Saturday, June 29, 2013

My Internet Ghost

Do I believe in ghosts? Maybe.

I definitely think that when some people go, there are things left unresolved, an energy that lingers long after they are gone.

If you don't believe in ghosts and are completely sure they are imaginary, then I dare you to get locked in the boiler room of the Queen Mary alone at night. That actually happened to a friend and I, when we were there for a haunted house on Halloween one year. Somehow we got separated from the rest of the group and ended up somewhere we weren't supposed to be.

I don't recommend doing that on accident, by the way.

I've had a few very vivid dreams of my Dad since his death, the kind where you wake up and are totally convinced that whatever just happened was real. In one of them, he was warning me that something was going to happen, and that thing he warned me about actually happened the next day. There was an urgency in his message, such a forced communication that I woke up drenched in sweat and crying.

If it wasn't something that I had accurately been warned of the night before, I could just dismiss it as a dream and nothing more.

Then there are all the times that something happens. The song, the silver Camaro, the heart in the sky. Sometimes they all happen at once, and I become overwhelmed because those are the times when I need them the most.

I never used to believe in signs until I started to see them around me.

Does that mean he's a ghost? I don't think so, per se, but I think there's pieces of him still here sometimes.

Through the strange magic of the Internet, he's still here too. Literally.

He's over there ====>

He was the 20th follower on the blog. He had to create a gmail account just to follow me, and for anyone who understands my father's limited understanding of technology, it was a big deal. Except he didn't tell me he was doing it. He didn't ask me what he needed to do to follow me, or how to set up a gmail account, he just did it and appeared in my sidebar one morning.

He read everything I wrote from that moment forward.

He was the one who made me believe I was a writer.

If a day passed when I hadn't written, he'd call to make sure everything was okay. He didn't just read the posts, he read them. He figured out what I meant when I was being elusive and cryptic. He saw through the humor and wondered if I was alright. He could feel my worries and concerns, from a thousand miles away through a computer screen.

He's still there.

He's still there because when you die, you live on forever on the Internet. His email accounts, his Facebook page, all of it, his personal property.  I alerted Facebook of his death over two years ago They were supposed to somehow change the account after confirming he was gone so that he doesn't show up in searches anymore and people can't friend request him, but I don't actually know if that was done....because Facebook can't tell me anything about his account.

Every once in a while, I still click on him.

His profile picture was one of him and my mom with my four kids, on the steps of my house the day that my son was baptized. It was the last picture I would ever have of him here.

yes, the oldest is giving
his sister bunny ears.
It was the last time he would visit. The last time I would sit with him in my kitchen and drink coffee. A year after that date, we were on our way to see him in California, just weeks after he was diagnosed.

I wonder sometimes if it's better not to know when a time like that will be the last.

I just know that I miss him, even if, in a strange virtual way, a piece of him is still here, cheering me on from the sidebar.

3rd Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 30 ~ Love

I planned this day in the challenge, not realizing that half of my family would be gone all this week, so I'm going to have to share an old picture.

Any picture of my Dad will forever have to be an old one, as he no longer occupies this world with us anymore.

This is a picture of him and my oldest, his first grandchild.

The baby none of us ever thought we would be able to have.

The baby that helped heal us all after the loss of the first one.

The baby who came after a year filled with the losses of my father's brother and mother.

Dad was a little nervous around him when he was first born because he was a preemie, but once he got a little more sturdy, he'd hold my son like this until he fell asleep.

If only we could grab pieces of time back, just for a moment...

Friday, June 28, 2013

3rd Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 29 ~ Something New

I'm taking this prompt in a direction even I didn't intend it today. This is supposed to be a fairly literal prompt, but I'm not being literal.

This is my husband and I, celebrating our anniversary a few weeks ago. Though nothing about our relationship is new, everything is.

And that's pretty freaking amazing.

To second chances, and new beginnings.

I love this guy.

When Did This Happen???

Of all the things I have realized about parenting in the last few months, one of the most significant is this:

Having survived a son on the brink of puberty has not at all prepared me for having daughters on the brink of puberty.

There are certainly things that they have in common, yes.

They're weird.

They smell funny.

Most of the time they vacillate between being toddlers and strange, small adults, never staying on one side for long.

They whine. OH THE WHINING.

They desperately want independence but none of the accompanying responsibility.

They test boundaries. All.The.Time.

They eat as much as professional athletes. 

They outgrow their clothing and shoes every two weeks.

Since my son has been firmly in this weird in-between stage for a while now, I'm used to dealing with the boy stuff. He tells me he's out of deodorant the day he runs out. I have to remind him to put pants on. I have learned to shield my eyes whenever I open his door because I never know what's on the other side. He has discovered girls and figured out that little sisters aren't so annoying when they have cute friends. He's goofy and loves to hang out with the kids who understand goofiness. He's forgetful and scatterbrained. 

Then the girls edged closer to this time of transition. And closer. And closer.

I've said for years that I feared they would hit puberty very near one another even though they are two years apart. The day of reckoning is soon upon us.

A few months ago, I was downloading pictures of the older one and saw it. The shadow. The OHMYGOD we need to go shopping for foundation garments shadow.

Then this week we went to the pool and I had that holy crap moment. You know, when you realize that you're the mom of the girl at the pool with the body and she's in the bikini and you have no freaking clue when this happened. 


I bought her Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret about a month ago. 

Then curled up in the fetal position and cried. 

When did this happen?

I even re-read it to make sure it was as I remembered, and it was. In all it's glory. 

Shh. You know you did your exercises while chanting we must increase our busts

Good lord. 

When did this happen???

She wants to shave her legs. She takes showers without me asking forcing her to anymore. She wears deodorant because she doesn't want to stink. 

She doesn't wear clothes. She builds outfits. She has been known to hyperventilate over missing pieces.

She sings. Constantly. She sings to her friends on Skype. She sings in the bathroom. All the time.

She just spent the better part of an hour begging me to let her cut bangs. AN HOUR of flat our freaking out about hair. I had to talk her off the ledge, literally. About bangs.

Her sister is right behind her, and they already either love each other or hate each other. There is nothing in the middle....and they haven't even discovered boys yet. 

Puberty can suck it.

I can't promise we'll all make it through to the other side, but at least a few of us should survive.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

3rd Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 28 ~ Something Old

This is one of my favorite themes in the photo challenges because people inevitably share not just an item, but a piece of their own personal histories.

My grandmother loved shoes, handbags and pretty things. This is one of the ornate baubles that rested on her chest of drawers. Now, it rests on mine.

I miss her.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

100 Word Song ~ I think it's gonna rain today

This is the first time I've ever attempted song lyrics, so forgive me if it's atrocious. I was tagged by Lance over at My Blog Can Beat Up You Blog to do this. It's his fault.

This is based on Bobby Darin's I think it's gonna rain today.

Can you smell it coming in the air?
Earth shifts beneath our feet.
I don't want your church or prayer.
Stop playing that drum beat.

Time's come, change is near. 
The rain will come today. 
Let it wash away this tear. 
Because I was made this way. 

Go on and preach that I've sinned. 
It's no choice, you see. 
The laws you wrote they will rescind. 
Unequal can't be free. 

Put down the shield, embrace love. 
Rain comes around the bend. 
This day the one they'll write of. 
Laws based in hate must end.

3rd Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 27 ~ Low Light

This is one of the days in the challenge where I want you to test yourself. Push your boundaries. Play with the camera settings.

Taking pictures in low light is one of the hardest things to get good at when it comes to photography.

This picture was taken with my cell phone, of all things. To get a shot like this one, turn OFF the flash and keep a very steady hand. If you have a tripod, use it.

Here's a tutorial if you need additional help.

Good luck! This is a test!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

3rd Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 26 ~ Home

This is my happy place at home. The chairs were handmade by my father in law. I planted the hanging baskets over a month ago and haven't managed to kill them yet. The bushes are now full grown and the tree provides just the right amount of shade and seclusion. Ahhh.

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday ~ the sodomy, racism and you can't fix stupid edition

I'll warn you all from the beginning...I'm in a mood. The VRA case just came down, and I'll write about that in a bit here. I need to calm down a little first, so logically I will write about sodomy.

^^^sarcasm. (Not that I think many of you will take what I say on Tuesdays literally...but you never know.)

Sodomy isn't hazing...
I can't believe I just typed that. Even harder to believe is the fact that there are plenty of people out there in the world who think it is.

So, this happened:

A 13 year old from Norwood, Colorado was bound with duct tape and sodomized with a pencil on a school bus by older kids at a wrestling tournament. The attackers, his teammates. One, the son of the coach.

Kid tells his parents, one of which is the principal of the local elementary school, and they go to the police. Word gets out. Then city folk force the principal to resign and the kid gets harassed constantly at school, the other students going so far as to stage a protest. The entire city gangs up on the family of the victim. They just "hazed" him.

The attackers eventually pled guilty, but only to misdemeanor charges.

I wish I could say that this was an isolated incident, but it's not.

This hazing isn't hazing. It's sodomy. It's rape. And there are cases of it all over the country, cases where the adults in charge sit on their hands with no explanation.  Until the perpetrators of these crimes are treated as such, until the adults in charge stop turning a blind eye, until we take this issue seriously, we are setting kids up to be victimized.

Racism isn't racism unless I can see it with my eyeballs
Sigh. I'm a little disappointed in the SCOTUS right now. They just struck down Section 4 of the VRA, saying that the maps drawn when the law was written aren't necessarily accurate anymore, so they can't be used to justify holding election procedures to a higher level of scrutiny in areas where voters had been disenfranchised in the past.

Congress could revisit the issue based on current conditions, but with a House controlled by the GOP, it's not likely to happen. What representative is going to admit that their constituents might be racist???

Not a single one, not in the current political environment, not where House members are constantly campaigning for re-election every two years in the digital age where everything they do and say is spun by the pundits.

Basically, the court said that since times have changed, and the states and counties involved might be different, the old law can no longer work. Racism might still exist, but Congress has to decide it's current racism, not old racism.  Racial issues are contentious, at best, and most of the areas that were in the news during the last election cycle because of this issue are the ones included on the map. Voters, like it or not, are still being disenfranchised, but the court basically said that Congress would have to re-evaluate the areas where there are problems to use this law again....and we all know how well Congress agrees about anything these days, let alone anything having to do with racial issues. (um, look at the immigration debacle for evidence of that...) 

You Can't Fix Stupid
Are you ready for this???

You might want to sit down.

Jodie Laubenberg, a Republican state representative in Texas authored a very restrictive bill on abortion. (and yes, Jodie is a woman)

She would like to do away with the rape exception even, one of the few things that almost everyone can agree about. The reason???

Are you sitting down?

She seems to think that women who are raped can just go the the emergency room and have a rape kit "clean her out".

BEHOLD, the rape kit abortion. 
Prevents pregnancy, and leaves you with a fresh feeling. 

Except that rape kits are for evidence collection, and will do NOTHING to prevent a pregnancy. We've almost become accustomed to asinine statements about rape and pregnancy being made by elected men, but to come from a woman?

Monday, June 24, 2013

3rd Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 25 ~ Create

Forgive me for using an old picture for this day, but I've been cleaning my kitchen for two days straight. This is still one of the things I am the most proud of having made, and the cheapest Halloween costume ever.

A few sheets of posterboard, two rolls of shiny duct tape, and a 50 cent funnel. Voila.

Monday Musings - vegetarians, cat lovers and anxiety, oh my!

I asked for topic suggestions a few days ago, and here are the things you guys want me to write about. Off we go.

1. Why do vegetarians always feel like they have to tell people?
Though I've never been a vegetarian, I'm going to find as many answers to this one as I can. Incidentally, I don't think I will ever be a vegetarian because of bacon. If there was a bacon exception, maybe. Maybe.

For most of the vegetarians I know (and vegans for that matter), I truly believe that they tell people because they want to make sure you don't accidentally make them eat something they choose not to. Having been fed things I wouldn't have chosen to eat in the past underhandedly, I get it. Regardless of the reason that someone chooses to be a vegetarian, they clearly don't have intentions to consume meat. Most of the rest of the people in the world eat meat, so logic would just require a courtesy "head's up" in advance.

I think this is compounded because in most areas of the country, vegetarians are the exception, not the rule. Almost no one asks people what their food preferences/requirements are, so those who eat anything outside the normal expectations in our society have to take the initiative to tell others. There are areas, like the Boulder area here, where most people just accept that vegetarians and vegans are as common as omnivore humans, and the culture of the area is just different. That isn't the case in most places, though.

I actually know a dude who is just a carnivore. I don't think he's eaten a fruit or vegetable voluntarily in his entire life. Seriously.

Many vegetarians choose the lifestyle for health reasons, which is awesome. I'm sure they get SO FUCKING TIRED of people asking them where they get their protein from. First of all, tons of foods have protein in them, not just meat. Second of all, stop asking this question because it's rude. No one asks a meat-eater where they get their fiber from.

p.s. they eat these and a bunch of
other plant based proteins. deal with it.
Some vegetarians are activists as well, and have chosen not to eat animals for that reason. They, like any other activist in any other realm, feel compelled to educate people about animal living conditions, meat processing and anything else oogie about the industry so as to dissuade others from eating meat as well. They do it because they feel some higher motivation to share the lifestyle and reasons for it, to advocate for it - and that's no different than anyone else who speaks out about any other issue. It is annoying if they decide to tell you about the conditions cows are raised in while you're eating that cheeseburger, though.

Some vegetarians are pretentious about it, talking about it only because it implies some kind of food superiority. Which is fine and all, go eat your $24/lb vegan cheese if you must, but I really could care less...and I sure as hell don't have $24 to spend on cheese. I'm talking to you, Gwenyth.

2. Why do people who love cats feel compelled to make other people love cats?
Oh, if only I knew. I love cats as much as the next person, but I don't love cats. I've been a cat owner for most of my life and enjoy the companionship of them, as well as appreciate the diversity in their personalities. What I don't understand are those who simply insist that everyone should love cats.

Not everyone does. I have a friend who is terrified of them.

I know people who have broken up relationships because one loved a cat and one was allergic, and they chose the cat. I know people who dress their cats up. I know people who take their cats on vacation.

Which is GREAT! But I'm not ever going to love a cat like that. And neither are most people.

I'm not in a great place with this topic and really didn't want to write about it. My cat has gone missing. As much as he drove me absolutely insane, I loved the jerkface. We tried and tried to keep him indoors and he refused, attacking us any time we were near doors. He wouldn't be contained. He loved the outdoors. He hunted and climbed trees and chased everything.

And he hasn't been home in a week, as of today.

Save the lectures on proper cat ownership, please. I've had indoor cats and I've had outdoor cats. This one was an outdoor cat if there ever was, and as humans we can't train that out of them. Sad face.

3. How do you deal with social anxiety?
This is one type of anxiety that I haven't had to deal with too much personally, but I have had to deal with it every single day since Freckles was born. She has sensory processing difficulties, had horrible colic and just generally doesn't adjust quickly or easily to any change in social situations. As she has gotten older, it has gotten a little better.

Here's what I've learned, being the mom of the "shy" kid.

First, she isn't actually shy. She's overwhelmed, anxious, and sometimes scared. There's a difference.

Second, it helps if she has some idea what to expect in advance. Who will be somewhere, what will be expected of her, what activities will be happening, what adults will be present.

Third, it takes time. She will eventually adjust to almost any situation, given long enough. Even when she's around people she knows well in familiar settings, it can still take a while. Every single soccer season, we had to contend with anxiety problems before the first practices.

Fourth, be a safe place. Acknowledge the anxiety without feeding into it. Reassure them (or yourself) that things will be okay, that you will be okay. Taking deep breaths will help calm the reactions. Sometimes I literally have to get down to her level and in her face to get her to calm down. She needs to know someone who understands is there.

Fifth, celebrate victories. When my daughter had to get up in front of the entire school and speak, it was a hard time as a parent, let me tell you. I didn't want to call more attention to it than necessary, but didn't want to pretend like it didn't bother her either. Acknowledge without feeding in. She did it, and she was great...and that's when you have to let the reaction come, only after. Situations like that are really hard for her, and every time she conquers it, we congratulate her.

Sixth, don't push it. From the time she was a baby, we learned (at first the hard way), that forcing her to be around people or situations she wasn't comfortable with would backfire miserably and make everything worse. So we stopped. It was hard for some family members, as they took her hesitation towards them personally...but as I explained about a million times, it was never about was about her.

Social anxiety symptoms improve in some people as they get older, but in others it worsens. It's important for others to understand that the anxiety isn't something they can necessarily predict or control, and that sometimes it just happens. Gently pushing boundaries can help some people overcome it, if done for the right reasons.

My advice to all the people out there who don't have to deal with it is this: just be patient with the people who do. And don't take whatever they do or don't do personally, because I can promise it's not about you.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Wonder Woman - Why she's awesome, why there's not a movie and why casting is difficult if not impossible

Some of the clearest memories of my childhood involve a pair of Wonder Woman underroos, running around in the backyard and protecting the world from evil. For a while there, I think I actually believed that some printed cotton and elastic bestowed superpowers on me.

Of course, back then, I was just a little girl with no understanding of the history of the character. I didn't know why there weren't more female superheroes, I just knew she was there and that I wanted to be her. Little boys had their choice of everyone else, but all the little girls wanted to be her, the Amazon princess turned crimefighter in heels.

For a great many years, I loved Wonder Woman quietly. The show ended when I was in preschool, and she mostly disappeared from pop culture. Unless you actively read comics, you didn't see or hear about her much for years and years. Occasionally she'd pop up on a cartoon or two, but that was about all.

In the last few years, though, my love for her has become fuller and more open. I've spent a lot of time learning about the development of this character and why we perceive her the way we do now. I don't just love her, I identify with her. When you understand the back story, it becomes easier and easier to see why she has yet to assume her full potential as a super among supers, why she hasn't been the lead character of a summer blockbuster film.

Wonder Woman was first developed in 1940 by William Moulton Marston, a psychologist by trade, after a suggestion by his wife that there should be a female hero that triumphed over evil using love rather than strength and power. The idea was submitted to DC, which was dominated by male-led hero comics at the time.

His goal was to take all the strengths of women and use them as her greatest attributes, while still making her appealing and beautiful. He wanted her not just to appeal to other women, but to men as well, and make her strong but not overly intimidating.

The comics have been in continuous printed series ever since then, except for a few brief breaks. The show, as anyone in my generation knows, aired during the 70's. A few attempts at television series have been mentioned since then, to no avail, and the blockbuster movie is still on hold.

At Comic Con earlier this month, I sat in on a panel about Wonder Woman, led by two of the current content creators, both men. They detailed how the character has evolved (or devolved as some would say) over the decades. Diana started as a warrior princess turned American superhero during the war in the 40's. When the war ended, our nation struggled with the identity of women who had run everything while the men were gone fighting, but were expected to return to the home upon the end of the war. Like many women in real life, Wonder Woman started to struggle with her identity as well.

The character was drawn in more domestic settings, the storylines started to revolve around finding love and wanting a relationship, less about fighting evil anywhere in the world. Though the character had always been depicted in bondage-like settings, she became more so. Women were supposed to relearn their place, and accordingly, she was reminded of that too.

Once the feminist movement started, Wonder Woman slowly began to change back, caring less about love and marriage, more about saving the world again, but there's an argument to be made that she still hasn't fully resumed her original role as warrior princess. Many fans, male and female alike, seem preoccupied more with what she's wearing than what she's doing.

When is the last time you heard someone discuss the practicality of Superman's costume? Or were taken aback by how much skin a male super is showing? While male superheroes have rarely been sexualized, she has been from the beginning. She has been, because in order to appeal to the male-dominated comic book market as a female superhero, she can't just kick ass, she has to be gorgeous and desirable too.

Wonder Woman isn't just about comics though, she is a cultural icon. There aren't many female heroes out there in general, and she is certainly the most well-known. In the decades since the TV series aired, there has been a movement towards more female hero leads, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xena the Warrior Princess, Sarah Connor from Terminator, Ellen Ripley from Alien and Katniss from the Hunger Games.

When asked questions from the audience about why there isn't a movie yet, the panel didn't really have a clear answer, because the reasons are many. The main one is that Hollywood isn't willing to gamble on a movie about a female lead hero because they aren't sure they can sell her story enough to make it worth their while. She's a peace-seeking powerful princess who fights for justice in the name of love. She isn't about violence or revenge. She protects the women and children of the world...and they aren't sure that will put enough butts in theater seats to justify bothering. Imagine that....the male dominated film industry unsure if a female character, created and drawn by men is compelling enough to appeal to a fan base that they are already assuming is predominately male.

What's missing here?

It should be fairly obvious. The WOMEN.

You know, Wonder WOMAN.

The women are missing. The legions of little girls who ran around in underroos that grew up and taught their daughters to love superheroes - nowhere in this discussion.

What no one seems to understand is that there is an entire generation of women who grew up idolizing Lynda Carter. Who wanted an invisible plane and a truth lasso. Who made bracelets out of aluminum foil and begged their moms to make their hair curly just like Wonder Woman.

The women who've grown up with her, with the Buffys and the Xenas and Sarah Connors and the Ellen Ripleys and the Katniss Everdeens would love to embrace this character entirely.

So, the interest is clearly there, I can promise you that, even if Hollywood isn't convinced. Maybe those execs need to watch the documentary PBS aired earlier this year about Wonder Woman.

Then you run into the second problem. Casting.

Lynda Carter is Wonder Woman in the eyes of pretty much everyone. She was gorgeous, her body was to die for. She was strong without being masculine. Who is going to follow in those footsteps??? Who could???

There are a great many websites devoted to arguing about who should be cast as Wonder Woman already, and no matter who is suggested, the masses will find a reason to disagree. Whoever plays Wonder Woman needs to be tall....really tall. She needs to have a ridiculous body. She needs to be able to act. She needs to be able to do stunt work. She can't bring along with her any baggage from her personal life or prior film history. She needs to be believable. She needs to be a goddess.

The biggest problem with that is that everyone seems to have a different idea of what that all looks like, women included.

Wonder Woman isn't just a character, she's an icon, a cultural ideal, one that we attach our own set of values and expectations to in a way that simply doesn't happen with male heroes. She's an imagined perfection that looks a little different to each one of how do we take all those images and find someone who embodies them all?

This is one of my favorite WW drawings ever, and can be purchased
in the etsy shop of the creators, the Satrun Twins, here.

Talk about setting the bar high.

Ramona Fradon was on the panel as well, a comic book artist from the Golden Age of comics. She brought a unique insight to the discussion, as a rare woman in this male world. In her eyes, the movie hasn't been made yet because it can't be. The world isn't ready for a woman as powerful and strong as Wonder Woman. We live in a world where women in positions of authority are often referred to as bitches for demonstrating the same personality traits and leadership qualities as men. Until we can accept the value and importance of women as equal leaders, Wonder Woman should wait, she thinks.

Women in general, and women in the fantasy world of superheroes, she argued, have much to bring to the table. Our concerns are different. Our motivations are different. We fight for those without voices. We protect the interests of children. We urge peace over war. Wonder Woman embodies all of that, and the world just isn't ready yet.

But it will be.


Very soon.

And we'll all be waiting.

The world needs her.

My costume is always ready.

3rd Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 24 ~Sunrise or Sunset

I took this last night, while on a walk with my husband, kids and dog. I think we'd all be better off if we saw more sunrises and sunsets.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

3rd Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 23 ~ Music

I took this one last night at a concert here in town. These are by far my favorite thing about summer.

Friday, June 21, 2013

It's worth doing, and it's not easy

A lot of people ask me why I'm so open about my experiences.

I wonder the same thing myself sometimes. Why I would voluntarily put so much of this out there.

I guess part of it is just who I am. Truthfully, I write mostly for myself. The fact that there are so many of you out there reading along is a bonus.

Part of it is because I a terrible cheerleader for myself. I write this stuff because then it's out there in the world of the internet. Someone else knows.

It's easier not to be open.

It's easier to keep thinking I can do this alone.

It's easier to make promises quietly to myself that I'll do something, because then when I fail to keep up my end of the bargain, there are no repercussions or consequences. Sure, I've let myself down, but no one else knows unless I tell them.

I talk about having ptsd and going to therapy and having anxiety and all that because I need to. I need to know that it's out there. I wear my heart on my sleeve because I have to.

I have to because I'm exceptionally good at hiding things unless I force myself to reveal them.

I hid the fact that I had postpartum depression from everyone, even myself, for almost a year, until it started to eat me alive from the inside out.

I can suppress things well. Too well.

That exact ability is what has allowed me to endure the things I've been through in the past few years, but now that I've survived them, I need to undo some damage too.

When I need help, I need to say it, out loud, and I need someone else to hear it because I know that if someone else knows, I'll be far more likely to stay on track. I won't quietly and unassumingly derail again.

Let me be clear in what I am saying.

I am not asking for reminders. I am not asking for support. I am not expecting anyone out there reading this right now to take any active role in my recovery here. I don't want anyone to feel like they have to be a part of anything. I don't.

The mere fact that you are reading this right now is helping, because it will keep me honest.

I share this journey because I have to.

I share this journey because there might be someone else out there who needs to know they aren't alone right now.

I share this journey because there might be someone else stuffing it all down, trying to manage it all on the inside right now.

I share this journey because it's hard and scary, because it's a path I haven't walked yet, because I know that it will be difficult at times.

I share this journey because it will be worth it in the end.

 because nothing lasts forever
and some things aren't meant to be
but you'll never find the answers
until you set your old heart free

3rd Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 22 ~ Shadow

This is one of the fun prompts to play with, and I sincerely hope all of you will be outside when the sun hangs low in the horizon this evening, taking crazy pictures of someone.

This is us, from last year at Disneyland. It took about ten minutes to get this shot.

Yes, we are those people.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

3rd Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 21 ~ Calm

There are very few moments of calm in this house, but I was lucky enough to steal one of them yesterday.

These are my boys, snuggling on the couch together, holding hands even, watching SpongeBob.

I hope that they'll always love each other this much.

This Isn't Mine, Anymore

The past few years have been filled with pain and disappointment, with anger and betrayal. It has been a long, hard, sometimes excruciating time in my life.

There were many times that I was ready to throw in the towel and walk away. There were many more times that I wanted to run and hide, to escape it all.

I didn't.

I didn't because I knew it wouldn't help. It wouldn't make things better. It might be easier in the short term, but the end result wouldn't be what I wanted.

I didn't want any of this, but at some point that stopped mattering. I still had to deal with it. I wasn't here by my own volition. I wasn't here by my doing. It wasn't fair, but it was what it was.

I stuck it out. My resolute stubbornness made me, even when everything else in my being told me to stop. I had to exhaust all options before I could, in good conscience, go.

Exhausted, I've done, but for a reason.

For today.

One of the most important things I ever learned from a book was the stages of grief, penned by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. While I used to just associate grief with death, and these stages were originally drafted with that in mind, they apply any time we lose something. There are losses in life greater than death. I can say that with certainty now, after losing my father, then losing even more a few months later in a situation where no one died, but something else altogether did.

I've been grieving. I've been grieving for a long, long time...and grief is a real bastard.

The first stage is usually denial, though circumstances outside my control required me to skip this stage entirely. There was no possible way I could entertain thoughts of delusion, not when it was all thrust in my face the way it was. For a while, I actually wished for this stage. I longed for the times when I was oblivious and unaware. I wished that I could have convinced myself that what happened had not, and yet I knew that would be nothing more than an exercise in futility, one that could hurt me more, at that. And so, it was essentially skipped.

I know this one far too well. I've held on to anger for a long time, and rightfully so. Anger is an important emotion, a necessary part of grief, and there are times that it can hold you up when nothing else will. Anger is powerful stuff, lifesaving stuff, but it can eat away at your soul if it lingers too long. I wasn't just angry at those who hurt me, I was angry at myself for a long time. If it sits with you for too long, it can turn you bitter. I didn't want to be that person. I don't want to be that person, so I make a conscious effort to push away the anger. Sometimes it still percolates no matter what I do, it trickles down, it comes screaming out, concentrated and dark. I'm still working on banishing this one, and I have a feeling it will get a lot worse before it gets better in therapy.

The if onlys. The what ifs. The I will willingly forgo this in exchange for that. The negotiation. The teasing out what you think you want, what you're willing to do for it or give up in exchange, can lead you down some very dark paths. I've questioned, without a doubt, this way because of what happened. All of it. This was a dangerous stage for someone like me, with obsessive tendencies and an overly analytical mind. The trouble with bargaining is that it's not far from denial, because it's not at all based in reality. Yet it was an important part of the process. I want to believe I am done with this entirely and will never have to deal with it again, at least for this reason.

Yes. This. When everything else falls away, and you're left with the reality that is exposed, it gets easier and easier to dig that hole deeper and deeper. This is where the negative self talk comes in, where the blame comes back on you, where you start to doubt that things will ever get better, where you start to believe that it never possibly could. This is where the insomnia starts to do battle with exhaustion and the cycle repeats until you are so worn out that even the smallest tasks seem insurmountable. I ping ponged back and forth between anger and depression for the better part of the last two years, at times drug so far down that I literally had to force myself to go out into the world. I hid it with humor, because that's what I do, joking about my yeti-like elusiveness, but a few who knew what was going on saw through it. I need to thank those people more often, and for coming over when I wouldn't go out.

It is this stop, the final destination, that I think I've finally reached on this journey. I'm tired. I'm worn out. I don't want to do this anymore. My body is weaker, my soul needs patched. I need to do that.I need to take care of me. At some point, I realized that this was never mine to begin with. These things that happened, though they affected me, weren't of my doing. It wasn't me that led me here, I can't fix why I'm here, and I can't change anything in the past. I was drug here against my will, but I don't have to stay here anymore. I don't have to like what happened, I don't have to be happy about it, but I do have to accept it. I have to accept that I cannot change the past, that I cannot change the actions of others. I have to accept the pain that was thrust upon me, and move on. I have to stop living in the past. I have to stop letting my life be ruled by anger and depression. This isn't mine, it never was, so I have to let it go.

And so I am. I'm letting this go. I'm giving it back.

To move forward, I need to let this go.

I'm saying these words today to the one who needs to hear them, and I mean them because I need to say them.

I forgive you.

To forgive is to set a prisoner free, and realize the prisoner was you. ~ Lewis B. Smedes

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Writer's Workshop Wednesday ~ Cinko from Manderstanding

Welcome to Writer's Workshop Wednesday!  This is my way of paying it forward to all the people out there who want to start writing, but don't have their own blogs yet, or who are established writers that are looking to appeal to a different audience. I have also opened this up to those who would like to post anonymously about topics that are too difficult to write about publicly. Each week, I will host one or two posts by different writers.

I hope that you enjoy this series, I hope you find some new writers to follow, I hope this helps them out and I hope we can all learn something from them.

What can I say about Cinko???  He runs a Facebook page called Manderstanding, which is, to say it diplomatically, interesting. If you like boobs (and really, who doesn't?), it's the place for you. He also posts a lot of things that, while inflammatory, are truly intended to make you think about society, relationships, politics, religion and more...though I'm sure that most people don't see that side of it because they're either busy laughing or being offended. 

It's more than that, I promise...but he's kinda like the Louis C.K. of Facebook pages. An acquired taste, crass and crude at times, but almost always awesome. 

And....don't tell anyone I told you this....but he's actually a really great guy in real life. I've defended his honor before, and I'd do it again. Without further adieu, Cinko.

How to Survive Adulthood: A Tutorial

Remember when you were young and you couldn’t wait to grow up so you could do “grown up” things? Cool things like own a home or drive a car. You would tell yourself, “when I am grown up, I can do whatever I want and whenever I want to do it.” Have you ever wanted to go back in time and warn yourself about such horrible thoughts?

I was talking to a friend about this recently. We discussed the stresses associated with being grown up. Raising children, job demands, stressful relationships with spouses, friends, family and even learning about some things about those spouses, friends and family that you would really not want to know in the first place. We joked about using that mind erasing thing from Men in Black to just clear our minds of all of this grown up stuff.

For most of us, we put ourselves last. Taking care of ourselves really gets put on the back burner. We hardly relax, hardly unclench. I know I do put myself back there. And so do most of you.

So, where do we go from here?

Well, I know. I truly do.

Go to Home Depot and get a whole bunch of building supplies and build yourself your very own adult tree house. And if you can’t afford to do it, build yourself a mental tree house.

My point is, find some “place” where you can go to recharge, a refuge so that you can face life and its stresses. Whether it’s a physical place or a psychological place or a spiritual place, our tree house can manifest itself in a plethora of ways: my tree house this week was one moment.

Picture it:

I was watching my two little naked minions in the backyard, laughing, running and jumping into a turtle swimming pool while I listened to the baseball game on the radio while drinking my favorite beer. 

I let all the stress of my world slip away with the sounds of laughter and baseball and water combining into a symphony of relaxation.

Now the hard part is finding your tree house and then making sure you actually go there to unwind. Whether you workout, sit by the pool, watch sports or even build an actual adult tree house, do it. By the way, there is no way you could be stressed out if you had an actual adult tree house. Even getting insurance on it would be fun. I know a guy who could hook you up.

I find myself searching out for my tree house nearly every day. Not because my life is so bad, but because I look forward to it. I want to feel nothing but positivity even if it’s only for five minutes. It helps and helps a lot. Being a grown up has its ups and downs. Our childhood selves should get a swift kick in the butt for wishing to grow up so quickly. 

I find it funny that when we are young, we want to be older and when we are older, we want to be young. Why can’t we be both? 

I believe we can, but first we need a tree house. We all need a tree house.

3rd Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 20 ~ Water

Water is one of my favorite things to take pictures of.

This is from the Denver Botanical Gardens, taken with my cell phone, of the Monet Pond.

Writer's Workshop Wednesday ~ Razorblade Brain

Welcome to Writer's Workshop Wednesday!  This is my way of paying it forward to all the people out there who want to start writing, but don't have their own blogs yet, or who are established writers that are looking to appeal to a different audience. I have also opened this up to those who would like to post anonymously about topics that are too difficult to write about publicly. Each week, I will host one or two posts by different writers.

I hope that you enjoy this series, I hope you find some new writers to follow, I hope this helps them out and I hope we can all learn something from them.

This piece is from the genius behind Razorblade Brain. She is a magnificent writer and one of the people I've come to know in recent times as a true survivor. She chronicled the hows and whys she got here on her blog over a year long period, and if you've got the time and the stomach for it, it's well worth the read. You can find her blog here and her Facebook page here. 

Resilience and hope, these are the things she embodies. 

I give you Razorblade Brain.

I am no longer clinical….

I say these words often. Partly out of pride, partly out of disbelief. It doesn’t seem so long ago that I was considered to be a girl with a clinically diagnosable mental illness. Not so long at all. If you knew me in the “bad times” you wouldn’t believe that I could get to a point of not being clinical, either. At various points in my life there was a laundry list of things I couldn’t do: Drive at all, drive for more than 5 minutes, drive at more than 40 mph, drive in rain, be in rain, listen to the radio, work, leave my house, receive a hug, have sex, accept a compliment, go to school, sleep, eat…..the list is endless.

I’ve been out of treatment for about a decade. I’m free from the life altering panic attacks. The ones where I was convinced I was dying or going crazy or both. Where my heart threatened to explode at any moment. Where my brain seemed to forget how to breathe. Where I felt I had a rubber band around my neck and I would slip into unconsciousness at the next moment (which would’ve been welcome at that point except it never came. It was just terror, with no reprieve.) I’ve crawled away from the quagmire of major depression where I had no will to exist and only stayed alive because I loved my mother, so instead carved the emotional pain that I was feeling into a physical representation all over my skin. The obsessions and compulsions that used to rule my entire existence are mostly fleeting thoughts now. But I am, and always will be, the girl with PTSD.

After experiencing childhood sexual abuse, teenage/adult sexual assault, a devastating weather event, a lifetime of poor relationship choices, and a never ending anxiety cycle of “first fear-second fear,” I was finally diagnosed when I was about 21 with the monster that is PTSD. And yet, I was thankful. It was a giant relief to hear that the diagnoses of the past were incorrect. None of them ever seem to fit anyway. I wasn’t crazy, or bad, or born wrong, or ruined. I was delighted to hear that counting license plate numbers, living in fear if I heard a certain song on the radio and perceived it as an omen, not willing to leave my house (and a host of other things)…these were all normal for someone who had my affliction. Normal. Expected. Treatable. Manageable.

I don’t think that one particular thing works for everyone. Some people don’t respond to different types of medication or therapy. You have to find what works for you. And it is work. After completing several goals in my life I can say with absolute confidence that obtaining mental wellness was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. My doctor told me that pharmaceutical and CBT therapy could only do so much and the last leg of the journey would have to come from me. That last piece of the puzzle is different for everyone and I would have to figure out what I needed in order to fully heal. What I needed, I found in something that was right in front of me. I watched it every day and it never hit me until that one instant. What I needed, I got from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I put on a random ep like I always do and came across S2E19. I did dishes while somewhat paying attention and I heard Giles’ words:

“Forgiveness is an act of compassion…it’s not done because people deserve it, it’s done because they need it.”

For me, that was my missing piece. I would shout off the rooftops as a proud survivor/feminist that nothing was my fault. I attended and spoke at several “Take Back the Night” rallies. I waved that “No Means NO” flag and shouted louder and harder than anyone about rape not being the victim’s fault… but deep down…I had those recurring thoughts of “what if I had told my mom, dressed different, never gone to that party, bar, house; been better, done better, cried more…” and all of those are expressions of guilt and fault.

In order to be at peace with the events of my life I had to forgive all who had trespassed against me; and I had to forgive myself. Some of that was easy; some was so effing difficult - seemingly impossible. But the greatest gift that I have given myself on my journey of healing is that of forgiveness. It doesn’t erase the fault of others, but what it has done is released the anger, fault, and guilt from myself. It wasn’t given freely; it was and is hard work. It began as a minute by minute process and got better from there. It’s still hard work and at times it goes back to that day by day or minute by minute deal. It has taken years and creeps back up every now and then and I have to utilize the coping skills that I have both learned and developed on my own to keep well. But I am okay. And all those people who stole the innocence and freedom from me don’t deserve my forgiveness, but I do. Letting go of the weight from my own shoulders was worth it, even though it meant forgiveness for them, too. And I deserve that freedom from hatred every day.

I’m the girl with PTSD. I am no longer clinical, and I’m okay.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

3rd Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 19 ~ Color

Find something in life that speaks to you with color, and capture it.

One of the roses in my garden.

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the hot for teacher edition

The town where I grew up seems hellbent on staying on the notorious list of cities.

I grew up in Simi Valley, California.

For most of my childhood, it was a fairly innocuous city. Suburban, cookie cutter homes filled with families. Most people had at least one parent that worked over the hill, which was code for over Los Angeles county.

It's a beautiful area, a city nestled in it's own isolated valley, with rock formations on some hills, rolling green grasses on others. It's gorgeous unless it's on fire - then good luck getting out.

Growing up, we knew that when the ground started rumbling, it was far more likely to be Rocketdyne than an earthquake, though those happened too but with much less frequency.

What is Rocketdyne, you ask?

Oh, just a rocket fuel testing facility that had a nuclear meltdown that no one knows about. The groundwater and soil are pretty sufficiently contaminated as have been the runoffs from the site and there are cancer clusters all over town, higher than normal rates of all types of bizarre illnesses.

That's sordid enough on it's own, but the city has all kinds of other issues to contend with too.

Long reputed to be the white bread escape town for those wanted to work in LA, but not live there, that reputation only got worse when the courthouse was chosen as the site for the Rodney King trial. The attorneys for the police officers in the case requested, and were granted, a change of venue. Three were acquitted and the jury hung on one, spurring the riots in 1992, among other incidents of civil unrest.

At the time, I was a high school sophomore living in a world where armed guards now protected our school, named after the city, because bomb threats were being called in constantly. The whole world seemed to blame us. To get in and out of the city, you had to show identification. That summer, I went to downtown LA for a week long leadership conference. My parents were scared to send me, a little white girl, into that world. The first night, we had to individually stand on stage and introduce ourselves. You could have heard a pin drop when I told this auditorium full of teenagers, most from inner city areas, that I was from Simi Valley.

Some of them shunned me, but I met friends I still have to this day that week. I quickly was given the nickname "Simi", and would like to believe that I served as a goodwill ambassador at a fragile time in our history. I was ashamed of where I was from, but more than that, I wanted people to understand that the vast majority of us were good people, and almost none of us had anything to do with the trial.

It took decades for me to make peace with where I grew up because of that trial, and for most of that time I claimed to be from Ventura County. It was just easier than dealing with the assumptions people made about me.

Earlier this year, Dr. Phil did a show on heroin addiction, and how this dangerous drug is ruining the lives of people in suburbs all over the country. The city he focused on? Simi Valley.

Go figure.

And heroin is a big problem, I'm not denying that at all. The truth is that drugs have always been a problem in Simi. I did my best drinking in junior high, at parties supplied by older family members. There's a place in the hills called stoner's den for a reason, and back then pot was the primary drug of choice. The kids who had more money occasionally got into heavier stuff, but back then it was cocaine.

Now, it's heroin.

I don't know how you go about solving a major drug crisis, especially when it's something as addictive as this, but I got even more angry a few weeks ago watching a segment on Vice. (Incidentally, this is my new favorite show to love and hate, because it showcases stories the mainstream media won't cover. I yell at the TV a LOT while watching it.)

In it, they examined the heroin epidemic in this country, and how hard it is to beat the addiction. There is one treatment that has a relatively high success rate, but it isn't allowed to be used in the United States. Makes sense, right?  So, those addicts with access and enough money can ship off overseas and kick it. Anyone else is stuck with treatments that carry over 90% relapse rates.

There is something that works, but we can't use, let's just keep waging this war on drugs, criminalizing the addicts and refusing to see the evidence.

So, that's enough bad press, right?


This week, the story of Malia Brooks broke. A young mother of two, this teacher was arrested on charges of sexually abusing one of her students. She teaches elementary school, and it is alleged that she and this student had a relationship of a sexual nature for four months before authorities were alerted. She pled guilty, but is claiming that she has some kind of mental illness (though they aren't specifying what yet), and that caused her to perpetrate these acts. Yet, she continued to teach and parent her own children during this time.

I sit here and shake my head whenever the name of the place from which I came is mentioned in the news, because it never seems like it's for a good reason.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Have Passport, Will Travel...

When we first got married, we had plans. Good plans.

I was going to go to law school, he was going to pass the CPA exam. I'd graduate and work in some ridiculously high paying job long enough to repay my loans. We would travel the world. We'd buy some amazing little house near the beach somewhere, then, only after all that, we would have kids.Two of them. One boy, one girl.

Everything would be fabulous and we wouldn't have anything to worry about.

We had great plans.

Not even halfway through law school, and a couple days before my husband's 23rd birthday, we sat in uncomfortable chairs in a doctor's office and heard the word no one wants to hear.


Life got complicated, in a hurry.

All those plans got tossed aside, life decided we were walking a different path than we ever intended. Given two weeks to try and get pregnant before he underwent radiation treatments, it worked.

I went from an ambitious law school student to a scared wife who clung to the hope of an uncertain future.

Until I lost the baby.

We were left with no child, with the very real possibility of never having them without help, and still with an uncertain future.

Had I known then what I know now, I would have dropped out of school that day.

We tried for almost a year to get pregnant until we sat in another set of chairs in another office and received confirmation that we would not be able to get pregnant without IVF. The radiation had done too much damage.

At that exact moment, I was already pregnant, we just didn't know it yet.

My son was born, premature, three days after I walked across the stage and received my diploma from law school.

Life threw us another curveball.

I kept pressing forward with school, enrolling in an MPH program part time. Still thinking I was destined for greatness in some career someday.

Baby number two came, then number three. We realized in a hurry that we'd outgrown the tiny house we could barely afford that was nowhere near the ocean. We moved to the middle of the country, even though I was one class from finishing the MPH and already enrolled in a teaching credential program.

I left all of it behind.

I'd gone from the ambitious career woman to the one who let it all go, and left it over a thousand miles away, for my kids.

Since moving here, we've had a bonus baby, the one that surprised us all. Even though I didn't think he'd ever be here, I can't imagine my life without him.

I never became that high powered attorney. We never bought that cottage by the beach. We never traveled the world.

Last weekend, though, my husband took me on a trip. One he'd been planning for months. One that lasted just over 24 hours, but that took us to so many of the places we haven't yet been.

He presented me with a passport. Not a real one, but one that held previews of the places we would go, both someday and this weekend. The he gave me tulips, his favorite flower and one of the symbols to the world of his family's native land, The Netherlands.

The first place we went was The Botanical Gardens in Denver, where we sat beside the Monet pond and ate fancy cheese and drank French wine and took pictures of water lilies.

From there, we went to the English style Queen Anne Bed & Breakfast in a historical area of Denver, a home that housed illegal alcohol production during Prohibition and belonged to a woman who was friends with the unsinkable Molly Brown.

After checking in, we left for another unidentified destination, but we got there this way. He rides these bikes all the time for work, and thought it would be fun to travel around town the way so many do over on the other side of the pond.

We rode to an Irish pub where we drank whiskey and listened to music and eavesdropped on old Irish men with old Irish accents.

Then we rode to the 16th Street mall, where we had dinner at Maggiano's. He'd made reservations and told them it was our anniversary, so we got the best booth in the place and free champagne. He ate everything. (I think he's really part Italian).

He timed everything so we would get back to the room just before sunset, which we watched from the hottub on the roof.

The next morning, we ate breakfast on the patio with the squirrels and the birds, then headed out again. He took me back to the central area of Denver, and before I knew it we were here.

This was all part of a traveling exhibit of the reproductions of the works of Michaelangelo and Da Vinci. It was amazing.

We finished up the day with fish and chips at the Tilted Kilt, then returned home to the land of broken dishwashers and constantly hungry children.

Someday we'll get to Europe for real, but for now, this will do.

Life has changed our plans, but I wouldn't trade this for the world.

3rd Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 18 ~ Memory

This is not a great picture, so I have to say that up front.

It is, however, something I love.

It's my little one, splashing around in the bathtub from recently.

These are the things I want to remember.

When I took this initially, I posted it to my personal Facebook page, then realized just how much he looks like my father in this one. Then I loved it even more.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

3rd Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 17 ~ Action

These are some of my favorite shots in the challenge because it takes a bit of practice to get good at taking them. If you are using a digital camera with programmed settings, the action setting is usually marked with a person running. It opens and closes the shutter faster so the moving target isn't as blurry, but does that at the cost of letting less light in - so this works the best in bright light.

Remember to focus on the moving object or person, not anything else in the background. Some cameras come with a setting that takes several shots a second - try playing around with that to see what you can capture.

Fortunately for me, my kids never stop moving, so I get a lot of practice.

This is my little guy doing what he does best - jumping off of stuff.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

3rd Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 16 ~ Family

Tomorrow is Father's Day and the prompt is family.

Take this opportunity to get some great shots of the ones you love. I know I will.

Since I post these a day early, I have to use an older shot. This is us, last Halloween, getting ready for the parade. It was 27 degrees at the time. I'm either very committed to this costume, or I need committed. Either way.

This is my super family.

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