Food for thought, Unf*ck yourself

How to Be an Ally (A Liberal Confronts Living in a Racist Society part three)

(Be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2 first.)

Perhaps more appropriately:

How I Learned to Be an Ally

I’m not an authority on how to be an ally to people of color. I can however tell you what I did so you can educate yourself in the same ways and not put the burden of educating you on your friends of color. Or random people of color on social media who don’t owe you the emotional labor of educating you on racism and white supremacy.

  1. Always listen to people of color. Do not “whitesplain” their experience to them. Do not question their perception, perception is reality.
  2. Do not take it personally. If someone is talking to you, they likely do not think they are speaking of you – aka someone is probably not going to tell you about something racist they think you are saying/doing without just saying you are doing it. Likewise if someone is talking about the system they are not blaming you personally for slavery. Jeez.
  3. Do not expect people of color to explain things to you that you can read about, listen to a podcast about, or otherwise educate yourself on.
  4. EDUCATE YOURSELF. Re-educate yourself. Look at the shit you learned in school through your adult lens of understanding that history is whitewashed, sanitized, and told by the victors.
  5. Learn about all the stuff they wouldn’t even dare teach you in school, like about the history of white supremacy in the United States. For example, did you know that the state of Oregon was founded on being a “white sanctuary” state and they told people of color they had a certain amount of time to GTFO or be beaten every six months until they left? Did you know Oregon is still pretty racist today?
  6. Don’t be afraid to apologize and do better. No one knows everything. You’re going to screw up. I’ve probably screwed something up in this blog post series without even knowing or meaning to. It’s ok. Admit when you are wrong, learn, do better. That’s life. We are so committed to being right no matter what, I’m not sure if that is a modern phenomenon but it’s asinine. Learning and growing is living.
  7. Keep not taking things personally.
  8. Read black writers. Listen to black artists and musicians. Listen to black podcasts. Consume media meant for black people. If you have a platform, use it to amplify black voices.
  9. Make some damn black friends.
  10. Every time you figure something out, take that to heart. I have epiphanies all the time lately.

Learning to Unlearn

One of my favorite quotes is the Audre Lorde quote “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” I think it’s applicable to many things, I mean she was queer I can apply it to the queer experience too right? Is this where I mess up in my posts? As I said in part two, listening to that episode of the Daily Zeitgeist did a couple things to me: I listened to Dulce and tried to figure out how I am racist. She said everyone is part of the problem so I must be racist too. What I realized was that she was saying “If you’re not part of the problem you can’t be part of the solution.” Got it.

She also said, and this is not a direct quote, that white people built this system and it is up to us to fix it. We can’t ask black people to fix a system they didn’t stack against themselves. That really hit home for me because it’s not just “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” it’s “the master needs to dismantle his own damn house.” I always took that quote to mean that as marginalized communities we have to work outside the system that is rigged against us but maybe that’s not all that Lorde meant. Maybe that is all she meant but it means something different for me, as a white woman. As I listened to Dulce speak, I felt quite strongly that it meant that it is up to me as a white person to take the tools white supremacy has forged and use them to bring down the house that racism built. That I should not expect that black folks need to fix this problem we created but that I have to do my part. Did I create the system? No. I’m a millennial. I’m pretty sure that none of my ancestors owned slaves but that’s not the point. No one is asking for me to take personal responsibility for slavery. But the system is stacked in my favor so it is in many ways my system. No amount of queerness and being a woman can replace my whiteness. There is still privilege I must combat and must unlearn.

Listen to these podcasts:

Yo, Is this Racist?
Behind the Bastards *
In the Dark season 2 (Curtis Flowers wrongful conviction case) & season 3 (COVID-19 in the Delta)
That Blackass Show
Code Switch

Check out this list from NPR of books, films, and podcasts about racism.
Here’s a podcast list from Women’s Day

*Behind the Bastards contains foul language and often bad jokes. Robert Evans is not everyone’s cup of tea but he is a great researcher that will teach you a lot of stuff that you never knew about a lot of awful people. You can listen to episodes specific to race or I highly recommend listening to all that interest you.

|I met Angie Thomas at the MS Book Festival and I only fangirled a little|

Read/listen to these books:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
The War on Everyone free audio book by Robert Evans. Also available with commentary and jokes on the Behind the Bastards podcast
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

A list of recommended reading from the New York Times.
A list of books for understanding and dismantling racism a list for white readers from Charis books

Watch It:

When They See Us (Netflix)
Blackish (ABC, Hulu), BlackAF (Netflix) Kenya Barris is kind of a dick/narcissist but it is a window into his particular experiences and thoughts about race
Atlanta (FX, Hulu)
Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2017 film)
Hidden Figures (2016 film, Hulu)

You obviously cannot consume all this media at once and that is not the point. However many years you have been white, you can’t just read books & listen to podcasts nonstop and expect to understand a different experience in a couple of days. What you can do, is add these things to your media consumption and slowly open your heart and mind. Please, do not watch “The Help.” It is trending on Netflix this week but consuming media by white people about the black experience will teach you little.

I will leave you with a selection from “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” from Audre Lorde: “As women, we have been taught either to ignore our differences, or to view them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than as forces for change. Without community there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between an individual and her oppression. But community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist. Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference — those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older — know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths…

Racism and homophobia are real conditions of all our lives in this place and time. I urge each one of us here to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives there. See whose face it wears. Then the personal as the political can begin to illuminate all our choices.”

Thanks for reading.

Black Lives Matter.

Photo by Ramel Cotton
Photo by Ramel Cotton
Food for thought, Unf*ck yourself

A Liberal Confronts Living in a Racist Society part two

Check out part one if you haven’t already read it!

|2012 NAMI Mississippi State Conference|

I don’t know exactly when I decided that I needed to learn some stuff, maybe I just learned a lot without realizing it. I have had the opportunity of knowing many amazing black activists (especially feminist and LGBTQ activists) who work tirelessly to improve the lives of people in Mississippi. Even before attending an HBCU I knew black executive directors of non-profits, HIV/AIDs educators, mental health advocates, domestic violence advocates, people who work within the system to change Mississippi for the better. During my time with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Mississippi I heard people tell their stories about mental health and mental illness specific to the black community. I learned how differently the black community views mental illness and seeking help for it. I learned about racial disparities in access to care – not just mental healthcare but healthcare in general – and saw studies about how black children and black men are diagnosed with more serious illnesses than white patients with the same symptoms. For example, someone white admitted to a behavioral health hospital with psychotic symptoms might get a diagnosis of bipolar with psychotic features or brief psychotic disorder vs schizophrenia.

The organizations I worked with partnered with the ACLU of MS a lot and I learned things that way as well. Still, I bristled at the idea that I might somehow be complicit in racism. I was/am not a racist. I could easily wrap my head around the idea of systemic or institutional racism – I am someone that responds well to statistics and the research seems clear that there is racial bias. Studies that showed employers call someone with a white sounding name more often than someone with a black sounding name even with the same resume shocked and angered me but I could easily see how that could be true. I could even appreciate that white privilege was something I benefit from. My life has not made more difficult by my skin color, I can definitely see that is true. It was much harder to begin to understand that white supremacy is something that is part of the fabric of this country and especially the state that I grew up in and where I have lived the vast majority of my life. How do you unlearn something you don’t remember learning? I tell my clients all the time that everything we think and do we have learned, even if we don’t remember learning it.

|HBCU Stop the Merger Rally|

In 2009, a couple friends and I went to a rally against the proposal that all the HBCUs in Mississippi be combined into one. It seemed like the silliest idea, obviously no one was talking about merging Mississippi State University and Ole Miss but the legislators knew about those schools. No one knew or cared about the differences in the universities, any rivalries they might have, which was so overtly racist that it was laughable. We were the only four white people there. People assumed that we were there because one non-HBCU was also part of the proposed merger, Mississippi University for Women, and eventually we stopped correcting people saying we were from MUW. It just seemed easier for them to understand than that we cared about the HBCUs and it’s easy to see why. There were only 4 white people that bothered to show up.

I had to break free from “not seeing color.” It seems so ridiculous now, in hindsight. I wanted to “judge people by the content of their character not the color of their skin.” Didn’t that make me better than the racists? I bristled when I saw someone say something about “white women” and racism. Not all white women! Didn’t I deserve some credit for not being racist? I saw a tweet that said “the audacity of caucacity” and damn. Did I really think that people who have been marginalized, discriminated against, exploited, and murdered for the last 200 years owed me some credit for not being a racist? I guess I did. “I’m not like them,” I thought, not understanding that just the idea that people should give me the benefit of the doubt was privilege. When people hate you, it must be easier to just avoid all of them altogether rather than spending the time to decide whether or not this one white lady isn’t going to call the cops because you are walking down her street. Black people don’t owe me shit for having basic human decency. Here’s your award for doing the absolute bare minimum! That really is some white shit right there.

If you want to be an ally, you can’t pretend that all people are treated the same. Not seeing color erases racism. That’s what I didn’t understand. I thought I had been raised to be non-racist but actually I was raised by non-racist people who never took the time to try to understand racism and white privilege. We have to do better than that. I love Angela Davis’ statement (and yes, I do know who she is, I didn’t just google “anti racist quotes”) that we can’t just be non-racist we have to be ANTI-racist. See, to be an ally, you actually have to do things. You have to learn things, read things, make mistakes, apologize, do better, tell other white people, expect them to do better too, read more, f*ck up, apologize, do better, ad nauseum.

What I had to learn was that I couldn’t shut down as soon as someone blamed white people or white women for something. They aren’t talking about me. It’s up to me to live my life in a way that I know they know they aren’t talking about me. In graduate school at Jackson State University, an HBCU, I had an experience that is way more common for people of color than it is for white people: I was the only person of my race in a room more than once. Quite frequently I was one of only  2 or 3 white people in a room of 35-40 students. Watching my fellow white students shut down during conversations about race was what really brought it home for me that I couldn’t keep shutting down when someone said “white women” or “all white people.” I had to listen to what came after that if I wanted to take advantage of the incredible opportunity that I had to listen to people of color talk about race in a safe space. These were conversations I would likely never have the opportunity to hear again. Black students talking with black students in classes led by black professors would never feel free to have these conversations in any other rooms. I took a cultural diversity class in which we were lucky enough at the graduate level to have a professor who usually only taught PhD candidates. I sat at a table and watched the faces of at least 2 of the other 3 white people in the room go blank during one particular discussion about race and racism. I realized one woman had checked out of the conversation, just tuned it all out. I am sure that like me she was thinking “This isn’t me. I am not a racist, this doesn’t apply to me. Not all white people!” I feel very glad that I had gotten to a point in my own personal journey where I was able to stay engaged in the discussion and just listen.

My brain still screams “not all white women” when I see blanket statements like “white women voted for Trump” and “white feminism is racially biased.” It’s hard not to feel targeted when I see “all white women” but it’s one thing to feel targeted by a tweet, it another thing entirely to be targeted by people who want to kill you because of your skin color. I have been afraid of hate crimes at times, but I also pass for straight in any room I walk into. People of color have no such luxury. I know many people disagree with me for even trying to be anti-racist. Not just that I acknowledge my privilege, or that I seek to learn about the experience of others, but that I have the audacity to point out covert racism and say this is a racist country. I worried a split second about being so candid so publicly but the ones that are so prejudiced that they’d set out to boycott my place of business because I dare to expect better from myself and others aren’t people I want to work with. One cannot love their country by denying its past. Nor can one be patriotic by enabling the vitriol of people who only think they are patriots.

I don’t have the emotional bandwidth to fight with everyone that says “all lives matter” on Facebook but I do what I can. I was able to look at a client of color and tell them I think they were misdiagnosed because of a racist mental health system. I was able to look someone else straight in the eye after they told me they had a felony murder charge and tell them that we cannot discount the mitigating factors of systemic racism on the choices that poor young people of color have. I understand in a different way the statement: “You didn’t make good choices, you had good choices,” that Mia says in Little Fires Everywhere. I don’t understand what it’s like to be a person of color in a society that glorifies whiteness. But in the ways that I have power – as a mental health professional, as a therapist, I will always be sure to not only consider the impact of race on a person’s life, health, and mental health, but communicate to them that while the system may not get it, I will at least attempt to.

What white people have to understand, whether they seek to be allies or not, is that admitting you have white privilege isn’t admitting that you’ve personally done anything wrong. It’s like anything else you’re born with – beauty, athletic ability, artistic talent, it’s not something you control. I didn’t ask to be born white but I do have advantages that come with that whiteness. That doesn’t take away my struggles, when I worked 3 jobs and ate butter noodles for dinner because I didn’t have much money after rent. It doesn’t mean I had to study any less hard in school. All it means is that the struggles I’ve experienced were not made more difficult because I am white. That’s IT. That’s all.

I recommended my Facebook friends listen to this episode of my favorite podcast The Daily Zeitgeist with Dulce Sloan as the guest and I will recommend the same to anyone reading this. I will talk about it in the last part of this series but for now, just know that if you are white some of what she says might make you defensive but you need to listen to it anyway.

Read Part 3, the conclusion.



Food for thought, Unf*ck yourself

A Liberal Confronts Living in a Racist Society part one

I am supposed to be blogging for my “work” website but of late I have found it very difficult to focus on a piece about imposter syndrome. For my work as a therapist, I write about topics that my clients care about like healthy relationships and depression. The country has gotten very heavy the last week and a half. I have spent many years examining my own opinions and biases around race and I thought that instead of writing a long winded Facebook post I might actually blog here.

This past Saturday my husband and I attended the Black Lives Matter protest in Jackson, Mississippi. This was not especially out of character for us, we have protested before. I spent a portion of my college years as an activist and I believe in the right of peaceful protest. I grew up listening to folk musicians and wishing I had lived in the 1960s so I could have protested the Vietnam war. The household I grew up in prioritized learning, reading, education, and did not discourage questioning authority unless that authority was my mother or the Bible. I also grew up in a household that “did not see race.”

Both of my parents are from Missouri and while still being the Midwest it was more ideologically different from the South in the 1970s, I believe. When I was born both of my parents worked in Washington D.C. but we moved from Indianapolis to Mississippi in 1987 when I was six. My father was stationed in Biloxi when he was in the Air Force in the 60s and he “always thought Mississippi would be a great place to raise a family” or so the story goes. My father had black friends growing up and lived in urban St. Louis in an area where there was violence both then and now. He experienced neighborhood violence as a child. My mother grew up in a farming community not so unlike a lot of rural Mississippi. I grew up in more of a suburn-rural hybrid because we lived in a subdivision but were not far from dirt roads and cotton fields. Our next door neighbors were black and I think my father thought of Mr. Shields as a friend not just a neighbor. I do not remember having a crush on their much older high school son but I do have a box full of Christmas ornaments where I had scrawled “I ❤ Darryl” when I was probably way too young to have crushes on anyone.

My father’s closest friend later in life was probably Flora, who was one of only two people waiting with me in the hospital waiting area when he had surgery for kidney cancer. Flora was also black. I didn’t have black friends growing up because the family next door is the only black family I remember from the neighborhood during that time period. I didn’t seek out a specific race of friends, I was just friends with the other kids around my age in the neighborhood because that’s who you’re friends with when you’re a kid. I feel like we had black kids in Girl Scouts but truthfully I don’t remember. We went to an all white Southern Baptist church for most of my childhood and I did not realize until later that it was probably a place that would have made black visitors feel uncomfortable. I was a sheltered child, home schooled, and rarely heard the N word. I was taught that all people are equal, that your worth is based on your intellect and hard work, and for a long time I thought that the “-ism” I learned growing up was more classism than racism.

When I lived in Kentucky, a white friend told me about the experience of learning that her grandfather was racist. I can’t remember the reason we were having that conversation but I remember she told me she was out with him one day and he made a racist comment directed at a black man, a stranger. She was horrified even as a child. She was ashamed. She knew enough even at the time to know what an awful thing he had said. “Wow, Kentucky is just as bad as Mississippi,” I remember thinking. While I didn’t know that I knew any racists from back home, I knew racism existed in Mississippi.

I had absolutely no idea that not seeing race was problematic. I had absolutely no idea that in the south, classism is racism and vice versa. I had absolutely no idea that I had anything that I needed to unlearn at all. I was not racist. My parents were not racist. My extended family was not racist that I know of. It wasn’t until I moved back to Mississippi after 8 years in Ohio & Kentucky that I began to understand there was anything I needed to learn or unlearn related to race.

Jackson Mississippi Black Lives Matter protest
Photo by Ramel Cotton

Recently, friend shared a story of realizing that she was relating to the world through a lens of white privilege and I thought about my own experience. When you don’t know you need to unlearn something it can be very hard to understand at first. Shortly after I returned to Mississippi, Voter ID was on the ballot. I didn’t have an issue with Voter ID and I didn’t understand what the big deal was. Everyone has an ID. In Ohio, we already had Voter ID so I had never voted without having to show my driver’s license. My friend Tom didn’t drive but even he had a state issued photo ID. I saw no harm in asking people to identify themselves in order to vote. Instead of attempting to understand why Voter ID was problematic, I looked at it through my own experience. That’s what we do after all, we see the world as we have experienced it and it is only through concerted effort that we learn how others experience it. I didn’t read about disenfranchisement of African American voters especially in the south. I had never heard of poll tests or poll taxes.

In my 27 year old, white, raised middle class although I was poor at the time life, I had never known a world where my vote was unwanted. I grew up reading stories of how one vote could change the course of the country and I believed every vote mattered equally and that everyone had equal opportunity to make their voice heard in that way. I was educated by sanitized, Christian history textbooks that told stories of happy “American Indians” teaching pilgrims about corn; good white guys saving slaves from misguided but mostly not too bad slave owners; and Asians happily building the railroads and everyone living happily ever after. Everyone in the greatest country in the world need only work hard to be successful. We all had the exact same opportunities.

When I became an activist, it was sort of by accident. In the aftermath of Prop 8 in California LGBTQ people in all states were reeling from this idea that rights could just be given and taken away by people who didn’t really have the right to give them or take them away in the first place. Marriage equality in itself was a very white affluent cause to be rallying behind but that’s another story for another day. I was finishing up my college degree and even though I was an adult I had many of the traditional college experiences. Still young and idealistic, I believed both that we were going to change the country (in like a year and a half) and that I understood what it was like to be every minority because I happened to be one or two minorities myself. It was through activism that I began to see how divided Mississippi was. We had the white gay club and the black gay club. We had the white LGBTQ organizations and the black LGBTQ organizations. We had white gay Pride events and black gay Pride events.

Some of us from both organizations tried to integrate more but the two communities seemed to want to stay separate. It struck me as so odd. I didn’t see color, remember. Why would the two communities want to live in some sort of queer Jim Crow? I couldn’t understand. We tried to give free tickets to white people to go to a black gay event and even free no one but my activist friends went. What we failed to realize at the time was that the LGBTQ community in Jackson, MS was in many ways a reflection of the straight community in Jackson, MS. We have our own neighborhoods and because of that our own stores, our own parks, our own schools, our own bars and restaurants, and our own modern segregation.

Slowly as my hipster neighborhood further gentrified I began to see more and more that the white liberals were really not that different from the white conservatives. The invention of the NextDoor app made it even more obvious how what people said and then what people did were different. Our neighborhood had million dollar homes just blocks from rundown rentals and boarded up abandoned houses. The city of Jackson is 81% black and yet people didn’t believe the black people driving down the street were their neighbors. They posted about suspicious (black) people walking down the street to have the person respond “I am your neighbor.” They posted about suspicious (black person driven) cars to get responses like: “that is my handyman George in the red truck and he is not casing the neighborhood” and “that’s my car. I have lived here for ten years.”

As gentrification does, the neighborhood began to slowly change. Affordable housing was torn down and replaced with luxury apartments and condos meant to appeal to the people working at the large hospital nearby. Shops and art galleries closed and upscale bars opened. Black owned salons were replaced by white owned salons. The little purple occult shop was replaced with the second gourmet coffee shop in a 2 block radius. Businesses stayed locally owned but clientele looked whiter and whiter. I started to realize that the liberal white people around me might be voting Democrat but they might not be as different from the people in the suburbs as I thought they were. The rich white suburb might ban rentals because it’s overtly racist but the covert racists didn’t have to ban rentals – they just had to get rid of apartments that rented for under $1,000 for a studio.

In 2012 I watched Ohio turn blue and Obama win a second term in the white house from a table full of friends at a Thai fusion restaurant. We cheered, relieved. I was proud to watch a state I had called home for so long reflect my values.

Every friend sitting at that table with me was white.

Continue to Part 2.

First world problems

I tried Twitter again but it turns out they don’t want me

Jesus don’t want me for a sunbeam

I have never successfully stuck with Twitter very long. I think a couple months was the best that I did and that was only because the person I was dating was on Twitter 24/7. It seemed to make sense to have a Twitter account for each of my websites, branding and all, so I have an Instagram and a Twitter account for my professional career, my makeup and beauty blog, and I decided I’d start a personal one for this blog. I am trying to be more regular with posting everywhere so I thought why not give Twitter a try?

I broke Twitter

So I started a new account but it didn’t let me choose a username. Apparently there’s already a staceysthoughts (there’s also a Not26anymore too which is why my beauty account is Not26NEmore) so it assigned me staceythoughts1. Definitely not good for branding purposes. Maybe this is where I went wrong. I’ve read through the Help section three times and I cannot pinpoint exactly what I did for Twitter to “shadowban” me.

Twitter won't let me follow people

Twitter shadowban

All I can figure is that by following too many people all at once – it was a BRAND NEW ACCOUNT GUYS – they labeled me an “aggressive” follower. I could truthfully be called an aggressive driver. I can often be an aggressive applier of eyeshadow. I’m fairly certain I wasn’t an aggressive people follower. Since it was a brand new account I followed some of my contacts from email and I followed some of the suggested accounts. I tweeted some shit. I focused on my workday because I’m pretty busy. Then I tried to follow one of my other accounts and Twitter told me that I am not allowed to follow anyone. My follower count shows as 0.

This was not the most successful attempt at becoming a regular user of Twitter.

Why did Twitter ban me

Following the Help section took me into a mad loop of unhelpful stuff. They are really vague about how many people “aggressive” following means. I assume that is so they can apply it in any situation they want but there must be something that triggers an automated ban. I have absolutely no idea how many people I followed but I know it was not 1,000. (The daily limit.) I only follow like 800 people on my largest Instagram so there’s no way I tried to follow more than 50 on Twitter. I follow all my makeup accounts on Not26NEmore. Even though I only followed the contacts they took out of my email and 2 or 3 of the ones they suggested, I guess I followed too many too quickly! Shouldn’t there really be something that lets you be exempt for the first 24 hours after you open an account or something? I mean obviously you’re going to follow a bunch of people when you start an account! I didn’t even follow half of my email contacts either. I’m very WTF about this still.

Why won’t Twitter let me follow anyone

Their Help is super unhelpful because it talks about “aggressive follow churn” which is repeatedly following and unfollowing and I didn’t unfollow anyone. It also says “if you see a message that your account features have been limited due to aggressive following read about locked and limited accounts for more information” but that’s just where I started going in a big help circle, back to the same things I had already read. I also didn’t really get an error message, just one saying I can’t follow anyone but not what to do about it. It even super unhelpfully says “…but if you don’t follow or unfollow hundreds of accounts in a single day and you aren’t using automated methods of following accounts, you should be fine.Clearly. Not.

Twitter help is not helpful

It takes days to hear from customer support

So I sent them a message because if there’s something in the Help as to what to do to fix this other than that, I can’t find it. Then it tells me it can take SEVERAL DAYS to get a response.

I think I’m just going to quit Twitter before I waste even more of my time on it. I was probably going to stop using it anyway so why spend a week or a couple months doing it? I’ll stick with Instagram where I have no issues and it’s prettier to look at anyway.

I really feel like Twitter is overrated unless you’re on your phone 19 hours a day and or a complete attention whore.

Wedding DIY

Wedding DIY

I got engaged on my birthday!

Check out our wedding website here!

Why are weddings so expensive?

We are having a small wedding but as you might know, weddings are expensive no matter how small. As soon as you say “wedding” to a vendor, they see dollar signs. We have a strict budget and I would love to come in under budget (ha!) because whatever is left over is going toward the honeymoon trip. One thing I am is a compulsive researcher. The first time I got married, I found awesome deals on just about everything but I was young so I did get sucked in to a lot of “must haves” and “must dos” that I am not doing this time around.

Plan ahead to get deals

We actually decided about a year before we got engaged that we were going to get married. My sister announced her engagement Christmas 2016 and I had remarked that I wish she had an engagement ring because as a woman I think we are programmed to say “let me see the ring!” as soon as someone says they are engaged. As it turned out, Jon had been planning to propose to me and didn’t know he needed to have a ring first… so it took a little longer because he was saving up for a ring. Because I have wanted an autumn themed wedding since I started my pinterest board years ago, I asked Jon last fall if we were getting married in 2018 because if so, I wanted to buy a lot of decorations when all of the fall decorations went on clearance. He said yes, 2018, so we started buying some decorations before we were even engaged! That felt kind of weird, honestly.

So many stores have tons of stuff left on clearance so after Thanksgiving was over there were deals everywhere on fall decorations and autumn leaf print items. I had to keep myself in check because it was hard to resist so many great prices!

Keep your wedding affordable by DIY as much as possible

Because I am so organized, I love to craft, and the wedding is not going to be giant, I have decided to everything I can myself. DIYing a wedding does save money but what it takes is time and ability. Looking at bridal crowns on etsy, I have decided that me and my hot glue gun can handle that task for way under the $40-$150 that sellers charge. I don’t want something that I don’t have the skill to accomplish, so I’m taking that one on myself. I found this blog post on Lauren Conrad’s website that is a good start on what tools are necessary.

My inspiration:


Be honest about your crafting skills – don’t ruin your wedding

The trick with DIY is to be honest about what you can and cannot do. I have made a wedding cake before and I love to bake, so I am considering doing the cake myself. What I am absolutely not considering doing is making my dress. I can hem some pants and add a button but I am no seamstress. I’m great with a hot glue gun so the tiaras are not a stretch but it would be insane for me to try to acquire the sewing skills required to make even a basic dress between now and my wedding. You have to be honest about your skills. If you’ve never successfully made a cake, don’t try to make your wedding cake. If you burn everything and can’t boil water successfully, don’t decide to cater your own reception. If you hate crafting then don’t attempt your own decorations. Weddings are stressful enough without having to find someone last minute to fix what you messed up.

My do it yourself wedding and reception list

My current plan is to do the following myself:

  • Flowers/bouquets/boutonnieres
  • Most reception food
  • Reception punch and drinks
  • Bridal headpiece crown tiara
  • Music
  • Champagne glasses
  • Cake stands
  • Nails, makeup, and hair

Undecided on:

  • Cake
  • Favors

Things I am paying others do to:

  • Invitations and save the date cards
  • Wedding dress
  • Reception main course
  • Venue for ceremony and reception
  • Photography

Things I am skipping and not including in the wedding:

  • Guestbook
  • Unity candles
  • Possibly favors, if I do favors they will be edible
  • Flower girl, ring bearer
  • Bridesmaids, groomsmen
  • Gifts for groomsmen, bridesmaids, parents, bride and groom (seriously the wedding industry is crazy. I got an expensive engagement ring I don’t need a gift from the groom! My parents are paying toward the wedding, they don’t need me to use their money to buy them some cheesy gift…)
  • Bachelor/bachelorette parties (I may take a girls weekend trip this summer but it won’t be right before the wedding)

In my opinion, and Jon shares this, a wedding is about celebrating your love and your desire to make a lifetime commitment to each other, with the people you love most. It should be fun for everyone, the bride and groom included. It should not include people you haven’t seen in years or don’t really know (aka friends of parents, coworkers, etc.) It should have food that is good that people actually want to eat – cake included. The average American wedding costs between $19,182 and $31,970 and that’s just crazy in my opinion. I’ve been to those big expensive weddings and it’s usually rubbery chicken, lukewarm lasagna at $40 a head, everyone is stressed out, something always goes wrong and “ruins” the day, the cake has a thick layer of fondant you can barely choke down, all in all if you want a truly magical day it takes Kardashian level money to pull off. Everyone else pays tens of thousands of dollars to fall very short of magical. I’m not looking for a perfect day, I want to have a fun day with people I love, to celebrate my love. ❤ I’ll be posting more details about all the above things I’m doing and not doing, as they unfold.

Food for thought

What makes us, us?

Recently, I started listening to the book Things I’ve Learned From Dying: A Book About Life by David Dow. Because I work in patient’s homes, my job involves a lot of driving, so listening to books and podcasts is a great way to pass the time and entertain myself or learn something. It may seem excessive to be listening to a book about dying when I work in hospice care but what I have found is that the subtleties of grief and grieving are even more nuanced and complex than even I realized. I may decide to review the book once I finish it but what started me thinking was actually a part of the book in chapter eight. The book itself is David’s account of his work as a death row lawyer, his own experience of his father-in-law’s battle with cancer, his last days with his aging dog Winona, and letters that his father-in-law wrote while dying.

In one of the letters, Peter, David’s father-in-law, writes:

“I know what is happening to me, or what used to be me…”

He laments that he no longer understands a piece of music that used to move him. He says he understands that this means his brain is slowing down and therefore dying and he goes on to say later in the letter:

“Thankfully, I can still tell from moments last night that I am changing, but this too will not last. Soon I will not know myself and nor will I be myself, and I will not know that I do not know.”

This passage made me think of something that happened recently with my mother. After a particularly crushing appointment with a doctor who gave her some news that she could not handle hearing, she had what I believe to be a panic attack and lapsed into what the doctors decided was transcient global amnesia. In other words, her brain stopped residing with us in 2017 and she essentially “lost” five years of her life, believing that it was the year 2012. My father, the only other person who was there when this happened, said that she yelled, “I’m having a stroke! I’m having a stroke!” as they were driving home from that appointment and he turned the car around and took her to the emergency room. Those hours were some of the scariest that I have lived in my life thus far, answering the same questions literally dozens of times as my mother laid in a hospital bed hysterically crying and telling us that her current address is the house I grew up in – a house they had sold over eight years ago. Thankfully, that night they admitted her to the hospital and when she woke up she remembered the previous five years, just not that day in the emergency room.

A month or so later, at dinner, she said “I don’t know who that person was. I don’t know what person that was but it wasn’t me.” Perhaps more accurately it was just the person that she used to be, five years prior. It started me thinking though, what is it that makes us, us? Simple answers to that question might be a soul, or spirit, because many spiritual and religious people believe the “us” is what is inside the body and it continues to exist even when the body dies. Yet, here we have a person who experienced amnesia and a man who is dying with cancer that has spread to his brain, and each are describing a person that it somehow them yet not them. Is it our consciousness that makes us, us?

In my job as a hospice social worker, anywhere from one third to one half of my patients at any given time have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia. I have heard literally dozens of people describe the way that their loved on used to be and reflect on how differently he or she acts now, many times like a different person. People explain that someone who never cursed suddenly begins using foul language or someone who was always very gentle is suddently having violent outbursts of anger. This is usually what is most difficult for family and friends to deal with, someone whom they love acting in a way that is completely unlike themselves. We think of who we are, our personality, ourselves as something solid and even if we believe in changing and growing there’s still something concrete that we view as “me.” I know that for myself, I have changed and grown very much and I believe that learning and growing is an imperative for becoming the best version of myself, but I do still believe that there’s an underlying ME to that. Me is a person who for example has never liked mushrooms even though she’s learned and grown into someone who can better process emotions. It’s frightening to think that the underlying “me” inside of all of us is much less infinite than we believe, that it might be possible somehow to lose the “me.”

I don’t have an answer for the question, what makes us, us? Except that it perhaps more complicated a question than we can truly answer even using science or spirituality. Those are just my thoughts on this particular subject, at this moment.