Friday, May 29, 2015

The Thing That Time Does

My Mom would have turned 62 today. My son is turning 14.

If she were still here, she would have called him as soon as she woke up this morning and sang him Happy Birthday.

The two of them once shared this day. He was born on a Tuesday morning, the day after Memorial Day. I'd graduated from law school just three days prior and my parents had been down for that celebration. They'd left the morning before he was born, only to get a phone call that prompted them to get back in the car.

They didn't make it in time to see him born. No one did. The doctor almost missed it, in fact.

He was swept away to the NICU, connected to a ventilator and more. She was overcome with joy and worry as were we all that day.

He, obviously, endured what he needed to, weaned off the ventilator and then the CPAP, was allowed to go home after the longest nine days in my life.

His first 11 years after then were spent celebrating this shared birthday with her, whether in person or over long distant phone lines.

When he was old enough, they sang to each other. At the same time.

This day in 2013, she was in a hospital somewhere in California, again. I didn't know where she was at the time, though I tried every day to find her. I called a phone that had been disconnected, again, hoping that she'd pick up this time. She didn't sing to my son that day.

A few months later, she was gone.

Time doesn't really heal like they say it is supposed to. I wonder sometimes if the people who insist time heals have ever truly lost someone, if they have any idea what they are talking about, or if they're just placating us with words that sound right even when there isn't much truth to them at all.

Either that, or they just feel compelled to say something to make it seem better.

It's okay to be sad. Honest. It's part of life.

Time doesn't make it hurt less, for sure, it just changes how we interact with these days on the calendar slightly from year to year.

Last year was the first one since her death, the first birthday that had been shared and wasn't anymore. I know that my son isn't quite sure what to do with all the feelings that accompany this day. He is glad to celebrate his milestones, for sure, but he misses her. More than that, though, he remembers her. He is old enough to have memories of who she was before the great unraveling. He remembers what she was like when he was a little boy and he remembers what happened in the years more recent. He remembers the things that occurred, the choices made, the pain involved. He remembers it all.

He misses her, but I think we both know that he misses who she was before all that. Before he came to me and quietly asked if it was okay if he didn't want to go see her alone anymore, before he realized that she had become unhinged, before he absorbed the things that he saw, before all that.

When she left, just after the last birthday they shared together, he asked me if she'd be happy now that she was leaving, if she'd find what she was looking for where she was going.

I told him the truth - that I didn't know, that I hoped so.

Between last year and this, he's grown up so much. He still doesn't understand why things happened the way they did - nor do I - but he has begun to understand her more. He knows that she wasn't well, that she was doing the best that she could given the circumstances, that she didn't mean to hurt us, to hurt him. He knows all that now. Perhaps he even knew it then.

And now, he just misses her.

So do I.

If there is one thing that time does seem to accomplish, it would be that time seems to dull the anger, dulling and dulling until it has almost completely vanished. Once you accept you'll never have answers to the questions you ask, you stop asking them.

Once the anger dissipates, the love is what remains.

Happy birthday, Mom.

We'll miss you today.

We'll be spending this day celebrating him. He's turned into a young man and I think you'd be pretty proud of who he is. 

I love you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Everything is relative

My eldest child is a question asker, as in he is constantly asking questions of the universe from the time he wakes up until he goes to bed at night. If I had to guess, I'd say that he probably is even asking them in his dreams. 

One of questions he asked me recently had to do with the relativity of time, about why time seems slower when you are younger, about why he's already noticed that it is speeding up for him.

He's always been one to savor the place he was at, this kid. Occasionally, he's looked forward to something out there looming in the future for him, but far more often he's prone to hanging on to the place he's at for dear life.

We mused about why time seems to march us forward at different speeds. Personally, I think it's just a matter of mathematics. When you are four years old, it seems like an eternity until your next birthday, but by the time you're my age, the years fly by (and you start to genuinely forget how old you are). My personal theory is that a year takes so long when you're young because at four years old, a year is a quarter of your entire lifetime. By extension, a year takes up far less of your life's total by the time you're approaching 40. It's just a smaller portion of the memory pie.

As he asked me this question, from the front seat of the car, wearing a shirt that used to belong to his grandfather. My father.

The two of them,
Thanksgiving 2001
The one who has only been gone just over four years now.

In that stretch of time, this son of mine has turned from a little boy to a young man. He was in elementary school back then, obsessed with LEGOs and creating his own cartoon characters. His hair was almost always buzzed short and I was still taller than him. He wanted to be a master builder back then.

Now, that little boy isn't little anymore. He towers over me. He's starting high school here in a couple of months. Weeks really, if we're being honest. He's obsessed with new things these days, including the songs that my father used to play in the garage while he worked. His hair, much longer, swept to the side, part of the package of uniqueness he's developed.

He's big enough to wear shirts that used to belong to my dad now, though this phase likely won't last very long at the rate he is growing. In all likelihood, the shirts will grow smaller and smaller until they are put aside, the reminders of another man who came before him.

It's strange to see him wearing them, especially when I think about how little he was when my father was still here.

He was 9 when my Dad died. He'll be 14 by week's end.

It seems like it can't have been that long since my father died, but these shirts, they remind me of just how much time has passed. I can't just trust my perception of time, it moves faster than I think it is moving, faster than I believe it should.

I think my father would be proud of this boy he once knew, this young man who sits beside me today. I think he'd even be a little bit humbled that he made such a profound impact on him. This boy who lived in a world where his grandfather needed to be cared for by others, who was lucky enough to have a male nurse in the ICU when he most needed one...he wants to work there someday too.

When his grandfather told him all those years ago that the world needed more men to work in those jobs, this boy who was truly just a little boy then...he listened.

He had orientation at the hospital today, in fact. He asked a few months ago if he could start volunteering.

Of course I said yes.

His grandfather, wherever he is, is probably pretty proud today.

I know that the next four years will pass faster than the last four have, and I know that at the end of those four years, my son will be graduating from high school. I know that I'll blink and it will be here, no matter what I might do to try and hit the pause button to slow time down just a little bit.

He already sees time speeding up, this boy of mine. He knows.

He knows that everything is relative.

And his grandfather, of all people, helped teach him that.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the of course I'm going there edition

Hi. Unless you've been under a rock for the past week, you can probably guess what this post is going to be about. The Duggars.

The kids are all home for summer vacation, and I'm not exactly sure how much writing I will be able to do with them around. So we'll see how this goes.

Incidentally, I've talked to all of them about the things I'm writing about today. If you have children, I beg you to do the same. The vast majority of threats to our children aren't from strangers, as much as people seem to believe it; they are far more likely to be victimized by someone they know.

The entire story, as sickening as it is, wasn't a huge surprise to me. I tend to be highly skeptical of people who claim to be so pious publicly because I always wonder what it is exactly that they are compensating for, what they are attempting to convince themselves isn't as bad as it truly is.

That, and I've been around molestation before. Up close and personal with it. I've seen how generations of family members can hide things. I've seen how complacence is essentially the same thing as encouragement of abuse. I've seen how damaging it is to the victims who are chided by the adults they are supposed to be able to trust, told they are wrong or lying or that they just need to keep it quiet.

I've seen what happens when things come to light, the drastic attempts people will go to in order to keep these horrific secrets from leaking out, the blaming of the victim, all of it.

And I've lived in a world where those wearing the masks of religious conviction were revealed to be the biggest sinners of them all.

I'm a skeptic.

And I'm a skeptic for wholly legitimate reasons.

Having said all that, the story, as unsurprising as it is, is still immensely disturbing. The actions Josh took against his sisters and other family members weren't mistakes, they weren't normal exploration, they weren't any of the things the Duggar apologists say that they were. He wasn't playing doctor. He was systematically violating them. 

As I've said on my Facebook page, though, there are still people who would argue the degree of culpability involved on his part, and I'll entertain those arguments in so much as he was a minor at the time of the offenses. There are people who say that he was sheltered and less "worldly", so that contributed to his actions. There are people who say that he couldn't have appreciated the wrongness of his actions, though I suspect the very people defending him for this would call for him to be charged as an adult had he killed five family members instead of violating them sexually. A fourteen year old isn't a four year old. They can appreciate right and wrong.

He is not the victim here, make no mistake about it.

There is a distinct possibility that he was abused himself, that he learned his predatory ways as the victim of someone else. Whether he was or wasn't is pure speculation, and it's truly irrelevant here because he isn't claiming it was learned behavior that should (theoretically) make him somewhat less culpable. Even if it was, the fact that someone has been abused does not give them a free pass to abuse others. The cycle has to stop somewhere.

He was a minor, and the legal system treats minors differently than adults for a reason - but the legal system was essentially uninvolved in this case entirely.

I lay fault for that, entirely, at the feet of his parents. They actively hid his crimes, they discussed it with church elders and decided that they knew better than the law. They shipped him off to supposedly seek therapy (at a place run by a man later found to be having multiple affairs with employees and grooming young girls for abuse, mind you), and the "therapy" he received seems to have involved construction - not therapy at all.

They didn't go to the authorities for over a year. When Jim Bob finally did call someone in law enforcement, he told the officer that he just wanted his son to have a stern talking to. That officer is sitting in jail right now on child pornography charges. It should shock no one that he failed to do his job as a mandated reporter and refer this case for investigation and prosecution.

The statute of limitations expired on the case because of suppression of the facts. The parents, this officer, in my opinion, are on the hook for obstruction of justice, and likely as accessories to the crime because they allowed the victims ample exposure to Josh after they knew about his abusive patterns.

They claim he's been forgiven by God, that the family has moved on. I don't honestly care what they think about his forgiveness. They do not speak for God, and they certainly don't speak for his victims. They do not get to decide that he is forgiven. His relationship with God has nothing to do with his responsibility under the law, with their responsibility under the law for what happened.

These parents also set these girls up as prey, by raising them in this bizarre religious sect that believes that women are subservient to men, that women are to remain pure and chaste until marriage, at which time they are supposed to surrender themselves at all times to the sexual will of their husbands. The schooling program they employ teaches that the victims of abuse are often at fault because they've enticed the abuser.

Josh's own statement says that he quit abusing them because he was ruining his own life, with no mention made of the victims. He says he is sorry, but he's only come forward with this pseudo-apology because the information became public. He has enjoyed financial success and political influence for years, resting entirely on the Christian family values they espouse.

He now has daughters of his own. Shudder.

The family condemns homosexuals, claims that transgendered individuals are dangerous to children. They aren't just a family on a reality television series. They have exacted influence in the political arena...and those politicians who were so eager for photo ops with them have largely been silent in the wake of this story.

Huckabee has come out in support of Josh and the family. Think carefully about whether someone who supports a child molestor and the family that intentionally covered up the crimes should be sitting in an office making decisions of national security.

Interesting that no one here is talking about the victims. Not Josh, not his parents, not the apologists.

They are but a mere footnote in this story, as they've been raised to believe that they are.

They, the female children, are just waiting until they can bear the fruit of their husband's will, at the mercy of his whims and wishes.

These girls were victims long before they were victims.

And that pisses me off.

If you are defending the Duggars, you are absolutely part of the problem.

If you are more worried about Josh than his victims, you are absolutely part of the problem.

If you believe that this should have been kept quiet, you are absolutely part of the problem.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Family Tree Craft Project

I was looking for some ideas for gifts a while back on Pinterest. You know how Pinterest works, right? For those who aren't well-seasoned, the Pinterest process is something like this:

1. Log on
2. Search the thing you are looking for
3. Pin 1300 versions of the thing you're looking for
4. Get distracted by something shiny
5. Get sucked into a Pinterest vortex
6. Pin a bunch of recipes you'll never make and crafts you'll never attempt
7. Lose track of time
8. Eventually come back to reality
9. Months pass
10. You remember that thing you went looking for and pinned forever ago
11. Spend a ton of money on craft supplies
12. Get halfway through project and realize you need more supplies
13. Spend even more money on craft supplies
14. Shake fists at Pinterest when your entire kitchen floor is covered in glitter
15. Swear you'll never try another thing again
16. Decide everyone on Pinterest is a mean lying liar face
17. Finish the project and decide it isn't terrible
18. Post it on Pinterest and feed the beast

Sound about right?

Yeah. I thought so.

Anyway, I had an idea of what I wanted to do, which was to make a family tree craft for my Mother in Law for Mother's Day. It took us this long to actually give it to her, and I couldn't share it here until she'd opened it. I SWEAR it was done days before Mother's Day. I swear. Sigh.

Initially I wanted to do a button tree, but then I went to the craft store and inexplicably couldn't find buttons. I mean, there were some, but they were ugly and weird colors and I was about to give up when I spotted the glass marble stone thingies and thought they might work. So I got them.

Here's the supply list:

- Blank canvas (I used a 16x20, but you could do any size just make sure the things you're gluing on are to scale)
- Paint in the background color to make into a watercolor wash
- Dark brown (or black) paint for the tree trunk
- Buttons, little stones, or whatever else you'd like to glue on
- Paintbrushes
- Craft glue (I use Aleene's Tacky Glue)

First, I prepped the canvases by painting the background. I made regular acrylic paint into a watercolor by adding a few drops of paint into a cup of water and stirring completely. Using a wide brush, brush the watercolor paint lightly over the canvas in horizontal strokes, covering the entire surface.

If you want it darker on top, just keep layering. (I realized while doing this that I actually do miss painting. Also, my kids think I'm a genius because I made watercolors...)

After that is completely dry, decide what basic shape you'd like the tree to be. I wanted the tree to be on the edge of the canvas and have many branches of varying lengths and shapes. Using a smaller paintbrush, add in all the details you'd like. Some of the trees on Pinterest had swirly branches. I wanted mine to look a bit more realistic. After drying for a while, go back and touch up any spaces that might need more coverage.

When the paint is fully dry, take out your decorations and sort them however you would like. I had each of my five kids choose a color of glass to represent them and sorted them accordingly. We rotated through them, with them each choosing where to place their next piece until the tree looked full enough. I put a decent sized dot of craft glue where they chose and they glued the items on. Press lightly to make sure there is enough contact with the item being glued on.

Once all items are glued on, place the canvas somewhere flat for several hours so the glue can set fully.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Summer School of Rock - B.B. King

Hello old friend, I've missed you.

So, before we get to the post itself, a little background for those of you who haven't been here since the dawn of time...

A few years ago, this all started when my husband was a den leader for Webelos, covering a lesson on music with the boys. I was shocked/appalled/sad that the vast majority of them had no exposure to anything outside of whatever is played on the top 40 stations. One had never been exposed to anything other than country music. When they didn't all know who the Beatles were, an angel cried. 


And thus, this began. I decided standing in the kitchen that night, watching it all unfold, as my husband exposed these kids to Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana and Metallica and Nirvana, that we had to make more of a point to share our love of all types of music with our kids at least. (My son had obviously heard it all before that night).

I started to teach him about the history of rock music. We started with rock because he'd just received his first guitar and wanted some simple, easily recognizable riffs to play that gave him a bit of street cred.

I spent the better part of a summer exploring new bands with him (and by extension, his siblings). After mentioning it a few times around these parts, people started to ask if I was going to share it all the following year I began the Summer School of Rock. 

My initial goal was to spend one month showcasing the most influential 31 bands/artists in rock. I got sidetracked because of things that happened and didn't get a chance to finish it, but then I realized that it was never meant to be done. There are so many more than 31 worthy mentions that this could go on indefinitely. 

So here we are. 

SHARE THE MUSIC YOU LOVE WITH YOUR KIDS. It totally pays off when you catch your 11 year old daughter singing along to The Wall

If you'd like to read about some of the other bands and artists I've already covered, I will link them by name at the end.

Up now, B.B. King.


Born Riley King in 1925 on a plantation in Mississippi, B.B. was the son of sharecroppers and raised primarily by his grandmother. He grew up singing in the choir at church and bought his first guitar at the age of 12. As he grew older, he started playing at neighboring churches and on the local radio station.

He started recording albums in the 1940s and would end up with over 50 albums to his credit.  In 1947 he hitchhiked to Memphis to pursue his dream. A fight broke out between two men in the audience during one of his shows, starting a fire. After leaving the building, he realized that his guitar was still inside and went back in for it. He made it out, barely, with that guitar. Upon learning that the men were fighting over a woman named Lucille, he decided to name that guitar (and every other one he'd ever use) Lucille to remind himself never to fight over a woman.

Speaking of guitars, he always played a Gibson. Always. In fact, he and Gibson teamed up in the 1980s and crafted a guitar specifically inspired by him.

His playing style, in a word: legendary.

He was never just playing notes in a sequential order, no. He was massaging the emotions of anyone who could hear the music he created. He was story telling.

He integrated the sounds and techniques of the best guitar players that came before him, then added his own sound to it, becoming one of the most influential blues musicians in our nation's history in the process. His list of accomplishments would take up entire pages to list, including his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. 

Up until just before his death, he was still touring. He was still playing over 250 shows a year well into his 80s. He lived with diabetes for decades and became a well known spokesperson about the disease, proof of the fact that it's entirely possible to manage the condition and thrive with it. He refused to let it hold him back.

The news of his passing was hard to swallow. His gifts were many, his talent seemingly endless. B.B., simply put, was the blues. Rest now, B.B.

We'll miss you.

The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.


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