For the past few months (on & off; mostly off, considering all the drama in my life this year), I’ve been working on a series of posts based on a book I read – Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham. They were to be quotations from – & about – Thomas Jefferson, on a variety of topics, which I found meaningful.
I already had some reservations about promoting this book. Meacham is a great writer, who makes his protagonist – the 3rd U.S. President – a very likeable “character.” He covers his flaws & missteps, making Jefferson delightfully “just like us.”
However, he fails to discuss Jefferson’s actions (as a slave owner & rapist) that we now hold intolerable in any depth. It’s almost like there’s an air of indifference – “that’s just how things were back then.” This alone made me pause.
Now, considering the tragedy & outrage in – & about – Charlottesville, Virginia, I’m putting this project on hold. Indefinitely.
Hopefully it won’t take me another few months to work up something worth sharing.
Heather Heyer was the 32 year-old paralegal who died yesterday when a man (I’m not going to name him) drove his car into protesters in Charlottesville. Her mother, Susan Bro, shared this about the daughter she is so proud of:
She always had a very strong sense of right and wrong, she always, even as a child, was very caught up in what she believed to be fair. Somehow I almost feel that this is what she was born to be, is a focal point for change. I’m proud that what she was doing was peaceful, she wasn’t there fighting with people.
Please let’s not have the death of this courageous young woman be in vain. Her last words on her Facebook page are:
If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.
Working in student affairs on a university campus, I feel like I hear the words “intersectionality” or “intersectional” said out loud at least 20 times a day (no exaggeration). The word is regularly used as a powerful critique from young women of Color about how White feminist staff members don’t seem to understand the violence we enact. Often, though, I hear the term used by White feminist or “social justice focused” staff such as myself.
We use the term in many vague ways. “We really need to be sure our work is intersectional…We need to be more intersectional in how we talk about student identities…Our teaching strategies must be intersectional and culturally responsive.” I don’t use “we” in the royal sense. This is something I do all the time without thinking critically about my meaning.
But what the hell are we even saying when we use the term?
Reading used to be a lonely activity. Once upon a time, when you finished a good book and were itching to talk about it, you’d have to seek out a real life person who happened to have read it too and knew what you were talking about.
And if you wanted a book recommendation, you’d have to rely on your mom’s questionable reading tastes or pick the book that looked the most well-read at the library (mystery book germs – eew).
Not so in the age of the Internet. Today, huge online communities of readers (like the one at Books Rock My World!) are just a mouse-click away. As for recommendations, with rating systems like those on Amazon and Goodreads, your next great read is never hard to find.
It’s never been easier to connect with other readers… or more complicated. Because just like real life, reading communities…
After checking out the results from the poll that I posted a few days ago, I’ve decided to give a better and longer description of what my book, Rest in Piece, is all about! For those of you who said a lower price would increase book sales, I’m taking your thoughts into consideration. However, with how the pricing works, I can’t promise a lower price. After all, I do want to make a profit from the sales. I don’t want you to think though that your opinion has gone unnoticed. So without further ado, here’s a more detailed description of Rest in Piece from one of the book’s readers, Ariel from Writing Radiation! Special thanks goes to Ariel for writing this description!
“The Erikson family love their new house. Louise especially loves her new room. She has privacy, space to call her own, & the hauntingly beautiful puzzle…
This is usually the point where I would swear I have nothing against Christians, that I love & cherish people regardless of their religion, & that I welcome them to celebrate their holidays with all the love, gift-giving, decorating, treats, & other trappings they wish.
Instead, I think I’ll just imply the heck out of it.
Every year, starting around Thanksgiving, I start feeling like Kyle in the “Mr. Hankey, The Christmas Poo” episode of South Park. If you don’t know what that means, please refer to this post’s title. If you don’t know what that means, I’m going to refer you to my colleague, Dr. Google.
I don’t have an issue with the holiday itself. Nor do I have a fit every time someone wishes me a “Merry Christmas” – I simply wish them a “Happy Hanukkah” in return. I think that’s a pretty light-hearted way to say: “Hey, you made a mistake, but I know you mean well!”
Also, I’m snarky as heck by nature, & afterwards we’ve both wished each other happiness on a holiday we don’t celebrate. We’re even-Stevens. Or, Stephanies.
It’s not that I take issue with the people on Christmas. It’s the feeling of isolation, of exclusion, from the holiday season. It’s as if, for all intents and purposes, Hanukkah doesn’t exist.
Everywhere I look, it’s Christmas. Trees, red & green, reindeer, Santa, string lights, ornaments, candy canes – none of which is associated with any other holiday. & don’t get me started on the music playing in stores, doctors’ offices, on the radio, everywhere.
That’s why, when I hear the talking heads on TV talk about “the war on Christmas,” I have to choke back laughter. Sometimes it’s bile. It depends on the day.
Wishing people a “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” or not putting up nativity scenes on public property, is people recognizing not everyone celebrates Christmas. It’s literally the least people can do.
I guess what I’m saying is this: don’t make assumptions. Share the warmth you feel this season with everyone around you. Wish people a “happy holidays” unless you’re positive they celebrate Christmas* – not to mention it includes wishing them a bright & fruitful New Year.
This is a time for inclusion. A time for love & peace. For making everyone, regardless of their religion, feel welcome. I know, for me at least, it goes a long way to warming my heart & making me feel like I’m not just A Lonely Jew on Christmas.
Like I’m not an afterthought.
*Bonus Points: If you know that people don’t celebrate Christmas, even if you’re not sure of their particular affiliation, don’t wait until Christmas to wish them well. Perhaps I’m overly sensitive, but hearing “Happy Holidays” on Christmas is sort of disingenuous. Especially when, like a couple of years ago, my holiday ended weeks earlier.
Happy Holidays to everyone! A bright & peaceful Hanukah, a joyous Kwanza, &, yes, a very Merry Christmas. May the best of 2016 be the worst of 2017 for you all!
If you need a reminder what I’m talking about, here’s a link to the first & second parts for my Giving Back on a Budget series.
Here’s another secret for giving back on a budget: People need your hair. This method of giving is deeply personal for me, & it might be the most rewarding. However, it limits what you can do with your hair & you need to care for your hair until it reaches a certain length. That’s why I think it’s also the most difficult way to give back on a budget.
But, I’ll come back to the “why” later on.
This type of donation is personal for me because my Mom was diagnosed with cancer when she was 6 months pregnant with me. Chemotherapy took her hair, but gave her 12 more years of life.
I remember how ashamed Mom was whenever anyone outside the family saw her without her wig. Her personality changed the minute she “put on her hair” – she went from withdrawn & avoiding eye contact, to the amazing, strong, intelligent woman I loved so much.
Between my birth in 1984 & her death in 1996, she wore human-hair wigs to hide her hair loss from the world. Each wig cost at least $500, even though it was a short, “pixie” hairstyle. Those were 1990’s prices too – I can’t imagine how much a similar wig would cost now.
Of course, most insurance companies see a hairpiece – human hair or synthetic – as a luxury. That means they don’t have to pay for it. I imagine people suffering how my Mom suffered, the shame & the embarrassment, without means to pay for their own wigs.
That’s where hair donations come in! Two well-known organizations (be very careful – a lot of scammers pose as medical non-profits) collect human hair & money donations. Combining the two, they make human-hair wigs for people who couldn’t otherwise afford them.
I made my 1st hair donation in 2002, right after my high school graduation. Back then, the only charitable organization in the wig-making game was Locks of Love. They focus on making hairpieces for children under 21 years old whose parents can’t buy them.
What Locks of Love does is so important for the children they serve that I can barely find the words. I don’t think any of us escaped childhood without peers teasing us, at least once, for some perceived “difference.” Now, imagine what it would be like as a little girl/boy without hair. The stares, questions, comments, laughter – from adults & kids alike – must be soul-crushing.
Then, early this year, I heard about Pantene’s “Beautiful Lengths” program from – where else? – the back of my conditioner bottle. The company joined forces with several other organizations to give human hair wigs to adult women with cancer – for free:
HairUWeave® turns ponytails into hairpieces
Greater Cincinnati Foundation works as a non-profit to collect money donations necessary for making wigs
American Cancer Society gives out the finished product
To date, Pantene has turned 800,000 ponytails into 42,000 wigs. If my math is right, about 20 people have to commit to donating their hair just to make one wig. (Please feel free to correct my math. Math was never my strong suit – that’s why I studied English!)
So, now we get back to why I decided hair donations are the most difficult way of giving back to others. It’s because of these hair donation guidelines that I encountered:
Donations must be a minimum of 8-10 inches. If your hair is curly/wavy, you can pull it straight before measuring its length.
Washed, conditioned, & dried completely before it’s cut & mailed in.
Collected & sent to the organization in ponytail(s). The stylist used one of my hair ties to make a ponytail, then cut about 1’ above the hair tie.
Loose/collected hair can’t be used. It must be cut off in a ponytail/braid. If you have a ponytail that you cut off years ago, & it meets the other requirements, some organizations will take it.
Bleached hair – even just highlights – can’t be donated. Most organizations have to dye several ponytails one uniform color before making them into a wig. Bleached hair reacts badly to these processes & it’s more likely to break than un-bleached hair.
Damaging treatments, such as teasing & straightening, should be avoided if you plan to donate your hair. Like bleached hair, damaged hair is more likely to break & for organizations to deem it unusable.
Some organizations accept colored/permed/chemically-treated hair, while others demand “virgin hair” donations. Make sure you check the requirements for whatever organization you choose before you cut your hair.
Dreadlocks, generally, can’t be donated. Matching them to upwards of 15 other ponytail donations could be too difficult.
Gray hair needs to be minimal. Some organizations may accept gray hair & sell it – along with hair shorter than the required length – to offset costs.
Ponytails must be placed in a Zip-lock/plastic sandwich bag, which is then placed into a mailer envelope, & mailed to the organization of your choice’s listed address. You have to pay for postage.
In most cases, you’ll have to cover the cost of the haircut & whatever style you want for your new short hairstyle.
Immediately after my 1st hair donation, I decided I wanted to do it again when my hair was long enough. That means I had to keep my choice to donate in mind for 14 years. True, I could have donated before 2016, but seeing my ponytails made me so proud. It was worth the commitment.
Some ways of giving back to less fortunate people may not cost much – if any – money, but there’s an obvious trade off. Some require your time, effort, supplies, commitment, or answering a bunch of questions followed by needle sticks. Some mean you need to make phone calls, ask questions, look up information online, or make appointments.
The truth is this: it’s worth whatever you’re sacrificing. Whether you give people in need your old clothes, life-giving blood, or the hair from your head, you can find a variety of ways to give to others without breaking the bank.
These are only the low-cost charitable methods I’ve used this year & it’s nowhere near a complete list. I considered adding food pantry/soup kitchen work, but I haven’t had experience with it in the 2016. However, 2017 is full of possibilities for donating.
If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments!! If you’ve had any rewarding experiences with donating your time, self, or old stuff, please leave a comment too!! I’d love to hear all about how you’ve been able to help others.
There’s a couple of words/phrases that I hate in the English language and one of those is “political correctness,” “politically correct,” or “PC culture.” This probably stems from me living Texas and 99.9% of people I’ve heard use this phrase have said it in way that complains about society moving towards respecting everyone, and mocks the idea of avoiding offensive language. I will never understand why someone would not change the words they use to make others comfortable or to respect them.
I believe in respecting all people. Respect peoples pronouns, and gender, and sexuality, even if you don’t think you “should have to” or don’t believe it’s “real.” (That’s another post in its own.) Don’t use racist and/or derogatory terms to refer to a people group. There is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t respect others with your words. It seems as black and white to me as not walking up to someone…