With A Little Help From My Friends

Friendship is a wonderful gift. I have great friends … specifically I have great girlfriends. It seems that my college girlfriends are the closest type of friendships – we became the people we are today because of those friendships. We grew together and became sisters, if I can get away with that much Southern gooey sweetness. We are blunt with each other, brutally honest at times, but never hurtful. We are honest and direct with each other, but they are the first to call me on my crazy. And I do the same. We love each other unconditionally but not blindly.

We often compare other friendships to the ones we share together, the one we all keep on a pedestal. We often tease that we feel bad for women who don’t have real friendships (read here about frenemies) like ours. And we are only half kidding, we are seriously unapologetic about our own awesomeness. Make no mistake my friends and I are not without our flaws. I think the key to our enduring relationship is that we don’t expect perfection, we don’t run at the first sign of discourse. We hold each other up during the hard times and laugh through the good times.

The bizarre part of this wonderfully perfect friendship? It was developed through forced “togetherness” of several young women who I, at the time, felt that we were all different from one another.

As a kid my family moved several times to accommodate my father’s employer which meant I ended up attending elementary, middle and high school in different states. All that moving really got in the way of long-term friendships.

Making friends was particularly difficult for me as I was shy and awkward around new people. Seriously, I threw up on my shoes my first day of middle school. I had a tendency to talk too much or laugh too loud when I was nervous and then chastise myself later for not acting appropriately. Like most wallflowers, I spent most of my time just trying to blend in. I became so good at blending in that I eventually became invisible. Or at least that’s how I felt.

I was eager to move on to college where I had this notion that I would finally get to be myself, finally be free of cliques and the insatiable loneliness that I had come to know. I would finally become visible.

skull&crossbones0518

And in 1999 it happened. I was invited to become a part of a legendary club called The BlackList. There is no rush or recruitment for honorary clubs, no bid day or membership tea, invitations are extended only to the 13 best juniors on campus. I was thrilled that my school’s coolest and baddest bee-otches wanted me.

I vaguely remember those first meetings with my new “sisters,” I was still as awkward as I was that first day of middle school except with less vomit, which I counted as a win. They, however, all seemed like rare, exotic and graceful animals. I was smitten with the idea that these girls would be my long-lost forever friends. But, as we know, friendships don’t just happen because you are placed in a group together and encouraged to bond. There were many times when we couldn’t hold our group together because we didn’t know how to hold each other up. There were times when we couldn’t see past our own ambition. I won’t lie – we had our growing pains. We had our cliques. We had our catty moments. They were certainly some cat-fighting and tears.

But slowly and surely there was a shift. It was so subtle at first we hardly noticed it but there was a change in our perspective. Somewhere along the way we became less interested in reaching the end of a goal and more interested in encouraging each other and enjoying the ride. We began to bolster our strengths and smooth out our rough spots. We became each other’s cheerleaders, counselors and best friends.

And as for me, I’m no longer the wallflower trying to fit in and just get by. I laugh loudly and proudly whenever I get the chance and don’t apologize for who I am. These women helped me SEE myself when they began to SEE me. I’m no longer invisible.

This last week, I’ve spent a lot of time “liking” and “commenting” on Facebook photos with abandon. Seriously it’s been a problem, but a good problem that I have enjoyed immensely. This weekend many generations of women will celebrate 100 years of the BlackList Honorary Social Club, the club that brought them all together, just it did me and my friends. This once in a lifetime celebration has spurred a sort of countdown to the homecoming festivities this weekend, and alumni far and wide have been posting pictures from their college days. I have loved pouring over the baby faces and teased hair of women I knew only as grown-ups when I, myself, was a baby-faced college kid. Even as a 19-year-old naive kid, I knew that by joining this club I was becoming part of something bigger than myself, something that would change my life. And boy was I right.

In addition to the 100th birthday of our club, the women who joined this club with me celebrate a milestone of our own. This is our 15-year anniversary. 15 years, that’s longer than I’ve known my husband.

To close out our acknowledgement of Women’s History Month here at Am I Being Catty, I would like to honor the women, the friends, the sisters that have changed me for the better (and sometimes for the worse, but that’s a blog that has yet to be written!).

I noticed something today in those pictures from the club’s past and the friendships chronicled in them. These were not just pictures of college days and shenanigans, although those are fabulous. These were pictures that told stories of relationships that crossed ages and miles. They were pictures of friends dressed as bridesmaids, friends holding newborns, friends comforting in grief, friends visiting after significant illness, friends’ children playing together. They were pictures of women loving each other as true friends. They were pictures that showed the power of girlfriends.

I won’t lie. We still gossip, get our feelings hurt, have miscommunications … and yes, we can be catty with each other. But there’s something to be said for a friendship that survives through the good times and bad times. It may not be that our friendship is particularly more special than others, it may just be that we know how to survive the hard times better and can move on from them faster.

Hug your friends tight. Here’s to another 15 years, ladies. And another 50 after that.

Ashley

 

Advertisements

My Personal Celebration of Women’s History

Celebrating the Women Who Made Me

It’s March.  It’s Women’s History Month.  And when we began discussing fabulous historical females here at #AIBC, I kept hitting walls.  I was never that great at historical timelines and dates… I cannot tell you who the 17th President of the United States (or any of the others for that matter) was.  I’m better at recognizing the voice of a singer about 10 seconds into a song.  But I CAN remember the women who have made a difference in my history so far, and today I would like to thank them.

20140306-122804.jpg

It is cliche to start with my mother, so I won’t go into great detail, but she is obviously where I began.  She is the source of my kindness, my compassion, my deep rooted desire to give back and help others, my sense of family, and an amazing example of being the glue that holds everything together.  It goes without saying that she should be mentioned, but she deserves an eternity of recognition and celebration all her own.  So I will move on for now.

The single event that will forever shape my life?  As a child, I had cancer.

20140306-123900.jpg

Dr. Judy Ochs was my pediatric oncologist when I was a patient at St. Jude.  She is the reason I wanted to enter health care, from a very young age.  She gave me the stethoscope off her neck and told me I could be a doctor when I grew up.  She was brilliant, kind, and loving.  If I could reach out and connect with her today, I would not even begin to know how to thank her.  She was part of the team that fought to give me a future.  You can’t make much more of an investment in someone.  I owe her a great deal.

 

The most formative years for a person are their school years.  The list of amazing females I encountered along the way is long.  Miss Lyle was was the first teacher I ever had.  Kindergarten.  I could read, say the ABC’s – she loved me and I was officially enamoured with being the teacher’s pet.  I may not remember why, or what made me stand out to her, but she always supported me, and throughout my life she would brag about how fantastic I was.  That does wonders for a girl’s self esteem.  Especially when said girl has zero self confidence, and gets picked on quite frequently.  For seeing something great in me, I would like to thank her.

Mrs. Linda Arant kindled my love for music and to this day that carries over into every aspect of my life.  Mrs. Sarah Love encouraged me to excell at everything I could get my hands on.  I still try to do it all.  Sometimes that is hard, but I thrive under pressure and I truly thank her for showing me I could do anything.  Mrs. Pam Shelton taught me how to type fast and blessed me with the invaluable etiquette skills I still reference to this very day.  In addition, she was strong-willed and never took no for an answer.  When she believed in something, by damn it was going to be a success.  Ms. Carrie Boykin was the popular teacher in our high school.  I could never really tell if she liked me, but that kept me on my toes.  She dealt out the tough love with directness.  I definitely wasn’t teacher’s pet, and she helped me develop a thick skin and a sense of independence while somehow influencing my future career path. Carrie taught me to fight for the things I wanted to achieve because they sure as hell were not going to be handed to me.  For that, I am grateful.

Mississippi University for Women.  There were so many influential encounters with fantastic women in college.  I cannot list them all or I would be writing for days.  Classmates, professors, friends…but heads and shoulders above most are the women of the Highlander and BlackList Social Clubs.  These are the sisters I never had, the friends that last the rest of your lifetime, the people that rush to your side when you are in need and when you are celebrating life’s successes, these women are my family.   The connections with all of the incredible women I met along the way are literally still a part of my life every single day – I truly am the person I am today because I was a W Girl.

Female Scientists in the Laboratory.  Lynn Ingram, Jackie Li, and Donna Patterson…  These women have shaped me more than they will ever know.  Tough love, directness, honesty, compassion, and true friendship are the commonalities among the three, but each of them are special to me in very different ways.  Lynn took me under her wing and gave me every opportunity for professional growth and development I could have ever imagined while also becoming like a mother to me.  I can rely on her to call me out when I am getting out of line.  Jackie Li is brilliant, a very hard worker, dedicated to being a good steward and providing quality patient care while also maintaining a very high level of professionalism.  The day she told me that I reminded her of herself, I knew she was invested in helping me be the best I could be, and she has pushed me more than any manager or supervisor ever has before.  I have learned so much from her.  Donna Patterson amazes me daily, and I am so lucky to have the opportunity to learn from her and grow as a leader in my profession.  She balances work and life better than anyone I have ever known, but she does not miss a beat in the process.  She knows everything going on in our department every minute while still being willing to take the time to give me advice and answer the smallest quetions.  I can only hope to be like Donna when I grow up.

I have missed many women in this post because there is no way to mention them all.  However, I would like to challenge you to think about the women that have played a role in your life.  How did they each shape you?  How did they help you to succeed?  Did they make you the person you are today?

Happy Women’s History Month!  Try to celebrate the women that are important to you everyday — you don’t need anyone’s permission to do so!

ZenKitty
#ThankYou
#WomensHistory

Why I’m Not Thrilled With Women’s History Month

Before I begin this blog, please know that I’m already perfectly aware that I’m in the minority and that there are going to be plenty of people who think I’m an idiot.  Well, GUESS WHAT?!?!  I AM AN IDIOT!  But, I’m an idiot with an opinion and  a platform, so I’m going to use it.  As Flannery O’Connor once said, “I don’t deserve any credit for turning the other cheek as my tongue is always in it.”  So, fire away, ladies.  I can take it.

With that out of the way, I have to profess my aversion and mild condescension to the concept of Women’s History Month.  In fact, the entire concept kind of pisses me off.  I think that when Morgan Freeman was asked his opinions about Black History Month, he nailed why separating a certain group is wrong.

What he’s saying here is that all of us should celebrate all of us.  I don’t want a month set aside for women.  I want women AND men who impact the world in extraordinary ways to be celebrated.

Let’s put this a different way:

What I hate hearing people say:  Violence against women is wrong.
What I wish people said:  Violence against anyone is wrong.

What I hate hearing people say: Men shouldn’t rape women.
What I wish people said:  People shouldn’t rape people.

What I hate hearing people say:  Men should respect women.
What I wish people said: People should respect each other.

What I hate hearing people say:  I fight for women’s rights.
What I wish people said:  I fight for everybody’s rights.

What I hate hearing people say:  You really must hate women.
What I wish people said:  You really must hate logic.

What are we, as women, doing to forward this concept?  I’m pretty sure it’s not setting aside a single month to pat ourselves on the back.  Doesn’t that sound silly?

So, while I admire every woman who has helped shape, change, or impact the world in which we live, I really don’t think we’re honoring them by limiting the celebration of their contributions to the month of March.

NOT on behalf of the amibeingcatty.com Team,

Kara

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 1.57.12 PM

Women’s History and Fat Tuesday

20140304-165011.jpg

Have you ever wondered why women use their assets to earn beads during Mardi Gras?  Well, here at AIBC we were wondering too.  Would you believe we have the Women’s Lib movement to thank?  Yeah. 

Surprising, huh?

Before you go out tonight, brush up on your Women’s History along with all of us at #AIBC and prepare to have a Happy Mardi Gras!

http://www.bustle.com/articles/17016-why-do-women-flash-their-breasts-for-beads-at-mardi-gras-a-brief-history

20140304-164959.jpg

AIBC Poll: Would You Do No Makeup Monday?

This morning, Today Show anchors went live without their usual bevy of beauty products in the name of normalcy. Yes. They, too, have wrinkles and age spots and dark circles under their eyes. Who knew?

no makeup

Check out their bare-faced debuts here.

Empowerment or PR stunt? You decide.

nomakeup2

Either way, AIBC has to give them props. It takes a strong person to face and embrace that makeup-free reflection in the mirror each morning, much less to share it with the rest of the world. Would you bare it all (from the neck up) to your co-workers? Take our poll and let us know!

Flying high: Don’t be a menace in the skies

After yet another work trip, I’m reminded again of all the things people do that drive me crazy on a flight.

I don’t mind the crying babies. I usually don’t mind being delayed. I don’t mind the people who “spill over” their airline seat. I don’t battle for an armrest. I don’t start a fight with the person in front of me when they crush my legs by “reclining,” if that’s what you call it. I don’t mind the people who don’t have the security measures memorized.

Instead, I’d like to share a few pet peeves that, if followed, will make everyone’s trip more enjoyable, even yours.

First, airline flying has ceased to become a vacation. Unless you travel first class all the time, it’s not going to be fun and relaxing. Is a car trip fun? Well, neither is flying. And those people you see in first class – most of the time they’re not rich. They just fly a lot. Pity them. So, don’t complain about the leg room, the poor quality of the wine list, or the lines you have to wait in. I’m still surprised they offer free beverages and snacks at this point.

Flying is a lot of waiting. You wait in security. You wait to board the plane. And once you get your ticket checked, you stand in line to actually get to your seat. You wait to get off the plane. You wait to get your luggage from baggage claim. Once you mastered the virtue of patience, that’s really the biggest hurdle.

  1. You will probably have to wait in a security line. With that said, you will probably not miss your flight if you’re waiting in security. I’ve never missed a flight because I’m stuck in security. If by chance, you think you’re going to miss your flight, inform the ticket counter or a TSA officer. They may let you go through a priority line. If you just hate waiting in line, do NOT ask the people at the front of the line if you can cut in front because you may miss your flight. This happened to me once, and being the good person I was, I let a woman go ahead of me (and about 10 other people did the same who were in front of me). Let me tell you that that good deed feeling withered away when I saw the same woman drinking her coffee and reading a newspaper at my gate. Yes, we were on the same flight.
  2. If you’re at the gate, they’re probably not going to leave you. You will have a seat. Standing by the ticket counter when they’re calling first class passengers and you’re in Group 5, just means that people will either think you’re standing in line for first class (which means they’ll miss their boarding group) or they will have to step around you because you’re too eager to board the plane. Grab a chair in the terminal and enjoy your latte. You probably have another 10 minutes to wait.
  3. Again – you’re going to get off the plane. Promise. When the plane docks, there is no need for you to unbuckle your seatbelt, jump up, grab your overhead luggage … and then wait in the aisle for 20 minutes.
  4. These people who stand in the aisle for 20 minutes, you’ll see them rush off the plane. I’ve had people crawl over my luggage at this point. I’ve also had people crawl under my luggage as I’m in the process of taking it down from the overhead bins. It takes 10 seconds, but they just can’t wait that long. Maybe they have another flight to catch? Probably not. Just wait your turn to get off the plane. Again, if you’re worried about missing a connecting flight, inform the airline attendant. Don’t be one of those yahoos who trample over people because they have to get off the plane immediately. These are the same people you’ll see at baggage claim waiting for their luggage.
  5. Now that we’re at baggage claim, let’s all hover over the belt. You know, because it’s going so fast, you might miss that your luggage comes out of the window and whooshes right past you. Yes, I’m being sarcastic. If everyone would just take a few steps back, everyone would have a chance to grab their luggage without falling over people or hopping on the belt to avoid losing your bag on the first go-round. When you see your bag, you could simply step forward, grab it and then pull it back. I’ve seen people fall on the belt or race over people to grab their bags. Guess what? If you miss it, it’s coming back again in about 60 seconds. Patience.

In addition to patience, let’s examine common sense. We are going to back up and examine the security line. No lie, this past week, I followed a woman through the security gate who had metal studs on the shoulders of her shirt and all down her blue jeans. Seriously? Yes, you’re going to get a pat down. I’ve heard of a woman who had half a gun fused to her purse. Did she just “randomly selected” for further screening. Yes, ma’am.

Are you going to put your entire life in the overhead compartment when you board the plane? Did you not hear the flight attendant explicitly say how to load your luggage … like, five times? Large bag on top, smaller bag under the seat. If I board the plane and you have crammed your bag, purse, coat, shopping bag in the overhead compartment, I will rearrange your stuff. I may even be nice enough to ask whose it is and then hand it to you so you don’t have to get up. Don’t be an overhead compartment hog. If anything, wait until everyone has boarded the plane, then add your items overhead.

It may seem as if I have a lot of gripes, but flying can be so much more enjoyable if you have patience and common sense, and just a touch of courtesy and self-awareness.

You’re welcome,

CattyLiz

Be Less Horrible to One Another

No… it isn’t the 2014 version of Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, but it could be.

billandted

The past 5 days have pulled me all over the country with the news of insane bills and potential laws that are, at their core, new ways for us to be horrible to each other.  The past 5 days have brought tears to my eyes, broken my heart, and given me renewed hope for the future all at the same time.  The past 5 days have caused me to reflect on my life, how I was raised, and how I have been treated. The past 5 days have been exhausting.

I grew up as an intelligent, overweight, glasses-wearing kid in the heart of the southern United States.  I was raised Southern Baptist. I was a cancer survivor – but people didn’t really remember that about me in school.  As a child I sang in church, “Let us love one another” and I believed that was how God and my parents wanted me to be.  Teachers loved me.  I loved school and the challenge of learning.   But I was teased, and there were times the teasing verged on bullying.  I cried more times than I could count because my best friend chose a new friend, because the boy I liked told everyone “not that fat girl,” because the boys that did start calling me wanted help with their homework or they wanted me to ask my friend to go out with them.  I barely even realized I was a lesbian before the teasing and disgusting jokes at my expense began all over again, and another best friend decided we weren’t going to be friends anymore.  At 19 I relived the teasing and tears of my 11 year-old self, feeling that I had no one at home to turn to.

Risk of Gay Teen Suicide by Region in 2011
Source: Huffington Post

But I got away from all that.  I moved away and I moved on.  I didn’t leave the south, but I left the confines of my close-minded environment.  And now, as an adult I am an intelligent, successful scientist who owns my own home, pays all my bills, gives to charities that I believe in, and mentors to students as they work their way through school to join my profession.  And yes, if you are wondering, I am a Christian. I consider myself lucky. I have been able to embrace who I am and live (mostly) without worrying about hiding who I am. I have worked hard to make something of myself.  But all around me, every single day I am bombarded by stories and images of hate.  Discrimination is just another form of teasing, of bullying, of making people feel isolated and hopeless.  Is this how Christians really think Jesus would act? I do not believe that it is. We all should just love and are for each other. That is what Jesus would do. But will we ever get there?

Have you heard of the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act?  It’s being disguised as an update to the state seal, so it is sneaking through committee, but it also aims to “restore religious freedom” in Mississippi.  It basically says we are all free to exercise our religious beliefs without fearing the burden of the law.  Beat up the gay kid in class because your church said being gay is a sin?  That’s okay, you were exercising your religious beliefs!  There are so many ways to interpret that.

Did you see House Bill 2453 in Kansas?  Same story.  A bill concerned with religious freedoms in respect to marriage.  It’s aim was to protect someone from being discriminated against for their religious beliefs by allowing them to discriminate against anyone in a civil union, gay marriage or similar arragement.  A restaurant owner could put up a sign that said “No Gays Served Here” and that would be perfectly legal.  Next we will have separate water fountains and “Gays Only” bathrooms.

How about Idaho?  Same story. Different state.  Segregation and discrimination legalized under the veil of religious freedom.  It’s not the loving one another religion I sang about as a child.  It doesn’t feel freedom of any kind to me. And sadly there have been similar bills proposed in South Dakota and Arizona, I may have even missed a few.

Across the globe, the Ugandan President plans to sign a bill that would make it illegal to be gay in Uganda.  The Anti-Homosexuality Bill (AHB) is an attempt to “combat the spread of HIV/AIDS” and wage a war on the “homosexual lobby” in Uganda.  So rather than seek care when they are ill, gays and lesbians will likely retreat and hide from the possibility of being arrested.

In researching for this blog post, I came across this column – a story from someone growing up gay, searching, looking for someone like them.  This is what it feels like to be isolated, every day of your life.  This is what it feels like being teased and bullied as a kid.  But, this is what it also feels like when we make laws that allow adults to discriminate against each other, be horrible, and hide behind relegion while they do it.  Instead of embracing each other with love, when we are faced with the unknown, with differences, we “eat our own.”

This leads me to the “Turn the Gays Away” bill in Tennessee.  Also known as the “Religious Freedom Act,” and very similar to the bills in Mississippi and Kansas, this bill was actually aimed at protecting wedding-related business from lawsuits if they refused service to same-sex couples if it violated the business owners’ religious beliefs.  But on Tuesday, Tennessee Senator Mike Bell shelved his bill.  A small victory, considering the legislators who were supporting the bill all stated that they felt current laws will protect people of faith from having to participate in activities that violate their religious beliefs, but it was a victory none-the-less, right?

Then I watched this video.  It was part of the Human Rights Campaign’s Time to Thrive Conference.  I watched as a young Hollywood starlet came out as a lesbian in front of an audience and cameras and more.  If you don’t know her, meet the star of Juno and Whip it, Ellen Page:

“You’ve adopted as a core motivation the simple fact that this world would be a whole lot better if we just made an effort to be less horrible to one another.”

Ellen says it all.  She’s tired of hiding, tired of conforming to what Hollywood says she has to be, and you can tell she’s a little scared.  Her voice is shaking.  Personally, I think she’s probably exhausted, and I think she hits the nail on the head.  She had me crying.  Why can’t we all just be kind to each other?  Why can’t we all practice our religion freely and love one another?  If we approach everyone and every situation with love and kindness, does it really matter who we choose to marry?

Choose love.
AIBC team member zenkitty

#LoveConquersHate
#BeExcellentToOneAnother
#AllYouNeedisLove