Unsolicited Professional Parenting Tip: Waking the kids for school.

lil sebastian photo

image credit: snorgtees.com

If you have a guitar, and can learn a few easy chords, teach yourself to play 5000 Candles in the Wind by Mouse Rat. This will take you approximately four seconds to learn. Then, on a random school day morning, wake your children by quietly wandering into their rooms and playing it with a gradual crescendo until your children are standing on their beds with lighters** in hand, swaying and singing along with the chorus. This will start their morning off right. Offer them sugary cereal immediately after.

You will be the best mom ever.

Also, if your kids walk to school as mine do, you can wait until they are about a block and a half away, stand in the middle of the street, and belt out a 5000CITW chorus-only reprise. They will pee their pants laughing (sneak extra pants into their backpacks ahead of time), and the entire neighborhood will undoubtedly love you for it.

(This also counts as an Unsolicited Professional Neighbor Tip.)

** If you don’t provide your kids with personalized lighters, kitchen matches will work fine. If your kids have smart phones and wish to use them as the source of audience participation illumination, you are an awful fucking parent. What are they, like seven? Seven years old and you gave the little jerks a smart phone? You don’t deserve to sing about Li’l Sebastian. You probably don’t even deserve to live.

Have a great day, errbody.

xoxo

TEDxUWMilwaukee: Holy crap, that was awesome, and I need to take seventeen naps today.

photo credit: @alWHYssa_

photo credit: @alWHYssa_

Yesterday I had the incredible honor of speaking alongside nineteen brilliant presenters at the very first TEDxUWMilwaukee conference, sponsored by (the generous, engaged, and incredibly supportive folks at) Northwestern Mutual. I sit here, just hours from the event, still buzzing with the spellbound feeling that comes with being a part of something really extraordinary.

Augie and Sara Santiago TEDxUWMilwaukee 2014

photo credit: @AmyKant

Above all else, my heart is full of immense gratitude for the opportunity to be a part of the experience we shared as we journeyed through the day together. While the world scurried around us, we entered a small campus theater as strangers, loosely connected in our desire for new ideas and inspiration. The palpable excitement shared by everyone in the theater, the organizers, speakers, sponsors, volunteers and attendees, was matched with a warmth and conviviality that we could feel in the very first moment that kicked off the day, and it made me absolutely giddy. (Me. Giddy. Yeah, let that one sink in a minute. Gross. I know. Let’s move on.)

Throughout the day, I had the chance to talk to many folks in audience, and they all shared the same sentiment, “Every single speaker has been incredible!” I think that we all approach something like a day long conference expecting (hoping) to hear some really great talks, but also recognizing that with a group of twenty different speakers, it’s likely that some of the topics fall outside our area of interests, and/or we might not connect with a particular speaker. It happens at every event, it’s totally normal, but OVER and OVER again, people were sharing their excitement about ALL of the talks. One particular comment I heard quite a bit was that the entire line up was strong, and how impressed and excited folks were to discover that. When we emerged for that first intermission, people were beaming. It was fucking glorious.

Sara Santiago speaking TEDxUWMilwaukee 2014

photo credit: Mark Fairbanks

Obviously, none of that happened by chance. The event organizers have been working for nearly a year to curate and produce an awesome TEDx event. They worked with all of us (speakers) for months, helping us shape our ideas, improve our approach, and helping us translate the passion we feel for the ideas we want to share into a talk that resonates. They brought us together in various smaller groups throughout the summer to give us the chance to help each other through the development of our talks. These curation meetings were such a huge part of what made this whole experience so special for me. On the evening of my first curation meeting, I showed up to join this diverse group of really smart people who are doing some really incredible things, and I felt pretty intimidated at first. But this group, the speakers and the organizers, weren’t just brilliant thinkers. They were humble and kind, and I think maybe we all shared in a little bit of intimidation at first. Of course, it was short lived, and I left that first meeting feeling extremely fortunate to find myself on a team of really excellent human beings.

Mark Fairbanks and Sara Santiago TEDxUWMilwaukee 2014

Mark Fairbanks (my dear friend, excellent human being, and the opening speaker for TEDxUWMilwaukee) and me (and what I like to call my “crazy eyes’ look) – photo credit: Margaret Fairbanks

Working as a group improved and enriched my talk to something I couldn’t have done on my own, and exchanging criticism and offering suggestions was easy to do with this group because every single one of us wanted everyone else to succeed. For my part, I found myself also wanting to give a really great talk, not just for myself, but because I wanted my contribution to convey the respect I have for this group, and I wanted my talk to be a reflection of the amount of work that everyone involved put into this conference.

For me, yesterday was an incredibly beautiful and humbling experience. The number of people who so generously shared their own stories with me after my talk is something that will stay with me always.

The faces of the people who approached me to share a hug, a laugh, a couple rogue tears, or a simple “Thank you for sharing” are seared in my heart, which is perfect, because while my brain can’t always be trusted, my heart will never forget.

Stay tuned for follow ups on re-caps, photos, and the videos! This shit’s gonna be bananas. xoxo

A Few Short Lines For The Rape Victim Blamers

True: In general, everyone should be held to the same standard of accountability for their behavior in a given social interaction/situation.

True: Freedom of choice does not, and should not, mean freedom from consequences of one’s personal choices.

Also true: There is no social or personal human behavior in existence for which rape is a natural consequence.

I hope this clears things up for some of you victim-blaming fuckwads.

The jerk store called…

I want to believe in people. Some days, some people make that a very challenging thing to do.

Seinfeld jerk store called

I guess the best thing we can do is remind ourselves that those people have to live with their bullshit, but we can walk away from it.

It’s true that they will likely carry on as they always have, as assholes, and never even realize it. It may never even cross their minds, allowing them an ignorant and blissful existence in spite of themselves.

Before we let that piss us off, we have to remember that they will never live a life as meaningful and incredible as those who choose to live a life of generosity, service, self reflection, and the kind of vulnerability that allows us to make deep connections with others.

They may never feel loss for something that they’ve never known, but they will be missing out on the best part of being alive.

Reminding myself of these things is how I process the anger I feel when a shitty person gets away with, well, being a shitty person. It helps me ditch that anger, realize that a more appropriate reaction is to pity them, and further remember that I don’t need to waste any energy on them at all. It frees me up to help clean up the damage, hold someone’s hand, and be grateful that my life is full of amazing people with the most beautiful hearts.

And then I can believe in people again.

So I wrote this. Because seeing someone turn someone else’s suicide into an Internet joke breaks my heart.

As I scroll through my Twitter and Facebook feeds today, I see many heartfelt posts mourning the tragic loss of Robin Williams. I’ve also seen judgmental and callous posts, and, once again, a lack of understanding of mental illness and lack of compassion for someone who has taken their own life demonstrates that we have a long way to go in educating people about the seriousness of mental illness.

So I wrote this. Because seeing someone turn someone else’s suicide into an Internet joke breaks my heart.

***

There is a haunting thought that returns every time I hear that someone, anyone, has taken their own life.

In the moment before someone commits suicide, the last several seconds before they succumb to the lies that depression whispers—insidious and merciless whispers—are the darkest, saddest, and loneliest that I can possibly imagine.

The struggle to silence the lies leaves the head and heart the weary, and sometimes that war has been waging for a very long time. The despair and the unrelenting whispers turn to shame, and the shame gives way to a darkness, fear, and a desperation so strong that any belief that they can somehow overcome it is lost.

The thought of any human being finding themselves in that moment is heart-shattering. The pain of that moment is unimaginable to most of us, and misunderstood by too many.

It is not selfish.

It is not an act of weakness.

The moment that someone decides that the only chance they have to escape the grip of searing pain and ever-present darkness is to end their own life is possibly the loneliest and most terrifying moment their hearts have ever had to bear.

Just the thought of someone inside that moment should give rise to compassion for a fellow human being, and not judgement.

Be careful with your words, today and every day. There are countless others fighting their own battles.

They will read your words, and they will believe them.