Need a Signal Boost…

I have a problem knee. It started years ago after a car accident, and ended (or so I thought) about 3 years ago after the gradual wearing away of the cartilage in my right knee started to become painful. I had it treated, I went to Physical Therapy… and it was fixed. Or so I thought.

A little more than 3 years later and I start having knee pain again. Another round of treatments, more physical therapy, and it was starting to get better again. And then…

One evening earlier this month, during an otherwise uneventful hike through Griffith Park, I took a step up an incline and felt a sharp pain and a large crunch. But because I was at the top of a mountain, I walked it off and got back to my car. And after the initial crunching, honestly, it seemed okay. The next day it was sore. I chalked it up to the normal soreness from overexertion, put some ice on it and went on with my day. The day after that I woke up to my knee the size of a grapefruit and the inability to bend it at all. It was stiff, sore and HURT. Again, walked as much as I could, got it loosened up, iced it and gave myself the next 3 days off working out and generally sat on my ass as much as possible.

Flash forward to 3 weeks later and though it’s gotten generally better and it’s manageable, I am noticing that it’s always stiff, it’s always sore and remains a bit swollen. I can’t bend it. My range of motion is limited and I’m in constant pain. So back to the doctor again. Another MRI, and this time, it’s not just the same old thing. The crunch I felt during that hike was apparently a pretty big tear in the already weakened cartilage. On the MRI I could see the spot where it was missing plainly. No need for doctor translation on this one – look there’s a chunk of my knee missing – easy to see.

And this time, I will need surgery to repair the damage.

And herein lies the problem.

I am a freelance photographer. And I don’t get paid sick days. I have been told by my doctor that recovery from this surgery will require me to be on crutches for up to 6 weeks. Which means, I will not be able to work for at least that long. I have health insurance, but I am going to be responsible for paying part of it and even with insurance, I’m looking at a couple thousand dollars.

I hate asking for help.

But there it is.

I need help.

What I am asking for is this – simply a signal boost.

I have an Etsy store filled with prints of my photography work – I need to sell them. A good number of them are already framed from having shown in local galleries over the last few years. I have a few things I’m selling on eBay (and I’m sure once I’ve taken a moment to go through my closet, I will have more).

Here are the links:

Lauren Elisabeth Photography on Etsy (etsy.com/shop/laurenelisabethphoto)

and my seller ID on eBay is TheTankGyrl, my auctions are here:

http://www.ebay.com/sch/thetankgyrl/m.html?_ipg=48&_sop=12&_rdc=1

Friends and readers! I would appreciate it greatly if you could pass these links along to your followers.

Also, for the next few weeks before the surgery, I’m going to need to work as much as possible. If you need headshots, portraits, have a party or event that needs coverage – my work is at http://luxela.net.

Thanks for taking a moment to read this.

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Body Confidence. Also, Please Stop It.

This morning, while sipping my coffee and perusing the internet, I came across this headline on an MSN article:

“How To Get Cameron Diaz’s Arms”

It was next to the accompanying article “How To Get Abs Like Beyonce.”

This bugs me. But why should it? After all, these are articles that are meant to be inspiring to women everywhere to get in shape and be fitter, healthier and (in theory) generally happier with themselves. It’s not the reason behind the articles that bothers me so much, its the method.

Why can’t those “aspirational” headlines be more actualized and less sensationalized. I’m never going to have Cameron Diaz’s arms, Beyonce’s abs, or Jennifer Lopez’s butt. Why must we be beaten over the head with these bullshit aspirations to look like women who, let’s be honest, WE WILL NEVER LOOK LIKE. It does us, as women, a huge disservice to encourage us to reach unrealistic goals. We should be encouraged to be ourselves, be beautiful as we are and own our flaws. It’s not the perfect bits that make us beautiful. Its our flaws that make us unique and therein lies each and every woman’s own beauty. Let’s stop clicking on those links, stop buying those magazines, just STOP supporting the ridiculousness of all this until the magazine and website publishers who perpetuate these articles start offering us articles that inspire us to be the best of ourselves, not the impossibility of being “just like” someone else.

***Silly thought that popped into my head when I read that headline: Cameron Diaz’s arms would look really funny on me. I have a bigger frame than she does. If my arms were as thin as hers, I’d look like I had twigs stuck out of my shoulders and except for Madonna – no one wants that.***

But seriously, for once, I would like to see an article with a more realistic approach and headline “How to Be the BEST YOU THAT YOU CAN BE” would be nice. Or maybe “How to Be Fit and Healthy, Taking Into Consideration Your Own Body Frame.” I suppose those headlines just aren’t attention grabbing. Though for the ladies that I know who are learning to be comfortable in their own skins, I think they would be.

Every woman’s magazine, fashion magazine and online beauty site constantly tells us we have to look like someone else. And it’s infuriating.

I work out just about every day. I do. I’m proud of the body I have achieved and I work hard at making it the best it can be. But I also have problem areas that genetically speaking are never going to be perfect. And that’s okay. Yeah, sometimes it bugs me that no matter how many dumbbell curls or tricep extensions I do, my upper arms always look flabbier than I’d like. But I’ve come to accept this. That acceptance came last year, when I discovered that even with that unwanted jiggle on my arms I was able to lift and carry a full 50 quart cooler from my job site to my car. Those bicep curls made it not only possible, but not really that hard. My PA saw me do it. She was impressed. And honestly, so was I. It felt good to know that even though I wasn’t achieving the visible results I was striving for, I was actually a lot stronger than I’d thought. Suddenly having “ripped” arms just didn’t matter so much.

We shouldn’t be aspiring to be something we can never achieve. We should be aspiring to be the versions of ourselves that make us happiest. We should aspire to be healthy, fit and strong. We should eat salad one day and cake the next. We should be enjoying ourselves and know that the secret to real happiness isn’t directly proportional to how close to the same dress size as Keira Knightly we are, it’s in being confident and happy with ourselves. I know women who are happy and confident at every size and shape imaginable – and that’s exactly how it should be for everyone.

It makes me sad when I see a girl who is beautiful, talented and extremely stylish post a photo of herself that says “I hate my butt and thighs.” Because what I saw in that photo was a girl with a great ass and nice legs. But we’re so heavily bombarded with these unattainable goals, she doesn’t see it. So – in case you read this – you’re gorgeous. Own it.

Apparently this is Body Confidence Week 2014.

Well, screw that.

I say we own our imperfections and share our struggles and make 2014 Body Confidence Year.

My Tattoos Are NOT An Invitation to Grab Me

This morning, while running errands, I decided to stop off at a Starbucks for a lovely much needed caffeine infusion of the iced variety. It is after all Southern California and it is summer. And it’s hot. As I was waiting in line for the opportunity to order my sugary frosty treat, I noticed that a man in line ahead of me was staring at me. Now, I am not a vain person, however, I am aware that I am somewhat cute and pretty physically fit – and sometimes men look. That’s fine. Whatever. I gave the dude a half-smile and went back to scrolling through email inbox on my phone. The line moved. I looked up and took a step forward and there was the dude. Still staring. This time he asked me, “May I see your tattoo?” referring to the somewhat large piece of ink I have on my upper arm. It was dim in the Starbucks, and I was standing with my arm turned away from him, so I said sure and turned it towards him so he could see it more clearly. I am used to this. I have a number of tattoos. Sometimes you can see them. Sometimes you can’t. And today, in a tank top (I said it was hot), there they are – in all their colorful glory for all the world to see. But then….

He took a step forward to look at the ink in question and grabbed my arm. Just below the elbow and twisted it towards him. Like I was made of rubber. Not only did it hurt a little to have my arm shockingly turned sideways in an unnatural position, but my offer of letting him look at my tattoo more closely DID NOT give him permission to grab me. Or to touch me at all. As one of my friends said when I told them the story “Look with your eyes, not with your hands! Didn’t we learn that in kindergarten?” My point exactly. I asked him to let go of my arm. I did not make a snarky comment about his having had grabbed me in a rather agressive manner without my consent – which would have been easy to do (and honestly, is usually my first instinct). I, also, did not punch him in the nose (which is usually my second instinct). I did, however, pull my arm back a little to let him know it was NOT OKAY TO TOUCH ME and said “Sorry, but do you mind letting go of me?” His response was to let go of my arm while muttering under his breath, “You don’t have to be bitchy about it.”

I’m sorry – BUT WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK????

Dude, you just grabbed a girl without her permission and twisted her arm sideways. You do not know this woman, you have never seen her before, you do not know anything about her. What the fuck makes you think that by asking to see her artwork you now have her permission to grab her? Or for that matter to touch her at all? Not only is it a violation of my personal space and my right not to be touched by random dudes in coffee shops, but let’s put this in another situation – say you see a girl wearing a t-shirt with a logo on it that is printed clearly over her breasts. You say to her “What does that say?” She turns to you so can read the shirt. Does this brief interaction now give you the right to grab her boobs? Yeah, didn’t think so. In fact, you’d get arrested if you did that. So what makes you think that my body art is any different? It is my body. It is my space. You are not invited into it because you may be an admirer of how I present it to the world.

I would just like to put this out there – a tattoo is a piece of artwork. You wouldn’t grab a painting in a museum to get a better look, would you? No. You would not. So what makes you think that just because I carry my artwork around with me all the time, I want your unwashed hands touching it? It’s not scratch and sniff. You’re not going to get anything extra out of it if you get to touch it. It is, as most art, meant to be looked at, not touched. So keep your grubby hands off me.

The next time you see a girl or anyone with a tattoo you admire, and you ask them to see it more clearly, please respect their boundaries. Yes, tattoos can be beautiful artwork, but they are also part of PEOPLE. Do not assume that the art takes away from the fact that it is on someone’s body. Be respectful. Look, don’t touch. Ask questions if you’re interested in it. I, like most people who have tattoos, are happy to answer any questions you have about them. If you want to know if it feels any different, then ask me that. But, if you are, like I suspect this guy was, just interested in touching me – at least have the common decency to ask me out to dinner first.

And then don’t call me a bitch if I say no because you’re a creepy douchebag.

Ten Things You Can Do To Stop Violence Against Women

A year ago, one of my close friends was beaten nearly to death by her boyfriend. Recently, she wrote a post about it. She published this post on Facebook. Facebook took it down, citing that it was “hateful, threatening or obscene.” Or that it was an attack “against an individual” because it named her attacker. (He has been convicted, sentenced and the attack is a matter of public record; therefore, her stating his name is not an attack against him, merely a fact.)

FB Warning

Even if she wasn’t my friend, I would still post this and cross-post it on Facebook, Twitter and anywhere else I see fit. Facebook should be ashamed. They refuse to remove misogynistic fan pages, but the thoughts of one woman who went through a brutal attack is deemed “hateful.” 

I am re-posting her article here. In its entirety. I hope you read it. 

“Ten things you can do to stop violence against women”
By Jane

Exactly a year ago, my then-boyfriend put me in a headlock and punched me until his hand shattered.
The only reason I didn’t die on my bedroom floor on the night of May 3, 2012 is that he didn’t know where to put his thumb when he made a fist.

It wasn’t the first time, nor, I’m sad to say, was it the last time, but it was the one he got caught for, and the one I can’t get sued for talking about.

He spent the night in a hospital, having his hand rebuilt with pins. I spent the night strapped to a trolley in a different hospital, having everything x-rayed. I left with stitches in my face and my blood-soaked clothes in a Dunnes Stores bag. He left the hospital five days later, in a cast, and with a diagnosis of “work and home stress”.

I still get concealer in my scar (and it is still sore), and I’m still not totally safe, but I’ve started to rebuild my life, and it’s getting pretty good. But while my life improves, dudes are still beating up women.

As much as I’d like to shut up about this and have people stop identifying me with something that happened to me, it’s not that common for an abuser to be convicted. I’m in a position to do something that many women are not, so I’ll keep talking until dudes stop beating up women.

We all know victims, so we all know perpetrators. It’s always someone you wish it weren’t. Believe me, I know this better than anyone.

Even though you can’t make a relationship with a violent dickhead safe for his girlfriend (or possibly for any woman), we can make the world safer for women by making it harder to get away with cracking our faces open.

Here’s some of what I think we need to do differently.

1. Swap your sympathy for empathy, and get angry: Nothing could get better for me until I got really angry, and empathy helped me get there. Empathising with me means you’ll stop asking me why I stayed, and assume that, like with any violent crime, it could happen to anyone. Empathising with him means you accept that it’s done by seemingly normal human beings, and not by easily identifiable monsters.

I do appreciate the “Sorry for your troubles”, but I’d rather you be angry with me than sad on my behalf. I know the sympathy comes from the right place, but it can feel a little like a pat on the head, and even a bit isolating. We live in a world where you can beat your girlfriend nearly to death and walk out of a criminal court straight into a pub for a burger and a pint. That should piss you right the fuck off, so if you don’t think it’s my fault, then don’t make it all my responsibility.

2. Trust us: Women like me lose the ability to trust ourselves, and we don’t often speak believably about what’s happening until it’s well in the past. Even I sometimes don’t believe me. And yes, we all take them back. It seems to have undermined my credibility with a lot of people, forever. Because hey, if I hadn’t been exaggerating all along, then why would I take someone back after he put me in the hospital?

I managed to gloss over the time I woke up with a pillow being pushed to my face. I didn’t want to believe he was capable of it any more than you did, so you should probably trust that I’m not going to make this shit up.

3. Start calling bullshit: Does your friend, your brother, your colleague insist that his girlfriend or wife is “batshit crazy”? Does she sound like a wild-eyed shrieking harpy who is totally ruining his life? I’ll tell you something: having the shit slapped out of you makes you a little crazy. Five weeks after I contacted his family to ask them to help him, I was in the hospital with a busted face. They hadn’t believed me because they’d been told I was crazy. I’m not, by the way, which I feel the need to say because trauma does all sorts of things to you, whether or not you ever get your face broken. But maybe if someone had started calling his bullshit years ago, he wouldn’t have ended up the way he is, and I would not have to rebuild my life and my sense of self.

Try it. Next time some guy says “She’s crazy”, assume what he really means is, “I’m an enormous dickhead with no respect for women.”

4. Stop looking for the truth: My account is true and real, and verified in a criminal court, but his account also represents a world he truly lived in. The fact is, we were both delusional. He believed I was a monstrous asshole, and I thought if I stopped being such a monstrous asshole, he would stop throwing things at my head and be the loving boyfriend he promised he’d be – if I only changed a few more things about myself.

It’s a Venn diagram, where the overlapping bit was “Jane is an irredeemable piece of shit”. It’s when I started insisting I was a worthy human being, when the punches and the slaps would start. You can rearrange the data points all you like, and get a hundred different versions, but there is no grey area between two overarching perspectives where you’ll find the truth you’re looking for. That crisscrossing of narratives applies to normal human relationships, but these were two competing and incompatible narratives, neither of which were rational.

This was a situation where I was trying to have a normal relationship with someone who once threw a pint of beer over me to prove he wasn’t an alcoholic. OK, so maybe that is a little crazy.

5. Let go of the checklist: You know the one. You Google “emotional abuse” because someone was a dick to you, and there it is. It’s a useful guide, perhaps, but you can’t identify abuse through a Cosmo quiz. Yes, abusers fit a profile, and in some ways, they’re all the damn same. They all try to smash your computer. They all put your phone through a wall. They all search your fucking email. And they all cry and beg for your love right after you’ve cleaned up the glass they smashed at your feet.

But there are times when we all fit the more minor things on those checklists. I’m talking about the name-calling, the voice-raising, the times we manipulate and goad and cajole our partners; it’s not OK, but it doesn’t make your relationship an abusive one. I’ve seen you cringe and turn all confessional when I tell you about things he did -– you’re like me, trying to make absolutely sure the same terrible tendencies aren’t in you. Every one of us probably has the capacity to turn into despots, or become complicit in terrible acts. Being mean doesn’t make us despots, but covering up domestic violence does make us complicit.

Working only from a checklist makes it easy to ignore the enormous difference between acting like a dick in an argument, and wanting absolute power over your partner. I’d hate to add up the amount of money I spent on therapy, desperately trying to understand if I was really the abuser all along. Until one day the penny dropped: sometimes I am a fucking asshole,but that doesn’t make me an abuser. Maybe this is obvious to you, but it was news to me. And yes, I still feel the need to prove it over and over, and I’ll never fully believe it myself.

Even I’m still looking for the truth, and I’m never going to find it.

6. Get over your need to diagnose: We live in a pathology-obsessed world. “He sounds like a psychopath.” “That’s sociopathic!” “How totally psychotic!” “Is he bipolar?” I don’t know, and frankly, unless you’re his doctor, it’s neither your place nor my place to slap a diagnosis on someone based on my description of him, especially given the bias I have since he cracked my face open like an egg.

Diagnosis is also what he used on me, as part of his pattern. I was Google-diagnosed with everything from premenstrual dysphoria to narcissistic sociopathy to -– wait for it -– Munchausen’s By Proxy (I told him I thought he drank too much). I think diagnoses are partly a form of excuse-making, but also, sometimes people are just assholes.

If you want to ask what diagnosis is most likely for him, try to be satisfied with “gigantic piece of shit”.

7. Focus on the perpetrator: Outside of gender-based violence, is there any other crime where the focus is so much on the victim that the criminal becomes practically invisible? Remember his name; forget mine: his name is Mark Patrick Kenneth Jordan and he broke his hand off my face. I get that it comes from a good place when you say I’m the last person you’d think it could happen to, but there’s an uncomfortable implication that it had more to do with me than it did with him.

In fact, he used my outward confidence to his advantage; it made me less believable, and it made people question me. Because rather than seeing me as the sort of person who sends work emails with my neck strapped to an emergency-room trolley, my ability to cope made me look suspicious. I don’t know what’s more humiliating: knowing people think I’m a domineering and irredeemable asshole, or people knowing how easily I caved on just about everything.

But until we shift the discussion from “Why do so many women get abused?” to “Why do so many men beat their partners?” it will continue to be a sympathy-driven discourse that puts the onus on the victim to stop getting her ass kicked.

8. Cut out the platitudes: It’s not that I don’t understand what you mean by “There’s nothing you could have done” or “Nobody deserves it” or “Even if you were batshit crazy” – I get it, but those phrases are meaningless. When I say that I want to find out why I am afraid of spiders but not the guy who smashed a door to splinters with his bare hands, I’m not blaming myself for staying. When I talk about the things I did wrong, I’m not blaming myself, I’m actually kind of revelling in the fact that I’m now safe to be a complicated and flawed human being without getting a smack for it. Just respect my intelligence and my agency, and accept that I am able to grasp the complex dynamics; I still want to understand why I had such terrible risk assessment.

I think that people are pretty good, generally, that most people try to do the right thing, but platitudes are part of an “I don’t want to get involved” attitude. You’re involved, like it or not. You think I wanted to be involved?

Stop spouting clichés and talk for real. As long as what you say isn’t worse than “you fisheyed c*nt”, you can be sure I’ve heard worse.

9. Stop raising awareness and start demanding consequences: The week of Mark’s sentencing, Women’s Aid did a balloon launch. Women’s Aid is an indispensable organization that does great work, but what does PR fluff achieve? How much more aware of violence against women do you need to be before you do something? And are we so afraid of women’s anger that our own organisations are resorting to nice-girl complacency?

Pretty much every one of my calls to the cops – even with a barring order in place – was met with dismissiveness and impatience. They won’t start taking women like me seriously until the community makes it impossible to get away with beating us up.

It’s a crime against the state, which means the victim is only a witness. Violence against women is a crime against you.

10. Don’t hit women: It’s statistically likely that some of you reading this hit your partners, or will eventually. If this is you, then, hey – go fuck yourself.

Good Saturdays (Also Called: I Want to Play on a Giant Hamster Wheel Too!!!)

Lately, I’ve been limiting myself to one good blow-out go out day per week as financially I’m not entirely secure at the moment. (My career is definitely in flux at the moment and it’s showing in my bank account balance, but more on that later.)  This past Saturday, the outing was more than perfect.

My good friend B came into town Saturday morning for the day and we’d planned a great day out. I took her up to the Getty Center to go look at arts. It was an amazingly beautiful day and the Getty was crowded but we’d gotten there early enough to see it all just about. (We skipped most of the section of French Antiquities – which I tend to refer to as the Rooms of Ugly Old Gaudy Crap.) But the rest was fantastic – like the photographs by Felice Beato – classic images of India and China as well as the rest of 1800’s Europe – amazing images of places that have been since changed and lost – and in some cases (Constantinople) don’t exist any longer as they were then. B was particularly impressed by the classic paintings – Van Gogh’s Irises amongst others. In a particularly accurate description, she said that seeing these paintings – the ones that are so completely ingrained in our consciousness, the ones we have grown up looking at in books and movies – that seeing them in person was like realizing there was a rock star sitting next to you. I get that. Particularly when I wander into that one room at the Getty Center. It’s a small room. It’s in the corner of the top floor of the west building and most of the rest of the room is taken up by it’s star attraction – which is a mural of some sort that takes up one side of the room entirely. Honestly, it’s such a trivial painting to me that I have never even noticed what it is or who it’s by. But opposite that wall, is a smaller painting that takes up the lesser side of that opposite wall. But it is my favourite painting of all time. (Edvard Munch’s Starry Night.) Every time I see it, it makes me happy.

The other thing that made me happy on Saturday afternoon at the Getty was the most innocent and spontaneous and gorgeous thing I think I’ve seen in a long time. B and I grabbed a sandwich to split and wandered outside in the garden to sit in the sun and relax for a bit in the midst of our art infusion. We weren’t the only people out there with that idea and the lawn under the building was filled with families and people picnicking. And kids. Lots of kids. Two of these kids, a brother and sister team, who I think were about 8 or 9 years old took it upon themselves to run to the top of the lawn and roll back down it. You know, that perfect kid’s activity when you would lie down in the grass sideways and just roll down a hill wrecklessly? The two of them started it. Then another kid joined in, then another. Pretty soon there was a swarm of kids all rolling down the hill in waves. It was AWESOME. I would have joined them, but I think their parents would probably have thought I was nuts and made them stop.

After a day of wandering around getting cultured, B and I drove out to Echo Park to pick up another friend, G for dinner and a show. And what a show it was.

We went to see a showing of Cirque Berzerk – a darker and more alternative show not unlike the wholesome and family oriented Cirque du Soleil; not that the two have anything to do with each other really, other than a similar style of acrobatics and aerialists. Amongst the aerialists and trampoline acrobats, contortionists and tumblers, the singers, fire breathing, fire dancers and one slightly psychotic stilt-walking clown (who strangely didn’t bother me in the least though I am absolutely terrified of the more traditional clowns – you know the ones with the false noses and bad orange wigs?) there was one other act that got my attention. The apparatus is called the Roue Cyr and is what looks like a giant hula hoop that the acrobat stands inside and on and rolls around spinning and twisting. I kept calling it a giant hamster wheel (actually until about 3 minutes ago while I was writing this and I decided to actually look at my program from Saturday night and figure out what the hell it was called). OHMIGOD it looks like fun!!!

Saturday’s activities took me back to my initial beginning of the year blog post about resolutions and the coming year. After the day I had, I want to add a new one to the list. It’s simple and probably the most easy one to do. Just have more FUN. Whether it’s rolling down a hill in the sun or spinning around on a giant hamster wheel, isn’t that what it’s about – spending time with friends and generally just having fun. Or shouldn’t it be?

Look What I Made!!!

Today was good. However, I have been trying to figure out how to fold a oragami crane for the better part of 3 hours. I have successfully folded and unfolded and now I have…

A PILE OF PRETTY PAPER WITH LOTS OF RANDOM CREASES IN IT

Not one crane in the lot. I’ve been using a series of online videos and in all of them I get stuck at the same point. Anyone got any suggestions?

PART DEUX –

I DID ONE!!! Took me 3 frigging hours to figure it out and the first one looks a bit wrong, but it is definitely a crane. SEE???