Housekeeping and Updates

Hello all! It’s been quite some time since I posted, and I am so so sorry that I haven’t been keeping up. Life has been throwing a lot of curveballs my way, from a death in the family, to some wedding planning panic, to being short staffed at work during our two largest events of the year. But I’m back and plan to keep up my regular posting schedule of one post a week from here on out!

With that said, I’d love to hear some feedback from you! I’ve been writing this blog for over three years now, and in that time I’ve covered a lot of ground. There aren’t quite as many things burning in my fingers to get out on the page. Do you have ideas for what you’d like to hear me write about? Send them to me at oliviajames27@gmail.com. Thanks buds, can’t wait to get writing again.

Your Action Items: Valentine’s Edition

I found a couple cool resources that folks might want to take advantage of going forward. Action Against Trump has a ton of resources, including this spreadsheet with call scripts, action items, and phone numbers. I strongly recommend saving it to your drive.

This week we’re going to do one script that’s a little bit different. It’s a thank you script. Betsy DeVos did get confirmed, which is a big old bummer, but on the plus side every single Democrat voted against her, and we need to recognize that they did what we asked.

Take a quick look to see if your representative voted against DeVos, then follow this script if they did: “Hi, my name is ___, I’m your constitutent from [ZIP]. I want to thank the Senator for voting NO on Betsy DeVos. I appreciate their willingness to stand up for the education of American youth. Thank you.”

The second issue on the table is one that is ongoing: DAPL. I am going to give you a script for Trump on this one because as far as I can tell there is nothing for Congresspeople to do.

“Hi, my name is ___, and I am an American citizen from ___. I am getting in touch to urge President Trump to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline. This pipeline was diverted through Native American lands because white Americans did not want it in their land, and it is wholly inappropriate that the Native American population is being treated as second class citizens in this way. The pipeline will damage sacred sites, and potentially contaminate the Missouri River. Please do not allow this project to continue.”

Twitter: @realdonaldtrump NO DAPL. Native American lands deserve the same respect as any lands.

Sorry for short scripts this week everyone, work is incredibly busy for me right now. Hopefully I’ll get some more in depth info to you next week, and until then good luck with all your efforts!

Your Weekly Action Scripts

I was talking on Facebook with some friends yesterday about the fact that the cost/benefit of calling my congresspeople just isn’t worth it for me. I could do it, but it would sap all my energy. I asked for ideas of other things I could do to help, and one of my friends made a great suggestion: write scripts for others who can call. Now THIS I can do! So I’m making it my mission this year (and possibly throughout the entire Trump administration) to identify one issue a week and write scripts for you to contact your Congresspeople, the White House, and any other relevant parties. I’m also going to include some pre-written tweets, so that if you have a Twitter account you can tweet at your representatives.

All of these scripts should be adaptable for letter writing, although if you are planning to write a letter I would urge you to include something personal in your letter as it gets more attention if it’s a unique letter. Apparently postcards also get through more quickly than actual letters due to the anthrax scare, so keep that in mind.

This week I’d like to focus on disability issues, as I complained enough about them not getting enough attention in my last post. There are three main concerns that I have right now in regards to the disability community. I would recommend calling your representatives over the course of a couple days and each day using one of these scripts.

Issue One: Repealing the ACA

Why this is important: Trump and a variety of GOP lawmakers have vowed to repeal the ACA. This is of particular concern to the disability community because the ACA made it illegal to deny someone health insurance based on a preexisting condition. For those with disabilities, this made health care a possibility where it had not been.

Calling script for your Senate and House representative: “Hello, my name is ___ and I am your constituent from [location and zip]. I’d like to speak with the individual in your office who handles calls concerning the ACA.”

They will either transfer you or say that they can help you out. If they do not transfer you, ask for the name of the individual who handles calls concerning the ACA. You can use this name in future calls. Then proceed with the script: “Thank you. I’m calling to urge Senator/Representative _______ to oppose any attempts to repeal the ACA. The ACA made it illegal for insurers to refuse someone based on preexisting conditions. This allowed thousands of Americans with disabilities to finally access important, life saving care, and I urge Senator/Representative _____ to remember those Americans when the time comes to vote on the ACA, and ensure that insurers are not allowed to deny Americans based on preexisting conditions.”

The staff member will likely thank you and may ask if you want a response from the representative. You can say yes or no. They may also take your full name, phone number, and address. There’s a possibility they will tell you that the representative will not do what you’ve asked. If so, you can simply say “I will call again tomorrow. Thank you.”

Calling Script for the White House: This one is a little bit tricky. The main White House comment line (202-456-1111) appears to be closed. You can try it, but it appears to suggest that you use Facebook or the comment form on their website. Teen Vogue (the unexpected head of the resistence) has put together a useful article on contacting Trump’s businesses, as this appears to be the quickest way to actually reach the president. A strong note: please do not harass anyone working for Trump’s businesses. Remain polite.

“Hello, my name is ___ and I am calling to leave feedback for President Trump. As his White House comment line is closed, I am choosing to contact him through his business holdings.”

The person you’re talking to might be confused. They may try to ask you to make a reservation for a tee time or a hotel. If that happens, you can ask for a supervisor and repeat the above line. If they say that that’s not appropriate, simply say “please pass along my comment to your higher ups. I would like my President to receive my feedback. I will not take much of your time.” If they listen, use the following script.

“I am an American citizen, and I am calling to urge President Trump to cease his efforts to repeal the ACA. The ACA made it illegal for insurers to refuse someone based on preexisting conditions. This allowed thousands of Americans with disabilities to finally access important, life saving care, and I urge President Trump to veto any legislation that would allow preexisting conditions to return. Thank you for your time.”

Tweet for senators: @[your senator or representative] vote against repealing ACA. Preexisting conditions make it impossible for disabled Americans to get coverage!

Tweet for White House: @potus do not repeal ACA! Denial of insurance based on preexisting conditions kills disabled Americans.

Issue Two: Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education

Why this is an issue: Betsy DeVos is a problem for a wide range of reasons, but the ones I’d like to focus on are the fact that she did not know what IDEA was when asked during her hearing, and is very focused on school choice and deregulation. IDEA is the legislation that protects disabled students and gives them access to accommodations in their education. Her focus on deregulation is likely to remove many of the protections for disabled students, which are already underfunded and weak. This would likely leave disabled students with little to no support, or put away in separate schools that are not held to the same educational standards as other schools.

Calling script for your Senate and House representative: “Hello, my name is ___ and I am your constituent from [location and zip]. I’d like to speak with the individual in your office who handles education.”

They will either transfer you or say that they can help you out. If they do not transfer you, ask for the name of the individual who handles calls concerning the education. You can use this name in future calls. Then proceed with the script: “Thank you. I’m calling to urge Senator/Representative _______ to oppose Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. Ms. DeVos showed during her hearing that she did not know the basics of IDEA, a key piece of legislating protecting disabled students. She has also urged for deregulation of schools, which would further undermine supports for disabled students. This is disastrous for any students who require accommodations and supports to succeed in school, and will put future Americans with disabilities at a disadvantage in employment, life skills, and higher education. Please ensure all students have access to a free public education by opposing Betsy DeVos and demanding support and funding for IDEA.”

The staff member will likely thank you and may ask if you want a response from the representative. You can say yes or no. They may also take your full name, phone number, and address. There’s a possibility they will tell you that the representative will not do what you’ve asked. If so, you can simply say “I will call again tomorrow. Thank you.”

Calling Script for the White House: see above for notes on contacting the White House.

“I am an American citizen, and I am calling to urge President Trump to rethink his decision of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. Ms. DeVos showed during her hearing that she did not know the basics of IDEA, a key piece of legislating protecting disabled students. She has also urged for deregulation of schools, which would further undermine supports for disabled students. This is disastrous for any students who require accommodations and supports to succeed in school, and will put future Americans with disabilities at a disadvantage in employment, life skills, and higher education. Please encourage President Trump to ensure all students have access to a free public education by finding a different Secretary of Education who will support and fund IDEA.Thank you for your time.”

Tweets for Senator/Representative: I would recommend looking up whether your representative has come out in opposition to Betsy DeVos and select the appropriate Tweet.

For those who oppose: @[your representative or senator] thank you for opposing Betsy DeVos. She is wholly inappropriate for Sec. of Ed and will do harm to all students esp disabled ones

For those who do not oppose: @[your representative or senator] please oppose Betsy DeVos as Sec of Ed. She does not know what IDEA is. We need support for disabled students.

Tweet for POTUS: @potus Betsy DeVos is an inappropriate choice for Sec of Ed. She does not know what IDEA is. We need support for disabled students.

 

Issue Three: removal of all mentions of disability from WhiteHouse.gov

Why this is an issue: it’s fairly normal for an administration to change up the website when they move in, but what isn’t normal is for entire issues to be removed entirely. President Trump has replaced any mention of disability with issues like “America First policies”, because apparently Americans with disabilities aren’t important enough to be on his docket of issues.

For this one, all communications should go to the White House. See above for notes on calling the White House.

Script for White House: “I am calling to urge President Trump to add disability issues to whitehouse.gov. All mention of disability issues was removed when he entered office, erasing the concerns of millions of Americans. Please encourage President Trump to remember these Americans and fight for their rights. Thank you for your time.”

For the White House FB Page and White House comment page: I am deeply concerned that President Trump has removed disabilities from the list of issues on Whitehouse.gov. Americans with disabilities make up 19% of the population, and in the past have experienced serious discrimination, oppression, and abuse. Please return disability issues to the table and include them on whitehouse.gov. Disabled Americans deserve the support of their president, not someone who will erase them from the conversation.

NOTE: you can find the comment page here, and the FB page here. Feel free to adapt and expand this for a postcard.

Tweet for the White House: @POTUS I am appalled that you have removed all mention of disabilities from whitehouse.gov. Disabled Americans cannot be erased.

Look forward to next week’s scripts on Sunday. I hope to tackle some immigration issues. Together we can make our voices heard.

Disability Rights are Human Rights

I went to my local Women’s March to protest Trump’s agenda of diminishing women and minority rights last weekend. I was deeply impressed with the turn out. It was exciting, and I do love the swell of community and excitement that comes from a march. So many people, so much community and support, lots of yelling. There have been other criticisms in other places from trans women and women of color, and I hear and respect those criticisms. Those don’t happen to be mine to make.

What is my criticism is something that I think is major, and watch out because I am about to get on a soapbox. DISABILITY RIGHTS WERE COMPLETELY ERASED. Time after time speakers would list off all the women that we needed to support, all the groups that needed to come together and organize as one. And not ONCE, not ONE SINGLE TIME did they mention disabled women. There was one speaker from the Deaf community, whose presence I don’t want to erase, but she did not speak on disability and did not seem to identify as disabled.

This is especially concerning to me considering the fact that the Trump administration has removed all mention of disabilities as an issue they are interested in tackling. When I search whitehouse.gov, the only mentions of the word “disability” I can find are in bios, historical information, and tour information. That is completely unacceptable, and just as the marches over the weekend expressed outrage over the erasure of GLBT issues from the website, they should be JUST as enraged over the erasure of disabled Americans.

Let’s talk about disabilities. In 2010, the Census Bureau reported that 19% of people had disabilities. I strongly suspect that those numbers are low, considering how hard diagnoses are, and how difficult it is to get a legal “disability” status. I identify as disabled, as I have mental and emotional challenges that majorly affect areas of my life from relationships to education to work. But there is no way that I was included in that number. While disabled people are a minority, we are a LARGE minority, and one that is incredibly vulnerable. Beyond our sheer numbers, we are also a uniquely vulnerable population. Many disabled people are not capable of coming to marches, or have extra challenges when it comes to contacting their representatives. This is a population that is sexually abused at high rates, is murdered at high rates, has absurdly high unemployment rates. Some of us aren’t capable of speaking at all. Some of us require constant medical attention. These are people who NEED SUPPORT. And with Trump talking about dismantling the ACA, these are people whose lives and health are in serious danger.

So it concerns me deeply that our needs are being erased. If you consider yourself a feminist, a social justice advocate, or honestly even a decent person, please remember disabled Americans when you are trying to stand up for rights. When you talk about issues, remember that disabled individuals are nearly always the first targets, and they are the ones who are least likely to be able to fight back.

In addition to the Women’s March, I am seeing disabled Americans forgotten by other groups and in other calls for justice. For example the Scientist’s March on Washington says in their diversity section “Science is done by POC, women, immigrants, LGBTQ, indigenous people, people of all beliefs and non-belief.” Notice anyone missing? We CANNOT forget the disability community as we resist Trump, so I hope that you will work with me to continue educating others about the dangers faced by the disabled, and about ways to help them.

Here are some concrete actions you can take to support Americans with disabilities, because disability rights are  human rights.

  1. Contact your representative to say NO to Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. She refused to say that she thinks IDEA should be enforced, meaning that schools who receive public funding would not have to provide reasonable accommodations for students with disability.
  2. Contact your representatives to urge them not to repeal the ACA. Most people with disabilities could not get insurance before the ACA due to preexisting conditions. That means that people who needed healthcare the most could not access it due to cost.
  3. If you are part of any social justice organizations or involved in planning events such as rallies, protests, etc. please think about accessibility and encourage planners to ensure that ASL interpreters are available, there are spaces for wheelchairs, and (as much as possible), people with mobility impairments can access your space. Also consider having a quiet space for those with social anxiety, autism, or sensory challenges. If you want more information, WisCon does a fantastic job of accessibility and lays out most of their efforts on their website.
  4. Remember that not everyone who stays home from marches and activism does so because they want to or because they don’t care. Many people have anxiety, depression, an illness, or a disability that makes it difficult if not impossible to leave their home, to march, or to be around that many people. Don’t shame people for engaging with politics and activism differently than you do.
  5. Contact the White House to encourage them to restore information on disability policies to their website. When President Trump took office, his administration (in a fairly normal move) revamped the website. What is not normal is that they removed any mention of disability from the policies section.

That’s Not How This Works Gilmore Girls

I’m a fan of Gilmore Girls. I started watching it back when it was still coming out, when I was just a little junior high girl who thought it was maybe an accurate representation of what grown up life was like (lol). So I was pretty excited for the new mini-series, and devoured it in a single day. Like most reboots, there’s good and bad to it, but I want to focus specifically on something that as an adult with more experience I now KNOW is not how the world works. Not even a little bit, not at all.

This mini-series of Gilmore Girls is the first time that the show portrays therapy (despite the fact that basically every character ever seen could have used a heaping helping of it from the opening sequence). I am pretty gunshy of media representations of therapy no matter what, but I have to say that I was particularly disappointed in this one because it a. had the potential to show a really positive therapy experience to a great number of people and b. broke some very fundamental rules of therapy without a thought, creating a misleading portrayal of therapy that (I think) could easily scare young viewers or viewers with no experience in therapy away from pursuing help if they have a mental illness or are simply struggling.

The first thing that concerned me was that we saw multiple therapy sessions, and never once did the therapist offer any actual suggestions of what Emily and Lorelai could do to repair their relationship, or of skills that Lorelai could use in her own life. Nearly every time we saw her she just smiled and nodded or said that time was up. The sessions between Emily and Lorelai appeared to consist of sitting in silence for an hour. Now I know that it’s not unheard of for clients to be reticent, and for there to be a lot of silence, but most therapists will do more than just sit there. They ask questions. They suggest interpretations of different events. They give actual concrete ideas of how to handle your emotions and things to do so that your emotions start to feel better. I’ve found it a common misunderstanding that going to therapy is just paying someone to listen to you. Sure, that’s part of it, but that greatly underestimates all the work that a therapist actually does.

I’m sure there are therapists out there who don’t do much, but if you find a half decent one, they will be doing actual WORK. They will help you create images to understand your emotions better. They will help you draw connections between different events in your life and your current behaviors. They will give you strategies for dealing with other people. They will challenge different beliefs that you have which might be leading to unhappiness. They will give suggestions of activities, mantras, exercises, etc. that can help emotions feel less powerful and can calm you. The conviction that therapy is “just talking” is a huge part of the reason people are resistant to it. Why would you waste your time doing that when you can do it with friends or family? But therapy, while it is talk based, is about learning. It teaches you what you’re supposed to actually do outside of therapy. This therapist was the WORST portrayal of a therapist that doesn’t do anything.

Beyond that, when Lorelai and Emily actually did say things, they out and out fought and insulted each other. They were passive aggressive and cruel. No self-respecting therapist would let those behaviors go unchallenged. The point of therapy for any relationship is to create a safer space where nasty behavior like that gets curtailed and you can actually speak civilly to each other to get at real issues. All of the things that Lorelai and Emily said were ripe for further discussion, and the therapist just let them hang there. The show for some reason did not address that this was an AWFUL therapist.

And finally, perhaps worst, was a serious ethical breach that happened in the show without a single note. When the therapist is auditioning for Stars Hollow: The Musical, she sees Lorelai, greets her, and asks Lorelai to put in a good word. NO. NONONO. Therapists are not allowed to acknowledge that they know patients outside of therapy unless the patient acknowledges it first for confidentiality reasons. Not only that, but it’s horrifically unethical to use your position as someone’s therapist (where you have power over them) to ask for favors from them. This therapist should lose their license.

I understand that TV does not perfectly mimic reality, but these are huge problems for the portrayal of therapy on TV, and they are damaging to people’s understanding of what they can expect and their openness to attending therapy. We can do better.

//giphy.com/embed/2fs2I4ujlBf20

via GIPHY

Buying In To the Wedding Industrial Complex

Note: this will be rambly and repetitive. I’m working through some shit, and I do that in writing, and I put it here so that I have to be thoughtful. Deal with it.

So it turns out that a wedding costs a lot of money. I know, I know, this is not news, but it doesn’t really hit you until you’re planning one how easy it is to blow your budget and how challenging it is to find reasonable options. I’ve been a big hater of the wedding industrial complex for a long time now, but it’s only since starting the process of planning my own wedding that I realize how emotionally fraught it is to try to resist that complex in the face of all the expectations about weddings.

In particular, even if you don’t want to spend upwards of ten thousand dollars, it’s easy to let everyone convince you that this day is uber extra special and it should be just perfect. The dress should be a perfect representation of you that flatters you in every way, the venue should give the “feel” of you as a couple, the decor should be tasteful and personal, the food should be stellar. You don’t want it to be boring after all, and you want to remember it for years to come as fantastic and awesome! It’s stressful to try to budget while also making it a special day that feels fun and important and makes your guests and family and you happy.

There are two things that I want to be true about my wedding at the same time: it’s an important day, one that I would like to enjoy and remember. It is also not the most important day of my life, and probably not even in the list of the top 5 most important days of my life. It’s not even the most important day in my relationship (though it is gonna be pretty awesome and I’m excited for the legal change). But like most people, I am fallible, and subject to influence, and full of all kinds of emotions about living up to expectations.

I’ve been spending hours each week researching and planning my wedding, and unsurprisingly, in that process I have started to internalize some of the messages that abound on wedding planning websites and blogs: The Dress will be perfect and special. Everyone will notice the Little Touches you bring to the day. People will be horribly offended if you don’t treat them right. Despite how helpful and supportive my family has been and how little I knew about weddings and wedding traditions leading up to my engagement, I’m finding that there’s suddenly a lot of pressure.

It’s come to a head with the dress. Now I’m going to be honest: I love dresses, and I’ve been watching Say Yes to the Dress for years, because I am SO EXCITED to wear something amazing that I can’t get away with any other time in my life. But as I’ve tried on dress after dress I’ve started to realize that there’s a message about The Dress that says it will be “perfectly, uniquely you” and it will stand out from all other dresses. It will be the kind of dress that makes you say damn the pricetag (because these messages are here to get you to spend money) and if you find it after you’ve already bought a dress, then you’ll just have to get a second one because it’s perfect.

I’ve started to feel as if no dress will be right. I have so many ideas and desires for a dress (I love them all), and I have no idea which one is The One. It’s started to become so intensely stressful to me that I don’t even want to look at or think about dresses anymore, which is basically the saddest thing ever because I love dresses. And that is what has tipped me off: this isn’t me. This is the wedding industrial complex. And I’m buying in. I’m letting a lot of marketing steal something that usually brings me a lot of joy. The point at which thinking about and planning for a day that I’m excited for becomes a stressful gauntlet of “is this exactly right” is the point at which I’m not doing it for me anymore.

And that’s where things get complicated. Because I am a perfectionist, and I’m an event planner, and I love details and I love finding just the right thing. At what point am I buying in to messaging vs. working hard to stay true to myself? None of us can entirely suss out what parts of ourself is “ME” and what is “INFLUENCE” because those two things are endlessly intertwined, and honestly there’s nothing wrong with being influenced sometimes. The hardest part of wedding planning so far has been that a wedding is supposed to reflect your identity, and nailing down my identity is basically the hardest thing I can imagine.

Here’s the truth: all of us will buy in to some extent. That’s not the worst thing in the world. We all live and breathe capitalism every day. The reason it feels like such a Big Damn Deal for your wedding is because your wedding is supposed to be You and Pure and Perfect. It won’t be. It will be a compromise. You will settle. I will settle. That seems like a good representation of me though. I’m pulled in a thousand directions every day, and my life is one of settling for the moment, settling for what I’m capable of, settling for what will actually make me happy instead of what seems like the “Right” choice.

There is no “the” dress or venue or anything. We all have a thousand facets and nothing will represent us perfectly. The trend in weddings right now is for the wedding to be “perfectly you” and that simply cannot happen for most o fus. How close is a close enough approximation? What is selling yourself out? How do you understand your own priorities? It’s easy for “unique” and “me” to be the new wedding industrial complex. Even Offbeat Bride, which I love, exists to sell things, which means that all of those gorgeously unique and quirky weddings are there to make you want them.

Most people will probably not care in the slightest about the details of my wedding or the dress I wore. That’s all me. That’s all the money that’s spent to make me think that people will be picking nits through the whole day. So I’ve bought into that. Ok. I have to deal with that anxiety now because it won’t just go away. I can’t make it go away by reminding myself it’s all made up. So I will use the same skills I use against my anxious brain any other time to continue reminding myself of what’s important, and to ground myself in the moment, and to get over the irrational fears I have. The wedding industrial complex is just my jerkbrain with a lot of money. I’ve got this. And if you’re finding that media and friends and family are getting into your head and making you worry unnecessarily, it might be time to pick up a few tips from the people who battle anxiety every day. We know how to get through when our brains tell us lies. You’ve got this too.