Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday Fiction Challenge, discharged

Felicia had answered so many questions, making sure to stay consistent with her responses.  She was able to act just panicked enough.  After they were able to place the central line and get Bailey hydrated, she seemed to rebound almost immediately.  The girl she'd carried into the emergency room just days earlier was sitting up, eating strawberry Jello with her little fingers and giggling at cartoons on the television screen.  

Her socks were too big and hung off the tips of her toes.  

Every time she turned her head towards the window at mama, she smiled.  Her hair would move out of the way just enough to see the IV lines.  The tubes that had kept her alive.

Felicia watched her through the glass from outside the room.  The doctor had pulled her out into the hallway to tell her that they couldn't figure out what had happened, they had no answers for why she had become so sick.  They had seemingly come to the conclusion that it was some type of stomach virus, though Felicia knew better.

They had to bring in a case manager because of the age of the child and the severity of the illness, but she had already prepared herself for that.  The doctor said something about her weight and mentioned that they might label her as failure to thrive, but that decision wasn't final yet.  They couldn't tell because they didn't know her full history. They were still waiting on a call from her regular pediatrician, though Felicia didn't tell them she hadn't actually taken Bailey to the doctor in over a year.

Fortunately, the trash had been picked up the day it all went down, and she'd been able to get rid of any evidence of what she'd done to her little girl.  

There would be a social worker assigned, and there would be a home visit before discharge.  The doctor asked if Felicia understood all that and she silently nodded her head, never taking her eyes off of Bailey.  

She knew that she'd already covered her tracks.  They wouldn't find anything.

Chris didn't even know, and he'd been living there the entire time.  Felicia was so good at hiding it all until they ended up here.  Until it almost ended badly.  Until she almost got caught.

After the doctor stopped talking and walked away, Felicia went back into the room.  She dragged the chair back over to the tiny bed encircled with bars.  Her eyes traced every inch of the little girl, resting on the spot on her neck where the catheter was inserted.  Such a simple little piece of plastic.  It didn't seem possible that something so little could have been the thing that saved her that day.  It pumped life back into Bailey's body, one drop of fluid at a time.  

Felicia took the IV line and ran it between her finger and thumb, squeezing it until the flow stopped.  

Bailey's eyes weren't sunken anymore and the dark circles under them had faded a little.  She smiled at her mama, not having any clue why she was laying there in a hospital bed with that thing poking her in the neck all the time.  She'd pulled at it for a while, but they taped it pretty good the night before.  Even as young as she was, Bailey seemed to understand that this piece of plastic in her neck saved her life. 

Felicia's gaze drifted to the television, with the screen of dancing animals.  Bailey giggled again.   

This scare may have just saved them both.  This time, at least.

If only she could keep herself from going back to that place when they were in the secrecy of home again.  Felicia hoped she could control it, that she could stop herself.  She knew better. 

She knew now what she was capable of. 

This piece is part of a fiction challenge I am participating in.  This is the second episode of my second story, the first part of which can be found here.  

This week's prompt is: 

March, "in like a lion, out like a lamb" -- 
for our writing: to be deflated, belittled or humbled after the failure of a daring or boastful act.
I'm putting a couple restrictions on this one though to sharpen your lion's writing claws before we submit to our kinder, gentler lamblike selves: 1,000 words max and no dialogue, all description. *Show* not tell: how your character has softened, deflated from the beginning of his/her intro in even one post? to now. 

Please check out the pieces from the other writers participating in the challenge!  We've welcomed two new members to the group this week!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

For the people who are tired of hearing about the gays

For the most part, I can say that the response to the post yesterday about gay marriage have been positive.  Supportive.

For the most part.

There is a small, but vocal group of people expressing outrage about gay marriage.

Most of the people I know who oppose it do their best to respect other people.  Many of them have resigned themselves to the fact that while this may be something they don't agree with, it is happening.

Some haven't. There are people who take it and run with it, citing bible verses and tradition, many of which who clearly don't understand the most basic functions of our government.  The people who claim they aren't dictating how anyone else should live their lives, yet in the same breath would deny rights purely based on someone's sexual orientation. Then there are all the people who'll hop on any current issue, just to distort it with their own agendas.

If you're tired of reading about gay rights, too bad.

People like me will stop talking about it when there is nothing to talk about anymore.

People like me will stop talking about it when everyone is treated equally in the eyes of the law.

People can debate gay marriage endlessly on Facebook and Twitter, on political television shows, on blogs like this one, but at the end of the day, very little of what anyone thinks matters anymore.

Public opinion doesn't much matter anymore.  Votes are irrelevant now.  Swaying the polls with money funneled by conservative churches won't do any good.  You can quote all the bible verses you want and it will get you nowhere.

The cases are at the Supreme Court, where the constitutionality of the laws are at issue.

Constitutionality has nothing to do with popular opinion.  Absolutely nothing.  In fact, the decisions handed down by the court quite often go against what the majority wants, for an important reason.

That reason is simple: the will of the majority is not always right.  It is not always in line with the Constitution. It's often quite contrary.

Just a few generations ago, interracial marriage was forbidden, schools were segregated, at the will of the majority.

We live in a Constitutional Democratic Republic.  It's not just a democracy, where the will of the majority wins out.  Our founders were smarter than that.  They understood the concept of the tyranny of the majority, and carefully drafted the Constitution to ensure there would be balancing interests.  They created ways to undo the will of the many.  To protect the interests of those without large and imposing numbers. To protect the rights of those marginalized by society.

To further protect the rights of those who would be oppressed, the founders established the Supreme Court and gave it the final say on the interpretation of the Constitution.

Some make the argument that gay marriage goes against God.  Although many people seem to believe so, this nation was not founded on Christian beliefs.  It is founded on the freedom to believe whatever you want, to practice or not practice whatever faith you choose.  Consequently, the laws are not to be dictated by religion.  The separation of church and state is well established.  Quoting bible verses will get you nowhere in a court of law, a court charged with interpreting a document which guarantees freedom and equality to all citizens.

Some make the argument that gay marriage shouldn't be legal simply for the sake of tradition.  To them I present this quote, taken from the Jefferson Memorial, voiced by one of the founders of our nation.

I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors. ~Thomas Jefferson

Some make the argument that marriage exists solely for the purpose of procreation.  Using that logic,  infertile couples, those who choose not to have children and those marry past the point of menopause should also be denied equal rights.  

Some make the argument that civil unions are the same as marriage.  That they carry all the same legal rights and responsibilities. The court struck down a claim of separate but equal before, and I can't imagine they wold uphold the same basic premise in any other situation.  Additionally, so long as states are permitted to refuse to acknowledge marriages recognized in other states, there is no transferability here.  My marriage is recognized by every state in the union, but currently there is no requirement that one state recognize a gay marriage deemed legal elsewhere.  We live in a transient society where people relocate all the time for work. They should be able to take their marriages with them.  

Some make the argument that homosexuality is against nature.  Yet, humans are one of hundreds of species with documented cases of homosexuality.  It's not against nature at all, in fact nature supports it's existence.  

Some make the argument that keeping marriage between men and women will preserve family values.  When the divorce rate hovers near 50% and something like 70% of married partners have affairs, I struggle to see how that can even make sense.  Just by virtue of the fact that they are straight, people are allowed to enter and exit marriage whenever they see fit, yet couples who've been dedicated to one another for decades are not allowed to marry at all because they are the same gender.

I trust in the Court to come to the right decision.  To interpret the Constitution as it should be.  To recognize that sexual orientation is no different than the color of someone's skin.  One is no better than another, no more deserving of equal application of the law.  

equal (adjective) \ˈē-kwəl\
(1) : of the same measure, quantity, amount, or number as another 
    (2) : identical in mathematical value or logical denotation : equivalent

b : like in quality, nature, or status
c : like for each member of a group, class, or society

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the child hating bigot edition

Since today is the day that the United States Supreme Court is hearing argument in the case of California's Proposition 8, I figured it was just as good a time as any to tell this story.

I am a flaming liberal, an unflinching ally of the LGBT community, and will forever be so.

I've had friends I knew were gay since we were small children.  I have friends who came out in the hormonal, emotional years of adolescence.  I have friends who came out in college, to rooms full of   people who embraced them for what we already knew.  I have friends who stifled their orientation because society told them it was the right thing to do, who married and had kids with partners of the opposite sex because it was what they were supposed to do, only to come to terms with their identity years later.  I have friends who stayed in the closet until they were grandparents.

I have friends who are still afraid to come out.

Being gay in a society like ours isn't easy, not when there are sizable percentages of the population that proclaim that you are a sinner and flawed and broken, or that maybe if you just prayed harder God would fix you.  Our society is one where kids are tied to fences and left to die because of their orientation.  Where thousands of parents put placards into the hands of their children and stand them on street corners.  Where the funerals of fallen soldiers are a platform for hatred.

It's not just those people over there that spew hatred and intolerance.  It's not just those people who refuse to have compassion and love in their souls.  It's not just those people who refuse to heed the teachings of the very man they claim to follow, know the ones where you are supposed to love your neighbor as yourself, all that.

It's far more people than you'd realize.  People you know. People I know.

People like the family of the man I helped all those years ago.

This is his story.

*names will be changed because this story is real, and was from a time in my life when I was working in a legal capacity with clients*

While I was in law school, I worked with a legal aid group.  My area of focus was the AIDS clinic, and to qualify for our free services, clients had to be HIV+/AIDS patients, and have income levels below a designated point.  Unlike the other clinics, ours had a broad range of legal issues because we were serving a population, not a specific need per se.

I worked on debtor relief, I helped with Social Security Disability appeals, I helped resolve a lot of landlord/tenant disputes.  I wrote wills and advance directives.  I wrote a lot of wills and advance directives.

Back then, the cocktails of drugs to combat the disease were just coming into common usage.  More and more of our clients were surviving, which meant that they'd often have a new set of legal challenges.  If they'd spent their life savings thinking they were dying, then run up credit cards, they had to pay the piper when they got better.  If they had to stop working when they were too sick to do so, but were well enough now, they had to contend with being out of the marketplace for however long they were gone.

Even with the advances in medicine, every week or so, the phone would ring.  Someone else would be gone.

The youngest client I lost was a 23 year old man.  I held his hand the day he died, when I brought his will to the hospital for him to sign.  He literally had nothing to his name, but he wanted to make sure he'd done all he could to make this easier on his family.

The family that disowned him when he came out.

That happened a lot, to far too many of my clients.  The very people who brought them into this world rejected them because of who they were.

There is one client that hangs on to a bigger piece of my heart than the rest, though.

I first met John when he came into one of our satellite clinics.  I didn't work at those very often, spending more time in the office.  He was shy and nervous, unsure of what he was really there for. He was HIV+, but in relatively good health so far. He was starting to worry about seeing his friends dying, starting to worry about tying up loose ends, starting to worry about taking care of things.

He, like most of my clients, didn't have anything to his name.

Even still, he wanted a will.  He wanted the medical paperwork all filled out.

In the process of interviewing him for all that, I had to ask questions about who he wanted to make health care decisions in the event he became unable.  

He grew silent.  The tears welled up in his eyes, and I realized quickly why.  His family, like too many of the rest of them, had disowned him.  He had friends, yes, but most of them were sick too.  He had tried and tried to repair the relationship with his father especially for years, and been met time and again with rejection.

He was disgusting.  He brought shame to the family.  He was a freak.  He was a sinner and he was going to hell.  HIV was his punishment, and he deserved it.

This grown man sat across a table from me and cried.  And cried.  I did my best to console him, knowing that there was a hole in his heart too big for anyone else to fix.

He said something about wishing that he could just disown them too.  That since they wanted nothing to do with him, that he could start over as someone else.  That it was torturing him to carry around the name of a family that hated and rejected him.

I smiled.  I said that I was pretty sure we could do that.  He asked if I was serious, and I assured him that I was.

Though I'd never worked on one before, we got the ball rolling that day.  I drafted his will and medical paperwork too, knowing that I would have to do it all over in a few months, but knowing that it would all be worth it.

He legally changed his name.

The hearings for adult name changes are simple enough.  You just need to give public notice, and almost no one ever shows up to contest them.  His wasn't contested.

The day he walked into my office after the hearing, he was smiling ear to ear.

He had spent his entire adult life feeling like he wasn't good enough for them, and now he didn't have to anymore.

He was his own man.

I saw him once more when we signed his amended paperwork a few weeks later, then never saw him again.  Before he left that last time, he thanked me for changing his life.

Still, after all these years, he is my favorite client.  It was the easiest motion to file, but the best one.

I knew from that day forward that I would fight for the men and women like him, no matter who disagreed with me, no matter who hid behind the Bible, no matter who tried to tell me I was wrong.

So, today I stand here, united with my brothers and sisters.

For equality.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Apple trees, the apples and the distance they have to fall

I spent all day today trying to get help for one of my kids. Answers. Reasons.

That phase we had hoped would be outgrown someday hasn't been.  It's not just a phase, it's more than that.

The first person I met with today, the psychologist.  The intro meeting, the info meeting, the warn them what they're dealing with meeting, the before the kid meets them meeting.

Giving a full history for both sides of the family, opening all the closet doors, digging up all the ugly skeletons and laying it out there for someone else to see is exhausting to say the least.

Let's just say we have the kind of history that tends to make even the most seasoned therapists flinch.

I'm going to assume that's not a good thing.

Combine all that with medical histories on both sides of anxiety, depression, addictions, anorexia and's no wonder that my kids have issues.

I have issues.

Their father has issues.

Most of the people in our family have issues.

I just naively wished that they would somehow escape it all.  That they'd be able to go through life without all this excess baggage.  Without extra challenges in addition to whatever else life throws at them.  I wished that they would somehow defy the odds, and not take after us.

I was wrong.

The apple didn't fall very far from the tree at all.

Goddamn apple trees.

That all would have been draining enough, but I seem determined to get the ball rolling in every way I can to figure all this out.  Met with the pediatrician too.  The doctor who's known my kids since they were babies.  Who knows our history.  Who knows their quirks.  Who knows that what's going on isn't normal.  Who knows we need help.  Who called me on a weekend to talk about it all before I marched in there with my brave mama face on today, holding the hand of my child.

We can do this.

We will do this.

We will do everything we can to help them navigate this world, no matter what cards they are dealt, no matter how much the deck is stacked against them.

I've got my eyes wide open, and as much as it hurts to admit that so much of this comes from me, I'm doing it.  I'm owning it.  I'm staring it down in the mirror, and I'm seeing it in the eyes of my babies.

I'll be all the things the tree is supposed to be, even with it's flaws and knots, with it's twisted branches and spots of weakness.

I'll be strong and sturdy.  I'll weather the storms.  I'll shield them from harm, I'll raise them the best I can, I'll help them as much as I'm able.

They'll be the apples they are.  Beautiful, different, sweet and sour.  Delicate, yet full of life.  Some just a little more bruised than the others.

As much as it hurts, I'll let them fall.

I'll just be there to pick them up when they do.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Irony of Yelling Uncle

It's not been a good week here, and the last few days have been bad.  Really bad.

Friday was actually a pretty fantastic day, the only part of the week that I didn't hate with everything I have.

My friends made me meet them for lunch. They give me a hard time pretty frequently about the fact that I rarely make public appearances.  I'm perfectly content to hole up in my house, and over the past few years and all the stuff that has gone down, I've found that it's usually better for me to avoid other humans.

I'm terrible at feigning interest in small talk, I can't rally behind people who complain about things constantly but never do anything to fix them, and I have bigger things going on than worrying about whether my kid lost their lunchbox or if soccer practice will be canceled on any given Tuesday.

It seems like there's always something bigger going on around here.

And I'm tired.

It's been like this for three and a half years now.

There are times, when I'm wallowing in my hole, wondering what the hell happened.  When just about every facet of my life is messed up beyond anything I could have ever imagined, I can't help but start wondering if it's some cosmic game, if it's some divine test, if life's just a raging bitch, or if it's me.

I tend to carry a lot of blame for things that weren't my fault.  I know that rationally, it makes no sense.  That these things would have happened regardless of what I could have ever done differently.  That other people made choices.  That sometimes shit just happens.  That genetics suck, that autoimmune diseases are assholes, that the apples don't fall far from the tree.

I wanted to run outside last night into the cold air and scream uncle.

I didn't.

Mostly because doing that would have just pissed me off more.

I am really angry right now.  Beyond angry, actually.  So angry that I know that I can't call him right now because I know that I can't control my anger.

And I'm worried.  And I'm hurting.  And I'm sad.

And I'm powerless to do anything to help.

I can't change anything.

I can't make it better.

I can't fix this.

It would have been nice if he told me when he should have. If he thought for even one second that I deserved to know.  If he could have put aside whatever he thinks about me, whatever he believes, and just been human long enough to pick up the phone.

It would have been nice.

But that's not how things work around here.

I could really go for a few months of boring monotony.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Fiction Challenge, a new story begins

Felicia paced the hall of the emergency room.  She walked back and forth, back and forth seeming determined to wear ruts in the floor.

Her steps were hurried but deliberate.  She had to look worried enough.

So many thoughts running through her head at once.  She had to keep this story straight.  She had to keep it consistent.  She had to be distraught and real.  

She was afraid that something might actually happen to Bailey.  

She never meant for anything like this to go wrong.  

She'd been so careful.

It wasn't supposed to be like this.  

Every time she walked past the door to the exam room that contained the bed where her daughter laid still, that was full of people in scrubs, where the beeps and hums of the machines created the background noise, she rehearsed it again in her head.  

About how she didn't know what happened.  

About how she'd brought her in at the first sight something was wrong.  

About how she loves her little girl with everything in her heart and mind.

Chris would be here soon, and she had to figure out what she was going to tell him.  

God, what was she going to tell him?

What had she done?

The nurses had kicked her out of the exam room once they connected Bailey to all the monitors and realized her vital signs were so off.  They asked what had happened, and all she said was that Bailey had suddenly become violently ill.  That the vomiting wouldn't stop.  That there was blood  in the vomit.  That she hadn't eaten anything different than what she usually ate.  

That part was true, though.  She hadn't eaten anything different than what she usually did.  She always ate the same thing, like Mommy's good little girl was supposed to.  She'd been eating it for over a year now.

In that year, Bailey had stopped growing like she was supposed to.  She'd gone from a chubby toddler to a thin two and a half year old.  She wasn't anywhere near potty trained, though Felicia pushed and pushed her to be.  

The girl couldn't control her bowels.  The diarrhea was almost constant.  

It didn't stop Mommy from pushing her.  

Didn't stop Mommy from feeding her the same thing every day.

The nurse opened the exam room door just long enough for Felicia to overhear that they couldn't get an IV started.  They were calling to put in a central line.  

She was so dehydrated her veins were collapsing and her heart rate was nearing 200bpm.

The little girl could barely turn her head and vomited again just as the door closed.

Felicia wrapped her arms around her body and squeezed tight.  

What if she'd gone too far this time?

Chris appeared from around the corner and ran to her side.  He started asking question after question after question, and she couldn't answer him.  

She had no idea how Bailey was, they wouldn't let her in.  She didn't know what was wrong.  She didn't know what was happening.  

She knew why it was happening, but she wasn't about to admit that to anyone, least of all Chris.  

He was her rock.  Her life.  

And so much had changed.  

Everything, really, since she came along.  Bailey.  

It had changed too much.

The exam door opened and people started flooding out.  Then came the gurney with the tiny girl on it.  The nurse shouted something about going to the OR.  She needed a central line, but they needed to do it in the OR.  

Chris stood motionless, unable to do anything to help his little girl.  Someone asked if he was the father.  He nodded.  They shoved a clipboard in his hands to sign for consent and disappeared.   

She was gone now.  His baby girl.  In the OR.  Maybe dying.  

Felicia wrapped her arms around her husband and sobbed.  She buried her face in his chest, took a deep breath.  She inhaled his scent and the edges of her mouth slowly turned upward in a smile.

This post is part of a fiction challenge that I am participating in.   

This is the prompt for this week:

"chance |CHans|
1 a possibility of something happening: a chance of victory | there is little chance of his finding a job.
• (chances) the probability of something happening: he played down his chances of becomingchairman.
• [ in sing. ] an opportunity to do or achieve something: I gave her a chance to answer.
• a ticket in a raffle or lottery.
• Baseball an opportunity to make a defensive play, which if missed counts as an error: 541 straight chances without an error.
2 the occurrence and development of events in the absence of any obvious design: he met his brother by chance | what a lucky chance that you are here.
adjective [ attrib. ]
fortuitous; accidental: a chance meeting.
1 [ no obj. ] do something by accident or without design: if they chanced to meet.
• (chance upon/on) find or see by accident: he chanced upon an interesting advertisement.
2 [ with obj. ] informal do (something) despite its being dangerous or of uncertain outcome: she waited a few seconds and chanced another look."

You decide how to use it, how to demonstrate it and how to reconcile it in your writing this week. 800-1500 words. Go. 

Please check out the pieces from the other participants here:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ending Rape Culture

In the light of the Steubenville rape case, the post I wrote yesterday and what Slice of Humble wrote today, I've seen almost unanimous agreement from both men and women that this has to stop.  That we have to slam our collective foot on the brakes until we grind it into the floorboards.  That something has to give.

But how?

How do we change a society that lacks empathy?

How do we put a stop to the sick things that the instant self gratification of the internet allows?

How do we teach children to respect others?

How do we ensure that victims can come forward safely?

It's a daunting task, for sure.  I know there are fellow writers attacking other angles of this, from the stigma of the victim label, to the life long effects on people, to the fact that rape doesn't just happen to drunk girls, to the fact that rape doesn't just happen to girls at all.

There are a few specific steps I have in mind, though, ways that we can reverse our society's distorted view of all this, ways that we can indeed take a stand.

Almost nothing changes overnight.  Almost nothing changes simply.  And almost all change starts with one person.


Here's how we start.

We need to fire politicians who don't get it.
Those who claim there are legitimate rapes and illegitimate ones. Those who claim that women cannot become impregnated from rape. Those who seem to think we have magic voodoo vaginas to protect us. Those who buy into the notion that it's perfectly acceptable to lay fault at the feet of the victims. Those who look for loopholes and exceptions.  Fire them.

We need to demand that the media do the right thing.
Victims cannot live in fear of being outed by the media.  Victims cannot be further victimized by reporters.  The media cannot package and sell to the American public the idea that some criminals are less liable because they once had promising futures.

We need to demand equal punishment of rapists.
The person who rapes someone in an alleyway is no different than the husband who rapes his wife in their marital bed.  The charming football coach raping children in the shower is no different than the knife wielding stranger.  Rape is rape is rape is rape.  It is all wrong.  It is all crime.  No one that perpetrates this crime should be viewed as less culpable because of anything else in their lives.  At that moment, they willfully violated another human being.  Period.

We need to extend the statute of limitations on rape and sexual assault.
Every state is different, and while some don't have a limit on the time to allege forcible rape, most states range between 2-7 years for offenses of lesser degrees.  One thing I am hearing over and over and over again from people sharing their stories is that it often takes years for the victim to come to terms with what happened to them, years before they tell anyone at all, let alone consider pressing charges.  These offenders walk free indefinitely.

We need to take the statistics seriously.

This graphic resides on the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network's website.

We need to act.
We need more women like the blogger who saved screenshots of the Twitter feed before postings were pulled and less of the kids who stood by idly while it all took place.  We need more people who are willing to tell on their friends when they brag about violating someone else.  We need adults to be brave enough to do the right thing, so that those adults can teach their children to be brave enough to do the right thing.  We can't stand back and shrug our shoulders and claim there is nothing we can do.  We can't.

We need to teach children empathy.
We absolutely need to do this, and too many adults need a refresher lesson themselves.  Our society sees nothing wrong with mocking other people on websites and reality shows. We love to see a hero fall from grace.  Children are born to be selfish.  Toddlers truly believe the world revolves around them.  A decade later, when that child has been catered to, coddled, enabled, they become teens with perhaps the strongest weapon we could give them - cameras and unfettered internet access.  Tell your kids no.  Hold them accountable.  Stop making excuses for their misbehavior.  Discipline them.  Teach them to volunteer for the less fortunate so that they will understand what it's like to have not. Teach them to care about other people, about strangers, about people they've never met.  Spy on them when they are on their phones and computers - make sure they do all those things, and be willing to take it all away if they aren't.  Is it hard?  Hell yes it is, but no one said parenting was easy.  Just do it.

We need to stop forgiving faults in exchange for talent.
Michael Vick can throw a ball, so we will forgive his dog fighting.  Ray Lewis tackled a lot of people, so we'll ignore that whole murder charge thing.  Chris Brown beat his girlfriend, but can sing a catchy tune.  Those kids in Ohio played football, so we'll try to cover up the rape.  No.  No, no, no.  I don't care how great someone is at something, if they have talents and abilities that most of us don't.  I don't care if they are popular and well-liked.  I don't care if they hold promise or have already accomplished great things.  A rapist is a rapist is a rapist.  No free passes, no lesser charges, no sympathy card.  We need to hold them all accountable.

Teach sex education, all of it.
Stop believing that if we teach children to be abstinent that they will be.  Stop falling for the idea that if we buy them a chastity ring and make them promise to wait that they will.  Some of them might, but most of them won' matter what you do.  We have to equip these children not just with the physical realities of their bodies and everyone else's, but with the realities of sexual abuse and assault.  They need to be taught that their bodies are their temples, their sacred places, that they belong to them only and that only they should decide what happens with them.  Then they need to be ingrained with the idea that the same holds true for  No one has the right to tell anyone else what to do, to force them to do it, to take the chance to do it of their own volition because someone is drunk and passed out.  We need to teach children about the ugly truths in life before they find out the hard way or hurt someone else.

Teach kids to drink responsibly.
This one will catch me some heat, I know it.  Maybe even more than the sex education idea.  Truth time again, mom and dad....ready?  Your kids are going to drink.  It doesn't matter if you tell them not to.  It doesn't matter if it's illegal.  It doesn't matter if they are underage.  They are going to do it.  The more I think about it, the more I realize we do it all wrong in this country.  In many European countries, the legal drinking age is 16, but you can't get a license to drive until you are much older.  Imagine that?  Imagine giving kids a few years to figure out how alcohol affects them before we put them behind the wheel and send them out into the world.  I'm not advocating that parents get their kids drunk, but I am very much advocating truthfulness between parents and kids about drinking.  About how much is too much.  About when to stop.  About how to identify when you need help.  About avoiding blackouts.  About keeping your senses about you.  About calling when you need a ride, or anything feels wrong.  About not being afraid to make that call because the child doesn't want to get in trouble.

I'm sure that there are more ideas out there, more ways to change this societal distortion.

Demand better.

Raise the Bar.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What we should teach our daughters (and sons) about rape

1 in 4 women will be the victim of sexual assault in her life time.  Take a look around you right now.  If it's not you, it's someone you know and love.

Though I'm not technically sure whether I fit the criteria since I was able to fight off my attacker and escape, I am a victim.

I was 15.

My attacker was a 15 year old boy.  A friend.  A good friend.

Until something in him flipped and he decided to try and overpower me, force me to do things against my will, locked me in a bathroom and scared the shit out of me.

I am thankful for years of martial arts training for saving my ass that day.

Did I press charges?  No.

Did I tell my parents right away?  No.

Did I tell our circle of friends?  No.

Did I tell ANYONE?  No.  

I didn't because I was afraid, even back then, that the events would be distorted.  That I would be somehow blamed, responsible.  That my shorts were too short.  That I'd looked at him the wrong way.  That I'd said something he misinterpreted.  That I asked for it.  That I was a whore.  That I was easy.

That he wasn't to blame.

That he was just a boy being a boy.

That it was crazy teenage hormones.


Stop right here for a moment and think about that.

What if I was your sister?  What if I was your friend?  What if I was your daughter?

Rape is not about sex.  Rape is about power.  It is about control.  It is not perpetrated by horny young men without an ability to control themselves.  It is perpetrated by criminals with intent to hurt someone else for the sake of making themselves feel bigger, stronger, greater, better.

I think all the time about what might have happened if I hadn't been able to fight back enough, if he'd gotten his way.

Then I think about what might have happened if it all went down now, in this generation.  If he had a cell phone and a Twitter account.  If he took pictures of what he did and showed them to anyone who wanted to see.  If those people who saw the pictures did nothing.  If there were other people there when he took them, and none of them did anything to stop him.

Then I think about what might have happened if I was drunk when it went down.  I drank a lot back then, way more than an irresponsible teenager should have.  I blacked out sometimes.  It could have happened.  If it had happened at a party and there was more than one guy.  If they passed me around like a toy.  If they thought I was dead and laughed about it.

This is what happened to the girl in Ohio.

The guy who attacked me wasn't an athlete.  He wasn't a great student.  He didn't have a wonderful future waiting for him.  These kids in Steubenville, did, so the media says.  They were good students, great football players.

Why should that matter?

Who gives a shit?

It does not change the fact that they are criminals.  Sexually violent criminals.

They didn't make a mistake.  They didn't have hormones raging out of control.  They are criminals.

If we are going to give boys like them a pass or feel sympathy for them because they are hormonal and drunk, then what are we saying about boys in general???  That they simply lack the ability to control themselves?  That they are not capable of empathy?  That they are just automated semen machines waiting for something to hump after a few beers? That if they have talents in some other area, we'll let violent sex crimes go?


Men are more than their irresistible primal urges, and women are more than holes waiting to be penetrated.

Does that make you uncomfortable???

GOOD.  It should.

Raise the goddamn bar, society.

Hold these kids accountable for what they've done.  Stop feeling sorry for the ones here who had a choice in what happened, regardless of what their GPAs were.  Stand up in support of this girl, for speaking out about what happened to her, doing something I did not do out of fear, even though she knew that there would be horrible consequences.

These boys are criminals; criminals that should have been tried as adults in my opinion, if not for the actions that took place that night, for what they did after they sobered up.  They did unspeakable things to this girl, treated her like a piece of meat.  She's since had to deal with even more abuse at the hands of the rest of the school, and now by the media.

It doesn't matter that she was drunk.

It doesn't matter.

It doesn't matter.

It doesn't matter.

Rape is rape.

We need to stop allowing this twisted society we live in to portray these boys as victims, we need to give the victims incentives to come forward - like protecting their identity on the nationwide news, we need to stop allowing our politicians to qualify rape with words like legitimate, we need to stop believing that if we teach our girls to dress conservatively and not to drink that they'll be safe.

We need to start teaching our children, ALL OF OUR CHILDREN, male and female, to respect other people.

We need to teach them empathy and compassion.

We need to teach them that rapists are criminals and that victims aren't to blame.

We need to teach them that there are consequences for hurting other people, and that society isn't going to give a damn how well they can catch a ball once they are sitting in a defendant's chair.

Raise the bar.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Gay Marriage, Civil Unions, Colorado & a Picture

The state which I now call home has a long and controversial history in the area of gay rights.  All the way back in the early 90's, Amendment 2 was passed, which basically prohibited the LGBT community from asserting that their orientation could be grounds for discrimination.

Even all those years ago, most people knew that such a law was preposterous, as there are very real and legitimate claims to discrimination against people within those communities.  The challenge of that law went all the way to the Supreme Court, where it was found unconstitutional as a violation of the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause in Romer v. Evans.

I remember when the amendment was passed, and I remember thinking that the people of Colorado weren't just in denial, but that they were cruel and uncaring in the level of disdain shown to this population.  After all, back then, I lived in of the most liberal places in the country, right?


I underestimated the power of conservative churches to influence the outcome of elections where measures pertaining to gay marriage were on the ballot.  I was sickened to see pictures of children holding signs on street corners proclaiming gay marriage to be a sin back when Proposition 8 was on the ballot in California in 2008.

Here, when Amendment 43 was on the ballot in 2006, the same war was waged, largely at the hands of conservative churches.

Both California, the otherwise ultra liberal state, and Colorado, the place I call home now, have the state Constitution amended to define marriage as only between one man and one woman.

The legal case challenging Proposition 8, Hollingsworth v. Perry, was granted certiorari and will be decided by the United States Supreme Court this year.  This case will inevitably affect all states, like Colorado, that have enacted similar laws.  Arguments are scheduled to take place next week.

There is also a case pending at the Supreme Court challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act under the 5th Amendment's equal protection clause, as the law refuses to recognize marriages deemed legal by states that have allowed gay marriage.

In light of all the uncertainty surrounding the legal definition of marriage, and what a state may or may not be allowed to legislate in terms of it, Colorado quietly passed a law last week granting the right to establish civil unions to gay couples.  

Colorado, the state that tried to tell LGBT people that they had no grounds for discrimination, the state that went to the extreme of amending the state constitution to ensure they would never be allowed to marry, just passed a law allowing civil unions.

There is a large and growing percentage of people here in Colorado, and across the nation, who believe that gay marriage is an inevitability.  Of note, 54% of Catholics are in favor of gay marriage, in direct contradiction to church teachings.

There are those who hold strong to the idea that marriage is a sacred union between a man and a woman only, and that everything but that is acceptable.  Those who seem to believe that the word marriage is deserving of a special category granted only to relationships they decide are worthy of it.

Some claim it's purely a semantic argument, at least in the states where civil unions are allowed, because all the same legal rights and responsibilities exist within the civil unions as with marriage.

I go further, though, and I say it's not just a semantic argument.  Civil unions aren't enough.  Marriage is marriage is marriage.  Anything less cannot be the same.

Trying to say that a civil union is just as good as marriage even though we define them completely differently is akin to that infamous phrasing used back in the days when people fought against school integration.

Separate but equal.

Separate but equal is a fallacy.  The court knew it then, the court will see it now.  I have confidence in that truth.

Here, in Colorado, the state legislature did the most they could.  They passed civil unions.  Under the existing state constitution, they couldn't legalize marriage.  After the Supreme Court issues opinions, I suspect that will change.

The Speaker of the House here in Colorado, Mark Ferrandino, is gay. The first openly gay Speaker here in the state.  He said that this bill is about family, love and equality.

Which is exactly what this is about.  Gay rights aren't just gay rights.  They are human rights.  Basic human rights.  Singling out people based on their race or ethnicity was wrong, but was something done legally for years in this country.  Limiting rights of women was legal too.  The time has come to recognize that restricting rights based on sexual orientation falls into the same category.

They are all antiquated, outdated notions of discrimination.

The Constitution protects everyone, equally.

When the story ran in the Denver Post last week about the passage of the law, a picture accompanied it.  This picture.

Colorado Speaker Mark Ferrandino and his partner Greg Wertsch,
courtesy of the Denver Post
I see a successful leader and the love of his life, celebrating a moment of happiness.  Joy.

Other people are disgusted.  Sickened by the fact that a baby bottle sits on the desk.  Repulsed by the image, asserting that public displays of affection are wrong.  The opinion section of the paper yesterday was full of outrage.

For this.

Until we can look at a picture like this and see it no differently than a picture of a man and a woman sharing a very simple gesture of affection, we've got work to do.

Change doesn't come quickly or easily, and there will always be opposition to it, but change is gonna come.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A boy, his kryptonite and the conveyor belt

If you're new to the hive, you should know that I am a geek.  A dork.  Goofy as hell.  I make a lot of references to geeky things, and this may have happened last Halloween.

Batman, the little one in the front, is the daredevil of the family.  Tiny Evel Knievel, he is.

The kid is literally afraid of nothing.  He is pretty sure that he's at least twice his actual size.  I've found him on top of the refrigerator fairly recently.  He routinely climbs the outside of the banister. He'll jump off of just about anything.  He was riding a two wheeler bike before two and got in trouble for doing flips off the side of the pool last year during swimming lessons.

If you ask him, he'd probably tell you that he is actually Batman.

His goal in life, right now, is to win American Ninja Warrior.  He has an obstacle course he runs in the house, scaling the railing of the stairs to finish.

He holds the tarantula at the museum here locally, he roars at the lions at the zoo.  He was mad that he was too small to go on the good rides at Disneyland.


Except for one thing.

He has something that we refer here to as his kryptonite, and it's something I would have never expected a kid like him to be afraid of.

Car washes.

He absolutely is terrified of the car wash.  He hyperventilates when we get near one, crying hysterically.  He has a designated face of terror reserved only for the moments when someone mentions how dirty the car is getting.  He cringes every time I get gas at a station that has a car wash.

I have no idea why or when this started, but it was getting really severe.  I think it's a claustrophobia thing.  My grandmother was claustrophobic, and I remember it well.  She was afraid of the car wash too.  She used to close her eyes, turn up the radio loud and sing the whole way through.

He comes by it honestly.

Since he's with me all the time these days because of the diabetes thing right now, I don't have time to get the car washed when he's at school.  So, for months and months and months, I didn't get the car washed.

It got dirtier and dirtier.

We've gone through the entire winter season without a car wash, because this kid's mom didn't want to torture him.  Three months or more of dirt, road grime, mag chloride, splashback, half assed attempts at cleaning windows....that bad. It was all well and good until the oldest wrote SUCK IT on the back window.

Superman messed with Batman.


I knew then that it was time, we had no choice, the car needed washed.  I'm not driving around with SUCK IT on the back window.

There is a new car wash on the other side of town with clear glass sides, I thought maybe we'd give it a go.  I was getting desperate.

We pulled up to the entrance and little boy started breathing faster.  He was fidgeting in his seat.  Once we were on the conveyor belt and he realized he could see, he started laughing.

Maniacally, of course.

When we pulled out, he was pumping his fists in the air and carrying on about how awesome the car wash was.  Ran home to tell Daddy right away that he went to the car wash.

Conquering fears, we are.

I forgot what my van looked like clean.  I have to get used to what it is supposed to look like again.

Take that, General Zod.

Friday, March 15, 2013

In Defense of Ugly Crying

Ugly crying.

The kind where you let it all out. Where there is hyperventilating and you eventually get dehydrated because you've lost that much water. When you end up with a raging headache that lasts two days. If you're me, when you do it up right, you throw yourself into a full blown asthma attack.  Then, there is the matter of this.

Snot bubbles.  OH YES.  A sign of a good cry, always.

Shutup.  You know this has happened to you.

Well, you probably do.

You know what I'm talking about unless you're like I used to be back in the day.  Back when I didn't really have anything earth shattering to be upset about.  Back when shit happened, but I totally just dealt with it.  Back when I was stoic and tough and all that.

Back when I was just better at stuffing things down.

Then life started to get complicated and I fully embraced the ugly cry.  The first one was the day I found out the baby's heart stopped beating sitting in a dark ultrasound room.  I cried so loud and for so long that they shut the door so I wouldn't disturb other patients.  The visceral crying, where you literally lose the ability to control it at all.

I did it a lot back then, then I was good for a long, long time.  I avoided ugly crying for years.

I thought I had toughened up, that I was stronger.   That's what I thought...

...until the day my dad was diagnosed, the day that I knew exactly what the words they used meant, the day I knew he was terminal and there wasn't a damn thing they could do to save him.  That was a doozy.  The kind of cry where you are glad a wall catches you on the way down, then you end up in a pile on the floor.

I never did that in front of him or the kids, because I refused to let my grief screw with anyone else.  I had my ugly cries, sure, but they were hidden.  Got most of it out of my system in the shower, which incidentally is THE BEST place to cry.

I can see some of you nodding your heads right now, because you know exactly what I'm talking about.

After he was gone, it happened a few times, though it wasn't usually about him.  It was more about the things that happened in the aftermath, the unraveling that started.  There was an afternoon, etched into my memory as clear as day, when I was impatiently waiting for the fire department to show up, shaking my fists at the sky, sobbing so loud that half the neighborhood would have known something was wrong.  Fortunately, the sounds around me drowned out my sorrow and I pulled my shit together before the truck filled with hot firefighters arrived.

Back then, I could still do that.

Now....not so much.

Things have happened since then that have tested me in ways I never thought I'd have to endure.  I cry all the time now.  Sometimes it's the silent tears in the car.  Sometimes it's the dry heaving sobs in the shower. Sometimes it's the full blown asthma inducing, soul piercing stuff.  I do still try to hide it from others as much as I can, but I can't always.

I'm not as good at that as I used to be.

I'm not as good at a lot of things as I used to be.

What I am better at, though, is identifying my emotions and letting them out before I explode.  I'm better at giving myself space when I need it.  I'm better at self-preservation.  I'm better at not beating myself up over things I had no control over.  I'm better at real.

I wear my heart on my sleeve these days. I tell people I love them ALL THE TIME.  I've even started hugging people.  For those who know me, this comes as a shock, I know.

I have my moment, however long it lasts, then I put on my eyeliner and will myself to put the big girl panties on no matter how bad it sucks.

This is me, take it or leave it.  Snot bubbles and all.

If you can't handle me at my worst, you sure as 
hell don't deserve me at my best. ~Marilyn Monroe

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Random Thoughts About Popes, The Church and Tolerance

For a few reasons, yesterday was a hard day for me. Believe it or not, some of it actually has to do with the pope.  You see, almost eight years ago when Benedict was named, I was in a hospital giving birth to my youngest daughter.  A lot of things in my life started to go wrong after that day, but that day was about perfect.  Just like she was.

Yesterday, a new pope was named, and the set of circumstances in my life couldn't be more different if I had tried to imagine how much things would change.

I consider myself to be a recovering Catholic, which really just means that I will probably forever associate myself with the Church I was raised in even though I take issue with a large and growing number of their social policies.  I attended Catholic school.  I taught religious education for four years.  I was confirmed and married in the Church.  All my children are baptized.  It's with a heavy heart that I lost my connection to this institution I was raised in.

This new pope represents hope for so many people around the world, though I fear that might be somewhat misleading.  Yes, he is a Jesuit and a humble man, a far cry from Benedict and his affection for very exquisite things.  Refusing even the papal car, he has already demonstrated his commitment to staying humble. I believe that he may indeed help the Church find it's way back to the service of the poor, the caring for the downtrodden, to humility and more. Or at least I hope so.

As he is an outsider and not a member of the Roman Curia, there are some who fear he will struggle to find truth and honor in the wake of the Vati-leaks scandal, others who hope the very fact that he is an outsider will make progress.  There are those who fear that the inner circle of Vatican leadership will not be amenable to any attempts he may make to reform the Church in terms of dealing with the abuse cases and the controversies.

Then there is the matter of Francis' views on all the things the Church has grown notorious for, primarily his opinions about homosexuals, which he has been quite vocal about.  I find it so terribly ironic that the Church can condemn the very sexual activities that occur within even the highest levels of leadership as an abomination.  Homosexuality, in his eyes, is wrong.  A sin.  He was outspoken about his disapproval of Argentina's marriage equality measures, which gained him a lot of criticism even in his home country.

The rumors that Benedict resigned because of the threat of exposing homosexual activities within leadership continue to swirl.  As much as the Church may want to believe and insist that homosexuality isn't a part of normal human sexuality, and exists even within those wearing the robes of faith, they are kidding themselves. They are refusing to look in the mirror in any genuine way, passing judgment on their followers, decreeing from the mountaintops to do as I say, not as I do.

Francis is of the most conservative branch of the Church, and there is no reason to believe even for one second that any substantive changes will come in the areas of marriage equality, or contraception, or abortion rights, or the role women play.

This new wave of leadership may very well just end up as more of the same. There are many faithful who are welcoming of that inflexibility, of the refusal to bend at the will of an evolving society, who respect the Church more for holding steadfast to their beliefs.  All of which is well and good, I suppose, but all of which will also continue to alienate people like me.

I hold out irrational optimism for the Church to practice love, tolerance, forgiveness and peace, not just in words, but in reality.  To fight for human rights, regardless of who someone loves. To own their multi-level responsibility in violating the bodies of too many children at the hands of predators, to stop hiding it, to admit it openly, to make real changes to protect the victims, to remove the criminals that have harmed others. To recognize that involving women in leadership is essential to change and relevance in the world today.  To recognize that celibacy is impractical and may very well be the root cause for so much dysfunction within the Church.  To understand that honesty and openness is the way back into the hearts of millions of recovering Catholics.

Until then, I'll be at my Ecumenical Catholic Church. Where everyone is welcome, where women are in leadership, where priests have families, where love is evident, where tolerance abounds.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Easter Festivus

What I'm thinking about this morning is way too profound and deep, too thought provoking and life altering.  About how much life can change in an instant, and how rarely we are ever in control of those moments.  Big stuff.

Be grateful that someone gave me a topic to write about already, and I'm not writing about any of that nonsense.

My friend Ginger over at Spicey Mom wants me to take on Easter, which could very well be her least favorite holiday...which makes sense if you know that she's an atheist.

Her beef with the holiday is that, like everything else it seems these days, it gets bigger and bigger, more and more commercialized, filled with more expectations and demands every year.

Gone are the days when the "bunny" drops off a modest basket with a few bucks worth of candy and calls it good. Now, baskets are huge and toy filled, kids make requests for what they want, and start asking to go see the bunny to make good with the big guy.

Aren't baskets supposed to only have actual
eggs in them anyway, if we're being technical?
If the bunny has failed to meet expectations, you're sure to hear about it within a few days after the kids go back to school, because there is some kid who inevitably got a bike or a scooter or an actual rabbit for Easter.

Your kid is pissed, wonders why they didn't get anything cool like their friends did from the bunny, ponders the unfairness of the magic world of the seasonal gift-givers.  As a parent, you just feel like you're a failure.  Like no matter what you do, it's not going to be good enough.  Some other parent is always going to get their kid something more awesome.

Here's my take on it.


Stop caring.


I've never worried too much about what other people get their kids, whether it's Christmas, birthdays or random Tuesdays.  My children's basic needs are met, they are well fed, there is a roof over their head, and they've acquired enough crap already to basically be hoarders.  If they don't get a basket full of stuff they're only going to play with for five minutes, it's no one's loss and it saves me money.

Besides, I've never done the traditional baskets.  I'm cheap and practical, and my kids know that.

I get them a seasonal toy like sidewalk chalk or a butterfly net or a kite, but most of what is in the basket is even more practical.  Like a new swimsuit and a pair of sandals, which they get every year.

Don't worry, I buy them a package of Peeps and a chocolate bunny too.  They aren't completely deprived, but they'll get even less candy this year than usual because of the little boy and his sugar issues.

Sometimes we go see the bunny, some years we don't.  I happen to think a six foot tall rabbit is terrifying, and don't blame the kids when they hesitate.

Occasionally, the kids will mention something about someone getting something better than they did, and I just tell them that life's not fair.  Because it's not.

I'm not going to try and compete with other parents.  Even if I wanted to, I don't have the financial means to do it.


Because life's not fair.

^^^see what I just did right there?

I tend to think that we aren't doing anyone any favors by perpetuating the idea of keeping up with the Joneses, even when the Joneses are wearing bunny ears and poofy tails.

St. Patrick's Day is a bigger deal around here anyway.

What about you?  Is Easter a big deal for you?  Do you celebrate only the religious aspects, or does the bunny come to visit?

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