All posts by Steph Ruopp

About Steph Ruopp

Like many before her, Steph is a human. She is also a freelance writer/blogger/copywriter. As an extroverted introvert she is well suited to the alternating human contact and isolation that is the life of a freelancer.

2020 Is Over, So Now What?

I’ll make this short and sweet. Or short, at least.

As I write this, there are six hours and 12 minutes left in the year 2020. Am I ready to bid this year adieu? Sure. Tomorrow marks the beginning of 2021. The beginning of something new. And yeah, I dig the symbolism and all that. But let’s be real. It’s technically another day.

It’s not as if January 1st is going to be some sort of magical elixir that will enlighten the far-right naysayers and far-left conspiracy theorist anti-vaccers of their ignorance or their unwillingness to see the harm they’re causing.

If I sound irritated with these two factions, you haven’t misinterpreted. But my irritation isn’t simply my inability to comprehend them. It’s because I understand them all too well. Both of them.

As much as I don’t want to admit it, at different points in my life, I have pitched my tent in each of these camps. I grew up in a conservative household where the name Reagan was like royalty. I was even ready to vote for Bush (senior) in the 1988 election, though I was so complacent I didn’t even bother voting.

Four years at a fairly liberal college shifted my views. So while at 18 I was content to call myself a Republican, by the age of 26, I was a card-carrying independent who voted for Ralph Nader, got on board with the paint-throwing members of PETA, and was an avowed anti-vaccination advocate.

So I understand where both of these groups reside. Because when I subscribed to these extreme beliefs, I was working predominantly from fear, lack, and limitation. And it was a miserable place to be. By my mid-30s, I’d had enough. I began doing the self-work required to seek more balance in my life. Self-exploration and -investigation is no walk in the park. A lot of the time, it sucks. But it’s a journey worth taking.

It seems that 2020 really ramped up, exposed, then preyed upon those dictated by fear. It certainly got the best of me. So my hope for 2021 is that folks start to recognize how much fear dictates their own lives, do the hard work involved in finding balance, and just be freakin’ nice to each other.

We’ve got a lot of work to do.

Meditation on a Chinese Lantern

I’ve placed a vase of vibrant dried Chinese Lanterns on the table where I work each day. I stare at them as I’m pondering and writing the next whatever it is I’m writing. They remind me that the world is simple and beautiful and impermanent.

The Chinese Lantern is proof that the world doesn’t completely suck.

But the world sure isn’t feeling that way these days. We all know there are those who would say that if I were “any kinda self-respectin’ Amurican”, I’d meditate on an American Lantern and that my love for the Chinese Lantern is what’s wrong with this country. They may even spit on me for meditating at all, deeming it suspicious behavior from “one a’ them Eastern forin countries.” Sounds ridiculous, right?

Yet, over on the other end of the spectrum, I could just as easily be accused of possessing all the sensitivity of a woodblock for calling the lanterns Chinese rather than some other label conjured three minutes earlier on Instagram. “Shame on you for being so utterly unaware!” they might sneer with the same vitriol as the Chinese Lantern hater.

Meanwhile, somewhere else on the spectrum, the woodblock contingency is busy taking issue with the unfounded accusation of lacking sensitivity. And it goes on and on ad nauseum.

Things have gotten seriously out of hand. And honestly, I’m having a hard time with it.

I genuinely believe everyone is struggling with this right now. Even if they refuse to acknowledge or even recognize it. Humans are social creatures. Introverts and extroverts alike. We’re at our best when we come together and collaborate in a productive way. Wisdom seems to dictate a crucial need for meaningful discourse and REAL listening to one another now before we reach a point of no return. But the vast majority of the time, this isn’t happening. Not that I’m seeing, at least. And I’m glancing at my own reflection in the mirror while I say this. Yep. Guilty as charged.

Now, if I’m unwilling to temporarily put aside my beliefs and concepts for the welfare of humankind and the planet, what right do I have to expect it of everyone else? None. As much as I don’t want to admit it, if I’m motivated in any way by fear, anger, and (yeah, I’ll say it) hatred, then I’m a part of the problem. As long as see the others as the enemy, there can’t be peace. And that sucks.

As they say, “the truth will set you free. But first it’ll piss you off.” Looks like I still have a lot of work to do here. Seems like something to meditate on today…

Support Your Local Library, Dammit

Of the many great inventions and ideas ascribed to Ben Franklin, I’m putting libraries at the top. You’re welcome to disagree. You may be far more struck by that whole kite with lightning thing. (Yes, the pun was painfully obvious.) Or perhaps you’re into bondage. Which has nothing to with Ben Franklin. So I’m not sure why you’re bringing it up.

At any rate, ask yourself this – when is the last time you went to the library? Okay, so you got me on a technicality. You probably haven’t been to an actual library since at least March, what with most of them being shuttered. Pandemic and all. But if you haven’t frequented a library or even taken advantage of its services since before this “new regular” began, then you might not even know what you’re missing. 

First of all, there are orgies. LOTS of them. Okay, not really. But your public library is home to an impressive collection of informational and inspiring tomes that may include the likes of Wuthering Heights, the works of Shakespeare, Catch-22, and The Illustrated Guide to Drawing Pelicans. Volumes one AND two. That’s right. There’s no skimping at the library. And they’re kind enough to just let you borrow any books you want! All you need is a library card, some spats, a top hat, and a monocle. No, wait. You only need those last three if you want to be Mr. Peanut. So just a library card.

If books aren’t exactly your thing, believe me, I understand. When I was growing up in the 1970s, there was a huge literacy campaign that insisted upon the chirpy tagline Reading Is FUNdamental. Because I was a phenomenally slow reader, I thought reading was fundamentally stupid. I don’t feel that way now, of course. It’s not that I’m any faster at reading. I just don’t have to write book reports anymore so I don’t really have to pay attention.

But that’s my story. You may despise reading with a vitriol normally reserved for hate groups. While that seems an extreme reaction to such a peaceful and important skill, who am I to judge? I’ll tell you who’s not judging though. That’s right. The library. They’ve made it possible for people to download music, movies, audio books, and other forms of entertainment right onto their laptops, phones, or other devices. And for folks who’ve recently managed to step into the 1990s, there are sections with CDs and DVDs available for check out too. It’s universally agreed upon that you can never see Sister Act too many times.

Then there’s the magazine section – quite possibly the most important section of the library. Not to channel my inner 80-year-old, but have you seen how much a single magazine issue costs these days? I’m sorry, but I’m not comfortable paying $10 for a rag that will ultimately become fodder for homemade collage greeting cards. Instead, I go to the library, borrow a few of their issues, then buy myself something pretty (like a nice bottle of wine) with all of the money I saved. Some days, just for fun, I’ll gather an armful of Vegetarian Times and Guns and Ammo, just to mess with the librarian at the check-out.   

Speaking of librarians, they’re another awesome perk of your local library. Think what you want about librarians. No, seriously. Go ahead. You don’t need my permission.

A stunning interpretation.

I guess all that I’m really trying to say is that libraries are awesome. Eventually they’ll open again and even if there aren’t orgies, they will resume being hubs for book clubs, yoga classes, internet access, community meetings, or any other number of gatherings that strengthen our social collective. They are also a safe haven for the homeless. 

Furthermore, right now, when we’re so limited in what we can do and where we can go, there’s this amazing and FREE resource for entertainment, motivation, learning, inspiration, and dreaming right here in our community. So take advantage of it.

Because, honestly, a pelican drawing is a terrible thing to waste.