Thursday, April 27, 2017

2017, The Year That I Start Biting People

I warned a friend months ago that I felt like 2017 would be the year I start biting people.

Months ago.

I haven't actually bitten anyone.

Yet.



But...I know that's probably because some of the people I have been the angriest with should be thanking the fact that they live far enough away from here that they're firmly outside of my bite radius.

There have been so many things that have angered me in so many new ways this year. SO FUCKING MANY THINGS.

Oh, yeah, I'm probably going to swear a lot here, so prepare your delicate sensibilities. Unless you've been here a while already and know that about me.

I swear. A lot. And I really don't care what other people think about that. I'm sure that in some people's eyes, that means I'm not a lady. Whatever.

If you think I care about your assessment of my femininity...excuse me while I have a good hearty belly laugh for a minute.

This year has truly been one shitshow after another, and I'm wholly convinced that this election season has infected our entire society. Not only do some people resoundingly NOT care about other people, they're not even trying to hide it anymore. Just go ahead and slap that proclamation of hatred on your forehead, folks.

I've watched as people around me suddenly woke up to systemic racism, only when it was revealed that someone else they held up on some pedestal wasn't who they pretended to be.

Hero worship is a powerful fucking drug.

I don't do heroes. I never have.

Wanna know why?

Because people are the worst.

For real.

Sure, there are lots and lots of people who do important things, who invent and create and lead and produce amazing benefits to society.

And every single one of those people has done or said something that would knock the air out of your hero sails, rip the mast in half and sink the motherfucking ship.

Does that invalidate the good things they do? Of course not.

Is it disingenuous to talk about the terrible things they've done, that they've said, that they've encouraged, that they've benefited from? Not only no, but hell no.

It's disingenuous NOT to talk about it.

We're all human and we all make mistakes. Some of us make those mistakes over and over and over again enough times and with volition enough that they aren't mistakes at all, but deliberate choices to be assholes. Just because we also did something amazing doesn't make us infallible. Nope.

Of course there are degrees of awfulness. Some people who've done amazing things don't have a long list of horrendous offenses. Sometimes the harms they've perpetrated are relatively minor. But some of them have stood on the backs of others climbing up to the top of that pedestal, content to take the work of others and claim it as their own. Some of them hurt other people in unimaginable ways. Some of them aren't who you think they are at all.

Two of the universes I'm part of have dealt with this already THIS YEAR, and people wonder why I don't want to talk to anyone at this point.

TWO OF THEM.

The problems at the core?

Cultural insensitivity, racism, appropriation, abuse. All kinds of shit that no one likes to talk about or admit exists...the kinds of things that people can't seem to see until that spotlight shines down and they have a come to Jesus moment.

Age isn't an excuse here.

It just isn't. I don't care how old you are, it doesn't give you a pass on this stuff.

Systemic racism is absolutely a thing. One of the comments I've written and written and written this week goes a bit like this:

The entirety of maternity care in this country is rooted in misogyny, in racism, in classism, in fetishization. Our system routinely fails MOST women, but it fails women of color more. It fails children of color more. The evidence is indisputable.

The entirety of postpartum care in this country is, wait for it....the same. Failing most women, failing women of color more.

And a HUGE part of the reason it fails women of color more? The resolute unwillingness by those in positions of power and privilege to see it in the first place.

So, you know, if you're totally fine sitting idly by as maternal mortality rates tick higher and higher in this country that somehow simultneously claims we're going to be great again while stripping women of their access to the not-good-enough health care they currently have, you're what is wrong with this country.

Talking about inequalities, particularly those supported by the data, does not perpetuate racism. Racism wasn't invented by health researchers. We didn't just conjure it up by running a regression analysis.

FFS

...

My husband wants me to try and relax, to stop being so fucking furious all the time. He wants me to be able to let stuff go. And he does and says all these things to me because he worries about me. He knows how much this all wears me down. I'm writing this in the hope that letting some of it out will lift some of that weight off my shoulders. Maybe it'll work. Maybe it won't. He wants me to understand that I don't need to choose to engage in every fight to which I am invited.

Sometimes, though, those fights come right to my door and won't stop knocking.

Knock

Knock

Knock

And sure, I (maybe) could let shit go. Maybe. Some of it. Within reason.

Unless it involves my children. In which case, you don't want to knock on this mama bear's cave door.

And if it is my children that you come knocking about, know that you will unleash a wrath within me that might never fade entirely. I don't care how long I've known you, or how close we once were. I don't care that you're older, that you believe I owe you my time or my answers or my respect. There is no respect left. There is no love left.

We are just done.

When someone shows you who they are, believe them.

Besides which...

I am the one who knocks.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

To The One Who Pushes Harder and Harder...

I haven't written this yet, but it's not officially your birthday yet, right? You weren't born until the afternoon, so technically this isn't late. Yet.

I still totally have time.

Winky face.



You won't be able to read it until tonight anyway since you have a track meet after school. Birthday = Hurdles. Somehow, for reasons that I don't fully understand, you are running and jumping over things on purpose. My dad used to do that when he was back in high school. He was actually really good at it, too...even ran the steeplechase. Held on to some records for decades. Clearly the affinity for track and field skipped a generation. I have always had bad knees, and somehow on hurdle day, they were always giving me trouble. Okay, maybe I milked it to avoid the hurdles. *runs away*



I know that if Grandpa were still here, he'd have been on a plane to watch your first race. He'd be so proud of you. Wherever he is now, I hope he's watching.

You see something like a giant hurdle and say to yourself, "I can do that".



And then you do.

About this time last year, you decided to compete in the triathlon over the summer, even though you hardly had the stamina to swim one length of the pool at the time. You pushed yourself, you developed the endurance, and you finished.



You've already started training for this year, making your pool distance on your first attempt and shaving time off your personal best. For your birthday, you wanted a road bike. And you got one.

Ever since you were a baby, you've been obsessed with going fast. Then going faster.



You were the one who spun the tires on the powerwheels Jeep bald as a toddler, now you're the one timing miles on the bike.

Let me just take a moment right now to thank whoever Craig is for inventing his list, because we were able to find you a bike for a reasonable price.

Just last night, after getting home from helping your dad with your brother's cub scout meeting, you whipped up a batch of white chocolate fudge. The house is usually littered with your cookbooks and magazines and recipes and ingredient lists. There's always something in the works, some new creation you need to try out.



This year, you started middle school, going back into the world of public school again. You were nervous at first, but have transitioned easily. You've made new friends, you've rekindled old friendships, you've branched out on your own. When the ugliness of adolescent drama has reared its head, you've weathered it with grace, learning the hard lessons in life that people will disappoint you, but that it almost never has anything at all to do with you.



I know how impossibly hard it is for you to not take things personally. I know because I am the same way. You're learning. I'm still learning. It's hard when you feel things as big as we do, it's harder still when people you love choose to hurt you.

I wish I could tell you that this lesson would end soon, that people would stop being awful...but it won't. You'll just get better at dealing with it all.

Don't let it harden you to the world, though. Don't let it change who you are. Don't let it stop you from putting yourself out there, from forming new friendships, from trying new things. Don't let it change your passion, your determination to do the right thing, your seeking of fairness and justice. Don't.

Those things make you who you are.

You were hesitant to sign up for the science olympiad team this year, not sure of what it entailed. Your sister would be participating for the last time before she moves on to high school. Though I know that it may not seem like it now, and certainly didn't seem like it then, someday you both will look back on this time and see what you achieved together.



Speaking of things you did together, you were on the same volleyball team too. Then you have been there, quietly supporting and cheering her on as she built the gay/straight alliance club at school. You even helped her find a dress for the gala dinner she was invited to attend.

That's who you are. You're always there, for all of us. You're always the first one asking if you can come along. You're always willing to sit in the stands, help out, cheer the loudest, hang out in parking lots at drumline shows for entire days. Even if your siblings don't always return the favor, even if they're too busy, too moody, too teenager-y, you always, always, always support them.



You have a special bond with the baby because of your willingness to help, and he is drawn to you especially. He blows you kisses every morning after I drop you off at school, and when he wakes up from his naps in the afternoon, you're usually the one he asks for. You're always the one that volunteers to wear him when we go somewhere that his little legs won't carry him.



You've grown up so much this year, learning to juggle all the responsibilities of school and homework and sports. You've pushed yourself in things I would have never even attempted. You've always got a second bag packed, whether it is for volleyball or basketball or track or the pool or a sleepover.

You're a journey in chaos at times, a whirlwind of activity and emotion, wrapped up in this tiny body that came with two hollow legs. You can out-eat anyone in the house when you're training...it really is impressive. It's a good thing you cook too.



You're a force to be reckoned with in this world, a passionate fighter who loves with your whole heart. You don't do anything small. You're not afraid of a challenge. You'll teach yourself if you have to. Then you'll start timing laps, keeping track of how much faster you went this time.

Keep running, baby. Keep going faster.



I'm proud of you.

Happy birthday.

...and I love you more first.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Is there a statute of limitations on this stuff?

My husband stayed home from work yesterday. Over the weekend, he'd fallen up in the mountains, going and hurting himself in the process. When he could hardly move, I insisted that he should probably go to the doctor just to make sure he didn't do anything that won't heal on its own. The diagnosis? Torn cartilage around one of his ribs.

And yeah, he got the, "At your age..." lecture from the doctor. Weekend warriors of the world, I salute you. So do all the orthopedists.

Since he was here, he did all the things he does on any given day...just most of the time, at least during the week, he does it when he is at work. On that list of habitual daily things...he checks the pictures on the cloud from this day in prior years.

I tend not to do that, for a few reasons. One, I am deeply in the realization that my kids are growing up before my eyes right now and don't particularly need to see pictures of them as squishy infants at the moment. Two, I've got issues. A boatload of them in fact. Once you've dealt with PTSD as a result of your issues and needed years of therapy to work through them, you kind of give up being a tourist in your own life. Three, I'm usually too busy teaching the homeschooler and preventing the toddler from dismantling the house all day long to remember to check.

He checks.

Sometimes when something makes him feel things, he sends me a picture or texts it to the kids.

Sometimes he laughs, trying to figure out what that picture was - especially on the days when it's abundantly clear that some kid lacking photography skills had clearly taken one of our phones and had a little photo session.

Sometimes he's quiet and reflective.

And sometimes he's a mixture of annoyed and pissed and amused.

Yesterday was one of those.

The pictures he saw, and then showed to me immediately since he was here?

The ones of the day of the fire.

"The" fire.

I always feel really unsettled this time of year. Edgy. Or at least I have for the last five years. It took me a while to put two and two together, but the days when it's prematurely warm and windy are always the worst, especially when it's towards the second half of March.

The reason? The fire.

The one that I still don't really talk about, and have only mentioned briefly here before. I think maybe it is time for me to finally write about it. I know that it'll likely end up with me getting a few messages from people. I know that someone will probably tell me I'm wrong, because that is usually what happens.

I actually brought it up independently a few days ago, not realizing we were so close to the anniversary. A friend is dealing with a situation similar in far too many ways to the one I was in back then, six years ago. I see her and what she is going through. I see the guilt and the conflict and the questioning, I see her trying so fucking hard to do the right thing, never sure of what it is. I see her shielding her child from as much of it as she possibly can, knowing that she has a duty as a mother that is bigger than her duty as a daughter. I see it. I see it because I lived it, and because I understand how impossible a situation like that truly is to endure.

So, the fire. "The" fire.

My father had died about six weeks earlier. My mom had come out here to visit, in anticipation of moving out this way. She needed to get out of the house he died in, and I understood that she had to come here. So she did.

And she was not in a good place. She hadn't been for a long time, and maybe never really was. She was doing this thing that I've seen so many people do when they lose the person who was the center of their life, and they spiral out of control. She was reckless, she was irresponsible. She was spending money as if it actually grew on trees, which was precisely the kind of thing my father hated most when he was alive. She was newly free of his guidance, and living it up on her terms. Smoking like a chimney, even in the wake of watching her husband die of lung cancer.

And then she was here.

That afternoon, I had to take one of the kids to an eye appointment. She offered to stay here with the other kids so that I wouldn't have to take them. I hesitated just a moment, but then the overwhelmed mother in me said, okay. I left and took my daughter to the doctor.

At the time, my oldest was not yet nine years old. The same age his younger brother is now. My younger daughter was five. The youngest back then was only two.

The wind had picked up quite a bit, but I didn't pay too much attention to it.

When we turned onto the street coming home, the gusts had picked up more. I saw what appeared to be smoke and started to panic a bit. As I pulled around the curve and could fully view our house, I realized the smoke was coming from our yard.

She was out there, trying to connect the hose to the house, as it was still too cold to leave it connected overnight. Desperately.

The mulch was smoking all over the yard, visible flames in a few areas. The underbrush of the plants all along the fence were engulfed. And the flames licked the top of the fence line, urging their way upward with each gust.

I screamed. Threw the car into park. Told my daughter to go into the house and immediately call 911. I ran to the side yard and ripped the hose from her hands, still not connected. Got it all together, and started stamping out what I could with my feet while pouring water on the fence.

She was yelling.

"I don't know what happened".

"It's not my fault".

"It was the wind".

I screamed something to the effect of, "Why didn't you call 911? Where are the kids? What the fuck happened????", then told her to go inside and get the kids and get them out of the house. Make sure 911 had been contacted.

She told me that we didn't need to call 911. And that everything was fine.

She finally stopped arguing and went inside.

I started screaming at the sky right about then. Sobbing.

Tried to call my husband over and over, his phone going straight to voicemail.

The only thing that kept the entire yard from going up was that I'd just soaked the dry brown winter grass the day prior. I shudder to think how quickly it might have spread if not for that. Whether the house could have gone up, whether my neighbor's might have.

Then the sirens. They got louder and louder.

Two trucks. Fire chief happened to be on duty that day.

By then, I'd managed to put out most of the fire myself. They checked​ the fence for hot spots, dug around the post to make sure there wasn't anything smoldering where we couldn't see.

Chief asked what happened. I told him I didn't know. That I'd been at the doctor with one child, my mother left here with the other kids, and I'd come home to this.

She came outside, hysterical. The oldest was holding the baby. The girls were holding each other.

Immediately defensive, she confronted the fire chief. Insisted that it had been put out. Not the fire, the cigarette.

She pointed at the can she insisted she'd extinguished the cigarette in, now rolling around the yard in the wind.

He didn't believe her.

My eldest child stepped forward, told them what he'd seen. She had gone outside, again, to smoke. Left him in the house to watch the others. Told him to leave her alone.

She was out on the porch, smoking in 40mph+ winds, talking on her cell phone. She'd put her soda can on the railing, laid the still lit cigarette on top, and it blew off, starting the fire. 

She was on the phone.
Smoking.
In the wind.
Outside.
Instead of watching the kids.


The cigarette that was more important to her than watching
the kids. The cigarette that lit my yard on fire and destroyed
my relationship with my mother.


She turned around and with a vengeance in her face and in her voice that I'd come to be quite familiar with, she called him a liar. To his face. In front of us all.

He insisted he was telling the truth.

I had no reason to doubt him.

He had no incentive to lie.

The chief pulled me aside, asked me if she was mentally stable. I said I was questioning it. He asked if there had been anything traumatic in her life recently. I said yeah...my Dad literally just died. From smoking.

He shook his head.

Asked me if I wanted to press charges.

Told me they'd have her arrested and charged with arson and child endangerment.

I said no.

I said no.

I said no because I hadn't yet fully wrapped my head around how reckless she was. I said no because I was still trying to protect her. I said no because I wanted her to just get her shit figured out and be a responsible adult.

I said no because I was in denial of the truth.

I said no because I was still leveraging the safety of my kids for her benefit.

I said no.

I should have said yes.

Maybe things would have been different. Maybe the path she was on would have changed. Maybe things wouldn't have ended the way they did. Maybe she'd still be here now.

I don't know and wondering does me no good now, on this side.

She's been dead now for three and a half years, and nothing about that is reversible.

What I learned in that moment and the months and years that followed was that I couldn't fix her. I couldn't make her better and no amount of trying would help. Didn't stop me from trying.

What it did, though, was damage my kids. Damage me. We required years of therapy and work to undo the damage.

She referred to it from that day forward as, "a small incident". Never took responsibility. Never accepted that she'd caused it all to happen, never admitted that she was lying, never once apologized to my son for accusing him of lying.

And I knew that I could never trust her again.

I could never leave her with my children again.

She absolutely could not live with us.

All this happened six years ago yesterday, and it took me this long to tell this story.

Is there a statute of limitations on this stuff?

Maybe, just maybe there is.

I'm guessing it's around six years.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Unpredictability of Time

I wrote a post on Facebook yesterday, lamenting the fact that one of the theories I'd held fast to throughout my tenure as a parent was breaking down.

I used to believe that there was a little bit of comfort in the fact that we don't really observe our kids growing up, at least not in the "oh my gosh, they are so much older" sense that occurs when we see children who don't live with us after a few weeks or months and they're suddenly so much taller and more mature.

I used to believe it. Clung to it, in fact, because this parenthood gig is essentially a lifelong journey with bitter sweetness.

The days can sometimes drag on for what seems like an eternity, but you blink and inexplicably, that toddler is looking at colleges and you wonder what the hell happened to the linear progression of time.

They were just born yesterday, weren't they?

They grow up, children. Whether we want them to or not, and they opt not to obey our time frames at all.

I used to think that there was at least some small comfort in the fact that we can't really tell how much or how fast it all has happened though, just because of the benefit of proximity. We are with them daily, see them constantly, and that truth makes it virtually impossible to pick up on the subtle changes constantly taking place.

Sure, they get older, but it's just a minuscule amount at a time, virtually impossible to take notice of.

Or at least it was.

Until this past week.



The theory broke down.

It no longer holds any weight, at least not in my house.

For reasons that defy explanation, I can suddenly see my kids aging before my eyes. I don't know if it is the days ticking off the calendar that my oldest child will still be here at home and my need to confront that reality. I don't know if it is the fact that both of my daughters are smack dab in the middle of their growth spurts at the same time. I don't know if it's the ever changing set of gaps in the teeth of my eight year old. I don't know it's the toddler who has seemed instantly to have transformed into a kid in the past handful of days.

I suspect it's likely a combination of all of those things, hitting me at once.

I suspect also that it probably has something to do with my deliberate awareness of it all, those moments as a parent when you just quietly sit and observe who they're rapidly becoming and you wonder how you were ever able to create these people and how they chose you to be their parent and why you are so lucky to have this chance.

Kids. Teaching me I've been so wrong about so much of what I thought I knew, and on a daily basis no less.

I've given up wishing for a pause button because I've had children long enough to know that such a thing doesn't exist. Instead, I'm trying to just live in this moment as much as I can. I know it won't last for long.

I've blinked before.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

How a Pregnant Giraffe Gives Me Hope (in a world rapidly descending into chaos...)

I feel like I've already written about this giraffe, and I know for certain that I have been periodically checking in on her for about a million years. Maybe I overstate a bit, but it sure feels that way.

I've spent more time looking at giraffe vagina lately than I ever imagined possible.

And I say this as a person who generally spends more time staring at vaginas than most people ever will.

(If you didn't already know, I am a doula....so try not to make it weird, you guys.)

Anyway.

I can't even remember who the first person was that insisted I watch this live video of this giraffe in labor all those weeks ago. Whoever you are....side eye.

"In labor".

Giraffes aren't actually deemed to be in labor until hooves are showing, which means that this giraffe we've all been staring at for weeks is not now and hasn't yet been in labor on this live video, but we've all wasted hours of our lives watching giraffe vagina just to get filled with eager anticipation every time she lifted her tail.

Then pooped.

Also, this is information that I did not know about giraffes until a few weeks ago, so look at that....we're all learning, here.

There was a night this week that I really thought she'd finally go. She looked like I remember in those last weeks. Miserable. Uncomfortable. Pissed. Couldn't get up and down without a whole production. She was having labored breathing and everything.

But then no.

Let me tell you...as a doula and a as someone who has birthed five humans, this is a thing. The whole OMG the baby is coming right now but then....nah. How about you stay pregnant for another week or so? Good times.

My name is Kelly and it has been seventeen minutes since I last checked on April.

This is not April, but it is a giraffe.
Thank you, public domain pictures.
In these past few weeks of staring at the backside of this giraffe, though, I've been amused. People watching is basically my favorite activity in the world as it is, and something about the semi-anonymous nature of the internet brings out the best and worst in people.

Clearly, it's not actually anonymous because all those comments posted to live videos have the name attached, but there's an illusion of insulation involved as we all sit from behind our own screens away from other people, all staring at the same ass together.

And people reveal so very much about themselves, and collectively they reveal so much about humanity. It's interesting, to say the least.

There are people that clearly have spent large portions of time watching and waiting. They are the people who are hardcore invested in this birth, the ones who express great relief every time they have to go actually do something else and come back and she's still knocked up. OH THANK GOD I DIDN'T MISS IT, they exclaim! Yeah, she totally waited for you, Karen from Columbus, Ohio.

There are the people who are constantly praying for April to have a safe delivery, asking Jesus to help her. I'm not convinced that's how it works, but whatever floats your boat. I'm pretty sure that if Jesus or God or whoever actually intervenes when asked like that, he/she/they would probably opt to tackle larger issues than a giraffe who isn't actually in labor yet. Just saying. Also, I'm pretty sure prayers about sporting events fall into the same category.

There are the people who are convinced she needs pain medication or induced, and as an actual doula, this one annoys me for about 47 different reasons, but I figure there's no reason to argue with people who can "sense" that a giraffe on the other side of the country that they are watching on their phone is in pain. Maybe they have abilities I don't possess. Who knows?

There are the people who show up just to rant about zoos in general, about how awful it is to have animals in captivity, and I while I agree that humans are generally terrible about forcing animals to entertain us, the past few weeks also saw a rhino have its horn cut off with a chainsaw by poachers in a zoo, so the common denominator seems to be that humans are the worst, no matter what.

There are the people who seem certain that the animals are being neglected and underfed and forced to live in these tiny stalls...but anyone who has watched for more than a few minutes knows none of those things are true. Some people are super committed to what they believe, though, and nothing will sway them otherwise.

There are far more giraffe experts than logic says should exist in this world on these threads, arguing with other giraffe experts about every aspect of giraffing. Oh wait, they aren't experts. They're just people with an internet connection and time to kill.

There are the people who reported the live feed for obscenity because thousands of people staring at a giraffe's vagina must be sin filled and dirty. Yes, that actually happened. I assume those are the people who have only ever had sexual relations for the purpose of conception, and probably stuck to the missionary position, then said a few rosaries afterwards. Sex. It's how we all got here. For real, though.

There are the people who honestly know nothing about mammals in general, like the fact that humans are mammals or that giraffes are mammals or that mammals feed their babies milk. And the self-amusing trolls of the world have seized upon the ignorance and gullibility of them by creating the egg movement. If you've watched April, you are familiar with #teamegg already. I'll try to be brief in the description. It's basically a group of people who insist (in a completely joking and ridiculous way) that the giraffe is going to lay an egg, then the giraffe will hatch from the egg. They make up statistics and information about the egg, tell people what size and shape it is, how long it will be until it hatches or whether it will break upon landing on the ground. It's a whole thing. Intended to be ridiculous and amusing, a way to kill time while staring at giraffe vagina. There are three general groups of people who respond to #teamegg. 1) the people who get disproportionately angry, 2) the ones who actually believe that the giraffe is going to lay an egg (this is why we need more science in schools, you guys), and 3) those who just ignore them. I'm sure, as a blogger and personal troll magnet, you can all see how this amuses me deeply.

Among all these terribly interesting groups of people, though, there have been glimmers of hope in these rolling comment sections.

People sitting vigils over dying parents and grandparents, watching the giraffe to distract themselves from what is happening in real life for them.

Families in the process of welcoming their own new babies into the world, sharing their labor stories and worries and concerns.

People struggling with their own mental health issues, staying online to keep in contact with someone else out there in the world.

And all of those people have been supported and loved and surrounded by this community of complete strangers. It's beautiful to see, actually, and with everything else going on these days, we need these reminders.

We need to hang on to that hope, the hope that tells us that people can be strange and paranoid and selfish and ignorant, but that they can also be loving and supportive and committed and entirely invested in something that has nothing to do with them.

So, giraffe watchers of the world. I see you. And I think you're pretty fucking amazing. Keep it up.

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