13.

13.

That number sticks in my head.

It’s certainly not lucky 13.

13 is how many friends of mine who have been sexually assaulted.

13 of my friends were called liars.

13 of my friends suffer in silence.

13 of my friends knew their predator.

13.

The #MeToo movement has rocked this country to its core. It’s like somebody is shaking the hell out of a tree and all of the apples are falling off.

I know it’s hard for some people to understand why some people are waiting decades to come forward. I know there are people who think everything is politically motivated. I know there are people who think some women want to cash in. I know there are people who think victims are lying because they want the spotlight.  I know there are people who think women are coming forward out of spite or revenge for something else that happened. I know there are people who think the women coming forward are just trying to ruin someone’s life.

Perhaps all of these reasons are why women never come forward.

I’m not going to share any details of the 13 stories I know.  Those stories are not for me to tell.

But I will share this.

Every single one of my friends who was sexually assaulted felt shame. They lived in fear.  They were in denial. They were bullied.  They were intimidated.  They were ridiculed. They felt “less than.” They were powerless. They thought it was their fault. They felt dirty. They felt embarrassed.

They went to school with their attacker…they worked with their attacker…they lived in the dorms with their attacker…they were neighbors with their attacker…their brothers were best friends with their attacker.

13 of my friends come from good families.

13 of my friends go to church every Sunday.

13 of my friends have college degrees.

13 of my friends have executive-level jobs.

13 of my friends have spouses.

13 of my friends have children.

13 of my friends appear to have it all together.

13 of my friends suffer every single day because they re-live that moment of terror… every single day.

13 of my friends are watching other women reclaim their power to finally speak up and speak out about a moment in their life that changed everything. A moment in their life that changed all of their years FOREVER.

So if 13 of my friends want to share their story 5, 10, 15 or even 30 years later…I will stand with them.

It takes an incredible amount of courage to reclaim your voice and power.

Every story should be heard.

Every story matters.

Instead of thinking “wow…she is going to ruin his life.”

Try thinking “wow…he ruined her life.”

13.

And those are the ones who felt comfortable telling me.

Imagine how many more there are.

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“I’m Surprised You’re a Feminist”

I remember the first time I was called a feminist…actually, I was accused of being a feminist.  I was in my early 20s and was just starting my TV news career…and really just getting a tiny glimpse of what was to come. I was defending a story idea when a male colleague looked at me in disgust and said, “What you’re a feminist and hate men now??”

I thought wait what?? I’m not that kind of feminist…wait…no. I was a ball of confusion.

Fast-forward to present day…I received a message from an individual who said they were surprised that I was a feminist. He went on to say “I thought you were someone who could see both sides. I guess I was wrong.”

Sigh.

Can I cue the eye-roll now?

I am a woman.

I want to be treated equally.

I don’t want to be handed something to fill the “woman quota.”

I want to get what I have earned…not what I am owed for simply being a woman.

I just want a seat at the table like everyone else.

I am PRO-WOMAN.

But that does not make me ANTI-MAN.

I can’t lie…bitterness grew and burned inside of me for a long time. Working in the “boys club” for so long will do that to you.  I did find myself resenting men for awhile because things seem to come so easy for them. When I was at a TV station back east I realized that men were never criticized for their appearance on-air…they could be fat, bald or gray…they could and would wear the same suit for days at a time…they could speak their mind and would be commended for being “leaders”…they were immediately respected as journalists…they were given the hard-news stories first.

I was on the bitter bus.

But I quickly realized that things had to change. It was never my male colleagues’ fault that things came a little easier for them. It was society as a whole. I feel like there has always been this perception that women can work…but maybe we should be in the background a bit. And if we got a high level position…then it’s only because we HAD TO GET it because we’re a woman.

So I use my voice.

I call people out when they criticize my shade of lipstick…my waist-size or my hair. I speak my mind even more and I am called names other than leaders…but I realized I don’t care. If that’s how people see me…that’s on them. I know my real motivation…I know my intentions.

If women are getting raped and murdered by men…I’m going to be THEIR VOICE.  I am going to ask people to stop blaming women for their own murders. This doesn’t mean I am anti-man. I’m anti-psycho person with no soul who thinks they can take whatever they want. If the person behind the crime happens to be a man…then it’s on the individual…not on MEN everywhere.

The moment a woman speaks up…we are labeled. We’re troublemakers…we’re anti-man…we’re too forceful…we’re angry…we’re trying to flip roles at home…we’re trying to overturn time-honored traditions…oh the list goes on.

We’re not trying to take anything from anybody.

We’re not anti-man.

We don’t want to be entitled to anything.

We just want to be heard.

We just want a seat at the table.

We want to be seen eye-to eye.

We want to make the path a little easier for our daughters.

Broken down to its simplest form…that’s what feminism is.

If you don’t believe in all of that…then maybe you’re a sexist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s not us…

“She shouldn’t have been by herself.”

No. No. No.

I read that comment today on a link to a story about 22-year-old Celia Barquin Arozamena who was murdered. The Iowa State student went golfing Monday morning and authorities say she was raped and murdered.

Let me say this loud and clear for the people in the back:

Women should not have to travel in packs.

We should be able to go for a jog.

We should be able to go for a bike ride.

We should be able to play golf.

We should be able to go to a store.

We should be able to walk through a parking lot.

We should be able to walk on a trail.

We should be able to sit on a park bench.

We should be able to kayak.

WE SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO ALL OF THESE THINGS ALONE IF WE WANT.

In fact, we should be able to do whatever the heck we want BY OURSELVES without the fear of someone attacking us…without the fear of someone raping us…without the fear of someone murdering us.

It’s not US who need any reminders.

It’s the people who don’t know the word NO…

It’s the people who think they can have whatever they want…

It’s the people who have zero respect for women…

It’s the people who think they are superior…

It’s the people who think women are weaker…

It’s the people who have no soul…

It’s the people who think women are for the taking…

THOSE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO NEED THE REMINDERS.

So let’s stop blaming women.

It’s not the clothes we wear…

It’s not the time of day we are outside…

It’s not the way we looked at someone…

It’s not whether we’re alone or not…

It’s not whether we drank too much…

It’s not whether you thought we didn’t mean NO…

It’s NOT US.

Point-blank PERIOD.

IT’S NOT US.

Parenting.

When I was in high school, I got grounded so many times my curfew eventually became 8:00pm.

It was normally my mouth that got me in trouble…saying the word “whatever”…rolling my eyes…or putting my hands on my hips (my mom really hated that one). It was the perfect combination of being a snotty teenager.

As you can imagine, an 8:00pm curfew is “debilitating” to a teenager’s social life. At least that was my argument to my parents over and over when I was 17.

So let me get to the point: I always made my curfew…but I snuck out. I would wait until my parents were asleep and then I would tip-toe downstairs…sneak out the backdoor…climb over the fence…and dart down the block where my friend was waiting in her car. It was always around 11:30 when I would make my daring escape. We would head to parties and I would have a few sips of Mad Dog, Boone’s Farm or Zima – it was the mid-90s and those were the classy beverages being served. Around 2:00am, I would sneak back into my house and head to bed.

I snuck out dozens of times…I had several parties when my parents were away…I did a lot of things I wasn’t supposed to do.

Whenever there is a story in the news about a kid who messed up, our first reaction is almost always, “where were the parents?! That’s bad parenting.”

That has been my reaction in the past.

But then I had to think back to my own childhood.

My parents were amazing.

And they were strict.

We had rules…we had chores…we had family dinners every night…we went to church together…we prayed together…we had curfews…we had a lot of hugs…we said I love you every morning, noon and night…we had our homework checked…we got grounded…we were afraid of disappointing our parents…we had heart-to-heart conversations…we had LOVE.

But.

I still made bad choices.

My brother still made bad choices.

My sister still made bad choices.

Those bad choices weren’t made because we had horrible parents who didn’t know what they were doing.

We made bad choices because we WERE KIDS.

Maybe I wanted to see how far I could push.

I quickly realized that every action had a consequence…and it was a tough one. I was held accountable for every little thing I did.

Maybe that’s what we’re lacking now…accountability. Look, unless you have rose-colored glasses on, every child is going to make bad decisions. Every single one. And that is ok because that’s how we grow. But as their parents, it’s how we handle the aftermath…that’s the most important moment.

I tell my children all of the time: the first time you do it, it’s a mistake and you learn from it. If you made the same bad decision twice…then it’s a CHOICE.

My kids can roll their eyes at me all day long…every action will have a consequence.

Shaming.

A recent comment made to me got me thinking…

Did you know…

Some women gain a TON of weight when they’re pregnant…while others gain very little.

Some women can fit in their pre-baby jeans right after birth…while others still rock maternity pants years later.

Some women work a full-time job outside of the home…while some women work inside of the home.

Some women color their hair…while others like to go au natural.

Some women have their finances in check…while others struggle to make ends meet.

Some women are in solid, loving relationships…while others are in the throws of a terrible breakup.

Some women breastfeed…while others use formula.

Some women choose to wear hair extensions…while others choose not to.

Some women like to wear sweatpants and a hat on the weekend…while others like to get dolled up.

Some women feed their kids organic food…whole some just drove through the fast food drive-thru.

Some women like to go for a run to stay fit…while some women prefer a leisurely walk.

Some women are Democrats…while some women are Republicans.

Some women are bold and vocal…while some women are shy and reserved.

Some women are like delicate flowers…while some are like bulls in a china shop.

Some women delivered a baby vaginally…while some have delivered via C-section.

Some women went to college…while others chose to go right into a career.

Some women prefer an inexpensive staycation…while others travel to a five-star resort.

Some women like to show their assets…while others choose to be more conservative when they dress.

Some women like to wear fake eyelashes…while some do not.

Some women are Catholic…while some women are Jewish.

Some women are Christian….while some women are atheists.

Some women have tattoos…while some do not.

Some women have had plastic surgery…while some have not.

Some women love to eat salads…while some prefer a juicy cheeseburger.

Some women like to get Botox…while some women do not.

Some women have lived a pretty charmed life…while some have been to hell and back.

Some women have the means for a lavish lifestyle…while some do not.

Some women will like you…while some women will not.

Whatever “woman” you are…you are perfect. Don’t let anyone shame you because you are not like them. Don’t let anyone shame you because your path was different.  Don’t let anyone shame you because you are not “perfect” in their eyes. Don’t let anyone shame you for the struggles you have faced.

People who take the time to research you and list your flaws don’t deserve you in their lives.

This is YOUR story.

Re-enacting someone else’s story would be boring and lifeless.

Don’t let anyone shame you but if they do…call them out on it.

Trust me, it’s not you…it’s them.

Temper tantrum v. Passion

During a basketball game when I was 17, a referee made a horrible call. Well, in my opinion, the ref made a horrible call. I remember taking the ball and slamming it on the floor out of pure anger and frustration. Then I heard the whistle…saw the ref make the “T” sign with his hand. Boom – technical foul.

I would have rather walked home than to ride in the car with my parents that night. “You can’t throw a temper tantrum like that….lose the attitude…you embarrassed yourself.” That was the gist of the convo. My parents were right…I let frustration get the best out of me.

That weekend, my 12-year-old brother had a basketball game. He fouls out…comes to the bench…kicks a chair pretty hard before sitting down. I thought, “well this car ride home will suck for him.” But it was much different. “Sorry you fouled out son…it was a horrible call against you…I like seeing you play with so much heart and passion.”

HOLD. UP. A. MINUTE.

Fast forward to present day.

Serena Williams. No doubt one of THE BEST ATHLETES OF ALL TIME. Period.

If you haven’t heard, an official at the US Open accused her of cheating during her championship match. By doing that, her character and integrity were under attack. As you can imagine, Serena was livid…so she confronted the official. Moments later social media and the internet blew up with headlines like “Serena throws temper tantrum…Serena is a sore loser…Serena acted like a toddler.”

Again…HOLD. UP. A. MINUTE.

I am not going to sit hear and argue whether she should have been yelling or not…that’s not my lane.  But I know if someone is calling out my character and integrity than I definitely will have something to say.

But can we talk about the double-standard with the reaction?

How many times have we seen male athletes throw helmets…yell at referees…complain after a loss?? Too many to count. And every single time they are referred to as “passionate…dedicated to the game…so much heart.”

Vomit.

Women are described as being too emotional…throwing a temper tantrum…no class…immature…attitude problem.

This isn’t just in sports…it’s in “real life” too.  I remember being vocal in a meeting and I was called a hot-head. My male counterpart did the same and was called a leader.

Now I am not going to twist things here — if I am acting like a lunatic — then I need to be called out. I am all about accountability.  But let’s have the same standard across the board.

And no – I don’t want to be treated with kid gloves because I am a woman. I’m not delicate like a flower…I’m delicate more like a bomb.

I don’t want any woman to ever feel less than. Our feelings are real…our emotions are real…our leadership is real…our stance on issues is real…our beliefs are real…our passion is real…our heat is real…our competitiveness is real.

And if there’s ever a moment where someone makes you feel less than, just remember one thing:

Everyone in this world, was carried and delivered by a woman. I don’t know what’s more powerful than that.

We are MORE than we are depicted on most days.

To my tween:

The first, of what I can assume will be many arguments over clothing choices happened this morning. The subsequent eyeroll and crossing of the arms just reinstated one thing: I’m totally winning at this mom thing 😉

I realized I have entered the full-on stages of “TWEENHOOD.” That awkward time in between a little kid and a teenager. So there are things I want my “tween” to know…because regardless of she thought this morning when she slammed the car door, I do know what I’m talking about. And I AM still cool.

  1. Leggings are not pants (unless you’re at home). Leggings look best with a sweater, baggy sweatshirt or tunic. Leggings do not look good with a crop top.
  2. You CAN wear white after Labor day. It’s a stupid rule and I have no idea who made it up.
  3. You’re 10 – you do not need makeup.
  4. Do not search Pinterest for the proper ways to contour your face. See #3 – you’re 10.
  5. You are absolutely beautiful.
  6. Binge on a good BOOK series instead of Netflix.
  7. Keep your nails clean.
  8. It’s still cool to hug and kiss your parents.
  9. I will hug and kiss you in public. Sorry not sorry.
  10. It’s ok to have a crush on a boy – but that’s where it ends – again, you’re 10.
  11. Smile at people in the hallways – it will brighten their day.
  12. Turn your homework on time (and in our house, early is on time).
  13. Don’t ever let anyone sit by themselves at lunch.
  14. You don’t need a phone. I survived without one at 10 😉
  15. I will ask you a million questions about your day – “fine” is not an acceptable answer.
  16. Please remove the word “whatever” from your vocabulary.
  17. Don’t lie. Ever. Even if you mess up or make a mistake, always tell me the truth and I won’t be mad.
  18. Be YOU. Don’t compare yourself to your friends – their strengths may be your weaknesses and that’s ok. You’re one-of-a-kind kiddo!
  19. If you’re having a tough time, talk to me. I’ve been there. Trust me. Just ask your grandparents.
  20. I love you more than life itself – but I’m your Mom, not your friend (that will come later). I will be hard on you because I don’t want this world to chew you up and spit you out.