Category Archives: rant

Female Chauvinist Pigs

I recently finished reading a book written by Ariel Levy, called Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture.  Although I don’t agree with some of her assertions in the book, I was nodding my head while reading along with others.

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The book centers around women, feminism, and how we have been fighting for equality for years, only to behave in ways that are only pushing us back in terms of progress.

What is crazy to me is that this book was written in 2005 and to me, it seems that things have become even worse than when Levy wrote the book.  There was no Instagram, Snapchat, Tinder, or Bumble back in 2005.  If anything, things have only gotten worse since her book was published.  Without ruining the book for you, here are some of my key takeaways:

Females going to strip clubs

I have never understood why some heterosexual females go to female strip clubs with friends or even boyfriends.  I would rather not go to a male strip club either, but I really don’t understand why women are going to watch other women strip.  According to the women she spoke to, it was “liberating.”

Liberating to watch women remove their close while men are ogling them?  Gaining the right to vote is liberating.  Earning equal pay for equal work is liberating.  Watching women take their clothes off while strange men stare at them is not my definition of liberating.

Playboy

Years ago, women were picketing against Playboy because they found it exploitive and mysogynistic, but now women themselves purchase the magazine and get tattoos of the bunny logo.  Many women view Hugh Hefner as a chauvinistic pig himself, but now many others are Playboy enthusiasts themselves, wishing that they could be playmate.

Girls Gone Wild

These women are basically fighting for a chance to show their naked breasts (or more) to the world.  They not even getting paid because they are not actual porn stars, but they all want a chance to be in front of the cameras.

Hey Mom, guess what I got to do on spring break?  Show off my breasts for free to a sleazy cameraman!  Isn’t that great!?

How is is possible that women do not understand that this is degrading to women.  It focuses all of our worth on our bodies.  It does not matter how intelligent we are or what our personality is like; what matters is only that we have a nice rack.

Yet women are upset if they are on a legitimate date with a guy and he stares at her breasts the entire time.  We cannot act as though we are wild, free, and slutty and then expect guys to treat us as though we are ladies.

Ladies do not bare their chests for a Girls Gone Wild cameraman.

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition

Many female Olympic athletes pose nude (or almost nude) in the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated magazine.  Levy writes about how some of them seem to feel the need to show off their bodies as feminine since they sometimes appear masculine while participating in their sport.

These women are in their prime in terms of their bodies and fitness, yet they are still seeking approval for their beauty and femininity?

There are not too many male Olympians who feel the need to pose naked in order to prove their masculinity.

I live by the beach and I have seen so many girls this summer taking photos that look like they belong in that magazine.  They lay in the sand, arching their backs to get the best shot.  Girls who would never want to be covered in sand are laying in it to get the perfect Instagram pic.

Others are kneeling in the water, even on days when it is freezing.  They spread their legs wide, flip their hair, and make pouty faces.  It looks absolutely absurd.

Here are some of the words I heard from two girls on the beach one day:

“Use the up angle so we look skinnier.  Up angle is the bomb. Is my hair okay?  Do I look fat?  Should I put my hair half up?  I’ll edit them and then send them to you.  Don’t worry, I won’t post anything yet until I edit them.  Take some candids so it looks like we’re laughing at each other.  Should we lay on our backs or our stomachs?  Let’s put our legs up.  Put your arm on your hip.”

I cannot even count the number of girls who talk about how much skinnier they will look once they edit their photos.  So now we are not only photoshopping celebrities in magazines, but we are photoshopping ourselves so that EVERY photo is a lie.

Guess what, ladies?  You might look beautiful on Instagram thanks to the filters and edits, but do you not realize that it is all a facade?

If you are overweight and wish you looked skinner, photoshopping is not the answer.  It will take healthy meals and exercise to fix the problem.  But we live in a fast-paced society that seeks fast-paced solutions, so more girls turn to their photo edits rather than an actual healthy lifestyle.

Plastic Surgery

According to Levy, “between 1992 and 2004, breast augmentation procedures in this country went from 32,607 a year to 264,041 a year–that’s an increase of more than 700 percent.”  700 percent increase?!?  Those numbers are outrageous.

I have never previously heard of this, but there is even something called “vaginoplasty” that makes the vagina more attractive.  It can lead to painful nerve damage, but hey, we want vaginas that look like those of porn stars.

Sure, sex may not be fulfilling ever again, but it’s worth it in the name of beauty.  This sounds terrifyingly similar to those tribes that partake in female genital mutilation so that women are unable to enjoy sex.  Yet we’re doing it intentionally in the hopes of a hotter vagina?  Insane.

Pornography

Years ago, being a porn star ruined a person’s credibility.  It was something that could easily destroy a woman’s image.  Yet today, there are celebrities like Paris Hilton who are not actresses or musicians; instead, they are famous because of a sex tape.

Levy talks about the high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder that is prevalent among sex workers.  Many of them face long-term emotional problems as a result of their work.

The majority of them experienced some form of sexual trauma before entering the porn industry.  They are sexually traumatized, which is only increased after spending time as a porn star.

I have not researched porn very much since it isn’t something that I have struggled with, but there are many secular articles that have been written about the way that pornography ruins marriages and relationships.  A simple Google search of “how porn ruins marriages” yields thousands of results, both religious and secular.

Casual sex

In my own experiences, I have found it amazing how sex has become so casual.  People act as though it is normal to have sex on the third date.  As a Catholic who does not believe in sex before marriage, I find this appalling, but I understand that many people are not as strict as my beliefs.  However, sex on the third date absolutely blows my mind.  But this is completely common in today’s colleges — even sex on the first date, or a one night stand without the prospect of ever meeting up again in the future.

This summer I overheard some conversations by females at the beach that simply broke my heart.  Here is one that I overheard recently:

Girl 1: I need to raise the body count.

Girl 2: Like people you’ve had sex with?  You want to be a slut?

Girl 1: No, I just feel like I need to sleep with more people.  I’ve only been with 3 guys.

In case you were wondering, girl 1 was only 22 years old.  Why did she feel the need to increase her “body count”?  And why did she refer to it in that manner anyway?

I’m not even going to get into the spread of STDs here.  We all know that they exist, yet nobody seems to care or be worried about that.

Girls acting like guys

Levy said that because of the way male chauvinists have acted, girls feel as though they can empower themselves by treating sex as casually as some men do.  They want sex without the emotions, just notches on their bed posts.

And I guess that it what is happening, but this should not be viewed in a positive light.

More women are promiscuous, are flaunting their bodies, and are talking about how many men they have slept with.  Does this lewdness make us feel equal?

Rather than seeking out gentlemen in the sea of chauvinists, we are becoming chauvinists ourselves.  Are we taking the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” approach?

Some of us are using our looks to get men, power, and career advancements.  Why not use our brains and our charisma?    I will not feel accomplished if I use my body to advance in the world.  I want to be taken seriously as a strong female because of my hard work in my job, and not my hard work in bed.

Women – those of you who are acting in this way are ruining progress for all of us.

Clothing

I did not know this before, but thongs were created in 1939 in order to cover the genitals of exotic dancers in New York City for the World’s Fair.  “The thong was born to placate [mayor Fiorello La Guardia’s] decree while exposing the maximum amount of skin.”

Now they are being sold to children in stores like Abercrombie & Fitch, which market clothing to 7-14 year olds.

Girls are wearing shorter shorts, so short that the underside of their butt cheeks are visible, with crop tops that expose their entire stomach and back, and often quite a bit of cleavage as well.

I wrote a previous blog entitled How Did Modesty Get Such a Negative Connotation?   Do we no longer want to maintain any degree of mystery about our bodies?

There are tons of students and parents fighting back now against school dress codes. (I also wrote a blog entitled School Dress Codes are Not Sexist.)  The dress codes simply want boobs, butts, back, and stomachs covered.  That isn’t sexist, but today’s females think it is appropriate to come to school looking like a stripper or a prostitute.  And unfortunately, some of their parents agree that that should be allowed and accepted.

Have you seen girls on Halloween lately?  That’s another separate blog, What Has Halloween Become?

Adolescents

One of the most upsetting parts of Levy’s book was the section in which she talks to adolescent girls about their sexual experiences or those of the females in their schools.  Sex in 7th grade is not uncommon.  The verdict among most of the girls she spoke to was that the sluttier a girl appeared, the more popular she probably was.

Many of the girls are giving oral sex to the boys to increase their popularity.  One girl called oral sex “super casual.”

These girls aren’t doing it because they enjoy it or because they love these boys so much; they want popularity.  Instead of gaining popularity by being a star athlete, or having a great personality, girls in the 21st century are becoming more popular based on the number of blow jobs they have given.  Progress right there.

“About a quarter of girls between ages 15 and 19 describe their first time as ‘voluntary, but unwanted,’ according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.”  Girls are losing their virginity intentionally, yet it is something that they do not want.  They want the attention and notoriety that comes with sex.

Girls on girls

Many females are also making out with other females, not because they are lesbian or bisexual, but because they know that guys like it.

How many guys would start making out with other guys (all heterosexual) just to appear sexy to women?  Very few, I would imagine.

Yet we are acting as though we love kissing girls so that guys will view us as sexy and wild.

It seems to me that there are a lot of broken girls who crave attention; they want to feel desired.  What they fail to realize is that the guys who do desire them only do so for their sexual promiscuity.  Hooking up with a guy at the bar who was only attracted to you because you were drunk and making out with girls is unlikely to help you to find a meaningful relationship.

It’s unlikely that you will even find a guy who respects you for more than your appearance.  Yet we still get angry when guys fail to take us seriously.  News flash, ladies: you’re making the problem worse.  It’s hypocritical to act like a stripper at a club and then expect a man to take you out to a nice dinner.  You can’t show off your boobs and expect a quality man to want to pursue a relationship with you.  You’re not wife material; you’re one night stand material.  Is that really what you want?

 

In the conclusion of her book, Levy writes, “When you think about it, it’s kind of pathetic. ..We are selling ourselves unbelievably short.”

And that’s exactly what it comes down to.  In our disrespect for our own bodies and minds, we are selling ourselves short.  There are amazing guys out there who will treat you like the princess you deserve to be treated like; however, you will never find them while wearing those bright red stripper heels and twerking in the tight bodycon dress while making out with a girl who looks as slutty as you.  If all you want in life is one night stands and hookups, then proceed, but I have a feeling that most of you don’t truly seek that in your deepest desires.

You want attention and you want to feel desired.  You don’t realize that you really want to feel loved.  But because love is a scary thing, and because it makes you vulnerable to heartache, you settle for sexual desire.  If a guy ogles you, or even sexually harasses you, you feel beautiful.  That is the problem.

You must not accept anything less than the respect you deserve, but it starts with you.  Will you act in a way that shows that you don’t just want respect, but that you are demanding respect?   Or will you continue being a female chauvinist pig?

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Food Fads Going Overboard?

I’ll be honest, I’m guilty of exactly what I am about to complain about.  But that’s just because I didn’t realize the problem until recently.

Anyone with an Instagram account knows that there is a myriad of photos of crazy food items.  They are incredibly aesthetically appealing.  But they also promote narcissism, gluttony, and waste.

I first heard about Black Tap Craft Burgers’ milkshakes from a YouTube video by Casey Neistat (see below if you’re interested):

When I saw the milkshake with the cotton candy on top, I knew that I just had to have one.  However, I wasn’t too keen on the obscene wait time, or the drive to NYC just for a milkshake.  I figured that if I ever happened to be in the area, I would get one; otherwise, I would probably forget about it.

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Soon after seeing that video, I passed by Coney Waffle ice cream shop in Belmar, New Jersey.  They are famous for their Freak Shake, now renamed the Sideshow Shake.  I love milkshakes and candy, so when I heard about the Freak Shake, I was intrigued.  Could it be anything like the one in Casey Neistat’s vlog?

For $18, this is what my Freak Shake looked like:

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It was a mint chocolate chip milkshake with all of the following (and probably more that I have since forgotton) on top: cotton candy, chocolate waffle, ice cream cone with an extra scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream, chocolate covered Oreo, chocolate covered pretzel with Reese’s pieces, ring pop, and gummy candies.

Does it look amazing?  Absolutely.  Is it possible to eat that entire thing? Gosh, I hope not.

Upon serving me, they handed me a plate and a ton of napkins, explaining that I could put all of the candy onto the plate so that I could actually attempt to drink the milkshake.  They knew that there was no way that one could possibly try to eat that milkshake the way it was assembled.

So the whole purpose of this shake is the photo-op.  I’ll be honest, I was excited about that myself.  I absolutely took a picture before I proceeded to take it apart.  I ate some of the candy, but most I kept for later.  I drank some of the milkshake, but it took me three days to finish the whole thing since I couldn’t even begin to fathom how many calories that would be if it was consumed in one sitting.

And you know what? It wasn’t anything that special.  The milkshake tasted like a mint chocolate chip milkshake.  Nothing more, nothing less.  You might as well go buy a vanilla milkshake from McDonald’s, add in some peppermint flavor, and then purchase a whole bunch of candy to put on a plate next to you while you drink that milkshake.  It would be MUCH more cost effective.

The craziest part of all of this is that the Freak Shake is actually small in comparison to the newer Sideshow Shake:

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And this brings me to my point.  I have realized that the main purpose of a person purchasing a Freak Shake or Sideshow Shake is the photo-op.  In our Instagram/Snapchat-obsessed culture, we care more about the picture than the experience.

We want everyone to see our picture and envy us for getting to go to such a unique place. Yes, I did go to Coney Waffle and yes I can afford an $18 milkshake. (Note: I did not purchase the milkshake for myself, nor would I ever even consider it because I have much better ways to spend my $18.  Someone else bought it for me.)

These items also lead to gluttony and waste.  Although most people couldn’t consume and entire Sideshow Shake, I’m sure that some of them will try.  Don’t even get me started on all of the restaurants offering free shirts if you eat some insane amount of a particular food.  We have a problem with obesity in America, yet you can have that 1-pound burger absolutely free if you can consume it in its entirety in 20 minutes without vomiting.  And we’ll throw in a free t-shirt so that everyone will know about your feat.  Hooray!

Many people who want the Instagram pic without the weight gain end up discarding most of the shake.  They just want the picture.  We are blessed to live in a country where most people are not facing hunger.  And this is what we do with our privilege.  Starving kids in Africa?  Ehh…someone else can help them…I’ll continue to find the best angle for my Sideshow Shake and post it with the best hashtags so I can get a ton of Instagram followers!

Not convinced yet?  Let’s go through a few more examples.

– Playa Bowls.  I love acai bowls;  I buy them because they taste amazing.  But I also notice how a TON of people order them and seem to care more about the picture than the actual taste.  People will walk from the Playa Bowl shop down to the beach before taking a bite because they need the perfect playa-bowl-in-front-of-the-ocean photo.

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And yes, I’m also guilty of taking pictures of my acai bowls.  They are really pretty, after all:

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Brother Bruno’s Pizza.  I loved dessert pizza when I had it in Brazil for the first time in 2012.  However, we American’s can’t keep anything simple.  Bruno’s took the dessert pizza and put it on steroids.

I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t want to try it.  But at the same time, they’re just getting out of hand.  I would love to try a pizza with some chocolate and bananas.  Or the one that has apples and caramel.  But here’s a more recent photo:

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That’s their raspberry/cannoli/nutella/brownie pizza, as if the other dessert pizzas weren’t unhealthy enough.  They had to take it up a notch.  Diabetes on a plate, anyone?

-The Unbaked Bar / Cookie DO NYC.  I love the taste of raw cookie dough, as do many people, despite the dangers of salmonella due to the raw egg.  A few companies realized that if they just made cookie dough without the egg, it could be consumed raw.  Enter the unbaked bar and other similar shops.

Yes, those images may appear to be ice cream, but they’re actually cookie dough.  And no, that cookie dough cone on the right wasn’t quite cutting it…they really needed the cookie dough-filled cookies on top.

The Bagel Nook.  I don’t feel very strongly about bagels.  They’re fine.  I rarely eat them. But Bagel Nook got me hooked with their Instagram pictures like the ones below:

I finally went there with my boyfriend, excited to order a tie dye bagel with cotton candy cream cheese.  Yes, I did take a picture:

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It looks nice, but gosh was it disappointing.  It just tasted like a plain bagel with funky cream cheese.  Nothing too special.  I don’t plan to ever go there again.  But the taste doesn’t even matter since Bagel Nook will probably always have great business since it makes such a great photo-op.

Back to the problem here.  We’re purchasing these food items not because of their exquisite flavor, but because of the image that goes along with it.  We can show all of our friends “hey, look, I went to this trendy place and here’s the photo to prove it!”  It ties in nicely with our narcissistic culture (something that’s on my mind lately, since I’m currently reading The Narcissism Epidemic…great book, I recommend it).  It doesn’t really matter if we enjoy the food item; we just want our followers to see it and in return, envy us and our lifestyle.

But that isn’t the only problem.  These food items also promote gluttony.  Some of these food items probably contain a week’s worth of calories.

Anyone surprised about the American obesity epidemic?  Not I.

On the one hand, we have a constant barrage of beautiful men and women in the media and advertising.  We have advertisements about the Brazilian butt lift, age-defying cream, weight loss surgery, plastic surgery, you name it.  We all want to be beautiful.  Most of us want to be beautiful without the hard work that coincides with working out and eating healthy.

“I want the six-pack abs, but I also want a cookie dough sundae.  Actually, I don’t just want that sundae…I deserve the sundae since I did such a nice job at the gym today!”

I keep hearing a radio ad for a bariatric surgeon who promises that his patients can lose 30 or more pounds without even working out.  Let’s not even try to get Americans to improve their lifestyle — that’s unreasonable.  Let’s give them the quick fix surgery that they want, which will eventually fail when they continue drinking their two-liter of Pepsi while eating that Big Mac followed by a dessert pizza.

So as I said from the start, I am absolutely guilty of trying some of these food items myself, and documenting them through my own photos.  Am I proud of that? No.  But I didn’t realize quite how crazy it was until my Instagram feed began to be filled with more of these obscene food items.

In a world in which so many people are starving and suffering, we Americans must become aware of our overconsumption, overindulgences, narcissism, and wastefulness.

This issue extend far beyond a silly cookie dough cone or an overfilled bagel.  But none of it can ever be confronted if we do not recognize some of the lunacies that are present in our society.

 

 

How Did Modesty Get Such a Negative Connotation?

*Warning* – Indecent image is included in this blog

I’ve been teaching my AP students using advertisements this past week. They were analyzing various ads for rhetorical appeals (ethos / pathos / logos) and strategies (juxtaposition / metaphor / etc). In upcoming lessons, we will be reviewing gender stereotypes.

I subscribe to a variety of magazines (at no cost thanks to frequent flyer miles since I never accumulate enough with any one airline to actually fly anywhere for free) that I use from time to time for projects in my classroom. This week, I received the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue in the mail. Usually I would just throw out that magazine since it’s not quite classroom appropriate.  However, since I knew that we would be reviewing gender stereotypes in my classes in the upcoming weeks, I thought I might find some advertisements that could work for the topic of gender stereotypes in that magazine.

And boy was I right. Every single ad used a woman to sell something.  I expected this, but unfortunately, the ads are so hyper sexualized that I do not plan on using them with my students.

Once I came across this picture at the end of the issue, I felt prompted to write a little blog about it.  Sorry for the nudity, but here is the image:

Of course I agree that a woman deserves respect no matter what she is wearing.  Everyone deserves respect simply because each and every one of us is a human being who has worth. But feminists are taking things way too far.

This woman’s top is so contradictory.

Here are my naked breasts for the world to see.  But please, respect me.  

I’m dressed like I want to f***, but please, don’t come on to me too strong.  

Does she deserve to be raped?  Of course not.  Nobody ever deserves to be raped.  But does it look like she’s eager for sex?  Of course.

How is it that modesty has attained such a negative connotation?

I’ll be honest.  If I see a girl wearing that at the beach, I will automatically pass judgment on her.  I try my best to avoid judging people, but I’m human.  These would be my initial thoughts:

-Are there children around?  That woman is practically naked!

-She must be really easy

I bet she has slept with tons of men

-I’m sure all of the guys must be checking her out

-How can she wear that and not feel overexposed?

And the list goes on.  Now, I am a female.  I can’t even begin to imagine what the guys would be thinking.  It’s proven, after all, that men are much more visual than females.

It’s one thing to be proud of your body and another to simply be indecent.  I work out quite a bit.  I’m proud of my body, but I also respect myself.

Sure, her shirt says that other people should respect her, but the problem here is that she isn’t respecting herself.  She’s turning herself into an object of sexual desire.

I understand that the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition is about all that, but I am so frustrated that any company even made a swimsuit top like that.

If we want men to treat us like ladies, then we must dress like ladies.  Showing our goods to the world is not showing respect to ourselves or those we come into contact with.

I’ll be the first to admit that although my faith is strong, I struggle with modesty during the summer.  I like wearing short shorts and tank tops when it’s hot out.  I like bikinis rather than one-piece bathing suits.

I’m not calling for women to dress like they did in the early 1900s.

And yes, I am aware that that girl is a model.  It is her living to flaunt her body, but I wonder if she really believes that message written across her naked chest.  Does she really believe that she will be respected by men (or women, for that matter) when dressing like that?

Let’s show ourselves some respect by covering up a bit.  Don’t you ladies want to keep part of your bodies a mystery, only exposing it to the one you love?  Do you really want every random person at the beach ogling you?

Women complain about cat calls and being stared at, but guess what?  If you wear that top, you’re basically asking for it.  You’re saying, hey, boys, check me out.  I’m sexy and I know it.  Wanna take me home?  I know I’m beautiful and I want everyone here to know it.  Look at me.  Do you like what you see?  

But you’re thinking, Do you they like what they see?  Am I hot enough?  Am I curvy enough? Am I muscular enough? Do they like me? Do they think I’m beautiful? How many men I can get to stare at me?

Because I find that women who dress like this often have the lowest self esteem.  They find their worth in the approval of men.  They think that by getting a guy to stare them down, they will find true happiness and fulfillment.

It’s sad, really.

So please, ladies, show yourself some SELF-respect and maintain some level of mystery about you, which will attract the right guys, who want you for more than just your appearance.

 

 

 

 

The Most Romantic Love Song?

I was driving home from work the other day and the dj on the radio was introducing the next song by saying that it is the most romantic song.  It’s the song that people should play when spending time with their significant others on Valentine’s Day.
Which song is that, you may ask?  James Arthur’s song, “Say You Won’t Let Go.”
Now I’m not here to rant about the song itself.  I actually like the song.  However, I hope that anyone who listens closely to the lyrics can understand why I absolutely do not believe that it is the most romantic song.
Does it sound nice?  Yes.  If you don’t listen to the first verse, it sounds like a super emotional love song.  But let’s take a closer look.  Here is the video if you don’t know which song I’m referring to: James Arthurt – “Say You Won’t Let Go”
Here are the beginning lyrics:
I met you in the dark, you lit me up
You made me feel as though I was enough
We danced the night away, we drank too much
I held your hair back when
You were throwing up
Then you smiled over your shoulder
For a minute, I was stone-cold sober
I pulled you closer to my chest
And you asked me to stay over
I said, I already told ya
I think that you should get some rest
I knew I loved you then
But you’d never know
‘Cause I played it cool when I was scared of letting go
I know I needed you
But I never showed
But I wanna stay with you until we’re grey and old
Just say you won’t let go

This is the love song of 2017, according to that dj?  Gosh, I hope not.
We danced the night away, we drank too much
I held your hair back when
You were throwing up
They went out dancing, got wasted, and the girl was puking while he held back her hair.  Cute.  Not my idea of the start of any really romantic love song.  Let’s continue.
Then you smiled over your shoulder

For a minute, I was stone-cold sober
I pulled you closer to my chest
And you asked me to stay over
I said, I already told ya
I think that you should get some rest
I knew I loved you then
So he realized that he loved this girl in the middle of her puke fest?  Picture that for a moment.  Two people go out to the club, dance the night away, and drink too much.  They go back to the girl’s apartment.  The guy needs to hold her hair back while she vomits from her binge drinking.  In the middle of all of this, she turns around to look at him over her shoulder.  Her mouth probably still reeks of vomit residue, her eyes are probably red and glassy from alcohol and fatigue.  He’s drunk too, but he feels sober for a moment when he makes eye contact with her.
She wants him to spend the night with her (mind you, all of this is said while under the influence of alcohol).  He says she needs to sleep (clearly, since she’s drunk enough to puke).  But at that moment, he has the epiphany that he is in love.
Aww, the doves may now be released.  What could sound more romantic?  If only I had a similar story to tell.  If only a guy loved me that much.
Sorry for the sarcasm.  But seriously.  Can we put our standards for love a little bit higher than this?  I don’t want someone to fall in love with me while I’m puking due to my bad decisions in drinking too much.  I don’t want someone to realize their love for me only while they’re intoxicated.
Can we not expect more from our relationships?
Sure, the song gets better later on in talking about how the couple will spend their lives together and raise children together, so it’s not just a one night stand.  But still.  It should by no means be considered one of the most romantic love songs.
Let’s write a song about how much we love our significant other because they push us every single day to be the best version of ourselves.  Let’s discuss how we knew it was love when we realized that we wanted to be that person’s partner through not just the fun times and adventures, but the mundane tasks of daily life as well.  We look up to the person for their character and personality, and we feel utter awe and respect for them.  We love them so much that we desire the best for their future, even if that does not necessarily include us beside them.  We are willing to let them go if that is what would be the best for them, but we hope with all our might that that is not the case.
That is the love song that I want to hear.  That is much more romantic than a song about realizing we love someone while they are so drunk that they are getting sick.

We Shouldn’t Be So Cavalier About Divorce

Scrolling through the internet this morning, I found this: Hilarious ‘Divorce Selfies’ Remind the World that Breaking up Can be a Good Thing.

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Okay, sure, I guess it can be funny.  But for me, I definitely find it more sad than funny.

We live a world in which marriage has lost its sanctity.  I hear of so many couples who don’t really even care about getting married since they believe that it’s just a piece of paper.  They live together and eventually get married, mainly because it’s just the thing that couples eventually do, or because they want to have a fun wedding and honeymoon.

I think that is a big reason why divorce is so prevalent.  Of course it doesn’t seem significant to get divorced when you view marriage simply as a piece of paper.  Divorce, then, is also just a piece of paper.

Because I believe in the sanctity of marriage, I believe that marriage is a true union of two people.  A married couple has become one.  Because of that belief, divorce would be devastating (as it is for most couples).

I am all for maintaining a positive attitude when life gets you down, but divorce isn’t something to be happy about.  I’m sure that the couples pictures aren’t truly happy, but the pictures just seem to be sending the wrong message.  Many of them could easily be mistaken for happy couples who are in solid relationships.

This also demonstrates the problems with social media.  We all put our best faces forward when it comes to the internet.  If you have a bad day and a bad picture, that probably isn’t going to make it to Instagram.  We all know most of the Instagram selfies were probably selected after 50 other almost identical photos were scrutinized.  We’ve all seen those girls snapping away at themselves while slightly adjusting the angle each time, hoping that their couple of extra pounds will be hidden with the combination of a high angle and perfect lighting.

And now the problem isn’t just regular selfies, but post-divorce selfies as well.  These couples are breaking up not just a relationship, but a marriage.  Some of them may even have kids together.

So although I’m not judging these couples and their selfies, I’m just saddened to see how cavalier the whole idea of both marriage and divorce have become.

 

 

 

Will 911 Save Your Life When You Need It?

I recently watched a clip from John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight about the problems surrounding 911.  When reading the title on YouTube, I had no idea what to expect.  I’ve never needed to dial 911 myself.  I’ve never heard of any issues with the system.  Upon finishing the video, I was absolutely dumbfounded.

There is no federal oversight, so things work on a state to state basis.  Depending on your state, your 911 experiences could vary quite a bit.  Some states have pretty good systems in place while others are atrocious. It can also vary quite a bit depending on your cell phone provider.

In an age of cell phones and GPS, I always thought at 911 operators could tell where I was located if I called them.  Unfortunately, that is often not the case.

I also thought that if I called 911, I would definitely hear someone on the other line.  Also not the case.  There are times when the dialer is connected with a voice recording that asks him to wait because lines are busy and the call will be answered momentarily.  That is absolutely insane.

Most phone bills even have a 911 fee embedded, yet many states send those funds other places, doing nothing to prove the archaic 911 system.

How are more people not up in arms about this?  People have literally died because of these problems.

I love John Oliver’s videos, but they definitely make me more cynical about the United States.  In a country that acts like the superpower of the world, we definitely have major issues that need to be changed.

I would highly suggest watching John Oliver’s video.  This is something that people need to be aware of.

 

 

“Why Gun Violence Can’t Be Our New Normal”

I just finished watching a TED Talk by Dan Gross, entitled “Why Gun Violence Can’t be Our New Normal.”

If you’d like to watch it, here is the video:

 

He brings up a number of startling statistics:

-90 Americans are killed by guns every day

-Every day, 9 children are shot unintentionally

-Every year, 900 children and teens commit suicide, and among those who killed themselves via gunshot, almost all of them used their parents’ gun

-In 2/3 school shootings, the gun was taken from home

-90% of American support the expansion of Brady background checks, yet guns can still be purchased at gun shows without a background check

-Brady background checks have blocked 2.4 million gun sales

-Gun lobbyists blocked the CDC from doing research about gun violence

-Gun lobbyists blocked smart gun technology that would make gun safer


I have many opinions about gun violence and gun laws, and I know that these opinions are not necessarily agreed upon by those around me.  But I think that most people can agree that lobbyists are a major problem in America.

I don’t think that most gun owners would be offended by the CDC researching gun violence.  Yet our lobbyists are so strong that they are able to block efforts and laws that would potentially improve our country on a drastic scale.

Think about the war on tobacco companies and cigarettes.  Most of the lies about the danger of cigarettes were created by strong lobbyists.  If you look into obesity problems in America, you’ll also find strong lobbyists for sugar.

How is it that the lobbyists control so much of what happens in America?  Sure, we can elect a president who promises to make changes to gun legislature and he very well may attempt to, until the lobbyists get involved.

According to Gross, just ten years ago, 42% of Americans believed that owning a gun made them safer.  Today, 63% of Americans believe guns make them safe.  But what these Americans don’t understand is that so many deaths are caused by a gun that was legally purchased, but got into the wrong hands.

We’ve all heard the stories of children accidentally killing parents, siblings, and grandparents after getting access to Daddy’s gun.  Just look at this article to see a few instances of this, like the two year old toddler who took his stepfather’s pistol out of his mother’s purse and accidentally shot himself in the head.

According to this article, “American children are sixteen times more likely to be killed in unintentional shootings than their peers in other high-income countries.”

We also hear about the school shooters who stole their parents’ gun.

How, then, does owning a gun make your family safer?  I know that many people disagree with me, but I would argue that owning a gun makes your family more likely to experience an accidental shooting.

There was an article published in the Washington Post entitled “How often do children in the U.S. unintentionally shoot and kill people? We don’t know.”

Why do we not have access to this significant data?  There are many reasons, such as the fact that there are certain gray areas where we are not sure whether a shooting was an accident or intentional.  Or the fact that some companies compiling the data don’t exist in all 50 states.  But the gun lobbyists also try to stop organizations from compiling such research.

My favorite line from this TED Talk is when Gross says that we as a nation have “come to accept a disgraceful national epidemic as some kind of new normal.”

I find this to be so true, and I have to admit that I’m guilty of this myself.  I am no longer surprised when I hear the news.  School shooting? What else is new?

I don’t intend to have a cavalier attitude about school shootings, but I no longer feel upset the way I used to when school shootings were less prevalent.  I hear the headlines and I am not surprised.

That changed when the Sandy Hook shooting occurred since it was in a town located close to my former school and home. When people in my community were the ones involved.  When I was trying to teach my English classes while my students informed me about the updates on Newtown via their Twitter feeds.

We as Americans can’t wait to feel outrage until the tragedy happens that close to our homes.  We can’t wait until it is our own sons and daughters who are the victims.  We should feel anger and disgust every time we turn on the news and hear about a shooting.  But since it is now a weekly (sometimes daily) occurrence, it’s so easy to just ignore.  It’s so easy to become resigned in our belief that nothing can change.

Something HAS to change and it is up to us as American citizens to demand that.  We can not sit back while are children are killed every single day.

We need to react to every school shooting like I did with Sandy Hook.  We need to feel that anger.  We need to feel that pain.  Because once those emotions stop, it’s the killers and the lobbyists who have won, and we can’t let that happen.

We deserve a better America, but it will not happen while we sit back and watch the constant violence.  We have to step up and demand changes.  Otherwise, our society will be doomed to repeat this violence for eternity.

Too many people have that laissez-faire attitude that they can’t evoke change.  They feel that they are too insignificant, not realizing that every person counts.  Most Americans are disturbed by the gun violence in our country.  They don’t realize that if we come together, change IS possible.

If you sit back on your couch and shrug your shoulders about your lack of influence when you hear about next week’s shooting, then you are just promulgating the violence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will Standardized Tests Make Americans Compete in the Global Economy? I Think Not.

You’ve heard the statistics – American students are less intelligent than those in countries like China and Finland.

In America, we’ve decided that the way to combat this issue is to implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and to create a national test so that students in every state are assessed on the same material.

Although that’s already been quite a bit of a failure, we’re still pushing forward.

As a high school English teacher,  I don’t mind the CCSS.  Most of the high school standards seem reasonable.  I have heard complaints from English teachers in lower grades as well as math teachers, but for my students, the standards seem appropriate.  I do, however, have a strong dislike for the standardized tests like the SBAC and PARCC.

I worked in Connecticut last year when the SBAC was being given.  In a school with over 500 juniors who were supposed to take the test, we had fewer than 100 of them actually take it since so many had opted out.  The test was an abysmal failure.

It wasn’t just my school where the test failed.  Most towns either experienced high opt-out rates, or low scores since many students simply clicked through the test without trying.

So Connecticut is considering getting rid of SBAC completely, or shortening it.  According to a Connecticut Post article from February 26, 2016, the SBAC that was set to be given during this current school  year was trimmed down from the one that was given last year.  The language arts section was cut in half.

Many districts in Connecticut did away with the SBAC entirely, opting for the SAT to assess student achievement.  This makes complete sense.  After all, with CCSS, the country wanted a national assessment to assess students from every state.  We already have the ACT and SAT, so why not use one of those?

Instead, we had two companies create tests that were specifically aligned with Common Core.  Thus, the SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) and PARCC (The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers).  But this still didn’t solve the problem of creating a national test because different states opted for different assessments.

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http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2015/02/a_map_of_states_2015_testing_p.html

SBAC states include: Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and California.

PARCC states include: New Jersey, Maryland, Rhode Island, and Colorado.

Many states opted to keep their own tests or use other alternatives.  These include: New York, Virginia, Texas, Florida, and on and on.

So take a small area as an example.  If a student moves from New Jersey, to New York, to Connecticut (not a long distance to travel), he will face three different state tests.  This is exactly what we had before CCSS existed.

So Common Core definitely did not achieve its goal of creating a national test.  National standards?  Well, mostly.  Except for the states that opted out and those that continue to opt out while these tests continue to fail.  The map of states that have adopted Common Core can be viewed at that link.  While most states are using CCSS, some that are not include Texas, South Carolina, and Virginia.

But anyway, back to the reason I decided to write this blog: the chaos that was PARCC testing here in New Jersey on April 20, 2016.

Monday and Tuesday were the first PARCC testing days in our school.  We were scheduled to have 4 total PARCC days where the test would take place in lieu of classes.  One could argue that the 4 days of lost instructional time is too much, but that was the schedule, until today’s chaos ensued.

Monday and Tuesday passed with just a few glitches.  Students took the computerized test.  Hopefully most of them actually tried and put their effort into it.  We’ll know better when we see the scores next year.

Today, however, was a bit different.  When signing out my materials to bring to my room, I was told that I should keep refreshing the Pearson website since it wasn’t yet working.

All of my students got situated.  I passed out the necessary materials.  I repeatedly clicked “refresh” on my computer, but nothing was changing.  Students were starting to get antsy.  After all, they’re not allowed access to much of anything during testing.  No food, water, cell phones, internet.  They just had to sit there while I clicked “refresh.”

Today’s test called for two 110-minute English sections.  As the clock kept ticking, it was clear that it was going to be impossible to give those two sections and still release the students at 12:30pm.

Eventually, our principal came onto the intercom and cancelled testing since it was still not working at 9am (students get to school at 7:30am).

So I had the pleasure of sitting with my class of students for the next 3 hours while we waited to be dismissed.

This is what I learned about today’s testing fiasco from a NJ.com article:

-The problem was due to the Pearson website

-Pearson is attempting to fix the problem (key word: attempting)

-We are told that testing “should be up and running” by Thursday

Well that sure gives me confidence that tomorrow will play out differently than today.  (Don’t mind the sarcasm.)

This is what happens when we fully rely on technology.  As a teacher, I know how technology can fail.  Projector lightbulbs die out, internet connections cut out, power outages happen.  It’s expected.  In those situations, we think on our feet and adapt our lessons so that we don’t waste entire class periods.  This is what is expected of us.  If we are having a lesson observed by an administrator and the projector won’t work, we can’t just say, “Okay, class, just sit there and I’ll try again to teach you tomorrow.  Maybe by then the projector will be working.”  No, I’m expected to be flexible and figure out a plan B.

With PARCC, there is no plan B.  It’s a computer-based test.  If the website is down, then no student in the state of New Jersey can take the test.  The test is given to all freshmen, sophomores, and juniors.  There were hundreds of thousands of students scheduled to test today, but oops!  The website was broken.

Now don’t even get me started on the fact that students must take this test for three years of high school.  I already believe that these students are over-tested.

But if you cannot guarantee that this test will work, then you are wasting my instructional time.  Today was a complete waste.  We were supposed to resume a normal schedule on Friday, but thanks to the glitch, Friday is now another day of testing.

Students have lost 5 school days for the PARCC test, plus portions of the school day when we had 2 prior practice sections to get ready for PARCC.  Plus, we could potentially face more if the website is not fixed by tomorrow morning.

What about this situation makes anyone believe that standardized testing is going to fix American education?

AP exams start the first week of May.  So while teachers could have been preparing for those tests that can really help students for college, they were instead babysitting students today who had nothing to do.

The problem is that many of our lawmakers and politicians who make decisions about education in America have no background in education, minus their own experiences as a student.  They don’t consult teachers before making these major changes.  They let companies like Pearson monopolize the testing, but Pearson’s main goal is not to improve American education.  They are a for-profit organization that wants more states to choose their test.

If we want to improve education in America, we need to listen to the teachers who have their hands and feet inside a classroom every day.  The teachers who know that forcing a student to sit at a computer for hours on end, answering questions about slope and possessive pronouns is not the best way to assess each of them.

I’m not sure if today’s failure will prompt any changes to take place, but gosh I hope so.  Increasing standardized testing is never going to help our students to become more college and career ready young adults.

American Egocentrism – Back at it Again

I know that I previously wrote a post about this, but I am still so frustrated by this topic of American egocentrism.

Our news outlets only care when Americans (or sometimes other Westerners) are the ones affected.

This was a headline that I saw today:

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I understand that Americans who have potentially lost their loved ones are distraught.  But it is not all about us.  We should be concerned about every person who lost his or her life during the attacks, not just the Americans.  We need to care about the Brussels bombings because they are a tragic event.  This tragedy is not made worse just because there is the potential that some Americans were involved.

This happens time and time again.  When Americans are involved in a tragedy, it’s broadcast all over the news.  But what about all of the atrocities that are taking place across the world that we never hear about because we are not directly affected?  Those lives still matter.

There is that trending hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter.  But more than just black lives, every life matters.  Let’s increase the popularity of a different hashtag: #AllLivesMatter.

A former student of mine posted this image on her Facebook account today:

 

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This is exactly what I am talking about here.

It’s easy to simply blame the news outlets for this situation, but really, we as Americans must accept responsibility.  Media outlets are for-profit entities.  They release to the public the stories that they believe will get the most attention.

It’s just like any other industry that deals with supply and demand.  We Americans are the suppliers.  We must demand to be provided with news about other countries beyond America and European countries.

The problem is that we as Americans are too focused on our own nation.  Many of us don’t care what is happening in Africa or the Philippines, unless, of course, our brother happens to be traveling to Libya this week, in which case we then want to know what is happening there (but only until he is safe at home, at which point, we proceed to forget about Libya).

Ebola

When Ebola was killing people throughout Africa, we didn’t care until the first infected person flew to the United States.

Zika

The same is true of the Zika virus.  It had been wreaking havoc among pregnant mothers and newborn babies across South America, but it did not receive much of an increase in news attention until people in Florida started contracting it.

AIDS

AIDS was a major epidemic here in the 1990s, but now that America is doing much better in that respect, people forget that it absolutely still exists and that people are dying every day in Africa from that disease.

Malaria

Malaria is also something that we forget about.  The Against Malaria Foundation is one of the most effective charities because it is able to save tens of thousands of lives from providing people with mosquito nets, which are not very expensive to purchase.  Yet most Americans don’t even remember how devastating this preventable disease can be to the people who are affected by it.

Haiti’s Earthquake

Every American news outlet provided specific details about Americans who had been traveling in Haiti when the earthquake struck Port-au-Prince.  Sure, they also released the overall death count, but the focus was always on the American lives lost.


 

I could go on and on providing examples of illnesses and tragedies that Americans ignore as long as Americans are not involved.  I’m not sure that it is something that will ever change.  It can only change if we as Americans begin demanding to learn about more international news.

We need to stop acting as though the world revolves around us.  It does not.  Let’s take some time to pray for our brothers in Brussels who may have lost their lives, who were injured, or whose family members were injured.  Let’s pray for them not because we heard of the American who was there, but because every life is important.

#AllLivesMatter

 

Lyme Flare-Up or Virus?

I’ve been sick for the past 3 days.  I don’t typically go to the doctor for anything other than routine physicals.  Due to my 9 years of struggles with Lyme Disease, and seeing how the mainstream medical community dismisses it, I find myself very cynical in terms of medicine.  I know that if I mention Lyme to a conventional doctor, it will be ignored, since most of today’s physician’s don’t believe that chronic Lyme actually exists.

But going to a Lyme-literate doctor is outrageously expensive, which brought me to my latest predicament.  First, a little background:

Saturday:

I drove up to CT for a funeral on Saturday and I felt fine.  The previous week I had been working out every day, finally getting back into a good routine.  I was running, lifting, and going to hot yoga.  On Friday night I had a particularly intense and sweaty round of hot yoga.

Sunday:

On Sunday morning I woke up feeling tired, but not terrible.  During the beginning of 10:30 Mass, though, I started feeling really strange.  I had a few chills, some body pains, and I just had no ability to focus.  I could tell that I was not well.

I went back to my grandparents’ house and I just laid on the couch, covered in a blanket, but I was still freezing cold.  I wasn’t tired, though, so I couldn’t fall asleep.  I still had an appetite, ate a big lunch, and then drove back to Jersey.

Driving back, I felt really tired, I had a bad headache, and I couldn’t wait to get home.

I stopped for gas, and then the supermarket.  I then went to Rite-Aid, where, upon pulling into the parking spot, I realized that  I had left my purse at t he supermarket.  Now this wasn’t a one-time occurrence.  I had actually left my wallet there TWICE before, but fortunately nothing was stolen.

The last two times this happened,  I didn’t realize that my wallet was missing for two full days.  This time I noticed within 10 minutes.  I left the pharmacy and raced back to the supermarket.  My purse was not in the cart in the cart corral as I had hoped.  I raced inside and up to the customer service desk and thank goodness, my purse was sitting there.

Unfortunately, all of my American money was stolen.  I think that was about $80, though I’m not entirely sure.  I just know that I got $60 from the ATM on Friday night and I had already had some money in there before that.  It could have been worse.  My credit cards, gift cards, Brazilian money, passport, and camera were all intact.  And I know that deserve it.  I’ve now left my wallet and/or purse at the SAME supermarket THREE times in the past few months.

Part of me can’t understand how this can happen, but there are some similarities from each of the 3 situations:

1st time losing my wallet: I went shopping after a super stressful day at work, and I wasn’t feeling well.

2nd time losing my wallet: I went shopping after another very stressful day at work, and I wasn’t feeling well.  When I put my cart away, I was talking to someone on the phone.

3rd time losing my wallet and my entire purse: I had just driven home from CT.  I had a fever and felt really sick.  It hurt just to walk.  I was tired.  And I remember being distracted while putting my cart away because there was a car with a bunch of Spartan Race stickers on it, so I was reading those.

I think the moral is to not go shopping when I’m sick/stressed/distracted.  If only I could control that.

Anyway, back to the main point of my blog.  I was not doing well on Sunday.  I finally got home, realized that I did have a fever, and just spent the rest of the evening on my couch.

Monday:

On Monday I called out of work.  I woke up super sweaty, thinking my fever had broken, but no, I still had a fever that was actually higher than it had been on Sunday.  My head was pounding so hard all day that I felt dizzy any time I stood up because it just hurt so badly.  My neck was stiff.  I had some occasional body chills.  My knees were hurting, and I had some body aches.

By mid-afternoon, I decided to go to a primary care doctor since I wouldn’t have to pay to go there because I really didn’t want to miss another day of work on Tuesday.  I figured that it couldn’t hurt to get a doctor’s opinion of my symptoms.

Just driving there was a task.  My head would not stop pounding.  They gave me a flu test, which came back negative.  They checked my vitals, height, and weight, but nothing else.  The doctor finally came in, told me I had a virus that has been going around for the past 2 months, and said that she couldn’t do anything to help me.  She did tell me that the virus peaks at 3-5 days, so she said I could only expect to feel worse.  She wrote me a note excusing me from work for Monday and Tuesday, and told me to check in with her on Wednesday.  She said that I could get another note for Wednesday if I was still feeling sick.

She said I should expect to develop a cough and/or sore throat and that all I could do was rest, drink liquids, and eat soup, because I needed to flush out my mucus.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of this when I was with her, but I should have asked, what mucus?  She listened to my chest and noted how my lungs were clear.  My throat was normal.  My nose was normal.  But her solution was to keep hydrated to flush out my nonexistent mucus problem.  She also said to eat soup because it was a liquid and she knew I wouldn’t want to eat anything else since I wouldn’t have an appetite.  But that wasn’t the case either.  I did have an appetite.

Tuesday:

Today I took another day off.  I woke up even sweatier than I had yesterday (which was so frustrating since I put brand new clean sheets on my bed on Sunday, but oh well), but my fever was finally gone.  My head was still hurting, but not nearly as badly.

I’m glad that I have had the time to rest today, but I’m now feeling much better.  My body aches are gone, with the exception of my stiff neck.

I know that I’m always cynical of doctors, but I think this doctor gave me the diagnosis she did because it seemed relatively likely that I had the same virus that had been going around for a while, even though some of my symptoms didn’t match up.  The headache, fever, and body chills matched up.  However, I had no sore throat, cough, runny nose, or loss of appetite.

And I mentioned my stiff neck a few times, but that was completely ignored.  They didn’t check my neck at all.

So the whole predicament I am currently pondering is this: did I actually have a virus, or is this just a Lyme flare-up?

Today I am feeling much better, but my stiff neck still won’t turn properly.  My headache has now moved to the back of my head and my neck area rather than my forehead.

Is this just a Herxheimer reaction that was set off by the recent intensity of my workouts?

There isn’t really a way to know for sure.  I could have had some virus that just gave me different symptoms than it does for other people.  Or this could all be Lyme-related, which is what I’m leaning to more.

According to the doctor, I was supposed to feel terrible today, but the opposite is true.  I’m feeling much better than yesterday and Sunday.

According to the doctor, I was supposed to have developed a cough or sore throat by today, but again, that is not the case.

And unfortunately, for those of us in the Lyme community, this is what we’re always facing, and what makes us very cynical towards doctors who do not specialize in Lyme Disease.  We tell them we have Lyme.  We write it in our charts, but it is completely ignored.  This doctor didn’t ask me one question about Lyme and because I was feeling terrible and just wanted to go home, I wasn’t about to get into a big conversation about Lyme.

It’s possible that the doctor was correct, and that is just a virus.  But having Lyme Disease, I will never really know if it was the virus or Lyme.  All I can do it work on getting better and moving forward.  Since Lyme can show up in almost any sort of symptom, it’s always a big mystery.

I hope that one day, Western medicine will be different.  I hope that one day, Lyme disease won’t be such an ignored epidemic.  I hope that eventually, I can mention chronic Lyme to a regular doctor without them thinking that I’m crazy for thinking that I have a disease that they believe doesn’t exist.