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Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

judy blume2I read last November in Entertainment Weekly that Judy Blume has finally sold the film rights to her famous book, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. Since I’m in full swing of my reading kick, I got ahead of the game prior to hearing anything about the film being in motion. To be honest, I can’t remember if I read this book when I was younger or not. I definitely read other Judy Blume books growing up, as she’s wildly popular for the age group. Disregarding the title, my knowledge of Judy Blume had me believing that this would be a story of a young girl starting to grow into a teenager. While that is definitely still a theme of the novel, religion is also the major discussion.

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Margaret doesn’t have a religion, as it has created outstanding problems for her family. Her father was Jewish and her mother was Christian, and both of their families had strong opinions on the matter. As a result, Margaret is told that she could decide for herself when she got older. And yet, she finds herself talking to God in the way that a young girl might write in her diary. As a part of an independent school project, she starts to explore different faiths by attending different places of worship with friends. We watch Margaret try to navigate this difficult subject on her own, while also being pulled in a variety of directions from her family.

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Naturally, Margaret and her friends also navigate growing up items for girls such as their first periods, stuffing their bras, and kissing boys at their class supper parties. Most of what Margaret is trying to learn here leads her back to her discussions with God. She prays for her breasts to grow; she prays to not be the last of her friends to menstruate. She communicates with God regularly, but says she cannot find him in religion. She only feels him when she is alone.

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The relationships between Margaret and her family prove to be the most interesting. She is close with her Grandma, who treats her a lot like an adult. There’s also a lot of tension created as a result of religion. This is heightened when Margaret’s other grandparents come to visit, ruining her spring break with her Grandma. These grandparents have not spoken with Margaret or her parents for over 14 years, as a result of a disagreement on religion. Naturally, during their visit, a fight breaks out on the subject.

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It’s honestly satisfying to see a child be right and adults be wrong about something so serious and profound as religion. In Margaret’s self discovery for faith, she is exploring options and seeing where she feels God. She is reaching out in times of need, questioning things happening around her, and wishing to be the best version of herself. To me, that’s exactly what faith should be about. And yet, the adults focus on arbitrary traditions and rules in a way that affects everyone’s relationship to each other. The grandparents push Christianity, the Grandma pushes Judaism, and Margaret’s parents end up pushing NO religion as a result – proving that no one actually wants to let Margaret figure it out on her own.

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I found this topic wildly fascinating, specifically through the innocent eyes of a young girl. You can find Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret anywhere fine books are sold. The cover has been updated many times over the years, and the most recent includes the modern looking text format. Just as an aside, you can also find Are You There Vodka? It’s me, Chelsea, wherever books are sold as well, if you are a Chelsea Handler fan.

Thanks for reading!

Guns In America

4My stance on gun violence and gun control reform is no secret, and after the shootings this weekend in El Paso and Dayton, I’m deeply saddened. I absolutely do not support our president and the awful things he says. I just don’t think it’s okay that a president can spew such racist remarks, promote hate, and be such a bully to individuals that he should be respecting. It’s not okay that this is the face of our country. Because as a result, people think that way of thinking is alright. And then they go and shoot up places that have a high diversity population, and post their white supremacy manifestos online. What’s happening in our country is upsetting, dis-heartening, and embarrassing, and is also a direct correlation to the racist person that we have in office.

*The above are my opinions. You do not have to agree with them. Regardless of race issues, guns continue to be a prominent and polarizing topic in the U.S. Below are some actual facts about guns in America.*

3Guns in America are growing. The number of civilian owned firearms has grown from 170 million in 1990 to 265 million in 2015. Gun-control legislation can help keep everyone safe, as stricter gun-control laws reduce gun deaths – up to 9 times as less. Focus on the types of weapons available can also help, as the the average number of victims in high-capacity weapon shootings is roughly twice as high as shootings where other firearms were used. 

More guns = more deaths from guns. Not only are the gun violence rates much higher in the U.S. than other countries, but the firearm suicide rate is also much hire. We have 8 times the amount of deaths than Canada, 13 times more than France, 20 times more than Australia and 40 times more than Germany.

More guns = more guns being obtained illegally. 40% of criminals with guns obtain them from a street or illegal source, 37% get them from a family or friend, and 11% from a pawnshop, gun show, or other retailer.

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Opinions from gun owners vs. non-gun owners:

  • 89% of both gun owners and non-gun owners support preventing people with mental illnesses from purchasing guns.
  • 82% of gun owners and 84% of non-gun owners support preventing gun purchasing from people on no-fly or watch lists.
  • 77% of gun owners and 87% of non-gun owners support requiring background checks for private gun sales and at gun shows.
  • 54% of gun owners and 80% of non-gun owners support creating a federal database to track all gun sales.
  • 48% of gun owners and 77% of non-gun owners support banning assault-style weapons.

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This information was published in TIME Magazine on November 5th, 2018, and is still extremely relevant today, almost one year later.

“This is America. Guns in my area.” – Childish Gambino, 2018

6To help support the families of the victims of the El Paso and Dayton shootings, donations can be made to the El Paso Community Foundation, Paso Del Norte Foundation, or the Dayton Foundation. (Click here for more information.)

Thanks for reading.

Source: Guns In America: A TIME and JR Project, TIME Magazine.

Support LGBTQ Causes

Looking to get more involved in the LGBTQ+ community? Here are many amazing organizations and causes that are always looking for more support:

 

GLSEN-Safe-InclusiveGLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network): The leading national education organization, promoting anti-bullying through campaigns and gay-straight alliances in schools across the nation. Volunteer or donate at glsen.org or 212-727-0135.

hrc-foundationHuman Rights Campaign Foundation: A civil rights advocacy group who focuses largely on LGBTQ rights, marriage equality, and legislation changes that include hate-crimes and anti-discrimination movements. Volunteer or donate at hrc.org or 202-628-4160.

Lambda LegalLambda Legal: A defense and education fund that supports civil rights and provides legal services for the LGBTQ community as well as individuals living with HIV and AIDS.
Attorney’s can join the Cooperating Attorney Network within the organization, and anyone can volunteer or donate at lamdalegal.org or 212-809-8585.

PFLAGPFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays): An organization that promotes the health and wellness of LGBTW people and their loved ones through support groups and scholarship programs. Sign up or donate at pflag.org or 202-467-8180.

SageSage: A social group that provides health services, housing, and employement opportunties for LGBTQ senior citizens. Get involved or donate at sageusa.org or 212-741-2247.

Stonewall Community FoundationStonewall Community Foundation: A fundraiser to support LGBTQ non-profits and organizations in NYC, which includes scholarship programs that support refugees and asylum seekers. Donate at stonewallfoundation.org or 212-457-1341.

stonewall initiativeStonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative: The official and only charitable giving organization of the Historic Stonewall Inn, promoting tolerance and acceptance in communities across America. Get more information or donate at stonewallinitiative.org or 646-242-8382.

Take Back The PromTake Back The Prom: A DoSomthing campaign where thousands of students share stories and sign petitions to demand change from schools who still have discrimination policies. Students can access the Anxiety Line by texting PROM to 38383, or donate at takebacktheprom.com.

The Trevor ProjectThe Trevor Project:  A confidential hotline that provides crisis and suicide-prevention services, as well as resources for parents and educators. Volunteer to be trained to become a lifeline counselor or volunteer, or donate at thetrevorproject.org or 310-271-8845.

 

Now go get involved! Thanks for reading!

5 LGBT Historical Figures You Should Know

Even though Pride Month has officially ended, it’s still important to remember the people who paved the way for us to celebrate. My company’s internal Pride magazine has continued to show focus on the trailblazers that paved the way for the rest of us. So, here are 5 historical LGBTQ figures that you should most definitely know about:

 

harveymilk460Harvey Milk
The first openly gay elected official in the U.S., Harvey Milk was a civil and human rights activist who served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. His work in advocacy for the LGBTQ community was only beginning when he was assassinated less than just one year in office.

Bayard RustinBayard Rustin
A close adviser to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Bayard Rustin marched with on Washington as a black and gay man to fight for civil rights. He was one of the most effective influencers of the civil rights movement, and was nicknamed “Mr. March-on-Washington”.

Michael_DillonLaurence Michael Dillon
robertaBorn with the name Laura Maud, Laurence Michael Dillon was the first person to undergo FTM gender reassignment surgery.  He was a British physician, but when his story was revealed to the world, he fled to India and became a Monk. Roberta Cowell is also noteworthy, as she was the first to undergo a surgical MTF transition.

Simon NkoliSimon Nkoli
Experiencing extreme discrimination, Simon Nkoli was a South Africa native that was one of the first Black anti-apartheid activists to publicly identify as gay and HIV-positive. He was diagnosed while in prison for protesting, and eventually died of an AIDS related illness.

herculineHerculine Barbin
Assigned female at birth but later reclassified by law as male, Herculine Barbin was the first person to be labeled as intersex. Herculine eventually changed their name to Abel, and died by suicide at the age of 30 after much medical scrutiny.  (Note: There are no confirmed pictures of Herculine Barbin, so the above picture may not be accurate.)

 

gay   Thanks for reading!

For more information on these amazing people, please visit:  
milkfoundation.org/ ;  
kinginstitute.edu/rustin-bayard ;  
http://library.transgenderzone.com/ ;  
www.sahistory.org.za/tseko-simon-nkoli ;  
Herculine Barbin, By Michel Foucault

Podcast Favorites #6

podcast  The pods don’t stop! Here are even more my favorite podcast suggestions: (#1#2#3#4, #5)

 

420 FRIENDLY:

MJ today daily

Marijuana Today Daily – For any headline that is cannabis related across the U.S., here is your resource. This daily dose of top stories and breaking news along with other relevant information will certainly keep you in the know. Host Shea Gunther celebrates the achievements made in the cannabis industry and leads you to longer online articles as well if you are interested in some of his briefed topics. Under 10 minutes long and released each morning, it’s a good quick listen.

 

Stoner Horoscopes

Stoner Horoscopes – This podcast only comes out monthly, and has a separate page to follow for each separately horoscope (which is nice, so then you don’t have to delete the horoscope episodes that aren’t yours). It’s always a quick and lighthearted listen, wishing you good fortunate and recommending different strains of cannibals to bring you positivity.  It’s definitely a little hippy dippy, but I enjoy it.

 

CELEB PODCASTS:

Chelsea HandlerLife Will Be The Death Of Me with Chelsea Handler – If you are a Chelsea Handler fan, then you know that her new book just came out. Chelsea combines her book tour, lessons learned from her therapist, and her life stories to pull together this podcast. It’s very relevant, liberal, and important information and ideas that should spark a lot of good discussion. I’m a big Chelsea fan, and am spreading her new words to live by: “The world is only getting browner and gayer, and if you don’t hop on board, you’re gonna miss the fucking bus.”

 

Justin Long

Life Is Short with Justin Long – Just like many other celebrity podcasts, Justin Long interviews his colleagues and friends in a free-spirited environment. This podcast often includes his brother as a co-host, and has a very very very catchy theme song. The show isn’t entirely original, and reminds me of other celeb podcasts. However there are a lot of big named celebrities and if you like Justin then it’s still worth listening to.

 

IMPORTANT ISSUES:

Out and Up

Out and Up – I’m going to be honest here. This podcast has a great message and some good content, but it’s a little dry and hard to get through. I’ve often picked it up and put it back down, as not every single guest is a natural given story teller. Even still, these stories are important and should be heard, and as a member of the LGBTQ community, I have intentions to continue to support.

 

 

#tellblackstories

#TellBlackStories – I’m going to continue to support this podcast as well, but here is some more honesty. The words and stories in this podcast are truly awesome, but the audio quality needs a ton of work. Often the different individuals talking are at wildly different volumes, and you either can’t hear one or are deafened when the other starts talking. If you are able to listen, the interviews are so great and highlight different struggles and obstacles that powerful people have overcome. There’s so much left to uncover as well in future episodes, but they need to get the audio worked out.

 

New Pod On The Block

New Pod On The Block – Don’t try to tell me that boy bands are not an important issue to be talked about, because they are! Hosts Josh and Mike are huge boy band fans, and they bring us through all our 90’s favorite things. From liquid dreams, to the best bops and bangers, you will be reliving some of your best memories. 98 Degrees, Backstreet Boys, N*SYNC, Boyz II Men, and so much more – they are all waiting for you.

 

The podcast love is real, so please comment or send me your favorite podcasts!

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

Summer Movies

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Here is a list of movies that were already or are going to ticketbe released this summer that I may or may not try to see. 

*Disclaimer, the last time I set out with a list of new movies to watch, I only watched two out of five of them. I’ll make an effort to finish that list, and I will certainly try to hold myself more to the commitment this time.*

 

booksmartBooksmart – May 24

maMa – May 31

rocketmanRocketman – May 32

men in blackMen In Black: International – June 14

murder mysteryMurder Mystery – June 14

yesterdayYesterday – June 28

once upona timeOnce Upon A Time In Hollywood – July 26

good boysGood Boys – August 16

bernadetteWhere’d You Go Bernadette – August 16

 

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Wish me luck!

Thanks for reading.

Road Trip 2019!

IMG-4397I’ve been planning my big move to the amazing city of Tucson, AZ for quite some time now, and the day has finally arrived!! My amazing friend Rachel, who was also my college roommate, was completely awesome and decided to make the trip with me.

IMG-4468We started out in or around Allentown, Pennsylvania, and separately drove a quick hour to my parents’ house outside of Philly, so that Rachel could drop her car there for after her flight home. To be frank, that was probably the worst part of the entire trip, because it was pouring down rain with thunder and lightening. With my windshield wipers on the fastest speed, I hoped for better weather once we got out of PA.

IMG-4403I got my wish, and the rest of the day was absolutely beautiful. We drove through the tip of Delaware, to the outskirts of Baltimore, Maryland, through Richmond Virginia, and eventually made our way to Nashville, Tennessee for our first overnight stop. We stayed at just a cheap motel, but we were able to see some of the “downtown” life, and had dinner with my cousin, who lives in the area.

IMG-4476Day two took us deep into the South, going through the rest of Tennessee and into Arkansas. We stopped for a leisurely lunch in Little Rock, where Rachel was able to find an outdoor cafe that was dog friendly. With locally sourced food, equality signs, and a cashier with dreadlocks, it was totally not what I was envisioning to find in the South! They did take a very long time, but luckily this was our shortest day of driving, so we still made it to our Air BnB in Dallas, Texas before it got dark. The apartment was beautiful, and we were exhausted, so we pretty much watched some Netflix and went straight to sleep.

IMG-4428The last day was the longest, and as we drove through the rest of Texas, I was made aware of what a gigantic state it truly is. It felt like we were never going to make it out, but it was definitely exciting for us to see how close we were to Mexico. Normally we would have had to go through border patrol check points, but they were currently closed because of some political bullshit, so we got lucky and could fly right by without stopping. We cruised through New Mexico and made it to my new state of Arizona while the sun was still up! (The time difference certainly worked in our favor for the entire trip.)

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Rachel stayed the night with me on an air mattress in my new place, but unfortunately had to fly home the next morning for work. This was actually Rachel’s first time on a plane, and here she was flying home all by herself – signs of a true friend!! She also helped me document along the way while my hands were busy at the wheel, so I was able to compile our adventures into one video:

 

So that’s it! I’m here in Tucson, Arizona! I made it – and this is my new home.

Thanks for watching! And thanks for reading.

Orange Is The New Black by Piper Kerman

orange ishte newYou probably know the Netflix show Orange is the New Black, and you may or may not know that the plot is based on a true story. I wanted the details, which is what led me to Piper Kerman’s memoir, detailing her year in a women’s prison. 

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The first season is the truest to the book, of course with its differences as well, but the nature of how, when, and why Piper went to prison are all true. The beginning of the book tells the story of her crime, when she was in her twenties, and is almost identical to the scene in the show. The blonde wig disguise, the skipping of customs, and the love affair was all true. Even certain lines were the same, such as Piper’s grandmother asking what she did with all the money – to which Piper replied, “Well Grandma, I wasn’t really in it for the money…”

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Much of her arrival to prison paralleled her real experience as well, such as getting the gift of a toothbrush from other white women and having her bed made for her so that they’d pass inspection. A lot of characters also parallel the show. The driver with a New York accent and bright red lipstick is certainly comparable to Lorna Morello, there’s a track star just like Janae, and Spanish mami’s that reminded me of Gloria and Maria. All names were changed for the show of course, and not all crimes in the show match up with those who committed them in real life.

alex cThe biggest difference between the book and the TV show, is that the real Alex Vause was not in the same prison as Piper. In the book, Piper calls the Alex character by the name of Nora Janson, but the real woman is named Cleary Wolters. The two of them did not end up together, and Piper is actually still happily married to Larry. Piper and Alex did cross paths when they ran into each other while being held in Chicago, where they were both called to testify against another man involved in their crime ring. There was a lot of tension during that time, and no romantic interactions. There was, however, a woman there who relentlessly tried to obtain Piper’s birth time and place for her chart.

piper and larryChicago also played a major factor of what was different in the book versus the TV show, as Piper’s release date actually came in real life while she was being held in Chicago for the trial. She was released from there, and had to fly home with Larry to New York. The final season of OTINB will show Piper’s release from prison, and I hope that they throw Piper Chapman the going-away party that Piper Kerman was robbed of.

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If you are an avid fan of the show, the book is a great read. There’s many quick tidbits or opinions that became major story lines in the show, which is really fascinating to see how they used the book as a resource. It’s like they have their regular story line, and they frequently go back to the book whenever they needed inspiration.

Here are some more similarities and differences that I found interesting or noteworthy:

  • Piper’s grandmother really did get sick and pass away while Piper was in prison. Piper did apply for furlough, but it was, of course, never granted.
  • There really was a girl nicknamed Pennsatucky, and she really did get new teeth! However, she had no extreme religious story line, and she and Piper were actually good friends throughout their stay.
  • Danbury becomes Litchfield. Yoga Janet becomes Yoga Jones. And Pop – who runs the kitchen, has a very long sentence, and often gets special treatment – becomes Red.
  • Martha Stewart was sentenced to prison during this time, who would be comparable to the Judy character in the show. However, she did not serve time in the same camp as Piper. Though Danbury was the location requested by Martha so that she could be close to her grandmother, the camp was conveniently and temporarily closed at that time to ensure that Martha would not be taking one of the beds there, which could lead them to media scrutiny.
  • Larry really did write a segment for a newspaper’s ‘modern love’ column. However, it had little to do with Piper’s time in prison. It was actually pretty short and very sweet, and about how much he loved Piper. Piper and Larry’s relationship is still a success to this day, and they reside together in Brooklyn.

piper kPiper was also very reflective as she got to the end of the book, and was able to understand the bigger picture of her crimes. When she was a young girl moving this suitcase of money, she was not thinking of how drugs affect the rest of the country. She reflected on women who were put in terrible situations, and were involved in drug crimes simply because they had no other options. Piper also acknowledged her privilege and how she was given opportunities after leaving prison that other women would not be so lucky to have. She talked about how the U.S. correctional system does not do much “correcting”, and does not set up prisoners to have successful lives when they are released. Piper has gotten involved in prison reform and women’s rights since her release, and I hope that her efforts can better the lives of future women who are incarcerated.

If you are interested in Piper’s cause, you can visit www.piperkerman.com/justice-reform or facebook.com/orangeisthenewblack.

The seventh and final season of Orange Is The New Black will be released on Netflix on Friday, June 26th, 2019.

Thanks for reading!