Author: milesbehn

Absent Blogger

Hello friends.

I should not be allowed to make sweeping statements and promises. They never get me very far.

At the beginning of the year I said ridiculous things like “I’ll be here all year,” and “I will blog every weekday” and blah, blah, blah. Empty promises. (Empty chairs at empty tables…) I made plans for this blog that I couldn’t keep. (I also had some job interviews and got a job–WEE!!)

I’m sorry I couldn’t keep up with what I said, but this is not goodbye. I will still keep up Staving off Disaster, but perhaps not daily. I now have a full time job, and I’d like to keep writing/editing my novels. So blogging is taking a backseat. But I will still be around! If not daily, hopefully weekly. I like this blog, and I intend to keep it up.

Ok, no more mushy stuff.

You’re great. We’re all great. I’ll be around.

(WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE)

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Year of Selfies: An Experiment





I’ll admit, like most people, I initially rejected selfie culture. I thought the whole idea of taking pictures of yourself, sharing them, begging people to like, share, reblog was a bit ridiculous. It screamed attention-seeker, desperate, needy. It was everything I hated about social media, about the inconsequential rush of someone “liking” something you’ve uploaded. I mean, how true is the validation I get when someone double taps my face, anyway?

But the more literature I read about selfie culture, the more I struggled to find the flaws in it. (And yes, I too rolled my eyes at the idea of “selfie culture literature.”) Selfies are one of the greatest things to come from the camera phone, and here’s why: it encourages us to feel good about ourselves.

Weird, right?





We live in a world where images of perfect people are constantly shown to us, held up as the ideal. We strive to meet this ideal with fad diets, self-deprecation, self-loathing, under eating, over eating, excessive exercise, and lots and lots of self-hatred. We think we ought to look like these people, that we won’t get the job, find the significant other, have success if we don’t look the part. But then selfies come in.

From Laura Argintar at Elite Daily:

For once, putting a woman’s body on display does not spell doom for the female gender. In fact, our selfies are actually a way of proliferating body acceptance. We’re now witnessing real girls from all different angles, perspectives, shapes and sizes. They’re on the beach, on the streets or just in their bathrooms. The more pedestrian the setting, the more accustomed we’ll become to seeing authentic women in a bona fide way.

We’re working toward a more accepting society, by first accepting ourselves. Do you know how hard it is for me to dislike a girl’s selfie? It used to come easy. I used scoff, and call her needy, shallow, vain. Now, I see her in a new light. She’s confident and strong. And if she’s not, who I am to say these selfies aren’t helping her to get there? So what if she’s vain? Why is it a bad thing to feel good about ourselves? In a world where girl-time often means group pity-party, it’s refreshing to experience selfie culture. It’s time to feel good about ourselves, to own up to our strengths, our beautiful faces. It’s time to see more of the world—to see more big noses, wide foreheads, acne scars. Real people living real lives and feeling great about it.





If you’re not on board with me yet, check out Laci Green’s video on the Selfie Revolution. This girl knows her stuff. She’s got a great view of body positivity, and backs it up with some hard facts.

All this to say, I’ve decided to try Laci’s experiment this new year. I’ve decided to launch a selfie instagram account. Rather than clogging up your feeds (because, let’s be honest, not everyone is part of the selfie revolution), I’ve created a separate account to post daily selfies. But they won’t all be glamour shots and feel good photos—I really want to chronicle this journey, to discover more about my self-perceived beauty (and my self-perceived “ugly”), self-worth, and body positivity. I”m excited to document my life in such a personal way, to gauge how I feel on a daily basis, by really looking in the mirror (or, rather, the front facing camera lens).

Want to explore your own body positivity? Start a selfie-a-day. Maybe you don’t upload them, maybe you immediately delete them, but take one. Really pay attention to how you feel about it, and delve into why. So you made a funny face, your angles are wrong. Does that devalue you as a person? If it does, why? What can you do to combat that initial reaction? And how can you be more body positive?





If you’d like, follow my selfie insta here. I’d love to see your selfies, so please don’t hesitate to share. I’ll definitely double tap back.

In Lieu of a Post

Please accept these photos of a recent flight. I promise to get back to you tomorrow!

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S/o to Lake Superior and Wisconsin for looking fabulous in the winter. I am glad to be rid of you -31 Minnesota windchill. We’ll talk more about the importance of travel in reference to self-care this week.

What do you do on a flight? Fan of introspection, or do you love escapism?

Better Late Than Never

Hi.

It’s been a while.

As is tradition right before the new year, I abandoned all self-made promises, and made tons of excuses as to why. “I’m taking a break from writing–I mean, I wrote a novel.” “It’s so cold outside, and I was sick, so of course I couldn’t run.” “I haven’t blogged in forever, I can’t just sit down and start again, I need to explain why.” “I have so much work to do!”

All lies, for the record. Or, perhaps excuses is a better umbrella to put them under. I come from the school of thought (and the place of privilege) that you make time for the things you love, things you’re passionate about. And I haven’t made time. I have procrastinated (I just watched through the entire Lizzie Bennet Diaries again) and pushed everything I ought to do to the perpetual “tomorrow morning.” I have argued circumstance and life situation (sickness and NaNoWriMo shouldn’t get in the way), and everything a serial procrastinator has up their sleeve. I can run circles around things I need to do—it’s a gift.

But no more. It’s a new year, and while I’m kind of against sweeping life statements (despite the fact that I make them quite often), I might as well get into the spirit of self-improvement. No goals this month, just… hopes. As you might know from previous entries, I’m a pretty big fan of forgiveness, especially when it comes to yourself. And while the new year is a great time for becoming the better you, it’s also important to remember that you are only human. Trying to become the super human version of yourself will only bring you disappointment. So rather than steadfast resolutions, let’s talk about hopes for the new year. Let’s talk about all the ways we can find happiness.

Yesterday morning, over toast and scrambled eggs, my best friend read last year’s hopes aloud. Rather than writing down all the ways she should improve or change, she’d decided to list all the things she could do for a fuller life—a happier existence.

So let that be your challenge. Even if it is the second of January—no one says you can’t begin something new any time you want. Write out a list of things you can do this year to improve your overall happiness. And check them off as you fulfill them. Whether it is greater forgiveness, walks in the park, drinking more tea, visiting friends, road trips, readings, finding religion. Improve your life, but don’t forget to take time to enjoy it along the way.

And welcome back to Staving Off Disaster. I’ll be here all year.

On Brown, Garner, Privilege, and Racism in America

First, before I begin I want to say this: if you have already formed your opinions about racism, about the protests in Ferguson, about anyone’s testimony—if you are here to argue with me, if your first comment begins with “but I…” please turn around. I am not here to engage with you on this topic. I do not have time (nor patience) for this argument. Because it will be just that—an argument, not a dialogue. Neither party will change their mind. The Internet, while wonderful, was hardly built for intelligent dialogue. And it breaks my heart to try to express my sadness, my anger, my frustration in the face of “Support Darren Wilson” posts. I cannot. I’m sorry. Perhaps you will think less of me, perhaps you will think me a close-minded liberal, perhaps you will even see me as unintelligent, uninformed, ridiculous. Think what you will. I’m not here to prove myself to you.

For the rest of you—hello. First off, I want to thank you for being here. While I’m not here to coddle you, I want to acknowledge that racism is scary. That talking about racism is difficult. Privilege is difficult. Our immediate reaction tends to be defensive. “Well, I’m not racist, so this isn’t really my issue,” “it’s not my fault that slavery was part of American history—I didn’t own slaves,” “I’m just one person, what can I do?” We don’t want to be at fault for the sins of others—for the failures of our country, our police, our culture. We would rather stay in our own bubble of privilege. That is the scary part of privilege—it allows us to ignore those our systemic advantage oppresses. It allows us to live in the bubble of our own problems, content to believe the narratives of mass media, of the American Dream (everyone has equal opportunity to “become something”), of some serious propaganda. So thank you for stepping outside your bubble. Stay out here. It is scary, and it is difficult, and you will screw up, but you need to be here. We need to change this world, and it will begin on an individual level. So stay here. Stay talking. Stay thinking.

So, what is privilege? It seems to come up a lot when we’re talking about race in America, but what exactly are we saying? Are you at fault for your privilege? And what should you do with it?

From an INCREDIBLE campaign out of USF

Privilege refers to the special rights, advantages, or immunities granted or available only to a particular person or group of people. I’m female, white, middle-class, able-bodied, straight, and cisgender (my biological sex aligns with my gender identity). Some of my privileges include knowing which bathroom to walk into, having vast options for hairstylists who know how to deal with my European hair, not needing to add extra time to my airport security experience for fear I will be “randomly selected,” and not worrying about societal reaction when interacting romantically with my partner.

If you want to learn more about white privilege in particular, I’d suggest reading the 1988 essay White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh. It’s a great resource for helping you see your white privilege.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by privilege. I’ll be the first to admit that even don’t know all the ways I’m privileged. I’m constantly learning new ways to be inclusive, to help someone who might not have the same advantages as me. But wait, isn’t this all just too PC? This is just political correctness gone too far! Eh, perhaps. But it’s hard to know someone else’s struggle. If you are cisgender, you have the privilege of never having to worry (as some transgender people do) about feeling like your body is betraying you—as though you are not yourself. Your identity is solid. You have the luxury of confidence in your own identity—of looking in the mirror and feeling connected with the person staring back at you. Not everyone has this. And it is a daily struggle for these individuals. Is it so hard to change your vocabulary to help them feel less outside? To work to use language like “all genders” rather than “both genders?” To reject television tropes about “men in disguise as women?”

So, now we know about privilege. But what can we do about it? I mean, you wouldn’t identify as racist, you have no ill-feelings toward people of different races (I hope), and you probably have friends of different races. What does knowing your privilege mean?

Well, for starters, it means acknowledging that you live in a society where some people have more options than other people. If you’re a woman, you know this firsthand. You know that walking home, late at night, is somewhat nerve-racking (and is frowned upon). You likely hold your keys firmly between your knuckles, walk quickly, avoid deserted places. For the most part, white men do not have to worry about this issue (fear of being mugged is very different than fear of being raped). This is a consequence of a patriarchal society. Consider reading Lindsay Beyerstein’s Attention, Space Cadets: Do Not Proposition Women in an Elevator for more information on this topic (here’s a great quote too).

This directly translates to race relations. Not all men are rapists, and not all white people are racist, right? What’s the problem? As long as you’re not either one of those things, it’s all good, right? Wrong. While you might not be inherently racist, you benefit from a racist society. You benefit from a culture that systematically oppresses different groups of people (usually people outside the spectrum of white, middle-to-upper-class, male, able-bodied, straight, and cisgender).

By now you’re probably feeling pretty guilty, and likely getting defensive. That’s ok. It’s a natural reaction to checking your privilege. No one is saying that just because you have privilege that you are a bad person—in fact, privilege isn’t really inherently negative, and most of us have it in some way. It is a consequence of the society we’ve built, of the history we collectively have. No, it isn’t your fault that you are privileged. But that doesn’t mean you can just accept it and move on. Just knowing about it is the first step.

So, what does this all have to do with Mike Brown and Eric Garner? I’m not here to discuss the nuances of the defenses, or the grand jury decisions in these cases. (Check out this article if you want more information on that front.) No matter what you believe, the basic fact of the last several weeks boils down to this—an oppressed group is crying out for help. Your job, as someone with privilege, is to shut up and listen. That is your first job. Your opinion does not matter in this situation. Honestly. You may have lots of them, you may want to start screaming, or arguing back. But take a moment to listen. Really, really listen to the people of Ferguson (and destroy the “riot/loot” angle), listen to the stories they are sharing, listen to the consequences of casual racism. Just listen. Do not speak. Do not argue. First and foremost: listen. That’s all I’m asking of you today.

There is a huge race problem in this country. We all probably believe that we would have been in the marches with Martin Luther King Jr., because the lens of history tells us who was “right” and who was “wrong.” But now society is right again—now everything is better, and people are just overreacting. No. Reject this idea. Reject the idea that these things should be easy—that we are post-racism. We are not. We are still in the middle of racism, we are still grappling with our history, burying it as though discussing it will only make things worse. Ignoring it is making things worse. Talking over it is making things worse. Forty years from now, I hope these years will look as “right” and “wrong” as the civil rights movement looks to us now. I hope these years will be taught in the history books, and our children will ask us which side of the fight we were on. Because it will come. The battle will be long, and hard fought, and terribly, terribly painful. It will never be easy—change is never easy. Compliance is easy. Ignoring the issue is easy. Privilege is easy.

Get your hands dirty. Find articles that upset you, frustrate you, break your heart. Learn about the world around you—the experiences of others. And years from now, when you look back, I want you to be able to say you did something. That for once, you thought about more than yourself. That you listened.

NaNoWriMo Update: Everything Sucks

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Well, it’s finally here. Yes, it’s everyone’s favorite season of NaNoWriMo: the week when you doubt everything and fantasize about quitting to go work on a tall ship. The week you realize that everything you’ve ever written is complete and utter trash. You begin to see yourself as the worst, angry internet critics would see you. Your plot is stale, your characters are unbelievable, your style is lacking, your entire story has been told forty times over. That’s right friends, we’re in the NaNo slump.

In years past the NaNo slump has been my great enemy. In fact, it has actually defeated me before (which always feel terrible, and leaves you with a novel you definitely don’t want to touch again). Yes, the NaNo slump has defeated even the most qualified writer (check out Neil Gaiman’s pep talk). It’s a beast, the thing you know is lurking in the wilds when you set out, but you pray you’ll never meet. It’s everything you hate about your book, your writing, your talents.

Take some comfort in knowing that we’re pretty much all feeling this. (Despite my shouting two weeks ago that I couldn’t fall into the slump because I’m writing a “romance” novel.) Most writers have this crisis around the 3/4 mark. You’ve written just enough to feel qualified, but you have enough left that you wonder if it’s even worth finishing. I’m here to tell you: finish it. The trouble with being a writer is that the book in your head and the book you write will never compare. The book in your head will always be exponentially better than the one you’re writing. In your head the book is perfectly possible, it’s just… wonderful. I’m sorry to tell you this, but the book in your head will never be real. The book in your head won’t magically appear on the paper if you start reading books on writing, improve your writing, start again, plan more, etc etc etc. There is always a reason to quit writing—to convince yourself that the next round will be better. Well guess what, friends? You’re already in this mess. You’ve already committed, you’ve got somewhere past 20,000 words to prove it. Do not let those words die–I promise they’re important. Maybe they don’t feel right, maybe they won’t make it to the final cut, but they are part of your story. They are helping you the take the book in your head to the page. Trust them, trust yourself. Your words are worthwhile. Hunt for the hidden gems in your work—the sentences that make you ask “wait, I wrote that?” Hold onto them. Reread them, remind yourself of them. You can do this. You can find the words, the story, the characters. You are a writer. No one can stop you. Critics are far away, made up ghosts. Right now, it is just you and your novel. No one else needs to know that you wrote the sentence “It’s like kissing a fantasy” (yes, that is an actual line from my piece of trash). Don’t get bogged down in the failure. You are doing something wonderful for yourself, for your goals, for the part of you that always nagged about being a writer. Being a writer means pushing through the terrible drivel. You are a writer.

Start acting like one.

Here’s an excerpt from the dark days of my NaNo novel:

“What do you read?” I ask, sitting down on the floor. I lean against the bookshelf, and pat the carpet next to me. Hamid sits.

“Promise not to laugh?”

“Hamid, you just caught me reading Sinners in the Bedroom: Preying Bodies. I think we’re well-past judgments.” I take the book down again. I’ll probably end up buying this, who am I kidding?

“I like to read… vampire novels.”

It takes too much effort to keep a straight face.

“Vampire novels?” I ask, my voice too high.

“See—I knew you would laugh,” Hamid elbows me. “It’s stupid, I know.”

“It’s not… stupid. It’s… different,” I offer. “Anyway, I’m sure they’re good.”

“No they’re not. They’re all pretty terrible. Most are just awful stories about girls falling in love with overly possessive guys. It’s hard to stomach.”

God, I’ve forgotten how much I love Hamid.

“For the most part I stick to this author, G. L. Breskin. She’s super into the scientific aspect of the disease, so she fleshes out the biology. She’s got a thirteen book series out right now, called Holding Back Sunrise…. wow, that sounds dumb when you say it out loud.”

I smile, and imagine Hamid reading his nerdy book in my living room. CRAP.

“It sounds pretty interesting, actually.”

“What about you? Do you read erotica?”

I laugh. “God, no. Not often, anyway. Just when I…” Wow, good corner you’ve painted yourself into, Cassandra. Just when I’m feeling particularly horny? “Just on occasion. I mostly read…” What the hell do I read? If I say I read classics I sound like a pretentious jerk. If I say I read young adult supernatural lit, I sound like an immature weirdo. “… contemporary novels.”

That’s a far cry from the truth. I’ve read one contemporary novel since graduating college. And I didn’t finish it.

“Oh really? I’ve always wanted to read good books. What was the last book you read?”

Witches Academy Book 14.

“Um, something by Ross G… Schroder.” Totally made up name. No way this can backfire. “He’s written several books that have won awards in the UK.”

I think I’m out of the woods, but Hamid pulls out his phone.

“Nice. Do you have any recommendations?”

Come on, stop being so likeable. I’m lying, you idiot.

I look around the bookstore.

“Uh yeah, you should read… The Blue Chair… at Midnight.” Don’t turn around Hamid, please don’t turn around and witness the blue chair right behind you.

Hamid frowns.

“Huh, I can’t seem to find it anywhere online.”

“Strange. Well, he’s really unknown at this point, I think he self-published most of his works. Most companies don’t sell his stuff.”

“Didn’t you say he won an award?”

“Did I?” Ugh. “Well, not everyone is as well-educated as the British. Anyway, were you doing anything the rest of the day?”

Was that worse? It sounds like I’m trying to ask him out. Am I asking him out? Damn you, subconscious.

Have anything you’re particularly proud of? Share your gems in the comments! We’re not past bragging here. Talk yourself up!

Portfolio

Here’s the highlight reel of articles I’ve written.

Product Reviews:

Swiffer Wet Jet

Pirelli Tires

Zombies, Run!

Home/Life Improvement:

5 Secrets to Living in a Terrible Apartment

Showing off Your Fake Culinary Skills: Pasta Sauce

Saying Yes

The Importance of Taking Care of Yourself

Running:

So You Want to Be Jon Snow

Will My Legs Ever Stop Hurting?

Pop Culture:

How To Get Away With Murder Recaps (He Deserved to Die & He Has a Wife)

Your Next Binge Watch: Teen Wolf

Diversity in Young Adult Lit: Why You Should Go See The Maze Runner

Growing Up:

Mistaken Identity

The Worst of Me

What is “Self?”

For more information please contact me at milesbehn@gmail.com.

How to Get Away with Murder Recap: He Has A Wife

Hey, I wrote this—again!

The Stake

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by Miles Behn

Last night’s episode of How to Get Away with Murder was three parts disaster, two parts forced drama, and five parts snooze fest. Literally, the case of the week was a woman who murdered her kids’ nanny while sleepwalking.

Welcome to unfettered Shonda Rhimes, where the science only sort of matters. What’s next? An extra chromosome means you’re a vampire? Is that you, Stephanie Meyer?

Last week we left our heroes in the heat of sweeps drama. Wes and Rebecca fleshed out their young adult novel romance (heightened stakes, long stares, sex that just seems to mean bonded-for-eternity), Frank and Laurel also made poor decisions on the porch (I mean, really guys, splinters?), and we found out that Mr. Darcy is pretty against birth control. Also on the docket: Michaela’s served a pre-nup from her fiancée’s family, and Rebecca is in cahoots with Annalise’s scorned ex-lover.

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So You Want to Be Jon Snow

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Well, it’s official. With the first snowfall (and the collective city-wide freak out—WE’RE GOING TO GET 16 INCHES, QUICK EVERYONE TO TARGET RIGHT NOW), winter has come to the Twin Cities. And it will likely never leave. I’m taking bets on the reappearance of the grass—April, or it didn’t count as winter.

If you live in the Twin Cities you know the unnecessary pride and extensive disgust that comes with surviving a Minnesota winter. You likely own several pairs of long johns, four different types of boots (going-out boots, why-am-I-shoveling-out-my-car-at-four-in-the-morning boots, last-year’s-no-longer-waterproof-step-around-puddles boots, and a pair of ankle boots to round out the look), and more winter coats than you care to count (yes, I do need four different peacoats, stop asking stupid questions). You know that your oven can double as a space heater, and that a heated blanket is pretty much a necessity. You take pride in the ridiculous temperatures (“I stood at the bus stop in -10 degree weather for twenty minutes this morning!”), but refuse to let it break you. Props Minnesota, for building a colony in America’s Siberia and refusing to back down. We’re all just a few steps into crazy here.

I’ve decided to take braving the Minnesota winters a step further; I’ve decided to keep running. And no, I don’t mean I’m going to get a gym membership. I am poor and unemployed, and the outside air puts hair on your chest! Let’s go running!

I recently completed the Couch to 5K program, and have since moved on to the 5K to 10K program. But I will not be deterred by the snow. I will not let 20 degree weather prevent me from working out! (When did I become this person?)

If you insist on being this crazy, you should take some precautions. As my Monday run proved, I am nowhere near prepared for this disaster. Just googling “running in Minnesota winter” results in a slew of articles, many questioning the sanity of the searcher, and all of them full to the brim with tales of caution. Suffice to say, running in Minnesota winter is an entirely different beast. For starters… ice.

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Guess what? The ice is slippery. And despite citywide laws, not everyone has shoveled their strip of sidewalk for you. Or they’ve iced too early, leaving an unassuming staking rink in its place. Just, copious amounts of fun.

Jon Snow doesn’t go tromping around Beyond the Wall with just a pair of sneakers. He decks out his boots with mini snow treads, and you should too. Enter YakTrax.

Yes, you look like a dork.

These babies will save you from falling on your butt in the ice. They’ll turn your terrible 11:34 (Monday’s pace without them—ie, running through ice and attempting not to fall), into something less awful. I’ve ordered a pair of these bad boys (sorry, couldn’t wait until Christmas, I would have broken my ankle), and I can’t wait for them to arrive. Sliding all over the trail, while a great exercise for your core, isn’t exactly going to improve your speed.

Another thing to note and accept about running in winter? Goals should probably be tossed out the window. While I’m still training in winter, I’m likely not going to fret over my pace. Winter is an entirely different beast, and it shouldn’t be approached with the same enthusiasm as summer running. Stay close to home when you’re out for a run, wear bright colors, and don’t push yourself. Because, in the words of The Maple Grove Barefoot Guy, “you’ll get hypothermia and die.”

Clothing is another beast to tackle in winter running. Monday’s run proved that I am also unprepared in that aspect. Layering is key, so break out the long johns, running tights, and swishy wind-resistant pants your mother insisted that you buy for your semester abroad. You never thought you’d wear them? HA. This isn’t a fashion show, you are trying to protect your body from failing you. Wear the stupid pants.

That also goes for hats, scarves, mittens, wool socks, and full face masks. Sure, stepping outside in 20 degree weather is fine for a few seconds, but running outside for 40 minutes is going to be dangerous. I’d rather we all look like weirdos and stay toasty than suffer from frost bite. Jon Snow wears four animals on his back, you can wear a balaclava.

Do you run in winter? What are you tips to staying safe and happy? Am I crazy?

Wait, don’t answer that last one.

How to Get Away with Murder Recap: He Deserved to Die

Do you watch How to Get Away with Murder? Because I do, and I wrote this article, and you should read it. Just saying.

The Stake

KATIE FINDLAY

by Miles Behn

There are few things I love more than the first season of a Shonda Rhimes TV show. I jumped right on board with Grey’s Anatomy in high school, crowding around the TV with my sisters, shouting and crying at the cliffhangers, medical drama, and sordid love affairs. A few years ago I fell into the black hole of Scandal, surprised and moved by Rhimes’ remarkable cast of strong women, and well-rounded statements about gender politics (I may or may not have cried during Olivia’s “earn me” speech).

Suffice it to say, I have my tent stakes firmly planted in Camp Rhimes. When I heard Rhimes was creating another show for ABC, this one starring the incredible Viola Davis, and appropriately named How to Get Away with Murder, I knew I had to watch it. It’s wonderful to watch Rhimes’ characters in their first…

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