fuck right off, and you don’t have to ever come back. If you don’t want to hear this shit, that’s cool. It’s totally not for you.

In a perfect world, my mom is a freak anomaly; the only one of her kind. But I know for a fact that’s not true. Not only do other people with parents and partners like her contact me all the time and tell me that my writing helps them, new generations of abusers are being born every day and that’s why I write about this shit. Not everybody is safe where they live. Not everybody can talk about it yet, or maybe they’ll never talk about it like I do. If even one person reads this and it helps them, the other 7.125 billion of you can go to hell.

She’s dying, doesn’t that change everything?

What normal people don’t realize is that narcissistic abusers don’t play by the rules. No decent person would pretend to be terminally ill for attention, but we’re not dealing with decent people here. Sickness and death are both pretty great ways to control people and avoid consequences, especially the relationship consequences that come with being narcissistic, emotionally manipulative and abusive.

I met my mother in 1994, and one of the first things I remember her telling me was that she was sorry she wouldn’t be able to see me grow up, since she would be dead in two years.

So, for the last 22 years she’s been dying. Sometimes quickly, sometimes only when somebody wants her to do something she doesn’t want to do, but dying all the same. And the thing about lying about dying is that eventually, you’re telling the truth. She’s been diagnosed with cancer four times, each one more dire than the last.

At first, I did change my behavior. I asked myself what a good daughter would do in this situation, and I did my best to be the loving, responsible and supportive daughter I wanted to be. Not because of her, but because of me. I spent a lot of years reacting to her and using her shitty treatment of me as a justification for being a really terrible asshole to my own mother. But I don’t want to be the kind of person who blames other people for who I am and what I do.

So, I made exceptions to a lot of the boundaries I’d put in place in order to be supportive and available for her in her time of need, but then I realized that she was using her cancer the same way she used her health issues before cancer to manipulate people into doing what she wanted. And she would practically levitate off her “death bed” if someone didn’t fall in line. She’s been banned from one of the best cancer hospitals in the US for attacking a nurse there because they didn’t do things her way.

If dying had actually changed anything for her, it might change for me too. But it clearly hasn’t. Dying is just another tool she can use to control people and situations, and she’s using it to the best of her ability. It was naive to think that, after all she’s been through cancer would have any effect on her.

How would you feel if you had a daughter?

Sometimes people are asking this question because they want to see me realize that if I don’t reconcile with my mother, my future children won’t have a grandma. When, in fact, she’s probably the deciding factor in why I don’t have kids yet.

Other times people want to know what I would do if, in the future, my daughter refused to talk to me. But that’s a false equivalency. I am not my mother, my future children are not me. We’re going to have a completely different relationship than the one I have with my mother. I will say that if at any point, I think it is okay to neglect, abandon, abuse, allow other people to abuse my children, or if I ever choose drugs over them I will deserve it when they never speak to me again. And if they ever do decide to reconnect with me at any point after that, I will doubly deserve to have them leave me again if I continue to be abusive to them. Because that’s how relationships work.

How are you going to feel when she dies?

Obviously, I have no idea. How could anybody know that?

What I do know is how I feel today. I feel safe in my home today. I am confident in my abilities both personally and professionally today. I have self esteem and I have hope for the future, which are all things I earned since leaving her house and setting firm boundaries against her being able to come into my life and say abusive, shitty things to me, attack me or my family, or demand that I pay her bills, or whatever other crazy thing she thinks I am suddenly obligated to give her or do for her.

The space between us has been equal parts agonizing and liberating. At the end of the day, I’m just a person. I love my parents like anybody else does, but I don’t have any illusions about who they are.

For years I let the hope that she could change or had changed keep me in a holding pattern, close enough for her to lash out at, far enough away that I managed to dodge a lot of the really crazy behavior. But it was tearing me apart. I’ve done a lot of work to get to the point where I don’t openly hope anymore, but I know that when she does die, whatever is left of that feeling will be ripped out of me. And it will be horrible.

I still live a lot of my life on the incorrect assumption that if I could only say, do or be something more than I currently am, that I could cure her. That if I could somehow prove how smart, caring, strong, and capable I am that I could earn her kindness, her consideration. It’s only my heart that feels that way. My brain has spent thirty-one years studying her absence, her presence, her rage, and her pain.

It took me so long to accept her as she is. And love her as she is. And know that, just like the hot stove, she will always burn me. And I also know that a lot of other people have the same struggle that I do. So next time someone asks you a stupid question about your abusive mom (or dad, or partner or whatever), feel free to give them the link to this blog. Because it can get a little tiring telling strangers this kind of shit.

I’m still trying to make business crying a thing.

It’s basically a part of my schedule now.

I can’t be the only small business owner in the world who breaks down crying 2/3rd through the quarter every quarter.

I’ve actually come to rely on it. Things are difficult and stressful, and I’m working a lot, even as my productivity is going downhill, so finally I just breakdown crying, either alone or with Ben, never in public or with clients (to clarify: I don’t business cry in public. I regular cry in public all the time, although I never regular cry with clients. And yes, they are two different things.) But after the crying, I just stand up and go back to work and I usually make good, clear-headed decisions about how to avoid what made me cry in the first place, and I go on to the next quarter where something else will have me business crying 2 months in like clockwork.

My company grows one crying fit at a time, and I’m totally cool with that.

Samsung Note 5 Sending Text Messages to Work Email

This happened to me the other day and all the posts I read were for Galaxy 5s and didn’t work for my phone. So, if you tried going into the “more” section of your Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync only to realize that it doesn’t look like the “more” section on the other blogs, welcome home.

This is how I got stupid Microsoft Sync to stop sending sexy text messages from my boyfriend to my work email, and you can too!

Seriously, why in the crap would anybody ever want their text messages to go to their email? “Oh gee, I could read this on the phone that only I see, or I could make sure the whole IT department knows how I like my eggs prepared, and I’m not talking about breakfast.” I grantee one 80 year old jerk was in the dev meeting that day and brought this needless suffering down on all of us.

I mean, there are freaks in this world, so make it a feature, but don’t make it the default for fuck’s sake.

Anyway. If you’re having this problem right now, you have to remove the sync first, so go into your settings, and open the accounts section…

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Click on the Exchange

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And remove the current account.

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Then go back into accounts.

You’re going to think you should click on this

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Don’t do it.

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Don’t even think about it. This is the bastard that got you into this problem in the first place.

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Instead, scroll all the way down to add account.

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Go over to your native email program. This is what you want.

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Follow the prompts to set up your email account.

After that, the phone will act like you set up a Microsoft Exchange account, and you can go into the exchange and set calendar sync without ruining your life.

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You’re welcome.

How to Career

Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life, but if you manage to make something you love into work, you’ll never love it the same way again.

People act like there’s one way to go. Practical or creative, safe or risky, but there isn’t. There’s only the way you should go right now, and no one can tell you what that is.

Sometimes you love something, but not enough to make it your whole life, which is what happens when you decide to “do what you love.” You’re never off. Because you are your work. Even after you’ve quit, you’re never really anything else entirely. I had a small side operation where I sold accessories and clothes during college. It’s not like I don’t craft anything anymore. But it’s not the same as it was. Once you’ve become a professional at something, you never go back to loving it in the same innocent way. Frequently, you end up appreciating it more, but never really loving it the same.

If you’re considering a move to a creative career, think of this first: Do you love your hobby because you have a driving need to do it and you can’t seem to stop doing it, or do you love your hobby because it’s an escape from the frequently dull and unrewarding consequences of daily life? Because once your passion becomes daily life, you’ll find that all that drudgery is still there.

Out of the Ordinary: How to Survive the American Education System

Advice for weirdos, geniuses, and everyone else who falls through the cracks.

I’ve talked a little about my terrible high school experience. I was never as virtuous, smart, or well intentioned as Texas teen Ahmed Mohamed who was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school, but I still felt mistreated at the hands of an uncaring system.

Freshman year was hard on me. New town, new school. Nobody knew me, or my motivations however ambivalent they were. Racism was a very real thing on our campus. It was hard to find a place for myself so far outside my comfort zone, but I eventually did. By the time I was a senior, I went from having no friends at all to school being a real sanctuary for me, and it only took four years of trial and error.

So, for incoming freaks of all stripes, here is my patented guide for how to survive and thrive in the soul-crushing shit-hole that is your public high school:

  • Don’t act tough. That’s only going to convince people they should treat you tough.
  • Conversely, don’t bitch out. People are going to try and test your boundaries. Students and teachers alike. Don’t let anybody compromise your integrity.
  • Find something you like and make it just challenging enough to keep it interesting. That might mean anything from AP Calculus to Varsity Field Hockey.
  • Don’t let your interest become your personality.
  • There is nothing more important than being yourself.
  • Especially not shitty friends who would turn on you for expressing who you are. The world is full of these kinds of soul eaters. Dump them early and often.
  • Quit things you hate. Start new things in their place.
  • The college you go to is not important.
  • Really, it’s not important.
  • What is important are the relationships you build there.
  • Just like the ones you’re building in Chess Club. Or the Debate Team. Or the Gay Straight Alliance. Or Whatever
  • Find your people.
  • I’m not talking about jocks or nerds, or even girls who wear purple.
  • I’m talking about the people who make you laugh, who are easy to talk to.
  • Find those people and be with them, because that’s the key.
  • Don’t get caught up in petty drama, and don’t let it distract you from your goals.
  • Speaking of goals, what other people think of them is irrelevant.
  • This includes your parents.
  • If all else fails, keep your head down, serve your time and get the fuck out of there. You can do something for four years that you couldn’t do for a lifetime.

Now that I think about it, these rules could apply to anybody who’s trying to start something. Except maybe the last one. Or maybe especially the last one.