The Cult of Bootstraps

I am a strong believer in personal work and development. I am living proof that determination can actually attain goals and do things. I’ve been able to achieve a lot in 25 years of living, and 26 brings more goals. Yet, there is also a wall that exists that many of us hit and only a few can crawl over. I’m banging my head on that wall right now.

The reality is that outside factors play largely into whether or not someone will succeed in the way they want. These outside factors come in many forms. They’re income-based, education based, socio-economic based. Sometimes it comes down to sexism or racism. And even though we all want to believe that we have to tap into some type of well-spring that will fix our lives the reality is out of our control.

One applies for jobs they really want, one is maybe perfectly qualified and ready for the commitment. Your write a stellar resume and provide great references and update your website and you pray for the job. Yet 70 people apply 50 are just as qualified as you but 5 are more qualified and have more experience. Guess who gets the interview? Guess who stands out. Probably not you.

It raises the point that for every job in a certain field there are possibly hundreds trying to break into the field. Add onto it a later retirement for most people, which isn’t opening up jobs like it once did, and less jobs to go around in many industries and one is stuck in a bubble of underemployment.

For people in the millennial generation our wages are low and our potential to move ahead is harder. We buy homes less, because we can’t afford them. We’re loaded down with student debt, buying into the idea that our education was worth it. We don’t have benefits with many jobs we have, and we are having a harder time breaking into the fields we went to school for. If we ever get there. Many of us are still slinging pizza and selling clothes at Kohl’s to try and make it.

Many of us that went to school for a try at the middle class are facing an existence that has had wages stagnate for our lives and that of our boomer and gen-x parents. Add on the great recession which knocked a lot of people out of careers and into a downward spiral and we have a hot mess.

While I admire the idea of creating happiness and creating wealth in little things it’s also important to understand the crunch that basic survival takes on those living it. So much of one’s energy is placed in how to pay all the bills and come out with enough to buy food. A lot of energy is placed on figuring out summer camps and how to afford it and stressing about credit scores and if one can ever get ahead.

The increments are tough too, we might get a new job and make more, but then we lose our medicaid or other benefits such as income-based rent. So one has to earn significantly more to make a difference permanently in their lives. If you live somewhere like Fort Collins it’s even harder to pull ahead as the cost of living and cost of rent is harder to afford. 

The reality is that every single person living in the lower class or lower middle class, is literally pulling themselves up every single day by their bootstraps, just to get out of bed. The reality is that it is often so hard to want to even be alive. I believe this feeds into the drug epidemic and why so many people rely on medications of various kinds.

Much of this is compounded by a lack of well-paying and benefit-heavy jobs. Which I also understand. When a business is trying to employ people but it lacks significant profit it’s hard to pay raises and insurance and taxes and vacation and everything else. Sometimes companies can’t even fathom employing people full time, or only employ a few people full time for these reasons.

So what do we do? As the gap between rich and poor grows so wide.

A few ideas that would help would be single-payer healthcare for everyone, education for everyone, improved high school education that is heavy on teaching valuable skills, more corporate taxation and oversight, and more programs to even the playing field. Of course this comes down to taxation and taxing either everyone equally, say 20%, or a higher tax rate for those that earn more.

Historically, the United States had it’s largest economic boom in the post WWII years as a result of higher taxation and more education with the G.I. Bill. We also held onto manufacturing jobs and “built” the United States and much of the world. While globalization has changed much of where we manufacture, we also have opportunities to create more equality and affluence. Perhaps those that worked on the oil rigs could be recruited to work with renewable energy sources?

Much of this starts as early as high school and is a goal of lifetime improvements and learning. It also has to be backed by money going to actually helping teachers and educators and not for-profit systems. We also could take a look at higher education and why the hell it has skyrocketed (administration costs) at such a horrifying rate.

While I respect the idea of self-improvement and fighting for what you want, there is also a lot to be said for the people that can’t afford to meet their basic needs. It’s expensive to survive and to have kids and when a family can barely pay their bills month to month, it’s hard to see where the next spa day and yoga retreat are coming to calm the mind.

There are little things every day that improve one’s mindset when facing hard odds, but at the end of the day we must ask if this is the continued existence we want and want for our children, or are we going to fight to make sure everyone has more opportunities?

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A Vegetarian’s Take on Memphis Meat

Have you heard of Memphis Meat?

Founded in 2015 and based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Memphis Meats was created to provide a solution to many of the problems associated with conventional animal agriculture: environmental degradation, animal suffering and food products that contain high amounts of  fecal matter, antibiotic residues and other contaminants. The team combines decades of culinary and scientific expertise to develop a way to produce delicious, real meat (not plant-based meat substitutes) directly from animal cells, without the need to feed, breed or slaughter actual animals. The process is expected to be significantly better for the environment, the animals and human health. Memphis Meats is backed by SOS Ventures, New Crop Capital and Efficient Capacity, among others. For more information, visit www.memphismeats.com.”

It’s a pretty cool thing. It’s basically taking cells from “meat” AKA animals and allowing the cells to grow into what we know as meat. It’s actual meat from a scientific standpoint.

It’s meat with a minimal impact to the environment and animals didn’t have to die in the making of every hamburger and chicken breast.

It’s actually really cool in a wonderfully Frankenstein and scientific way. Take away any ethical concerns and at its base is a wonderful alternative. It also means that we have the start to remove ourselves from the horrors that is the commercialized meat system.

Many vegetarians would consider this a good chance to “eat meat again” and while I might consider it at some point another reason that I don’t eat meat is because I don’t crave it or miss it. Eating meat used to make me extremely sick to my stomach and when I stopped eating it a lot of my symptoms subsided. This is all in tie with my having celiac disease and a long story, however, “missing meat” is not part of my story.

I imagine a lot of vegetarians might agree.

However, what excites me the most, is that those I love, my fiance and my family, I could buy “meat” and not feel a nagging guilt on having anyone consuming it. I wouldn’t feel bad about animals dying, because animals didn’t die. That also means that I would have a relief of not having to worry about animals being treated cruelly. I also would lack some of the concerns around environmental impact and what the meat industry does. There would also be a reduction in health-related problems by being able to make meat more healthy and with less of the fat and problems that contribute to poor health.

That is, if Memphis Meat proves to be the viable company and production, which everything I have read is showing it will.

All around it could also mean an end to the meat industry and its environmental impact that is one of the leading contributors to global warming and pollutants. lobal warming and pollutants. 

Until Memphis Meat hits the market, and naturally some competitors, there are a few ways one can help without going veggie. It really all comes down to consuming less and being picky about what you consume. Eat meat with only one meal a day, or have a few days a week that are all veggie. Not only is it good for you, but it’s also good for the planet. Our power as consumers is also choosing how and what we buy and using our money as a vote for the kind of products we want to be available.

The Confusing 20s

Hi, I’ll be 26 in a few weeks and I’m in the phase that I’ll call “The Confusing 20s”.

I always thought I wanted to do a certain thing….or certain things. I always wanted to do something creative, I do creative things every week. I write and cross-stitch, sometimes I knit and paint. I put together crafts. I play with a lot of hobbies and artistic endeavors. For myself it is a chance to make something happy in a time of chaos or stress. Really it’s peace in that which is the constant reality of the chaos of life.

I never thought I could make a career from “art” so I chose something practical. Something I also enjoyed. I consider myself intelligent and able, I learn quickly and I like challenges. I want to be a lifelong learner. So I chose to go with journalism and programs that meant that I learned a huge variety of skills. This meant a B.A. where I also majored in History, just for fun, and graduated with a 3.2 GPA, not perfect, but I was proud.

I then took on a M.A. program with a school and program that had a 90% employment rate 1 year after graduation. There I would learn from internationally recognized journalists on how to be a better journalist. It was what I wanted in a very exciting and passionate field that I really love. Once again I didn’t graduate with honors, but I finished on time, and got really good marks on my work. Which, 2015 was a hard year due to losing my grandmother, but I did it, I pushed through.

The reason why I went for the M.A. was so that I could be a better journalist and walk into a role somewhere as prepared and enthusiastic as possible to do a job I was passionate about. Within a few days of finishing the work on my M.A. I was applying for jobs. That was December 2015, and here I am in January 2017 and I have yet to land the dream job. Or really, any job that is full time, has benefits and offers me some financial stability.

This has been a growth process for me. A scary and hard growth process. It has meant I have really had to grow up this last year and not just in jobs but in what my habits and actions have been. While working and jumping around with part time jobs here and there, I have had to cut back on my spending, refinance my debt and even skip paying bills so that we had groceries. Student loans and being behind on them has meant bombing my credit score and that I probably won’t be able to buy  a home any time soon or if ever. It’s really stressful and upsetting.

See my expectation was that I would get through college and get a great job. I always TRULY believed this would happen and I have never had trouble finding a job to get me through what I need to get through. That’s from High School to age 25, I always had a job and something to do. Sometimes it was to save and travel, other times it was just to have extra income. I’ve worked hard to have that.

Here we are 20 days into a new year, a new chance, and more is moving. I’ve had interviews and interest in me as an employee and things are going well with the part time job I currently have. I have backups to my backups, but it’s still hard. I never thought I would be making so little when I have so much education, when I took the “safe” bet on my education. The jobs I am finding and interviewing at also have no direct relation to my education, some overlap, but nothing direct. Which I find confusing and frustrating.

I feel like I have done everything “right” in this attempt to build myself up from a childhood in poverty, but I am finding that the road out of the hole is really slick, really steep and full of holes and drop-offs. All around it’s confusing and frustrating and extremely tiring.

I often ask myself “what am I meant to be doing?” and my gut tells me that I’m doing what’s right and what I’m supposed to. I want to “do more” but I also have to eat and pay bills and find a way to survive. While my fiancé has helped us keep the boat afloat, he supported my school endeavors so that I could do more.

Maybe this is all part of the longer journey in which I better understand poverty, achievement and the financial plight of my peers that are college educated and working poor-paying retail jobs. Sometimes it’s the location of where we are living, but other times it’s the reality that there is not a job or that one is overlooked. I have been told that maybe I’m overqualified and that maybe people see me as too expensive. Which is possible and maybe I’m not presenting myself as strongly in my cover letters. Maybe it’s a lesson in how to assert myself and demand recognition and try new techniques.

I think the biggest lesson is that it’s easy to believe the narrative we’re told in school of “graduate, college, graduate, good job.” “Keep your grades up, work hard and you’ll be great” “try your best and things will come through”. All of these narratives are great for encouragements and great for driving people to carry on, myself included. However, they are not the only truth and they ignore the complexities of what is actually existing on this planet.

For instance, how can you say this to a child that’s starving in Yemen? They might be trying their hardest but it doesn’t change the reality that civil war and too little water for crops. Just something to chew on.

While I bite my nails every time I see a less-qualified peer get a job I wanted and sometimes shed a few tears, I am fighting very hard for the right fit and the right job and my instincts tell me something will come along.

Travel the World- Without Leaving Denver

Denver is a city that has no lack of things to do. If you love museums, there are plenty to see. Want architecture? no lack of unique designs from decades of inhabitants. Native American History and art? We have you covered.
Perhaps the best way to experience a mix of old and new, western and global is at the Denver Art Museum.
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My favorite statue in the Native North American art section- I remember them building this in 2011!
I know….art museum…. it’s an intimidating term, yet you don’t have to be an art geek to enjoy what the DAM has to offer. DAM is a unique blend of classic art museum with the joy and enthusiasm of modern delights. Currently, they even have a costume display from the original Star Wars movies!
However, if you don’t have time, or the exhibit is sold out, there are plenty of options and things to see in the permanent exhibits and ones that are included with general admission.
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Trade Canoe for Don Quixote- Jaune Quick-to-see Smith
When I say it’s a chance to see the world, I don’t mean it lightly, they literally have floors of art from around the world and each floor is like another continent waiting to be seen.
While I have taken many trips to the Denver Art Museum, I always find something new. S
Sometimes, it’s when I explore the thousands of pieces of pre-columbian South and Central American art. Often it’s a wonderful and exciting sculpture or pottery piece. This time it was a variety of pins from Peru that were made out of silver spoons, (Manta Spoons) originally brought by the Spanish. They even offered a craft project to make a plastic version for visitors.
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Manta Spoon Pins from Peru, used for hooking cloaks together in decoration and function
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Lily making her own plastic manta spoon
In fact, the entire museum offers craft projects for art fans of all ages through the entire museum. In the Northern Native American art section it was putting together puzzles based on beading designs, and in their fashion displays it was pinning together fashionable designs. All of which my 9 y/o travel buddy loved.
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Casta Painting collection from the Spanish-Colonial period. Casta paintings list what status one had in Latin America based on their ethnic background and skin color. 
If you like asian art, you won’t be disappointed, I am personally always impressed by the sand-art from a group of Buddhist monks that has been preserved. Along with centuries of stone sculpture and pottery. They section off each area to provide cultural context and experience. China, Japan, Middle East, India and Southeast Asia are all represented through natural and historic materials.
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If you love modern art the most, do not despair, because they have constantly rotating and changing displays that inspire through modern methods and art forms.
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Finally, my favorite permanent display is the European art pieces including paintings of nobles, and classic pieces by some of Europe’s most famous painters. Currently they are displaying Treasures of British Art which included “Anthony van Dyck, Benjamin West, Angelica Kauffman, Thomas Gainsborough, Thomas Lawrence, George Stubbs, John Singer Sargent, and Adam Birtwistle.” They also had a Canaletto on display that had been recently restored and to round it out, their main floor display of Venetian artists was to die for.
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Sir Thomas Lawrence- Portrait of a Lady
Titled the Glory of Venice this display showed the progress of Italian art and its significance in combining Danish and Italian and Eastern art for some of the most influential pieces in classic art.
All around if you want a wonderful experience in the mile high city, where everyone will enjoy, love, laugh and be inspired, check out the Denver Art Museum! What is your favorite piece?

Take Care of Yourself

This season is hard on a lot of people. Not only does it bring on financial pressure to travel, to buy food and gifts, but also an expectation of leaves many anxious around their finances. Myself included.

Add on any family conflict. Myself included.

A dash of missing loved ones that died this time of year, or that had birthdays this time of year, or anyone you spent the day with this time of year. It becomes really stressful and lonely. Myself included.

The problem I am having is being stuck in my head too much, and stuck at home too much. I work remotely about 50% of the time, so this isn’t surprising. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel isolated or even trapped. Mostly, because I’m not practicing the things I know that are important for a healthy state of being. For myself or anyone else.

So I remind you all to take time to reconnect to what your heart loves and craves. If it’s music, find a concert- even a free one at a church or school. If it’s a social gathering, find a book group with the library or local book store. Maybe try a coffee shop and use meet-up  to connect.

Perhaps you just really want to play with dogs all day? Try signing up as a doggy daycare provider with dogvacay or volunteer with a local shelter.

It’s not easy to know what to do, but there are options. I am currently finding odd jobs t pay bills and connect me with new ideas and people. I am also making an effort to see friends and get back into craft projects that keep me happy.

I leave you with an idea discussed last night, as dinner, with ones I love, BE BOLD, BE BRAVE, BE. Be your own advocate, be a voice of reason, be someone that picks themselves up and dust themselves off and carries on. Be loving, and BE. IF you have a dream, see what it would take to get there, and take a step to be there. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid of learning. Research. Imagine.

And finally, if you are feeling sad and vulnerable and scared, then acknowledge those feelings in a friendly way. As you would to another friend. Hug yourself, drink tea, watch a favorite movie, breathe, and eat well. Hug yourself, cuddle a pet and just do anything to make you feel better.

Sometimes it’s not even making anything better, at times you can’t, but just getting through the day, the week, the month, the year, and working on something better.

Love,

Rebecca Lee Robinson

If You’re Mourning Carrie Fisher- Laugh

Carrie Fisher the very big Star Wars actor that we knew and loved. The Princess that didn’t needed saving, and that could fire a gun and actually hit her enemies….. well she passed away this week.

Huge Star Wars fan, or not, many of us have taken time to reflect on her contribution to film and women in film. She was also the daughter of another iconic performer, Debbie Reynolds, who they say died of a broken heart the day after her daughter died. Reynolds contributed a hell of a lot in her life too, and the loss of both this week is a blow to film nerds around the world.

Yet, while I am saddened by these losses, I know there is something really cool we can all do right now. It not only honors the memory of these performers, but it also cheers the soul. I did this when Bowie and Rickman died in January, I took to their art and I devoured it. I watched movies and listened to music and loved their art. I’m doing this right now with Fisher.

I just read her book Wishful Drinking over the last 48 hours and I laughed my ass off. It’s a hilarious book, full of comical  (intentional) stories and moments from both Fisher and Reynold’s life. I plan on reading more of Fisher’s work and just enjoying her contribution to the world. Ya know what, she would have wanted it that way.

Weirdly Wishful Drinking is almost prophetic of her own death and passing, but in a loveable way. In a “it’s gonna happen” way. Because, that’s the end for all of us.

Because that’s this planet, this universe, and not so far far away or long long ago. We’re all mortal, and we’re all trapped in that truth.

So, wipe the tears (don’t deny them) and enjoy what artists made when they pass. That was the whole point, a lasting contribution on a world that’s ever changing and temporary. Laugh at their jokes and their writings, and love that we get to live NOW and enjoy these pieces of humor and life. Also cry if you must, that’s okay too. We’re laying to rest and saying goodbye to some friends from our own journey.

From Wishful Drinking:

George comes up to me the first day of filming and he takes one look at the dress and says, “You can’t wear a bra under that dress.”

So, I say, “Okay, I’ll bite. Why?”

And he says, “Because. . . there’s no underwear in space.”

What happens is you go to space and you become weightless. So far so good, right? But then your body expands??? But your bra doesn’t—so you get strangled by your own bra.

Now I think that this would make for a fantastic obit—so I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.

Why We Mourn Celebrity Deaths

Bulletin: Debbie Reynolds has also passed away, a day after her daughter Carrie Fisher passed away. Debbie was 84, Fisher was only 60. It’s just two more names to a very long year and roster of celebrity deaths.

For most of us, we’ve never met these people. We’ve never shaken their hand or even had a glance from them. We haven’t had meals and we haven’t had coffee or any type of human relationship. Yet we mourn them when they die. We cry and we hold onto relics and we tweet and share and mourn. All around. It’s not the same is it would be for a grandma or a friend, but we care and our hearts ache.

It’s odd. In all reality that we care so much about people we know only from movies or books or television. People that are almost god-like that dance and sing for us. It’s not a normal intimacy, yet it breaks us when they’re gone.

However, it’s nothing new either, when rulers died and today when they die thousands cry and attend candlelight vigils and show up for funeral processions. This has happened for as long as there has been written records and it has happened all over the world. When someone we recognize as a person we “know of” or celebrate, then we care just that bit more.

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Funeral procession for Queen Victoria in 1901

We celebrate our close relationships and we celebrate those that are disconnected. Think of celebrity weddings and engagements. We celebrate because they give us a feeling of connection or inspiration or drama, maybe theatrics, maybe laughter.

For Fisher, it was Star Wars, she was Leia and the things that character did were loveable and fun and millions looked to that character,  year after year and generation after generation.

Reynolds was a dancing queen and someone that touched generations with her movies, comedies, and poise.

We love a feeling that is attached to celebrities and their artistic contributions. We have emotions around people that play a part  because that’s the whole point of art.

Leia was a “Princess” that fought the bad guys, was beautiful, and had time for romance in her own terms. She broke down stereotypes and led underdogs to success. The feelings surrounding first time viewers are seen in my 9 y/o step-daughter just now becoming a Star Wars fan. We all had those moments too. Those moments of awe and inspiration, carried forward by a performer that we loves and adored.

Debbie Reynolds was not only Debbie, but she was Kathy in my grandma’s favorite movie, Singin’ in the Rain, which we watched hundreds of times in my house growing up. The movie is amazing, and the dancing spectacular, but the emotions of my grandma and of loving dance and of music and comedy are all there on the couch with me.

The story goes on, but with each death we recognize we have something attached there. Even with artists that I didn’t know  well, such as Prince, there is an important acknowledgement to his musical contributions. His music shaped people and genres and the loss of someone so young and talented is very sad.

We attach our loves, hopes and dreams to characters and performers and artists, that when they die we see our own immortality. Our own failure to fight death and disease and sad accidents. And we mourn because they were friends, they journeyed with us for a time in our lives and made us feel something. They were a part of our own life and our own path and maybe changed how we felt about the world.

It’s not a silly thing to care that they have passed on and no longer can share their talents, because they’re real emotions and ideas. And as we send on those celebrities and maybe family members that also passed, let’s just imagine them all getting to have a final picnic, having a dance, maybe a cocktail, and going onto whatever is next. I like to imagine my grandma and Reynolds are having a good laugh right now.