The REAL Rainbow Flag Challenge

 

Freedom Flag

This is one of those times where I’ve deleted more words than I’ll print, letting myself vent and then release them into the aether.

I’m exceptionally happy that the Supreme Court, by a 5-4 majority, ruled that state same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional because they represent a violation of the notion of equal protection under the law. We’ve had same-sex marriage in Massachusetts for years now, and I can tell you that there’s been no erosion of “traditional” marriage. If anything, it’s made differently-gendered marriages even more valid, because it wasn’t then some kind of exclusive, members-only deal. Everyone has an equal opportunity to get in on it.

There’s a simple solution for those who can’t ever imagine marrying someone of the same gender: don’t do it. Enjoining others from the equality afforded under the Constitution…well, that’s just not acceptable and, frankly, it’s un-American. Separate and unequal under the guise of nebulous “religious rights” is counter to the First Amendment’s requirement that “no establishment of religion” should be made. [Furthermore, recent polls from Gallup and the Pew Research Center confirm that a majority of Americans are pro-same-sex marriage.]

I was happy to see that my Facebook friends were rainbow’ing-up their profile pics in droves, covering my Facebook feed like a cacophonous Freedom Flag photo collage. These were people who, in some cases, have expressed varying levels of positive support for the notion of “marriage equality”–that same-sex couples are no less deserving of wedded bliss than those of different genders.

As the weekend drew to a close, and everyone’s rainbow-drunk started to wear off somewhat now that the novelty of the ruling had faded, I started to see some people change their profile picture back to its original form. And this is what worries me about transient activism.

It’s one thing to say that you support same-sex marriage, and it’s another thing to actually DO something about equality. Lighting up your Facebook feed is useless if it isn’t accompanied by then providing support to LGBTQQ people beyond social media alone.

Here’s a quick list of ways to take the support over the rainbow:

We have an opportunity here, to broadly embrace marriage equality as a sign of the full human worth of LGBTQQ individuals, and it’s going to take more than a coat of rainbow-washing on profile pics. I hope we can go beyond that, and truly make equality and inclusiveness a priority for our society: for race, for gender, for sexual orientation, and for gender identity. No one should be left behind. And we need to move forward. Together.

Blogger Conference Survival Tips: The MUST LIST

Sparklecorn Cake

I’ve been to a bunch of conferences for work, and I started diving into the world of blogger conferences two years ago, with BlogHer’12. As I’m rolling into this year’s rather packed itinerary of BlogHer’15 and Blogger Bash running simultaneously in New York City, I figured I’d pass along some basic tips that I have for surviving any conference–but especially those with bloggers. (Yes, bloggers are a different breed from your standard conference-goer.)

 

Apps at the eppa Sangria Soiree

Tasty treats prepared by Whole Foods for the eppa Sangria Soiree on opening night of BlogHer’14

Tip #1: Eat and hydrate.

This may seem like it’s pretty obvious, but it’s easy to get distracted. And when the free booze starts flowing, another glass of wine may sound like an awesome idea. Even so, when you find the coveted bottle of water, hang onto that puppy like it’s the stuff of life. You can always refill it from a water cooler or the tap in your hotel room. I can’t count the number of conferences where booze and sodas are readily available but water is not. Dehydration, especially during the summer, is a BAD THING.

Also, make sure that you eat when the opportunities present themselves. It’s easy to eat bad food while traveling, but more and more conferences are attempting to offer healthier options at the buffet. Take advantage of that while you can, because your options when you roam may be more like the dude selling gyros from the cart across the street from the hotel. (Which, by the way, are supposed to be fabulous. Just saying.)

 

Tip #2: Get a backup battery for your phone.

I’m partial to the Mophie Juice Pack Air that I was turned on to by my friend Lori of My Kinda Rain; she suggested I buy a Mophie before BlogHer’12, and that was a genius purchase. When I get down to 20% on my iPhone, I just flip on my Mophie and it recharges me right back up to 100% in short order. Better still, I can charge the Mophie and phone overnight (simultaneously) using the Mophie’s cable. The downsides are that the battery heats up a bit while it’s charging your phone and the Mophie case is somewhat bulkier than a usual case (although par for the course if you’re used to a large case, like an OtterBox).

When these conferences consist of everyone being on their phone ALL DAY LONG, tweeting, texting, and otherwise connecting with the social media world, your Mophie makes you far less likely to be the sad panda blogger roaming around looking for a wall outlet.

 

Tip #3: Pack in a bigger bag than you need.

Blogger conferences are notorious for their swag, and some of it just isn’t that easy to carry home without extra luggage space. Sure enough, you can avoid this by heading to the shipping center at the hotel and paying to send the stuff home, but if you just pack in a larger bag than you need for what you’re bringing with you to the conference, there’s built-in space for bringing some (or all) of that swag back. If you anticipate bringing home a lot of stuff, even packing a duffle bag in your primary bag will work; if you don’t need it, you just bring it home. And if you do need it, then hey: you have a duffle bag to carry your stuff.

 

Tip #4: Use the swag exchange!

For those heading to BlogHer, in particular, there’s often (or always?) a Swag Exchange room set up as a room-sized swag equivalent of the “give a penny, take a penny” cup. Simply report to the Swag Exchange with the items you picked up/were given that you don’t want or need, and drop them off wherever it’s appropriate. (Bins are sometimes organized in categories.)

Looking for something specific? Check the Swag Exchange periodically to see if someone dropped off that item. And don’t be afraid to offer to swap with friends and fellow bloggers. These events can often be one big swag bazaar, and while it may be that you really wanted two of a particular toy to bring home to your kids, you may have something another blogger really wants to bring home to their clan that you can exchange for your own “must-have” item.

 

And this brings me to the biggest tip of all:

 

Sadie+me

<3

Tip 5: SAY HI TO PEOPLE!

We did an experiment last year, at BlogHer’14, hanging out in front of the Convention Center and saying “Hi!” to fellow bloggers as they walked out onto the street. Some said “Hi” back and others looked at us as though we had the plague. Consider this: even if you’re the most introverted person ever, you’re at a conference. You’re among people who, on some level, are like-minded, and you may just find someone that you truly connect with (like Sadie of SlapDashMom, above left, whom I clicked with instantly). But you’ll never know that if you don’t say HI to people. So get out there and make some friends. Or at least one. You won’t regret it. I know I didn’t.

The hard truth: some children are just jerks

mean people suck

Recently, dd came to us nearly in tears over something mean that one of her “friends” from school said to her. My first response (out loud) was something to the tune of, “Well, anyone who’s that mean isn’t worth having as a friend”, but (inside my head) I was thinking “That little piece of…”

Part of the trouble here is that I can’t protect dd from everything–which is every parent’s biggest fear–but part of the trouble is that nothing ever really changes. Kids, not knowing social norms and not having the “filter” that prevents us from simply shouting out all the lovely things we often wish we could say to one another, tend to blurt out mean things simply due to an ignorance of what’s okay to say. Furthermore, kids don’t always have the vocabulary or the emotional strength to know how to express their feelings, so they may channel their own feelings of frustration, hurt, or anger into words that (intentionally or otherwise) frustrate, hurt, or anger others.

It’s the gift that keeps on giving. And boy, do I wish this were one that we could cure with a quick round of penicillin.

I remember what my own childhood was like: I was the veritable ugly duckling. I had a horrific bowl haircut (thanks, 1970’s!), and I was somewhat shy, but I was a generally smart kiddo who managed to get moved up a grade halfway through Kindergarten. When I made it up to 2nd grade, in a “Gifted & Talented” program across county, almost none of the other kids wanted to be friends. They saw a shy, chubby girl and figured that I was easy pickings. (I was.)

Only one girl wanted to be my friend in 2nd grade, and our best friendship would last all the way through our senior year of high school. She was my rock, the one reliable person that I knew I could count on to be nice. The majority of the rest: well, let’s just say that I learned pretty early on how rude kids could be. Jokes about my weight. Jokes about my appearance. Naturally, the very same kids that would tease me relentlessly were also the ones who wanted to copy off my papers; having the only partially formed self-esteem of a young kid, I didn’t yet have the spine to tell them exactly where they could shove their own homework.

As the years passed, I figured out what I was worth–what I deserved and didn’t deserve. It took me YEARS to get to the point where I understood that when people are mean, it often says more about them than it does about the people who they’re being mean to.

I guess the years have passed for the others, as well. There have been various noises from members of my senior class around trying to get everybody together for a 25th year high school reunion. The voices have smoothed out a lot, as time and experience have aged us past the crap we all put each other through lo those many years ago. When I look back at the people who said nice things or who “liked” my post to the reunion page, I see the names of people who were both friends and foes. We’ve all aged out of the awfulness, I hope.

And so I sit, wishing I could speed things up for dd or at least protect her from the awfulness that I know she’ll have to go through over the next few years. She’s many things that I wasn’t at that age. She’s gorgeous. She’s popular. She’s athletic. And she’s so blissfully unaware of how incredibly cool she is.

So I can’t protect her from all that’s out there, but I can still give her hugs and kisses and try to comfort her when the wolves come out to play on her psyche. I guess that’s as much as a mom can do, and it’ll just have to be enough for now.