Thursday, January 31, 2013

The post where I tell you that I'm becoming a vampire

These last few months around here have been interesting to say the least.

I've always had issues with insomnia off and on, but it seems to be getting worse again.

Since my son has been struggling with his blood sugar and we had to pull him out of school, we have developed a routine.  He still naps, and I'm not about to mess with that.  No way, no how.  The days he doesn't, he sprouts horns at about 5:15pm.  To avoid his conversion to a demon, I force him to sleep.

In doing so, he forces me to lay down with him.

Unless I have too much else to do at that exact moment, he usually manages to talk me into it.  Then I fall asleep, and get some of the sleep back that I should have gotten the night before.

There are times, many times, that I sleep more during the day than I do at night.

It seems to work for us right now, and I'm not asking too many questions.

The past few days have been bordering on ridiculousness though.  I'm pretty sure that I'm actually turning into a vampire.

My husband was gone on a business trip this week.  As much as it pains me to admit my bizarre dependence on having his warm body next to me, I need him here to sleep.  The last few days, I haven't even attempted to lay down until about 2am.  Then I know I'm getting up in a few hours anyway.

I was lucky to get a couple hours of sleep every night this week.

I recoil from the sun in the morning, and have closed all the drapes in our room completely in a pathetic attempt to seal out the light.

I'm sleeping during the day with the boy, holed up in my cave.  I know for a fact that I don't own a coffin, but it's entirely possible I'm hanging upside down at some point.

I'm pretty sure I look like death.

I've eaten red meat for the last four days in a row.  Which like never happens.

Seeing me outside during daylight is a newsworthy event.  I'm as rare as a yeti.

I've developed the ability to get insane amounts of stuff done in very short periods of time.  I haven't tried to climb trees yet.  Maybe I should.

Everyone knows that I'm sparkly, just like Edward.

I haven't bitten anyone yet.  That I know of.

I think it's just a matter of time.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Friendship, A Guest Post from The Mommy Ref

Guest posting here at the Hive today is a dear friend of mine.  I may have dragged her kicking and screaming into this blogging world, it's true.  She asked me to do a guest post for her, and I demanded one in return because the whole point of my evil plan is to get her writing more.  This arrived in my inbox today, and she hit it out of the park.  Just like I knew she could.  

Without further adieu, one of the people who knows more about me than anyone in the entire universe, The Mommy Ref.

Miss Queen B asked me to return the favor and guest post over here today. I think she was drunk because she is like a celebrity and I am just a groupie so I am not sure this will boost her sales in internet hits today. 

However, if you read her guest post on my blog, then you know that this lady and I are more than bloggers harassing one another. We harass each other in real life. We also support each other. We cry, we scream, we are there for each other because that is what we do. Even if she talks about spandex more than any human should and wishes for unicorn farts…. It was only fitting that I write about Friendship.

A few nights ago, I was talking to a dear friend of mine. We have known each other for more years than I care to say for fear of feeling old. We met in 9th grade. I still remember the party and all the stupid people there….good ones too. That is where we connected the first time. 

We were not “close” in high school. We had similar friends but different schedules. I hung out with a mix of people and played basketball. She had some similar friends but was not in my “sports” world. As high school ended, so did our connection until one awesome day when we reunited on Facebook. I say Facebook sucks a lot, but I truly am thankful more than not as I have been reunited with my dear friend. 

We found each other at a time when I needed someone the most. My marriage was rocky; I felt as though I was not cut out for this parenting gig…but was two kids into it. I was dealing with a lot of strong issues just in time to find out I was pregnant with #3. I about lost it….but she didn’t judge, she was there. Anytime I needed her, she was there. Good thing she didn’t charge…I would be broke.

I found myself thinking of the other significant friendships that I have had throughout my life. Just yesterday I ran into a woman that I have known since I was 3. Yes, 3! We have known each other almost all our life yet since high school we never connect other than by chance. The funny thing is, when we see each other it is if we have been hanging out all the time. There is just a connection. I can’t explain it. We can go from being incredibly estranged to close and connected in minutes.

That seems to be my life pattern, though. The people I have known for years come and go often only reconnected because of social media. I wonder if “I” am the reason I don’t have any friends that stick it out. My husband and his BFF are in contact daily. They were in each other’s weddings. They have a bond. Yet for me, the friendship fades, or changes or…. do I?

Until recently, I really never thought about it. Maybe it is me getting older and all soft. The hard truth is that when friendships are lost it is often viewed as a personal failure, sometimes it is even embarrassing to some. This is where I believe we begin to judge ourselves too hard on our ability to make and maintain friends. I found this quote and it put things into a new light for me:

"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly 
not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting 
that a new world is born." ~ Anais Nin

I look at all the people I have come across regardless of the amount of time I had them in my life and I can see what they brought to me. Some brought great memories and others brought great sadness, but both brought opportunities for me to learn more about myself. Each and every person I have crossed paths with and have been able to call a “friend”, even for a short time has molded me to who I am today. I sincerely hope I have done the same for them.

This is the essential key.

It is about me. It is about me being okay with me. We all connect for various reasons. Embrace the time spent and grow with it. Don’t take it personally if and when it ends, just take what you have learned from your interactions.

“If one is estranged from oneself, then one is estranged from 
others too. If one is out of touch with oneself, then one cannot 
touch others.” -Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Friendships will come and go. Life leads people in a new direction at times. The reality is sometimes we just outgrow our friends. It doesn’t have to be because of something we did or they did. It may simply be because we are needed elsewhere and so are they.

Don’t forget the friends you keep around for pure entertainment value. You all have one and know what I am talking about. That, however, is a topic for another time.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Media, Body Image & Anorexia

I am the mother of five children.

I am the survivor of an eating disorder.

Those two statements independently carry a lifetime of worry, but when placed in proximity to one another, they terrify me.

I live in a world where these things don't just happen to other people, to other women, to other daughters, other sons.  They happen to me.  The mere idea of it happening to my children makes me choose my words carefully every day, and dictates my actions more than anything else at times.

I'm doing the best I can to hold the hand of a friend as she starts on down this road, not as the sufferer, but as the parent.  I try the best I can to convey what it was like when I was in that place myself, knowing that the distance, clarity and maturity of my years has allowed me to understand it far more than I did when I was in it.  I try my best to help her understand, so that she can do her best to help her little girl.

And yet, I know that it still resides within me, this tendency.

My name is Kelly, and I was could still be anorexic.

I've written about it before, but for a different reason than what moves me to do it this time.   I was in a different place then, and the voice was different.  Since then, I've struggled with it again.  I've fought it back, told it no, urged it away.

When other things in my life spun rapidly out of control, I found myself controlling the one thing I could.  


Anorexia, you see, has almost nothing to do with where you fall on a BMI chart, though many falsely believe it only affects people who are already underweight.  It has nothing to do with how attractive someone is.  The body image portion of it, while huge and oppressive, is simply a way that the underlying problem manifests.

The root is a feeling of helplessness, of loss of control.  Anorexia is what some people, usually young women, will do to their bodies to try and regain control of something tangible.  It manifests as a body image disease because often one of the only things that anyone can control in life is what we put into our bodies, what we force our bodies to do.

Most people diagnosed with anorexia also suffer from depression, and a significant portion of them also fit the criteria for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

It becomes overwhelming quickly, invading every piece of what you do and who you are.

My struggle began when I was 14, though in reality the groundwork was laid years prior.  I was a perfectionist, terrified of failure.  A type-A control freak. I was an early bloomer, I was at the mercy of genetics.  Practically blind and covered with horrible acne, I felt ugly.  My life was full of typical teenage drama, laced with troubled family dynamics, and I felt more than a little bit lost.

I needed knee surgery, and the trip down the slippery slope began.  I put on weight after the surgery because I was in a full leg brace for months.  I started taking pain pills far more often than I should have just so that I could push myself in rehab.

It became an obsession.  I wrote down every single exercise I did.  I added more every single day. I got up early and ran every morning.  I ran again after I pretended to eat dinner.  I was proud of myself when all I'd eaten was some lettuce.  The weight started to fall off.  I powered through the pain in my knee, ignored the asthma I knew I had, even if it left me in a pile on the sidewalk gasping for air more than once.  I refused to let myself stop.

People noticed.  Boys paid attention to me.  No one seemed to realize how or why I was changing, just that I was.  I savored the attention, but it only pushed me more. The thinner I got, the worse I felt.  I considered each pound lost a victory, but never enough.  It was never good enough.  I was never good enough.  It didn't matter what anyone else said or did.  My image of myself had become completely distorted.

I started fainting, developed horrible migraines.  The headaches were so bad that I was evaluated for a brain tumor by a doctor who congratulated me on my weight loss, ignoring what the possible reason could have been.

The day I woke up staring at the spinning ceiling in church, I hit the wall.  It had to stop.

I spent 20 years fully able to fight it back, and have spent most of those years carrying too many pounds on my frame, but living with myself.  Loving myself.  Setting the goal to be happy and healthy, and not tying my worth as a person to a number on a scale.

Until last year, when it reared it's ugly head again.

I realized last night that I hadn't admitted that out loud to anyone.  Not even to myself.

This experience with my friend, my trying anything I can to help her, has forced me to be honest with myself again.

Anorexia is not something that ever completely goes away.  It cannot be solved or remedied.  A new wardrobe won't fix it.  A boyfriend or girlfriend or husband or wife won't fix it.  A great education won't fix it.  A great job won't fix it.  All the other measures of worth in the world can mean nothing if the voice in your head tells you again that you aren't good enough and you start listening.

It can be managed though, with the right support system.  With people who understand that it is a mental disorder, not a physical ailment.  With people who don't engage in negative self talk about the size of their butts or their latest fad diets.  With people who don't objectify and idolize the images of beauty that the media tries to convince us are the only acceptable ones.  With people who don't minimize this real and damaging condition.

Women of the world, I beg of you, we need to do better.  For ourselves, for our daughters and sons.

We need to reject the idea of the perfectly toned fountain of youth.  We need to repress the airbrushed images of perfection that pervade our magazines.  We need to pull our children and ourselves away from the fun house mirrors ever present in our society, the ones that tell us we are too short, too tall, too freckled, too wrinkled, too fat.

We need to recognize the warning signs of eating disorders and take them seriously, not pass them off simply as phases or normal teenage behavior.

We need to do the best we can to instill in our children that they are beautiful, that they are worthy.  We need to teach them to make healthy choices, to be active, and we need to do those things ourselves.  We need to be role models.  We need to love ourselves, love our bodies.  Forgive our faults, embrace our curves. We need to say these things out loud, when our children can hear us.  We need to believe it, we need to teach them.

My stretch marks are not flaws, 
they are merely the evidence of a 
woman who carried five children. 
They don't mean I am broken, 
they mean I am strong and capable. 

It has taken most of my life to find peace with this body I inhabit.  Sometimes the voice in my head wins, but most days I do.

I hope every single day that my children find that peace without ever having to go through this.  I try the best I can to build their self confidence, to teach them to embrace their bodies, to make them see their inherent value and beauty.  And I know that even with all that, they could still struggle someday.

To my friend, I am here, and I will help you in any way that I can.  I wish you, and that beautiful girl of yours, peace.

It is estimated that 1% of American women suffer from anorexia, 3-4% from bulimia.  Approximately 10% of those diagnosed with eating disorders are men, the rest are women.  These disorders have been documented in children as young as 7, and as old as people in their 70's.  Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder.  

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the fun sucking hoarders edition

I haven't been all that funny lately, at least not here on the blog, so I'm digging deep today for your benefit.  Be grateful, dammit.

That, and you should follow my page on Facebook if you aren't already...I'm way funnier there than here, on average.  I think.

Anyway, here's the list of things pissing me off this week...

Fun Suckers
You know them.  You hate them.  They're the assholes of the internet.  Literally.  The people who have to inject some bizarre comment into everything you're ever excited about. Who have to whine about how they want what you have, or that you're rubbing it in their faces when you completely aren't.  They are the people who can't ever just let someone be happy.  They have to tell you about every bad thing that could possibly happen, or somehow make it all about them and their losses, their sacrifices, the things they've had to go through.  Or about the time that they knew this person and _________ happened.

Stop it.  Stop it, stop it, stop it.

A while ago, I wrote a piece on my Tuesday theme about how whenever people do things like that (myself included), they are projecting, and we should just ignore them, not take it personally.  While they may not mean to suck the fun out of your life, and that is the obvious consequence of what they do, they are just being the inherently selfish people that we all can be from time to time.

Get your head out of your ass...and remember that lesson we had ground into our skulls in Kindergarten.  If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything.  Also, STFU.

Judgy McJudgersons
They are everywhere too, and they always seem to have the exact solution to fix everything you've ever done wrong, except that by and large they don't actually know what the hell they are talking about.  These are the conversation injectors, the I overheard you talking about so and so's, the I just wanted to reach out to you and tell you how to live your life so that I can feel better about myself while I judge you-ers, the I want to try to somehow compare my completely irrelevant situation to yours then minimize what's going on in your lif-ers.

Here's the thing...almost no one really knows the entire set of circumstances affecting someone else, or their decisions about their children, their marriage, their finances, their careers, their vacations, their medical issues or their education.

Very few mothers that I've ever encountered in my lifetime have ever been prone to making completely irrational impulsive decisions.  We usually do what we do for good, valid reasons, even if we don't advertise them to the rest of the world.  Those decisions, and the reasons behind them are no one else's damn business unless we decide to confide in you.

If we do confide in you, keep that shit close.  Seriously.  Nothing chaps my ass more than finding out someone told someone else something just because it made for good gossip.  We remember who we told, and we remember who we didn't.  Other people start asking questions, and I'm looking at you.

Sometimes those decisions aren't the best.  Sometimes they backfire.  Sometimes we make mistakes.  It happens....but almost never because we didn't care enough, think enough or love enough.

Besides, we are hard enough on ourselves without other people adding fuel to the fire. So stop it.

My Children, the Hoarders
I need to just rent a dumpster.  I'm not even sure how it happens.  I don't ever remember this volume of crap coming into the house, yet here it is.  Inside their rooms.

I got so fed up with one of them yesterday, that I just walked away.  I'll get back in there when they are at school, when I can throw things away without tiny hands grabbing them out of trash cans.

Those shows....this is how it begins.  One cry of this is not trash....twenty years later they have 87 cats and toxic mold with television cameras in their house staging an intervention.

Also, I now have 673 loads of laundry to do because they found all their dirty clothes.  Which is awesome.

People Who Cannot Figure Out Parking Lots
You know those white lines on the ground???  They aren't just suggestions.  They are called parking spaces, and you are supposed to get your entire car inside them.

Revolutionary, I know.

Incidentally, does anyone else like watching people try to back into parking spaces or parallel park???  It's more entertaining than most things on TV, and I lack the discipline to resist the urge to laugh if you execute a 27 point turn in a Jetta.

The Price of Activity
We encourage the kids to play sports, until we go to the sporting goods store and realize it's going to cost a few hundred dollars just to buy shit they will outgrow in three months.  Forget league fees and pictures and coach's gifts and all the lunches bought in other towns because we're traveling.   Just the gear costs a damn fortune.  I try to rationalize buying one size up when I can get away with it, hoping that we can squeeze more than one season out of whatever it is.

This last weekend, we bought wrestling gear for the oldest boy, which was interesting given that I have no fucking idea what I'm buying.  I go to the section with the sign that says Wrestling and buy whatever the salespeople tell me to.  And then a few more things.  Because we want him to keep his ears and his teeth intact.  Thank god I didn't have to buy the mansie for him to wear.  (I know it's called a singlet, but mansie sounds better in my head, so MANSIE IT IS!!!)

Want to know why I didn't have to buy the mansie???  Are you ready for the knowledge I'm about to drop on you right now???

The school checks them out.  Used pubescent boy spandex leotards.


At least I didn't have to buy that, right?

I will be washing it daily, however. Then dousing my arms in bleach.  Shudder.

Besides, soccer season is coming....and I'll be buying 20 new pairs of socks since we need one set in every color for every practice, and the sisters can't match each other and every other pair of socks I've ever bought for soccer have disappeared.

Wait a minute....I think these kids of mine are geniuses.

I'm going to start losing shit so I have a perfectly legitimate reason to go buy more.  Sounds good to me.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Life After Prison: Should It Involve Public Service?

Back when I was in college, in the time of the dinosaurs, I ran a program that placed college students in hospital nurseries.  The mission of our organization was to ensure that infants left in the hospital for longer than a few days had someone to hold them, to feed them, to love them.  Many of the hospitals we supplied volunteers to had serious problems with abandonment, with mothers who were arrested shortly after birth and the babies were left.  There were drug addicted babies and babies with the most serious medical problems I have ever seen. 

I spent a lot of time in the NICU back then, I heard the stories of these brand new lives and the challenges they would be facing.  I took small comfort in knowing that I had done what I could as a 20 year old college student to make them feel loved, wanted and welcome in this world, even if only for a few days. 

As part of my job overseeing the organization as a whole, I had to recruit other students to facilitate the programs at each hospital.  One of my goals was to begin a program at Children's Hospital, not just for newborns, but for any of the children who could use a friendly face while they were there.  It took a lot of convincing, but we got the program launched, and I needed someone to run it. 

One person was eager to help.  He was energetic and kind.  He was working towards a career in physical therapy, and had a genuine interest in helping kids.  It was a perfect fit, except for one thing.  He checked the box on the application that told me that he had a criminal record.  I had to ask him about it as part of the background check, both for our program and on behalf of the hospital. 

He'd been an impulsive teenager and made some bad choices.  He was convicted on several misdemeanor counts of larceny.  He'd been placed on probation, and was free of all that when he sat before me, with hope in his eyes.  I got the sense immediately that his life had been made more complicated because he was required to check that box on other applications in the past. 

I asked him a few more questions, we talked for a long time.  I knew that he was trustworthy, I knew that he'd learned from his mistakes, I knew that he was genuine.  And he was the best hospital coordinator I ever had. 

I'll never forget the tears in his eyes when I told him that I'd call the hospital, I'd take care of telling them, that I would do whatever I had to do to make this happen.  Not many people had taken a chance on him, but I was willing to. 

I tell you this story because I need to.  Because there is another story in the news right now that is in so many ways similar to this one, but the magnitude is so much greater.  And I'm not at all sure how I feel about it. 

In 1997 in Colorado Springs, a 16 year old boy named Gary Flakes was convicted in a murder trial.  Two teenage boys were killed with shotguns at close range.  Two teenage boys were in the car and carrying the gun that night.  Both defendants were convicted, Flakes being one of them, though neither was convicted of murder.  Flakes has always claimed that his co-defendant was the shooter.

Flakes was specifically convicted of accessory to murder after the fact and criminally negligent homicide.  He was tried as an adult. 

The time Flakes spent in prison wasn't uneventful.  He had over a dozen disciplinary actions against him, including inciting a prison riot.  When he was released initially, he violated the terms of his probation and was put back in jail for a few months. 

Now a free man, he is married and has claimed that he's dedicated his life to mentoring youth.   A few months ago, he announced plans to run for City Council.

His co-defendant is still in prison.  He says that through the teachings of Malcolm X, he is a changed man.  He's become a devout Muslim.  He says he is enrolled in school.  He says he wants to give back to society, he wants to make a difference.  Some people believe him.

The families of the victims are outraged.  In their eyes, true justice was not served here.  The victims were shot at close range with a shotgun.  Neither of the defendants were convicted of murder.  Though they were both tried as adults, they were not convicted of the most severe offenses, and used creative lawyering on appeals to try and have their sentences reduced.  He was not a model prisoner and violated his probation.  They don't believe for one second that he deserves the right to run for office. 

In the state of Colorado, however, Flakes is considered a citizen just like anyone else.  Colorado is one of only five states that restores the right of a convicted felon to vote, and there are no laws forbidding a convicted felon from running for or holding office here.

I am torn.  I live in a world where people have to be allowed second chances.  Where the past shouldn't be allowed to dictate everything about our present.  Where I've been the person who took the leap of faith, who put her own name and reputation on the line to go to bat for someone who needed it.  He served the time for the crime he was convicted of, but is that enough?

I'm not sure.  I don't think I'm convinced that he's truly paid his dues to society.  Serving out a sentence isn't all that is involved in restoring someone to society.  Maybe with more time, with more work to give back to the community first.  Maybe.  His opponents take issue with his lack of experience, especially the fact that he does not yet possess a college degree. 

The story has received a lot of attention here locally, both in support of him, and in opposition to the entire idea of it all.  Personally, I am glad, very glad, that I'm not a resident of Colorado Springs, and that this will never be my decision to make.

I wish him luck for the future, whether it involves public office or  not. 

I wish, more than that, for peace in the lives of the families of the victims.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Undermining Abortion Rights in America


There, I said it.

Before some of you read any further than that first word, you're emotionally invested.  Angry.  Upset.  Fired up.

Some of you may refuse to read further, finding only fault and flaw with what I write, and that's fine.  It's your choice to believe what you believe, just as it's my choice to believe what I do. 

See what I just did right there, with that pesky word choice?

This week saw the 40th anniversary of the landmark case Roe v. Wade, one of the most misunderstood, vilified, inflammatory decisions ever handed down by the United States Supreme Court.

While many people believe that Roe v. Wade grants women the right to abortion as a blanket assertion, it doesn't.  What that case did was guarantee that pregnant women have a legal right, under the right to privacy extended by 14th Amendment due process clause, to an abortion.  This right is to be tempered with the State's rights to protect women's health and protect the life of the unborn.  As further cases teased out the specifics, the court has held that the point at which the scale can tip in favor of the state is when the point of viability is crossed, when the fetus would be able to live independently outside the womb.

Since Roe v. Wade, there have been countless cases involving state laws that attempted to place restriction on the right to seek an abortion.  Some have failed, some have succeeded, some are new and more radical than anything we've seen before. 

The right wing conservatives seem determined to never let this issue rest, and refuse to let settled law be settled, always finding new and novel ways to attempt to undermine women's rights.

In the past two years alone, over 130 new laws restricting abortion have been passed throughout the United States.  Some require ultrasounds, some require waiting periods, some require consultation.  There have been restrictions based on the age of the mother, changes to rules about insurance provisions, and strict limits on later term abortions.

Eventually, most of these laws are challenged in the legal system, but potentially the biggest obstacle to women seeking abortions is access.  There are several states that only have one provider in the entire state.  Mississippi passed a law last year requiring all abortion providers to have privileges at a hospital, so the hospitals all declined to extend privileges.  No privileges, no providers. 

Texas has begun requiring vaginal ultrasounds and that the mother listen to the heartbeat prior to any procedure.  They also have discussed forbidding all medication induced early abortions, essentially forcing women to undergo surgical removal.  Arizona has banned almost all abortions past 20 weeks, citing fetal pain as the reason.  A few states persistently introduce personhood legislation in every term as an attempt to indirectly undermine abortion rights.

The most recent addition to pending legislation made me wonder what exactly has happened to our country.  The fact that the proposed law was written by a woman makes it even harder to stomach. 

New Mexico state representative Cathrynn Brown (R), proposed a law that would attempt to force women impregnated through rape to carry the fetus to term, giving the reason that the child conceived is evidence of the crime. 

“Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime," the bill says.

A felony of this level could warrant up to three years in prison.  She would incarcerate women for having abortions after a rape.  After the media caught wind of this unimaginable law, she attempted to clarify the motivation behind the law, saying that it was to discourage the rapists from seeking terminations of their victims pregnancies. 

By punishing the victim, she plans to punish the criminal, so she claims.

Here's the thing that people like her don't want you to know....the products of conception removed after an abortion can as easily be tested for genetics as a baby born at term.  There is absolutely no reason to force these rape victims to carry pregnancies that result from a violent crime in order to obtain proof that a crime happened in the first place.

By using terms like legitimate rape, by attempting to force rape victims to carry the children created from criminal acts, these lawmakers aren't just attempting to undermine abortion rights, they are attempting to undermine women's right, period. 

I still can't wrap my head around the fact that a woman proposed the New Mexico bill. 

If that doesn't make you sick enough, how about this fact???

Not only are they trying to prevent you from aborting the baby conceived through rape, in these 31 states, rapists are not treated any differently than any other biological father.  They can seek visitation of the child, shared custody even, forcing the victim to undergo years and years of reminders, of this man forcing his way into her life repeatedly. 

Why do the rapists seem to have more rights than the victims?

If you aren't outraged yet, you should be.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Fiction Challenge, episode four

The butterflies in her stomach fluttered about, refusing to settle.  She hadn't been this nervous or excited in a long time.  She glanced at the clock.  It was 5:12 pm, and the light in the sky was slowly fading. 

She pulled back the drapes to stare at the sliver of the sunset she could see from the apartment window.  Took a deep breath, wished the day farewell and hoped that things could get better.  That she could get better.  That life could change.  That whatever had happened last night didn't mean she was a criminal.  That maybe, just maybe, these butterflies in her stomach told her it was time to move on.

As the last bit of the sun disappeared, she found hope.

She stripped off her clothes and got back in the shower.  The one earlier in the day had been so typical.  She'd washed off the night before, put it behind her.  This time, she cleansed her body hoping that she could wash more away than whatever has happened just prior.  This time, she scrubbed and scrubbed at her skin, trying to wash away her past. 

She stared at the water circling the drain.  So many times she felt that helpless.  She had felt that way just today, and yet now she was different.  This guy, he saw something in her that no one else had seen.  That she'd forgotten about. 

She turned off the water and stepped out of the shower.  The mirror she'd wiped off earlier awaited, but now there was another person looking back at her.  The cut was still there, though. 

She towel dried her hair and immediately decided to cut more bangs.  She had to try and cover it, even though he'd probably already seen it. 

Meticulously, she trimmed and trimmed.  She plucked her eyebrows.  Dug the curling iron out from the bottom of the cabinet and went to work.  She hadn't cared this much about how she looked in months.  Years, maybe.

6:34.  She was running out of time. 

She scanned the closet.  She wanted to send the right message.  Sexy, but not desperate.  Interested, but not pathetic.  Excited, but not too excited.  She knew what she was wearing.

The dress was old, but it still looked new.  She'd only worn it once before.  For him.  For Bryan.  She shoved that out of her mind, willing it to go away.  The shoes, though, they could tell stories.  She wasn't writing those stories anymore, she promised herself.  She stepped into them one at a time and fastened the strap around her heel.  Quickly touched up her toenail polish.   

There was a knock at the door and he was here.  She put on her last earring and ran to the door, pausing to take another deep breath. 

He looked good.  Really good.  The color of his shirt perfectly matched the hue of his green eyes, and she was drawn in like a moth to a flame.  She gathered her things quickly, locked the door, and they were off. 

He hadn't noticed that her car was gone, and for that she was grateful.  Right now, that didn't matter.  She wasn't that person anymore, whoever that person was. 

They arrived at the restaurant in just a few minutes.  It was the new steakhouse she'd heard about, but hadn't been to yet.  Trendy, upscale.  They had a valet.  She stepped out of the car, and Scott was there with a hand outstretched.  She hated that this small act of chivalry made her swoon, but she couldn't help it.  He put his hand on the small of her back as they walked through the entrance, and she felt like the most beautiful woman in the world.

She wanted this, whatever this was.

He'd made reservations, and they were seated immediately.  The atmosphere was seductive.  Dim lighting, a single candle on each table.  The music was low and earthy with a constant drumbeat.  It was the kind of place with expensive linens and menus that come in sturdy leather folders.  She gasped involuntarily when she glanced at the prices. 

She didn't deserve this.

He looked over the top of his menu and asked what she would order.  His eyes.  Dani was at a loss for words as she did the math in her head.  Well, I'm not really sure yet.  It all looks so good, as she peered at the plates on other tables, then locked eyes with him.

Smiled and bit her lip.

I think I'm having the filet, he replied.  Their steaks are the best around, so I hear.  Order whatever you'd like, Dani, it's on me. 

She gulped.  She didn't want to be that girl who orders a salad then starves the rest of the night.  Scanned the menu over and over, searching for the perfect choice.

The waitress stopped at the edge of the table, and asked if they would like anything to drink.  He opened the wine list and she cringed.  Dani grabbed her water glass and gulped almost half of it down immediately. 

He looked across the table and said, Dani, do you prefer white or red?

Oh, you choose.  I don't drink much.  Hardly at all, actually. She smirked.

She couldn't believe that those words had just come out of her mouth.  She wanted him to like her so desperately, she wanted things to be normal so badly.  She just wanted to be a girl in a nice dress in an amazing restaurant with a handsome, kind man.  She was willing to hide this from him if that's what it took.  So what if she'd been sitting in an interrogation room hours before, accused of a drunken hit and run?  So what if he'd caught her just as she threw out all the bottles she had stashed in her car?  He hadn't seen them, and he didn't need to know.

She certainly wasn't going to tell him. 

Besides, she was done with that.  All of it. 

Scott ordered two appetizers.  Oysters on the half shell and crab cakes.  He looked at her for approval as he gave the order to the waitress, then asked for more time for Dani to choose her entrĂ©e. 

They talked about work for a bit, where he'd gone to school.  He'd gone to a small school she'd never heard of in Washington state.  The way he talked about the beauty and serenity of the place made her almost want to scream out loud that they should run away together and go there and never look back.  She wanted that more than anything right now.  She could do that, she could leave this life behind.  She could forget the past.  What was here for her before was gone now, and the only thing she had to look forward to was sitting across the table from her at this exact moment. 

The bartender arrived with a bottle of wine and snapped her back into the present.  She wasn't off living some fabulous life of adventure with this man.  Not yet, anyway.  She was here.  In Ohio.  And there was a man waiting with a bottle of wine, offering her a glass to sample.  He paused to see if she would give her approval of this choice, bottle turned and presented to them both.

She struggled to remember how to taste wine, really taste it.  This was going to test her willpower in a way that it had never been tested before.  She was going to sit and have this meal with appetizers and salad and steak and she was going to sip wine like normal people do.

She could do this.

The sip of red wine crossed her lips and she wanted more.  Craved it.  Her body urged her to finish it.  To take the bottle and leave.  It told her to stop lying, that she knew who she was.  She was a drunk and she wanted more.  Now.  She needed it.

The wine spoke to her body and soul.  The smell infiltrated her senses.  It intoxicated her just to catch the scent of it from the bottom of the glass. She refused to listen. 

She put the glass down gently, that is lovely, it will do just fine.  Thank you. 

The bartender nodded silently and filled both glasses halfway.  Placed the bottle on the corner.

She reached across the table and stroked Scott's hand.

This.   This man is what I want, and I will do whatever it takes, she told herself.

Her leg began to tremble.  She knew what it was, and she knew what she had to do.  She excused herself from the table, walked to the bathroom slowly.  Every step she fought the shakes back, tried to exorcise them from her body all while remembering she was in a dimly lit romantic restaurant and people were watching.

Inside the bathroom, she slid over the lock on the door, closed the toilet lid and reached into her purse.  Her saviors.  The tiny bottles of Jack Daniels, two of them.  She quickly drank them both, taking sick pleasure from the burn as it went down. 

It felt so good just to feel.

The shakes stopped after a few minutes. 

Just this time.  Just tonight. 

She was talking to herself.  She promised this was the last time.

She chewed the last piece of gum in her purse for a moment, then tossed it and the bottles in the trash.  She touched up her lipstick and spread the bangs evenly across her forehead again.  The cut was hardly visible. Tightened the straps on her bra and adjusted the neckline of her dress.

There was a man out there waiting for her, and she wasn't about to mess this up.

This post is part of a fiction challenge I am participating in.  This is a continuation of a story that already has two parts.  You can find them here: part 1, part 2 and part 3.

Here is this week's prompt:

Invent a / your character (who) has two personality traits that are completely incompatible, that don't fit together at all. For example: this character is incredibly messy and is also a total perfectionist. Or: this character is a pacifist and also has a really explosive temper. Or: this character believes in strict, traditional family values but is promiscuous by nature. You decide. Then think of a situation in which these two sides of your character would be in direct conflict with each other. Write the story / scene.

Check out the pieces from the other participants!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pro Life, Unless it Costs Us Money

The Catholic Church has long held the view that abortion is immoral, and constitutes a mortal sin.  There are very rarely ever exceptions to that belief, the only one being commonly accepted is in regard to terminating ectopic pregnancies.  Rape, incest, and saving the life of the mother are not considered exceptions.

The fetus is claimed to have a soul of it's own upon conception.  Ironically, early church teachings actually made a distinction between unformed and formed fetuses, ascribing a greater sin to the killing of a formed one.  Using that logic, very early abortions were a lesser crime in the eyes of the church.  Today, though, all abortions tend to be treated as one and the same by the church.

Last year in Ireland, Savita Halappanavar died because a Catholic hospital refused to perform an abortive procedure on a dying fetus that turned septic.  They claimed that so long as the fetus had a heartbeat, they were bound by the church to preserve life. After the baby died, the fetus was removed, but it was too late to save her.

In 2009, an entire family and several doctors were excommunicated from the Church in Brazil for performing an abortion on a nine year old girl who had been raped by her step father.  Even though the abortion was believed to have saved the life of the child, and she was impregnated with twins through a violent sexual crime, it wasn't enough in the eyes of the Church. 

In 2009, a nun who sits on the ethics board at a hospital in Arizona was excommunicated and had her position stripped after she agreed that a mother of four should have an abortion to save her life.  The mother had developed severe pulmonary hypertension at 11 weeks along and had a risk of death near 100% if the pregnancy continued, which would have ended the life of the baby as well.  The Church didn't care, saying while medical professionals should certainly try to save a pregnant mother's life, the means by which they do it can never be by directly killing her unborn child. The end does not justify the means.

Though I strongly disagree with the Church's decisions in the above cases, at least they were consistent.  A life was a life from the moment of conception.  Now, they seem to be arguing against themselves. 

In 2006, Lori Stodghill presented in the emergency room of a Catholic run hospital in Colorado.  Seven months pregnant with twins, she died when a blood clot formed and lodged in her heart, triggering a massive heart attack.  The obstetrician on call, also her personal physician, did not answer the page from the hospital, and the twins both died in the womb shortly after the mother. 

Her husband sued both the hospital and the obstetrician for wrongful death, alleging that the refusal to answer the page by the doctor and the inaction from the emergency room staff resulted in the deaths of all three.  Had they performed an emergency C-section after she died, the babies lives may have been saved even if the mother's may not have been.  He sued for wrongful death of all three.

The lawyers for the hospital have spun on their heels.  Where the Church has for years asserted the claim that all life begins at conception and is worthy of equal protection under the law, they are now claiming protection under state law, which currently dictates that unborn fetuses are not persons with legal rights.

Essentially, what the take away is here is that they will argue for the sanctity and protection of human life at any stage, unless they are going to be held liable for the loss of it in court.  Here, they claim no responsibility for the lives of the twins.

So far, the hospital has won.  Hypocrisy works. 

Instead of holding the strength of their convictions, and possibly making a huge argument that unborn babies are indeed persons as they have alleged for years, they went the opposite direction and hid behind the state law that they have fought to change. They have an opportunity here to bolster their claim that all life is precious and worthy of protection, but they aren't.  They're making a point for everyone who has opposed their arguments instead.  Amazing how money can change the rules of the game. 

The case has been appealed to the State Supreme Court. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Going Home

There are portions of the year that are just a bit more emotional for me.  The second half of January and the first half of February fall into that category.  They'll probably always stay that way.  I am grateful that I came upon the story I wrote about yesterday for the simple, selfish fact that it distracted me from what I was really thinking about. 

Two years ago, yesterday, I woke before sunrise.   I arrived at the airport just before dawn and watched as the sky grew full of magnificent colors and light from the bridge to the terminal.  I knew where I was going, and I knew why.  I'd spent the prior two weeks making the preparations to leave.  I knew that the time was near, and I knew I would have to go.

My father was dying.

Though I was never able to fully explain it to anyone then or now, I just knew that it was time for me to go.  He had been told the day prior that the cancer had grown far more aggressive, that the tumors now infiltrated both his lungs and his liver.  That the chemo he'd just been given hadn't made a difference. 

He had two oncologists.  One was a realist.  At first my parents hated that man, with his somber talk of staging and time.  They didn't ever want to hear what he had to say, because they wanted to cling to whatever tiny piece of hope they could, even when it became obvious that the hope was slipping away.  The other oncologist, different.  He was the guy who never let you believe it was over.  The one who gave unending hope, let you hang on to that chance of making it, even if it was less than 5%.  He was the guy who'd let you keep fighting even when your body screamed at you to stop.  He was the guy who'd let you go out in a blaze of glory, even if he knew it would never make a difference.

I am grateful, so grateful, that my father had them both.  They balanced each other.  Sometimes he needed one, sometimes he needed the other.  And then, one day, the first told him the fight was coming to an end.  The second offered to load the cannons again. 

And he was done. 

He was ready to stop fighting.  He was tired of being sick.  He accepted that his time with them was done, and hospice was called.

I flew home the morning that hospice came.  The flight was hard, harder than the one I'd made the year before when he was in respiratory distress and in the ICU.  Harder than the flight I'd made home after he was discharged and settled.  This one was harder, because I knew it was the last one.  I knew.

I knew that even though they said he might have six weeks that he didn't, and I knew I had to go now.

I had always known this day would come.

My brother picked me up that morning, and the look on his face told me that it was bad.  Worse than it was when we'd left just two weeks earlier after spending Christmas back home.  He was right.

Dad was curled up in a ball when I got there.  Almost catatonic.  I suspected that it wasn't the cancer, but the medications.  I talked to the hospice nurse, and we devised a plan.  We'd take him off all of it, save the pain meds, adjust the dosages of those, and see what happened. 

The next day, he was back.  He was alert.  He was talking and laughing.  He was smoking pot in the garage and eating entire jars of peanuts.  He was drinking margaritas with us on the patio. 

He spent some time most afternoons out there, oxygen tubing snaked through the house.  Out there, he could just be.

I had some tough conversations with him that first week, some of the hardest discussions I have ever had in my life.  I had to sit him down and witness the DNR paperwork.  I had to be the one in the room when he asked the doctor what it would feel like to die.  I had to ask whether he wanted to be alert or knocked out.  I knew that to keep him alert, he'd have to exchange some degree of pain, as the cancer had progressed so much, but I left that in his hands. 

He asked me to do whatever I could to keep him alert for as long as I could.  And so, the dance began. 

When cancer affects someone's liver, it completely changes how they metabolize everything, including medications.  Every day required adjustments.  Sometimes tranquilizers, sometimes anti-anxiety meds, sometimes sleeping pills, sometimes more pain meds.  All of it changed, every day. 

I was a walking alarm clock, sometimes with ten different alarms set a day for medication.  I took him to work, then hung out in the parking lot until he was ready to go back home.  He wanted to go, but he wanted me there.  So, I did it. 

I carried nausea medication, ativan, oxycodone and morphine in my purse as if that's something normal people do.

I slept in fifteen minute increments, I kept my glasses on all the time so I could peek across the room and check on him.  The agitation always got worse at night, and it made me nervous.

He wanted to see his family, so we made that happen.  They all came, save a few.  The night two of his sisters spent the night and we all camped out in the living room is one I will never forget and will always be grateful for.  He made time for the people he needed to.  He made one last delivery run for work.  He made amends for the past, he held the hands of his brothers.  He comforted them, he comforted us all.

He worried that I was missing my family back home, he urged me to leave if I needed to.  I told him that I was there to help him for as long as he needed me.  We had an understanding.

The morning of my birthday, even though the night before had been a rough one, he got up and showered and dressed, then announced we were going out for breakfast.  Told me that even though it was my birthday, I had given him the gift that year.

He was gone four days later.

I had been home less than three weeks.

I miss him every day, and this experience changed me in so many ways.  The lessons I've learned I have tried to pass on to anyone starting down this path. 

Love for a parent is as unconditional as love for a child.
Listen to your heart.  If it tells you to go, go.
Listen.  Absorb the memories.  Take it and keep it.
You are stronger than you think.
You can't tell someone you love them too much.
Life is not fair, but it is beautiful.  Death can be too.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Vaccines and Autism Spectrum Disorders

This controversy isn't a new one.  This debate hasn't just begun.  For many years, there have been people who alleged that vaccines cause autism, and for as many years there have been detractors.  Study after study have shown that there is no link, and yet this question keeps surfacing.  If there is no link, then why does it seem so often like there is one? 

Why are there parents out there, struggling with this issue every day, wondering if there really is a connection?  Why are there parents, myself included, who are spacing and delaying immunizations when a child starts reacting to them?  If these things are so harmless, why do we still doubt?

I'll tell you why.

It's because something is causing it.  Something is taking the brains of these children and changing them.  Something that wasn't happening very often thirty years ago is happening with increasing and increasing frequency today, and parents are rightfully suspicious.

If we are to believe, as we are told repeatedly, that all vaccines are safe, then why did the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program recently award two families of children with autism monetary damages?

In this post, I will describe the government's handling of the vaccine injury claims, I will address the specifics of each case, I will talk about the implications of these decisions, I will tell you my personal views, and finally discuss why this is important for us all. 

How the Government Handles Vaccine Injuries in General
The Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) was established in 1986 to compensate families for injuries resulting from vaccines, to shield the manufacturers from liability for defects, and to keep these cases out of the traditional court system.  It is a no-fault system, meaning that the parents who assert these cases on behalf of their children must show that specifically recognized injuries occurred within the time frames acknowledges by their guidelines.   Those injuries, if sufficiently demonstrated, are assumed to be caused by the vaccine. The injuries recognized are referred to as table injuries.  Claimants are eligible for medical and legal expenses, loss of future earning potential, pain and suffering up to $250,000 and a death benefit of up to $250,000.  The program is funded by an excise tax on all vaccines administered.

It is administered through the Office of Special Masters through the United States Court of Federal Claims. By and large, vaccine injury cases are not permitted in the ordinary court system without special circumstances.

The VICP was created in direct response to safety concerns over the DTP.  Manufacturers were being sued and juries were awarding large amounts of money to plaintiffs.  Many manufacturers ceased production of the vaccines because of the threat of litigation, and the government stepped in for a few reasons.  One, they did not want the manufacturers to stop making the vaccines.  Two, the findings of fault were tenuous in many of the cases.  Three, parents were afraid to immunize their children, and the government was afraid that the effect of herd immunity would cease to occur.  Essentially, this means that in order for most people in the population to be protected, enough people within it have to be immunized, and the government was afraid we would fall below that threshold.

Ryan Mojabi
In this case, the parents of Ryan Mojabi alleged that his Autism Spectrum Diagnosis (ASD) was a result of injury from his immunizations, primarily the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine.  Specifically, they claimed that he suffered encephalopathy which consequently resulted in his ASD diagnosis.

Notably, encephalopathy is a compensable table injury in the VICP.

Mojabi was immunized with the MMR and a few other shots just before his second birthday.  He was diagnosed with encephalitis within 15 days of the vaccination.  His symptoms also included difficulty breathing, a high fever, febrile seizures, lethargy and rash.  After he recovered from the persistent high fever, his parents noticed changes to his behavior, and a backslide in his development.  He stopped using words that he had been using before. 

His parents alleged that the cumulative effect of the vaccines, and that MMR shot in particular, led to brain injury resulting in his ASD diagnosis.  The Department of Health and Human Services finally conceded and his family was awarded almost $1,000,000 in damages for lost wages and pain and suffering, with potentially millions more in annuities to cover the cost of his care for the rest of his life. 

The specific exhibits that led to the concession are under seal, and the government made no admission of a connection between the vaccine and his ASD diagnosis.  The full text of the decision is available through the link here.

Emily Lowrie
Emily's struggles began shortly after she received several vaccinations at her 15 month appointment.  She spiked a very high fever, developed a rash, started having seizures and began engaging in repetitive actions such as arm flapping.  Over the following years, she was found to have encephalopathy, speech delays, developmental delays.  Her mother filed in 2003 for an encephalopathy injury under the VICP for those injuries, prior to her daughter being diagnosed with ASD. 

The case dragged on for years.  After Emily was formally diagnosed with ASD, the government agreed to settle.  She received over $1,000,000 in damages, plus annuities to cover the cost of her care for the rest of her life.  The HHS refused to admit a link between the vaccines and her injuries, instead claiming they were tired of dedicating resources to the fight.  The text of this decision is also available as a pdf through this link. 

The Implications of These Decisions
Obviously, these cases say that, at least in the eyes of the court, injuries to children who develop ASD are compensable under the VICP.  Though there was no connection admitted, no formal acknowledgement of a link, the government is paying these families millions of dollars because of the damage the vaccines did to these children.

In Lowrie's case, her mother fought for almost a decade.  She was badgered on the stand, accused of being a bad mother and more.

What do these cases mean for the approximately 1 in 110 kids who are diagnosed with ASD?  Does this mean that those children, if their symptoms began shortly after they received their vaccines, are then also eligible to receive compensation under the VICP?  Does it mean that their injuries were possibly preventable?  Does it mean that vaccines are not safe?  Does it mean that parents are rolling the dice every time their kids receive shots, hoping they are the 109, not the 1?

If this means that ASD is now a compensable injury, the VICP will rapidly go broke.  The VICP is designed to compensate the very rare side effects, the episodic side effects, not the life long damages that were awarded in these cases. 

My Personal Theory on the Connection
This is my personal opinion, based on years of medical research.  I am not a scientist.  I did, however, learn a long time ago to question the results of any study that comes out.  I have studied in public health and law, worked in risk management in hospitals.  The vast majority of medical research in this country is funded by factions with a vested interest in the outcome.  It's my belief that we need to strongly fund objective, unaffiliated research into this area, for the sake of the children and families dealing with these diagnoses. 

I believe that the connection is more complicated that most assume.  I believe that ASD is essentially an autoimmune condition brought on by a perfect storm in the children it affects.  I believe that these kids have some underlying, undiscovered issues that somehow make them vulnerable, and that triggered at the right time, their nervous systems overreact. 

When we are immunizing children these days, they are getting several vaccines at once.  The way vaccines work is essentially to challenge their immune system to build up a response to that disease.  We are injecting them with several at a time, and I think that what happens is that the immune systems of some children get overloaded, then overreact, triggering changes in their neurological systems.

It's not the vaccines themselves, per se, but how they trigger reactions in the bodies of these kids.  The trouble is, as parents, we don't know if our children are vulnerable until it's too late and the changes have occurred.  It's entirely possible that the toxins in our environment (and in the vaccines themselves) are contributors.  Without adequate research, there is no way to know for sure.

My youngest has had trouble with vaccines.  He also seems to be on the path towards Type 1 diabetes, which is an autoimmune disease.  We have elected to space and delay his vaccines, skip some entirely.  I know that his immune system can't handle too much.

Again, this is my personal theory, and I would love nothing more than to see research into this specific area...but I'm not independently wealthy and can't fund it.

Why This is Important
This is important because of conversations like the one I had with a dear friend a few days ago.  Often at a loss of how to help her children, she finds herself frustrated with a medical system that doesn't understand her kids.  They treat symptoms the best they can, but that's all they can do.  Therapy and IEPs and all the worry in the world haven't changed the fact that sometimes her boys don't know how to cope with the world they live in.  As a parent, she is tired.  She is overwhelmed.  She is worried.  For their present and their future.  For herself.

And she isn't alone.  There are thousands, maybe millions of families figuring out how to navigate the world when a child (or children) is diagnosed with ASD.  These children are smart, they are kind, they are our babies, and they need us. 

I hope that these cases will prompt our medical society, and our society in general to dig deeper.  To find out how we can help these children.  How we can help these families.  If this is something that can be prevented, we need to know that, and we need to accept that seeking prevention doesn't detract in any way from the reality of those who are already there. 

It kills me to see the debates on this issue turn nasty and mean.  I hate hearing my friend tell me that she has blamed herself, questioned what she could have done differently.  I cringe at the irresponsibility of the media when they report on any story that carries a connection with ASD, too often laying blame at the feet of mothers who have only ever done the best they can to care for their children.  What we need is a discussion about this, not an argument.  We need compassion and new ideas.  We need to stop pointing fingers and start finding answers. 

Maybe, just maybe, these cases will be the urging force behind that. 

The unyielding optimist in me hopes so.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Redemption Song

I live in a world where I have no choice but to believe in the possibility of redemption.  If I allow the cynicism and skepticism that has dominated my thinking for as many years as I can remember, I would have a difficult time explaining where I am today. 

I have to believe in redemption.  I need to.  I cling to it with unyielding optimism because I have to. 

Since I wrote the piece about the dangers of the ego, the power of the brain to allow a narcissist to harm others, and the path which those who can compartmentalize will begin to walk, I've been thinking a lot.  I've been talking to a lot of people. 

People who've been on both sides of this issue.  The cheater and the betrayed.  The liar and the wounded.  The cause and the effect.   The one who cause the harm and the one who suffered it. 

I've talked to friends who've seen the effects of what happens when an ego destroys a life.  When the ego becomes too important to ever admit fault, when redemption cannot come. 

I speculate that Lance Armstrong might fall into that category, because as much as some people want to believe that he's truly remorseful, I can tell you he's not.  I've become accustomed too much to telling the difference between genuine sorrow and staged remorse.  Those who have told the biggest lies agree with me.  They know he's not sorry.  They know because they've been him.

I spent a lot of time yesterday trying to think of a public figure who fell from grace and found redemption.  The closest I could get were those who battled addictions, hit bottom, went through rehab and fixed their lives.  The Robert Downey Jr.s and the Drew Barrymores of the world.  They hurt themselves, they hurt others, they were forced to deal with their demons publicly.  They were sorry, really and truly sorry, and they still work every day to restore themselves.  Not just their images, but themselves.

Not many people ever get there.

The road to redemption is long and painful and difficult, and can only be walked by the person who chose to be seduced by the dark side.  No one can make them do it.  No amount of influence from outside can force the journey.  None.  They alone must choose it.

Redemption is difficult, maybe even seems impossible for someone who has to try and accomplish it in the court of public opinion.   As I said before, though, most people who wish for it aren't anywhere near the public eye, and only need to seek redemption from themselves and in the eyes of those who matter.  I can't speak to how hard it is personally, but I can speak about how hard it is to watch someone with the struggle. 

One thing that most people don't realize is that in order for someone who has caused so much harm to themselves and others to ever have any hope of changing, is that they have to hit their figurative bottom.  They have to be caught with their hand in the cookie jar.  They have to be threatened.  They have to feel like the world they created is quickly spinning out of their control.  They have to be rocked to their core, whatever that means.  It means something different to every person.

For some people, it seems like they have no bottom.  The men who marry women and have children and so-called happy marriages, then throw it all away for someone else.  Then they do it again.  And again.  I know of a few who've done it, marriage and all, three times.  They don't learn.  They don't care.  They aren't sorry. 

I fear that Lance may be in this category.  It's impossible to believe in the claimed remorse of someone when they still seem strangely proud of all that they got away with.  There is a fundamental difference between being sorry you got caught, and just being sorry.  A huge difference, in fact.  Without true remorse, there can be no chance for redemption.

True remorse is a process though, not an end point of some sordid discovery.  It's a true process, and it's both excruciating and frustrating to watch someone go through it.  At the point where the wrong-doer hits bottom, they have to start taking a hard look at who they've become and what they've done.  For many, it's too much.  They don't want to believe that they were capable of doing so much damage.  They can't accept that they chose to hurt the ones they love. 

It's also not a linear process.  It's one full of missteps and excuses.  Defensiveness pops up as a self-protection mechanism, not for the victim, but for the wrongdoer.  It takes time to see the enormity of the damage, to face it, to own it. 

It takes time for people to do the damage, and it also takes time for them to see it.

Only then, after all that, can the rebuilding begin.  Redemption is two-fold.  First, and most importantly, the person who has done the damage needs to re-train themselves to live a life of integrity and honor.  It can be hard, if not impossible, to do that, particularly for someone who has become accustomed to selfishness and lying on a daily basis.  There isn't a light switch that can just be flipped, as frustrating as it is.  It's a painful road of self-examination they walk.  They have to teach their minds to be cognizant of other people again.  They have to remember how to care, how to connect thoughts with actions, and actions with consequences.  Most people going through this need counseling to do it, and often need medication as well.

With enough time and the right motivation, even the worst offenders can live a life of honor again.  It is possible. I have to believe that. 

True redemption isn't just about being a better person alone, though.  No man is an island, especially one who has harmed others.  It's about atonement and apologies and amends.  A huge part of it requires the damage to be acknowledged, to be owned, to be apologized for. 

The second part of redemption comes in the eyes of the harmed.  In the hearts of those who have been held to the fire at the mercy of the person who forced them there.  Redemption goes further than just forgiveness.  Forgiveness has more to do with the giver than the receiver.  Forgiveness requires the giver to let go of the anger, but it doesn't require the giver to trust the other person again.  It doesn't require them to take a leap of faith that the other person has changed or can change or will change. 

Redemption does. 

Redemption goes beyond forgiveness.  It embraces the reformed wrongdoer as a wholly changed person, worthy of love, worthy of trust, worthy of faith. 

Is true redemption possible? 

I have to believe it is. 

I'll see you when we get there.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

It's Award Season

My name is Kelly, and I'm terrible about blogger awards.  I have been sitting on quite a few of them for a while, then got four more in the last week. 

I apologize to those who gave them to me for being so bad about it. 

I know that each of these awards have special rules about answering questions and nominating other people, but I think today in exchange for my delay in acknowledging them, I will devote this post to the givers, not myself. 

Up first is one of my favorite bloggers, Happy Little Feet.  She inspires me all the time with her homemade cleaners and personal hygiene items.  It's amazing what she comes up with .  She also shares her recipes  and her stories about life as she sees it.  She just may have the most adorable blog name and header in the world.  She gave me the Laine Blogger Award and the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award, and I am completely behind in saying thank you properly.  You can find her blog here, and her Facebook page here.  She's a delight.

I've been given the Very Inspiring Blogger Award five times now, and I need to thank each and every one of those bloggers as well. 

Up first is Homespooled.  She is such an inspiration for me, which is what makes the fact that she gave it to me an honor.  I wish someday to have a fraction of her talents.  She can take ordinary things and make them beautiful.  I tried knitting, and I made lumpy triangles.  She makes masterpieces.  You can find her blog here and her Facebook page here.

Red Hot Writing Hood is someone that I just recently discovered, and she's just amazing.  I think she has more energy than most people I know combined.  Just check out her description on her Facebook page: Designer, artist, blogger, human being, repressed athlete, photographer, wife, mom, wannabe world traveler, sarcastic, imperfect perfectionist.  She's all those things and more.  You can find her blog here and her Facebook page here.

The Insomniac's Dream.  Where to begin?  She's a tortured soul right now, and a piece of my heart resides with her.  There aren't many writers that blow me away the first time I read them, but she was one.  Her words are like magic beads strung together, it really is beautiful.  I just adore her, and am proud to call myself a friend.  You can find her blog here and her Facebook page here.

A Mother Life is one of my newest friends, and she's just wonderful.  She's funny, she's real.  She shares her wild journey of motherhood with us all, and we are better for it.  I promise.  You should check out her about me section - I am fairly sure that she and I were sisters in a past life.  She is awesome.  You can find her blog here and her Facebook page here.

Last, but certainly not least, The Sadder But Wiser Girl.  She's hilarious and one of the most genuine people you'll meet on the internet.  She just gave me this award after waiting a while to write about it herself, and nominated herself for the Flake Award, which I wholly deserve.  We're good people, honest, we just procrastinate and get distracted by shiny things.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  I love her, and you will too.  You can find her blog here and her Facebook page here

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Power of the Dark Side

Much energy has been focused this week on Lance Armstrong, on whether he would confess to doping, whether he'd admit all that he's done.  There are many who probably want to believe his conscience is clear now, but I'm telling you it isn't.

I know that he is still lying, I know that it wasn't genuine.  I feel like I've been telling this story for a while, much at the dismay of the believers.  I've been told I'm buying into the witch hunt, that he's just a human being that made a mistake, that he didn't do anything that everyone else didn't also do.  I've been told that any discussion of this situation just adds fire to the flame of his ego.  That it's a waste of society's time and energy to talk about it any more.

It's not a waste of time, and I'm going to tell you why. 

It's not, because as much as my issues with Lance aren't about the bike (the irony here is rich), this issue isn't even about him.  It's about the fact that there are many, many people in this world who fall to the same curse he did.  Selfishness, hubris, narcissism.  Ego.

The people who at some point stop caring about others entirely, who lose all capacity for empathy, who see the pursuit of fame, fortune, desire, attention, power as all important.  Who will stop at nothing to get what they want, and then when they get it, it's never enough.  They always want more.  They convince themselves that they deserve more.  They convince themselves that they aren't doing anything wrong.  They convince themselves that they are somehow owed whatever comes to them, and that the ends will always justify the means so long as it ends just exactly how they plan.

They use and manipulate other people.  They prey on the weaknesses of others.  They take sick enjoyment from controlling everything they possibly can, by whatever means necessary. 

This isn't just about Lance.  It's about presidents and CEOs and movie stars and athletes and cheating spouses.  It's about people that you know and I know.  It's about people who've ruined our lives, who've taken from us, who've lied to a few or lied to millions. 

I caught a bit of an interesting show on television a few weeks ago, and you'll have to forgive me.  I was so immediately caught up in it that I didn't even catch what channel or what show.  Essentially, the take away was that JFK and Clinton and every other leader with infamous personal stories were capable of betraying their wives and families so often and so obviously without flinching for the exact same reason that they were great leaders.  One word. 


It's the same reason that Lance was able to win races and inspire a nation while simultaneously knowing that most of it was a lie, the same reason that he made it look good while he was leaving his wife and intimidating anyone who came near him.  It's how he could sleep at night.

It's the same reason that CEOs of businesses like Enron were able to steal millions of dollars from their employees, then walk into boardrooms and put on the bold face of leadership.  It's how they could sleep at night.

It's the same reason that Presidents can ship soldiers off to war, then host state dinners.  It's how they can sleep at night.

It's the same reason that you hear stories of men who lead double lives, sometimes have a second family somewhere else, but appear to everyone who knows them as good family men.  It's how they were able to keep it all straight.  It's how they are able to sleep at night.

The one thing that all these people have in common is the ability to compartmentalize things.  They can take pieces of what they do, who they are, and place them in tiny little boxes, then shove them to the side whenever it suits them.  Ignore entire sections of their lives whenever it would create a conflict in what they are doing now.  They don't even think about how this choice will affect the other parts of their lives because their minds actually see a clear line.  They think that the dividers they erect in their mind are real, are permanent, and that no one else will ever catch on.  For some, they actually begin to believe that the imagined world they have created is real.

While most people don't exist in a place that allows that, these people do.  I'd say that most people have within them the ability to develop this if they so chose, which is what concerns me more than anything.

There is an argument to be made that we actually need people with this ability to hold the highest positions of leadership. That it's a necessary coping mechanism when you're dealing with sending soldiers to war.  That without it, choices like that would tear at the soul of that person, that they would feel too personally responsible, that it would destroy their ability to make objective, tactical decisions. 

While that may be true for Presidents of nations, it's not true for most of the people who do it.  Most of the people who adopt this technique aren't anywhere near a trigger that could start a war.  Most of them are normal, everyday people, just like you and me.  And most of them hurt those closest to them while doing it. 

I'm not talking today about people with actual mental illnesses, about people who are clinical sociopaths.  A sociopath lacks empathy.  A compartmentalizer has it, but also has the ability to ignore it.  I'm talking about people who actually choose to place themselves and their desires above all else. 

Our society is full of them. 

Our society encourages them. 

Our society is creating more and more of them.  This bizarre world we live in is making more and more compartmentalizers every day. 

We reward greatness, we admire achievement.  We look the other way about how and why the greatness and achievement was attained.  We live in a world that is so immediately connected these days, but that lacks personal responsibility and accountability.  We can be whoever we pretend to be online.  We isolate ourselves, limit our actual social interactions with others.  We carry our phones with us everywhere because we believe that we are so important that someone, somewhere always needs to be in contact with us.  We don't value marriage and family above ourselves.  We use phrases like you only live once to justify stupid decisions that hurt others and ourselves.  We are short sighted.  We are selfish.  We act one way online and another in real life. 

We are teaching ourselves and our children to compartmentalize, and I can promise you this is not a good thing.

It blows me away sometimes how insensitive our society is rapidly becoming.  We live in a world where people lie for over a decade, then claim they never knew it was wrong.  We live in a world where people create false identities to lure lonely people into online relationships for sport.  We live in a world where people have affairs just because they can, and where real families are broken every day.

Many of my friends, both online and in real life echo the words I first heard many years ago in an Al-Anon meeting.  Feel all the feelings. 

Damn straight.  Feel all the feelings.  Once we stop feeling them, once we teach ourselves to ignore them, we lose the ability to connect our actions with consequences.  We need to embrace fear and happiness and jealousy and hatred and envy and joy and all of it.  We need to connect those feelings to our actions, and we need to be aware of how what we do affects other people.  We need to temper our actions accordingly, and not let any one of those feelings dictate how we live. 

Maybe if we felt a little more, maybe if we were less connected and more real, maybe if we understood the ripple effect that is ever present in all that we do, it wouldn't be this way. 

The real lesson to be learned here this week is that the power of the dark side is real, that it's possibility lies within us all, that it can hurt the people we love most, and that the coping mechanism of compartmentalization isn't really a coping mechanism at all. 

It's a rationalization.

A justification, if you will, for selfishness, for hubris, for narcissism.  For ego.
If once you start down the dark path, forever will
it dominate your destiny, consume you it will.
~ Yoda

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