Why I Wanted To Love Wonder Woman

I didn’t know it, but I’ve waited all of my adult life to see Wonder Woman on the big screen. I’ve spent the greater part of 30 years missing out on an experience that my seven-year-old sons have already had.  

At the age of 40, I was finally going to witness the unveiling of bravery and heroism of My superhero on the big screen. My Wonder Woman. My Diana. The woman I dressed like and emulated every Saturday afternoon in my parents living room while donning Wonder Woman Underoos, my mother’s go-go boots, and handmade cuffs, a tiara, and a lasso.

I didn’t realize what I was missing until it was nipping at my heels. But when I saw the first trailer for Wonder Woman last fall, something happened. The little girl who wanted to be brave, and strong, and the ultimate enforcer of justice, came alive as I watched amazing women kick butt right there on the big screen.

And since I spent much of my youth as a fellow Amazon, kicking bad guy butt along with Diana, her on the television and myself side-kicking it from the sofa, I felt pretty qualified to review the movie.

I liked the movie. But I wanted to love it. I wanted to love Diana and Wonder Woman, and all of the Amazons. I started out hopeful and reminded myself that the movie was just beginning when the first few lines came out stiff and lacking. I tried to be amazed by the fact that Gal Gadot was five months pregnant during filming, but found myself wondering if she was healthy, eating enough, and what it must have been like to have that kind of pressure. (Only to find out today that she hid it for as long as she could.)

The overall storyline was good. But the relationship with Steve was predictable. I understand that Diana had never seen a man, but the penis scene? The cheesy one-liners referring to his “above average-ness?” I found it unnecessary and out of line for a character from that era with his level of courage and decency. Is it impossible to draw and please a broad audience without sophomoric jokes and gender stereotypes?

But let’s move on to the more irksome moment of the movie and talk about the inferred romantic encounter. I mean I’m sure that I’d like nothing more than to get naked with a guy I barely knew after I had to wage war and kill countless people to save some helpless village that was going to get gassed by some crazed madman. I’m also sure that I’d have absolutely no sweat, soil, or scent after running through fields in a half metal armored leotard, and that if I did, there would be working plumbing and water for a proper bath available. So I related. Really, I did.

But let’s go with this here and say for a moment that I resented the stupidity of such an encounter. And since we are at it, let’s say I also resented the fact that this quick and shallow love affair became the pinnacle of character breakthrough for Wonder Woman. I might have to ask if these writers learned nothing at all from the wild success of Disney’s Frozen. Hello? Love was the answer. But love comes in a lot of forms. Some a little more robust than a quick fling with the first man you meet. She could defeat the God of War but could not withstand the wingaling of the first man she saw naked? I mean come on!

But I digress. Overall, Gal was fantastic. I liked the story, the action, and most of the content. I could have used less of the doe-eyed emotional moments, a little more complexity in character development, and greater exploration of the relationship with her mother, but I do realize this is a DC superhero flick, and the last Ironman was painfully lacking, so I’ll adjust.

When it comes down to it, I’m just happy that Wonder Woman made it onto the big screen. I’ve waited thirty years, so I suppose I can patiently await better character development, less gender stereotyping, and more complexity. I look forward to more female superhero leads and most importantly, more stories for Wonder Woman. And you can bet I will be there to watch them, Wonder Woman Underoos and all.

How To Bridge the Divide and Improve Understanding

You’re tired and weary. Political discussions tend to disgust you more than anything. You’ve moved from “why can’t we all just get along?” to “why bother?”. You’re not alone.

Most of us are feeling the weight of disgust and disappointment with politics these days.

The political climate has gone from seasonally heated to perpetually disappointing. What we could once rely on as a temporary dose of election season ugliness, has become a daily drip of negativity and discord.

I started the Food For Thought community based on a belief that beneath all the political posturing and misunderstanding that makes talking politics with people of other persuasions so difficult, there was a deep desire to connect with others and feel understood. I still believe that.

But it’s been difficult. The climate of communication has been abusive, divisive, and outright dysfunctional. I’ve spent a lot of time in the “why bother?” camp, and only recently been reminded why.

Today was one of those days.

I am on the heels of our first Food For Thought dinner party since moving back to the States. Typically, we pick a topic, prep for a week or two, and then get together to eat and talk. But this time we decided to base the dinner topic off of the book Strangers In Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild.

With my busy schedule I wasn’t sure I would be able to complete it, but thanks to Audible, I did. And I’m glad I did. The hope that seemed so distant and foreign to me has returned. Reading this book reminded me that if people do the work to gain understanding, they can find common ground and build a better foundation for humanity.

And that’s what we all want, right?

Take, for example, the new beer ad from Heineken that’s gone viral. It’s gone viral precisely because it strikes at the heart of this desire.

Those of us who love it, love it because it captures the essence of humanity and our desire to set aside boxes and connect with one another.

But I wonder, for all of the love we feel when we watch it, do we realize that these are real people responding to one another. Given the opportunity, would we be willing to do the same?

If you’re like me, and the division in this nation grieves you, are you willing to take an active role in changing the climate? Are you prepared to collaborate with others and build the proverbial furniture?

Will you choose to stay and have that beer in the end?

We need one another, and I firmly believe that if we can filter the noise, partisanship, and talking points, we will gain insight and empathy and conquer even greater tasks than Ikea furniture instructions together.

From The Archives: The Illusion of Intimacy

I’ve noticed a theme in many stories shared on social media lately. I was deeply touched by The Innovation of Loneliness; a short video which explores the changes in the formation of our social circles and communities as we become more “connected.” I’ve also watched a few that explore how women’s self-perception is being impacted by constant comparison with photoshopped “beauty.” Most notable are the number of stories about disconnecting from technology to connect more fully with life and those around us.

I’ve been contemplating my own loneliness, especially since becoming a mom. I’ve wondered if it’s a natural part of staying home with my kids. Am I really cut out for motherhood? Or am I just too selfish? I’ve also wondered if the disconnection I’ve felt upon my move back to the U.S. is due mostly to moving back into the same old when I am nowhere near the same old. Perhaps I’ve just entered into a dramatically changed place? My absence and re-entry into the US have, after all, coincided with the immense growth in popularity of Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets. Questions give birth to more questions.

I am sure of a few things though. While social media is designed to connect, its natural consequence is further alienation from one another. While keeping up with friends and family through Facebook can be an excellent way to stay “connected” from a distance; it is not a replacement for the relationship.

If I haven’t called you, spoken to you, or sent you an email of a more personal nature- I can’t expect you to know or feel tended to on a relational level. It’s just reality. Conversely, when I speak with someone I haven’t heard from in a while and realize they keep up with me through Facebook; and may even have a decent grasp on the recent goings on in my life- it gives me great pause. Suddenly, someone I didn’t consider to be part of my inner circle seems like they should be. After all, they know what I ate for dinner yesterday, the cute thing one of my kids said to me that morning, or my thoughts on the day in general. It feels strange, out-of-body, and adulterous.

Adulterous may seem like a strange descriptive, but it best describes my sentiment in these moments. It’s as if there is this potential relationship being cheated on. A relationship that could exist, but won’t because I’ve settled for cheap and quick hook ups in the form of Facebook posts, tweets and so on.

I’ve settled for surface when I could have commitment. I’ve chosen relationships of convenience and ease that take place on my terms; as opposed to the messy and challenging relationships that happen in real time. I prefer airbrushed and dressed up in place of real and wrinkled. Intelligence and quick wit win out over thoughtfulness and pause.

Human relationships are messy and flawed. Frustration and challenge entwine with beauty and creativity in the bonds we form when we walk side by side. There is a dignity within the wrestling of relationship. We are known. We are accepted. We are stretched and grown. We are challenged and encouraged. Our lives are spoken into in meaningful ways, and we are given opportunities to speak into others lives similarly. We are held to a greater responsibility relationally. When someone is sitting across from us in our living room or at a table in a café- we can’t simply unfriend them or block them from our feed.

Is it any coincidence that as we become more “connected” through social media- we actually feel less connected, less accepted, and less cared for? We yearn for beauty, creativity, and understanding but report feeling less and less of these things with each passing day.

Perhaps it’s time to do something different.

Set down the tablet or phone (after reading this of course). Walk away from the screen in front of you and do something scary. Call someone you’ve intended to call for a long time. Make plans to get together with a friend. Invite people into your home for a meal. Throw aside your reservations, fears, insecurities, and excuses. Make the change. Shift the paradigm. Reach out and touch someone 😉

Human Trafficking and How You Can Help

It’s human trafficking awareness month people! You know what that means? It means we talk about and spotlight human trafficking as much as possible without exhausting the whole lot of you. One of the most common questions people ask is “what can I do to help?” I know it’s a big and ugly and oftentimes overwhelming reality to tackle but fret not. There are loads of amazing organizations doing a lot of truly wonderful things. And the good news is- they make it easy to help! I will dedicate several pieces this month to the topic, but today’s is brought to you by my fellow advocate and talented blogger Jessica Volke LaPinta. It’s a great guide with tangible things you can do to right now to make a difference in this fight.  Click on the link below:

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month

Election Day Lessons: Why I Love My Flawed Republic

For those of you who don’t know, we were living in Shanghai for the last year and returned to the U.S 3 short weeks ago. After traveling through Europe for close to six weeks, we repatriated to our home in Detroit. I’ve spent the last 3 weeks balancing the mighty tasks of unpacking 168 boxes, purging all of our worldly possessions, being a parent and spouse, and attempting to feel like a normal human being. Needless to say, I haven’t had the time to sit and write.

In the wake of a Facebook post I wrote, my husband reminded me that I do have a blog and that instead of “wasting” my thoughts on Facebook, I should perhaps approach this as a Naked Writing Post.

So here it is. These are my unedited thoughts on my own election day dread turned excitement.

I have been dreading this day. And when I say dreading, I mean I wish I had been able to stay out of the country a little longer and vote by absentee ballot. The last few days on social media have been especially painful. The hopeful outlook I’ve held regarding a human beings ability to discern truth and maintain a level of integrity have all but vanished.

I awoke this morning, feeling the weight of duty pressing in. I’ve never been less enthusiastic about voting. The once passionate political geek in me appeared to be all but snuffed out.

We left for school, and as we passed by several polling places, an almost giddy excitement came over me. I had to suppress an urge to yell out the window and say “you go!” as I looked at lines emerging from buildings.

The polling places are teeming with voters. The lines are full of people of all ages, races, economic backgrounds, and religions. I’m standing among a sea of people with amazing stories. There are individuals in line who can trace their family back several generations in the U.S. and have voted in the last 15 elections. There are also people who gave up their citizenship to become American’s a short time ago and are voting for the very first time.

As I thought about these things, it occurred to me just how amazing this all is- this flawed republic of ours. I couldn’t help but reflect on all of the sacrifice that went into creating this nation, and everything that has been fought for to get us to this point.

To think that my right to vote as a white woman was fought for and secured less than 100 years ago is surreal. And as I stand in this space with my black neighbors I am humbled by the realization that they only secured the right to freely and safely exercise the right to vote 51 years ago!

Guys, I am standing with men and women who were not able to vote with their white peers without fear of beating and death, and people who marched during the civil rights era. These people know the weight of what went into securing this right but now stand shoulder to shoulder with individuals of all races casting their votes.

It is a sobering and breathtaking thing to contemplate.

We have come so far in this nation, and while there is much work to be done- this circus will end, and we will soon have a new president-elect. As much as the media, the pundits, and the political machine has taken the wind out of us and made us feel hopeless and divided- let’s not lose sight of who we are, where we’ve come from and where we can go.

Together.

The Gift of Presence

I find myself in that place again. That place where my life is packed into boxes, and I’m trying desperately to navigate the pains of saying goodbye to the place I call home and the people I consider among my tribe and family.

As an expat, it’s easy to become disillusioned and hardened by the pain of constant goodbyes. It’s tempting to distance and disengage ourselves to protect and cope.

But I decided a while ago, that the only way I would live well within this expat nomad life of mine, was by being intentionally present. And that meant I would approach the place I lived and the people with whom I interacted with an openness and hunger that wouldn’t leave space for regret when it was time to move on.

It also meant I wouldn’t put any prerequisites on meeting and getting to know people; that there would be no rules regarding who I’d invest in, and that there would be no minimum stay requirements.

I was all in.

But this also meant that the risk of loss would be greater. Despite the pain, I have found a deeper and more profound purpose in living fully in the moment, in developing and cultivating relationships with the people where I am, and in embracing loss as part of joyful living.

I’d be lying if I said this was an easy path. It’s not. It’s fraught with deeper mourning and a greater awareness of what I’m leaving. But it is also full of more profound friendship, fuller experience, and greater joy.

The risk of pain involved in saying goodbye to the people and places we have deeply connected with is great, but the loss of never connecting is greater.

And to me, that is the greatest loss of all.

I will miss Shanghai on many levels. I will miss the people, my tribe, my work, and the life I lived while here. But I have no regrets. I don’t wish I’d been a little less connected or vulnerable or invested. To me, the far greater loss would have been missing the opportunity to meet and connect with so many wonderful and exciting people and places.

So while I wade through this transition time and say my goodbyes, gratitude overwhelms me. I am grateful for the time I’ve had, the people I’ve loved, and the person I’ve become because of it all.

One More Ride

Every time I ride my scooter, I feel free and alive and part of something more.

I’m just like everyone else when I’m out there in the midst of it all. The chaos, the fumes, the people, the near misses. Being out there on the road brings me closer to this place. I am rarely more aware of my mortality and life in these moments, and it is a unique kind of bliss.

When I came to China the first time, I managed not to get on a bicycle let alone a motorized vehicle. I was young and more full of fear and hesitation.

My how things change.

And now I’m leaving again, and I have a whole host of emotions. I’m going to miss this place no doubt. I had just settled in. I have friends I adore, a life I enjoy, work that’s fulfilling, and a scooter.

And it’s this damn scooter that is hard for me to let go of. It was the first sign and symbol of something that really changed for me- a step of bravery, a release of fear, and an embracing of a culture.

And now I am leaving it all.

It’s selfish really. I know I am blessed. And I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m richer for having lived here a second time. My heart is fuller for meeting the people I have met. I am forever and more profoundly changed by this year in China that I allowed myself to be during the previous assignment in its close to five-year span.

So tomorrow, I will go for one final spin on my scooter before I hand it off to its new owner. And like every time before, I will weave in and out of the harmonious chaos marveling at what a wonderful and unique experience I have had the privilege of taking part in.