Friday, February 28, 2014

Why You Need To Drop Whatever You Are Doing Right Now and Watch True Detective

Seriously, stop whatever you are doing right now.

If you are an HBO subscriber already, high five! Get some snacks and astronaut diapers, then park your ass on the couch and catch up. The first 6 episodes of True Detective are On Demand right now.


If you aren't an HBO subscriber, either sign up right now or get cozy with a friend who is. Pronto.

You have to watch this show. No, really. Whatever else you had planned will wait.

I'm not going to write any spoilers in this post, so go on and read it. It should make you want to watch it if you aren't already.

And then once you are watching it we can talk about the things that happen and share our theories about who the Yellow King is and ohmygod did you see that???

WHO IS THE YELLOW KING, YOU GUYS????

I need answers.

The series is the brainchild of Nic Pizzolatto. I feel compelled to sit him down and interview him and ask him what the hell happened to him during his childhood. Honestly.

Conceived as a crime drama, it will run several seasons, with a different set of characters and a different story each season. It is dark and mysterious and disturbing in so many ways at once that it's hard to wrap your head around the plot and all the sub plots going on at the same time.

I find myself thinking about the episodes for days after they air, still sorting things out in my head. I have said what the fuck aloud during the show more than once.

The main characters are Marty Hart, played by Woody Harrelson, and Rust Cohle, played by Matthew McConaughey. They are both detectives, partners in the Lousiana State Police, and the plot centers on the investigation of the murder of a young woman.

Harrelson is mindblowingly good in this role, as a deeply conflicted man with a total lack of self awareness and self control. He sees the world as he wants it to be, always neglecting to hold himself to the standards he demands that others live up to. He is impossibly stubborn with a penchant towards violence and personifies everything we expect the bad cop to be.


While Harrelson is mindblowingly good, McConaughey is something otherworldly. Cohle is a man with a past that it hurts to even remember, a man who seeks answers to the questions he asks in any and every way necessary. He plays the good cop so well, so convincingly, that he is able to extract confessions from even the unlikeliest of suspects. He has a hefty set of his own demons to contend with, ones that show themselves more with every episode. His performance is nothing short of magnificence. I don't even have adequate words to describe just how good he is in this.


Whatever awards they make for acting in a cable series, he needs to win them. All of them. He is that good.

The two men are at odds with one another almost immediately and that tension grows and grows as the series progresses. I anticipate it will only become a more pressing concern in the remaining episodes, the issue of whether these two vastly different characters can remember what they are supposed to be doing here.

Seeing who they are in the beginning of the story, and who they transform into is a fascinating study in humanity. The portrayal of it is so believable that you will begin to wonder if McConaughey hasn't really gone off the deep end in real life.

This show gives me hope that intelligent, well written, superbly acted television can be resurrected from the ashes of the fires of reality television hell.

Once this season is over, I fully intend to revisit the show to discuss the plot and the back stories present. I want SO BADLY to talk about the rampant gender issues present, about the role of the church, about how frightening it is that people like this exist in real life. I want to. But I will wait.

Go watch it.

Then we'll talk.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Thursday Nerdsday - Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Rise of the Runelords

You guys. I'm flying my nerd flag nice and high today, so be gentle.


Seriously. I don't think it get nerdier than this. Well, maybe if I was actually dressing as my character or actively LARPing, that would be more nerdier. Maybe.

Back in the day, Mr. Hive played Dungeons and Dragons. Then he met me and he stopped, probably because girls are sparkly and distracting and they smell better than other teenage boys. Or something like that. He didn't play for decades, then sometime last year he came home from the game store with a Pathfinder box. He was a bit nervous about it, since this is like the epitome of nerddom and all, but I said I would play.

We played the regular adventure game quite a few times, though he tired of all the planning and coordination of the game he had to do in advance. (He also can't roll for crap when he's the attacker, but that's another story...)

I am Ezren. I have always been Ezren. Because Ezren is a wizard and wizards kick ass.


The card version of the game came out and he was all excited because the basic idea of the game was the same, with the same characters, but he could play and didn't have to plan anything ahead of time. I wondered if we really needed a different version of the same game.

Then he ordered it anyway, because I clearly didn't know what I was talking about.

The first few times we played it, we messed up a bit. The play of this game is very different than regular Pathfinder, but once you get the hang of it, I've found that we all like it better.

Gasp!

I know, right?

That's probably in violation of some nerd code, right there.

Anyhow, onto the game, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Rise of the Runelords.


To play, each person selects a character to play as and draws cards from the decks based on the list for that character. The cards are shuffled and drawn to your particular hand size, which varies among the characters. Each character has different abilities and skills, and when you are playing it is best to have a variety of types to best confront the villain.

Depending on the number of players you have, you create decks for different locations, according to the round you are playing. Regardless of the number of players, since it is a cooperative game, there are a total of 30 turns in the game. You have 30 turns to explore the decks, confront and defeat the villains and close all the locations. Only when all locations have been closed can you declare victory.

It sounds complicated, and it is. Like, it's so complicated that I won't really even go into depth about the rules because it is easier to show someone how to play it than it is to explain it. Having some background in Pathfinder will likely help you get the gist of this version, but it isn't necessary. There are plenty of videos out there you can watch to learn how to play. If there is enough interest, we might even be willing to make one.

It will take a few rounds of play before you really get it anyway, regardless of how familiar you are with ordinary Pathfinder.

It's to your advantage to keep the same character from one round to another because the more times you play that character, the more experience credit you get, which increases your roll values and ups the number of cards allowed in your deck. Your deck carries forward round to round after being re-set to the allowed numbers of each card type.


This version of the game plays faster and is much easier to set up than the traditional version. I jokingly told Mr. Hive that I missed his narration and voices, so he obliges me with those now. It takes about 45 minutes to play a round.

Much like the regular Pathfinder, whether you are successful in this game will depend heavily on your rolls. In this version, you are also at the mercy of the deck. We've played rounds where the villain was confronted immediately, we've played games that we barely won on the last turn, and we have lost more than a few times.

Also.

I got my own dice.

Aren't they pretty???

The recommended age on this one is 13+, but again, our kids can play. The 8 year old can play independently with her own character. As it is a cooperative game, you are going to be consulting with the other players anyway, so we've never had an issue with the age limitations. You do definitely need to have at least one person playing who has a good grasp on the game, though age doesn't have much to do with that.

Since we bought this version, we haven't played the traditional game at all. This one has all the fun without the hassle and everyone gets to play.

Quick, throw me a blessing...because as much as wizards kick ass, they do get their asses kicked in combat.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday ~ the Wednesday dragging the bigots out of the closet edition

Hi. I know it is Wednesday, but I was busy yesterday raising money for childhood cancer research. Which is a good thing. If you missed that post, you should go read it, then scrape together whatever extra money you have and donate it.

I'm taking a new approach this week. I hope you enjoy it.


Arizona, home of border fences and legislated discrimination
In case you've been under a rock, Arizona's state legislature passed a bill (SB 1062) allowing any business to refuse service to people based on any religious reason. Initially schemed as a way to let businesses refuse to interact with the gays, it has repercussions for anyone that a business owner or employee takes issue with.

For example:
- don't like Muslims or Sihks or Jews or Mormons, discriminate.
- don't like single mothers (because you are now allowed to assume whatever you want about their sexual activities and that might upset your religion), discriminate.
- don't like tattoos or piercings because it says something in the Bible, discriminate.
- insert any other possible reason that could be even loosely tied to something religious, discriminate.

Go ahead. The law says you can totes do that now.

The bill is sitting on Governor Jan Brewer's desk, and there is all kinds of speculation about what she will do with it. Good common sense would force her to veto it, even if her inclination would be to sign it otherwise. It's bad business, it won't stand up to legal challenges and it is making her entire state look like it's run by bigoted assholes.

Since the bill was signed, three Republicans who voted for it (totally along party lines, might I add) have said they wish they hadn't voted for it. WELL THAT'S JUST GREAT NOW THANKS. If you three had done the right thing before, it wouldn't have passed. You don't get a do-over because the media made you look like an ass. I mean, sure....it's possible they really saw the error in their ways....and I suppose we should give them the benefit of the doubt.

Those state Senators are Adam Driggs, Steve Pierce and Bob Worsley.  I put asterisks by their names. Everyone else who voted for it still thinks it's a good sound law. Who voted for it, you ask? I'm actually going to tell you here in a second.

History will not look kindly on those attempting to legislate discrimination, and just because it's fun and because I can, these are the names of the elected officials who voted for this bill in Arizona. (I'm totally making this a thing for as long as states try to pass shitty laws like this one.)

The way I see it, if you're going to vote for something like this, you'd better have the balls to stand behind that vote.

This will go down on your permanent record. For reals.

Nancy Barton
Andy Biggs
Judy Burges
Chester Crandell
Adam Driggs *
David Farnsworth
Gail Griffin
John McComish
Al Melvin
Rick Murphy
Steve Pierce *
Michele Reagan
Don Shooter
Kelly Ward
Bob Worsley *
Steve Yarbrough
Kimberly Yee

John Allen
Brenda Barton
Sonny Borelli
Paul Boyer
Doug Coleman
Jeff Dial
Karen Fann
Eddie Farnsworth
Thomas Forese
Doris Goodale
David Gowan
Rick Gray 
John Kavanagh
Adam Kwasman
Debbie Lesko
David Livingston
Phil Lovas
Darin Mitchell
Steve Montenegro
Justin Olsen
Warren Petersen
Justin Pierce 
Frank Pratt
Bob Robson
Carl Seel
T.J. Shope
Steve Smith
David Stevens
Bob Thorpe
Andy Tobin
Kelly Townsend
Michele Ugenti

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Donna Day 2014

Donna.


This beautiful girl who has touched the hearts and minds of millions of people all over the world.

Today, that world that she has touched comes together through the wonder of the internet to raise money in her memory for the disease that took her, cancer.

Though I never had the honor and privilege to meet this little girl, though I didn't even have the good fortune to come to know her mother, Mary Tyler Mom, until years after she was gone, she has made an impact on my life.

Mary Tyler Mom lost that beautiful girl to cancer in 2009, and if you haven't read the story, I urge you to do so.  She chronicled the entire journey, sharing the reality of this disease with the world, and the stories were featured on the Huffington Post.  You can find her entire story here.

Here is a glimpse into the shining little light we celebrate today, Donna.


Last year, I participated in this outreach effort along with several other bloggers, all raising money for St. Baldrick's. I cut off over a foot of my own hair that day in the hopes that it would spur others to donate to the cause.

This year, the number of participants has grown even more.

We have an opportunity to do something amazing here today, my friends.

The goal of Donna Day is to raise money for St. Baldrick's, an organization that funds childhood cancer research.  The charity that Mary Tyler Mom started in her daughter's memory, Donna's Good Things, is sponsoring a head shaving event in Chicago on March 29th.

The team page has a link to donate directly, and you can find it here.

The statistics on childhood cancers are sobering, even more so when you realize how poorly funded the research on them is currently.

  • More US children will die from cancer than any other disease, or many other diseases combined;
  • Before the age of 20, 1 in 300 boys and 1 in 333 girls will be diagnosed with cancer;
  • worldwide, a child is diagnosed ever three minutes;
  • the cure rate for the most common form of pediatric cancer, ALL leukemia, is as high as 90%, but most other childhood cancers do not have that success rate, e.g., brain tumors have a 50/50 cure rate, and some, like DIPG, are known to be fatal with no known treatment or cure;
  • 73% of kids who survive their cancer will have chronic health problems as a result of their treatment and 42% will suffer severe or life-threatening conditions like secondary cancers.  
Childhood cancer research is woefully underfunded, amounting to only 4% of the National Cancer Institute funding.  Some organizations like the American Cancer Society spend less than 1% on children's cancers.  

We've made huge strides in treating breast cancer and many other adult cancers.  The FDA approves new cancer drugs all the time, but only one new cancer treatment drug has been approved for use in children in the last 30 years.

One.

St. Baldrick's raises money exclusively for childhood cancer research. In the past two years, the outpouring of love and support for Donna's Day has raised $195,000! Even donations of $5 and $10 add up quickly if we can spread the word enough.  

There are superhero t-shirt available this year to purchase as a fundraiser as well. They can be purchased here. 



Give for all the children you know whose lives have been touched by cancer.

Give for all the children all over the world fighting this disease.

Give for all the children who may not get to celebrate another birthday.


Give for Donna. 

Thank you all. 

Choose hope.

Always choose hope.

Monday, February 24, 2014

On raising adolescents...

She stands nervously fidgeting, unsure of what to expect.

Her head, a whirlwind of thoughts and feelings and newness and novelty.

So much has changed, and yet there is so much change to come.

She steps away from me, edging out into the world a little at a time, always looking back to make sure I am still there.

Some days it is all too much, managing these ever changing friendships and navigating a world where boys like her and she likes them.

Some days she wants it all to just stop, she wants to curl up beside me. Some days she wants to stay little and she wants to just be.

Some days she urges it all forward, eager for whatever comes next.


Starting to become more aware of her place in this world, she is. Her passions, her loves, she clings to them.

Relics of childhood gathered and clutched.

Bits of independence folded seamlessly into the mix.

I see her across the room, often wondering where the time went. In my head and heart she is still that little girl hiding behind my leg, refusing to make eye contact with the rest of the world, with the infectious giggle and curly blond pigtails.

I watch her reconnect with the friends she hasn't spent enough time with lately. Diverging interests already splitting them from who they've always known. And yet, the comfort is there, the smiles ease onto their faces as though all this time hasn't past and nothing has changed. Familiar, they are. Comfortable. Pieces of who she was and who she is now.

They are all part of the story of her.

And then I catch a glimpse of who she is today, who she is becoming, who she wants to be. I try not to intrude, I try to give her space, I try to trust her to make good choices. I linger, but far enough away.

I linger, because every so often, she still scans the room for me.

She has always been my cautious one, always testing the waters and then testing them again.

My girl, my beautiful girl, teetering on the edge, stuck between childhood and whatever comes after, being pulled in every direction.

She does it with grace, she does it with kindness, almost all the time.

There are moments of conflict, of course there must be. I know there will be more.

I just hope that she knows that whenever her eyes are looking for me, I'll be there, just far enough away, waiting and watching as she maneuvers her way through the chaos of adolescence.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Girl.

I love you.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Mom Shaming Is A Thing Now?

Does anyone else feel constantly disappointed in humanity these days? I fight my propensity to be cynical with every ounce in my being at times, but there is just such an abundance of "I'm so offended right now" in this world that it is an uphill, often losing, battle.

Something that seems to be getting worse every day to me are the mommy wars. I'm not talking about the wars about whether it is better to work or stay home (let's all just assume, incorrectly, I might add, that every mother is ever afforded that choice in the first place), it isn't about whether formula is perfectly fine or breastfeeding is right. It's not about the usual suspects, this most recent war.

Nope.

This war is about cupcakes.

Really.

I'm not kidding.

The newest variety of the mom war has Pinterest written all over it, accented with handmade bows and custom outfits.

Let me explain.

Some people are crafty. Some people were born crafty. Some people become crafty when they have kids. Some people actually enjoy making 50 cupcake toppers and coming up with awesome decorations for parties. Some people actually bend over backwards to make special cakes and adorable invitations. Some people loathe it but do it anyway because they want to do it for their kids.

An actual cake I made. Haters gonna hate.
Some people can't do it, either because they just aren't crafty or don't have the time/energy/extra money to drop on making tiny cupcake flags. Some people buy cakes from the store and packaged invitations and their kids have amazing birthday parties. Some people keep celebrations small and at home. Some people forget until the day of, then hustle to get it together at the last minute. Some people always forget goody bags. (totally raising my hand on several here)

Why does what someone else does or doesn't do for their kids have anything to do with your parenting?

It shouldn't.

It doesn't, in reality. It quite literally has nothing to do with you.

It does, though, or at least it seems that way, because every time I see a friend post something kickass she did for her kids on the book of face, someone has to come along and crap all over it.

It seems like someone always has to tell this mom who is just doing something cool for her kid that she is making the comment leaver feel inadequate as a mother.

Always.

You've seen it.

Why does my kid's birthday cake make you feel inadequate?

How does anything I do in my family have an affect on your self-worth?

It shouldn't. This isn't a contest. There is no winner for best-mom-ever, but there are definitely losers...and as long as we're comparing ourselves to each other, we are all losers.

I've written before about this, about how I truly believe that we are all different as mothers. We all kick ass at something, we all go way over the top when it comes to our kids about something. Whether your something is birthday cakes or homemade pancakes or notes in lunches or bedtime rituals or whatever it is - we all are totally awesome at something.

And we all suck at something. There is some aspect of parenting that we all hate, that we all loathe with every ounce of our beings. There is something that no matter how many times we have tried, we are terrible at.

And it is all okay.

Seriously.

We live in a world now where the response to feeling inadequate about our parenting because of what someone else shares on Facebook or Pinterest has resulted in mom shaming, hence the comments being left on all things awesome. It's even gone so far that mom fails are now a thing.

And they are. We all screw up. We should be as willing to admit the times we forget about a lost baby tooth or yelled at a kid purely out of frustration or tried that new Pinterest recipe and it was an abysmal failure as we are about the things we did right.

But that isn't how social media works. Social media, for most people, is a platform for the shiny and happy and perfect and positive. All that is great, this is true, but the shiny and happy and perfect and positive is only part of the story of our lives as parents.

And none of it has anything to do with anyone else.

I joked (sort of) yesterday about how I am starting to feel like I need to make a gigantic IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU sign and staple it to my forehead.

We, as a society, and especially as the mothers of the children of the next generation, have got to stop taking everything so goddamn personally. We have to stop believing that what anyone else does is a reflection on our triumphs or failures as people, as mothers. We have to stop making other women feel as though the things they do for their kids make us feel bad.

We have to stop.

Because it is not about us. It never was about us, it was about their child. For the love. We don't get to insist that it is about us simply because it makes us feel bad.

There is a moral imperative here. An absolute crisis of conscience going on, and it's one that we are modeling for our children. We need to support each other, celebrate the gifts of our friends, support one another when things aren't shiny and happy and perfect and positive.

We need to stop making other women feel bad when they have done something they should be proud of, something special for their families, something important for their children.

And we need to do it now.

I'll make my ridiculous birthday cakes. You do whatever your thing is. We can high five each other instead of snarking, honest.

Let's do that instead.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a Princess Celestia My Little Pony Rainbow cake to make....

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Thursday Nerdsday - Cards Against Humanity

I'm taking a much needed break from the ranting and the frustration today to tell you about my most favorite inappropriate party game.

When I say it is inappropriate, I'm understating. Vastly.

For real.


I was waiting to write about this one because they just overhauled their entire distribution system. You used to be able to pick it up at game stores, but it is now an Amazon exclusive. Once it all got figured out, the price dropped back to where it should be. For a while, people were charging over $60 for this little black box of cards.

Four things.

1. Still would have been worth it at $60.
2. It's $25 now, which is way better.
3. I was already Amazon's bitch, so this works for me.
4. You can make your own version on their website for free.

This is it. Well, the original version, anyway.

The tagline on the box reads "A party game for horrible people". It's true. Lord, is it true. If you don't start out the game being a horrible person, you will become one quickly.

There are rules, though at some point no one will pay attention to them anymore at all because your ribs will be hurting from laughing so damn hard. You will feel great shame for laughing at the things you laugh at.

Here's how you play. You need at least three people to play. Pee first and pee often. Having adult beverages handy helps lighten the mood quickly. This is not a game for children. Or prudes. I'm totally not kidding on that last one. 

There are white cards and black cards. The black cards contain the first half of the sentence or the question, the white cards contain possible options for the second half of the sentence or the answer. They are all wildly inappropriate.

To begin, each player draws 10 white cards.

One player reads the black card. Then every remaining player chooses one white card from their hand to submit for judging. You want the most outlandish, most inappropriate, most hilarious combination of cards. The reader of the black card takes the submissions and randomly reads them aloud to the entire crowd, then deems one card the most hilariously awful and therefore the winner. That person gets the black card, then the next player reads a black card and so on. Always keep your white card hand size at 10.

Whenever you decide you're done playing or everyone in the room has peed their pants, the player with the most black cards wins, not that anyone cares.

Everyone wins with this one. It is that funny.

Here is an example of a black card with submitted white cards. This one is mild.

From The Game Aisle's review
I'd have to go with the bleached asshole on this one, but that's just me.

The more people you have playing and the greater the amount of time spent hyperventilating, the longer the game will take. No one will mind. You will cry actual tears at some point and your abs will be sore the next day.

This isn't a game for the faint of heart or those with weak bladders.

It is, however, amazing.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The (occasionally annoying) inherent value of siblings

I can always count on my brother to keep me honest.

For real.

The irony comes in where he pretends he doesn't read what I write, but then asks about something I wrote.

He is always, always, always the first one to call me out when I do something stupid, when I say something I shouldn't, when I write something that contradicts something I wrote before.

He is the king of leaving and then deleting comments on my Facebook page. I wonder sometimes if he even means for me to see them, he does it so fast. Usually I do see them, and they usually are right on about some aspect of something I overlooked or glossed over or neglected to talk about.

I should tell you this. We couldn't be further apart in how we see the world if we tried, him and I. We rarely agree on much, but we learned a long time ago how to talk about anything and not get stabby. We respect each other's perspectives. We understand that we see the world a different way. We accept it all.

That part, the acceptance piece, is huge.

I don't think it happened, if I am being honest, entirely, until our father was sick.

Incidentally, if you read here often, you know that I usually write about my father's illness and death as though it occurred in some bizarre only child vacuum. There's a reason, and the reason is that my brother hates it when I write about him, so I usually try not to.

Yet, I'm doing it today anyway.

I'm doing it now because there is this piece of who we are that is cool and weird and seems way too grown up and mature.

It's the acceptance part.

It goes a bit like this, and I've tried to explain it to people, but I sense that it might be something you have to live to understand. Anyhow...when our father was ill, I was here, a thousand miles away and my brother was there. In the same town. In the same place. At their house almost every single day.

We necessarily had a different experience with it all as a result. For a while, we were frustrated with each other. It's easier to cast blame on someone else for whatever you think their shortcomings are when they aren't physically in the same space you are. It's easier to believe whatever stories you've been told when you aren't privy to living it first hand. It's easier to get angry about what the other person is or isn't doing when they are too far away to really know.

Having sick parents is stressful. Having dying parents is stressful. Having parents with mental health issues is stressful. Having parents who refuse to take care of themselves is stressful.

Having to deal with all that while living your life, dealing with your spouse and children magnifies everything.

Being stuck in the generational sandwich can suck it.

At some point though, though, we had this moment. It probably happened when our father was in the ICU the first time about a year before his death. When my brother and I were in the same physical space long enough to see that the other one of us was doing the best we could with the information we had, the frustration disappeared.

We realized that neither of us had any idea what the other one was dealing with. We realized that we had to honor the role of the other one, that we had to talk to each other more and rely on what anyone else told us less. We understood that we each had different gifts and abilities and patience levels. We knew then that we could help both of our parents better if we were a team.

From that point on, things were just different for us. Better.

No more bickering. No more animosity. No more resentment.

Isn't that the kind of relationship that siblings should have, eventually anyway? They are, after all, the only people in the entire universe who came from the same place we did. They are the only people who could ever possibly understand the crazy things we were subjected to as kids, why we are the way we are.


They are the best able to understand us.

They are the most equipped to tell us when we're derailing our lives.

They are the usually first ones in line to tell us we're wrong.

And that's all okay, or at least it can be if we go about it the right way.

He called me on something this week, and he was right. He was absolutely right.

In the post I wrote on the anniversary of our father's death, I gave mention to feeling manipulated in the past by my mother and her incessant need for everything to be worse for her. She really did spend a lot of time minimizing our grief, and I can tell you that it gets old in a hurry.

He sent me a message the following morning, after clearly not reading the post (wink, wink), saying that if I truly believe, as I do, that she suffered from intractable mental health problems, then I can't blame her for being the way she was.

And he was right.

I can't blame her. I don't blame her, though it may have seemed that I was doing just that to a casual reader. I don't blame her. I don't want it to seem like I did or do.

Death is so weird that way. I feel like I have to make everything about them in the past tense now, and that just seems so wrong. Anyway...

As I told him when he pointed out my flawed reasoning, or at least the way I had presented it, my response was this:

Yeah, I know she didn't intend to do it...
but that doesn't make it hurt us less.

And therein lies the inherent value of siblings.

They know exactly what that means.

No matter how horrible this journey has been,

I

have

never

been

alone.

For that gift, given to me by my parents, I will be eternally grateful.

Friday, February 14, 2014

What Love Is...

Ahhhh, Valentine's Day.

The day that we are told is filled with promises of exquisite jewelry, bouquets of extravagant flowers, wining and dining at the finest of restaurants.

That's what the commercials want us to believe, anyway.

In real life for us, it means lobster and steak cooked at home, eaten in a candlelit dining room after the kids have gone to bed as the dishwasher hums in the background.

There is no new jewelry, except perhaps the most recent bracelet crafted on the Rainbow Loom.

If there are flowers, they come directly from the grocery store, though in all likelihood, the flowers were skipped because we understand that the same flowers that were $10 yesterday and will be $10 tomorrow are $30 today. We've grown too practical to throw money away on frivolous things.

Besides, lobster was on sale, and we all know that is a better use of the money.

There might be a card, if we remember, though at some point we gave up on them too. Seeking out an overpriced piece of paper holding words that are only tangentially relevant to our love seems like a waste of time anymore. There isn't a card that fits us now. Perhaps there never really was, we just wanted to believe that we could fit into the tiny boxes society told us we were supposed to.

Love, real love, isn't about flowers or chocolate or jewelry or fancy dinners.

Real love is nights spent cuddled under blankets on the couch until you fall asleep.

Real love is a call on the way home to ask if you need anything at the store.

Real love is flowers on an ordinary Tuesday just because.

Real love is bringing you a roll of toilet paper when you are trapped in the bathroom.

Real love is asking if you are okay before laughing at how you got hurt.

Real love is shoveling the driveway.

Real love is letting her cry.

Real love is pacing in a waiting room.

Real love is being vulnerable again.

Real love is saying sorry.

Real love is second chances.

Real love is messy.

Real love is beautiful.

Real love is the everyday pieces of who we are, what we do for one another, the unspoken things woven in the tapestry of this connection between two people.

Real love isn't one day.

Real love isn't one moment.

Real love is the spaces in between.

Happy Valentine's Day, my friends.


Mr. Hive, I love you.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Thursday Nerdsday ~ DC Comics Deck Building Game

Hi. I haven't done one of these in a while, and a lot of stuff has happened around here that I haven't written about so I figured it was well past time to revisit Nerdsday.


For those of you new to the Hive, an introduction might be in order. I'm a nerd. Always have been, though I spent a good portion of my life actively suppressing it (poorly, I might add). I love so many things in the Nerdiverse that I wouldn't even know where to begin.

This probably explains a bit of it.


And this.


I love superheroes and sci-fi and fiction and The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones and table games and Doctor Who and Sherlock and lots and lots of other things.

Anyhow, Thursday is the day where I (occasionally) tell you about something I love in the Nerdiverse.

I have a lot of new material to write about because we acquired a lot of new games in the past few months, including my husband's current obsession, Pathfinder, Rise of the Runelords, which is a card game version of Pathfinder. I will write about that one for next time though, unless Cards Against Humanity wins the battle in my head for priority.

I did get my own set of dice for Pathfinder though, so maybe....

Anyhow, this week, I wanted to write about the game we have played the most as a family since we bought it - DC Comics Deck-Building Game.


Though I adore all things Ironman and Loki, my loyalty will probably always lie with DC over Marvel. I can't say why, really, that is just the way it is. There is a Marvel version of the game as well, which I am sure will somehow magically find a way into our cabinets eventually.

In this game, each player chooses a hero to play as. Each hero in the deck has a different ability, which comes in handy throughout the game as long as one thing happens: you remember who you are and what your ability is. Easier said than done, especially if you change heroes each time.

I always play as Wonder Woman. I know this comes as a shock to you.


After choosing heroes, each player is dealt 10 cards to begin the game with. Starter cards are either worth 1 point or 0, and you use those points to acquire new cards throughout the game, adding them to your deck. You play five cards each round, unless the cards you have allow for more.

To acquire new cards, take the cards in your hand and add up the purchase points. Many cards (and some heroes) alter this number, so be sure to stay on top of it. Location cards often allow for an extra card to be drawn. Use those points to acquire cards in the line-up.

In addition to the main deck line-up to pull from, there are also Kick cards - which give you two additional points every time they show up in your hand and Supervillians - which each have their own set of powers.

The game ends when the stack of Supervillains has been defeated or when the entire main deck is exhausted.

Depending on who your hero is, as you play through the rounds, you may focus on acquiring heros, powers, equipment or villains. Wonder Woman seeks villains, as they increase her hand size every time one is acquired.

The winner of the game is the player who tallies up the most star points at the end of the game, which are different than both the cost of the card or the playing value, minus the number of weaknesses they pick up along the way. (Unless you have Bizarro. Bizarro is pretty kick ass.) It's a little tricky the first few rounds keeping all the values straight, but you will get the hang of it and learn the strategy of your hero quickly.

The game is labeled for ages 15 and up, but my three older children can play it without any problems. Our 8 year old has won the game more than once.

It takes approximately one hour to set up and play the game start to finish, though it might take a bit longer the first time until everyone feels comfortable with the rules.

If you dress as your hero, the game is infinitely more entertaining.

Just a suggestion.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Set it on fire

I spent a good long time yesterday pouring out my soul in a piece that may never be published. I do that a lot, actually. Sometimes they get edited and posted. Sometimes I just hit the delete button and never look back. Sometimes I enlist the help of trusted friends for guidance and wisdom.

Sometimes I write it just because I need to get the words out, like the proverbial letter scratched out in anger and frustration and sadness then set aflame and tossed ceremoniously in a wastebasket.

I think this one needs to be set on fire.


These things, the hardest ones to write about, sometimes I am not ready to let them out yet. Not here, anyway. I try to always be cognizant of the affect my words might have on others. Even if it will carry some benefit for someone out there reading, I have to worry first about protecting myself, protecting my children. I don't have to protect my parents anymore, but I still need to shield my kids.

This is one of the pieces that could bring with it ramifications. Not horrible ones, but some nonetheless. It contains too many of my truths in one place. Too much of my past. Things I still haven't really worked through myself.

Maybe someday I will be ready. I don't know. This one might stay away from the public forever.

There is so much that you all don't know about me. This piece I wrote, it is one of the parts of me that even most of my best friends in the world don't know about. One of the things that I still carry shame and regret about, though I am trying to forgive myself.

Even with all that, the lesson it all taught me was it was one of the most important I have learned in my life thus far, one that I carry with me every day, one that keeps me writing about the things that people don't always want to read about. A lesson that literally took me twenty years to learn.

I don't always want to write about the hard stuff, but I do it anyway.

Sometimes I don't really have a choice. It comes out or it eats away at my soul.

Making people uncomfortable is my thing, after all. I talk about the truths and the realities that we would rather live without seeing. The things we would rather deny. The things we would rather ignore. The things we would rather rationalize.

Sometimes, though, even I can't do it.

I can't hit the publish button.

I had coffee with someone new yesterday, someone that I met through this bizarre online world, someone that began the day a stranger and ended the day a friend.

She could see it.

My internal conflict, almost constant in my head. Sometimes it comes out here. Sometimes I'm elusive about it all, sometimes I lay it all out for the world to see. The conflict, though, is almost always there.

Thus is the life of a writer. 

If you do it long enough, you end up writing about all of the things. The menial, the mundane, the boring and bland. You write about the important, the significant, the controversial, the real. You write about the truth and the lies, the pain and the loss.

Then there are all the things you keep inside. The stories untold, the secrets kept, the times that you want nothing more than to shout it from the rooftop, but you won't allow it.

You refrain.

I sense that the writers out there will know exactly what I'm talking about, particularly the ones who have been at this long enough to have been sitting where I am right now, staring at the words running across the screen as they come screaming out.

The writers will know what I mean when I talk about the absolute therapeutic value in letting the words out, even just to ourselves, even if no one else ever sees them.

The writers out there will understand what I mean when I say that the words just need to be set on fire.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday ~ the fake news-biggest loser-grape soda-racist-we don't really know anything-you go Michael Sam edition

Okay you guys, there is a lot to cover this week, so I won't bother with an introduction. Off we go.


News That Isn't News
Welcome to the USA, land of fluffy stories on television cleverly disguised as news. I won't say which network it is, but one of the locals has started running an ad that says something along the lines of bringing you the news that you want to see. 

Well. Um. That's not news. News is news, actual reporting of events and stories and relevance. It is the good, the bad and ugly, even if the people at home get uncomfortable. The role of the news isn't to make us happy, to keep us content and complacent, to tell us what we want to hear. It is supposed to provide us with information we can't get anywhere else.

Instead, these days, to get the actual news stories that are important, not just locally but on a global level, we have to actively seek it out. I can't count on the networks, any of them, to do solid objective reporting anymore. It seems that everything is spun and then either sugarcoated or sensationalized, depending on whether this news channel just wants to make us feel better or wants to get us riled up.

That isn't news. What the hell happened?

I shouldn't have to watch BBC to get real news.

The Biggest Loser Drama
I'll preface what I am about to say by telling you all (again) that I avoid almost every reality show currently being produced. I like writing and scripts and can't stand the genre of reality shows for the most part. The Biggest Loser has always been my least favorite of them all for the simple fact that weight shouldn't be a game show.

We have a nation with issues when it comes to weight and nutrition and exercise at both ends of the spectrum. Rising obesity rates, recess and physical education being cut at school, increasing rates of preventable disease on one hand, eating disorders on the other. I've been on both ends. It's not fun either way, let me tell you.

The show, in my opinion, has always sent the wrong message. It shames the obese, embarrasses them on public television, tempts them with bountiful spreads of unhealthy food, forces them to workout for hours on end, then weighs them weekly to see whether they get to stay on the show or not. It's sick, honestly, and gives people the wrong idea about what healthy weight loss is supposed to be like. Most people don't have staffs preparing food, have personal trainers screaming at them, have entire teams rooting for or against them or are subjected to weekly humiliation.

Granted, contestants sign up for it, but most of them do it out of desperation having tried to lose the weight for years. That isn't exactly my definition of total consent. But I digress. I hate the show. But that isn't why I'm talking about it. I'm talking about it because of Rachel Frederickson, you know, the contestant who lost "too" much according to most of the commentary out there.


Here's the thing, America...isn't she exactly what the show is supposed to hold out as the example? If we are going to be pissed about people judging her when she was 260 pounds, then we can't hate on her when she is 105 either. Is she healthy now? Was she healthy then? I don't know, and quite honestly it is none of my business. I'm not her doctor. I'm not her.

We should be worrying about one thing when it comes to diet and exercise: health. When I say that we should be worrying about health, that includes mental health as well. Along those lines, we should recognize the truth that far more people in this country tie their value as human beings to the number on that scale and shows like this one only feed that beast, and that's not healthy at all, regardless of what the number is.

Leave her alone. While you are at it, leave the fat people alone too. Seriously.

The Worst Parents Ever?
You guys know that I'm not one for judging other people. I literally spend time every day reminding myself not to do it. Then a case like this one floats past my eyes online and I can't fight it anymore.

Alexa Linbloom died after being removed from life support last month. Her cause of death was acute water/fluid intoxication. She was five, and had been forced by her father and stepmother to consume more than two liters of grape soda and water in less than two hours as a punishment for taking her stepmother's soda.

Her body, literally, couldn't hold all the fluid. Her brain swelled too much and she died. They have both been arrested and charged with first degree murder, neglect and abuse. 

The Racist Olympic Cauldron Lighter
Here's something super fun! Just kidding.

So, the woman who lit the cauldron for the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics is named Irina Rodnina. She's won the gold medal three times and is a member of the public chamber in Russia. She also tweeted this insanely racist picture of President Obama in September.


She removed it almost immediately, but never apologized, instead claiming freedom of speech.

Please tell me you are laughing ironically right now.

Because the freedom of speech absolutely protects writers there, or protesters, or anyone who has a public opinion about equal rights, or anyone who is fighting against oppression. (please tell me you know I am being sarcastic. Please.)

Speaking of Russia, there is so much about it that we are oblivious to here. A friend shared this post from a native Russian about how misguided the media is, obsessing about the conditions in the village but ignoring the real issues present every day for the people who live there. It is most definitely worth a read.

It'll Be News When An Athlete Comes Out Until It Isn't Anymore. Period.
Michael Sam came out in a press conference Sunday. The defensive lineman from the University of Missouri has entered into the NFL draft this year. He is set to be the first openly gay man drafted in the league.

Why is this news? Because it is. The NFL is one of the last bastions of homophobia in our society, one of the places where you aren't supposed to be gay, you aren't supposed to talk about it, and god forbid, you aren't supposed to bring it into the locker room. Gasp!

As soon as the news came out and stories started to roll out, the comments started to pour in.

"When will it be newsworthy that I am white and straight?"

"This is news why?"

"He needs to read the Bible. Being gay is a sin."

This is news because he's doing it when he doesn't have to, when many of the reporters and teammates already knew. He is taking a huge risk and a huge leap of faith with a statement like this publicly going into the draft, because like it or not, this will probably affect which teams want him now. It's news because he's the first one to go into the draft as an openly gay player. It's news because he is breaking down barriers.

It will stop being news when it's not news anymore.

It will stop being news when people of all sexual orientations are accepted and don't have to feel compelled to come out anymore.

It will stop being news when sexual orientation isn't used as a basis to discriminate against people or deny rights to them.

It will stop being news when people are judged on their abilities alone, not who they love.

It will stop being news when it's not news anymore, and not one second before that moment.

Deal with it.

Snaps.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Three years

Has it only been three years?

Has it already been three years?

So much has happened that it has to have been that long since the last time he was with us, since the morning we spent around his bed, holding his hand, waiting, watching. So much that it must have been that long or longer even.

In some ways it seems like decades have passed.

In others, it seems like he was just here.

This is the first time that this day has arrived when my mind hasn't been occupied somewhere else, worrying about her, my mother, nervously wondering how she would cope with it all this time around. The first time without the phone calls and messages left and awkward exchanges and wondering if she really was okay and her never being even a little bit concerned about me and her minimizing whatever I was feeling because she always felt more, hurt more, needed more.

This is the first time that I can grieve for me.

Without the distractions.

Without being worried about someone else.

Without being told that my grief wasn't big enough.

It's calming, actually, this place that I am in now.

It still hurts, but the edges of the pain are dulled a bit. The memories come now and they wash over me and leave me with a smile on my face rather than the heartache they used to leave behind.

I have learned a lot on this journey through life without him. He taught me so many lessons, some of which I did not even realize at the time. Some of them are still coming back to me now, all these years later, like the one about spilling the milk. 

He taught me to be strong, to be resilient. He taught me to speak my mind, to lay out my arguments so well that people couldn't find the holes in them. He taught me to love music, to love the time I spend behind the wheel in the car, to love with my whole heart. He was the first to call me a writer, and I know he'd be prouder of me right now than anyone else could ever be.

I miss him. I miss him every day.

As I begin a new journey in my life, a familiar one, but one that I'm embarking on this time without him, my heart aches.

It hurts for all the things he won't be here to see, for all the moments without him. It hurts for the times he won't share with us.

Then a part of me knows that he is still with us.

He lets me know from time to time.

I have a feeling I'll be seeing a lot of him in the coming years.

I will welcome those moments. I will drink them in when they come. I will let the memories in, I will learn the lessons, I will be grateful for the chance to have been his little girl.


I miss you, Dad.

I love you.

Pondering My Insignificance ~ Still Processing Gravity

Last night, my husband and I went to see Gravity. I've been wanting to see it since it came out, but we don't get many opportunities to see movies without singing cartoons in them, so we have to plan accordingly. Thankfully this is still in theaters, and allowed me to check off one of the nominated films.


One of these years I will see them all before the Academy Awards. One of these years. Probably not anytime in the near future...but it's good to have a goal, right?

Anyhow, we went to see it. He found a theater locally still showing it in IMAX 3-D. Apparently, when we haven't seen a grown-up movie in a while, we need to overcompensate. I was a bit nervous since IMAX movies tend to make me nauseous, and I did have to close my eyes a few times, but I made it through the movie without running from the theater, so I will call it a win.

The rest of this post will contain spoilers, so if you haven't seen it yet and will yell at me for ruining something, please stop reading. 

The rest of this post may seem to ramble a bit. I apologize in advance. There is just a lot going through my head after seeing it. I laughed a bit after it ended, remembering all the posts I had seen when it was first released questioning the science of the film. Are there pieces that might not hold water? Of course...but at the end of the day, you have to remember that it's a movie. A stunningly gorgeous one, at that.

Speaking of which, I knew what the movie was about before we saw it, I even knew about the background of the main character and how it ended. Still, nothing was spoiled.

The Loss of a Child
When it first came out, a dear writer friend of mine went to see it in an attempt to escape her reality. After all, that is what movies are supposed to be for, right? As it turned out, though, it was anything but an escape and instead became a reminder of where she is, where she has been.

Dr. Ryan Stone, played by Sandra Bullock, lost her four year old daughter in a freak accident years before the story in the film takes place. At some point, the information about her is revealed, and I can't even begin to imagine what a blow that would have been for Mary Tyler Mom, my friend who also lost her daughter when she was four, though to cancer instead of an accident. She wrote about her experience with the film here in an attempt to prevent other parents in similar situations from being blindsided with the background story. 

The loss of her daughter, as you come to see during the film, was a large part of why Dr. Stone was who she was then, why she did what she did, why she felt comforted by the silence of space, why she was afraid to die but welcomed it anyway, and finally, what gave her the motivation to fight to survive.

It's profound, this emotional struggle that you see play out on the screen. I would think it would be moving for anyone. For those who have lost children, exponentially more real.

I anticipated that seeing the film would probably tap into my anxiety issues, but knowing that going in seemed to help. The scene when she is untethered and spinning uncontrollably further and further into space was abjectly terrifying. I don't think any other word could possibly do it justice.

To be so helpless, to know that you are being pushed away from life and that you are powerless to do anything to stop it is something that I've only truly experienced once in my life - in the moments right after I was told that my baby had died. It is something visceral and raw and it takes the breath from you and squeezes it out.


I'm glad that I knew about that part of the movie going into it. I don't know that I would have been able to watch it otherwise.

Death Can Be Beautiful
George Clooney's character, Matt Kowalski, is a veteran astronaut on his final trip when tragedy strikes. His final moments, when all you can hear is his voice as he drifts further and further away, were hard to hear. The words, hard to process. In those last moments, he knew what was coming, he was well trained for the inevitable and he seemed to face it without fear or hesitation. Instead he turned on his favorite music and admired the beauty around him while he still could.

It was beautiful.

Death can be beautiful, which is something we refuse to see in our society. Though almost none of us will ever be astronauts that meet our end drifting though space, our ends will come. The only thing certain in life is death, and yet it is something that too many of us fear. Because of that fear, we often find ourselves desperately trying to save people at the end. Life saving measures, surgeries, tubes, ventilators, all inflicting more pain but rarely saving anyone. And for what?


Death can be beautiful when it is welcome. When it is surrounded by love and peace and calm and friendship and family. I know this because it is how my father died. He was prepared, as much as he could have been, like this fictional man floating away. Enjoying what time he had left, and then letting go.

Fear and Courage
For almost the entire movie, the characters are in danger. Mortal, immediate danger. Though they are well trained, the fear is still there. The fear can still take hold. The fear does take over at times. Eventually, Dr. Stone fights through the fear and finds her inner strength.


What are we afraid of? It may not be something as overwhelming as an impending debris field, but is there something out there looming in the distance, keeping you on your toes?

Is it something that keeps you from doing what you should, what you must in order to not just survive, but thrive?

Can you power through the fear? Courage isn't about the absence of fear, not at all. It is about being afraid and doing it anyway.

Insignificance
Films like this one that include shots of the Earth from space, almost by definition, are supposed to make us ponder our place in the universe. Our smallness. Our insignificance.

When life overwhelms me, I try to remember that I am but one of over 7 billion people on this planet. My problems are inconsequential when compared to what most of those 7 billion people have to face every single day. What is huge and even life altering for me is just a drop in the bucket of humanity.

Do you ever just think about that? The hugeness of the universe? How little we know?

Do you ever stare up at the night sky and wonder what it all means? If there are planets full of life out there pondering the same thing?

I do. All the time. I marvel at it. It humbles me, keeps me grounded.

It tells me that no matter how much I think I know, I really don't know anything. Seeking knowledge only makes me want to seek more of it. The more I absorb, the more I realize how much more there is to know and understand the truth that I will never be able to learn it all.

Movies are for entertainment. They transport us somewhere we may never be able to visit, take us to a time and place far and away. They use lighting and images and music and sound to immerse us somewhere else entirely. Sometimes they take us all the way there just to bring us inward, to make us feel, to make us think.

The best movies do it all. They leave us asking questions, not just of the filmmakers, but of ourselves.

This?

One of those.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Blessing and Curse of Social Media

Yesterday was my birthday. Though it was one of those days that I legitimately needed several extra hours to get everything done and was running around all day, it was a good day. A really good day.

Probably the best birthday I've ever had.

There was no celebratory dinner. It was waiting in the crockpot when we got home from all the other things we had to do.

There was no cake. Which is fine, because I really don't like cake anyway. (Gasp! I know, right?)

There was no party. Unless you count the singing of Happy Birthday as we crammed chicken cacciatore into our mouths.

There was no hurrah. My youngest didn't even realize it was my birthday until last night.

And you know what? It was still awesome.

I resisted joining Facebook for a long time, telling myself (with real reason) that I didn't want to be on a social media site, that I didn't need to connect with classmates from decades ago, that I didn't need to be wasting my time there. I pushed it away because I was afraid I would like it, if I am just being honest with myself.

I eventually gave in and joined.

Over the years I have reconnected with people I never thought I would, forged friendships with people I never would have had the chance to, and met some of the nicest people I've never actually met.

Then there is this. Most of you came by way of Facebook.

All day yesterday, I received posts and messages from these people that live in my computer. I laughed at a few, teared up at others, was touched by everyone that took time out of their day just to write to me.

It's fairly fantastic, this internet thing.

A few times, though, I saw people posting memes and links to posts whining about the 10th anniversary Facebook movies. In case you don't know what they are, earlier this week, Facebook celebrated their 10th Anniversary. To thank their users, they created an app that generates a one minute look back video of your time on Facebook. The first posts you wrote and pictures you shared, the items that people interacted with the most, the things that some algorithm decided were worthy of being included in that little snippet of life.


Most people loved their video. Some didn't, usually because it included pictures of painful reminders, posts having to do with heartbreak or loss, people who aren't here anymore.

Even if people loved their own video, eventually the snark about everyone else's videos began. It seems in this world we can't ever just let people have their moment without making it about us, can we? We seem to think that our opinions are important enough to voice them, even at the expense of others.

If you don't want to make a video, fine. No one required you to do so. If other people do, leave them be. Chances are that video means something to them that you could never possibly understand.

My video made me cry. In it, pictures of my parents who are both gone now, of my babies when they were little. Images from some of the worst days in my life where I was trying to hold it together and smile for the camera. Others that show the moments when I started to emerge from the tunnel. When life turned around, when there was genuine joy again. Pictures of the things I love, the people I love, the things I am proud of.

My video was an absolutely accurate representation of what my life has been like, perhaps because I am absolutely authentic, even online.

The trouble with social media is that it's easy to portray ourselves as something other than who we really are. It's easy to get caught up in comparing yourself to the images everyone else puts out there. If you can take it for what it is, though, be real about who you are, and stop worrying so much about what everyone else is doing, it can be a truly beautiful thing.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Addiction, part deux

First of all, let me just say thank you from the bottom of my heart for the response to the original post I wrote earlier this week about addiction.

I wanted to clear up a few things, answer a few questions and address a few issues in the wake of it. I wrote it initially because the words just needed to get out of my head. I've told quite a few people that I really don't even feel like I wrote it, I was just the person attached to the fingers that typed it out. It came from my soul.

The difficulty in writing something like this is that I wrote it for my own reasons, which are related to my own personal experiences with addiction in many different forms. I never wrote it thinking for even one second that it would go viral. It was not done to capitalize on the moment, it was not even a celebration of PSH as an actor, though I will miss his contributions to the industry. It was a response to the way people reacted. The assumptions made about him. The assumptions made not just about him, but about everyone out there struggling the same way he did.

It wasn't about him at all, really. It was about the addicts I have known and loved. It was about the people I have known, the struggles I have witnessed. The demons in my own head.

His death just forced all that to the surface for me.


There are a few things that I wanted to clarify, that I probably should have written more in depth about at the time but didn't either because I didn't think about it at the time, or I did and chose to try and condense my words.

The greatest of which is the issue of what causes addiction, something we may not ever have clear and convincing scientific evidence of. We see what we see, though. We observe what we observe. I did not state in the post that every case of addiction has mental illness as a precursor, though I believe many of them do. There will certainly be people who don't relate to it at all. It's not intended to be all-inclusive, nor would I ever presume that it could be.

There most certainly appears to be an element of genetics involved when it comes to addiction. Some people are just more inclined to be drawn toward drugs, alcohol, food, whatever it is. Some families seem to have clusters of addiction. Whether it is an actual issue of genes or just the force of habits and learned behaviors from a lifetime of living with and around other addicts, I can't say. I just know that some people have a predisposition to it.

I know this because I am one of them.

I walk the line.

I have been forthcoming about my personal issues in the past.

There are people who may not have that predisposition, who can use drugs socially, who can drink without hesitation, and it never causes a problem. For some of them, though, these people without the predisposition, they may find themselves addicted anyway simply because the item they use creates its own physical addiction.

Nicotine, heroin and cocaine are the ones that come to mind immediately. These drugs are inherently addictive and create dependence in people who might otherwise be able to fight it off, purely because of the chemical compounds involved and their effect on the body.

Along with all that, there is the underlying issue quite often of mental illness. I say this only because it has been the case in every single addict I have ever known, most commonly depression. In many cases, because of the stigma about mental illness in general, people are resistant to believe they have a problem, resistant to seek help, and in turn seek out ways to self medicate...which can lead them down the path of addiction.

Some of the comments left indicate that people misread my words. I never intended for anything in the post to be an absolution of responsibility on the part of the addict. Quite the opposite, in fact. Attempting to understand why people become addicts and why it is so hard for them to get clean doesn't equal helplessness at all. They are without a doubt the most essential piece of the puzzle. Without a desire to get better, without the determination to get up and fight the fight every single day, no amount of resources, no amount of support will ever make a difference.

Those of us who have been there understand that. Those of you out there who haven't been there should consider yourselves lucky. Honestly.

Do addicts choose to use? Yes, of course they do, at least initially. Once they are in it, though, the issue of choice isn't clear cut anymore, it's not cut and dried, it's not black and white. Some drugs mess with the messages in your head. Some drugs force your body to get more. It's not as simple as just deciding to stop, particularly for people with severe addictions that can only quit safely with the help of detox.

The physical aspect of addiction is only one piece, and most would argue, one of the most inconsequential, at least in the long run. The reason people relapse is precisely because addiction isn't just physical. It's bigger than that. It's more complicated than that.

Our mental health system isn't equipped to help addicts. Even where there are services available, the resources are usually lacking to help pay for it. Not all insurance covers rehab, for those people who even have insurance. One of the lesser discussed aspects of the Affordable Care Act is that all plans sold on the exchanges are required to include coverage for substance abuse.

This is huge, and might finally be a step in the right direction.

We need to do a better job for addicts in this country. We need to do a better job for all mental health conditions in general. We need to have a better understanding of the co-morbidity often present between them. We need to stop believing that drug use is simply a criminal issue.

Mostly, though, we need to remember what it's like to care about people.

We need empathy and compassion.

They, the addicts, need it maybe more than anyone else does.

Does that mean that I am claiming you should always be there, be subjected to abuse, throw money at treatment centers for people who refuse to try? Of course not. In all of this, you have to understand that all the help in the world won't help someone who doesn't want it, someone who isn't ready, someone who won't get up and fight every day.

You can't love them enough to fix them.

You can't love them enough to keep them clean.

You can't love them enough to make it all better unless they want it to be better.

It's a painful realization, one that I've had to come to before. It sucks backwards and forwards. You can only do what you can do until you can't do it anymore. Then you have to do what you have to do to protect yourself.

No one will fault you for that if they understand what it is like. Those who would can't possibly know.

Another of the topics I wanted to clarify a little here is the subject of religion, which is something mentioned quite often in the comments. I didn't talk about it because I am not a religious person. I am spiritual, but not within the confines of a religion per se. I have known addicts to get clean even without a belief in God. I have known people with all the faith in the world who didn't make it. My opinion is a simple one - whatever works for you, cling to it, but don't think that it will necessarily work for someone else. Each person has a different path, a different inspiration, a different reason.

I honor them all. I respect them all.

I think that is all the issues I wanted to clear up. I think. I'm probably missing something, but I can count on you all to let me know.

Again, thank you for sharing this important message.

Peace and strength to you all.

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