Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Things I've Done Since Going Vegan

Today marks the anniversary of my decision to go vegan. I was really nervous about it before I did it. The idea had been percolating in my head since a coworker & her partner talked to me about being vegan, but since I have Crohn's disease & anxiety, changes to my diet usually freak me out.

I had driven home to Milwaukee for my niece's 2nd birthday, and on my drive back to Columbus, I stopped at a gas station to pick up some dinner on the road. I grabbed a pre-made ham sandwich & some Funyuns and took a bite of my sandwich as I pulled back onto the freeway. As I was chewing, I looked at the vehicle in front of me and realized it was a truck full of pigs (a pretty small truck, with a see through fence as the back railing). I started to gag on my sandwich and spit it out & wasn't able to finish it. I guiltily stashed it in the passenger seat until my next stop, where I threw it out at the next stop without looking at it again.

Within two days, I had declared myself vegan.

Of course, this sounds like it was purely an emotional response, and I just like cute little piggies and that's why I gave up meat. Not quite. I am a vegan for ethical reasons, but they aren't just related to animals.

I could go on and on about the reasons why people (atheists, especially) should be vegan, but if you really want to know, I think is a great place to get information. Articles like this are also great (the fact that "A global vegan diet (of conventional crops) would reduce dietary emissions by 87 percent, compared to a token 8 percent for 'sustainable' meat and dairy." really stuck with me).

But this post isn't to give you every reason to go vegan. It's to show you the awesome things I've done since go vegan so you can see that vegans lead really cool lives.

Since I went vegan, I've...

-Volunteered at Camp Quest (complete with vegan s'mores!)


-Went to Las Vegas for TAM (as a Surly Grant Winner), hung out with awesome people, acted like a shark (?), hung out with my Best Sarah Forever (BSF)

-Bowled for Abortion Access (which I'm doing again, and you can support!) and got a mug that says "Ask Me About the Abortion I Paid For" (which is super rad, obviously)

-Went to DC to be in a documentary, hung out at a fountain with some ducks


-Attended Skepticamp Columbus, hung out with @Delyseious and Hemant Mehta, lead the Legion of Sarahs (it's possible that this legion was only made up of two Sarahs)


-Raised $2,000 for the Secular Student Alliance and had to shave my hair into a mohawk on a livestream

-Had an appropriate amount of American Pride

-Attended the largest conference the SSA has ever had! 

-Dressed up as the one and only Freddie Mercury for Halloween


-Had surgery and proposed when I woke up, looking flyyyyyyyy (and was good at texting)


-Designed a badass wedding ring, made of recycled silver and synthetic emeralds and diamonds from Green Karat

-Joined the board of directors of Go Vegan! Go! and went to a fundraiser at Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace for Sunrise Sanctuary. Delicious vegan hot dogs. :)

-Ate burritos and tacos, always and forever

-Ate a lot of cereal & felt like that dog with the birthday cake 

-Bought sweet swag from my friend Sarah's store

-Had my best friend from Wisconsin visit

-Got married & had awesome vegan food & cake (catering provided by Inner Circle, cake by Pattycake Bakery)

There's been quite a bit more, but finding where pictures of stuff is has been difficult, so I'll leave you with that. :) In any case, I'm very happy with my decision to go vegan. I'd encourage everyone to check it out. Even if you can't go fully vegan right now (or ever), I think reducing your consumption of animal products is an admirable goal, especially since it may be the only way to save the planet ("Please eat less meat," asks the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). 

Interested? Check out:

Vegan Starter Kit:

Thirty Day Vegan Challenge:

You can watch Vegucated and Forks Over Knives on Netflix Instant or Earthlings online.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

"lol reproductive rights"

I imagine that's what most anti-choice legislators would tweet if they could. I have a feeling a lot of them don't quite grasp the concept of Twitter, though. (Too bad they didn't read my handy intro to Twitter, they'd be a lot closer to getting it!)

Anyway, unfortunately for us, there are lots of people who get twitter, and I wish they didn't. Like Jill Stanek, for example. If you aren't familiar with Jill Stanek, she's just an awful anti-choicer. She thinks if you murder a doctor who performs abortions, it's wrong, but not so wrong that you deserve to be sent to PRISON! That's for like, bad people, and stuff! (What you can glean from the last link: 1. The man who murdered Dr. Tiller "[did] not get [his] fair day in court." 2. The death penalty is okay and should be applied to doctors who perform abortions.)

I mention Jill Stanek because one day I was talking on twitter about how expensive my health care is & how it is a very real and constant source of stress and worry for me. A few of my friends replied "Oh, I don't have to worry about that in my country!" Which is really great for them, but made me feel a lot worse (because of course I'm pushing for universal healthcare in the US).

Some of my comments got retweeted, and what do you know, Jill Stanek felt the need to chime in!


How sweet of her! This woman with a national presence and loads of money felt it necessary to make fun of a 23 year old with a severe chronic illness who care barely afford to pay for her bills. How compassionate! That's some True Christian Love (TM) for you. (This is how I feel about it.)

Now that I'm married & on my partner's insurance, my medical bills are more under control (hooray meeting your deductible by February!), but I can't even imagine what it'd be like to be someone who doesn't have insurance, but needs birth control or an abortion (or even to have insurance, but it's not covered). I remember when I was in college, I had to go without birth control for a while because the stuff I needed cost $70/month--even with my parents' insurance.

Our society isn't great at making sure no one falls through the cracks of our societal safety net. I have dozens of friends who are adults and have degrees who can't afford basic healthcare needs. If you can't afford to get your car fixed if it breaks down, you can't really afford a kid. This may shock anti-choicers, but funnily enough, most people know when they can't afford a child! Three-fourths of the people who received abortions gave not being able to afford a child as a reason for needing their abortion. They don't want to be "welfare moochers" or whatever horrible name the right wing has been using lately for people who receive government benefits.

Anyway, the Hyde Amendment bans federal dollars from going toward abortions. So, people who need help covering the cost of an abortion need to look elsewhere. That's where the National Network of Abortion Funds comes in! Every year they do a Bowl-a-thon to get people to raise money to help people who need abortions. You can learn more about why we need abortion funds here.

I participated last year and had a lot of fun. Then again, my team was called "Coup de Twat," so I'm not sure how I could have NOT had fun.

I'm participating again this year, and I hope you can support me. I'm competing against my friend @MissCherryPi this year though! If she raises more money than me, she gets to redecorate my Twitter page for a week, and I have to send her local treats/swag. However, if I raise more money than her, I get to redecorate her Twitter page and she has to send me treats. So, obviously, there are important stakes here (I mean, have you looked at my twitter background? No, seriously, go look at it. It's pretty bad ass.) (If you didn't go look, it's my head on the t-rex from Jurassic Park. I told you, bad ass.)

So, if you want to help support abortion access for all, please consider making a donation to my bowl-a-thon page. (or to Elizabeth's page.) 

Thanks for supporting everyone's right to reproductive control. :)

(I tried to use gender neutral language in this post, because I realize not all people who need abortions or birth control identify as women. If I made any errors, I'm sorry and please let me know in the comments.)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

How to Use Twitter

So, a lot of people seem really confused about twitter. I've been on twitter for longer than most of you have been alive, so I'm going to explain some things to you.

Keep in mind, while some of these things are true facts, a lot of this is just my subjective experience with the site. My policy is generally to not tell people what to do or say with their lives, but there's gonna be a lot of judgment here, so read with a few grains of salt. 

What is Twitter? The definition on Wikipedia is "an online social networking service and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read text-based messages of up to 140 characters, known as 'tweets'." Obviously, that's really cut and dry. The way I hear most people describe it is "It's like Facebook, but only status updates." That is a terrible definition. 

Twitter is really what you make of it. To me, it is a social media website that is heavily focused on the news. If you only follow friends who tweet rarely, it's going to be a dead website. If you only follow comedians (like @robdelaney, @mindykaling, 
@meganamram, @kristenschaaled), it'll be just a bunch of short jokes. If you only follow news sites (like @BreakingNews, @AP, @BBCBreaking, @nytimes), it'll be a way to stay up on the news. You can follow whoever or whatever you like! I suggest a mix of people to follow, but obviously it's up to you.

What are the features/things to know?

  • Hashtags: A word that is preceded by a pound sign (#). You can use a hashtag to describe a common topic of interest (e.g. "I really love this #vegan cheesecake" or "Trying a new medicine soon. Any tips? #Crohns"), because people can search for hashtags (if you click on a hashtag, you'll see lots of other tweets that have been hashtagged with the same word). You can also use a hashtag as a joke (especially as the punchline). Such as, "My husband is cooking dinner for me. #misandry" or "I'm eating cookies and ice cream for dinner. #adulthood." You can't put any punctuation in hashtags, so if you want to include more than one word in a hashtag, just don't use punctuation. For example, "This is an example of a tweet. #ImReallyBoringRightNow" Hashtags are often used to live tweet events. Like during the Superbowl, you could tweet something with the hashtag #SB49 or #BeyonceBowl, depending on what you were into.
  • Retweets: If you agree with a tweet, or think it's funny, or just want other people to see it, you can retweet it. There's a button on the bottom of a tweet that says "Retweet." Click that. Done. RT before a tweet means retweet, MT before a tweet means Modified Tweet (meaning you changed or shortened it for clarity or space). Don't copy and paste an RT unless you're 800 years old, OR if you want to add a comment to the beginning of it. Such as: "@Fish_nr: Thanks, Obama. RT @Mowgli3 There's only decaf coffee here!!!" LITTLE KNOWN TWITTER FACT: If you like someone's tweets but think they RT too often, you can go to their profile and click the little person symbol next to "following" and click "Turn off retweets." 
  • The "@" symbol: The @ symbol indicates who you are talking to. If you want to say something to Joe Biden, find his twitter handle (@JoeBiden) and tweet at him. Like "@JoeBiden Please drop another F bomb on TV." LITTLE KNOWN TWITTER FACT: If you begin a tweet with @someone, only people who follow both you and that other person will see it on their timeline. If you want to publicly talk to someone else, either put their @name not at the beginning (for example, "I really liked this blog post by @GretaChristina") or add a period before the @ (for example, ".@GretaChristina I really liked your last blog post!")
  • Favorite: On facebook, you can "like" a post. Twitter has a similar feature called the "favorite" button. Click it if you liked someone's post or just want to save it for later (since you can go to your own page and look at things you've favorited). You can see your "most favorited" tweets on, and you can even pay them to let you give out trophies to people for the "best tweet of the day," but mostly this is 21st century masturbation (to steal a phrase from @Crommunist). 
  • Follow Friday: On Friday, it's common to recommend other people to follow. Some people do it like this: "#FF          " Then, inevitably, throughout the day, somebody will reply to everyone on that list with a "Thank you!" or "TY!" Both of these things are obnoxious and to be avoided (even though all the people on that list are pretty cool and worth following, IMO). The way to do a Follow Friday is by either picking a category and putting 2-4 people on it (like "#FF Vegans: @CarriePoppyYES  @JamieKilstein) or doing one person at a time and mentioning why. "#FF @clairemc because she is the funniest Senator on twitter." Do a few of these. If you overload people, they won't care.
  • Blocking: If someone is irritating you and you don't want to see their tweets anymore...block them! LITTLE KNOWN TWITTER FACT: Someone blocking you actually isn't taking away your free speech, it just means they don't want to see or read you. 
  • Report for Spam: Sometimes you'll be excited to see you got a new follower, only to find out it's @Sexxxxxy42961 who "loves to get down and dirty." As excited as you may be, this person is a fake. Report them for spam, you're doing everyone else a favor. Also, people who tweet at you with great offers like "Selling ipads for $10!!!! <link>" are also spammers. Report them as well.
So, those are the basics of twitter. I was going to include more information on how to not suck at twitter, but I'm tired and bored and so this will do for now. If you have any other twitter tricks, leave them in the comments. Good luck, and tweetspeed.

(Oh, and if you're my husband and your twitter handle is @livinginfits, you should start using twitter more often, because you're hilarious and I want other people to see that. Also because I don't talk to you often enough as it is now, we need another platform for communication.)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Why I Care About the Atheist Movement (AKA The Poop Story)

So, lots of people know I talk about poop a lot. This story will be no exception, although in this case it isn't my poop I'll be talking about.

Flash back to 2007. I was a conservative Christian who was losing faith (but stubbornly clinging to it, since I knew nothing else), and I was also a high school senior deciding where to go to college. I had visited a tiny Christian college in a small town in Iowa (pop: 10,000) and fallen in love with it and decided to go there.

Fast forward to 2010: I'm back from a semester spent in Johannesburg, South Africa, very progressive, and an atheist-- and now back in this conservative small town and hyper-religious campus. I was frustrated with how completely pervasive Christianity was on campus (often, I'd be "tricked" into going to religious events-- posters would advertise events such as a campus-wide game of Capture the Flag but wouldn't mention the 30 minutes of "sharing testimony" before we could play-- not that doing that is wrong, simply that I think it is disingenuous to say "open to everyone!" and not mention that it was essentially a Christian group). Wanting to see if there were any other non-theists on campus and to hopefully start a community, I asked Twitter how I could start an atheist club at my school. I was directed to the Secular Student Alliance (who I now work for, full disclosure). I requested a Group Starting Packet, managed to find a faculty sponsor, and put an announcement on the student announcement page that simply read "Atheist, Agnostic, or generally non-religious? If you're interested in starting a Freethinkers' Club, email me!"

Campus blew up. I got emails from staff members (to my pleasant surprise, the staff and administration was very supportive about my right to start the group), fellow atheist students (who had mainly been quiet about their non-beliefs, which explains why I thought I was the only one), and Christians (some of whom were very supportive, and some of whom were very upset). 

Here's an example of what someone who was friends with me on FB said (and one of their friends, followed by my response):

The whole conversation went on for pages, and someone who didn't attend my school (or even know me) stood up for me, but of course everyone kept arguing against him and called me a "jackass." My comment was deleted shortly after it was posted, and so I unfriended the person who made the status (although, to this person's credit, they sent me an email a few days later with a semi-apology, and a year or two after I graduated this person eventually became involved in the SSA at my school. To my knowledge, they are not an atheist, but they are now supportive of secularism/secularists, so that worked out better than expected in the long run). 

However, conversations were started on campus, and that was what I wanted. In order to start a club at my school, you needed 10 signatures of people who supported the club formation. I think I got somewhere around 35 signatures, all from people who shared my sentiments: campus was not a very friendly place to non-Christians. So, I filed all the necessary paperwork and posted the time and date of the first meeting.

So many people showed up to our first meeting! I was thrilled! We had a great, positive meeting, where people talked about how they felt excluded frequently, how they would have pamphlets about Jesus pushed under their doors at night, how people would be rude or dismissive when one of them said they didn't want to participate in a religious ritual, how professors called them out in class for not "believing," and a whole litany of other microaggressions. This group, we all hoped, would change that-- or at the very least, offer a safe space where those microaggressions wouldn't happen and where we could feel safe talking about our lack of beliefs.

I left the meeting feeling better than I ever had in my three previous years at the school. The next morning, I woke up, still flying high from the excitement from the meeting. I opened my door to go take a shower...and a garbage can full of liquid fell on me. "This is a minor inconvenience," I thought to myself as I picked up the can-- that's when I realized it wasn't water, but urine. I started crying and texted the Hall Director so the cleaning staff could come by to clean it up, showered, and left for classes that day.

I came back that afternoon and felt so discouraged. Why were people reacting like this? A handful of Christians had shown up to the meeting, not to argue, but to show support for us. Why couldn't more people just talk to us so they knew we weren't just sitting around, bashing Christians? Didn't they realize they were the majority on campus (and in the country) and that our tiny little group was in no way threatening to them? It was so frustrating. However, as discouraging as having a bucket of urine fall on me was, it also strengthened my resolve to keep the group going. 

So, the meetings continued...and so did the harassment. Posters were torn down more often than left up, or they had "fuck you" or "die atheist bitch" written on them, people would leave anonymous notes in my mailbox about how much they hated me and how awful I was for starting the group, my door handle was superglued (so I couldn't get my key in the lock), not to mention the rumors or passive aggressive comments made to me in class (before, of course, refusing to have an actual discussion with me about the group). Nothing topped what happened Easter weekend, though.

I went home for Easter weekend (since I lived about 7 hours from campus and didn't have a lot of opportunities to see my family during the year), but only after a very serious deliberation about going to the American Atheists conference in Des Moines that year. I was driving back to campus with a girl who lived in my hometown, and my neighbor (and the girl with whom I shared a bathroom) in my dorm called me. The conversation went like this:

Neighbor: "Hey Sarah...are you on campus?"
Me: "No, I'm still about 2-3 hours away. Why, what's up?"
Neighbor: "Um...somebody did something to our bathroom."
Me: "What did they do?"
Neighbor: "...It's covered in shit."
Me: "What do you mean?" (Thinking she meant someone had sprayed our toothpaste everywhere or something, which I had seen done before)
Neighbor: "It's covered in shit."
Me: "Yeah, I get that, what kind of shit?"
Neighbor: "Actual shit. Like...human."

Yep. Someone(s) had shit in our bathroom and then smeared it all over my half. On the counter, on the floor, on the mirror, above the light...the real cherry on top was when they put all my soap, shampoo, and toothbrush in it.

Luckily the cleaning staff had it all cleaned up by the time I got back (and my friend was willing to drive me to Wal-Mart so I could buy new toiletries), but still, the damage was done and the message was clear.

By this time, I think the administration was sick of dealing with my problems (and by that I mean the problems people had with me) and they didn't even try to find out who did it. I ran into the head of security a couple days later and asked him how the investigation was going, and he hadn't even heard about the situation (and it was a small enough school that he would have heard of it).

I know other members of the group faced harassment as well, but nothing quite as severe.

It was frustrating, but the group kept going, and is still going today. I like to think I changed some people's minds, but even if I didn't, I made a safe space for people to talk about their lack of beliefs. There were several people who told me I was the only atheist they had ever met, so at the very least I was able to help some people realize atheists are real people.

The curious thing I've noticed looking back now (2 years removed) is the response people had to it: almost every single person I told either assured me that most Christians would never do that (which I would never think or claim), or they reacted with anger (either toward Christianity or at my school). The only person (aside from close friends) who I can recall focusing on how I, as a person, reacted and felt about it, was Todd Stiefel (at the 2011 Texas Freethought Convention). I remember going to my room after our conversation and crying, because it did still hurt-- yet most people used this story as an opportunity to make it about their agenda (either for or against Christianity).

I'm not going to say the people who did it did it because they were Christians, or because they were "bad Christians" (both arguments I've heard), they did it because they're malicious people who probably felt threatened by someone who thought differently than they did. It was a shitty (ha ha) thing to do, and I would never condone anyone doing something like that to someone. To be honest, it feels pretty dehumanizing to have someone hate you SO MUCH that they willing touch their own feces to smear on your stuff.

I wanted to write this story much earlier, but I either felt too mad or hurt about it until about now. My life rocks now, I have a great partner, a job I love, two adorable cats, and we just bought a house. However, I still want to share this story because I want people to know what it can be like to be an atheist (or just to be different) in a small town. It's scary, and it's rough.

That's why I encourage groups like Secular Student Alliance affiliates. A lot of people on places like r/atheism ask "Why would you meet? Atheism isn't a religion!" and my response is this. Because being ostracized because of your beliefs really sucks, and it's nice to have a community that supports you. Funnily enough, even though it was me starting the group that caused the harassment, it was also the group that got me through it.

So, I guess I'm pretty much over it now. However, if you're moved by my story and want to help, donate to the SSA, because somewhere out there there's a student going through what I went through or worse, and we want to help them. Or just share this story. Or just don't poop on anyone's stuff, for any reason, ever.

And that's my poop story. Now you know.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Why You Don't Really Love Hermione-- But You Should

So I've been re-reading the Harry Potter books for the 10,000th time, and the same thing struck me that always does-- everyone (I'm talking about fans of the books here, not characters within them) talks about how much they love Hermione. Hermione is by far my favorite character in the series, and it might be a bit hipster-ish of me to feel this way ("Ugh, I don't want liking her to be so mainstream!"), but seriously, it drives me up a wall when people talk about how much they love the series and love the character but completely fail to understand her character.

Now, when I'm talking about fans, I'm usually talking about the people on reddit who post pictures like these: 

Usually with oh-so-clever titles like "My, How You've Grown Up, Hermione," or "Hermione the Atheist." (also usually accompanied by the quote: ""But that's - I'm sorry but that's completely ridiculous! How can I possibly prove it doesn't exist? Do you expect me to get hold of - of all the pebbles in the world and test them? I mean you could claim that anything's real if the only basis for believing in it is that nobody proved it doesn't exist!"). 

Now, here are my bones to pick with this. First of all, the grown woman in these pictures is Emma Watson, who is an Actual Person and not a fictional character. I'm sure Emma Watson is a lovely person, but that doesn't make her Hermione Granger. Stop sexualizing a child (since, for the majority of the books, Hermione's character is not even 16 years old-- also why I find "Sexy Hermione costumes" to be really creepy). point here is, Hermione is a strong female character. She is unabashedly intelligent, courageous, kind, and many other traits. The trait I like most about her, however, is her commitment to standing up to bullies and calling them out, and more importantly, standing up for people or creatures who are in the minority and/or are being squashed by the majority.

If we take this and apply it to reality, it means that Hermione does and is all of the things that you hate in a person. She'll correct you when you're wrong-- and all skeptics and atheists react well to that, right? She'll also give you hard truths when you need to hear them, even if you don't want to.

I see Hermione in a lot of the women I respect. She stands up to Umbridge directly when Umbridge starts behaving unfairly toward the students (and jeopardizing their safety by refusing to teach them defensive magic)-- much like my friend Miriam of Brute Reason when she tells her university's administration to "wake up" in regards to the substandard level of care and attention given to mental health issues on her campus. Sure, a lot of people can grumble about bad administrations, or do things to make the administrator's lives more difficult (like vandalism or making unhelpful remarks), or simply leave the school because they don't want to fight for better things (not that I am in any way blaming someone who would leave the school in order to take care of their mental health)-- but Miriam doesn't do that. She gets shit done. She's now meeting with higher ups at her university to talk about the issues on campus and her suggestions on how to improve mental health issues on campus.

Then there's the fact that Hermione is willing to go against what everyone else believes or to call out big and powerful people in her world (like popular sports players or the Minister of Magic). I don't mean something like bragging about how you're an atheist to a generally atheistic crowd, I mean calling out a very famous and well-known atheist author or pointing out the misogyny of popular culture like my friend Chana has (by the way, 'geek culture' is pop culture, as much as you may try to deny it). 

Hermione also speaks up for minorities, oppressed, and generally ignored groups. You see this when she starts SPEW (Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare) that everyone else laughs at, or when she defends Eloise Midgen (the girl who is always referenced as having terrible acne), among other times. I see this in my friend Kate, who takes the time to transcribe videos from conferences so people who are hearing impaired can appreciate them as well. Hermione takes the time to care for those who show not a shred of interest in her (like Kreacher), the same way Kate encourages us to care and love for one another.

Hermione is like the progressive vegan who reminds you that eating animals is wrong because it is immoral and destroying our planet, like my friend Simon does (she doesn't have a blog, or I'd link it here, but she does this a lot in person, like when she and her partner create a non-profit to make free websites for vegan organizations). Hermione does this time and time again, much to the chagrin of the main characters (and every other character, to be honest), but she's right. She has a strong moral compass, and she follows it at all times, even when it's inconvenient.

Of course, Hermione gets harassed for supporting unpopular positions (like that Voldemort has returned or the importance of SPEW), much like Jen McCreight. We don't often see Hermione break down due to the torment of her peers, but I think that's more due to Harry's inability to deal with other people's emotions than to Hermione's unending perseverance-- although, let's be honest, she's quite a strong woman, just like Jen is).

While Hermione is the Reddit Atheist's heroine for pointing out illogical thinking, she also doesn't encourage being a shitlord to people she disagrees with. She goes out of her way to be nice to muggles, the group that wizards regularly look down upon or ignore. She encourages inter-house cooperation, even when tensions between them are running high (see: during Quidditch season), like my friend Sarah does during the Great Skeptic War of 2012. She goes out of her way to be nice to house elves, to the possible detriment of her own comfort. Hermione makes a point of not caring about her appearance (she is described as "unrecognizable" when she dresses up for the Yule Ball). If a stereotypical reddit atheist met real-life Hermione, he would hate her and call her a cunt.

I realize all of these analogies aren't perfect. I also realize that I'm leaving out many women I respect, so I'm sorry (it's more me being too tired to write more but also realizing that if I leave this as a draft I'll never finish it, so I'm just gonna hit post). 

But the next time you (and by "you," I more mean redditors and/or misogynistic nerds) want to whine about how you'd prefer a girl like Hermione over someone vapid like [insert x popular female celebrity], just remember, there are Hermiones all over the place-- you're just too busy shunning, harassing, mocking, or ignoring them.

[By the way, I have a feeling I'm gonna get a lot of hate for calling out "reddit atheists"-- I know, not everyone on reddit is an awful person, but let's face it: there are some serious sexism problems on reddit. Pictures of me have frontpaged a handful of times (namely because I work in a job that allows me a lot of opportunities that r/atheism would appreciate), and I'm either told that I'm hot, or ugly, or look annoying, or should be raped, or something like that. It's usually not "wow, congratulations on raising $1,200 for the SSA!" or questions about my job-- nope, it's "wow, check out her rack!" or "god, she looks annoying." So, yes, I know not everyone on reddit is awful, but if you are going to act like there's no problem there, then you're just objectively wrong.]

Monday, November 12, 2012

Let's Talk About Chronic Illnesses!

So, as most of you know, I was recently diagnosed with Crohn's disease. There are a lot of misconceptions, well-intentioned but harmful comments and behaviors, and other things not to do or say to someone with a chronic illness. So, let's go over some, shall we? (Of course, I don't speak for every person with a chronic illness, as they are all different and people are all different. If someone else with a chronic illness has other thoughts, feel free to add them to the comments and I can adjust this post.)

1) Being diagnosed ≠ when you got the disease. I was diagnosed with Crohn's in May of 2012. I had surgery for it in August of 2012. Many people have said to me, "But if you got it in May, why are you having surgery so soon?" Fun fact: I didn't get Crohn's disease in May. I've had it for years (possibly my whole life). I just couldn't afford to go to a specialist to get diagnosed until I was 23. I remember when I was 15, going back and back and back to my family doctor, who just insisted that I take laxatives every day (which didn't really help). Then I remember having a flare up my first week back to college sophomore year, and the hospital told me I probably had ovarian cancer (????), then ran a test and saw that I didn't, then released me 5 hours later when I stopped vomiting. Top notch care, that is. By the time I did get diagnosed, permanent damage had been done and less invasive treatments weren't working, so surgery was my most viable option. But on that subject...

2) You do not own or control my body. Why do people (especially acquaintances/strangers) seem to think they get to have a say in my treatment? "You know surgery is permanent, right?" Whaaaat?! You mean I won't just regenerate 10" of my small bowel?? I had no idea! Thank you, stranger, for letting me know the risks of a surgery that you've never performed and have no experience with. Same goes for medications or other treatments. "That pill is really harsh on your body, are you sure you want to be taking it?" If a doctor has prescribed me a medication or treatment, and I've agreed to it, it means the benefits of it will outweigh the harm (barring something major or unpredictable, like an allergic reaction). If you want to sympathize with me, that's fine.

"Oh, you're on prednisone? That's rough, I was on it a few years ago and I hated it. I'm sorry you have to deal with that." = Nice and supportive.

"Oh, you're on prednisone? You know it causes [x] side effect, right? You should have your doctor put you on something else." = Not okay.

3) Praying for me is okay. I won't be mad if you say that you're doing that, even if I don't believe that prayer does anything. But know what's better? Offering to help me. Don't be pushy, because sometimes there's not really anything you can do, but there definitely are times when you can help. My partner Sean has been incredibly wonderful and supportive (click here if you want to see another entry about how disgustingly cute we are), but he obviously can't be there for me every minute of every day. If you offer to do things for me, like drive me to a doctor's appointment on a day when I can't drive, or to pick up medication from the store for me (or even littler things, like a snack or a book from the library), that is really touching. I may never take you up on the offer (for whatever reason), but simply offering to do that does make me feel like I have a strong support system.

Don't live close enough to me to do that? Little things help as well. Email me some cute pictures of animals, or play silly little games with me (like Words with Friends). Send me a letter  or a nice email. Recommend books or TV shows to watch. Or something. Just letting me know you're thinking of me helps. However...

4) Don't be mad when I can't do things or don't respond. I read all the messages you send me, I promise. I just don't always have the energy to respond. To you, it may not seem like a lot of effort, but when you only have a few spoons left in your daily energy level, everything seems much more difficult. It's nothing personal, I promise.

On that vein, if you invite me out to do things, and it seems like I'm always saying no...I'm sorry. Again, don't take it personally, I just don't always feel capable of going out. Same goes for if I agree to do something, and then flake out later. I probably feel awful about it, but it's just not possible sometimes.

5) "But you're well enough to do x, why can't you do y?" Some people think that if I'm able to play video games or tweet or update Facebook, I should be well enough to do...I don't know, anything else. This is not always the case. Guess what, I can do almost all of those things from my bed or the bathroom. Or if I am capable of playing Lord of the Rings Online (which you should download; play on Silverlode and I'll send you my character name and we can be buddies), can't I go do something else? Turns out, I can play video games just fine if I'm on heavy painkillers. It doesn't mean I can go drive a car or go out to dinner or hang out with you otherwise.

6) "Are you addicted to painkillers?" / "Wow, I wouldn't want to be on such heavy drugs for such a long time!" Cool, well when you have a painful chronic illness, you can deal with it in your own way. If you choose to abstain from painkillers, great, good for you. That doesn't make me a bad person for needing them. 

7) Respect my privacy. I don't always want to talk about it. I don't always want to tell you all the intimate details of my bodily happenings. I'm a fairly open person, but sometimes, I just really don't want to talk about it. If I say I'm not feeling great, you ask for details, and I'm vague, don't push it. If you do push it (or even if you just ask), and I say something like, "Yep, it basically feels like there's lava coming out of my butthole," don't get mad at me for grossing you out. You asked. (Also, you think it's gross hearing about it? Try living with it.)

(PS, anyone who say it's "unladylike" or something to talk about "gross" things like my bowel movements can fuck right off, for several reasons.)

8) "I have [temporary minor condition]. I totally know what you're going through." This one might be the one that makes my blood boil the most. Oh, wow, you get diarrhea on occasion, just like every other person on the planet? Gosh, you must know exactly what it's like being me! How about that time you had to go the doctor every single week for several months for invasive, painful, and annoying tests? And what about that medication you had to be on that caused suicidal thoughts? And how did you deal with that time that your incision site from your major surgery got infected and your doctor had to cut open your stitches and drain out the pus before your pain meds even kicked in? Oh, you mean you just took some Pepto-Bismol and you were fine a few hours later? Yeah, those things are totally comparable, good call.

(By the way, all actual things that have happened to me in the past ~6 months.)

9) "My family member had that, and they're fine now. Why aren't you?" Wow, I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that people's bodies are different and illnesses present differently in different people? Think about all the people you know who've had cancer. Probably some have survived and some have not. Have you ever gone to a funeral of someone who died from cancer and said, "Well my aunt survived breast cancer; why did your mom die from it?" 

10) "Have you seen a doctor?" / "Why didn't you go to a doctor sooner?" To remind you, you don't own my body. Secondly, do you know how expensive doctors are? I couldn't afford to see specialists until almost a year after being employed and on my own insurance. Even now, if I didn't have a partner who had a good income, I would not be able to afford treatments. Every time I go to the doctor, my copay is $50 because I'm seeing specialists (even after I've met my deductible), not to mention the pay I lose from being out of work for weeks at a time. Oh, and add on top of that all of my prescriptions. It's classist to assume everyone can afford seeing a doctor regularly when they are expensive as fuck. It's not like when you have a virus and can stop by the doctor, get some medicine, and bam, you're done. It's a constant process.

But also, yes, I have seen a doctor (many, in fact). Not that it is really any of your business.

11) Have you tried X therapy? I haven't used it, but this totally-not-sketchy website said it's great!" Ulghsldkghsdlgkhdslhgsdlghsd. Why do people think that an article they once saw on is the same thing as actual advice from a medical professional? 

There is a caveat to this, being: if you have the same disease as I do and there's a treatment you tried & liked, you can suggest it to me. However, this does not mean a) you can be pushy about it or b) that it will automatically work for me. Just saying, "Oh, have you heard about this new treatment where they put fucking gross parasitic worms inside your body to help cure your disease? My doc recommended it and it helped me a lot." is good enough. You don't have to tell me to do it, because I'll probably look into and talk to my doctor about it. We can talk about stuff, you don't need to try to guilt me into it. Mainly because...

12) YOU ARE NOT A DOCTOR. And if you are, you aren't MY doctor. I know you have good intentions, but stop. Just stop.

13) Suggest I eat more veggies / exercise more / sleep more. You know what, you're absolutely right. If I just eat more organic vegetables, work out 30 minutes a day, and get 8 hours of rest a night, my autoimmune disease will just disappear!! Golly, why didn't I think of that before?! You are a genius and have solved all of my issues, congratulations! Have this cookie

14) Let me be scared. It isn't your life on the line. Encourage me, support me, but don't tell 
me to "not worry." That is literally the least helpful thing you can say to me. Try saying instead, "Your doctors are very competent, but I can understand why you'd be scared. If there's anything I can do, let me know."

This list was originally going to be much shorter, but I tweeted about my rage and a few other people with chronic illnesses chipped in, and so I added a few more things. If you have a chronic illness, please feel free add your thoughts.

And remember, I don't speak for all people with illnesses. This is just me, and if other people with long-term medical issues relate, feel free to share it.

Edit: I wrote this with physical ailments in mind, but I think a lot of it can apply to people with mental illnesses as well. Just because an illness is invisible doesn't make it any less real, folks.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

How I Got Engaged

So, I feel like I've told everyone in the world, but in case you don't know, I recently got engaged. :)

My friend Amanda made us this custom illustration, and I cannot get over how incredibly adorable it is. If you'd like to see more of her work, check out her blog.

So some backstory: Sean and I met about a year ago at a Reddit r/Columbus meetup (that I hosted, since I had just moved to the city). We had so much fun at this meetup that we decided to make it a weekly thing, and thus Bar Thursdays were born.

See, we even sat at the same table :)

I don't really drink, but it was fun to meet up with people every week (for a couple months we played trivia, which I enjoy quite a bit). Sean and I played on the same trivia team quite a few times, but we weren't particularly good friends until I saw a post on r/Columbus about a David Bowie movie that was showing at a local theater. As I was leaving the meetup (early, because I am a fart), I asked if anyone wanted to go see the movie with me. Sean said, "Sure, I'll go see that," and we made plans to get dinner and go see it.

We met at the Blue Danube, which, as Sean describes it, is a place where you can "get a burger and it won't kill you." Take that as you will. His friend Bart joined us, we had a nice  dinner, and Sean and I went off to the movie. We sat down and watched it...and sat in silence for the entire movie. Turns out, the movie is awful. We both hated it. I wanted to start cracking jokes within 10 minutes...but I figured Sean was enjoying it, so I kept my mouth shut (turns out, he felt the exact same way). The movie ended, we walked out, and just, "So...that was pretty awful, huh?" and had a good laugh over how bad it was.

We had a casual friendship after that, grabbing food here and there, texting once in a while (one of my favorite interactions was that he texted me on Thanksgiving to let me know that the undefeated Packers were winning, and not realizing that he knew almost nothing about football, I replied, "Uh, obviously." I didn't know he was trying to impress me at that point. :)...but then two things happened that solidified our friendship.

The first was a minor emergency that I had. Of course, I call it a minor emergency, anyone else would...probably not call it that. It was November, and since I had moved in to my apartment, my lock had been only working sporadically. I got to my door and couldn't get it, of course, I started crying. I was new to the city, didn't have many friends...and felt very, very stupid for not being able to get my door open. I called a friend of mine who only lived a block or two away, and he didn't answer. I started to panic some more, and mentally ran through a list of people I could call who would help me and who wouldn't mock me terribly for being unable to get my door open. Sean was the only person I could come up with. So I called him, crying, and he agreed to come right over to help me. He finally showed up (I called at 1 PM, so, naturally, I woke him up and he had to shower), and it took him about 30 seconds to open my door. Simultaneously humiliated and relieved, I started to cry. Allowing me to save face, Sean offered to take me to lunch. I had errands to do that day, but I knew I wasn't going to get anything done because if Sean left I'd just cry and hug my cat, so we went off to lunch.

At lunch, we discovered our shared love for Lord of the Rings. So we planned for the next weekend to be what we call "Steak and Lord of the Rings Day." Sean and I went to the store and bought supplies for cooking steaks, then sat down and watched the Lord of the Rings movies (we only manged to get through 2 of them, but don't judge us). It was fun, and it was that day we really went from being "someone I know from the internet" to "friends." It's amusing to me that this was our solidifying moment, especially since we're both vegan now (but don't worry, we still love Lord of the Rings). There was a Republican party debate on that night, which I wanted to watch and live tweet, but Sean was invited to a party, so he left to go do that. (The funny thing is, both of us were shocked that we didn't want to do the thing with the other person-- but I still give him shit for not sticking around to watch the debate with me, because I still think watching a GOP debating is more fun than going to a party.)

After that, we started hanging out pretty frequently, drawn together largely by a love of food and a hatred of eating alone. Sean took me around the city, showing me his favorite restaurants, and we got to try some cool places together.

We very rarely made plans, and I would often be at work and think about how I wanted to relax alone that night...but then as soon as I got home from work, I'd text Sean and suddenly he'd be over, and we'd be watching Parks and Recreation, or playing video games, or just talking. We went to see Fun. together, and Radiohead, and we went to DC together for the documentary that I'm in. He also took a day off work to take care of me after I had a colonoscopy.

About a week before SSA Con, power went out in most of Columbus, which included my place, but not his. He invited me over to crash the night it happened, but I was stubborn and refused...until the next morning, when I woke up and it was 90+ degrees in my apartment and my cat and I were overheating. We spent the day in his AC'd apartment...until that night, when I ended up having a super bad Crohn's flare up and was hospitalized. They sent me home around 2 AM, with the warning that if I couldn't keep food down, I should come back. Of course, the next day...I was in Puke City. Back to the ER we went!

I was sitting in my hospital bed, waiting to be seen by a doctor, and holding a puke bag in front of me. I was pretty miserable (being in the hospital, away from family...kind of scary), I was crying and I said, "I'm sick and in the hospital and there's no one in this town who loves me." (because I'm a whiner). Sean said, "But I love you." And then he looked away, naturally. So he didn't realize that I said, "I love you, too" back to him...and I semi-whispered it...we'll say it was because my throat was raw from vomiting, but maybe I was a little nervous, too. Then we had that awkward (or adorable), " didn't hear that, did you?" "Wait, what did you say?" was all very cute. :)

Once Sean and I started dating "officially" (as in, made it happen on fb), he moved in, and of course we started talking about marriage (as you do when you just start dating). It honestly made things easier, because at that point we were at one place or the other every single day, and it was getting difficult to cook because we had to keep track of where certain things were when cooking).

We kind of both knew we wanted to marry each other, and we'd often make jokes about when and where we'd propose to each other, or how we'd do it (sort of like Jim freaking out Pam on The Office by fake proposing to tie his shoe, etc.). We even went to the mall one day and looked at rings (and commemorated it by getting "just ducky" photos). The discussion turned to which one of us was going to do the proposing-- and Sean said he'd like me to do it. So, I started planning.

So, fast forward to now. If you read my previous entry, it's about my surgery (which went mostly well, save for a few hiccups in the post-surgery recovery). If you were following twitter or FB, I mentioned that the person to see for updates was Sean on twitter.

I woke up from surgery, and they kept me in a shared recovery room, which apparently made me very agitated (I was coming up from anesthesia...keep in mind that I don't remember any of this, it has just been relayed to me). They moved me to my single room, and my parents and Sean were sitting around the bed. Apparently I was very out of it, and my parents said they were going to go back to their hotel room to rest while I slept off the anesthesia (since my parents were nice enough to come down to Ohio from Wisconsin for my surgery).

I guess this upset me a lot, and I demanded (in a semi-conscious state) that they stay. Confused, but concerned for me, they agreed. Less than five minutes later, I told them I wanted them to leave the room. They said they would go back to the hotel room...but I said that wasn't okay. They needed to leave and come back. I kept suggesting that they go to the cafeteria or go for a walk and come back in a 20 minutes. Seeing how adamant I was, they agreed.

When they left the room, I turned to Sean (who had been diligently sitting at my side, holding my hand), and told him how much I loved him, how much he meant to me, how he was the most important person in the world to me...and then I asked, "Will you marry me?" and he said yes, and we kissed, and it was awesome. :)

Except for...I just had Sean proofread this entry, and he said that's not how it went down at all.  Here is a more accurate summary from someone who was there and NOT waking up from anesthesia:

When they left the room, I turned to Sean (who had been diligently sitting at my side, holding my hand), and said, "I gotta ask you a question." (Keep in mind, I am not saying this very clearly, because, you know, drugs.) Sean humored me and said, "Okay..." and I replied, "Will you marry me...for real?" Sean said, "Of course." This is almost too embarrassing to write, but for the sake of honesty (and hilarity), I'm going to tell you. I then asked, "Was that a good enough proposal?" Sean laughed and said, "of course it is." I then druggedly suggested that he tell my parents when they come back, and when they did, we both blurted it out.

Now, remember that story, and remember that this was my face when I woke up from anesthesia:

...and he's agreed to marry me. :)

I have no idea what is wrong with him (okay, well, actually, I have a few ideas), but I couldn't be happier. :)

Edit: Oh, and the funniest part is...a few days ago, I asked Sean if he was okay with how we got engaged. He said yes, because he could tell I had been planning it for a few was like the "porp." If you don't get that, read this: :)