Friday, February 24, 2017

Killing Kansas...The Long Goodbye

In Kindergarten, my family moved to Kansas.

There were higher paying jobs, better schools and more opportunities, for all of us.

Shortly after, my aunt and her family moved there too. And I have such wonderful memories of growing up with her kids in El Dorado, pronounced in the southern Kansas style..."L Door-Ray-Dough."

But times changed and so did politics, policies and prosperity. And it became evident they weren't ever changing back.

We moved. So did friends. And now finally, the last of our family.

My cousin and her kids are headed out. It no longer makes sense to stay. Her husband went ahead of them to take an out of state job.

It's no secret that Kansas is collapsing. And it breaks not only my heart, but in the long run the heartland itself.

Kansans are made of tough stuff. They are the descendants of the Dust Bowl determined. Of sod house settlers and Great Plains peoples. They come from ranch-hands and riggers and wranglers and reapers.

But now they are definitely reaping exactly what they've sown. All for the sake of a political experiment perpetrated by people curious "just to see what would happen if..." Seeds that have choked out not only the weeds, but everything else as well. Leaving the entire harvest something that no one can stomach.

Kansas is bleeding again. But this time internally. With an ulcer from everything she's swallowed. And now being force fed since she's become unresponsive. And the prognosis isn't good.

She's tough, but sometimes she's downright stubborn. Let's hope she's still got a little fight left.

Follow me on Instagram and twitter@TheLauraBecker

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Birds and The Bees...And Nuclear Annihilation

We were having it. The talk. The one she had been avoiding. Somehow hoping it would never have to happen. That this day would never come.

“I don’t want you to be afraid, but I don’t want you not to know either.” She sighed long and looked seriously into my eyes. “Nuclear war would be a very sad, very horrific thing.”

And then, my fifth grade fingers went cold.

A few days before Thanksgiving, 1983, I walked all of the way home with a ticking time bomb in my school bag.

It was a note about a movie.

I knew it was there. And I was pretty sure I knew what this movie had to be about because the last time I brought home a note about a movie…there had been a talk. A big one before my mother signed off and sent the permission slip back to school.

The previous year in the fourth grade, after a girl at one of the elementary schools in town had gotten her period on the playground and freaked out thinking she was dying, it had been decided that it would be wise to start showing the “hygiene” film at an earlier age. And so a note had been sent.

My mom had always been pretty good at providing little bits of information about babies and bodies and bathing regularly all along so it wouldn’t be just one big surprise. According to her, sex, although a deadly mortal sin, was just a part of who we were.

And I had also seen my three younger siblings come along and had a lot of questions. So I knew a fair amount of stuff already. But, she wanted to run the topic through the family filter one more time before signing off and sending me for a glimpse of my future girlhood.

The movie we watched gave the basics, but was pretty sterile. And from the information I had received at home, I knew there was more to it than that.

So now that there was a new note, I knew there would be a new talk. And pretty sure a new movie with the rest of the story.

The odd thing though, my younger brother had gotten one too…and he wasn’t even in fourth grade yet…or a girl.

And this note was in an envelope, so I knew it had to be a doozy. Unreadable and all sealed away. I couldn’t even prepare myself for what I figured was about to take place with one of my parents.

And on top of that, as I found out on my walk home…EVERY KID IN THE ENTIRE SCHOOL HAD GOTTEN ONE. The PTO phone tree had even been activated and parents had called other parents to tell them that a note was on the way.

Now growing up in Southern Kansas at the dawning of the age of AIDS, sex talks were constant. They were everywhere. At home, at school, with friends and on television. I was only in the fifth grade and even I knew who C. Everett Koop was. And believe it or not, this prevalence of information did not make me run out and have sex. It just scared me. A lot.

But not as much as the conversation I was about to have.

You see, it turned out, the Russians might just kill me before sex even got a chance to! And ABC was about to prove it by destroying my entire home state on national television that coming Sunday night. Kansas was going to cook for all to see in a nuclear holocaust on their console TVs.

This note was to warn parents that the movie THE DAY AFTER was not family fare, especially for elementary aged children living in Kansas, the state that was about to be annihilated in living color.

And so, rather than just read the note and forbid me. We had a talk.

An honest one.

About worries and war and wants of something better. Not to fill me with fear. But because even my mother, who was far from a hippy, had hopes for my future and wanted me to know and understand that this was a serious thing, with serious consequences.

And when Sunday night came, I wanted to watch that movie so bad. But I understood why I wasn’t allowed to. Not because of a note. But because nuclear war was something I just wasn’t ready for. I'm still not. 

The idea of it was bad enough. Still is.

Follow me on Instagram and twitter! @TheLauraBecker 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Grab 'Em By The Tassels!

It was supposed to be a learning experience. And it was.

The summer of 1988, I joined a detasseling crew. Fieldwork in a cornfield. For $4 an hour. 65¢ more than minimum! And I was going to earn it! I had been warned up front that it was hard work. But my parents thought it would be a good experience. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with a little hard work.

I was 15 and I was going to have a hard time even finding a job, let alone anything that paid over minimum. They had already hired everyone over 16 who wanted to work and were now considering those who were at least 14 and could qualify for a work permit. My friend’s parents were on board too and so she and I were all set.

That summer was overly dry. As a result all of the corn was only about hip high. So it had to be walked on foot and done by hand. We had to bend down and pull the tassels of each and every plant in rows the length of the different fields they bussed us to, before they had the chance to cross-pollinate. Up and back. Up and back. As fast as our arms would move.

That first day, at 5 AM, we climbed on the bus. Ready to work. There were 40 on our crew.

Upon entering the bus, we were told if the work was too hard to handle and we needed to quit, we could go sit on the bus and wait for the ride back to town. They didn’t tell that to the other 35 in the crew, just the 5 girls.

“They’ll never make it.” A hiss slithered up from the back in our direction.

And in that moment it became crystal clear that there would be no quitting. It wasn’t the same option for us it was for the rest. After all, there’s nothing wrong with a little hard work.

It was grueling, hot, back-aching work. But we hit it hard. And did it all. Everything we were asked. We never missed a day.

And we encountered snakes and rats. Not only in the corn, but on the crew too.

We were taunted by our coworkers.
Told we were weak and slow, although we did the same amount of work in the same time…so wouldn’t that make them weak and slow too?
Grabbed and groped “as jokes” because that’s just what all guys do. No it’s not.
Had our food stolen. Our drinks poured out.
Laughed at. Spit on. Told a bunch of vulgar crap.
“What? Are you gonna cry? Just quit already!” NO! You quit! I have as much right to this job as you do!

And they did.

Every day, the crew got smaller. And smaller. Until by the end, there were 8 of us who stuck it out. The whole season. 2 guys and 6 girls. We gained a girl the 2nd week.

We did it. We stuck together and stuck it out. And we got our full pay. And…a bonus. That the 8 of us never saw coming. For all of the crap we put up with and pushed through that the owner found out about after firing a foreman and a couple crew members.

But when it came down to it…we were privileged. Not rich. Privileged.

Privileged because unlike others out there, our livelihoods didn’t depend on that job. Our sticking it out was a choice we had. And we made. Because we weren’t going to let them win.

But sometimes they do win. Anyway. And it sucks.

Privileged because I had the choice to not come back the next summer. To not take the foreman job I was offered. To take some time and look for something else to do with everything I had learned.

Because there’s nothing wrong with a little hard work. But there is something wrong. Very wrong with treating people as less than. Harassing them. Threatening them. Exploiting them. Or just looking the other way.

And if you don't agree, then maybe it's time you tried some "working class" work. It might be a learning experience.

Follow me on twitter and Instagram @TheLauraBecker

Friday, February 3, 2017

Stand Your Grounds

Before you begin, this is not a feel-good story. It is not a happy story. It is a real story. It happened to me.

Whenever I treat myself to coffee, I buy somebody else’s. Not something I talk about, just something I do.

This time, I asked the two women in line in front of me if it would be alright if I got theirs. I did not want to force myself on them or squelch any plans that they may have had. They were delighted and thanked me. One even told me it was her birthday.

We introduced ourselves. Chatted a bit. I told them that I hoped they weren't offended that I offered to buy their coffee. They told me not at all and assured me, this was the best.

I said it was the least I could do in these crazy times. I paid for the coffee and excused myself to the restroom before ordering mine, as I had walked all of the way to the coffee shop and was about to have a meeting.

Unexpectedly, the two women waited for me to return and hugged me before leaving, telling me to keep doing good. To keep being kind. And then left.

I am happy that they left, walking out with smiles on their faces…before the rest happened.

One of the employees behind the counter thanked me for what I had done as I stepped up to now order my own coffee.

As I moved aside to wait for my order, a male (I will not call him a man or a gentleman, he is neither) in an "Irish Lives Matter" t-shirt, let me know exactly what he thought of me buying coffee for two black women.

He took his coffee. Then he made a point of letting me know again. Then he went over by the self-service station.

They called my name for my coffee. It was iced. I asked if they had a straw and they said they were over at the self-service station.

I saw him there. And he waited. For me.

It was a public place. If I did not walk over there and get that simple straw, he would win. Be emboldened. And do it again. Or worse.

I took a straw.

He angled himself between me and the front door. I was in the corner of the cart and the wall.

He spewed his venom at me.

Hate is very real. I was there. Inches away. In California. In a "nice" neighborhood.
I stayed calm, though I was very shaken inside and made my move to go towards the front door. And then he walked in. My pastor.

As I said his name, my voice wavered. I am so disappointed that my voice wavered. But I felt afraid. And it’s okay to feel afraid. It’s not okay to do the wrong thing.

He hugged me and said we would leave and go somewhere safe.

And as we headed out the door, I saw them in the far corner. Two former students of mine. Two minority students.

I volunteer to teach preschoolers on Wednesday mornings.

I said to my pastor in my quivering voice, "Those are my students." And then I couldn't hold it in. The tears began to fall. Not for myself, but because they had to be there for that.

We got outside and I said, "No! I am not leaving! I cannot! I will not!"

We sat at a table and an employee came out with a glass of water.

The employee informed us this individual was exiting and would be leaving, then stood there with us until he was gone. Between us and him.

I made note of his distinct vehicle. It is burned on my brain.

The employee asked if it would be okay to hug me, then did.

Then my students came outside. The little girl hugged me so tight. And their mother did too. The slightly older brother swallowed, hard, dealing with every emotion written across his face.

I don't care if you write a piece to get yourself attention saying wearing a safety pin is stupid. And I don't care if it's no longer "trendy." Right now, I need an anti-swastika and that's the closest thing I can get. Because wearing a cross ain't cutin' it.

This male? Claimed Christianity as his faith during this exchange!

I walked over to the church with my pastor and he and his little boy drove me home for my own safety.

I will wear my safety pin! And there will be consequences. But I will wear it!

And I will continue to buy coffee for whomever I please. And I will pursue actions of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. And there will be consequences for those too.

Even in "nice" neighborhoods.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Deep Sand Facial

Has the current climate of our country left you feeling less than relaxed?

Are you finding your regular spa treatments are no longer hiding you away from the harsh world at hand?

Looking to just bow out until this all blows over?

Then perhaps it’s time to do what millions of others have and give the newest offering in mineral therapies a try…The Deep Sand Facial.

Rather than attempting to open your pores or even your mind, The Deep Sand Facial allows you to keep them all completely closed.

Free from any artificial ingredients, our sand is 100% natural and irritant free. You won’t find a single disagreeable grain as you exfoliate your fears and feelings. And each treatment is specially formulated with your own personal sensitivities and stigmas in mind.

More than just a surface scrub, The Deep Sand Facial is a completely immersive experience.
Skin treatment not just for your face, but your whole head!

Each session starts with the digging of your own handcrafted hole. Custom created to slip your crown right in. Tailor-made to the specifications of your temples.

Soothing your senses as you submerge your nose, lips and chin, completely sinking into the sand clear up to your shoulders. Because surface sand just isn’t enough. It doesn’t provide a complete cutoff from the matters at hand. We find that only the deepest sand can give you the fullest effects of ignoring our present problems and lulling yourself with a false sense of security.

No need to detox, when you can just avoid it all.
Dramatic results in a matter of minutes.
Anti-aging too! No more need to worry about the slipping sands of time because once we completely cover your cranium, we can guarantee you won’t be getting any older.

Choose from: 
The Mohave Manhole
The Beachfront Burrow
The Deep Dune Divot
Or our newest offering...The Strip Mine Silt Shaft

If you’re pressed for time try our Quicksand Quagmire allowing you to completely slip under in a matter of minutes.

So stop in today and let our sandman make your dream a reality and work wonders for your outlook on life…by giving yourself the facial that allows you to not face any of it!

* Upfront payment required at time of booking.
* Gratuity included on all gravel based and burial therapies.
* The Deep Sand Facial is a trademarked service of Complete Surrender Spa

Follow me on Instagram and twitter@TheLauraBecker