taking back control after 20 years: a survivor’s story of teen dating violence and sexual assault

Trigger Warning. The following contains descriptions of rape, sexual assault and domestic violence.

The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network 24 hour hotline: 800.656.HOPE

If you scroll through my Instagram feed, you might see me as a bubbly wedding planner with a big heart, an honest mother with charming kiddos, and a lucky gal whose husband is essentially a dashing, grown up Beaver Cleaver with a dry sense of humor. Picture perfect, right? But last month, I opened up to my social network about sexual assault trauma that I experienced when I was in high school. See what I did there, I was vague and referred to it as “sexual assault trauma” because I’m still not comfortable saying it directly. I was raped.

In my post, I intentionally simplified my assault story and implied that I was raped one time, by one person, however that is not the case. If you knew me when I was in high school, you might remember that I was “troubled” but you probably didn’t know why, because I didn’t really know why. I’ve touched on my personal experience in glancing  statements before digging into broader issues within society.

Rape culture is masterful in the way survivors feel we must blame ourselves and stay silent, which is exactly the hospitable environment that allows those abuses to continue, so I feel like I must speak out. I am finally beginning to unburden myself of the shame that I’ve been carrying for 20 years and it feels a bit like an out of body experience, like I’m writing about someone else, but it happened to me when I was 17. I’ve spent much of my adult life attempting to craft layers of polish to hide the trauma, but the broken pieces are still alive underneath, like an old textured wall covered by wallpaper and several coats of paint.

So, here it is; all of my broken pieces for everyone to see.

In high school, I struggled to fit in. I don’t pretend that many teenagers don’t similarly struggle, but my crippling case of low self-esteem was often all-consuming. My sense of self began to hinge on the validation of having a boyfriend and what that boyfriend thought of me. I’ve been re-reading old diaries and poetry from my formative years and revisiting memories with a focused lens, instead of the blurred perspective I had at the time. Many of my early relationships were full of coercion and actions that minimized my self-worth. The boy who broke up with me and immediately began going out with my friend, after I told him I wasn’t ready for him to put his hands up my shirt. The boyfriend who regularly belittled me in front of friends for the sake of a joke or in an attempt to assert some kind of intellectual upper hand, all while physically pressuring me in private. The jealous boyfriend who viewed me as his property. And then there was the older boy who I thought really saw me, but in reality he only saw me as an opportunity.

COERCION IS NOT CONSENT

After he pursued me, we dated for several weeks. I thought we were at the beginning of a long-term relationship, one where we would sit next to each other at family dinners, go for walks while holding hands, fall in love, and eventually my first time might be with him.

I remember the weirdest things about the weekend it happened. He took me to a place I had never been before, about 30 miles away from home and I only know this place now because of a distinctive architectural feature that is burned into my memory. I can’t tell you the exact date, but I remember getting gummy orange slices from a gas station and eating them in the car. I voluntarily went there with him and when it became clear that his expectation was that we take things further than we had before, I panicked. I was like a duck on the water – paddling frantically underneath while trying to remain calm on the surface. I think I was aware that this might have been his expectation all along, but ultimately, I was not ready to lose my virginity.

In that moment, I wasn’t sure what to do because I didn’t want to lose all of the promise I thought the future held. In that moment, I was worried about embarrassing him or being a disappointment. After all, my previous relationships taught me that my value as a person was contingent upon how a boyfriend saw me, so I stopped seeing myself. There’s a lot I don’t remember about those moments, but I remember shaking uncontrollably and the things I said in protest. I said, “But, I want my first time to be with someone who loves me and you don’t love me. You don’t love me.” I thought he would stop and say something like ‘we don’t have to if you’re not ready,’ or ‘let’s wait,’ but he said neither. I don’t remember how many times we went back and forth with this exchange or how it ultimately happened – it’s like I closed my eyes and detached from myself. I still shake now when I think about it.

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Via Planned Parenthood

I often minimize the experience, telling myself that he probably didn’t know what he was doing, though the act of taking me far away suggests otherwise. According to RAINN {the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network}, force, as it relates to rape, is defined as not simply physical pressure, but also “emotional coercion, psychological force or manipulation to coerce a victim into non-consensual sex.” RAINN also states that 7 out of 10 sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim, such as an intimate partner. Many survivors of sexual assault experience self-blame and denial as a coping mechanism and I still struggle to understand why I reacted the way I did.

I didn’t think sexual assault looked like this so it just didn’t occur to me. It didn’t occur to me that while I didn’t scream the word “NO,” I did not freely consent and his disregard of my protest fits the definition of date rape. I just knew I felt violated and uncomfortable, but I thought it was my fault for so many reasons. My fault for going to that place with him, consenting to other things, not leaving, not fighting and being confused. And when he wanted more, I obliged because I thought if I was congenial, we could still have that relationship I envisioned. If he became my boyfriend, then it would make it all okay and I could rewrite the story. Instead, the whispers began at school and a few people even called me a “slut” in the hallway and the girls locker room. And then he was gone. My fault.

CYCLE OF ABUSE + SHAME

In an effort to find stability a few months later, I got back together with an ex-boyfriend. The jealous one. He told me that he was the only one who could ever really understand me or love me, but that love was conditional, because he couldn’t be with me if I didn’t do with him what I had done with someone else. I owed him a debt. My fault. Even when he actually said that his goal was to physically hurt me so I wouldn’t forget ‘where he had been,’ it was my fault. When things turned violent he never hit me, so I convinced myself that it was okay, but it wasn’t love, it was ownership.

My memories of the abuse aren’t linear and we frequently broke up and got back together, so I don’t know in what order each assault took place or the events that lead to them. In fact, I can’t pinpoint if any of it started during the first part of our relationship, when I was 16. Once during English class, I laughed at another boy’s joke, so he scowled at me from across the room and after class, quietly walked me to an empty stairwell and shoved me against the beige cinderblock wall, before hissing that I was an embarrassment and a slut. Once we were fighting in my kitchen, during open campus lunch, and he tossed me to the floor near the breakfast nook. In another fight, he slammed me into a built-in spice cabinet with a tiny knob that sent a searing pain into my spine between my shoulders. Most of the assaults took place in my own house while my mom was at work. I would often go on “cleaning binges” and rearrange my bedroom furniture, as though I could clear the slate, and most nights I slept next to my mom to feel safe. She desperately tried to pull me back from the edge, but I was ashamed so I hid the abuse from my parents, community and friends. I internalized all of the horrible things he said. I was a whore, I was dumb, I wasn’t pretty and I was nothing without him. I stopped eating much and got so thin that my French teacher brought in a scale to weigh me before class each week. Toward the end of our relationship, he was simultaneously involved with another girl and would tell me the details of their intimate activity, saying that if I really loved him, I would try harder. I don’t think I ever would have voluntarily left him, despite months of heartache and utter degradation, so our relationship ended when he chose her.

I was absolutely shattered and legitimately thought I would never deserve anything more. So, I cried for help, in the form of a handful of Advil, and voluntarily walked into a mental health hospital, hoping for a reprieve. After feeling unsafe and un-helped, my mom got them to release me sometime after 10:00 PM a few days later. As we drove home, we listened to Cher and we talked about how things were going to get better. I was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety, but I never divulged the reality of any of the abuse in therapy.

With all of the therapy I received, NOT ONE professional ever explored my relationship history – I was just a broken girl with depression and low self-esteem, who was devastated by a breakup. I didn’t get the help I needed. 

Almost 1.5 million high school students experience relationship violence each year, yet only 33% report. That’s approximately 1 million victims of domestic violence who don’t say a word every year. Half of these young victims of both relationship violence and rape attempt suicide. Based on the statistics, I couldn’t have been the only one in my school: One in three teens reports knowing a peer who has been physically hurt by a partner, while 45% of teenage girls report knowing a peer who has been sexually assaulted.

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ON THE OTHER SIDE

In the next year, I firmly cut ties with my abuser, but still desperately looked for solace and stability in other relationships. I cut my hair in a pixie cut, phased off the anti-depressants and stopped going to therapy. I was still drowning in shame, so I threw myself into music, got active in a local youth group, and prepared to go to the Big Ten university in my hometown. What I needed was a fresh start.

It was on the floor of my freshman dorm room when I was 19, that I finally began to realize what had happened to me. I recounted my relationship experiences in rather intimate detail to my new best friend and roommate, when she explained that what I had experienced was date rape and assault. I thought she was crazy, but something about this acknowledgement changed everything and I started to find myself. When I was 21, I ran into the boy who raped me 30 miles from home four years earlier and he insisted on taking me out for ice cream to apologize. Ultimately, the fresh start of college wasn’t fresh enough, so just before my 22nd birthday I cut my hair again, cut ties with almost everyone who knew me in high school, changed my phone number and transferred to a school in Chicago. Less than a year after my move, I was sitting in the passenger seat next to my new boyfriend, who would later become my husband, when I received an unexpected phone call from my abuser. He had a singular purpose in getting in touch after five years – to extend an apology.

The uncanny thing is that they both said the exact same thing when they apologized. They each said “I’m sorry for everything I put you through.” I wonder how much they were actually apologizing for. Was the first vague “everything” only meant to cover the messy aftermath that left me isolated and labeled a slut; was the second for the thumbprint bruises on my arms and the humiliation? Looking back on the details of how it all unfolded, I wonder if they each targeted me because I was particularly vulnerable. Did either realize that what happened between us was not consensual, or did they both think that they just successfully “convinced” me. {Pro Tip: if you have to convince someone, that is not consent.} Did their apologies give them absolution or have they lived their lives with the same ghosts that have haunted me for two decades? Will either of them read this, recognizing themselves and be shocked at their impact on my life? *These are all rhetorical questions. Please don’t contact me. I don’t really need these answers. It’s okay.*

HEALING + ACCEPTANCE

Soon after the final apology, I finally told both of my parents what I had experienced, I did a senior project about my trauma and then I packed it away. Three years after my move to Chicago, when I was 25, a friend/roommate suddenly passed away. In my grief, I physically felt that sharp pain between my shoulders from the spice cabinet knob, so I sought help. In those therapy sessions, we focused mostly on the grieving process but when I briefly addressed my relationship history, I felt ashamed, so I stopped going to therapy, neatly packed my trauma back into its vault and threw another few coats of paint and polish on top of it. I continued building my career, got married when I was 27, became a mother just before my 31st birthday and kept moving forward. Life happened, so now I am 37 and I’ve never really addressed my trauma with a therapist. In the last two and a half years, I’ve experienced panic attacks stemming from the onslaught of headlines about sexual assault and the embodiment of rape culture by public figures and political leaders.

Trauma changes the way your body responds to stress and certain triggers. Studies have found that cortisol levels were more elevated in survivors of rape, in comparison to survivors of other types of trauma. Other studies have shown that rape survivors experience higher rates of PTSD than combat veterans. Triggers for rape survivors are pervasive and the very nature of how society treats those who speak out is in stark contrast to the lack of accountability for perpetrators. My trauma fully came to the surface in 2016, though I didn’t appreciate how profoundly it was affecting me at the time. I unceremoniously decided that I was done living my life consumed by making other people comfortable to my own detriment.

For years, I ceded control of my life by hiding from my trauma and trying to fit into a mold of who I thought I should be. When I stopped pretending that I was a polished version of myself, it had a dramatic impact across all aspects of my life: I lost a few friends, but solidified other friendships and gained many new ones grounded in authenticity. I quit my job, but then I started a business and have never been happier and I’m doing some of my best work. Just a few weeks ago, I finally unfriended my abuser on Facebook, though I’m not sure why I accepted the friend request years ago in the first place. I’ve learned a lot about behaviors of survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence – we take both healthy and unhealthy steps to regain control in our lives.

Speaking openly and accepting my experience as a part of who I am, is the healthiest thing I’ve ever done and doing so in such a public way is just another step of taking back control.

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories.” – Anne Lamott

I don’t need to simply be an insta-ready version of myself so I’m learning to love the broken pieces too and I won’t allow them to define me. It now feels like there is a reckoning to be had and I believe if we shine a light on our experiences, then we can start to breakdown the system of silence that allows rape and abuse to continue. Even though I may not know you, thank you for helping me break the silence and take back control.

 

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ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

RAINN: 800.656.4673

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800.799.7233

One Love: 10 Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship {All 10 of these applied in my case}

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: Teen Dating Abuse and Violence Stats

Pacific Standard: Lifelong Consequences of Rape {duplicate reference, because it’s that good}

Futures Without Violence {another duplicate reference}

CDC: Teen Dating Violence

don’t let the door hit ya, 2016!

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Fresh start to the year with a fresh organizer! {similar}

Oh hey there – it’s been a while! We have officially said goodbye to the shit show known as 2016 and there’s A LOT to reflect on. So let’s reflect, shall we? This past year was a doozy.

It was this time time last year that I started this blog as a warm and fuzzy little project where I envisioned writing about our home renovations and lifestyle, under the umbrella of honesty and authenticity. I wanted to pull the veil back a bit from the ever-present idea of attaining perfection and boy, did I ever! A year later, I absolutely still think that there is a sweetness in embracing the imperfections of life and finding joy in the mess – maybe more than before. I also still enter each day with a heavy dose of sparkle, but this year changed me a bit. I felt a general heaviness or heightened awareness of things happening in the world, and I couldn’t push it aside in my personal life and that came through in my writing.

For better or worse, I opened up myself online and I got some criticism and a lot of questions about WTF I was thinking. Some people ultimately pushed away from me, but others pulled closer. I learned that it’s easier to play the “everything is AMAZING!” game, in an effort to fit in and not make any waves. Apparently, my subconscious had other ideas about the importance of not making waves. Funny, or actually not funny, that even in my mid-30’s, I’m still playing little games with myself to make sure people like me. If I learned anything throughout this last year, it’s that the status quo doesn’t work for me anymore. I decided to face {mostly} every messy, confusing and uncomfortable thing head on.

The events of 2016 became a flashpoint of connection that created new or more substantive friendships. It highlighted the importance of meaningful relationships and mended some old friendship fractures and strengthened already strong bonds. Because I was so open, casual friends reached out and shared their own experiences with me. Those connections have turned into some of my most treasured friendships: the neighbors I didn’t know very well, the friend from middle school whom I haven’t seen in two decades, colleagues and more people than I can count on two hands. Other close friends offered a different perspective on the things I wrote about, which broadened my outlook.

2016 also drew a line through some relationships; like a line through the middle of a shared bedroom with a sibling – your side/my side. You can still live in that same space, but you’re always aware of the division that creates a comfortable distance. I’ve talked to a lot of people who have lost friendships and relationships with family members, due to dormant issues that bubbled to the surface. Now that they are out in the open, those issues feel like a fundamental game changer. That is a difficult thing to process. Like a teenager, I definitely noticed when a few friends stopped “liking” my photos on FB or Instagram. It took a while, but I finally learned to stop second-guessing myself for just being… myself.

2016 hit my marriage too. There was a moment when I was really worried. That worry was straight out of one of our favorite writings that we have hanging up in our home. The Desiderata poem has been an important work for both of us since before we met, and somehow I completely missed a major point and how it was impacting our relationship.

“But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.” – Desiderata

 

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The print of the Desiderata that we had made, emphasizing specific phrases, even though we love every single word of the piece. This is hanging in the most high traffic spot in our house, with the idea that we should be reminded of it every time we pass.

I was most certainly distressing myself with imaginings. It turns out that 2016’s effect on our marriage was to bring us even closer and show us our strength. For the 13+ years that we have been together, I thought I was somehow tricking my husband into thinking I was an unblemished version of myself. This summer, I learned that he knows me far better than I ever gave him credit for and even better than I knew myself in some cases. I had a few epiphanies and thought “WOAH. That makes total sense now!” but when I told him, expecting shock and awe, he responded with something like “Ummm… yeah? Duh. I’ve known that about you for years!” I married the right guy. I married my best friend. What excellent foresight I had 8 years ago!

None of this was my resolution for 2016. I can’t even tell you what my resolution was last year. But, I think it’s important to continue setting goals and checking in with ourselves as we make our way through each year. None of us know what challenges, successes, heartbreaks and joys 2017 will bring in each of our lives or in the world and we can’t control it. What we can control is how we respond to those things and how we choose to begin each day. For now, I’m going to continue down this road of authenticity and see where it takes me. I’ve cleaned my desk, and I have a few things up my sleeve that I’m ready to set into motion. If I see something I want to accomplish, change or be a part of, I’m going to get after it!

So, I guess this year didn’t change me so much as it provided a choice: stay safe and take the path of least resistance or not. I chose the latter and it was uncomfortable. Last year I dug deep, and analyzed lots of experiences and how they have influenced who I am. It was intense. It was lonely, but it had to be lonely because it was work I needed to do by myself. At times, I felt like I had a first class ticket aboard the Hot Mess Express, but I was reminded by a few amazing friends – old and new – that I wasn’t a mess. Life is messy.

Sending everyone a heavy dose of New Year sparkle.

xo

an open letter re: my soul

Segrada Familia, Barcelona


Last week, I voted early and then posted a photo to Instagram and my personal Facebook professing support for my candidate. The next day, I received a private message calling my vote into question on religious grounds. I took a few days considering if I should reply at all, reading relevant information, crafting a response and seeking insight from a handful of friends who are more pious than I. 

“I was really surprised to see you voted for Hillary. I thought you were Christian…”

This message was from a friend of a friend with whom I had not spoken in about a decade. I was definitely a bit taken aback, but I’m always up for a healthy conversation about deep issues with anyone. I sincerely appreciate being challenged, especially considering that I’ve been known to challenge others. I have decided to write about this, not to call anyone out or dig in my heels, but because I value discussions that can help us all to more deeply consider our own points of view and those of others. 

The note continued, “I’m sure you have your reasons, however I wanted to share this with you. All the best. By the way, I don’t support Trump, and I don’t send this to you with ill intent.”

What followed was a 20 minute video of a Catholic priest delivering a homily to his congregation regarding the upcoming election. If you don’t want to sit through the sermon, here are the highlights that I took away:

  • While neither party fully aligns with the Catholic church’s stances, one party is an unacceptable option because of its pro-choice platform.
  • Throughout the video, I found several inaccuracies and misleading statements, not to mention a tone intended to instill fear and shame.
  • He felt compelled by his position to state to his congregation that a vote for a candidate who is pro-choice will put “your soul in grave danger.”
  • He compared abortion to capitol punishment and casualties of war.
  • He even drew similarities between abortion and issues like Affirmative Action and immigration. 
  • He stated that a vote for the Democratic Party would “jeopordize the well-being of your soul,” make you “unworthy of holy communion” and that “you will be a source of scandal for others.”
  • He asks his congregation for the same outrage toward the pro-choice stance as is shown toward priests who sexually assault children. 
  • Finally, he demands the support and “admiration” of his people for speaking on this issue, “rather than resistance and criticism.”

Frankly, this sermon is precisely the type of thing that has kept me from attending church outside of special occasions. That and sentiments fueling the firestorm surrounding Jen Hatmaker, a prominent Christian voice who is currently being skewered for speaking in support of the LGBTQ community, but that is an entirely different blog post.

My religious and spiritual beliefs have evolved since my days with Young Life and Campus Crusade for Christ. My great grandfather was a Jewish man who married a Catholic woman. I am the granddaughter and daughter of Catholics and Protestants. I was baptized in the Methodist church and my children were baptized in the small Presbyterian church that has been home to generations of my husband’s family. In a college debate class I chose a pro-life stance and fiercely argued with my pro-choice counterpart. I am now unwaveringly pro-choice. I am still deeply spiritual, though I can’t claim any one denomination. My approach to religion is complicated at best. 

By the time I had finished watching the sermon, I felt as though it was sent to me out of concern for the “well-being of my soul,” but I was also a bit rattled. I stuffed down my feelings of offence and started viewing this as an opportunity for an honest discussion on opposing points of view. Thus, my open letter in response to the sender.

Hi,

I hope you and your family are well.

While there are many reasons behind my vote, as a matter of math, either the Democrat or the Republican candidate will be elected. Though I was a single issue voter 10+ years ago, I am no longer a single issue voter and the unbelievably high stakes in this election have only reinforced that stance. My conscience won’t allow me to either directly or indirectly support Trump and I believe that anything other than a Democratic vote in this election is doing just that, aside from the fact that I am a Democrat.

“In a speech delivered at the Vatican just three days before the U.S. presidential election, Pope Francis urged social justice activists from around the world not to give into the politics of fear by building walls but instead work to build bridges.

“Because fear—as well as being a good deal for the merchants of arms and death—weakens and destabilizes us, destroys our psychological and spiritual defenses, numbs us to the suffering of others,” he said.”

American Magazine 

I have to say the sentiments in this sermon are not reflective of my relationship with God or that of many other Christians. In fact, it is my understanding that what this priest did is both strictly forbidden by the Catholic Church as well as illegal, as a tax-exempt religious entity.

“Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy said in a statement…

“It is contrary to Catholic teaching to state that voting for a Democrat or Republican automatically condemns the voter to hell,” the statement said. “The Catholic Church does not endorse specific candidates, use parish media or bulletins to favor candidates or parties or engage in partisan political activity of any kind.””

Reuters

I encourage you to read the entirety of the Patheos piece I link to in the excerpt below. It is a thoughtful and well-researched article that addresses the points made by the priest in the specific sermon you shared.

“Using this homily, as imprecise as it is, for or against some political trend or candidate or party, knowing its flaws and understanding that more accurate teaching is available, seems insincere, an abuse of Priestly authority, and disrespectful of the Holy Mass.

In the end, Father’s homily lacks much that is easily accessed in other teachings on voting from a Catholic perspective and is not recommended for guidance.”

Patheos

I appreciate that we all have our own views and values and I know that you meant no ill will expressing yours. In kind, I hope you will appreciate my confidence that my soul is not in grave danger because of my support of the Democratic Party or my vote. 

Wishing you nothing but the best,

Lauren

not okay 

Fall is in full swing and I haven’t written a blog post since August. This summer was particularly intense for a lot of us, with the election and so many social issues catching fire. I have been in a season of serious soul searching and have mostly steered clear of my blog of late. But right now, I need to write and share about an important subject that has recently gained traction. I need to connect.

We all heard Donald Trump boasting about his fame affording him the ability to do whatever he wants with women and “grab them by the pussy” and I’m not sure many of us were shocked. Appalled, disgusted and angry, but not shocked. I’ve heard a number of people, including the offender himself, repeatedly say that these are “just words” and they have assigned it the charming label, “locker room talk.” As many of us know all too well, these are not just words.

We are talking about real actions of assault and violation. It was real for me when I was grabbed in the “pussy” by a famous baseball star.

{Using this word absolutely makes me cringe, but let’s be consistent with the language that triggered this discussion. As I’ve said before about other topics, getting uncomfortable with the things we discuss is the best way to change the status quo, so I guess that’s true of the vernacular within the discussion itself.}

I was a 22 year old waitress and college student. I had just moved to Chicago from my small town roots and was still finding my footing but thought a job at a sports bar in my well-lit, populated neighborhood was a safe bet. Like every other young woman I knew, I regularly secured my keys between my knuckles when I walked home alone – I thought that was the most likely time and place for an assault, so I was on my guard at all times.

I’ll never forget that night the Cubs clinched the division and the infamous slugger who thought it was okay to do whatever he wanted with my body, as I served him the drink he’d ordered. I shot him a horrified look and hit his hand away from between my legs. Without flinching or skipping a beat, he did it a second time, this time even more aggressively. I hit his hand again and bolted.

This is where the story gets even better. I went straight to the manager, a nice guy who always looked out for the waitresses and bartenders when customers got aggressive or inappropriate. How quaint and naive of me to think that he would be equally horrified and kick him out, because guys had been kicked out for much less in the past. But this wasn’t just any random guy. The manager said, “there isn’t anything I can do because he’s a celebrity.” And there you have it.

Men in power think they can get away with whatever they want because they CAN.

This power doesn’t just apply to famous men. Men can gain power over women in other ways. For instance: The college professor who regularly ogled me and touched me inappropriately while I was seated at my desk or handing in an assignment – but he was my teacher and elder. The former boyfriend who sexually assaulted me and left both physical and emotional bruises – but he was my boyfriend. Sure, I could have filed a complaint against the professor or broken up with the boyfriend much sooner, but I felt powerless and afraid. I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers or make the situation worse. The idea that women do not have agency over their own bodies is rape culture. Sometimes rape culture is actual rape and assault and other times it’s an unwelcome touch or demeaning language, whether in or outside of the presence of a woman. This culture leads to offenders like Brock Turner and those who justified his actions and lightened his sentence.

Rape culture goes further, with the overwhelming emphasis on making oneself desirable and sexy in the eyes of a man. There are entire magazines devoted to teaching young women and girls 27 ways to blow his mind and a step by step guide to make sure you successfully transform yourself to fit his idea of what you should look like, what you should wear, how you should act and who you should be, because only then will you have value. For your convenience, 45-51% of those magazines are ads for the products that will help you to achieve the goal of desirable vixen. It took me years to deprogram myself from that mentality. What’s more, because my husband never asked me to change anything about my appearance and never expected me to fit this mold that I had learned, I thought something must be wrong when we were first dating.

Watching this campaign has been difficult for many of us and has elicited a visceral response in me. That response has only grown more intense as the insults and “othering” have compounded, but it wasn’t until I read a piece about domestic abuse victims being triggered by Trump and his campaign, that it finally hit me: for months, this has been a trigger for me as well and I didn’t even realize it. I just thought I was going mildly crazy. Watching him has made me feel raw, vulnerable and absolutely terrified. It’s made me angry, it’s made me want to hide and it’s made me want to fight back. I’ve had panic attacks and one utter meltdown.

There was a 33% increase in calls to the National Sexual Assault Hotline with domestic violence and sexual assault survivors being triggered by Trump during the second presidential debate and the onslaught of media coverage of the Access Hollywood tape. Liz Plank with Vox, posted an excellent video {highly recommend!} that went viral on social media last week. Plank concisely illustrates why Trump isn’t actually a bully, as he is often described, but that he has consistently exhibited many classic traits of an abuser, such as gaslighting, humiliation, deflection and making threats.

Writer, Kelly Oxford asked women to tweet her about their first assaults 10 days ago. She has since received millions of tweets from women, describing their experiences with sexual assault.



There is now widespread acknowledgment for this broadly defined culture of disrespect and abuse, that we have been taught to shrug off because it’s just the way things are. Women are voicing their outrage with the realization that it is not actually their fault. Men share in this outrage, but several men have associated their outrage with the chivalrous need to defend their wives, daughters, mothers and sisters. Rather, shouldn’t men be outraged, not for the sake of women but for the sake of human dignity? Not outrage on behalf of women, but also on behalf of men. Last night, my husband said that it is easy for a man to be outraged when thinking about this culture and its effect on his own loved ones, but the next step is to go beyond that personal scope and feel that same level of outrage when considering the impact of rape culture on society at large. Further still, to feel outrage for the boys who are taught these behaviors in the first place.

The resounding message from so many voices telling their stories, is that it is no longer our burden to carry this shame. Let the shame fall to those who perpetuate rape culture and those who deny dignity to women. It is not okay. We can and MUST do better.

 

If you are a survivor of sexual assault, please visit RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) for support.

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800.656.HOPE

get over it: anxiety

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Flying: one of my biggest sources of anxiety. Panic attack level anxiety. I absolutely love to travel so I don’t let it keep me from flying!

More than 20 years ago, I was formally diagnosed with anxiety. When it got really bad in high school, I felt broken. I worked very hard to overcome it and I came out on the other side feeling like a stronger and much more complete person. That’s it, right? Buh-bye anxiety!!! Not so fast, honey.

A few months ago, I realized that I never really “got over it.” Struggling with anxiety is one of those things that once you start talking about, you quickly realize you’re in good company. That said, it doesn’t come up often and can be a bit of a taboo topic, but apparently I like writing about taboo topics, so why not!

I think anxiety is something you never really get over but that you learn coping mechanisms, whether or not you’re conscious that you’re doing it. My coping mechanisms have taken a hit since I became a mother, so my anxiety has been sneaking up on me a bit more than usual. Thanks to my two littles, I am waaaay too tired to stay up into the wee hours cleaning the house, organizing and reorganizing. Taking time for yoga has also fallen by the wayside. The internet says that getting enough sleep is important for keeping anxiety in check, so it’s probably safe to add that to my list! Combine these changes with some environmental stressors and you have a perfect recipe for your pot to boil over.
Anxiety manifests itself differently for everyone and it’s a perfectly normal response to stress. However, for some people it can color even neutral experiences. Some days, I feel anxious about the normal things that everyone feels anxious about and other days, it doesn’t feel so normal. Each person has different anxiety triggers. For me, it seems to be connected to the ability to control my surroundings and being in environments where I feel comfortable enough to be myself.

My husband brought up a really interesting point the other day – I have built my career around what can be one of the most stressful times in life, but planning weddings isn’t an anxiety trigger for me. One would think that my nerves would be through the roof with the responsibilities of a wedding planner, but I’m cool, calm and collected. Now the stress over work/life balance is another thing entirely, but the actual wedding planning process is almost relaxing. I think that’s because it’s my job to plan, to organize, to control what can be controlled. {All the love, pretty things, creativity and the warm and fuzzies probably don’t hurt either!}

Writing this blog has been helpful, for a few reasons:

  1. The writing process, in and of itself, is therapeutic, especially when I write about things that feed my anxiety.
  2. Posting those writings in a public forum is a great way to connect with people who can relate or who appreciate my perspective, so there’s no longer room to feel alone with my thoughts. It gives me a voice when I feel my voice is lost.
  3. Writing publicly and putting it all out there keeps me accountable to myself. It keeps me from floating back to my old habit of trying to be someone else in an effort to fit in and be liked.
  4. Writing about things that I love helps me to focus on the fun adventures in life and give those things emphasis.

So, for anyone who has ever wondered why I write publicly about personal things and touchy subjects, in addition to the fun stuff, there you have it. Life isn’t all fluff and prettiness for anyone. Part of being real is acknowledging and learning from the less than pretty. When I started this blog, I set out to keep from falling into to the look-how-fab-my-life-is kind of trap. I wanted to be sure I was open and honest, so writing this post is important for me to stay authentic.

This video popped up in my newsfeed via Upworthy {if you don’t follow them you should!} as a repost from The Mighty. It’s excellent and totally with the minute and a half. {No sound needed.}

Even though I sometimes try to convince myself otherwise… Having anxiety doesn’t mean that I’m weak. It doesn’t mean that my voice isn’t valid. It doesn’t mean that I’m not capable. It doesn’t mean that I’m not good at my job. It doesn’t mean that I’m not driven and focused. It certainly doesn’t mean that I am not a happy and bubbly person. {Because I am super bubbly, sometimes maybe to a fault!} Having anxiety just means that sometimes there’s a lot going on in my head and it’s harder for me to turn the volume down.

Understanding my triggers is essential. I know that if I’m approaching a situation that I can’t control, like flying, I need to do certain things to help me manage and get on with my travels. In that same regard, I’ve learned that it’s imperative to surround myself with people who bring the positive vibes so that I don’t sink into my own insecurity and defensiveness – I mean, who wants to hang out with Debbie Downer!? I certainly don’t want to hang with that girl, let alone BE that girl. Positive vibes and support are key.

I know I’m not perfect and I’m okay with that, but I think I’m finally done trying to be perfect.

xoxo

in defense of open shelving + styling tips

 

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I’ve gotten a lot of questions and comments about our new open shelving in the kitchen. Many people have called us brave to replace a whole wall of cabinetry with a collective 17 feet of reclaimed wood. “What about all of the dusting?!?” “But you can’t just close the cabinet door and forget about it!”

We knew open shelving would work for us because I really really love hyper organized spaces – hyper organized in a livable and functional kind of way. There was very little that we were hiding behind cabinet doors, so the loss of the cabinetry hasn’t been an issue. It’s been about 6 weeks since we finished our 10 day impromptu kitchen makeover and the dust really hasn’t been an issue and I have some ideas as to why.

TIPS FOR MAKING OPEN SHELVING WORK

Issue: Keeping it Clean

  • Location, location, location: Our shelving is on an opposite wall from the stove so we don’t need to worry about grease splattering up from cooking. If we did, then we’d seriously need to reconsider our cooking technique.
  •  Filling up the space with items you use regularly and not having it be purely decorative is key. This avoids large swaths of open space that would act as big dust collecting areas. With daily use items like dishes and glasses, there just isn’t much space for the dust to settle.
  • Our glasses are turned face down, so no need to worry about rinsing before use.
  • We don’t worry about our plates getting dusty, because we’re continually using them and thus cleaning them, so it’s a non issue. The larger serving pieces that don’t get regular action, do need a quick wash or rinse before they’re used, but that’s something I would do regardless of where they’re stored so it’s not extra work.
  • We chose reclaimed wood, which I think was exactly the right choice from a dusting perspective. I treated the wood with a light sanding and two coats of polyurethane so it is easy to wipe down when needed, without snagging on splinters. On the flip side, it’s not a high gloss white shelf that would be a magnet for dust.

 

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Some day the rest of this cabinetry will go, but some white paint and the open shelving has entirely changed the space! More details here.

 

Issue: Styling/Clutter Control

  • Before the cabinets came down and shelves went up, I took stock of all the items that I would rather hide behind a cabinet door. I was able to find a home for all of these bits and bobs in the cabinetry that we still have.
    • Plastic cups from baseball games and what-have-you.
    • Less than attractive kitchen items like a chopping device and super boring mixing bowls.
    • The collection of mismatched beer glasses from different breweries. Because if you’re drinking a Two Hearted, it needs to be in a Two Hearted glass, of course.
    • Kiddo plates and cups.
      • {ORGANIZING TIP! I moved these to drawers that the boys can easily access to help them with independence. Although little G, being a typical 18 month old, just loves to empty the drawers and randomly throw stuff back in, so they are typically a hot mess, despite my best efforts to keep them organized. Sometimes you just have to go with it, right?}
  • I was really excited to style these shelves, in large part because it created an opportunity to showcase the our dinnerware that I’m obsessed with along with some other special pieces like my Grandma Jayne’s chocolate chip cookie recipe, vintage cook books from my mom and Grandma Bunny and a French poster the hubs and I got on our trip to Paris.
    • {SIDE NOTE: Dinnerware obsession. I spotted the Vietri Incanto dinnerware at the Home Show event at the Merchandise Mart probably 11 years ago – i.e. well before the hubs and I were engaged. I grabbed a flyer and tucked away, then hunted down a boutique that had an online registry for the dinnerware when we got married several years later. They have some new items that I think I need to get my hands on!!}
  • When it came to styling the shelves, I started with those pieces that I knew I wanted to feature and spaced them out in a way that I thought was pretty but also functional. {i.e. no plates on the top shelf; where is it easiest to grab a glass? etc.}
  • From there, I added serving pieces and just placed them in a way that felt balanced and visually appealing. After that, there were some big areas that were still open, so I went into our storage closet and grabbed the box of stemless wine glasses and mason jars that I only used for entertaining. Now these forgotten pieces are all out and getting daily use.
  • It’s worth mentioning that I kept the color palate consistent across the shelves and spaced out the white, pops of color and glass so that it feels balanced.
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Everyday items, serving pieces and a sentimental reminder of the little book sellers along The River Seine.

 

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These are a few of my favorite things! Complete with cookbooks and a framed recipe from my grandmas.

 

I know I’m not crazy for wanting to add this design feature, because I’m certainly not the only one. Open shelving has been all over Pinterest, social media, blogs, magazines, etc. and for good reason. It really opens up the space and adds endless amounts of character because in styling your shelves, you can change it up while keeping your favorite items showcased. Don’t be deterred if you want to jump on board the open shelving train. It’s a fun ride!

xoxo

 

friday faves: paint it gold

 

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What a difference a little paint makes!

When we were building our addition and picking out hardware, our contractor said “brass is deader than disco.” BUT… I think brass and tones of gold can be wildly versitile as long as they’re done well. Picking the right shapes, tones and pieces is key to not having it come off dated. Gold and brass are having a moment.

It’s hard to find the right tone of gold and it’s all about preference. For me, I like it to have some warmth to it and to be a bit deeper and even skewing into the copper/rose gold family. The shape and style of different pieces makes a huge difference – again, this all comes down to preference. My preference is for pieces that have clean lines and geometric elements. I also love mid-century modern touches and I’ve been looking for the right kind of baroque mirror for one of our bathrooms. Reading all of those likes makes my home style sound a bit all over the place, but I think that’s the best kind of style. Style that includes elements from various areas and blends them all together, so the end result is something that feels true to you and makes you happy! I’m not a buy-a-matching-set kind of gal.

Sometimes you might find something that’s the right structure but the color is off. That’s where my new favorite thing comes into play. Gold spray paint! When I have that can of paint in my hands, look out. I mean really, in the last two months, this is what I’ve painted gold:

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Bookshelf

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Fireplace Screen

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Previously silver brackets for reclaimed wood shelving in mudroom.

Of course, also on this list of items I’ve painted gold of late are the brackets for the new open shelving in the kitchen.

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Brackets used for the open shelving in the kitchen.

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Completed kitchen shelving and brackets.

Like most of my projects, I didn’t want to make this spray paint thing too complicated, so I just popped over to the paint aisle at Lowe’s during a trip for something else and checked out their options. I grabbed two options, because they were the only shiny gold options on the shelf and did a test to see which I preferred.

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The Contenders

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Left: Rustoleum; Right: Valspar

Between these two options, I definitely prefer the depth and richness of the Valspar gold on the right. The outdoor light in the photo featuring the options in the grass, above, doesn’t accurately reflect the true look of the Valspar can. Thus…

I should mention, when you’re picking up the spray paint, you’ll want to grab some rubber gloves because it is a total pain in the ass to get this spray paint off your hands and when you’re spraying, it tends to blow back onto your hands. I was starting to get a bit of carpal tunnel from holding down the trigger on the spray paint, so I grabbed this little device, which helped a lot with that. It also helped with the amount of paint that got on my hands. It dries really quickly, so I would wait about an hour between coats and then after I installed the pieces, there was just a bit of touch up from scuffing. For most of the touch ups, I sprayed some paint into the cap of the can, then took one of Henry’s paint brushes from his art set. The paint brush was toast afterwards, so don’t do this with something you hope to wash and reuse.

All of that said, I still love the glint of silver tones of nickle and pewter, so you’ll find a lot of mixed metals throughout our home. Every room in our house has some tone of gray in paint or furniture, so it acts as the perfect backdrop to the warmth of the gold, blended with cooler silver metallic tones with the mixed metal vibe.

But… I think I might need to paint the starburst on this mirror next, even though the hubs doesn’t want me to. {I’d keep the center as-is and just paint the starbursts and the little rope frame around the mirror. Should I do it??} After all, the hubs also didn’t want me to paint the bookshelf or the fireplace screen and I think we can all agree that I was right!

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Next up?

xoxo

 

 

impromptu DIY kitchen reno

I’ve obviously put blogging on the back burner the last few weeks, because life. And also wedding season (#weddingplannerproblems). Oh, and also because we lost our minds and started a completely impromptu DIY kitchen renovation a few weeks ago. Nothing like a little demolition and drywall dust to throw a wrench in the wheel of functionality!! If you follow me on social media, you may have noticed my updates on our little project and I wrote this post in the thick of it, so you might want to skip back to that post if you want to see how we got here. {Follow me on Instagram!}

I have never been in love with our kitchen. When we bought our house, it was something I knew we’d update eventually, but it hasn’t been a high priority because the bones of the kitchen are decent. My hubs pointed out that the gateway project was when I decided to paint a chalkboard wall to help me be organized with projects and menu planning for the week. He’s right – the chalkboard wall really did open Pandora’s Box.

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Sunday, 5.1: A simple enough project that lead to something much more intense!

A few weeks after the chalkboard wall happened, I decided to paint the walls in the kitchen white, to help brighten up the space and we even tossed around the idea of painting the cabinetry for a hot minute. One thing lead to another and we were quickly taking down cabinetry and planning open shelving with reclaimed wood. Then we fell down the renovation rabbit hole and took out the soffit. Mind you, the hubs and I are entry level handy. We definitely do not have the knowhow that some of our friends have when it comes to DIY renovations. We’re adventurous, willing to learn and put in the elbow grease, so with a lot of help, advice and encouragement from our more seasoned DIY friends, we made it through the experience relatively unscathed. I have to say, there is something uniquely satisfying about looking at the finished product and knowing that we did it.

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Monday, 5.16: Before – The wall-o-cabinetry and soffit. Cabinetry in country paneled glaze and walls painted with everyone’s favorite shade of dirty olive. Kitchen perfection.

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Thursday, 5.19: “This project escalated quickly” – me

If you’re thinking about removing a soffit, do your research. We knew what we were getting into because we had read a lot about it, but don’t go into this lightly. {Suggested reads on soffit removal: here & here.} What you’re looking at in this picture is close to a best case scenario in what you’ll find after bringing down a soffit.

Now what?

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Friday, 5.20: Re-wiring, with the help of a professional/friend.

One of our friends happens to also be an electrical contractor project manager and his dad is an electrician, so he was definitely the guy to call. There were several lines of romex that were just dangling in the soffit – not up to code. Whoever installed the recessed lighting in the kitchen was probably the same person who rigged the plumbing in the basement full bath to drain into the sump pump pit. Awesome. So our friend, Brian, and the hubs brought the romex situation up to code by drilling holes through the middle of the beams, disconnecting the romex wiring, threading it all through the beams and then reconnecting them again. Do not attempt this without someone who knows what they’re doing, like Brian. You don’t want to screw up electrical work. If you don’t have a Brian in your life, call a pro.

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Friday, 5.20: Putting electrical Humpty Dumpty back together again.

This party went until 1:30am, but they were committed, while I was asleep on the couch because I didn’t want to go to bed in case I could be useful. I’m sure I was a lot of help! So the next morning, this is what I woke up to!

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Saturday, 5.21: Drywall up and waiting for mud.

After the hubs did the first pass at the drywall, I took over. Apparently drywall is a job for someone who has a strong visual attention to detail. It would not be an understatement to describe drywalling as an art. I now have a new respect for the guys who did the drywall in our mudroom in no time, without sanding. {I’ll do a separate post on the tools one would need to venture into this kind of a project in a few weeks and break it down step by step. FYI – for an amateur, drywall definitely needs several passes of mudding and sanding and does not go up in a flash like I had hoped it would.}

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Saturday, 5.21: Drywalling 101, not for the faint of heart.

We did things out of order a bit… Because the soffit and therefore, drywall, was kind of a last minute decision. With the craziness of summer schedules upon us, we took a pause on the drywall, so we could take advantage of the kind offer from another set of friends to install the open shelving brackets with us. We didn’t want to venture into that one alone, because we wanted to make sure we were doing this perfectly so the shelving would hold all of the weight we planned to put on it, and then some. Who better than to assist with this project than my friend Stasi, from the previous post, who works for the Army Core of Engineers and her husband, Adam, a physics teacher. Check and check. Bonus, my mom, who is a recently retired physics teacher as well, was on hand to not only watch the kiddos but to lend her expertise… and talk me down off the ledge when I was getting nervous about amount of weight that would go on the shelves.

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Saturday, 5.21: Initial install of brackets for shelving.

There was a lot of math involved, weighing our dinnerware to come up with an estimate for the amount of weight that would be sitting on each shelf, plus estimates of the shelves themselves. We had weight limits for each of the brackets, so we were able to figure out the minimum number of brackets needed, and then we added more just to be safe. We marked out the options for bracket placement with tape, making sure that every option had the brackets going into the studs. Once we landed on a layout, we opted to use screws meant for installing cabinetry, rather than the screws that came with the brackets, just to make sure that they were extra secure. One note: The shelves are pieces of reclaimed wood from an old brownstone in Lincoln Park, so they’re not completely level in all places. We used a level but ultimately eye-balled it.

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Saturday, 5.21: Shelving dry fit installation + unfinished drywall.

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Still Saturday, 5.21: Get by with a little help from our friends…

With the brackets in place on the walls, we took the shelving down again, to be screwed into the brackets a few days later. Back to the Everest of the project: drywall.

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Sunday, 5.22: Mud, wait for it to dry, sand it down, repeat.

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Monday, 5.23: Mudding and sanding. Ensemble on fleek.

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Monday, 5.23: Drywall dust is no joke.

I’m a pretty clean/organized person, so you can only imagine how I felt about the effing dust from all of the drywall sanding. As if drywall mudding and sanding isn’t tedious enough, you get the added bonus of dust that never ends.

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Monday, 5.23: Finally time to touch up the brackets and paint the wall.

I’ll get into this more on Friday’s post this week, where I’ll talk about this week’s Friday Fave, gold spray paint. But, note the brackets have paint smudges around them on the walls. Installing the brackets to the wall and then drywalling around them caused the brackets to get scuffed up a bit. I could have sprayed a little paint into a lid and touched them up with a small brush, but instead, Adam gave me the idea to just spray the brackets right there on the wall. I just had to angle it upward to make sure I didn’t inadvertently spray the counter. Easy Peasy.

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Tuesday, 5.24: Shelves secured to brackets and organization started.

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Open shelving fully stocked with our most used dinnerware and a few sentimental keepsakes.

And DONE! Shelf styling complete and fully functional. We’ve had it up and running for about 3 weeks and it has been so wonderful! A few observations on the switch to open shelving from wall-o-cabinets:

  • It has really opened up the room and added character and charm, which I love.
  • We adore our dinnerware so having it out on display makes me happy.
  • The shelving is actually far more functional than the cabinetry in that space and we have more things out than we did before, rather than keeping some items in a closet for parties only.
  • When friends are over, they don’t have to ask where they can find a glass because it’s just right there.
  • I feel like this has helped the space to feel less dated from the paneled cabinetry and there’s even an old farmhouse vibe that feels fresh.

New switches/outlets and covers are on the list along with some details on the other side of the kitchen. Until we venture into a major kitchen overhaul, this has made all the difference and we couldn’t be happier or more proud of the finished product.

Upcoming posts on this project… the brackets, reclaimed wood shelving, styling the shelves and future kitchen style tweaks.

xoxo

on rape culture & parenting

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably read some of the think pieces about the recent sexual assault case involving a Stanford freshman athlete. I hope you’ve read his victim’s impact statement in its entirety. If you haven’t, please take the time to do so – it’s moving, gut wrenching and perspective changing. I am now joining the cacophony of angry voices. I can’t keep my thoughts to myself with this one, though it’s not exactly “on brand” for my fledgling lifestyle blog.

My heart is racing right now, as I write. Partly because I’m so angry at the system that has failed in stopping our society’s metastatic rape culture, yet again. And partly because this hits close to home for me. Though my story is nowhere near as jarring as this, I have my own history with sexual assault. It took me years to even acknowledge it and understand it and honestly, I still grapple with it to this day… more than 15 years later.

Thank GOD I wasn’t found behind a dumpster, unconscious and barely clothed like this young woman. That, I cannot begin to comprehend. What I do know all too well, is that rape culture is something that needs to be addressed and NOT the “drinking culture” that Brock Allen Turner, his attorney and his father have all emphasized. Let’s not forget the judge who handed down a laughable and infuriating sentence of 6 months in a county jail, as opposed to the 6 years in a state prison that the prosecution was asking for. To be clear, Brock Allen Turner was convicted on THREE FELONIES, by 12 unanimous jurors. He was stopped in the act by two passersby, who chased him when he ran and held him down until authorities arrived. It doesn’t get any more red-handed than this. Yet, here we are with the old boys club banding together, protecting him from the consequences. Not only that, but he doesn’t even have to acknowledge what he did. This is the part that infuriates me the most, the utter lack of accountability. The “drinking culture” and “sexual promiscuity” clearly lead to this misunderstanding and it certainly wasn’t the rape of a woman who was unable to give consent. Sorry for the inconvenience, Brock; our mistake.

Rape culture might seem like a crass term or even something you may not have heard before, but it’s a very real part of our society and I am one of many women who can speak to this personally. So let’s talk about it.

Rape is not limited to the violent, back alley experiences that we are all familiar with from TV and film.

“Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration, perpetrated against a person without that person’s consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or against a person who is incapable of giving valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, has an intellectual disability or below the legal age of consent. The term rape is sometimes used interchangeably with the term sexual assault.”

Wikipedia

Rape culture is the normalization of these actions. They are normalized every day through advertising, TV, movies, music {hello Blurred Lines}, jokes, even laws and more. It’s the sexual objectification that is rampant in our society, the trivialization of sexual assault and the impact on its victims, the glamorization of sexual violence and sexual coercion. It all seems so normal because we’re bombarded with this influence daily. It’s just a fact of life, right?

“Rape culture is 1 in 6 women being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Rape culture is not even talking about the reality that many women are sexually assaulted multiple times in their lives. Rape culture is the way in which the constant threat of sexual assault affects women’s daily movements. Rape culture is telling girls and women to be careful about what you wear, how you wear it, how you carry yourself, where you walk, when you walk there, with whom you walk, whom you trust, what you do, where you do it, with whom you do it, what you drink, how much you drink, whether you make eye contact, if you’re alone, if you’re with a stranger, if you’re in a group, if you’re in a group of strangers, if it’s dark, if the area is unfamiliar, if you’re carrying something, how you carry it, what kind of shoes you’re wearing in case you have to run, what kind of purse you carry, what jewelry you wear, what time it is, what street it is, what environment it is, how many people you sleep with, what kind of people you sleep with, who your friends are, to whom you give your number, who’s around when the delivery guy comes, to get an apartment where you can see who’s at the door before they can see you, to check before you open the door to the delivery guy, to own a dog or a dog-sound-making machine, to get a roommate, to take self-defense, to always be alert always pay attention always watch your back always be aware of your surroundings and never let your guard down for a moment lest you be sexually assaulted and if you are and didn’t follow all the rules it’s your fault.”

Shakesville

I couldn’t relate to the above statement more and these are all lessons I was taught at a relatively early age. In fact, the “it’s your fault” piece of this statement hits a special kind of nerve for me, as it’s something that I still have trouble shaking. It was my fault. I put myself in the position so it’s on me. But why isn’t it on him? What are boys taught when the emphasis is put on girls to mind their p’s and q’s?

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As a mother to two boys, this is something I’ve thought about a lot before now. I feel a strong sense of responsibility to raise boys and men who do not filter into this cultural disgrace. I think about how I’ll teach them and what I’ll tell them. Do I tell them of my own experiences to help make it real for them? I’m not sure. But I do think this type of education needs to be addressed proactively and directly. The rape culture in our society is much too strong of an epidemic to just assume that raising good kids will be enough for them to not pick up on the social cues that this culture has fueled.

I think this starts at a young age. My boys are 4 and 18 months, but this is in the back of my mind, particularly when the 4 year old is asking for something he wants. Usually he demands something and I tell him no, so he’ll ask politely, but the answer is still no, then he gets more demanding and goes off the deep end. I know this is typical toddler and little kid stuff, but if he learns at 4 that this is how you get what you want, then who’s to say that this won’t turn into a behavior that he carries into his teenage years and adulthood? If you put enough pressure on, eventually you’ll get what you want. You can see how this mentality could be a slippery slope in relation to sexual consent.

There’s a lot to unpack about Brock Allen Turner’s father, Dan Turner’s statement to the court. Read the complete statement here.

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Excerpt from letter written by Dan Turner. Via.

Ultimately, we are looking at an excellent example of how rape culture is perpetuated by parents. Parents who are no doubt, well-meaning and just want to fight for their child’s best interest. However, is it really the best thing for anyone to have people who don’t accept responsibility for their actions? People who don’t admit fault? People who sweep under the rug, explain away, water down and spin their own choices, actions and behaviors so that they are not expected to hold accountability? The verdicts didn’t break and shatter your son and family, Mr. Turner; your son’s “20 minutes of action” did that.

Several people I know and care for have a negative connotation with the word feminism, because I think they don’t fully understand the meaning of the word. But I think it applies here in a way that is tough to dispute. Among other women’s issues, to be a feminist means to support the protection of women and girls against sexual assault, harassment and domestic violence. I want my boys to be feminists. To speak up and be part of the change. I’ve said this before in a previous post about another heated subject, but I’ll say it again: I want my sons to fight for causes that aren’t necessarily their own. This isn’t just a women’s issue, but it’s an issue for all of us. For every mother, sister, daughter, wife and friend, it’s our responsibility to do better.

I don’t know her name, but to the brave young woman who fought for justice: You have been that lighthouse just standing there shining and a great many of us have been moved. I hope that your light is the one to ignite a blaze that will lead to change.

 

Good Reads:

I Blame Brock Allen Turner’s Father

25 Everyday Examples of Rape Culture

 

the snowball effect: one week kitchen makeover

Have you ever started a project that seems relatively simple and then it takes on a life of its own and turns into something completely different, entirely? That has definitely been me this week. On more than one occasion every day since Monday, I have said, out loud, “What the hell did I get us into?” And my new favorite, “What kind of fresh hell is happening in our kitchen?”

When we first moved into our house, the only thing that we didn’t touch with paint was the kitchen because we just weren’t sure what to do with it. We I really have never liked our cabinets. The word hate would probably be appropriate. It’s some kind of paneling from the 60’s that was painted and glazed with an antiqued vibe. The paint and glaze wouldn’t have been my choice regardless, but on this paneled cabinetry it just isn’t working for me. A particular pebble in my shoe has been this wall of cabinetry. We definitely don’t need quite this much storage, considering everything on the other half of the kitchen and it’s all of that terrible paneling right at eye level.

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60’s era paneled cabinetry, reimagined with glaze. Also, note the charming shade of olive and it’s patchy paint job near the ceiling. Perfect world, I’d be tearing most of this wall down to create a bigger opening into the dining room.

I’ve been daydreaming of a massive kitchen overhaul since we moved into our house five years ago, but that’s definitely not in the cards. After completing our mudroom project this past fall, the contrast between the kitchen and the mudroom, as well as the rest of the house, for that matter, is even more pronounced. Thus, I wanted to come up with a DIY fix that would be a good placeholder until we can do a full kitchen reno.

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The daydream: future kitchen inspiration. Via.

Ideas we tossed around:

  • Painting the cabinetry. While this seemed like a viable option for a hot minute, ultimately painting doesn’t change the paneling of the cabinets and would be a considerable amount of effort considering the amount of cabinetry we have. NEXT.
  • Refacing the cabinets. Apparently our 60’s situation comes with weird sizes so this would be a quite costly, custom job.
  •  Painting the walls regardless of the cabinetry decision. Because, that shade of olive.

We decided last weekend that we were going to paint the walls white and then take it from there. So we bought a couple of gallons of Simply White, by Benjamin Moore, because I felt that shade of white would be a good middle ground with the warm tone of the cabinetry and the more crisp look that I’d prefer. We didn’t want a stark white, because I didn’t want to pick a shade too bright that would make the cabinets stick out even more. The goal is to make them fade away.

Monday morning, I apparently had too much coffee because I must have thought to myself, “Hey! I don’t have childcare today, my four year old is under the weather and there’s a mountain of laundry to tackle, so obviously I should start painting the kitchen!”

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Our kitchen in all it’s olive green glory.

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After: light and bright!

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When your kiddo wants to help you paint, but you don’t want to pause to get him appropriate painting attire. And then he asked why I wasn’t taking my shirt off to paint. #motheroftheyear

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This is the moment when my coffee buzz wore off and I realized what I had gotten myself into. That and the baby woke up from his nap so that made things interesting!

So, you would have thought that I would have learned my lesson and quit while I was ahead. Painting that entire kitchen in 1 day, without childcare was quite the feat in and of itself. And I even responded to emails and did a little work on breaks from painting! I must have been cocky after all of that accomplishment in one day. But it dawned on me. We didn’t need to repaint the cabinets, because we didn’t really need them. We need open shelving.

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I somehow convinced my sweet sweet husband that we needed to remove the uppers on this wall and replace with two large pieces of reclaimed wood for open shelving. I then went shopping for said reclaimed wood with one of my besties, who further solidified this plan in my head!

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Stasi talking to Todd at Reclaimed Wood Chicago about a few particulars with the two pieces we selected.

So we were on our way to our scheduled DIY open shelving install date of this Saturday, yes 5 days after I painted the kitchen. I have my list of things to do before Stasi and her husband come over to help us with the install: patch the wall after the cabinets have all been removed; prime and paint; sand the wood and seal with polyurethane. Manageable with a few late nights this week after the kiddos go to bed.

And then I got this text…

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So now we’re entering into serious kitchen overhaul territory. I’ve read about soffit removal and I know about the insane undertaking that it is, but he’s right. Removing the soffit would make a huge difference. So we checked it out to see if there was any duct work lurking behind the soffit and to our chagrin and excitement, no obvious or major detractors. With some encouragement from friends and neighbors and A LOT of help and pep talking, it looks like this soffit is coming down.

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I knew it was a lot to take on in a short amount of time, but our summer weekends are already completely full between now and late July and I love a project. There’s something kind of cathartic about this kind of project for me, so I’m not as crazy as people think I am. I actually enjoy it! But seriously, this all started because I wanted to paint the kitchen and now here we are. Please send wine.

xoxo