Opening the box of books!

Posted: March 11, 2020 in Uncategorized

I was so excited when I finally got my copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul – Believe in Miracles. In fact, the box sat unopened for days because I didn’t want to open it alone (that’s just sad!) and I thought it would be good to video and start the promotion of it. My dear friend Lori did the video and you know what? It’s not an easy thing to do. None of it was rehearsed as I want to have some sense of reality, so to speak.

But unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t like the video, so I’ll post a picture from it.

I’ve been using this picture because I don’t hate it.

Then a funny thing happened – I wrote a piece for a feminist magazine on why women inmates must be protected from male predators. I mean, talk about stating the obvious, but we are talking about the criminal justice system.

We are talking about being PC and not rocking the boat and upsetting anyone.

We are talking about feelings being more important than the safety and well-being of women.

Anyway, it was a lot of work and I learned how to research and compose my writing so that it communicated well, made my point, and opened up the conversation.

Well…the platform (Medium) that it was published on, banned the editor of the publication. In just one second, “Poof!” it was as if she never existed with no reason given.

Just…gone.

This was quite an eye-opener for me. I realized that as long as I publish on someone else’s platform (Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc.) I am giving up the control of my writing. It means I have to follow their rules and not write about important things – feminism, gay rights, trans rights, and God forbid if you have any type of a conservative point of view.

Trust me, it’s no longer tolerated.

It was just the push I needed to get my ass back in gear and resurrect my Patreon account and publish what I want, when I want, and not have to worry about being censored or banned.

My current target for this month is to get an additional 20 patrons and start to build a platform that will not only help me financially to write more, but to not have to worry about being PC or whatever word we are using to call censorship.

We live in a world now that does not like free speech and I’m just not going to accept that. I refuse to be careful about what I say if I feel it is the truth. We’ve lost the idea of having civil conversations and working towards greater understanding and now just seem to demand agreement, no matter the cost.

If you are able to pitch in $2.00 per month, that will help me keep up the work I started and continue to work on Human Rights without the fear of not only being censored, but being financially forced to back down.

https://www.patreon.com/SusanLewis

You would think, wouldn’t you, that speaking up for inmates safety would not only be welcomed with open arms, but that it would be supported.

Right?

Yeah, that’s what I used to think until recently.

Now it’s about saying and agreeing to what the “Thought Police” say you should.

I’m not buying it, so thank you for your help and support.

Love you, mean it!

They arrived.

The books.

The books from “Chicken Soup for the Soul.”

I’m finally getting published in a major publication. I’m trying not to freak out but it’s a wonderful and surreal feeling.

I’ll be 65 this year and I started writing about 7 years ago so definitely am a late bloomer. Sometimes I think I could be the poster child for never giving up but that’s not quite true. I’ve given up too many times to count.

But it’s the ancient Chinese proverb that says “Fall down 8 times and get up 9.”

I haven’t opened the box yet because I’m going to do that with a friend. There is just something very sad about the idea of me doing this all by myself without somebody there. It’s too important to me. So instead of opening the box by myself, I had a drink and got a bit tipsy. I think I earned it, especially on a night where I have to go to work in the morning.

I’ll open the box later. I just can’t do it alone. I need someone there to cheer me on and tell me I did good.

Tomorrow morning I’ll get up early and start driving with Lyft. Then I’ll go to my full-time job. I do it so I make enough money to pay my bills and to be able to keep writing.

I wrote about my brother’s forgiveness in the upcoming book “Believe in Miracles.” It was definitely the most personal and gut-wrenching thing I have ever written. But I wrote it because, after his death many years ago I remembered my mom saying she never wanted him forgotten.

I carried her words with me for over 30 years before I could do something about it.

So now I’ve made sure that he won’t be forgotten.

It’s not about the recognition or the accomplishment of getting published. It’s about never forgetting about my dead brother. Now he won’t be.

From here on out the book will continue and the story will be told and if that’s all I ever accomplish with my writing career, it is more than enough for me.

Don’t give up. If you’re doing what you want to do and it’s hard, that’s OK. It’s hard for most of us. Keep going or get back up if you’ve fallen down and curled into a fetal position. I’ve been there. Just don’t stay there too long.

I love you Jeff and I love you Mom and I hope you’re happy with what I wrote.

**The book goes on sale on Feb 4th, 2020 so I’ll happily post the link when it’s live. Would love your feedback on the book.**

Actually, nothing. At least not at the time.

I barely knew who he was when that bullet slammed into him in 1968 while he stood on the second story balcony in Memphis. In fact, I don’t think I even knew he existed until it was on the news that night. I was 12 years old with more important things on my mind.

First and foremost, I was obsessed with a boy named Ted Ballard. I had been in love with him since I first saw him in 4th grade. We were the same age and in the same classes, year after year. There was a bunch of us that all went through the school system at the same time, so we knew each other because not only were we neighbors, we were all going to the same tiny school down the street.

It was the only one for miles. So, that’s where we went. We walked down the street, through a field, and then back onto another paved sidewalk. You followed that for a block, down a hill and there was the little school. It had a black top, a couple of buildings for our classes, a small playing field. It was fenced but not locked. We didn’t need locks in those days because everyone knew everybody. God help you if a neighbor saw you misbehaving; they would be on the phone to your mom and you knew you were in trouble before you even had time to close the front door when you got home.

Back then, neighbors watched out for each other and the children.

At that time, San Jose had just made it onto the Rand-McNally maps. When we had moved there from Fresno when I was 8, it literally was not on the map. My Dad had to figure it out as he moved us. You just headed towards San Francisco and tried to remember that little exit off 101 that would get you to that one-horse town called San Jose.

In 1968, Viet Nam was in our living room daily and very night. Every day we saw what was going on. We heard the bombings and the gun fire. We watched through our fingers as we covered our faces in hopes we didn’t see one of our own being blown to bits. We listened to the bull shit Lyndon Johnson said as he pushed and pushed and pushed for the war to continue.

The United States must not lose a war! Not now and not ever! To do so would hurt our pride and we never lose.

The Civil Rights movement was in full force. Again, I did not know who these people were and why they were so upset. There were marches and speeches and dogs attacking people, and fire hoses being used on them, but I was more concerned about what Ted was doing and what I should wear the next day to finally get him to see me and realize I was alive and perfect for him. I worked hard every night, trying to write the perfect love note to leave in his desk.

The notes only made it to my waste paper basket in tiny shreds in case one of my brothers found them. I would have died if they — or anyone — knew of my unrequited love.

(Years later, Ted finally noticed me as I was walking out of the bank. I didn’t know who he was. He was bald and apparently had not had an easy life, but that’s a story for another time).

By the time I was 16, I was a full-blown hippie. I had the hair and the look and I loved the idea of speaking out and going out of protest lines — even though my parents wouldn’t let me — I still loved the idea.

Feminism was arriving and the idea that I might actually have a choice about my life made me happy and scared and confused.

I mean, really, what the hell does a 16-year old know?

Absolutely nothing, but don’t tell them that. At that age, everything is possible.

I took a “Black History” class in High School and read books like “Soul on Ice” and had discussions about discrimination.

I had no idea. I had no clue that there were people out there that didn’t have the life I had. I just sort of assumed we all had it good. I learned that some people weren’t liked because of the color of their skin and some weren’t liked because of their gender.

I was not allowed to take auto mechanics simply because I was a girl. I had to take Home Economics (economics, my ass). I needed to learn how to cook and clean. I had to take typing (which, of course, now I’m really glad I did) and sit there, with my back straight and my hands posed “just exactly so” over the keyboard of the Royal typewriters, going clackity clack with 25 other girls. If you were going fast enough, the sound of the slamming back of the typewriter carriage to type the next line was almost poetic. Like a well -timed symphony.

Dr. King had only been killed about 2 years before I entered High School, but his influence was there. Us white kids comprised 99% of the attendance. Non-white kids were known — mostly Hispanic — to us and we all knew who the 2 or 3 black kids were.

We liked them well enough and they liked us. I wanted to ask them a million questions about their lives, but they weren’t dissimilar to mine.

Or so I thought at the time.

As I grew up and became an actual adult — which takes more time than I ever realized and I’m not fond of it — I started to walk in other people’s shoes. Some that had it better than I did, but mostly those that did not. Hookers, drug addicts, convicted felons, and the like.

I had to come face-to-face with my own prejudices that I didn’t know I had.

I often had large doses of humility when I would hear myself complain over the increased cost of Netflix while counseling a woman who had lost all her children to foster care. Yes, she had royally fucked up, but her heartbreak and wailing of the loss was often deafening. She couldn’t turn back the clock and she knew that. My job was to get her to see, with little baby steps, what she could do to turn her life around and get them back.

I had to swallow my pride and ask for help when I was just about to lose my house and end-up homeless. Fortunately the people that helped me, didn’t judge me.

I learned that if bad things could happen to me, who had it so much better than so many others, then maybe it wasn’t so much of a character flaw as it was just a difficult and almost impossible planet to survive on.

If it was hard for me, how hard must it be for the people that didn’t have the opportunities I had simply because of the color of their skin and/or where they were born?

I began to really look around me and see people everywhere, all with their fair shares of burdens and worries.

I began to feel disdain for those that had it so well and bragged about it. It wasn’t that I wanted what they had — no fucking way — but I wanted them to see how they could help, someone, anyone, and pay it forward.

I may not have much and I may have made huge mistakes in my life, but I began to feel compassion and empathy for those around me who always carried on and daily fought the good fight.

Through the internet, I began to learn more and more about Dr. King. I re-read some of the literature about the civil rights movement that I had smugly tossed aside in High School.

Forty years later, I grieved for the loss of him.

Forty years later, I admired his strength, compassion, intelligence, and perseverance.

Forty years later, I wished for his return.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” ~ MLK

I may not be able to change the world today or tomorrow or ever, but what I can do is continue to work for justice in my home, my work, my neighborhood and when I vote.

I can speak out more and write more and learn more.

I can honor Dr. King for the work he did by learning more about the suffering that others have that I never did and work to help them lift themselves up.

It’s the least that I can do.

Photo by Elyssa Fahndrich on Unsplash

Don’t Be You

Posted: November 28, 2019 in Self-esteem, self-respect
Tags: , ,

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

I was really surprised when my friend Amy invited me over to meet someone, a blind date. I dreaded that more than getting poked in the eye with a hot poker. But I acquiesced because I hadn’t seen her in a long time and I was also out of food. I didn’t have money to go food shopping and I was hungry. I wasn’t going to get paid for another three days. I had enough money in my account for gas to get to and from work, so I agreed to come over even though I knew it was to meet some guy that was recently widowed.

“You know it’s not a good idea to set him up with anyone right?” I asked her. “It’s probably too soon for him.”

She is the first person to tell you how happily married she is whether you asked or not. She’s even more assertive about this point if you’re single. She must have some sort of an odd genetic need to make sure all her single friends got married. It didn’t matter that I had been divorced a couple of times and wasn’t interested in dating, let alone marriage. She had made up her mind that this needed to happen.

I figured it would be fine and she was a great cook and I really liked her husband. He’s a very sweet and someone I respected as someone who had overcome great obstacles growing up. He was a successful business owner and obviously adored Amy. This was each their third marriage so they seemed to be a good match. I figured since she had threaten to kill him rather than divorce him, he went along with whatever she said. It wasn’t any of my business but I found her threat of death something I had never considered as a foundation for a relationship.

Maybe she was onto something.

She told me to dress very casually, which is sort of pointless since that’s the only way I dress. Having given up high heels recently because I could no longer wear them, all I wore was flats and in my mind and my fashion sense, anything that goes with flats is casual. That to me was the hardest part of growing older. It wasn’t the menopause or the hot flashes or the sudden belly I had when I always had a flat one. No it was an inability to wear high heels without wanting to scream 30 minutes later. I had ruined my feet after decades of wearing them and I miss them. I did agree to wear clean clothes and put on some makeup and maybe run a comb through my hair. I vowed I would put a bra on even though it was Saturday night which I usually spent with my dog, in my pajamas while watching Netflix and drinking Amaretto.

She gave a nervous laugh as if she wasn’t sure if I was kidding or not and I actually wasn’t sure if I was either.

I did put on a bra with blouse, clean jeans and a pair of my black flats. I did run a comb through my hair and managed to put on some mascara and lipstick.

I was as ready as I would ever be to forage out of my house on a weekend.

I wasn’t particularly nervous that night as I drove over. My biggest concern was where to park because they lived on a street that was packed with cars for several blocks. I knew if the husband’s truck wasn’t parked in the driveway I could pull up behind him.

But if the driveway was open it had to stay that way for when he got home. I understood. A man puts in his 18 hours a day and the least he can ask for is to park his own damn driveway and not have to park blocks away where his truck could get broken into and his tools stolen.

I pulled up and saw the bright red truck in the driveway and for a moment my life was happy and made sense. The planets had aligned and I arrived on time with a place to park and not having to walk six blocks and then forgetting where I parked my car.

I rang the doorbell and Amy answered. She gave me a great big hug. I brought a bottle of wine even though they didn’t drink. I had no idea what kind of wine I got but it was expensive so I figured it would taste good and I would drink most of it. A bit selfish on my part, but I had gotten dressed and driven across town, so I felt fine about paying for it. It had been a long week and I was about to be fed and maybe meet someone who didn’t annoy me.

Mike, the man I was to meet, wasn’t there yet. I almost felt sorry for him even before meeting him because I felt this could be the scenario of a lamb being led to the slaughter.

Amy pulled me into the kitchen after putting my coat and purse away and we chatted a bit. Then she said “There’s something I have to tell you and since we’re good friends I’m sure it will be okay.”

I didn’t like the sound of her voice and all of a sudden there’s a very serious vibe in the kitchen and it was making me nervous.

“What?” I asked. “Is there something in my teeth? Is there snot coming out of my nose…”

“No it’s just a little thing that I wanted to say and I’m sure you’ll get what I’m saying.”

I put my glass of wine down on the counter and leaned against it, braced for God knows what.

“Okay,” I said. “What is it?”

“Well,” she said and put down the knife she was using to cut to the tomatoes for the salad and turned to me.

I felt myself stiffen and wanting more wine.

“I just need you to not be you.”

I laughed and actually snorted.

“No, really what is it you wanted to say to me?” I asked.

She had a blank look on her face and it suddenly hit me that that was what she meant.

She wasn’t kidding.

“What the fuck are you talking about, Amy? What do you mean ‘Don’t be me.’ Who am I supposed to be? What’s wrong with me? What the hell are you talking about?”

I felt my hackles rise. I could see she was serious. I know I have pretty thick skin but this cut deeply and quickly.

“See, I don’t want you to get upset or offended. It’s not like it sounds. I just mean…well… you know maybe not be so…I don’t know…loud?”

I raised my voice and shouted “YOU MEAN LIKE THIS? SURE I PROMISE NOT TO TALK LIKE THIS! I PROMISE NOT TO SHOUT AND YELL AND SCREAM!”

“No that’s not what I mean,” she said, “Just don’t be too demonstrative. You know how you’re always talking with your hands? Mike is a very soft-spoken man and very introverted…

“Hold on a second Amy,”I said. “You mean you want me to meet someone that is quiet and introverted and now you’re asking me to, what? Keep my opinions to myself? Smile and nod at everything he says? Tell you what; why don’t I just fucking sit on my hands and you can feed me through a gag or something. I’m sure David has some duct tape in his truck. You could use it to tape my mouth shut and put a little slit in in so I can eat.How does that sound?”

I was furious but hurt more than anything. Her words cut me but I did not want to show it though I think I pretty much failed at that. I picked up my wine glass and slurped it as loud as I could and then belched as loud as I could. I put it down on counter without breaking it.

Photo by Alfonso Scarpa on Unsplash

“Oh I bet I shouldn’t do shit like that, right?”

She said she was sorry and that I wasn’t understanding her but I knew that I was. I understood her perfectly.

I was too much me but the problem was that was never going to change. Actually, using the word problem isn’t correct. I should say the way I am is the way I am a little bit like Popeye “I yam what I yam.”

I know not everyone is everyone else’s cup of tea but I always assumed a friend liked me for who I was.

I left it at that because there was a knock at the door and Mike came in and we met. He was a very nice man but he didn’t have a chance with me because I was fuming and couldn’t wait to get out of there.

Part of me just wanted to get up and walk out but the food looked good and I didn’t want to be rude. I just figured I would bitch slap Amy later.

I left earlier than I had anticipated with only half a glass of wine. I was tempted to take the open bottle home with me but now I was just being petty. I said my goodbyes and left.

By the time I got home I was sobbing and my makeup was running down my face. It took me weeks to acknowledge how badly her words had hurt me and in hindsight, that was the end of our friendship.

I haven’t seen her since and I’ve never brought it up to her because there was nothing left to say. A “friend” who is telling you not to be you isn’t a friend.

A “friend” that is trying you to be who they want isn’t a friend. They are someone with a hidden agenda. You are a means to their end. They don’t have your best interest in mind; they have theirs.

In an odd way I was upset about being upset, if that makes sense. It was like I was that fat ugly girl with acne playing alone in the playground again. I couldn’t believe how quickly those feelings came smashing in and how hard it was to get rid of them. I was still that girl that didn’t fit in anywhere yet liked everybody. The neediness in me came back and the strong desire to be liked and admired which goes against everything I believe

I find that our wounds don’t so much heal as much as we think. I think we learn to live with them. Some of the wounds will dissipate a little (or a lot) and we can think the scars are gone, but the hurt is always there.

It still bugs me that she said what she said, and for months afterwards, I didn’t feel like myself. I felt fake and insincere because on some level, I felt what she had said had some truth to it.

It didn’t, but it threw me off for as long as I gave her words validity.

That was on me and therefore something I could change. I admit her words still sting, but now they motivate me to work hard of my sense of self-worth and value.

I don’t recommend learning your true value this way, but if there’s someone in your life who doesn’t like you just the way you are, cut your losses and run.

Photo by dylan nolte on Unsplash

 

Maybe there is hope for me.

My God, I’m getting published in Chicken Soup for the Soul. I thought I was a good writer most of the time. A decent writer that could spin a story and put together a sentence or two. My followers always kept me going up until recently. Finding out today that they are publishing my story in their next book made me feel like I’ve finally been pulled out of a really dark place that I knew I was in and was getting way too accustomed to it.

Call it whatever you want — I’m not a subscriber to most of the mental health chatter, bull shit, and self-diagnosis — but it’s been a long period of worry, anxiety and complete lack of joy or sunshine. On the outside, everything looked fine. I worked my 3 jobs as best as I could. Missing a day or two created more pressure on my shoulders, that were already weighed down with too much pressure, that I could barely move.

But move I did. Every day. All day. From one job to the next.

To create something that I loved, I would write. Becoming successful was vital but the more pressure I put on myself to do better, to be better, and to do more, the further down the rabbit hole I pushed myself.

I wrote to keep some semblance of sanity but then the pressure to write well and often turned my self-created solace into more anxiety, with a touch of self-loathing just for fun.

I knew if I read one more article about writing, I would explode. So I stayed away from my pad of paper and pen, stopped reading Medium and other blogs that I subscribe to, and just deleted any email to do anything with writing without reading it.

I’ve had become a bit of a hermit because every moment of every day had turned into how much money I still needed and didn’t have. Going out was not an option. The cost of housing and food and gas in Silicon Valley was pushing down on me and I didn’t see any way out. I couldn’t afford to go out, so I laid low. Really low. I stopped talking to most people, did my work, and would collapse on the bed as soon as I got home and managed to eat something for dinner.

It was the mental and physical exhaustion and numbness that made it almost impossible to think of anything to write. I didn’t want to work another moment after a 12 hour workday without any time off for weeks. I knew I needed to ease up, but it’s highly unlikely that my creditors would understand that I needed some time off and therefore couldn’t pay my bills.

Yeah….right…..that would be nice.

But then the email came this afternoon that they picked my story out of thousands to publish in their book in February.

I called my Mom and she cried.

I talked to my sister and she cried.

I cried from the relief and the ultimate pat on the back — Chicken Soup for the Soul picked me!

Me!

And oddly enough, just last night, I started to journal again. I wrote that I just need a bit of validation that I am good enough. Just a little something to get me to get back on it and stop whining.

And there it was.

I don’t have words of wisdom. The only thing I know is hard work and persistence and trying not to look back. That’s all I know. That’s the way I’ve always been.

Do your best.

Show up when you say you’re going to show up.

Do the work.

Fulfill your obligations.

Rinse and repeat.

My hope is that this gives me a launching pad to write well and more often. I’m excited to finally be included in a group of writers that I can talk with, share thoughts with, and maybe finally find a group that “gets” me and where I don’t feel like a 3rd wheel or the weirdo that writes and is broke.

A place where it’s OK to be me and know that I’m not the only writer out here, slugging it out and always alone.

Alone. That’s what gets me more than anything. No connection to another that finds who I am and what I do interesting.

I don’t want to be a stereotype or a cliche because I’m not.

We’re writers and we all need an acknowledgement, a sense of value and purpose.

Getting that email rekindled that purpose to write again. It’s exactly what I needed to get back on the saddle. It’s not in my nature to quit but sometimes you need to walk away in order to get perspective.

I think that’s something worth considering when you’re in a grind and nothing is working. Working harder isn’t always what’s needed.

Sometimes you need to just say “Fuck it” and go do something else.

I’ll be writing about this adventure as it progresses. Please follow this blog if you’d like to be notified as I post about it. I’d love to have you along for the journey.

The fat girl

Posted: August 12, 2019 in Self-esteem, self-respect
Tags: ,

Image by pixabay.com/users/pgbsimon

It was an incredibly hot day as we wandered around the Arts and Wine Festival in San Jose. The heat was unusual for us. Sure, we had a hot day here and there when it would get close to 100 degrees, but it would quickly cool down once the fog in San Francisco arrived. The fog was magical and cooling and made everything seem right with the world again.

I loved the fog and hated the heat, so it wasn’t a hard choice to leave my house without air conditioning and go with an acquaintance Casey to the festival. It’s not that I wanted to go, as I didn’t like her much, but anything would be better than sitting in front of two fans on my bed all day. That was a guaranteed recipe for an onslaught of apathy, despair, and just the general “My-life-sucks-and-I-hate-myself” mantra that is always so readily available, with or without my permission.

I met her there and was proud of myself for remembering to put on some sunscreen. I don’t usually wear it because I’m an odd person that actually thinks the sun is good for you, but I knew I’d probably be out in the sun longer than I wanted. I didn’t bother with a hat because I can only wear one for a few minutes before it starts to give me a headache.

I found her at the entrance. She lived much closer than I so did but didn’t want me to pick her up. I didn’t ask why as I am someone who never has people over. I’ll meet my ride down the driveway, but they never make it past the gate. It was simply a matter of space. I live in a very tiny house that I share with a roommate, a dog, and two cats. My roommate sleeps on the couch and has that entire space and I stay in my bedroom. It’s only about 600 square feet and there is no place to sit, not even me. I have a bed and he has a couch.

The cats hide under my bed if anyone dares to cross the sacred threshold of the front gate, but I’ve got no place to put my dog. He’s 80 pounds of muscle and mouth and doesn’t have great manners. He gets too excited and is impossible to control once he hits his over-excited zone. He will either be happy to see someone and jump all over them, or he’ll be scared and growl and bark.

Either way, no one wins so I avoid it at all costs.

So, no one is allowed in so that I can maintain my sanity and friendships.

We greeted each other and quickly found the beer and wine stand. We bought our tickets, got our drinks and began the obligatory walking and admiring of the vendors. The heat started to get to me immediately and I wanted to leave, but I knew my house was at least another 20 degrees hotter, so I walked in the shade as much as I could.

Casey had a full-blown summer festival outfit going on. She wore a huge straw hat, large sunglasses, and a summer smock that was bright colors. She had sandals on but they had a slight heel. Her make-up, as always, was flawless and heavily painted on.

“How do you do it?” I asked. “You know, the whole make-up thing going on in this heat? Mine melted off before I even got into the car.” That was true. Though I didn’t wear much and didn’t want to put any of since it was hot and a Sunday, I had put on some foundation and mascara. I wore my usual Vaseline on my lips and had my long hair pulled back into a tight ponytail.

She chuckled. “You are so funny,” she said which is a comment I never know how to take. It’s like when someone says you are interesting. Interesting is a good way or interesting in a bad way?

No one ever answers that question.

“Well, yeah, I’m hysterical but…how do you do it? How come your make-up never smears or fades away?”

“That’s because I don’t sweat,” she said.

I had no response so I just nodded and kept walking.

We came upon a stage with all the cute little kids dancing in their tutu’s. The music was coming from 2 large speakers on each side of the stage There were a few people sitting in the seats. Probably just the parents and volunteers.

I wanted to sit down and so did Casey. I didn’t particularly care about the performance since I didn’t know any of them and it was a school event, but it felt good to sit in the shade and sip my beer. I stretched my legs out and put my feet on the portable plastic chair in front of me. Even that was hot in the shade, but it was better than walking any further. I kicked my flip-flops off and watched the kids on the stage.

There were about 10 of them and looked to be about 6 years old. The did look quite cute in their costumes as they spun around, trying to be in sync with each other as best as they could. Their teacher was in front of the stage, smiling and encouraging them. The music was loud and their smiles and pure joy made me smile and forget about the heat for a few minutes.

The dance ended and they left the stage and got ready for the next performance.

“God they are cute,” Casey said. I nodded. She was right. I scanned the audience and saw so many proud parents.

They started the music again as a young girl walked onto the stage. She owned that stage. You could see it in her eyes. Her smile was from ear to ear. She was wearing a leotard with blue glitter all over it. She had on blue ballet shoes and blue leggings. Her hair was pulled back into a bun and had blue and purple flowers.

She looked like the cutest blueberry I had ever seen.

She was also very large. She was at least twice the size of the other girls.

She began to dance and could barely contain her enthusiasm and joy at dancing for the small crowd. She glowed and I found myself smiling and silently cheering her on.

“Wow, isn’t she a little too big for this?” Casey muttered. “I mean, she’s really fat.”

I ignored her comment because I wanted to slap her for saying it. It made me sad because it was only a matter of time before some asshole came along and made it clear that she wasn’t good enough because of her weight. It was only a matter of time before she would learn that she would be judged on her looks and not her talent and contributions. It was only a matter of time before she would be indoctrinated to what was acceptable for life and what wasn’t.

It was only a matter of time before she learned that as a woman, she would have to learn to ignore what anyone said or thought about her and live the life she wanted.

I suddenly felt sad. I told Casey I wasn’t feeling well and left. I knew her comment was simply from her life of battling her weight and the naysayers she had fought all her life, but I always expect a woman to be kinder and more understanding of another.

I have battled my weight for most of my life. I’ve been thin and I’ve been heavy, but it wasn’t until that what mattered was my health, then if I was healthy, my looks and weight would figure it out.

I saw a beautiful dancer on that stage and that’s all that matters.

That’s the world I want to live in and that’s the world that I know we all fight for.

I’ve had plenty of times of people judging me and I’ve gotten old enough to no longer care, but how do you deal with it?

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