Shine Bright Like a Diamond

It’s official, I have been published on a blog that is not this one! Someone wants to read what I have to say that isn’t me.

I am interning at Downtown Vision, Inc., a nonprofit that revitalizes Downtown Jacksonville through programming awesome events like Art Walk and Movies in the Park. We also work hand-in-hand with the Downtown Ambassadors, a group of wonderful men and women who keep our Downtown clean, safe and hospitable. I wrote a post about my love of Downtown Jacksonville for Dig Downtown Jax, a lifestyle blog for people who also love Downtown Jacksonville.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: The First Blog I’ve Ever Written That Someone Else Requested and Liked Enough to Put on the Internet.

 

Guns Don’t Kill People

…but people with guns do.

Based on my previous posts, most of you know how I view the world, which side of the aisle I would stand on.

Some of you know a couple dark details of my childhood.

None of you know my only encounter with a handgun.

My step-father was mentally ill. Is mentally ill. I’m not sure how exactly to phrase this, because (as far as I know) he is alive. But he is out of my life, and dead to me, anyways.

And so, for the sake of my story, he was mentally ill in some way or another. I’m not sure what plagued his mind, besides large amounts of alcohol. I’m not a mental health expert, and I won’t throw out terms to explain what was going on in his mind, because throughout my 21 years, I’ve learned that incorrect use of labels can do more harm than good. Just because I go from happy to bummed within an hour, I am not clinically “bipolar,” and just because I need to line up my boxes of cereal in the pantry doesn’t make me “OCD.” So I won’t bother trying to diagnose him.

All I can say is that under his thumb, my life was miserable. He was drunk most of the night, and on those multiple occasions he was unemployed, also most of the day. He was paranoid of the government, and even the Internet, along with a lot of the people we knew. He often shut us away from those that took an interest in our sad situation (I was banned from attending church as a teenager, because I loved it, and because much of the congregation saw him for what he really was).

He had been unemployed for two months when he came home with the gun. I’m not sure where he got it. It certainly wasn’t a legal transaction; his history of domestic violence and alcohol abuse would have prevented that. He probably bought it off a buddy, with what little spending money we had saved up. He brought it home, proud of his “protection” for the family. We would be safe, he claimed, from any crazy criminals who tried robbing our sparsely furnished shack of a home in Jacksonville Beach. I was twelve years old, and I still remember looking around our tiny house and thinking, “Yeah, we’ll be safe from the bad guys now!” The gun sat in a drawer in my parents’ room, and I didn’t think about it again for a month or so.

The night before my 13th birthday, he had drank so much the whites of his eyes were yellow. He slurred his insults that he threw at my mother, like a toddler attempting to throw darts at a target. He stumbled around the small living room, banging things and knocking things over. They were having an argument, and it was just another night. I was in the bathtub, reading a book and escaping the madness. All of a sudden, I noticed a change in the air. Like the first cool night of fall, the atmosphere of the air in the house had changed. I got chills all over my body, sitting in a hot bath. I got out, put on my pajamas, and stepped into the worst night of my life.

I’ll skip some things.

Two hours later, as the digital clock on the stove in our miniscule but hospital clean kitchen ticked closer to my birthday, we sat in a line. My pregnant mother, my younger siblings and I. The pieces of my mother’s cellphone, our only contact with the outside world, lay shattered around us. We couldn’t leave. He stood between us and the door, pushing and shoving us away from safety, grabbing my arm and leaving my only birthday present, a blue and black bracelet of bruises. He paced back and forth, trapped in his own sick mind, like a predator contemplating his prey.

Suddenly, there was his gun. He held the foreign, heavy black thing to his head, to my head. Time stood still. I wondered why nobody was barging in, demanding the screaming stop, demanding the madness stop. Didn’t our neighbors hear us crying, begging? Where was the “good guy with a gun” to defeat this “bad guy with a gun?”

It was my birthday.

He stalked around the small house, threatening, screaming. He finally left his post, walking to the backyard, to kill himself, he said.

My little brother, my precious, wonderful, sad little brother, just ten days from his ninth birthday, took his opportunity to save us. He ran out the front door, and disappeared into the night.

Soon, there were sirens. Red and blue lights. No bullets were fired that night. We found my brother two doors down, sitting on our neighbor’s couch, eating popcorn and watching a movie. As if it was a normal night. Which it was, for us.

He was released from jail the next afternoon. My mother bailed him out. The gun lived in their sock drawer for a few more years, until it was pawned for grocery money. I didn’t get a birthday cake.

I don’t mean to be overly emotional. Maybe I’m sharing too much. Maybe things like this need to stay in the past, away from strangers’ eyes. This is family business, not to be used to put a human face on gun violence.

If he had needed to submit a background check; if he had needed to wait for it; if it had been a more expensive and lengthy process; if he had needed to go through the government that he distrusted so vehemently; maybe I would have gotten a 13th birthday. Maybe my little brother wouldn’t have needed to run for safety. Maybe I would be on the other side of this gun control issue.

But sometimes guns don’t kill people. Sometimes guns kill childhoods.

A Guest Post

I’m ending my very long silence with this wonderful and eloquent guest blog post by my good friend, Matthew Brockelman. I meant to post this a very long time ago, but today, as I watch President Obama lay out his plans for gun control in the United States, I thought it was appropriate to share these sensible ideas with the world. Thank you, Matt.

…..

A few weeks ago, we saw National Rifle Association (NRA) Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre give a press conference in which he offered one of the most troublesome solutions we’ve heard to date in the struggle to contain violence in America: give every school in America armed protection. Although this may sound simple enough (just get some police officers and make it happen!), the reality of the situation is far more complex than Mr. LaPierre is willing to discuss. Here are a couple points that I, as a 23-year old, immediately thought of when I watched LaPierre make his case.

In 2009, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were 132,183 schools (public and private, K-12) in the country. The average police officer makes around $40,000 per year (I’m sure this doesn’t include benefits, cost of retirement, etc.). So simple arithmetic takes that cost to $5,287,320,000 annually. Washington, D.C., folks like to talk about everything over a 10-year period, so by taking the NRA’s advice we’ve just added almost $53 billion in expenses if each school had only one police officer. This doesn’t account for inflation, salary adjustments or other costs that could increase. Of course, that money wouldn’t just come from the federal government (local, state and other taxes would probably be the main source, maybe some federal grants, too). And plenty of schools already have officers (more than one in some cases), but that’s still quite a thought.

Virginia Tech has an entire University Police Department, much like we do at UNF. If the logic is “putting trained, armed guards deters and helps prevent massacres,” 2007 offers evidence against that. The argument for deterrence assumes that shooters are rational actors. Since most of these end in suicide or mental issues being discovered, that assumption almost always falls short.

Semi automatic rifles > police issue handguns. We should ask police officers across the country how down they would be to get into an armed conflict with a person(s) armed with high-powered rifles with high-capacity mags (and probably a conflict in which the shooter would have the element of surprise over the officer). So then what’s the next step? Give our school cops assault rifles?

Last thing: most of us on all sides agree that cultural issues are a piece in this puzzle. In the press conference, Mr. LaPierre blamed violence in video games, on television and in the entertainment industry as contributing factors. I don’t disagree, but it just seems strange to say in one breath that our kids are corrupted by animated guns on their XBox 360s, but then in the next breath say that they wouldn’t be de-sensitized if they had to walk by heavily armed police every day at school.

Are we really ready to accept that in our America, the only way to protect kids is to turn schools into weaponized institutions? Soon we will be the ones responsible for leading our country and society. It will be shameful if, under our watch, we replaced “home of the brave” with “home of the paranoid who have to arm everyone and their moms to feel safe.” I don’t know. Maybe my status as a Democrat devalues these points in the eyes of those who disagree with me politically. Or maybe more Americans — Republicans, Democrats, non-politicals, gun owners, non-gun owners, adults, kids and LEADERS — need to stop staying silent.

A Short Little Wonderful List

Things that are currently making life wonderful:

1. Going to movies solo. Yeah I did it. Nobody would go see Pitch Perfect with me, so I took myself on a date! Judge me. It was awesome. I had an entire theater by myself (with the exception of two little old ladies that kept talking in Spanish) and nobody was there to witness the embarrassing display that was me singing along with “Fat Amy,” laughing (very) loudly, and smiling like an idiot when everything works out in the end.

Although now that I’ve told you all of that, I guess it is like I went to the movies with all of you.

Embarrassing.

That being said, don’t knock it till you try it.

2. Lillie’s Coffee Bar in Neptune Beach. It’s where I am currently writing and enjoying green tea. Always sit outside, you can’t beat the atmosphere.

3. My best friends.

3a. Hey, everyone, look, this is Brittany! She’s my very oldest friend, and she is newly engaged! Also she is funny and sassy and a hot ginger, which are rare. She shoots pretty pictures and I am her Maid of Honor (crazy bridezilla stories to come, I am sure).

3b. Happy birthday Sam! I’m not exactly sure when we became best friends, but I like to pinpoint the night we bought Smirnoff Ices from that sketchy gas station next to UNF and had a two-person party at your apartment. Game of Things was involved I’m pretty sure.

3c. Also David. He’s just great. (Sorry).

David loves Taylor Swift…

4. This blog, aptly titled Lazy Girl Running, is my new inspiration to hit the pavement lately. I can relate to her transformation from a habitual couch potato (current me) to a marathon runner with a true love of running (future me……hopefully).

5. Christmas. 42 more days. Just throwing that out there.

6. My school. UNF has been a lot of things for me the past 4 years. There’s so much I can’t bear to think about leaving behind.  It’s a beautiful wonderful underestimated place, and it reminds me of me. Emphasis on the beautiful.

In Defense of the Freeloaders

Tuesday night was one of those nights that will go down in my memory. It was a “top of the world” kind of night. One of those nights where you will always remember where you were and what you were doing (I was drinking a Mexican beer in a Jacksonville Beach bar, watching the muted TV tuned to Fox News like a hawk).

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a Barack Obama supporter, through and through.

It wasn’t always like this. My admiration for the President was earned throughout his first term.

Sorry, guys. I know you put up with my posts and tweets and buttons, and most of you supported Mitt Romney. Also a lot of you probably just want politics to go away. Once again, sorry. I won’t be offended if you delete me from your virtual social network. You can go ahead and sever that make-believe friendship bracelet now, I won’t mind.

This post is not meant to be silly mindless pro-Obama propaganda.

This post is meant to defend those who support him, and whom he supports.

I live in a conservative hot-spot. Jacksonville, Florida will always go red. It will always be close, but it will always (in my opinion) swing right. My friends are, by a very informal guesstimate, 87.9% conservative. I just made that number up, but it sounds about right. So you can imagine what my social media feed looked like at about 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 6.

I won’t quote any specifics here. A broad paraphrase of 87.9% of my social media feed said this:

People only voted for Barack Obama because they want welfare.

This post, I think, is going to be a hard animal to tame, because I’m already wanting to deviate from my original point and just turn this into one long liberal bitch-fest. But I am restraining myself and getting to my point.

Wednesday night, in the midst of completing a last-minute homework assignment, I became a cyber bully.

I am not proud.

It was a horrible, horrible combination of Bon Iver radio on Pandora, frustration at my assignment, and an attempt to escape with a Facebook break.

The straw that broke the camel’s, or should I say donkey’s, back was a status made by a friend about socialism. I made a quick comment, disputing the fundamental basis of this entire argument.

And then came the actual straw.

It came in the form of a comment by a girl that has long since deleted me, for which I do not blame her. Because when she told me:

“Why should millionaires, who work hard, have to work harder to pay to support lazy and unmotivated people?”

I. freaked. out.

That wasn’t exactly a direct quote (sorry, Dr. Perkins). But you get the picture.

What happened next was, perhaps, the most unladylike behavior I have displayed on the internet in a very very very long time. I took all of the pain and anger that came from each of those tweets and posts from my conservative “friends” had posted in the last 24 hours, and poured it into a soapbox rant, self-indulgent and rude.

I had been watching these people, who in any other capacity I love and admire, publicly post what they thought of me, an Obama supporter, a liberal democrat, for 24 hours. I had never seen such hatred applied to me because of the principles and policies I believe in.

So, I made a fool of myself, probably traumatized poor Lindsay, and made my party look ridiculous.

This is the Spark Note version of what I said:

To imply that people on welfare are lazy and unmotivated is to generalize an entire population of people. Are all black men basketball stars? Are all women silly and emotional and only interested in shoes? Are all rich people selfish and cold-hearted?

No.
I spent my entire childhood living on the government’s dime. Yes, taxpayers of America, you payed to feed me.

I’ll give you some time to mourn the loss of your tax dollars.

Yep. A percentage of your hard-earned income went to me…a poor child! I ate free lunch at school courtesy of the government, went to the doctor when I was sick courtesy of the government, and was able to afford a college education courtesy of the government.

For my first 18 years, I owed my entire life to the government…and taxpayers, of course. I never had a cellphone. My first one came after I had turned 18, had a steady part-time job, and was able to afford it on my own. We never had silly modern luxuries. No cable TV, no designer clothes, sometimes not even a car.

I was the oldest of six in a family of poverty and chaos. I didn’t play a sport or participate in clubs because I needed to work after school. I needed to contribute whatever I could to the pot.

I won’t go into the dark details. I’ll just say there were many many nights I was hungry, many many Christmases with very little under the tree.

I am not on welfare now. I work three jobs to pay my rent, to buy my own food. I pray every day that I don’t get too hurt, or too sick, because I can’t afford health insurance.

My issue with the conservatives (or, rather, my “friends” who claim they are conservative), is their idea that being on welfare is something that a vast majority of poor people enjoy. Most of the people I know through school seem to have this attitude. Also most of them have probably never been on food stamps.

I was.

I hated it.

It is not an enjoyable thing to be on welfare. It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows and free iPhones. It is humiliating. It is jumping through hoops and sitting in offices and completing mountains of paperwork. It is praying the paperwork goes through in time, that every i was dotted, every t was crossed, because it could mean going hungry if not.

It is hating the food at school, but eating lunch anyway, because who knows if there’s going to be enough dinner to go around tonight?

It is driving to the doctor’s office on the other side of town, because that is the only one that accepts Medicaid.

It is wearing clothes from Goodwill, and learning to live without air conditioning in the summer.

It is the teeth rotting out of my mother’s mouth because there is no such thing as “free dental care” for adults on Medicaid…unless you count pulling them all out and getting dentures “care,” which nobody has for many many decades.

It is embarrassing and scary.

Yes, there are many people taking advantage of the welfare system right now. There are people living in government housing, buying fast food and beer with food stamps. People who may have voted for President Obama because they feel entitled.

But I think what separates me from a lot of conservatives is this: If, for every 100 “freeloaders” there is just one me, I believe the system is working.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on the economy. Economics is actually the one AP class I didn’t pass in high school. I do understand that we are in a scary place as a country, economically. And I understand why people see videos like the “Obama phone”  and become upset enraged.

But I do understand what ROI means. A return on investment. I am a return on an investment for the government. For 18 years, I survived because the government (and taxpayers) helped to feed me. For the last four years, I have been getting a college degree thanks to Pell Grants…and a few loans to help cover the rent when waiting tables for $3/hour doesn’t cut it. One day, I will have a career to be proud of, an income I can survive on, and I will happily pay my taxes so all of the other Angela Brunos out there can have a fighting chance. I will not see the freeloaders, but the investments.

I am not lazy.

I am not unmotivated.

I am the reason for welfare.

And I think I was worth every penny.

Graduating high school after 18 years on welfare

The Server’s List (A plea to my future employer)

Working hard for the money…aren’t I cute?

SO, you want to hire me for your public relations job. Great! I can already tell we will be great together. Mostly because I get along with almost everyone, and you are offering to pay me to do something I deeply love. But, what is this?! My experience in PR is a little lacking  doesn’t take up much space on my resume. Not to worry, fearless employer. Besides how to carry a tray, serving tables has taught me a few things about people and life in general.

1. A good pen makes a world of difference. Every server can understand this nugget of advice. The tools you use for your everyday life and at your job should be enjoyable to use. For me, it’s clicky ballpoint pens that do the trick. Also, pens are to servers what cigarettes are to inmates. They are sort of a form of currency for us. So please stop taking them after you sign your credit card slip. In relation to my future career, I know that the tools I use will be of the highest importance. Just like I can’t take orders with a blue crayon, I know I can’t use certain forms of social or traditional media for every single client/situation. Every keystroke needs to be considered and thought out. Every campaign will employ different tactics (tools) to be successful.

2. Some people are just horrible jerks who won’t tip no matter how well you serve them and their bratty kids for an hour and a half. This is pretty self-explanatory. Every server has more than a few horror stories. I have at least two a week (I like to attribute this to my horrible luck, and not my abilities as a server). Please refer to this story of a heartless human being who has never had to wait tables in his entire life, yet insists that it isn’t a difficult job, and he shouldn’t have to tip. This lesson is a hard one to learn, but a valuable one to have learned. The ability to work through situations that seem impossible, with customers that seem thankless and out of touch, suggests a caliber of perseverance and positivity not found in your average college graduate.

3. Everyone loves working with someone who does their share of the work, nobody likes working with someone who does only their share. When it’s Saturday night, and everyone is running around like crazy, we all need to do our individual jobs. Refill the butter. Restock the expo station. Return plates to the line from the dish pit. But if you refuse to do anything but your specific job, nobody is going to want to help you out when you find yourself in a pickle. Always pull more than your own weight. This quality is worth its weight in gold to any employer….actually, it should be worth my weight in gold, a considerably larger number.

4. Be courteous, but aggressive. The back of a kitchen is not a spacious area to work in. Think of any concert you’ve ever been to. You twist and squeeze and step on people to get closer to the stage. It’s hot, uncomfortable, and inside most people’s personal space bubbles. Now picture yourself carrying a ten pound tray. Things get weird. As a server, I have a lot of people depending on me to get their food and drinks to them in a timely and enjoyable manner. Unfortunately there are about 20 other people trying to do the same exact job. I often need to push, step around, and beat people to the punch, or should I say “bread oven,” if I want to make my customers happy (Read: get a larger tip). Always push yourself to where you need to be; just don’t be rude while doing it. Don’t get me started on how to be an aggressive woman in the corporate world while still maintaining my charming maternal instincts and feminine grace….the jury’s still out on that one.

5. People love themselves some free bread. I’m not sure how to expand this to apply to the real world. It’s just a fact of life. People love free stuff, and will keep asking for this free stuff even after they have just ordered enough food to feed a small army.

6. Be nice to everyone. Not only because your livelihood as a server depends on it, but because it should be a rule to be a human.

7. Everyone should have to serve tables at least once in their life. It should be a requirement of society. You need to know what it’s like to be talked down to, yelled at, and covered in someone else’s leftovers. You need to know how hard servers work to ensure you have an enjoyable dinner. You will be a better human being because of it. I am a better employee because of it.

8. Hang in there. Some nights, while I am up to my elbows in dirty dishes, bad tips, grumpy customers, and butter, I just have to stop and appreciate the job I’m working towards. There’s a reason I’m getting a college education, and it’s so I never have to wait tables ever again, and so when I do eat out, I can afford to tip my servers what they deserve. See my reference to perseverance and positivity above. I’m willing to stick with a job for the long-haul, through the good and bad.

9. All of the world’s communication jobs should be filled by servers. We are professional communicators. That is what our job is all about (besides dirty dishes, carrying heavy things, and knowing everything there is to know about steak)! As a food server, I am the messenger between a busy kitchen staff and a customer who wants her filet mignon well done, but juicy (NOTE: NOT POSSIBLE), her salad with only three cherry tomatoes, and only toppings on half of her baked potato. Honestly, serving should be a major bonus for communication-based jobs. I know how to adjust my server’s pitch to a different clientele: parents do not want you to audibly mention dessert specials in front of their children; people celebrating something are more likely to listen to my spiel about drink specials. I’m pretty sure adjusting the message to fit the audience was something I learned in the first week of Principles of PR. But I’ve been putting it into practice four days a week for almost two years now at Outback.

10. Appearance is imperative. This is a nice way of saying “People make a lot of very important decisions based on trivial things such as looks.” Just as I can’t show up to work with a dirty uniform and messy hair, I can’t expect to impress my clients or employer without taking time and effort to craft my appearance. I am not exactly referring to my physical appearance, although there is a fine line between having a bad hair day and showing up to work in yoga pants…I believe that line is called “professionalism.” Let’s be honest, based on this entire blog topic, I think we can all admit that I am in no financial position to be dressed to the nines in designer labels. I can promise I will never show up to a meeting in Victoria’s Secret sweatpants…I can’t promise that I won’t show up in a combination of Target clearance and Forever 21 (the side that isn’t reminiscent of an 18-year-old Jersey Shore fan at the club).

Back to my point. More important than my physical appearance is my online appearance. My Facebook won the “Squeaky Clean” award in my sorority chapter (a pretty big deal, apparently). My Twitter account is an absolute fabulous look inside my life, while still remaining tasteful and unoffensive. I know the value of maintaining a positive reputation online and in person.

It’s a theory of mine that I make more money on the nights when I look cuter. The evidence isn’t as conclusive as I’d like it to be, though.

The List + A Political Rant (sorry.)

Things that I am loving today:

1. Chilly mornings….kind of. I guess I’ve been down south too long when I consider 70 degrees “chilly,” but I’ll take it.

2. Malala Yousafzai

3. This song on the radio at 8 a.m.

4. My to-do list. It’s transforming from homework assignments and fraternity socials into resume building and internship searching. Scary but thrilling.

5. The whole “paint one nail a different color than the rest of your nails” trend. Accent nails are all the rage on Pinterest.

6. Throwback Thursdays on Instagram.

7. This blog. It’s written by a mom/boxer/superhero, and even though I am absolutely none of those things, I still feel like I can relate/laugh/enjoy, in all of my childless/nonathletic/messy glory. Plus her kids are super cute.

8. Fresh Market. Get the strawberry spinach salad and never eat salad the same way again. Also you can eat chocolate chip cookies and feel good about yourself because they’re organic.

9. All things Halloween. I LOVE holidays, and I want it all. Hocus Pocus (starring a young/pre-Manolo SJP), pumpkin carving, pumpkin seeds, cheesy yard decorations, so on and so forth. I may or may not be found in a candy corn coma in a week or so.

10. All things political.

I am 99% sure most won’t love this one as much as #9.

You know when your Facebook timeline and Twitter feed get inundated with posts and retweets and shares of those obnoxious partisan political posts, and you just want to shut it all off until after the election?

Not me.

In fact, I am probably the one clogging up your online social life with said political posts. Sorry. I just get so excited. Election season is to me what the Olympics are to basically everybody else. I love seeing it all. I love having CNN and MSNBC and CSPAN on, watching debates and speeches and commentary. Occasionally I’ll even watch Fox News, just for giggles.

I even love seeing my Republican friends’ opinions in my newsfeed (Sidenote: Hi my elephant-loving friends. Love you all. Now please stop referring to President Obama as a socialist/Muslim/moron/America hater. He’s not. XOXO).

I can understand supporting Mitt Romney.

What I cannot understand is not being interested in the process at all.

I stayed after work the other night to eat dinner and have a glass of wine……and because my car was out of gas and I was waiting on my superhero boyfriend to come pick me up…..

So there I was, enjoying my pinot noir and the second presidential debate, and one of the other servers came to hang out and watch it with me. We started discussing politics, and she asked me a question I still can’t get my head around:

“So when do we get to vote?”

….You are a fully-grown woman, and you don’t know when Election Day is?*

It hit me that all of those sarcastic posts about how my friends hate seeing politics on Facebook/Twitter/television are symptoms of a much larger problem.

A lot of us just simply don’t care. Leave us be, Barack Obama! Get off my Twitter feed, Mitt Romney! I just want to see pictures of shoes and dinners with a sepia filter please!

But how can you have such a sense of apathy? So many things, so many necessary, important, bigger-than-us things, are in our (perfectly manicured with an accent nail) hands?

I doubt that any of my most likely three readers are so out-of-touch/uninterested in the upcoming election that they won’t vote. After all, if you have no desire to use your right to participate in our democracy, you probably won’t care to read the scatterbrained musings of a college senior with a Starbucks addiction.

But if I still have your attention, and you don’t feel the need to vote in a few weeks’ time, please refer to #2 on my list. I think it will put some things into perspective.

*Election Day in the United States of America is Tuesday, November 6th.