#metoo

#nofilter #goodhairday

Yep, that hashtag in the title means what you think it means. But that’s not what I want to talk about today.

I was cruising around on Facebook the other day and was overwhelmed by the number of posts in my timeline that said, simply, “Me too.” Blown away. It is the nature of this particular beast that we are certain that we are the only one, especially if we have the opinion that the trauma was of our own making. But that’s not what I want to talk about either.

What I want to talk about is the legacy that it leaves, and how I’m looking back at my life now through the #metoo filter. Y’all that know me know what I do for a living. If not, I’m a sign language interpreter. Sign and the Deaf Community have been a part of my life since I was a kid, and it is often my go-to when, as I am want to say, I lose my English. But it is also my go-to when English, specifically auditory English, is too much. My second language has led me through two tours of duty in higher education and a decade of working in mental health, and if I’m honest I have no idea which is scarier, more dangerous, or more triggering.

Enter the self-reflection stage. I posted awhile back about how I feel like I navigate a great deal of my life with my eyes closed. Why do I do that? Fear? Uncertainty? Perhaps because it is just nicer inside my head than out? I think I found out in something that I felt led to respond to another #metoo-er on Facebook. She had posted that there are those creeper moments that you feel you have been violated in some way, nothing has really happened that could be reported, but the icky feeling is still there. My response was this: “In my day job I get this creeper feeling sometimes and I can’t put my finger on what is causing it. I try to remind myself that it is not me in the situation, but the two people that I’m interpreting for, and my past creeps in and wrecks my compartmentalizing. That’s different…that’s me…but when I feel like I’m being addressed directly by a look or inflection then…well, this. Ugh. Throw in the vicarious trauma that just comes with what I do for a living, and I am just never sure but always hyper-aware and it is EXHAUSTING.”

I’m not going to detail what happened to me or with/by whom or any of that, it does no real good at this point to rehash all of that. No one has been or will be reported, at least not by me. But I guess I need to talk about the after effects. The hyper-vigilance. The destruction of my ability to trust…not right away, oddly enough, but over the course of the 30+ years since, as I follow the same path over and over and am reinforced in my belief that if someone is kind to me, there is a price tag on that kindness. I’m lucky beyond measure to be married to someone (now, not the first time around for certain) that, if he has a price tag on his love for me, has hidden it so well that I will never find it. I have friends in my life that I adore that I’m fairly certain will have my back, but the little nasty voice is always there telling me that I have to do whatever I can to keep them there.

It’s the little stuff too, that this #metoo has made me stop and pay attention to that led me to this post, to share what’s in my head in the hopes that it will make a difference. The after effects are real and are at times harder to manage than the actual event. “Dying is easy, young man. Living is harder.”

In which the language nerd…and proud American…in me rejoices

This was the clear winner, in my mind, for best Superbowl commercial this year.  I’m distressed, but not surprised, at the vitriolic backlash that it has received on social media and in the press.  Let me tell you why I loved it…and the one fault I found in it…

In spite of what is apparently popular opinion, the United States of America does not have an official language.  I will give you a moment for that to sink in.  English, therefore, is NOT the official language of the United States of America.  In fact, recent statistics show that English is spoken by 80% of the population, not 95% as in the United Kingdom where they DO recognize English as the de facto official language (and make you pass an English Language test to live there).

What makes me so proud of my country is the ability for people to come here from other countries and love this nation as their own while still being able to keep their language and culture of origin fairly intact.  While I know that those outside of the USA may look at that statement and scoff, it is true in some parts of the USA.

There are voices, at times LOUD voices, that disagree and would like for the USA to be a bit more homogeneous…more English speaking…dare I say more white?  But I would like to say to anyone thinking of visiting or relocating to my country that those opinions are not shared by all of us.

The places shown in the commercial last night were clearly chosen due to the fact that in those areas, there are higher concentrations of immigrant populations who speak Spanish, Hindi, Tagalog, and even native languages that were here before the English speaking explorers arrived.  Why shouldn’t they be able to express their love for their country in the language of their birth and heritage?  Seriously?  Am I the only one that got the point, that this commercial represents what America is at its very heart?

Be sure to click on the link above to watch the commercial and then watch the interviews with each of the language representatives heard in the commercial.  This speaks to the language nerd in me as well as the interpreter…the meaning is the point, not the language or culture.

The fault I found?  No ASL.  American Sign Language is the fifth most used non-English language in the United States.  And yet, it is left off, again.  My second language and, by association, my adopted culture is often left out…did anyone that was only watching the Superbowl on television see the ASL translation of the national anthem? Three or four signs maybe.  But I’m growing accustomed to that being the norm.  Doesn’t mean I think it is right and I hope that it will change.

If you’re one of the ones “disgusted” or “outraged” by the Coca-Cola commercial (literally, people are saying those specific words and worse…have a look at Coke’s Facebook page and Twitter feed) or you are thinking of boycotting the product, take a moment and look at your own family tree.  I bet you’ll find branches that came to this country, eager to live in and experience and love “America the Beautiful” even though they may have had to express that sentiment in a different way.  Was their love for this country any less because they spoke a different language?  No.  Absolutely not.

Let auld…what was it again?

Here’s my quickie recap of the year, now that the ball has dropped and there are fireworks waking up my Daisy Mei Mei…

This was the first year since 2005 that saw me remaining in the US all year. This was the year that Clowny died.  This was the year that Bryn arrived, only just. Throughout this year Daisy remained and remains now, happy and healthy and still the most perfect greyhound girly ever.

I attended three greyhound events and sold my books at all three. I finished three 50k+ word manuscripts at three separate Nanowrimo events. I’m staring down the beginning of my third year at Clemson. In a way, I’ve settled into my life here.

But at the same time the wanderlust that is such an integral part of who I am screams from that deep and dark place in the back of my mind, next to Algebra and the conjugation of Spanish verbs, urging me to leave what is comfortable and move on to the next adventure.  That part of me is at war with the shy and awkward part that occupies the prime real estate in the forefront and begs me to retreat further, spend more time pounding out useless manuscripts and hold up where I am. Draw the curtains is met with unfurl the sail, and the battle wages on.

I won’t make plans for this year.  I will take what comes and hope for trips to the UK, more furry babies to join our family (and maybe a human one?), and upward motion in my career and Simon’s.

Happy New Year to all of you. Make it a good one.  As for the Dunnes, we are off to bed.

My Post-Election 2012 Stump Speech

(Disclaimer: This should not shock anyone that really knows me well.)

I’m here today to post as a very happy American.  I’ve made no secret of the fact that I voted, again, for President Obama and that I’m pleased and relieved and all that sort of thing that he was re-elected on Tuesday.  
Let’s do a little factual posting first.  Mr. Obama was elected not only by a landslide in the Electoral College vote, but by a reasonable margin in the popular vote as well.  I’m pointing this out in order to remind those that think that it was some sort of vote counting conspiracy or nefarious business within the Electoral College that won him re-election, that it wasn’t.  It was simply that more people cast their vote for him than for his opponent.  Pure and simple.  Your candidate may not have been elected, but mine was elected fairly and according to the election process in our country.
Now then, here’s the part that may get me unfriended on Facebook, unfollowed on Twitter and possibly even disparagingly commented about here at the Lettuce.  Friends (and those that unfriend/unfollow), I can take it.  Do what you have to do, that’s what I’m doing here, and by hiding posts/people in my Facebook feed until after all of this rancor dies away a bit.
You may not realize it, but there are people out there in the world that have opinions that differ from yours.  There are people out there that worship a different Diety/Higher Power than you do.  There are people who eat meat, people who hate greyhound racing, and even people who believe with a strong conviction that if you think differently than they do you are, to quote my Facebook feed, morally inferior and/or corrupt.  The truth is, though, that there is NOTHING wrong with those people, they are just different.
I just wanted to post here to let everyone that reads the Lettuce (yeah, I know it’s like five of you, but still) know where I stand so that you can make an informed decision about how you and I proceed from this point rather than jumping to the conclusion that because I support President Obama that means I am made of Satan.  Because, to be fair, I’m really not.
I am a Democrat.  I am a Liberal Democrat.  I am in support of equal work and equal pay regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, and anything else that might differentiate one person from another.  I am firmly in support of the notion that we are here on this earth (not this country, mind you, but the whole earth) to take care of each other and support each other.  I believe that support includes helping others any time that you can.  I believe that support includes sharing what you have with those that don’t.  I believe that if you work hard and live a good and fair life, you will not only succeed but have the means to help others succeed.
I think that health care is a basic right just like food and shelter.  While I am not so sure I agree that you should be taxed if you choose to go without health insurance, I’m very sure that sometimes the end justifies the means and that everyone should be able to go to their doctor when they need to go, and not just when they can afford to go.  I believe in Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security.
Need to take a break to hit unfriend?  Because this is only going to get more personal and probably make some people more disgusted with me as a human being (again, another FB quote).
I believe that my religious beliefs are none of anyone’s business but my own.  I believe that whether or not I go to church is no one’s business but my own.  I do not believe that Go Make Of All Disciples means Get Every Pew In The Church Filled.  I believe that everyone is on the path to their own understanding of the Divine.  I believe that the Divine is one entity that has many faces.  I believe that it is not my place to judge because I don’t want anyone judging me.  I believe that in my religious tradition there are mandates such as “Do Unto Others” and “As you have done to the least of these, you have done to me” that are not just suggestions.  
Still there?
I believe that people are born gay/straight/lesbian/bi/whatever, and that is between them and the people with whom they share their lives.  Further, if someone finds another human being that they want to spend their life loving and supporting and being with, then they should have just as much legal right to do that as anyone else does.

I believe that this body my brain is sitting in right now is MINE, and that no one has the right to tell me what I can or can’t do with any working part of it.  Further, I believe that every other woman in the world has the same right to make decisions about her own body as I do.  Those decisions include the use of contraception and the ability to make decisions about pregnancy, especially in cases of incest, rape, and other trauma.

I believe that exclusion is a smoke screen for nefarious purpose, and that inclusion is the only way to be a true member of our global community.  And while we’re on the topic of the world community, I wanted to just point out that there is a HUGE difference between the “Israel” of Jewish tradition, mentioned in the Bible and other scripture and the Israel that exists as a country today.  One is a body of people, beloved of their God.  The other is a country that is just as guilty of terrorism as any of its neighbors in the middle east.  I believe that the US should seriously re-think its devotion to Israel.
I don’t think the US is the best nation on the planet.  We have all kinds of problems.  People are starving.  People are homeless.  Animals are abused.  Schools don’t have the money to educate students, let alone produce future leaders.  I think that if the US would stop trying to prove its imaginary superiority and would focus on its own people at home for a change, we might be healthier and happier.
I don’t think Republicans are evil.  I think that they are people with a differing opinion than mine.  I don’t think the Tea Party should have chosen that name because I believe that in doing so they are denigrating the original act of rebellion that took place in Boston.  Their issue isn’t lack of representation, it’s changing your mind after you elect representation and then crying that no one represents you.
I believe that President Obama was born a citizen of the United States just like I was.  I also believe that a great lot of the outcry against him is a smoke screen…I think it all boils down to the fact that our country was not ready for an African -American president. 
I have always been proud to be an American citizen and I still am.  My time living abroad gave me a new perspective on what that means and what it should mean, and that’s what I’m working to emulate.  The world is not laughing at all of us, Mr. Trump.  If the world is laughing, it’s at cartoonish buffoons who declare the end is nigh/gather your guns/prepare for the apocalypse because of the election of one man to power.
Huh, that just gave me a thought.  It reminded me of all the people that were threatened by another man who came to the table talking about love, inclusion, supporting each other, and sharing what we have with each other.  Interesting that some of the loudest voices claim allegiance to that man yet clearly have no understanding of his message.
Yeah, so that’s what it’s like inside my head these days.  Take this information and do with it as you will.

To Those Who CLEARLY Know Better Than I…


I said this is MY bed!
Originally uploaded by Nancy Allen

Okay, I know that I’m just biased or cranky or cold or something, but I think we have an exceptional crowd of Know-It-All’s and Animal-Rights-Gone-Wrongers this year at the festival. I’ve been told that my dogs are too thin. I’ve been told that they were hit and abused while racing. I’ve been told that they don’t live well with cats. I’ve been told that I need to cut their toenails.

Only one of those statements is true, and Mills will tell you it isn’t the cat one! Jeany’s nails are a bit long. So to all those people who leave the “Dog House” or “Hound Barn,” as it has been nicknamed, thinking that the lady in the gray/blue/orange dress is starving her hounds and probably is in league with Satan because she is…gasp…a FAN of greyhound racing…

Ummm…

Errr…

Yeah, can’t even come up with anything. All I can think of is how I wouldn’t go up to another adoption group for a different breed, one with whom I’ve never lived, and start quoting propaganda and scare-tactic-speech that I’ve gotten from an internet site containing 20 year old statistics. I’m also not sure about those people who need to tell me about all the umpteenthirty animals they have rescued over the years. Does it truly make you feel better or warm your heart to have “saved” an animal (which, by the way, in case you’re keeping score, does NOT make you the same as me because the only one of my animals that was “saved” was Mills, who was adopted from the shelter…) OR do you do it so people will tut-tut What A Wonderful Human Being You Are and praise you as a martyr? I was discussing this with S on the phone and I think they remind me of the Pharisees. Shouldn’t we be doing our work to make the world better and just keeping quiet about it? Actions speak louder than words, etc etc?

I know, harsh words, but seriously…it is on my mind. I don’t tell people automatically that I adopted my dogs after they retired from racing. I just say they are greyhounds. I don’t tell people that I serve as a selfless mediator between people of two cultures and languages that can’t understand each other in the interest of bringing our big world a bit closer together, either. I just say I am an interpreter.

If you’re hung up on the saving bit though…my animals are the heroes, not me. They’ve saved my life more times than I can count.

Steam


my.giant.head
Originally uploaded by Nancy Allen

Remember my previous Steam posts, from when I was living in Alabama?

I am a professional.

I am fluent in both languages. I’m not sure that you’re even fluent in English.

I don’t need to be told how to do my job. I had to have been pretty clear about what I was doing for my college to grant me a bachelor’s degree and my professional organization to grant me national certification.

I’m fairly familiar with mental illness and working in this setting. The past 9 years of working in this setting have seen to that.

I know what I was hired to do, and I know what you were hired to do. Let’s not confuse the two, shall we?

Until you know what it is like to be a necessary evil…until you know what it is like to be a walking after-thought…until you have been spoken about in front of your face as though you are an appliance or a chair in the room…

(Here’s where my more sensitive readers might want to scroll down, by the way.)

Until you can understand sign and English and work between the two, get the hell out of my face, my business, and my way and let me do my job.

Whew.

Well, this one’s going to be a bit more cryptic because I don’t really know who reads me up here in SC…but I still need to let it out or I’ll explode.

When you make a computer mistake that affects your employees, it should not be the responsibility of the employees to make it right. I understand that it makes more work for you to correct the mistake, but I’m still not seeing how it’s anyone’s issue but yours to see it fixed.

When someone is hired for a job, it is assumed that the person has the required knowledge and skills to perform the job. If you weren’t hired for that job then you probably don’t need to try and tell the person in the job how to DO the job. I’m sure that he or she can handle it.

Creating a working environment where you have happy and willing employees almost always leads to productivity. A work environment where employees feel like they are either being watched every step of the way or they have to beg and scrape for the materials needed to do their jobs will not lead to productivity or a boost in morale. I try to remember that when I’m supervising my interpreters.

I did a 9-1 stint today alone…lots of clients back to back to see a doc, but also discussion in between with deaf staff members. My hands are worn out, my brain is totally mush…yet I still have to finish out my day (till 4:30 rather than 5, though, since I left home at 8 to get to the gig on time). And we’re in a hiring freeze so it has to be justified that we need another interpreter in this area. I’ll tell you what, put on my hands and feel the pain in my joints right now, or try to string a coherent sentence together with my foggy brain for the past two hours and you’ll get your justification.

It’s funny, an interpreter I know who used to work where I do now warned me when I took the job all those years ago that “this job will be the end of you…they will work you to death there,” but I scoffed. And have been for the past almost 10 years.

Ten years. Lordy.

Once September is over I will only have two months left at my job. Sobering thought…and honestly I’m not sure if it’s because I will miss it or sobering because there are still two months left. Time will tell.

Thoughts on the Olympic Opening Ceremonies

(My disclaimer here is that it is now 12:41 am and I started writing this post as the ceremony coverage was ending just before midnight.)

First of all, let me say that I hadn’t planned to watch this. I used to be BIG into the Olympics when I was younger. I’ve never been an athletic type but something about getting to see all the countries of the world gathered together just fascinated me. The events I watched at the summer games were things like gymnastics (of course, what little girl doesn’t?), track events, and swimming. I’m sure there were others, but those were the biggies for me. I loved the winter games even more, probably because when I was younger I had a secret dream to become a figure skater.

Yeah, those of you that are my regular readers, try to stop laughing. Seriously. You’re causing a spectacle.

Somewhere around college I became slightly less interested in the games. I still followed the progress of the American team and celebrated our successes, but the thrill was not the same. I was working at the University of Georgia during the 1996 games and one of my less fond memories of that time is being underneath one of the speakers placed in the trees when it announced a welcome to the games in French and English at an ungodly decibel level. There was also being literally locked into my office because the toilets in our building became “Public.”

Needless to say I was a bit turned off by the Olympics after that. If you watch it on television it’s all pomp and circumstance and national pride and glory. If you live and work in the city that hosts it (and Athens only had a few events, but it was enough) you see the underbelly of the Olympics and some of the glitter wears thin.

Now, y’all that know me know that I’m a tree hugging left wing liberal peacenik. I am also a child of the Cold War. It amazes me to think that the college students graduating today never knew the overpowering shadow of the Communist Block. All of these parts of me sort of collided when I started thinking about the Beijing games.

But I sat down, with a semi-open mind, and watched the opening ceremonies. The past four and a half hours have been amazing. I was able to temporarily put aside concerns about Tibet and Darfur. The outrage felt over the dog and cat food contamination faded. But I will be honest and say that my emotions were all over the map as I watched.

The opening performances that told the history of China tugged at the girl in me who loved learning about different countries. I had a book called “The Book of Knowlege” or something like that (I’m making a note to ask my mom tomorrow) which had a blurb about everything under the sun, including sections about different countries. Each one had a sample of that country’s language and notes about culture, and I devoured all of it. Tonight I found myself devouring the performances, listening attentively to the normally annoying American commentators as they explained what each section represented.

The Chinese children that bore the Chinese flag in made me miss my goddaughters Kaya and Tai. It’s been far too long since I’ve seen them and they only live a state away now. I was so impressed and awed by the absolute beauty of those young faces, clearly overflowing with pride for their country.

Remember how my emotions were all over the map? When the children handed off the flag to the soldiers to raise on the flagpole, I felt a strange twinge in my gut when the soldiers marched away. It was the way they marched…the high steps, the arms and legs moving slowly and in unison…I remembered, as I watched, being a child and learning about the Communists in school. They were the enemy. They had the power to blow us all to kingdom come. They didn’t care about individuals as long as their agenda advanced. To an American child living in the land of the individual capitalist and the home of the easily outraged, the Chinese and the Soviets were about the scariest things I could imagine.

Oh how well the politicians did their jobs…clearly the politicians of today learned the same lessons I did as children and are still teaching them…the target of the lesson is just different.

Anyway, I took a moment to process my feelings upon seeing the soldiers. Truth be told, that old twinge had surfaced for a moment in the beginning of the ceremony when some 2000+ drummers performed in unison. One of the announcers commented at the end of that segment that it had been impressive, but intimidating. I agree. I think that was done purposefully, even though (as told by the same announcer) the drummers were told to smile. There is something intimidating about that many people moving in unison…there is also something very Chinese about it. The same feeling crept in again while the Tai Chi masters performed. Precision. Symmetry. Intimidation by sheer mass? Perhaps. China is inviting us into their country and introducing us to “modern” China, but they remind us always of their strength and position in the world arena.

So what’s wrong with that? Dubya makes it a point as often as he can to remind anyone that is still listening that America is the most powerful nation in the world. But are we? I wonder if some of the discomfort some Americans feel when faced with countries such as China is because they know that regardless of the Rah Rah Rhetoric preached by Dubya and others, we are not truly a United bunch of States. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link…

Now I’m not naive enough to think that everyone in China is equal. I’ve heard the tales of the orphanages that my goddaughters lived in before they were adopted. I’ve seen, as has everyone in this mass and immediate media age, the images of China “cleaning up” before the opening of the Beijing games. But the looks on the faces of the Chinese people in the crowd…the roar of the crowd when the Chinese athletes entered to finish the INCREDIBLY LONG parade of nations…China from the outside seems to be a country of people that recognize its faults and hope for the future. I’m not so sure that the US can say the same about its people.

I applauded a bit for the delegation from Great Britain…never too early to start supporting my second home. Who knew that one of their competitors is only fourteen years old and isn’t a gymnast?

I will admit to a fluttery feeling when the American athletes entered the stadium. I may complain about the state of America and I will say to anyone that asks that I think our current place in the world arena could use some serious upgrading…but at heart I’m still that little girl who almost cried when the American flag showed up in the Olympic stadium and sang “My Country Tis of Thee” with all my heart. I love my country. I love being from the South. I’m proud to be an American…I just wish we could get back to the real America. Seriously. This ultra-conservative place we’ve ended up in after the past eight years is really starting to get old.

My flutters over the Stars and Stripes halted abruptly as I compared the demeanor of the American athletes to those from other countries. Some of the athletes, especially those from the smaller teams, seemed to enter the stadium with a look of awe on their faces, almost reverently like they were on holy ground. The Chinese entered all smiles, waving their flags proudly. The Austrians did some sort of a strange little dance, but they all did it together and then resumed smiling and snapping digital photos and waving.

While some of the Americans seemed to appreciate the magnitude of the setting, others were talking to each other, some were even swaggering about, shouting into the cameras and generally looking like a group of children. They represented the American ideal, I thought: proud, smug, and eager to remind the world who they were. AMERICANS. Stand back.

The torch lighting was awe inspiring to say the least, and it really seemed to drive home how important these games are to China. As the final torchbearer “ran” around the scrim at the top of the Bird’s Nest stadium, faces of athletes and other Chinese people appeared behind him. It was as though the energy and pride of that enormous country surged through the flame as it burned up toward the top, then finally the torch was lit and the games were begun.

The Chinese outdid themselves for the opening ceremonies. Here’s hoping that Team USA brings home some medals and that the world can pause for a moment and see these athletes standing side by side, appreciating each others accomplishments and coexisting in peace.