Kiss5Tigers

The 5 Tigers represent the big things in life. This blog is about facing them.


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Take Up Space

I found this on reddit. I don’t know who the artist is. If you know, please tell me so I can give them credit.
The artist’s name is Kat Kissick, and here is a link to the image, which is for sale:
https://www.etsy.com/katkissickart/listing/695095597/take-up-space-9×12-digital-print-of-a?utm_campaign=Share&utm_medium=social_organic&utm_source=MSMT&utm_term=so.smt&share_time=1554061508000&fbclid=IwAR15SEvkuMt83bIvgs0bg97oYTmdsyh_YKyPwap8RMrPRgJtwpdMaOUt4Hw

I found this image on Facebook and traced it to reddit, but I don’t know where it was posted originally.

This picture gives me strong emotions, both good and bad.

I am a plus-sized woman. I am actually what I would call fat. And for the most part, I’m okay with it. I know what I need to do to lose weight and I don’t do it. One day I will, but for now, not. But every now and then, I think this is not good.

Now I’m generally in favor of women taking up space. I believe part of the cult of thinness is about women being as close to invisible as possible. Standards of beauty for women become ever nearer to looking like a 9 year old with breast implants. We are infantilized and diminished.

And we buy into it. We police ourselves. I have had more women comment on my, ahem, lack of personal grooming of the lady parts, than I have men. Or as a friend of mine says, “Once you get naked with a guy, he has pretty much decided that what you got, he’s willing to work with.” Women are more, well, they put you down about it.

Taking up space is one way to equalize the playing field. Men take up space. They stand tall, they gesture large, they sit in a chair with arms and legs akimbo. They have no problem owning their space. Women, if we’re ladylike, sit with our legs together and tucked under the chair. We don’t make big gestures, we cover our mouths when we laugh. We try very hard not to take up space. If we want to be treated as equals, we need to learn to act like it.

I”m also down with the body positive aspect of this. Have a body. Have a big body. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed. Be proud and carry yourself well and dress beautifully. Go skyclad. You carry the universe within you.

There is a goddess perspective in the image. Much like Venus of Willendorf, this is a good sized mother goddess. She is free and dancing and all of creation is within her. She is mother nature for the cosmos. She has literally taken space up into her body.

But taking up space. That is exactly the point at which I become uncomfortable with my size. I don’t fit comfortably in airplane seats. I love live theater and my body crowds the people around me. My size is rude. I am not a rude person, but I infringe on other folks’ personal space, and that is impolite. It makes other people uncomfortable, and that makes me uncomfortable.

Fat is a feminist issue, as Susie Orbach has observed. Body size is nobody’s business. But is there a limit? At what point am I taking up more than my fair share of space? When am I eating more than my portion of food? And how much of this is a uniquely American concern?

Size is political. What does my size say about my politics?

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Peggy McIntosh’s Invisible Knapsack

I am doing some work on internalized racism. As a white person, I benefit from a system that keeps other people downtrodden. I just never thought of things that are true for people of color (POC).

I feel weird talking about white privilege because I am not a privileged person per se. I am female, middle aged, working class to poor, divorced, no college degree, etc. I don’t see myself having a lot of opportunities so I struggle with the idea that I am privileged.

But I am.

I couldn’t have listed the ways, but a woman named Peggy McIntosh could and did. She listed 50 ways she is privileged by skin color.

Some of them seem a little silly, like being able to slap on a skin toned bandaid and having it more or less match your skin tone. Nowadays that people choose Smurf bandaids or emoji ones, blending into the skin doesn’t seem like that big a deal. But it’s like medicine assuming the male body is the standard, first aid assumes caucasian skin is the standard.

Make up is another similar situation. You’d think manufacturers just realized people come in darker skin tones. LA Girl had the darkest tones I could find in a cursory search. Most companies had a wide range of paler tones with a few mid-range browns. But I have seen some gorgeous very dark skin on ladies and they deserve to have colors that suit them as much as I do. Make up is a political issue.

I can also be assured that there will be a crayon in my skin color. Crayola used to call it Flesh but in the 60’s they renamed it Peach. In the white enclave where I grew up, I wondered why they didn’t call it skin color. But just like we learned some people have orange hair (hi, redheads), we learned that some people have brown skin. Then we played with a whole range from mahogany to sepia. We called them black people but we didn’t use actual black to color them, just like we were called white people we didn’t use actual white. Decades later Crayola would release collections of skin toned crayons for use in classrooms.

But there were other more serious benefits of whiteness in the list as well. Things like, if you feel you are not respected as a leader, you don’t have to question whether skin color has anything to do with it. I might question if it’s because I’m a woman, but I know truthfully it’s because I’m not in the habit of leading. I don’t have to think about whether it’s because I’m the wrong color.

I don’t have to teach my child about systemic racism because it impacts her physical safety. She has issues with being safe so that I’ve bought her a taser, but that has more to do with being female and naive than any other reason. I might have to teach her that young men have agendas they don’t disclose, but I don’t want to teach her that all men are jerks. Black parents pretty much do need to teach their children that all cops are jerks. Not because individual police officers are never racially sensitive, but because in a pinch, enough cops will react more strongly to a POC than to a white person. Enough to be deadly. Just watch the news. (Aside: A policeman is not your friend, he is there to enforce laws; it happens that many of our laws are unfairly slanted against people of color, drug possession laws for example; therefore a cop doing his job is enforcing racist ideals.)

One that really struck home for me is, as a white person I can expect to be able to arrange my life so that I interact almost exclusively with other white people. My first thought is, why would I do that? But truly I have done it without trying. My roommates are white. My daughter is white. I went to a gas station today, staff was white. A few of the customers were hispanic but most were white. I went to my support group, facilitator is Bengali (she has told me this), but the group was white. Called my doctor’s office, receptionist I spoke to is white. Doctor is from India but I didn’t need to speak to him personally. Went to a book store, the barista was black, one customer was Asian, but pretty much it was a bastion of whiteness. I don’t even think the books were penned by POC. The magazine section had mostly white faces, and I don’t think I saw an issue of Ebony or Jet. I think I have one black friend right now, three Asian, and one latinx. I am in a white ghetto even though Dallas is a multicultural city.

How can I expand my contact with other races and ethnicities? I don’t feel like I can just suddenly start showing up at events. How do I express interest without being a mere tourist, a consumer of culture? I went to a few powwows with a friend of mine years ago and I’d love to go again, but I am not first nations myself. I don’t feel like I can just barge in. I worry about being a weeaboo, that is, a Japanese wannabe. I love so much about their culture and it is not mine. How does that even work? I mean, I’m not French but if I followed French culture nobody would bat an eye. Someday I will go to Japan, but for now I just read and study the language. I figure if I go there, I owe them the courtesy of knowing some words. I may be bad at it, but I tried. This weekend I’ll go to North Texas Irish Festival. There probably won’t be many POC there. I’m not avoiding them but I won’t organically just run into them.

So I am working this out, one way or another. I want to be better than I am. Not that I’m bad, but there’s always room for improvement. Unpacking this knapsack is hard, but carrying the weight of it is killing me. Got to make the effort. I thought we were past a lot of racism, but the more I look around, the more I see we are not.


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Working It Out

I am signed up with a group called Succulent Wild World, which is the brainchild of an author called SARK. She teaches about the Inner Wise Self, which many people think of as their Higher Power but for me it is Intuition. One of the activities for this month is to write a letter from your Inner Wise Self and share it. So here I am, sharing.

One piece of backstory so this maybe makes more sense: my parents died when I was 19. My mom had cancer, my dad had a heart attack a month later, and they had been divorced for 7 years at that point. I used to say, “The first thing they do together in years, and I can’t do it with them.”

Here is the letter:

Dear Alive Allison,

You are here and alive. You did not die with the others, stop acting like you did. You deserve to have a life and to live it fully. You are needed just as you are.

Free yourself from fear of failure and survivor’s guilt. You did not kill your parents. Their deaths were the logical conclusions of their lives. It was about them, not you. It wasn’t done to hurt you. It’s normal to outlive your parents.

So take off the shroud and take up your superhero cape. Fly away into love and adventure. Life is available to you, make it a good one.

Now I’m old, it’s been 35 years since they passed. I have done a LOT of grieving and I don’t really need to be overly gentle with myself at this point. I am no longer sad in a daily way that I lost them. It’s still sad, but there is distance from the pain, it’s not visceral any more.

I used to compare it to losing a tooth. Do you remember losing your teeth as a child? At first there is a hole and it is tender and you keep poking it with your tongue even though it feels weird. Then the skin toughens up and you can poke it without getting that tingle. Eventually another tooth takes up the space, and it’s different but it becomes normal. Now obviously with a death you don’t just replace the person you lost, but life has a way of filling in the gap until it isn’t noticeable on a regular basis. If you think of it, you notice it; but you are no longer thinking of it constantly.

So this is the theme for me this week: move past my parents’ deaths. It happened. It’s sad that it happened when I was so young. And yet, I seem to have let it prevent me from doing some things. I wonder if it had anything to do with me breaking up with so many serious boyfriends, though I also wonder if that is a result of being bipolar. I wonder how much of my settling for jobs rather than pursuing a career is out of fear of taking the risks that lead to success.

Fear of taking risks. I heard of a friend’s brother who won $8000 at a casino and lost it all. I though, I’d never lose that much money because when I got to that amount, I’d walk away. Truthfully, I’d never get to that amount, because I wouldn’t bet the amount of money it takes to get there, and I’d probably walk away happily with $100. I wouldn’t take the risk. You don’t win big without betting big, and I need to learn to bet bigger.

Now obviously this is a calculated risk. I can’t afford to lose $8000 so that kind of risk is not for me. However, I can tolerate a little rejection, so taking the risk of, say, showing my art might be reasonable. I can live with not everybody liking my work, and I can even live with the idea that some of my art is just plain bad. I am still learning.

All of which is to say, I need to stop letting fear stop me from doing things I want to do. I may not have a safety net any longer — really, who does at 54? — but I can’t spend the rest of my life standing on the ledge. Sometime I have to grab the trapeze and fly.


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So You Wanna Help

As we approach the end of Hurricane Florence, we are going to have to deal with the aftermath.  That means damaged houses, lost jobs, community clean up, and displaced individuals, among other issues.  People will want to help.  Here are a few thoughts about that.

Don’t give used stuff.  People don’t want your old clothes, and someone has to wash, bleach, iron, sort and transport that stuff.  It’s not free by the time it’s all done.  And it’s not uncommon for bugs to become an issue while it’s being stored.  Give money instead.  That way agencies can buy things that are needed based on demand.

Don’t donate canned goods.  They also have to be sorted, packed, shipped, unpacked and distributed.  I’m told a 69 cent can of beans can end up costing $3.00 by the time all that is done.  Plus it takes manpower that might be better spent on other tasks, like debris removal.  If you want to run a can drive, please give the bounty to a local food pantry where it can do the most good.

Do give money.  First of all it allows agencies to buy what they really need.  The American Red Cross might supply beds to displaced survivors but they need cots and blankets to do that, which wear out over time and need to be replaced.  Second, many agencies give out gift cards or pay utility bills, which are obviously much easier to do with cash.

Do give blood.  Not only is there likely to be an increased need, but blood drives in the affected areas have been cancelled so supplies may be down throughout the region.  If you can’t afford a cash donation, giving blood is a good move.

Now maybe you’ve decided to give up this morning’s latte to help disaster victims, but what can you do with that $5.00?  You’ve heard all the stories about charitable organizations where 90% of the money goes to internal expenses like executive salaries.  If you decided to help, no doubt you want the most of your money to go to the disaster.  A good site to check out agencies is National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster .  Their landing page is all about helping Florence victims.  Another good list of options is this one from Fast Company.  Notice the emphasis on giving money or time.

All of which is to say, please give but be smart about it.  Give what people need and choose responsible organizations.  Be wise and be kind.  Your heart will be happier.


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The Lucky Iron Fish

This is very cool.

Low iron is a very real health problem. And it’s systemic, by which I mean it affects the entire system of the body. It’s not like a broken bone where one part doesn’t function well, it actually causes problems throughout a body.

Here in the US, doctors used to prescribe “nail tea” to people with anemia. You took a couple of iron nails, boiled them in water for several minutes, and drank it down. The water, not the nails.

Cast iron cookware is another solution, since microscopic bits of iron get mixed into anything cooked in the pan.

This is a lovely, elegant, culturally sensitive to a very real health problem.

Check out the video.

Oh, and after I posted this link in social media, I found out that a friend of mine is the admin for their main American office. I knew what she was doing, I just didn’t know for whom.

Lucky Iron Fish


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Demand Better Media in 2015 — The Representation Project

Here’s what I really love about these folks:

Yes they are focused on women first HOWEVER they also talk about how gender stereotypes affect men. They also mention transgender, and considering that at this time that is still a very small number of people out of total population, even a mention is huge.

Popular media is geared toward a predominantly male, predominantly white audience, and I believe the age bracket is 16 to 35 but I may mis-remember. Any time we tell stories or include fully developed characters who are outside that target audience, we are expanding the way viewers understand human beings to be. More air time for fully realized portrayals of women, gays, POC, transgendered, children (think of all the smart-ass kids you see on Nick, for example), elderly or even middle aged, disabled, and, well, those of us who don’t fit this year’s image of what is beautiful — when you show those people as complete characters, not just a boob joke or a wheel chair joke, then you open up all kinds of possibilities.

So check this group out:

Their site:
http://therepresentationproject.org/demand-better-media-in-2015/

YouTube video:

If this man can overcome his issues, I can overcome mine

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This is Arthur. He was doing the right thing, and it basically kicked his ass. So he got his determination together and kicked life right back. I cried for him, and I’m not a weepy person. Watch to the end, and look how happy he has become!