Archive for the The Soap Box Category

The Power of Attention

Posted in The Soap Box with tags , , , on July 28, 2009 by Ms. Ex

I’m going to take you back to an earlier time in my life, a time before I committed to buying coffee only from local shops.

I used to stop every other day occasionally at a particular Starbucks in my town, specifically the one on Wards Road in Lynchburg. It wasn’t really in my neighborhood, but it was near some places where I shopped, and I was willing to hold out until I arrived there because of a barrista that worked there.  I’ll call him Sam.

On of the first times I saw Sam, he greeted me like an old friend. He smiled warmly and said, “Hi! How is your day going so far?”

His eyes twinkled and the corners crinkled up and he was just so adorable I had a moment of excitement thinking, is he flirting with me??  Though he’s at least ten and more likely fifteen years younger than I, I refused to back down from my belief that he might find me pretty and might also be thrilled with my un-complicated order of a venti, half-caff, peppermint, extra-hot mocha.

I smiled back and answered that my day was lovely, thank you. And then, I couldn’t stop smiling. This kid had looked me in the eyes, grinned, and spoken to me in a familiar way. He was cute and more importantly, he was polite, attentive, and friendly, and that and five dollars will buy you a…well, I’ll tell you what it will buy you.

It will buy you a customer who drives out of her way to spend too much on a cup of coffee. It will buy you a customer who tells her friends about the really nice people who work for you. It will buy you the best kind of advertising there is – personal recommendation.

I left the store that day feeling a little lighter, and way happier. I’m not a sappy type, but having someone genuinely seem interested in me was refreshing and the rest of my day was made a little better for it.

Not long ago, my teenage daughter wanted to stop there so I pulled up and let her run in. When she came out, she was grinning and her eyes were all sparkly. When she sat down beside me I said, “He was in there, wasn’t he?”

“What are you talking about?” she answered.

But I knew why she was smiling. And I smiled, too.


Sharing Means Caring

Posted in The Soap Box with tags , , on July 16, 2009 by Ms. Ex

I was in my neighbor’s house the other day when she came home.  She walked in with all her groceries and was all like, “Uh, what? What are you doing in here?”

And I was all, “Well, I like your house better than mine, and I noticed you were gone, so I thought I’d play here for a while.”

“But, but…this is my house! You can’t just come in here without being invited.”

“But you weren’t using it. See? It was just sitting here and you weren’t using it. So what’s the big deal?”

“The big deal is that it’s mine! I worked hard and built up a good credit rating and saved money so I could buy it. It’s very special to me, and private, and I’m happy to have you over some time but you can’t just come in whenever you want!”

“But I can’t afford a house this nice, and your stuff is cooler, too. And plus I’m just bored with some of my things and would rather mess with yours. I didn’t do well in high school so I didn’t get into college, so I never got a very good job. I’m a single mom with four kids and you only have three so you have more money. Why can’t you just share?”

“I didn’t do well in high school, either. In fact, I nearly flunked out. I went to college as a single mom, working nights and surviving on four hours of sleep a night so I could get a decent job. Now I’m $20,000 in debt.”

“But you don’t even work now! You must be rich to be able to choose to stay home. So whay can’t you just share your stuff?”

“We are not rich. We make choices that allow me to stay home with our kids because we believe it’s important. We drive crappy old cars and buy clothes at the thrift store. We use coupons, not food stamps. My husband works seven days a week.”

“Oh. Huh. Well, I still think you should share.”

She sighed and, shaking her head, ushered me out the door. I don’t see what the big deal is. I’d give it back after I was done.

You Might

Posted in The Soap Box with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 12, 2009 by Ms. Ex

You might know a boy who seems like trouble, who drives wrecklessly and punches walls.

You might know a girl who thinks she is too fat, or too awkward, or too uncool, and it bothers her more than you think is realistic.

You might know a man who drinks like a frat boy though he’s ten years too late for it, who is running from some pain or anger over a deep hurt.

You might know a woman who struggles with fears of inadequacy, who has scars that she tells lies to explain, who seeks attention in inappropriate ways, who laughs to cover the damage from something she can’t even remember.

All these people are around you.  Sometimes you see it, and sometimes you pass it off as being irresponsible, slutty, childish.

Those are just words meant to hide from the truth of what life and people can do to someone.  Life is so hard.  Trust is shattered, spirits are squashed, bodies are damaged, relationships are forever broken.

But these people are not broken in any way that is unfixable.  They might just not understand that they are worth fixing.

A few years ago, a group of people became determined to help a friend who needed it. They began a story, a movement, that is still playing itself out in our world.

The movement is love, and it goes by the name  To Write Love on Her Arms.

There’s nothing I can say any better than they say it themselves.  Many of you know why this organization is so close to my heart.  As a surviving friend of more than one suicide, and someone who has tried to make an early exit herself, any group that recognizes how much people hurt and how much they – how much we all – need help, deserves my support.

Every single time I see one of their tshirts, or get a Facebook message about their recent activities, I tear up.  I see those words and I think – someone understands.

To write love on her arms. To write it on her arms, where she used to write the hatred and fear and brokenness.

So I’m asking for you to consider the people around you. Is there someone you know well, or maybe barely know at all, that you think is suffering?  Can you see through the craziness and outrageous behavior to what is the heart of the matter? That we are all people, inadequate and struggling without always knowing how or why?

Reach out.  Tell someone you love her and she matters to you and why. Tell someone you appreciate the value he adds to your life.  And if you simply can’t, consider supporting a group that does.

Fear and Courage

Posted in The Soap Box with tags , , , , , on June 9, 2009 by Ms. Ex

As I am prone to do now and again, I’m going to break character here and post something serious.

I’m going to tell you something incredibly embarrassing in order to make a point.  And I hope the point leaves you so affected, you’ll forget all about the incident that prompted this little lesson.

We have a rat. I don’t mean a tattletale, a scoundrel, or anything other than Rattus norvegicus. He came into our home via one of the myriad holes or wide open spaces, likely to get at the birdseed in the basement. Then he began exploring.

He was caught and disposed of brought to a beautiful farmhouse where he will live happily ever after, but ever since I have been what you might call skittish.

The other night I was downstairs watching the idiot box when I heard a noise. Everyone else was gone, and I was just sure it was another little beastie. I wanted desperately to get upstairs and close the door to the stairs so I could feel “safe.”

It took every last bit of my courage to force myself to get down from my position standing on the sofa and make the run for the upstairs.

I know you’re all laughing. I would be too if I wasn’t too busy being embarrassed, both about the fact that I have a rat in my house (!) and that I’m such a sissy about it.

When I finally made it past the place where the noise appeared to be located, I started thinking about how dumb I felt and why in the world was I scared of a little f@#$ing rat anyway? And what would I do if I had to muster the will to walk past real danger?

My husband knows what he would do.

My little freak out session made me imagine how I might feel if I was facing the possiblility of sniper fire or RPGs.  And I imagined what my husband must have felt when he accompanied convoys in Iraq, not that I can even begin to know how that feels.

I understand all the arguments for and against this war, or wars in general. I can sympathize with both sides, really. And my husband does what he does because he believes our country and its ideals deserve protecting, not just becuase he didn’t have options after high school, or because he likes playing with guns.

He trained coalition forces over there. He made friends with Turks and Russians and Iraqis. He lost friends, too.

So let’s suspend what you may believe about dealing with other nations and diplomacy and how wrong you think this war is. There are arguments to be made on both sides.  Let’s think instead about what it takes to stand up for what you believe in and put yourself in harm’s way to do it.

Would I be able to face that kind of fear for what I truly believe is the greater good?

Would you?

Who Is That Masked Knitter?

Posted in The Soap Box with tags , , , , , , on May 31, 2009 by Ms. Ex

I have an odd assortment of friends and acquaintances, and it is ever more apparent to me as I read the variety of posts from friends on Twitter and Facebook.

I have attachment parenting friends, cloth diapering friends, Christian friends, liberal friends, libertarian friends, far right wing friends and far out friends.  Some are republican, some democrat, some are Gemini and some couldn’t care less.  I have dared post on political things only once, and I sort of hedged my bets by not stating my position clearly.

I often steer clear of issues because I know one or another of my readers, possibly even my friends, will balk or be surprised or will try to argue me out of my beliefs, or someone will hurl insults and I’m just a damn lousy catcher.

But I’m kind of tired of pretending to be nothing, or something that will make everyone happy, and I’ve decided to let the record straight on some stuff that I’ve been too awkward proud to admit.

For what it’s worth:

1. I sometimes feed my kids McDonald’s.

2. I grocery shop at Walmart. Often.

3. I have spanked my children.  By accident.  Once.  Okay, those last two things are lies, but it was only in desperation and I never imagined I could ever do that.  I’m ashamed of it, because I believe it shows an unwillingness to find a better, more compassionate way of doing things. It shows impatience and laziness on my part.  But I did it.

4. I am a Libertarian.  Straight up, yo.  I want the government to have as little to do with me as possible.  “Establish justice and provide for the common defense” is pretty much where I draw the line.  

5. I belong to all kinds of birth advocacy groups and almost everyone in them believes that government funded health care is the way to go. I completely disagree. I’m pretty sure School House Rock didn’t sing about health care (see above quote).

6. I believe in taking care of the people around you so the government doesn’t have to provide charity at the point of a loaded tax gun, but I also believe in personal responsibility.  

7. I believe this list is getting way too serious, so I’ll throw in a knock knock joke.  You start.

I’m waiting…

Forget it.

8.  I believe in medication for mental problems.  Lots of it.  But not for everybody.  Just for me.

9. I co-sleep with my two sons.  Their mattress is on the floor beside our bed, but they always end up with us.  Sometimes we play musical beds and if one of us gets too crowded we go to the little bed.  I really want to get rid of our furniture and just put mattresses all over the floor, but the huz won’t let me.

11.  I don’t recycle glass and metal.

There, I said it.  Let the onslaught of vicious, opinionated people begin.

Why My Confidence Does Suffer So: 15%

Posted in People Are Idiots, The Soap Box with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 24, 2009 by Ms. Ex


she tries to get things
out of men
that she can’t get
because she’s not
15% prettier

-Richard Brautigan

Somehow I came across this delightful site the other day, and I sat transfixed while clicking on photos of celebrities before and after Photoshopping them into fantasy land.  Just click on Portfolio, then on each photo.  When it pops up, it’s retouched and reverts to the original when you mouse over it.

No one is named, but it’s obvious who some of them are, and I found myself shocked and wondering, “Can you really make Halle Berry and Penelope Cruz more gorgeous?”

Yes.  Yes, you can.

You can make someone who’s a little tubby (in a cute way) a bit tighter and narrower (witness the girl in the purple shirt leaning against the door); you can take someone who has that “rode hard and put up wet” look and make her look thirty-something and wide awake (the pink sweatered hag).

And as a little aside, what’s up with Julia Stiles’s shirt?  I swear to Oz (props, Tannerleah) I hate that if I wore a shirt like that, which has the potential – nay, the probablility – of showing boobage, it would totally be fine, but if I should, say, discreetly sneak a boob out to feed a kid, air raid sirens would sound and everyone would start to vomit from the Oh! Offensive!! 

I confess I’ve longed for the ability to Photoshop my body in real life, in ways that the 30 Day Shred just can’t manage.  But also, I have more important things to worry about.  There was a time that my body and face could get me what I wanted; now I’m stuck relying on my brain, and it turns out, that might be a pretty effective means of getting where I need to be.

Anyway, maybe it should make me feel better about things like my freckles and my less-than-spectacular figure.  I guess I didn’t believe that it’s a never ending thing, this quest for perfect beauty.

And maybe the Brautigan poem isn’t really me, after all.


It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad…um…yeah.

Posted in People Are Idiots, The Soap Box with tags , , on May 3, 2009 by Ms. Ex

I had a few (relatively) quiet minutes the other morning, so I clicked around trying to catch up on my blog reading.

BIG mistake.

First, I learned about “the neg.”  Didn’t that used to be called something like “Pride and Prejudice?”  And then it morphed into the “bad boy appeal,” then became “codependency,” right?  How delightful to take something old and make it fresh and new again.

Here is a succinct overview of “the neg” by fellow blogger Ozma:

The neg’ is a pickup technique where a man both insults and compliments an attractive woman. For example, “I like your haircut. Why do you wear it so short?” “Interesting shirt. What’s with the buttons?” I’m no expert on the neg, but I think it has to be ambiguous and yet undermine the woman’s sense of herself. It is supposed to be used on beautiful women. I’m not sure if it only works on them.

I’m not one to brag, but it’s been known to work on me.  For what it’s worth.

I just don’t see anything new here.  I was asked by my husband (a very super nice guy) what the appeal is about “bad boys.”  My answer was, “You should know.  It’s the same as the appeal of  “bad girls,” which you obviously like or you wouldn’t be with me.”

I’m not saying it’s good.  I’m saying we all have our pathologies.  Do your best (like Ozma did) to make sure being insulted isn’t your kid’s.