Thursday, April 18, 2019

To The One Who Proved She Could Do It, Over and Over and Over

It's entirely unsurprising that the second I sat down to write this, I got text messages from you. You are constantly sending me emails and texts about all the things all the time.

Then there is the leaning and the lap sitting and the neeeeeeeeeeding.


You are not a low maintenance child, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I wouldn't have you any other way.

"Can we get something to eat?"

It has been such an intense crazy busy year for you, and you just keep signing yourself up for more and more stuff. More commitments, more responsibility, more opportunities, more. MORE.

I have had the conversation with you only about a million times this year about how you need to make sure that you don't over-commit yourself, that you have time for just you. And you say you know...just like I say I know. I KNOW.

And then you sign up for something else.

"I'm not jumping, Mom. Gosh."
You played on the travel team for volleyball, missing the middle of the season with a strained Achilles, but came back at the end for the tournament (we won't talk about what happened during it...), then shagged balls at state. All the sports.

It seems like you just turned 13. I don't even know how we already got to 14. I don't. Time doesn't make sense anymore and I have given up trying to understand it.

Just after you turned 13 last year, you were running track. Now you're one of the team managers. This time last year, you were training for the triathlon. You keep telling me you aren't going to do it this year, but I'm not sure that I believe you honestly. You know you can make the distances, and you know that your brother will do it with you if you harass him enough.

You were the HBIC for Comic Con, and made your brother (made, ha. he wanted to) dress up as Archie. You've watched every episode of Riverdale at least 4 times I think and when Luke Perry died last month, it devastated you. Me too. Oof.

You practically begged me to let you help shoot the wedding I took on over the summer, and you did a great job. It was awesome having you there as another set of eyes, and I think it made you fall a little bit more in love with photography.

When I decided to drive to Kansas at 3am for a wedding, you were the first one to hop in the car. You're generally the first one to volunteer for anything like that. Still. I keep waiting for you to outgrow wanting to be so present all the time, but you haven't shown any sign of it yet.

You're always the person there in the stands, cheering for your siblings. You show up for people, whether they realize it or recognize it. You show up. That means a lot, trust me. It will matter more and more the older you get.

You're been cooking and baking more and more, are hoping to start the culinary program in the fall...but only as long as it doesn't interfere with marching band. Because you want to play this...

Yep, that is a big giant sousaphone. You played it in the Halloween parade. As much as I thought that experience might scare you away from continuing to play this instrument...nope. You love it even more now.

Unless you decide to try out to march drumline, though...


I blame your brother.

Speaking of music, you have played with the orchestra several times. You've played with the Denver Brass at Brass Fest. You played at Tuba Christmas. And then there is the matter of drumline.

Oh, drumline.

You have been waiting years for this, knowing that when your brother was a senior, you'd be eligible to join as an 8th grader. You knew it was going to be hard and time consuming...on some level. I don't think you really realized how hard or time consuming it would truly be. But you did it. You stuck it out. You got moved around on instruments several times. The show evolves constantly throughout the season, and your natural proclivity to resist change was tested. You had to learn how to go with the flow. And that mistakes really and truly are opportunities to learn. Bob Ross was right.

You had to get up early and stay up late to finish homework. You had to forgo things with your friends, you had to skip basketball season altogether. You had to power through illness including crazy high fevers during state. You dealt with all of it, you did it. And I am so proud of you. SO PROUD.

And I know that you and your brother have a much stronger bond for having done this together. I think you understand each other a little bit better now.

And, seriously. You played the freaking cowbell for the first time in a show in front of the entire high school. That is badass.

Bad. Ass.

I cannot imagine being brave enough to do anything in front of an entire high school when I was your age.

You've worked hours and hours for NJHS, put together a project for it, volunteered at the Humane Society. You've babysat, offered to make random cakes for just about anyone for just about any reason. You've put together care packages for friends. You worked pride and other events with me. You baked cupcakes and brownies for the drumline so many times that I think they are just starting to expect you to keep bringing something. You helped take over the GSA your big sister started at the middle school this year, and have watched as it has grown bigger and bigger at every meeting. You are handing it off to a larger group of students than we could have ever imagined.

And you know who did that??? You and your sister.

GSAs are proven to make schools safer for all kids. And you and your sister are doing that.

You'll be finished with middle school here in a few weeks, moving on to high school. You bought yourself a sweatshirt months ago you were so ready to be there. Always in a hurry, you are.

You'll be starting high school with a bunch of friends in every grade since you've already been doing drumline, which is a huge help...not that you've ever needed help finding your people. We've already got the fall sports parent meeting on the schedule, and I don't know how you're going to manage it all...but I know you will. You prove that you can, over and over and over.

Your Dad and I are so proud of you, of who you are becoming, of who you've always been. Keep being spicy. Keep being 87 years old. Keep wearing your slippers and carrying your blanket everywhere. Keep showing up for your people. Keep doing that laughing thing where you don't make any noise, just make that super uncomfortable face until a snort sneaks out. Keep doing that.

Keep loving everyone and everything as much as you do. I know it is overwhelming to feel so much all the time, but know that even if it hurts more sometimes, it also makes you amazing. Your big giant heart is a superpower. Never ever forget that. And don't let the world change you. You're perfect just the way you are.

I love you, baby girl. Happy Birthday.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

To The One Who Is Part Pterodactyl

Dear Freckles,

Your birthday festivus kicked off in the wee hours of the morning, just after midnight at your favorite place in the whole wide world - BINGO! I kid, I kid. I know that you absolutely hate working bingo, but know that it's a necessary evil for band trips. It is what it is, right?

As of the second the clock ticked past 12, you officially became sixteen years old. How is that even possible?

As I write this, you are snuggled up on the couch with your baby brother, playing with the Spider-Man walkie talkies that he made me buy for you so that he could share them. I know it is absolutely what you have always dreamt about owning, right? Hey. He's 4. And in his universe, the sun rises and sets on all of his older siblings.

Then again, you are the one who gave the kid a bit of an ego problem by singing him that song about being handsome. He truly does randomly tell strangers that his big sis tells him he is very handsome. 

I guess you aren't wrong. I suppose.

So, you are another year older. This one is a big one, and will mean that at some point this year, you'll start driving. I have high hopes that you'll be better at parking than your big brother is, and that I will consequently hear fewer complaints from the next younger sibling in line.

You've done so much this year that sometimes it is hard to believe that you're still only a teenager.

You ended up joining the soccer team last year right around this time, and I know that the situation this year isn't anywhere near ideal, but maybe...just'll find your way out on that field again. Seeing you fall back in love with the sport last year was actually pretty goddamn amazing to watch. 

And maybe it works and maybe it doesn't, but you know I will support you either way. Besides which, your schedule isn't one with a whole lot of blank spaces since you are working and playing in the pit orchestra for the upcoming theater production at school. 


Seriously. You got another ukelele for Christmas, which you absolutely adore. You've even started teaching other kids how to play ukelele, which is pretty amazing. 

And then there is the matter of the bassoon. One of these days, we will actually have reeds for it, but until then just keep studying fingering charts and waiting. Tick tock.

You joined a county-wide advocacy group where you are doing super small and inconsequential things like helping draft curriculum materials for public schools and teaching students about their legal rights in school. NBD.

I said a few years ago that you were going to change the world someday, but the crazy thing is that you're already doing it. And you're only 16.

You're doing it to make this society a better place for everyone. For you, for your friends, for your family, for everyone. Always slaying those dragons even when you're fighting with your own at the same time.

That's being brave, by the way. It isn't about not being scared. It's about doing all the things even when you are scared. It's about being afraid of what could go wrong and being nervous about whether people are watching you and telling that little voice in your head to shut up for a second because you're doing it anyway.

It has been a year of getting some questions answered, which inevitably just led to you asking more questions, but at the end of it all, the conclusion was actually pretty simple and straightforward even if it might not have ever felt that way on your end.

You are who you have always been, you are who you were always meant to be.

You are. Even if that means that you might be a little bit different than other kids your age, different is never going to be a bad thing. Your uniqueness, your spirit, your determination...they all make you who you are. And who you are is pretty freaking awesome.

It might even be a superpower. (no capes, though)

You're already working on your siblings, trying to get your Halloween theme pushed to the top of the short list for next year. You started planning out your Comic Con costumes basically the day DCC ended last year.

You started doing commissioned art pieces, and some of them have been so perfect for the intended person that they couldn't have possibly requested something more fitting for that individual. You set up a separate IG account just for your art. A few years ago, you had an entire novel written online before I even knew you'd been doing that too.

You make memes and send them to Dad/Cap/Mr. Clean in the middle of random afternoons.

You make me laugh. You make me so far beyond frustrated at times that I can't even quite put it into words. You make me worry. You make me proud. You make me wonder what you're going to come up with next...because for as long as I've known you, you've been one surprise after another.

You don't just think outside of the box. There is no box.

There never was a box. 

I can't wait to see what you have planned for this year.

I love you, baby girl. Happy birthday. (Pterodactyl scream, flappy wings)


Monday, February 4, 2019

The Birthday Wish List and The Post Where I Refuse to Write About My Dad

My birthday is this week. I will be turning 42, which means that this is the year that I will have all the answers.

Someone please get the reference...

My birthday week is always complicated, simply because of the fact that my Dad happened to die a few days after my birthday. I was back home that year helping to take care of him. He actually took me out to breakfast for my birthday that last time, gave me a card where he told me that even though it was my birthday, I had given him the gift. I'd come to take care of him when he needed me most.

Deep breath.

I am not writing about him. I'm not.

There is so much about those weeks that I know is still suppressed in my memories, and if I am being completely honest, I'm not entirely sure that I ever want to really confront it at all. Maybe that whole blocking trauma thing is effective sometimes. (I kid, sort of.)

Some of it came up a while back when I was writing a piece for a caregiving book, and let's just say that it was tremendously unsettling how much I had not remembered until I made a concerted effort to remember, mostly because they were not pleasant scenes to replay in my head. I spent a lot of time crying and writing, crying some more, writing, drinking, back to crying and writing, to get that piece out.

Anyhow, the anniversary of his death is this weekend, and I am mercifully booked solid this week so I won't have much time to sit around and contemplate how I feel. I function better when I am busy. Idle time and I are mortal enemies, especially this time of the year.

We will probably take everyone bowling on Sunday morning, split a pitcher of Coors Light, and not tell the kids why we are bowling or drinking at 9am on a Sunday morning unless they've managed to figure it out.

I grew up being constantly reminded of death by my mother and grandmother and vowed I would never do that to my kids. So these anniversaries come and go without fanfare, without me allowing myself to collapse into a heap for days or weeks. I give myself a few hours to cry on a schedule, and it seems to work. That, and we go bowling and drink beer at 9am.

It doesn't need to make sense to anyone else.

Also, scheduling moments to grieve sounds ridiculous, I know...but honestly it helps. I used to try and ignore the dates on the calendar, but things would only get worse until a critical mass was reached and I would break down, become useless for a while. Planning ahead helps. I know that on this day between the hours of ____ and _____, I can wallow. But then I have to get up and get shit done.

Life tips.

Before we get to that, though, I have to celebrate another trip around the sun, whether I want to or not. That's the great thing about time, I suppose. It keeps moving forward whether we want it to or not. I know that if there was a time in my life where I urgently would like to press pause, it'd be now. My first baby is a senior in high school and thick in the whole "what do I do with my life" decision making process, and I'd love a pause button. Or maybe one that just slows time to a crawl...but not literally. That would be weird if we all had to move in slow motion.

Since no such button exists, though, I have to get older and time has to keep going. So, in no particular order, here are the things I want for my birthday this year. As you'll figure out quickly, most of them aren't actual things, certainly not physical items that I actually want. Think of it more as a suggested to-do-in-my-honor list. If you so choose.

  1. Take a Mental Health First Aid class. Or something similar. There are classes tailored specifically to adolescents, to veterans, as well. Please. Learn how to recognize people in crisis and how best to help them. (Spoiler alert! Calling 911 is often unnecessary and can be far more dangerous.)
  2. Find out about crisis mental health services in your area. Write the numbers and websites down somewhere you can access immediately, or store them in your phone. Even if you personally may not need them, someone around you might. 
  3. Donate time or money to The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. They save lives every single day. 
  4. Read something very far outside of your comfort zone. Read several somethings. Read authors with diverse backgrounds and differing life experiences than yours. Absorb what they write. 
  5. Unlearn the racist and sexist roots of the history you have been taught. Confront your biases. Work to do better. p.s. If it doesn't feel like work, you aren't doing it. And also, you don't get to ask or expect people to do this work for you. It's called work for a reason. 
  6. Find a new musician and fall in love with them. Listen to their entire catalog.
  7. Listen to live music as often as humanly possible. Take your kids. Encourage them not just to learn the mechanics of reading music or taking piano lessons - teach them to fall in love with music, to feel it in their bones.
  8. Support a small business. Shop local. Support artists and writers. Pay their normal prices. Do not ask for a discount.
  9. Take a book from your personal library and pass it along to someone who might like it. Donate books you are ready to part with to little libraries. Stick a dollar bill in the books if you are able. 
  10. Find a recipe for something you have always wanted to cook or bake, then make it. I am challenging myself to do this one this year. Beef wellington. This is the year I make beef wellington. 
  11. Set aside time for yourself, in whatever amounts you are able. Make yourself a priority. Do whatever you want to or need to do in that time. Do this weekly.
  12. Find the nearest body of water. Sit nearby. Listen. Close your eyes. Just be present for a few minutes.
  13. Attend a Pride celebration this year, recognizing that if you are not a member of the LGBTQA+ community that it is not FOR you, but that you are welcome. Observe. Listen. Learn. Support. 
  14. If you are holding anger or resentment or sadness, write it down. Light it on fire. (safely, of course). Seriously. It helps.
  15. Randomly leave a compliment on a friend's wall. 
  16. Point out every dog you see to someone. 
  17. Play "Cow, I win." Rules are simple. While driving, if you see a cow, say "cow, I win". That is the entire game. Adjust the item accordingly for your area. For example, if you don't have cows nearby and won't see them, you can point out UPS trucks. Whatever works.
  18. Be proud of all the things your body can do and celebrate. We get so caught up in comparison, in seeing what we cannot do...resist the urge. Celebrate what you can do.
  19. That friend you keep meaning to get together with, have coffee with, hang out with - PUT THEM IN YOUR CALENDAR. Seriously. Just pick a day and put them on it. Then stick with it. You're busy, they're busy. Don't be too busy to see them.
  20. Okay, the one thing I want that is a totally unnecessary material thing. Injured Dr. Ian Malcolm. I do not labor under any delusions that anyone will actually be able to find this particular Funko Pop. But a girl can dream, right?

Monday, January 28, 2019

Fat Girl Running...

Ah, the wonder of a provocative title.

This might be long. This might be short. That all depends on which direction this post ends up going and how many tangents I end up on, so we will just go on this little journey together and see what happens.

I wrote a post on my personal Facebook page this past weekend. It was a post that I hesitated making at all, for a whole bunch of reasons that I will get into shortly. It was one that I knew would expose me to lots and lots of criticism.

Thing is, I am already embarrassed enough about it in the first place, there really isn't a whole lot that anyone else could do or say to make me feel more ridiculous than I already do. So, there's that.

Here was the post:

Realizing that I am opening myself up to a hell of a lot of mockery and criticism here, I am celebrating the fact that TODAY, just right now, at 41 years and 354 days old, I officially ran an entire mile for the first time in my whole life without stopping.
This message was brought to you by asthma, bad knees, and about a million people who told me not to run and that I'd never be able to do this. Screw those people.

I knew basically as soon as it went up that I was going to end up writing about it, probably at length, and in all likelihood more than once because I will most certainly forget to make some point I am intending to make here.

It was not an easy post to write, because I am 100% ashamed of the fact that my body couldn't do this thing until last weekend. I have really only ever confided the fact that I couldn't run a mile to small groups of people, usually in secret online groups where I anticipate supportive comments. It's not the kind of thing that a grown ass adult admits easily.

And there are so many reasons for that. Just like there is a laundry list of reasons that I couldn't do this thing I just did until this past weekend.

I'll go over my issues first since they are a little bit easier for me to navigate without getting pissed off at society.

First, I have bad knees. I was diagnosed with chondramalacia at 5 years old, told at the time that I was the youngest person ever diagnosed with it. Whether that is true or not, I honestly don't care, I just think it's fun to think that I am some kind of medical prodigy in terms of disease. It's a condition that usually affects marathon runners in their 40s. I was 5. 

Over the years, my knees messed up a lot of things, and I cannot honestly ever say how much of that was legitimate physical impediment versus how much of it was my self-limiting brain telling my that my body couldn't do something.

I'd been told from the time I was 5 that I shouldn't run, that I shouldn't especially do anything involving quick sprints or cuts, that I shouldn't do squats of any kind...but that I was supposed to exercise because I was already a fat kid.  

Lose weight, the perpetual instruction.

But you can't do it this way or that way or whatever.

And yeah, I had doctors telling me that I was a fat kid even way back then. 

Like I said, I don't honestly know how much of it was legit in terms of my knees creating the problem, and I don't know how much of it was in my head. It didn't really end up mattering I suppose because the effect of them both was the same. I didn't do much.

I didn't run. I didn't run, even as a five year old. And because I was afraid to run as a little kid, I never got good at it. I never became coordinated. When I would try, it was sloppy, with a lot of arms involved. And slow. 

I got laughed at when I bothered trying. So I stopped.

Whenever we'd have mile run days in p.e., I'd either blame my actually hurting knees or feign injury to get out of it. I became the unofficial time keeper, perpetually holding the clipboard on the side of the track. I don't know if I could have done it then, since I was too afraid to even try.

I ended up in adaptive physical education for a few years, which was actually one of the best things that ever happened to me in terms of fitness. I learned to juggle (I got up to 7 pins at one point), I learned to play poker, and I learned that I can build muscle like a goddamn professional weight lifter rapidly. We did weight training, and I realized that this body of mine was strong. Scary strong. I could bench over 200 lbs in junior high. 

I come from sturdy stock. I build muscle quickly and efficiently. But the absolute last thing I wanted to do in the middle of puberty was bulk up. I wanted to be skinny. I wanted to run. I wanted to do things my body couldn't do.

So, I did what any anxiety ridden kid with horrible self confidence would do, and developed an eating disorder (this is dark self-deprecating sarcasm here people, don't take what I am saying and apply it to other people, please).

Anorexia. I developed anorexia.

It took me a really long time to admit that is what it was. Even longer to admit that my mind still, in my 40s, drifts that way when things spiral out of control in my life.

It also isn't about food, btw. I have written a few posts about anorexia if you're inclined to read them. Here are some links.

I stopped eating just about anything that wasn't lettuce, started doing a million reps with teeny little weights to avoid bulking, and tried to run. I tried all the time. Sometimes I tried to run several times a day. I'd make it about 100 feet at the most, and end up bent over in the gutter thinking I was going to die, coughing up a lung.

I had asthma. I have asthma. The particular type of asthma I have is cough variant. I never wheezed, and since I thought (and most people still think) that wheezing = asthma, I had no reason to believe that I had an actual medical condition. 

I just decided that I was a lazy pathetic piece of shit. 

Ate even less.

Tried to run more.

Things progressively got worse until I was fainting and passing out and getting worked up for a brain tumor because of recurrent migraines. 

I didn't have cancer. I was malnourished. 

My doctor congratulated me on my weight loss. Never once asked what I was doing or why. 

I never got skinny, by the way. I was terrible at being anorexic. All the illness, none of the thinness. (Again, dark self deprecation here)

The whole maybe a brain tumor thing scared me enough to start eating again, and my weight started back up.

It was a constant, gradual, uphill process. 

Having knee surgery at 14 did not help at all. Those pesky knees. 
Fast forward to last year. I had been doing keto with a reasonable amount of success for about 9 months when I woke up one morning and decided to run.

It's funny, I am sure, to some people. I used to muse aloud about people over 40...wonder what happens to people that suddenly makes them want to run. I'd long before then given up on the idea. It didn't make any sense to me. Until it did. 

There were and are a bunch of other things going on in my life that made running seem strangely appealing. I can't explain it really. I call it rage running. Running keeps me a little bit more grounded. Helps process things. I can run until I feel like I am going to vomit, but then I feel better afterwards. I'm a slightly less prickly cactus human when I run. 

There is no logical reason that I, as someone still overweight, still with bad knees, still with asthma (although finally diagnosed in my mid 30s and now treated) should just wake up one morning and think running was a good idea.

And truthfully, there wasn't much running happening at all for a long time. I'd jog for like 30 seconds, become convinced I was dying, then walk. I started doing a couch to 5k program for beginners, and it slowly started to suck less. I went from walking to speed walking to alternating walking with slowly jogging. It was a long ugly process. About a month ago, I started cross training on non-run days. I even started lifting again...because you know what? I'm strong and I build muscle quickly and I LIKE lifting weights and I will probably survive the apocalypse since I come from sturdy people. 

Then last weekend, I decided to give it a shot. See if I could do it. And I did. I ran a whole mile without stopping. It wasn't fast. I'm not breaking any land speed records for damn sure. But I can do it. I did it. And I will do it a whole lot more going forward.

I can do this. My body can do this.

It was a HUGE personal victory, and one of the hardest things for me to express pride about, all at once.

To be proud of myself, I had to admit how long it took me, and how much I had to overcome to do it at all.
Now to the part about why I was reluctant to share. I'm going to do this bullet point style because there are so many reasons.
  • Our society assumes that fat people are fat because they are lazy and that thin people are that way through effort, when really there's a lot more at play. Genetics are a huge piece of it, physical problems like bad knees or asthma are huge issues, and then there are all the unseen contributors. Mental health is HUGE. 
  • Our society is exceptionally ableist in terms of fitness in particular. There are things that most people assume that most people should be able to do, and truth be told a lot of people can do them without excessive training or effort. There are a lot of people who decide to start running one day, and just.start.running. And from day one, they can run a mile. And that's great, for them. There are a million other benchmarks here with expectations placed on us, and for all of us who've never been able to do them, we get why this sucks. Add me also to the list of people who've never done a single pull-up.
  • People who are naturally athletic don't understand how hard it is to be uncoordinated around them. I was always the last kid picked for teams. I was the slow one targeted in dodgeball. Some of you out there reading this might have been the first kid picked and the one throwing at my head. I hope you sit with that knowledge long enough to really think about it.
  • Whenever I mention exercise, as a fat person, someone comes along to tell me that I'm beautiful. Umm. I wasn't fishing for compliments. And I'm talking about exercise, not my looks. And those two things aren't actually related, but thanks for feeding into that societal belief that only thinness is attractive.
  • Whenever I mention weight or exercise, someone who has never struggled with weight beyond like 20 pounds, or who "overcame" that 15 lb baby weight gain, has to come offer suggestions or try and compare journeys. Nah. Apples and oranges.
  • Whenever I mention weight or exercise, someone tries to sell me something. Hard no. Don't do that.
  • I'm tremendously self conscious about my body, partially as a result of the things that people have said directly to me or indirectly about me over the years. I'm fat, not hard of hearing. I could hear that mother telling her daughter that she wasn't fat like me, so it was okay. I heard that. Exercising in public, talking about it in any public capacity is like shining a spotlight on every single one of my flaws for all the world to see.
  • I don't want to run with people. I don't want to exercise with people. I don't because I don't want anyone watching me. I am that self conscious about it.
  • I do it anyway because every time I do, someone who understands reaches out. They share their story. Sometimes they thank me for being brave enough to put it out there. 
I'm sure that I am forgetting something. I'm surer still that someone will come along to tell me how wrong I am. I know that someone WILL try to sell me something. 

I'm doing it anyway...because I know that out there in the interwebs, someone might be reading this who has tried and failed every diet known to man, who has tried to exercise and given up over and over and over again. Someone out there has weighed themselves 7 times today alone, only ever keeping track of the lowest number. Someone out there is battling eating disorders in a world that still believes they are about food. (spoiler alert, they still aren't) Someone out there is tying their shoes and wiping their tears and giving it another shot. 

And I see you. 

And I am rooting for you.

Hell, I'm rooting for us all.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Random Mid-January Thoughts of a Human Cactus

Hey, look at that. First post of 2019 and it only took me 15 days...

I miss the days when I used to write all the time. I miss the days when blogging was an accessible platform for people to share their stories, to meet other writers, to find kindred spirits. Anymore, it is just a way to open yourself up to constant criticism from people who make no attempt whatsoever to actually understand who you are or why you are writing or why you are writing what you are writing. The trolls of the world have sucked the fun out of it, but if I'm being completely honest, it isn't just the trolls. Nope. It's the "friends" who show up only to criticize you, it's the family members who show up only to dispute whatever your account of the past might be, it's the people you already know and probably care about in one way or another showing you who they really are over and over and over again. That's what truly wears on a writer the most.

And that's why the vast majority of us just aren't doing this anymore.

Which makes me question the wisdom of even doing this now. Here. Today.

I know why. I need to write. I started doing this for myself. I lost my reasons there for a good long while. I found my way back to them. Avoided them a lot. And still I find myself here pecking away at the keys every so often because I need it.

Even knowing someone is going to insist that I'm wrong. Because. They. Always. Do.

Wikipedia: cactus version of me

It isn't something that I expect the non-writers of the world to understand. It's just a part of who we are, all the way down to our core being. This is how I process things. All the things. The good things, the bad things, the things that piss me off, the things that give me joy, the things that remind me of all I have lost, the things that give me hope. And yet, I have to do it in that precarious tightrope walking fashion that anyone who publishes publicly must learn. I can tell my stories, but never in their entirety, because my stories often don't just belong to me, and I don't have the agency to tell the stories that belong to other people.

Woooooo....I guess I really did need to write.

I meant to do this two days ago, with a specific topic in mind, and I will get to that specific topic in a moment...probably as a capsule Things That Piss Me Off segment here. First though, I have to write about today.

(Trigger warning for pregnancy loss)

It seems like I write this post every year, which probably isn't true. But it sure feels that way. I felt that nagging grief rise up again this morning at 3:36 a.m., the annual nighttime wake-up call that always comes on the fifteenth of January. I never have to actually make a conscious effort to remember that night nineteen years ago. My body, my subconscious, my soul does it for me. Automatically.

It was in those small hours of the night when I lost my first child.

She was dead before then, probably for at least a week or more by that point. We'd received that news from a radiologist we nicknamed Doctor Death for his official relaying of both a cancer diagnosis and what he methodically and unflinchingly called a "fetal demise", sitting in a dark ultrasound room with a screen that wasn't flickering the way it was supposed to be flickering.

I don't even know how long I sat there and cried as I felt all the hope and optimism about the future that I'd had just moments prior leave my body in deep heaving guttural sobs.

I don't want to talk about the details of what I went through in those next few days. I try to block it from my memories. Try as I can to push it away, there are still, even after all these years, times when it is all I can think about.

And today is the day that I let myself mourn. The other 364 days of the year belong to everyone and everything else, but today belongs to her.

Her name was Hannah.

I never had the chance to hold her. I never got to marvel at the color of her eyes or how the sunlight made her hair shine and sparkle like spun gold. I never got to hear her giggle for the first time, never fell asleep with her on my chest as I inhaled the scent of who she was. I never got to do those things, because she never got to be here.

Without her presence and then absence in my life, I can't say who I would be today. I know that even if I had children eventually, they wouldn't be the children I have now. I may have never changed my priorities in the way that I did. I may have stayed on that career path. I may not be physically in the place I am today.

Everything might be different.

She changed me, as certain as the DNA from every single conception remains with a mother forever. A few years ago, as I was helping another mother navigate a pregnancy loss, I mentioned that weird little scientific fact to her. They really do forever remain a part of us, even the babies we never hold. For her, it was both comfort and the confirmation that she had been seeking that this experience had indeed changed her, irrevocably and permanently.

It took me almost a decade to write about her at all. I know that my insistence on still doing it after all these years probably annoys some people. The people who say things like, "it is in the past", "you have other children", "it wasn't meant to be", "get over it already". Statistics tell us that pregnancy loss happens far more often than anyone really realizes. We just don't talk about it because it makes other people uncomfortable. We are supposed to worry about other people's comfort before our own. We are supposed to be more considerate of other people's feelings than our own. We are supposed to quiet and silence the grief inside our hearts for the benefit of others.


This is a part of my life, and maybe it is a part of your life too.

And today belongs to her.

I wonder all the time who she'd be. Who she might resemble. What she would love.


Okay, now that I have cried all over this perfectly good keyboard, the post that I intended to write two days ago, but got distracted by furniture construction and other shiny things.

If you've been anywhere near social media in the past two weeks, you've probably seen them. The posts about decluttering. Minimizing. Holding all the things and asking them if they bring you joy. The arbitrary limits on the number of books one should own. The television show. The posts about people feeling like their houses are too messy to even watch the show.

Here's the thing.

If this approach works for you, and you want to do it, and you don't want to read any criticisms of it, just stop reading now. For real. Just stop reading. The rest of this post isn't for you. Besides, something needs folded. Go.

For real.

I'm not kidding.

If you like this whole movement and don't want to hear anyone question it, stop here.



Okay. If you're still reading this, let's move on.

Again, if you like this approach and it works for you or if it is something that you've always done your whole life or annually anyway and you think it's just a handy guide, great. I'm happy for you. Your house is probably a lot neater than mine.

If I lived alone, my house would probably be a whole lot neater than it is. But, I don't live alone. I live with a house full of people who all approach life very differently, carrying the baggage they already have from things that have happened in the past and have wide variations in how they function.

This house is never going to be "neat". It took me a long time to accept this truth, but I have made my peace with it mostly.

Now, for the criticism part.

And yeah, I have read the book. I've also read the Swedish death cleaning one and personally prefer that one for reasons that I may or may not remember to write about here eventually.

My biggest issue is that the entirety of the approach is steeped in privilege. Multilayered privilege. Like sooooooo many layers of privilege.

  • The idea that people all have the means to purchase high quality, often expensive things that will last a lifetime.
  • The reality that many people struggle to fund basic necessities.
  • The impact of not having enough money, at any point in your life, on behaviors related to possessions.
  • The idea that people all have so much excess.
  • The fact that our culture is largely disposable and many consumer products aren't easily repairable anymore.
  • Mental health issues are often tied directly to purchasing behavior, collecting, the inability to part with items or clean at all.
  • ADHD and related conditions especially with executive functioning components that can make it impossible to complete even minor tasks, so you end up starting projects (and making a huge mess to go along with it), get overwhelmed, quit, beat yourself up, repeat.
  • The reality of grief as it affects possessions.
  • The after-effects of dealing with hoarding behaviors in yourself or in other people. For the record, having lived this directly, I would absolutely make the argument that hoarding is a form of addiction.
  • The consequences of not having boundaries respected, or of having things taken from you or stolen from you, even as a child or even as a punishment.
  • The reality that women are indeed primarily responsible for managing most household stuff, apparently made glaringly obvious on the show more than once. 
  • The idea that anyone who wants to declutter or minimize has the time and ability to do so. That they are physically able. That they are mentally able. That they are financially able. That they can willingly forgo whatever else they would be doing with that time.
  • That everyone in their house is in the same place on all of the above ^^^.
So, yeah. If you've always had enough money that you could buy food and housing and random unnecessary consumer goods, if you haven't dealt with major loss or grief, with addictive behavior, with mental health conditions impacting how you view possessions, maybe it is helpful. 


And even then, even if it is helpful, are you in a place where you really have the time, energy, and desire to devote to getting rid of stuff? Do you even want to get rid of it? 

My mom was a hoarder. My dad threw stuff away whenever she wasn't looking. Neither is a very healthy behavior pattern, and they both set me up for issues well into adulthood. My mother especially impacted my home, as her hoarding invaded my space. She bought and shipped things to my home constantly. She purchased items secretly for my children and gave them instructions to hide it all. 

Pause here for a moment. If you are a grandparent, don't do this. You are undermining the parental authority of your child, causing massive damage to their trust in you, and teaching their kids to hide things from them. DO NOT DO THIS.

Years of therapy for my kids later, I am STILL finding things in my house. She has been dead for years, gone from this place even longer. And I am still findings things. 

Things don't only bring me joy or utility. Some things are just things, and when your parents are both dead and you have very few connections to who they once were, you hang on to the things that bring you neither utility or joy because you just hang on to them. 

And that is okay.

You want to keep that pair of jeans you haven't fit into since the 90s? Do it.

You want to keep those black suede boots just in case they come back into style? Do it.

You want to keep full bookcases of books you loved/hated/haven't yet read. For the love of Ravenclaw, DO IT. 

Do whatever works for you, in this moment. Don't worry about what someone in a book or on tv tells you to do with your stuff.

If you're ready, when you're ready, if you are able, when you are able, then maybe she could offer you some guidelines. But don't feel bad if you can't do it now. Or if you don't want to.

In the meantime, take care of you.

The internet has a way of making us feel bad about everything these days. Sigh.

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