Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the "news", racists, prom hell and bittersweet symphony edition

It's Tuesday again, isn't it? I feel like we just did this....or maybe I'm just getting old now and the clock seems to race faster.

Anyhow, there is a lot going on in the world and in my little teeny corner of it worth ranting about, so we'll just get to it.

The News That Isn't
Yesterday for Lefty Pop, I wrote a piece about how pathetic the news has become here in the U.S. over the past couple decades. It's sugarcoated and spun and myopic and neglects to tell us most of what is actually going on in the world that we should know about.

Well, but the most recent shenanigans of the Kardashians are sooo pressing, right?

No. No they are not.


The problem is that news, like everything else anymore, is driven by money. Ratings. People want to see concerts and celebrity interviews and actual news makes them sad and uncomfortable. God forbid people be sad and uncomfortable....then they'd actually maybe want to find out more or do something about whatever made them sad and uncomfortable, and we can't have that happening now can we?

I swear. The whole post-Earth obese humans in recliners sipping their food through a straw glued to the screen getting every single thing they need from one massive retailer thing...it's really not that far off, you guys. We get a little bit closer every day.

Did you know that two weeks ago over 200 schoolgirls disappeared in Nigeria and no one seems to know where they are or who took them?  Did you know that while we busy ourselves with debating about whether climate change is real or not, there are places around the world actually sinking because of overuse of groundwater, putting all low lying areas at risk already?

Probably not, because whoever runs our "news" here either doesn't want you to know or thinks you can't handle it. If you did know, it's probably because you already rely on BBC or Al Jazeera for news.

This Week in Racism
Oh, Cliven. Just stop talking. You're digging yourself a hole that even to most fringe Congressmembers  and talking heads on tv aren't going to want to help you find a way out of. Do yourself a favor and just stop talking.

He got some company in the ridiculous racists department in the past few days, in the form of Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. The owner of a professional basketball team in a sport utterly dominated by black players decided to tell his (mixed race) girlfriend not to associate with them and certainly not to bring them to any games....and she taped it.

The team members silently protested before their playoff game, removing the warmups with the team name and logo and throwing them at center court.

The Miami Heat joined them in solidarity, doing it as well.

The NBA is supposed to make some kind of statement today about how they intend to go forward with the situation. We'll see if they actually have the wherewithal to stand up to this man, or if they slap him on the wrist.

Ironic that all this happens the same week that the Supreme Court seems to decree from the mountaintops that racism is a thing of the past, the playing field is already leveled and affirmative action is unacceptable.


Prom Hell
There have been so many cases in the news about things gone wrong at or before the prom that I thought I'd try to gather them up for you here.

The most tragic case of them all involves Maren Sanchez, a 16 year old student stabbed to death in the stairwell at her high school last week because she declined a prom invitation from the boy who killed her. Apparently we now live in a world where turning someone down that you aren't interested in for a date means you might be murdered. So much promise for the future, such a beautiful and intelligent young woman, just gone...all because she said no.

A North Carolina female student was kicked out of the prom for wearing pants. Apparently females aren't allowed to wear pants now. Because it is 1884. There isn't even an existing dress code for the school officials to attempt to cite here, but they gave her the boot anyway. They've since apologized, like that will make everything better.

Can't wear pants if you're a girl....but you can wear a dress, right? Maybe, but it depends on who you are. Apparently, another school was forbidding certain female students from entering the prom over the weekend, citing the dress code restrictions on the lengths of the hems on their dresses. We'll ignore all the girls allowed inside with short dresses and just keep out the ones we deem inappropriate...uh huh. Seems legit.

Yet another school forbid entrance to quite a few students and even went so far as to have them forcibly removed from the premesis. They rarely gave a specific reason, but cited dress code violations. These dresses (only the girls were targeted) were deemed inappropriate, though the pictures parents have shared of the kids banned online seem mild by today's standard. One of the offenses included "too much cleavage"...so girls, you'd better not be stuck with large breasts because your breasts are inappropriate by definition.

Let me get this straight. Girls can't wear pants....but they can't wear short dresses either (unless, of course, we decide they look acceptable in them). They can't have large breasts either. Quick...someone tell me we don't live in a sexist society perpetrated by rape culture. I dare you.

My Bittersweet Symphony
I don't intend to be all Debbie Downer, and I promise that once I get this out, I will stop wallowing...but can I just ever have a second to be happy and excited without something coming along, smacking me in the face and reminding me of how much I have lost?

I have been resistant to purchase anything for the baby because I'm paranoid and a natural born worrier. I have, in my basement, a box still full of the things we bought for the first baby, the one that I never met. So I wait. I wait until I get to a point where I feel safe and secure and confident that everything will be okay, and I was finally at that point.

So, being as that I am finally in this good place and looking forward to the future with some happiness and excitement, we went to the store and bought the first few things for the baby yesterday.

We came home to a letter in the mail having to do with my mother's death.

And Rafiki lifted the cub and the Circle of Life song punched me in the gut.

It's not fair, so much in this life, and it seems like it always manages to get pointed out to me in the most obvious way in the moments where I'm the most content and forward-looking. I get dragged back to the past, to the times that are no more, to the voids left, to the people who are just gone now.

I guess this is just the way it goes, though. I'm finding that I have to take and keep those moments of joy and feel them as much as I can for as long as I can because I know that there is usually something lingering in the shadows, waiting to remind me of all that I've lost.

Dammit, it's not fair.

Okay, there. It's out. I'll shut up now.

Look at this instead. It's the shirt that convinced Mini Me that having another baby brother won't be the worst thing that ever happened to her.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Boys, Girls and Books

For the past few years, I have spent most of the summer reading with my kids. The first year, we tore through most of the Harry Potter series. I told my oldest son that he could only watch the movies after we had read the books and it became a family affair. What started out as something we intended to do only for short periods of time became something they all were obsessed with. The kids became book critics, movie critics, picking out all the differences in the film interpretations, from the major changes to the subtle issues.

Back then, only my oldest was a confident enough reader to help me in the actual reading aloud of the books. Since then, two of the other kids have begun taking chapters at a time.

Yes, we read the books aloud. That way, even my five year old is a participant.

I started sharing the lists as more people realized what we were doing. These days, it seems that kids aren't being required to read many novels in school anymore, though we were definitely assigned them back when we were there. I don't want my kids to miss out on the importance of these stories, so we do it over the summer. I schedule a book a week and try to choose books with film adaptations to watch after we finish reading.

This year, I decided to give them a little more input into the books we would be reading this summer, and they helped with the selection of about half of the books. We read To Kill A Mockingbird over Spring Break and they fell completely in love with the story, the characters, all of it.

Here is this year's list if you haven't seen it already.

May 26 -        20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
June 2 -         Little Women
June 9 -         Catching Fire
June 16 -      Huckleberry Finn
June 23 -     off/catch-up
June 30 -     Divergent
July 7 -         Frankenstein
July 14 -      Of Mice and Men
July 21 -      Shakespeare: Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet
July 28 -     Edgar Allen Poe: stories and poems TBD
August 4 -  Diary of Anne Frank

Anyway, as soon as I posted the list this year, I got a few comments from people about the books chosen...primarily about Little Women. Mostly it was concerns about whether boys would want to read the book.

I knew then that eventually this post was going to be written, it just took me this long to get to it.

My concerns are many, but they all boil down to one issue - gender equality. If we don't blink an eye at a girl reading Huckleberry Finn, why do we doubt that a boy might be interested in Little Women?

Why is it that most of the classic stories we grew up reading centered on male characters and no one ever thinks to doubt their literary value, but the instant that a book that focuses on females is mentioned, people shy away from it?

Why do we see the inherent good for all children in the books about boys, but just assume that boys won't want to read anything about girls?


I don't have a good answer for you, but I am sure that it has something to do with our male dominated society, one that we may be unintentionally perpetuating if we only ever expose male children to the stories about other boys.

Girls need heroines. Girls need protagonists. Girls need to be the lead characters, they need to read those stories. Girls need books that hold more relevance to them, to their stories, to their lives. And boys need to read those books just as much as the girls do.

Sometime after attending Comic Con last year, I finally wrote the piece about Wonder Woman that had been floating around in my head forever. Questioning why the movie producers won't take a risk on a film with her as the lead, even in the blockbuster superhero film world we currently occupy, it just seems, well, wrong. Part of the reason is the systemic doubt that women and girls will provide enough of a fan base to market to (which is patently wrong). Part of the reason is this bizarre notion that men and boys will never want to watch a movie about a female superhero (which is also patently wrong).

A big part of the reason there isn't a Wonder Woman movie, though, is the same reason that people flinched when I put out the reading list this year. We assume, on their behalf and without even presenting or requiring it, that boys will have no interest in the stories of girls.

Anthony Mackie plays Falcon in the latest Captain America movie. He gets it. We all need to.

We don't tell them these stories. We don't require them to listen. We don't even bother to ask if they would be interested. And we start doing it when they are young enough that they grow up with the expectation that they never will have to actively listen to the stories of women.

At the same time, girls are subjected, almost constantly, to the stories of male leads, of male characters. And we often don't even see what is missing.

So, I urge you all, whether you have boys or girls or both, tell them all the stories from the time they are small. Read all the books with them. Teach them different viewpoints from a time that they are so young that they will grow up with a greater understanding. Teach them from birth, teach them that there are stories for all children.

My boys will be reading Little Women this summer. Will yours?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Mama Birds and Free Range Pooping...or why you shouldn't take advice from celebrities....

It is happening again you guys. Yet another celebrity, unsatisfied with the level of fame that whatever it is that they are known for has garnered them, has become a self-proclaimed parenting expert.

Let us all rejoice.

I'm being sarcastic, but you knew that. 

I hope you knew that.

I always find it terribly interesting that so many of these celebrities who write these books about parenting usually do it when they have had one child for a few years. Because every seasoned parent totally knows everything after doing this for a couple years, right?

Again with the sarcasm.

Of course they don't know everything. None of us do. The people who actually have some kind of credential or training that would to some degree allow them to actually claim they know everything still don't know everything. The people like me who've parented several different kids with several different conditions still don't know everything. Even people who raised entirely functional adults don't know everything.

And you sure as shit haven't figured it all out when you have one three year old. 

Speaking of shit, I'll get to that in a bit. Literally. There will be poop discussions below, and if that is the kind of thing that makes you uncomfortable, just stop reading now, because it's pretty nasty, this poop issue I will soon speak of.

Before we get there, though, I wanted to address my real issue with this latest incarnation of parental wisdom, this one written (okay, like, it was totally dictated in part and probably actually written by someone else) by Alicia Silverstone. My bad. I had to throw in some obnoxious Clueless type dialogue, since that is why she's famous and all.

Oh, wait. She shook her ass on the hood of Aerosmith's car too. That's right.

My real beef with this book is the fact that she talks about health care decisions and maternal mental health conditions as though she has any goddamn idea what she's talking about. She is another celeb who rants about the dangers of vaccines and talks about how her unvaccinated kid is healthy so obviously it's working out just fine. 

Which is totally fine. For now. For her. Until it's not.

Bangs head on wall.

There are plenty of legitimate concerns that parents have when it comes to vaccines, but people writing books with no scientific background that proclaim they've skipped all shots and their kids are fine so far aren't just possibly endangering their kids, they are endangering the kids of whoever reads their books and follows their so-called advice. I'm not even going to rehash all the society level issues involved here. 

It's not just that, though, that chaps my ass. Even worse are her musings about post partum depression, and how it's less likely to happen to new mothers that live "kindly" whatever that is supposed to mean. She's not a mental health professional, she apparently hasn't suffered from post partum depression, she doesn't know what the hell she is talking about and yet she's doing it. 

She's saying all these things as though anything about living kindly is going to have a damn thing to do with how maternal hormones affect a mother's brain in the postpartum period. 

It would make more sense if she was jumping on a couch all batshit crazy the way Tom Cruise was around the time he claimed to be an expert about PPD. 

Okay, it wouldn't make more sense, but it would be much more entertaining.

Now that we've established that being an actress with one child who is "healthy and unvaccinated" and who has never had to deal with PPD isn't qualified to be giving out advice to anyone about either topic, let's talk about some of the other things in this book of hers.

The book, that, by the way, I'm not linking on purpose. If you really want to go find it, there's a search bar up top. I'm not about to send her any traffic. 


She's talked in the past about pre-chewing food for her son and then spitting it into his mouth. Like a mama bird. 

There are apparently even videos of this. Again, not linking, because ewwwwww.

This poor child and the things he will be picked on for when he gets just a little bit older....

For the love. Why anyone would take advice from someone who feeds their child like this is beyond me. If your kid can't chew the food you want him to eat, that generally means he shouldn't be eating it yet. Logic is amazing, isn't it?

She also encourages parents to potty train their children using her kindness technique, part of which involves free range pooping, which is exactly what it sounds like. Literally, let the kid run around pantsless and poop in the yard. Like a dog. 

I'm all for pantslessness, don't get me wrong, but I'm not sending my kid out back to work for number two. 

Aside from the whole ick factor, you have to wonder what planet she lives on. I mean, does she clean it up??? I hope she cleans it up. I actually assume she doesn't do it herself, because she's probably far too glamorous to scoop anyone's poop....so does her gardener have to do it? Does she tell them what it is? Do her neighbors know there is human feces on the lawn next door?

The free range pooping goes along with her other training techniques, which seem to mostly involve watching your kid for signs of impending pooping. So you're supposed to sit around, wait for the grimacing to begin, then plop the kid on the pot, cheer wildly and pat yourself on the back. Some people start doing it as early as 6 months, long before babies are even walking.

I have a newsflash. Ready for this one???

That's not potty training. It's mommy training. 

If the kid can't even physically get to a toilet and you are the one putting them there, who is really being trained here?  Hint....it's not the kid.

I have better things to do than worry all day long about whether my kid is on the verge of poo, then rushing him to the potty just to applaud the fact that I have nothing better to do than to wait for this to happen. 

I've trained four kids to poop in actual toilets. She has a kid who poops on the grass. 

Which book do you want to read, hers or mine?

Seriously though, these books are ridiculous, and the idea that they fly off the shelves into the eager hands of new parents is a little bit terrifying. Talk to your pediatrician, talk to the nurses, talk to your parents, talk to your friends. Talk to literally anyone else in the known universe before you start taking advice from a woman who chews up her kid's food and spits it into his mouth.

As if.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - The Boy Scouts and Game of Thrones edition

How's that for a bizarre pairing?

Welcome to my brain, you guys. Like last week, I'm just writing on two topics even though there are a million other things going on in the universe that I could include, and I'm doing it because I know that I'm going to have a lot to say about the two that I am covering.

Besides, I wrote about all the people asking the moronic question of whether Hillary Clinton could be a grandmother and the President at the same time over at Lefty Pop yesterday. That chapped my ass too.

Anyhow, off we go. I'm probably going to use the swears. Just warning you.

The Boy Scouts are "Saddened" by the gays
Just when you start to think that antiquated institutions might be capable of real change, just when there is a glimmer of hope that thinking can evolve, something like this goes and happens.

The Boy Scouts of America has revoked the charter of a Methodist church in Seattle, shutting down the Scout Troop and Cub Scout Pack they sponsor after a gay Scoutmaster came out publicly.

He was ousted by BSA in March, but the church refused to remove him from his position. The church explained that they stood by the Scoutmaster because they have a policy of non-discrimination. So, BSA did what it logically thought it had to do...revoke the charter entirely.

In a public statement, BSA has said that they are, "saddened by this development, but remain committed to providing all youth with the best possible scouting experience where the scouting program is the main focus. We are contacting the parents and leaders of the units to inform them of the chartered-organization change."

Right. Because the best way to provide all youth with the best scouting experience is to dissolve the Troop and Pack. And this made BSA "sad".

Bullshit. They painted themselves into a corner and are content to keep painting as their tiny space gets smaller and smaller. They created this problem when they made formal rules banning gay adults from leadership. They could make it all go away.

Bangs head on wall.

Seriously, you guys. I was SO pissed when I saw this last night. The fact that my oldest son had just come home from his troop meeting makes it even worse...because as much as I loathe the BSA right now, I'm stubbornly digging in my heels as a vocal advocate for change. Boy Scouts is a hugely valuable organization. It has been a part of my husband's life for almost his entire life. It has taught my son so much, given him so many opportunities, pushed him to try new things, gain new skills.

If what is going down in Seattle comes anywhere near his troop, though, I will pull him so fast that heads will spin.

The BSA is digging their own grave, again. Membership is way down, in large part because of their homophobic stance. I can think of at least ten families I know personally who have pulled their boys or refused to join at all because of the anti-gay position of the scouts. I know leaders who've quit over it, good leaders with so much to offer the organization.

People are fed up.

The church that sponsors my son's troop is an inclusive, non-discriminatory church. I know people in scouting who fit into every single banned criteria. Good people. Good leaders.

One day, not too long from now, either the BSA will have run itself into the ground through no one's fault but their own, or they'll have realized how wrong they were and done everything they possibly could to try and repair the damage they've already done.

Personally, I hope they figure this shit out in a hurry and do the right thing. I'd really hate to leave scouts over this, but I'll do it in a heartbeat.

Game of Thrones, Revisions and Rape
Two things. One, I am basically a superfan of the series, more of the books than the show. Two, what follows will contain specific information about scenes that have played out in both the books and shows, so if you are going to yell at me about writing spoilers, stop reading now.


I've written before about the books, and how I began reading them some time last year. We tried to watch the show at first, but were a little taken aback by the violence and couldn't get into it immediately. Instead, at the urging of a few devoted fans, we decided to read the books first and take it from there.

Though most of the books come in somewhere around a thousand pages, we found ourselves tearing through them. Then we started watching the show.

Initially, my reaction to the show was (and for the most part remains) good. The casting is spot on. The sets are unbelievable. The costuming is easily the most impressive I've ever seen for a television show. And, almost always, the creators of the show have done a good job translating the books for the screen.

Necessarily, they have to change pieces of the stories. It would be impossible to make a 10 episode season based on a 1,000 page book and not take some things out. I don't think that anyone out there is annoyed that all the little nuances and all the little back stories aren't included. Plus, in this particular series, the imagery in the setting is easier shown in pictures than it is described in the books. What can take ten pages of detailed writing can be shown far easier if it is done well, and it usually is.

Where I struggle, though, is where the fundamental pieces of the stories of major characters are changed.

In the first season, Daenerys, the child bride, is raped by Khal Drogo on their wedding night for no particular reason. In the book, he works to gain her consent (well, assuming that a 14 year old girl sold by her brother in marriage to a man twice her age could really consent anyhow) prior to consummating the marriage. She is reluctant to enter the marriage, yes, but she accepts her husband and she initiates their first sexual encounter. She ultimately falls deeply in love with Drogo and he becomes her sun and stars, a story that seems far less plausible if he rapes her violently the first night they are wed.

The rape of Daenerys is glossed over in the show, just merely a piece of that episode, and does nothing to alter the rest of their storyline as a couple or hers as an individual. So, then, why change it? It's a legitimate question to ask, even in the fictional world of Westeros.

Westeros isn't a calm and peaceful place. It is filled with violence, particularly sexual violence and objectification of women, as it is. So, then why do the show creators feel compelled to make it even more so on screen? Why?

It's a question that needs to be asked, and it is being asked again because it has happened again. Another storyline containing major characters has been altered.

This time, it's Jaime and Cersei. Twins and incestuous lovers, he is the father of her children, though they are held out to be fathered by the now dead King Robert. Cersei is, all the way through to her core, an evil character in the books. She is manipulative, she is vindictive, she is selfish, she is cruel. For whatever reason, one that escapes me, the creators of the show have tried to humanize her on a few occasions. The first occurred when she was consoling Catelyn at Bran's bedside in season one. We're all supposed to ignore that she played an active role in the child's injury, and that the story she tells about losing her own child doesn't even exist in the books.

I was a bit mystified when that scene played out.

I was even more upset when this week's episode aired. In it, Cersei finds herself alone in the sept with Jaime, alongside the body of their dead child, Joffrey. He has been back for weeks in the show (though in the books he had just now returned), and she had refused his attempts at showing her affection as she is now disgusted by the fact that he lost his hand.

In the book and in the show, they engage in intercourse right there alongside their son's dead body...but in the book she resists him only initially, and only because it's "not right" (whether she's referring to it happening next to a dead body or the incest in general...who knows?). In the show, however, she resisted far more vocally, never went along with it and screamed no throughout the scene.

It was filmed as a rape, not the sudden emotionally driven act that happens in the book.

I am greatly troubled by this for a few reasons. First, it again makes her the sympathetic character here, when the books by this point in the story have painted a very different picture. Second, Jaime has evolved greatly by this point in the story and the reader relates to him more, wants to understand him, even root for him by this time. His chapters are written from his perspective, and we have tremendous insight into what he is thinking.

Clearly, it is impossible to film a show from the perspective of a character, but what happened in this episode doesn't just fall short of showing his perspective, but it perverts it entirely and alters the viewers perception not just of her, but of him as well.

There is also the looming elephant in the room of why the creators of the show seem insistent on changing these particular story lines. These are not small and inconsequential changes done for time and story compression reasons, these go all the way to the core of these main characters.

It also appears that Martin wasn't consulted on this change, a very significant one. He certainly never intended the scene to play out as a rape.

For those who didn't read the books, I can see how the show would paint an entirely different picture of them both. For those who have read the books, we are mostly just disappointed. We are seeing things in the scene that weren't there because we know how it should have happened. We are reading things into it that aren't present on the screen at all.

And why?

Why did Daenerys need to be raped on her wedding night? Why did Cersei have to be raped in the sept? Why are Daenerys and Cersei, arguably the two strongest women in the show, both now victimized on screen in scenes that either didn't happen at all or played out very differently in the books?


Sadly, my answer makes me even more uncomfortable, and I truly think that it is because of the sensationalism in the objectification of women, of the screen appeal (if one wants to call it that) of sexual violence against women.

Rape in this world is fine because she falls in love with him eventually. Rape in this world is fine because they've had children together. Rape is fine because they've already had sex. Rape in this world is just part of this world.

Rape is part of this world because it is part of our world, because we live in a world where we disbelieve women who have been assaulted, we let rapists off if they can throw a football, we worry more about their futures than the women they harm.

This is rape culture, and it's playing out on screen here now.

I'm disappointed, HBO. Very disappointed.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Prenatal Propaganda

It's been a long time since the last time that I was pregnant. I'm officially past the age cutoff to be considered advanced maternal age, but happened to pick a pretty good time to get old and pregnant since science has evolved to the point that most of the screening for genetic abnormalities can be done through blood work now, allowing the old moms like me some peace of mind without having to endure invasive testing that could put the entire pregnancy at risk.

Speaking of which, I got those blood test results back this week and they were all negative (which in this case means good) and so I can breathe a little bit easier now.

A little.

I'm still neurotic as hell, but you all knew that already.

It is a boy. :)

Since it's been so long since the last time I was pregnant and the internet has become an almost constant presence in our lives in that time period, a lot has changed, aside from science.

In the first weeks of my pregnancy, in an effort to pinpoint my due date, I visited a few websites that have calculators and such for that purpose. In the process, I must have given some of them my email address in order to access the information.

It's a two way street though, and now I am being bombarded with propaganda from all angles at all times of the day. I have several emails a day (not even including the ones that get routed to my junk folders). There are pop up ads all over my Facebook account and anytime I search anything online. Amazon wants me to enroll in their subscription services for diapers and wipes and all of the things already.

How the hell does everyone on the internet know that I am pregnant???

Anyhow, some of it is nice. I've already scored a few sweet deals with some of the ads that clearly are generated to draw my attention. I don't want to be a sucker for good marketing, butgoddammititworks.

There are other things I am being sent though, and they are the ones that are bothering me a bit more.

Like the email that I got when I was only 5 or 6 weeks along that promised ways to keep my tummy flat and how to regain my figure immediately right after birth. Or the ones that push super expensive creams and oils that are supposed to save my skin from stretch marks. Or any of the ads, for that matter, that are telling women who are barely pregnant that their bodies are about to go to hell and the only way to prevent that from happening is available on this site for the low one time only price of $49.99.

I'm being a little facetious, but not really.

It bothers me because I've never searched any of those things. This is just what they send to everyone.

My stomach hasn't been flat in decades. I've already had four kids and have the stretch marks to prove it. I can tell you that whether you are going to get stretch marks has nothing to do with what you slather on your belly or how much it costs, but whether you happen to blessed with super elastic collagen in your skin or not. Which happens to be genetic...meaning there isn't a damn thing you can do about it.

Your body is changing because you are growing a person. It's not supposed to stay the same. You aren't supposed to look the same. You are supposed to gain weight. Your hips are supposed to get wider. Your feet usually grow and often stay bigger permanently. You're either going to get stretch marks or you aren't, so save the money on the expensive crap and just buy a bottle of baby oil.

Your body is supposed to look like it just had a baby when you've just had a baby. It takes six weeks alone for your uterus to go back to its original size and all the diets and shakes and supplements and wraps and that in the universe can't force that process any faster than nature intends it to go.

We live in a twisted society that is so focused on body image that we expect women to look like they did before they were pregnant within mere hours after birth. It's just not realistic, and emails like the ones being sent out to people like me (and, I assume, every other woman who ever signs up on these sites for anything) serve to undermine what self confidence we have by taking the focus away from this miraculous life creation thing our body is doing and shining a spot light on whether we will fit into our skinny jeans immediately.

You aren't supposed to fit into your skinny jeans immediately. Honest.

You are supposed to be concerned with caring for yourself and your newborn. That's what you are supposed to be spending your time focused on. Honest.

It's not just the internets that harass the pregnant women of the world, it's everyone. Literally.

There is something about being pregnant that screws up the filters that the universe normally has and allows people to believe that whatever their opinions about you and your body and your pregnancy are 1)legitimate, 2)relevant, and 3)required to be proclaimed to the world.

It's a bit strange, and I honestly can't figure out where this societal compulsion comes from, why people think that just because a woman is pregnant that it is totally permissible to invade her privacy, ask questions they never would ordinarily ask, tell stories no one solicits and give advice no one wants.

For better or worse, I've become tremendously skilled in ignoring it, in nodding and smiling and disregarding. Then again, this is the sixth time I've been pregnant, so I've had a lot more practice than the average person.
  • We don't want to hear about the horrible birth story of your cousin's best friend's sister. 
  • We don't care about how much weight you gained or how fast you lost it.
  • We don't want you telling us that we have to have an epidural or not.
  • We don't care what you think about how many kids we already have.
  • We don't want you trying to tell us to breastfeed or recommending formula.
  • We don't care if you think we look tiny/huge/like we're carrying twins.
  • We don't want you touching us. Like ever.
We are humans, still as worthy of privacy and respect as we were when we weren't gestating another human. If we want your input, we will ask. If it is okay for you to feel the baby kicking, we'll let you know and guide your hand. If we are looking for options and alternatives, we'd like to know that we can come to you, but let us initiate the conversation. We got this.

We are judged enough as it is. By our doctors, by the nurses, by society's expectations of us, by the internet looming everywhere we are. We judge ourselves probably more than anyone else does.

Those of us with complicated pregnancies, myself included, can promise you (to the moon and back) that it is taking everything we have to stay focused on what we need to do to sustain and maintain a healthy baby and keep our own health in check. Everything is infinitely more complicated for us and we're already harder on ourselves than anyone else is. Honest.

It all compounds on one another.

In the rare spaces between all those times when I'm being hard on myself, judging myself, worrying about what I have to eat and when and what my blood sugar is and whether I had enough water and whether I have a protein rich snack and whether wherever I am has a source of simple carbs in case I crash and whether I have exercised enough and whether this is my allergies or a cold and whether it will throw off my numbers and whether I overslept and too much time has elapsed when I've been fasting and it will skew my sugars...in between all those times, I am just grateful. Elated. Joyful. Still giddy over the fact that I get to be here again in the first place.

Thank you for coming on this journey with me this time.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Boy or Girl???

We will find out the gender tomorrow all together, but before we do, I thought it would be fun to go through all the old wives tales and other gender predictors to see how accurate they end up being.

This is the first time that we have done anything like this, and I have to say it is fun!

Heart rate - If it is above 140 it is supposed to predict a girl, below is a boy. The heartrate was 166 at the first appointment and 154 at the last one, so this goes for GIRL.

Cravings - If mom is craving salty food it is supposed to mean the baby is a boy. If she's craving sweets, it is supposed to be a girl. This one goes for BOY.

Morning Sickness - If mom is very nauseous, it's supposed to be a girl. If she's not too nauseous, it's a boy. This one predicts BOY.

Mood - If mom is moody, the baby is a girl. If she's happy, the baby is a boy. I'm going to say that I've been happy, though other people might answer differently! So, I'm calling this for BOY.

Sleeping - If mom is sleeping on her right side, it's a boy. If she's sleeping on her left, it's a girl. There's no option for if mom is sleeping on whichever side does not contain a five year old boy, but I'll go ahead and say right just because it is more comfortable. So, GIRL.

Headaches - If mom is having headaches, it's a boy. If not, it's a girl.  According to this, it's a GIRL.

Skin - If mom's skin is soft, it's a girl. If mom's skin is dry, it's a boy. All the way on this one for BOY.

Hair - If mom's hair is growing slower or it is thinning, it's a girl. If her hair is growing faster and thicker, it's a boy. Considering I could shave my legs three times a day and still look like a yeti...gonna go with BOY. (What??? It's true....)

How mom is carrying - If she is gaining weight everywhere, it's a girl. If it's all in front, it's a boy. Well, I haven't been able to hide the bump in front since about 8 weeks along, so BOY.

Mayan calendar - BOY.

Chinese calendar - GIRL.

The final tallies are......

     BOY                 GIRL
        7                        4

We'll let you all know!!!!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Marijuana - Truths, Lies and Misinformation in the Media

This is something I've been meaning to write about for a while now, and something that I've been asked to write about several times in the past year especially given the current pro-pot climate in the state I live in, Colorado. Instead of writing out a lengthy post, I'm going to try to hit some of the high points (no pun intended) in the questions people have asked me about safety, use, abuse and more. When the law first went into effect here in Colorado, I wrote a long post about what the law actually meant. You can read it here if you want. I've written about it in other contexts a few times, and will try to cite some of those posts as this continues.

First, let me preface everything that follows by saying two things. One, I have never used marijuana personally. I've been what I would consider marijuana adjacent, in other words, around people smoking, but not directly inhaling myself. In all likelihood, there wasn't enough in the air around me to ever experience a contact high (one of the great misconceptions about marijuana is the phenomenon of the contact high, which actually requires exposure to a whole lot more smoke than most people understand). Two, I am generally in favor of legalization of marijuana for a laundry list of reasons totally unrelated to any using I haven't done. To some people, I'm considered an anomaly because they can't understand why someone who admits to not using a drug would be in favor of legalization, but I can assure you that I have my reasons. Some of them are as follows:

- making drugs illegal doesn't make them go away
- people have used marijuana for thousands of years
- it is mostly harmless in most situations
- there are legitimate health benefits
- I object to the criminalization of possession and use of drugs
- I have worked in prosecution in the past
- our jails are full of non violent drug offenders
- if people need help to overcome addictions, they need help, not jail
- tax revenues

Having said all that, I want you all to know that I do my best to present the most accurate and objective information here, particularly when it comes to drugs. If you find something flawed with my reasoning or would like to disagree, please feel free to do so, just keep it civil. I'm going to thank you in advance for that.

Okay, so let's get to the actual subject matter at hand. If anyone has additional questions or concerns, please feel free to add them in the comments or on my Facebook page and I will try to get to them. I've sort-of become a resident expert on the topic just because I have a legal background and live in CO.

Classification of Marijuana
Marijuana defies classification unlike many other drugs because it has such a wide range of effects. It is considered both a depressant, meaning that it decreases transmissions in the nervous system and a hallucinogen, which means that it can alter perception, thought, emotions and consciousness.

Under the DEA, marijuana is a Class I controlled substance, which is reserved for the most dangerous substances in the nation. You'd probably be interested to know that cocaine is a Class II. Tell me how that makes sense exactly? The classification of marijuana has been a highly politicized event, and there really isn't much evidence to support lumping it in with the other substances considered Class I. This classification also dramatically limits medical research, as does the fact that marijuana is derived from plant sources that cannot be patented (essentially giving Big Pharma no incentive to do exhaustive research because they can't be assured patent protection down the road...welcome to our jacked up system). There is talk of possibly having it reclassified given the current trend of legalization.

Benefits of Marijuana Use
The conventional wisdom tells us that it mellows most people out and causes increases in hunger.

There is a large and growing list of medical benefits associated with use as well, which is why marijuana is legal in many more states for medical usage than for recreational usage. Use has been long recommended for cancer patients in particular as it can alleviate pain and increase hunger in patients whose appetites have been diminished by treatment. It reduces nausea and vomiting as well. I'll vouch for the awesomeness of this first hand as it made the final weeks of my father's life much more pleasant and manageable. Plus, he ate a lot of peanuts when he was high.

Many people with AIDS and other conditions benefit in the same ways as cancer patients, as can anyone with a condition that gradually worsens over time. Patients with chronic pain, glaucoma, nerve and muscle disorders can benefit from use as well. One of the most exciting new developments is in the treatment of seizure disorders, particularly in children. The cannabidiol is extracted, most of the THC removed (which is what creates the "high") and children who were out of other medical options are able to resume normal seizure-free (or at least severely enhanced) lives because the seizures stop entirely or decrease in frequency and significance.  Parents are now moving to Colorado from all over the country to seek this treatment for their children. It is also being used in some patients with multiple sclerosis.

This article cites some of the lesser known, but documented benefits of marijuana.
- can stop HIV spread in the body
- slows Alzheimer's
- slows cancer spread
- pain reliever
- can help with opiate addiction
- can help depression, anxiety and adhd
- can treat epilepsy and Tourette's
- can help with neurological damage
- can prevent blindness from glaucoma
- can lower insulin levels in diabetics

There are probably a heap of other potential medical benefits that we just don't know about yet because it is an area sorely lacking in adequate research.

Risks of Marijuana Use
In most medical cases, the benefits of marijuana use far outweigh the risks, and so we tend not to worry about them as much. Much concern has been raised, however, over the safety of marijuana use in the recreational community. Some of these concerns are legitimate, some are unfortunately fueled by misinformation in the media.

First, marijuana is a hallucinogen, and people can and do react to it differently, even people who use it frequently. The nature of the drug is to be heavily varied, and shops here locally sell countless different varieties, all with slightly different concentrations of the compounds that make the drug a drug. Some people can become delusional and paranoid on it and their behavior can be altered as much as their minds. It does not work as just a depressant in all situations, and users should be aware of the potential it has in this capacity. I know quite a few people who had horrible experiences with it, particularly on their first try.

There is a case here locally of a young man who recently consumed six times the recommended amount in the form of an edible, then began shaking, screaming and throwing things before jumping off a hotel balcony to his death. As quick as the media is to tie his death directly to marijuana use, it needs to be emphasized that he used far more than he should have. It also bears mention that consuming six times the legal limit of alcohol could kill someone, as could consuming six times the recommended amount of several other legal prescription drugs. Even Tylenol is lethal in amounts we wouldn't ordinarily consider that dangerous.

There is another case here locally where a man who consumed a joint and an entire edible shot and killed his wife. Again, quick to blame the marijuana, many are overlooking several important issues: he had violent priors, he was taking other medications at the time which could have interacted, the police took over 15 minutes to respond (she was on the phone with them saying he was tripping and threatening for 13 of those minutes). But, yeah, let's just blame the pot.

Second, there are long term risks that are fairly well documented. Long term exposure can affect memory and concentration, particularly when used long term by children and adolescents. It can also affect growth in children and adolescents. Though many people believe that marijuana is not addictive, it can be for approximately 10% of those who use it. It can trigger or worsen certain mental health conditions, namely psychosis, depression, suicidal thoughts, and possibly schizophrenia. Some studies have shown that frequent use tends to result in people having poorer job outlooks throughout life as well as higher obesity rates.

Third, it can be associated with certain cancers, though the connection isn't solid in many cases. Many components of marijuana are considered carcinogens and in some ways they are even more dangerous than the compounds in cigarettes because people tend to inhale deeper and hold it longer than with cigarettes, plus joints are not filtered. Smokers tend to use cigarettes more frequently and consistently than users smoke marijuana though. Far more common than cancer diagnoses are chronic lung problems that develop simply because of the damage that inhaling smoke repeatedly can do.

Fourth, the risks of marijuana use during pregnancy and the effect on the fetus aren't as clear as we would like to think. Many women continue to use it throughout pregnancy, particularly for the benefit of nausea suppression, but there do appear to be slight risks of developmental problems. It does seem clear that marijuana use during pregnancy is safer than cigarette smoking or alcohol use, but it is not without risks.

Misconceptions About Marijuana Use
There are many people who make the argument that marijuana is a gateway drug, meaning that it pushes individuals to try other, more dangerous drugs, many of which are far more addictive. It's not, and this has been documented time and again, yet the argument still keeps being raised.

There were fake reports all over the internet within days of legalization here that several people had died over overdoses. It's just not true. There has never been a documented death from overdose. Ever.

Some here insisted that legalization would dramatically increase the crime rates. The opposite has happened, and crime rates have actually gone down.

Many cases in the media discuss marijuana as a factor in crimes without addressing other contributing factors, one of the biggest of which is that marijuana can be laced with other substances, particularly in areas where it is still illegal. I draw the parallel here between a person who consumes an alcoholic beverage intending to consume alcohol, but is unaware that someone has slipped something into it. In these cases, the person is intending to smoke pot, but not intending the expose themselves to whatever else might be mixed in.

Another issue that arises frequently is that people are concerned with users driving under the influence and wanting to know what the criteria are for declaring someone unable to drive. As with literally any other substance that people use to alter themselves in any way, driving under the influence is illegal. It has always been illegal. It is illegal to drive on prescription medications, on cough syrup, after alcohol use, after using any substance, legal or not, which impedes your judgment. The fact that marijuana is now legal doesn't legalize driving under the influence. That law remains the same, and in fact is probably even stronger now in this respect because they are looking into setting specific limits to determine intoxication, as exist currently with alcohol.

One area that is discussed frequently in the media, and misunderstood by many people, is whether use can result in you losing your job, even now that it is legal here (and in several other states for medical usage). The answer is, so far, yes. Employers can drug test you and can demand clean tests as a condition for employment, regardless of whether the substance is legal or not. The issue of whether medical marijuana users can lose their jobs is actually being litigated now in the state and the results of that case could have far reaching effects because it involves not just the issue of employer rights, but of health care privacy. 

Other Miscellaneous Topics
I was asked if there is a difference between vaporizing and smoking marijuana. Vaporizing marijuana isolates the chemical components that create the high but eliminates many of the toxins that one would be exposed to during smoking. At least one study has shown that vaporizing elicits the same level of benefits while dramatically reducing the risks. 

The issue is a bit complicated by the presence of e-cigs on the market now, but those work differently  than marijuana vaporizers do. E-cigs are considered a replacement for regular cigarettes, but still can trigger nicotine addiction and may expose users to harmful inhaled metals. They are not currently regulated, so the facts about safety aren't as clear as they should be.

Another question came in about my personal views on marijuana, namely whether I would use it now that it is legal and how it's legalization has changed what I will teach my kids. First, I have to say that I might use it in the future. I might not. I can't honestly say what I will do. I'm not necessarily opposed to trying it, but I haven't found a compelling enough reason to in the past (even though there were plenty of opportunities). I don't know. I know that there are specific medical conditions that would push me to try it faster if I developed any of them, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend using it to other people in those circumstances.

As for my children, they already know what marijuana is and have known for many years. They know that my father used it. We did not hide his pipe or supplies, though he did smoke it outside (as he did with cigarettes). They were told from the beginning that it was just like any other medication he took related to his cancer, that there was a reason he needed it and that it helped him. I never saw it as more complicated than that. Now that it is available recreationally here in the state, I am fully aware that my kids will likely be presented with many opportunities to try it. My perspective as a parent is this (and it hasn't changed with legalization): treat it as a drug, understand that it is a drug, that it is not guaranteed to be safe, that it can affect you differently than other people. If they want to try it, I wouldn't necessarily tell them not to, but would not seek it out on their behalf (outside of medical reasons). Once they are of legal age, I hope that they treat it like alcohol, with an understanding that it can be abused, that they need to ensure that they are in a safe place to try it, that they may not drive while under the influence, that they need only try a little at a time if they choose, and that they can call me 24/7 and I will be there without question. Marijuana doesn't concern me nearly as much as other drugs do, and those will have far more caution attached to them.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

At our age...

This is one of those topics that I have been tossing around in my head for a while now, and it's something that becomes a more pressing issue it seems with each passing day.

By definition, in fact.

The wonder about us humans is that we generally aren't very good at anticipating things. In our society especially, we tend to hang on to youth with a death grip. We don't want to accept that time is marching us forward. We pluck the gray hairs in defiance. We plunk down huge amounts of money on expensive creams. We make bizarre faces at ourselves in the mirror until the lines start to disappear, then somehow convince ourselves that these contorted expressions are good enough.

Good enough to satiate our denial for now, anyway.

We are getting older. We all are. It's part of that whole time/space continuum thing. Until and unless someone actually figures out how to manipulate it all, we're stuck here, getting a little bit older every day.

For a long time, we celebrate it. We still do with our kids, though the celebrations of their birthdays usually comes with a bittersweet taste to it because we've already figured out what they haven't yet - that you don't ever get to go backwards and someday you're going to get to the point where you'd give anything for a few moments of naive youth back.

Kids don't care yet. To them, another year older means milestones and achievements. It means more candles on a cake, more privileges, more freedom.

To us, it usually just means that we'll forget how old we are for a few months, that we'll have that blank lost expression when someone asks our age and we have to try and do math to figure it out. As if that isn't bad enough, some of those years that tick by mean that it's now officially time to make some appointment we've been dreading. The appointments that used to seem like they were so far off in the distant future, back when we were young and we thought that where we are now was old.

Except that we don't feel that way, not usually anyway. We still feel like we're in our 20s most of the time, at least most of us do. In some ways, we've actually improved as we've gained a few more years. With those years, at least for me, has come eye opening self awareness, a better understanding of what clothes, makeup, hairstyles look best on me. I've stopped trying to follow trends and fads, I do what suits my personality these days. I've embraced my nerd more, I've embraced the maxi dress, I've long ago conceded that I have to dye the gray hairs I used to pluck and now use my hair as another accessory, another way to express myself.

I'm more me now than I ever have been in my life.

This getting older thing isn't all bad, because it brings wisdom with it. We accept things about ourselves far easier than we used to.

We tolerate less, we become more outspoken. We hone our bullshit detectors and learn to start cutting toxic people out of our lives. We become more deliberate with our friendships. We stand up for ourselves. We're more confident, and we take no prisoners.

We're particular. We know what we like. We don't bother wasting our time or energy on cheap imitations anymore. Our tastes have evolved.

C'mon, seriously...all one needs to do is analyze their personal wine evolution. Mine went a little bit like this.

- Strawberry Hill
- Wine coolers
- White Zinfandel
- Chardonnay
- Reds. Only the reds.
....and now I've become allergic to the sulfites and can't even drink wine....

But it isn't all personal growth and epiphanies, this aging business.

We don't all ease into it gracefully. Some of us are actively in denial. Some of us don't just feel like we're still in our 20s, we act like it. We push our bodies to do things that they just aren't so good at anymore....and then we end up sitting in some orthopedist's office getting the at your age speech. If you've been in that chair nursing an injury, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

There are tremendous downsides to getting older, this much is true, and I won't even for one second pretend that they aren't real.

By the time you're our age, chances are that some of those fairytale weddings you attended have ended in nasty divorces. Maybe some are clinging to each other for dear life, but refusing to really fix the problems that led them to the end, and so they're just going through the motions now. We could have been one of those couples. We almost were.

By the time you're our age, you likely have friends who've lost a parent. Maybe you have friends who've already lost them both. Maybe you are the one wandering around the universe without your parents, as I am, often wondering when you ever got to be old enough that you should have to be in this place already. You don't feel like you're old enough to be parent-less, yet here you are, and in some ways you never really felt entirely grown up until now.

By the time you're our age, you probably already know people who've been diagnosed with cancer, with diabetes, with heart disease. We don't seem old enough to be in a place where we are visiting friends in the hospital (or are there ourselves), and yet here we are. We have to become more conscious of our health for the simple reason that it isn't optional anymore. The days of being clueless and irresponsible have to remain in the past if we want to keep going forward. It's a perspective changer, for sure.

By the time you're our age, perhaps you've already lost a friend. Maybe you found yourself gathered and teary and reminscent about someone that you shared parts of your life with who wasn't in the generation ahead of us or ahead of them anymore, but someone who was one of us. Maybe you've had to say goodbye to someone who was a cohort, a partner in crime, a buddy, a friend. There's little in this world that can shift your view on life more than seeing it end before we deem it should. Death truly is the great equalizer.

At our age, we have learned that time is as much an enemy as it is an ally. We know that nothing lasts forever. We know that things inevitably change, they always change. Perhaps this is why we get better at living in the moment, enjoying the little things in life, as we get a bit older. We learn to value the beauty of everyday more, we need the big moments less.

We start to tolerate the wrinkles more because they're part of a skin we're more comfortable in. We make the appointments we'd rather avoid because we've learned that we have to, that it's better to know than live obliviously. We slow down, but not too much, just enough to take the edge off in the hopes of avoiding injuries because we've learned the hard way that everything hurts more and longer now. We re-embrace naps and books and lazy afternoons.

Occasionally we dread getting older, but mostly we welcome it.

We start to understand what it means to live like we're dying, because we are. We all are.

It just took us this long to learn it.

...because you know...at our age...everything takes longer.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Why We All Need To Care About Thigh Gaps....no, really....

At least three or four times a day, I see some story float by my news feed about thigh gaps. There is usually some extreme close-up shot of some young woman connected to a story about how their thighs are to be celebrated as an achievement in thinness, are supposedly desired by women of all ages, are this goal that we are all striving for, starving for.

I shake my head every single time.

I shake my head because I have daughters rapidly approaching the age where social media is going to impact their lives. The last thing I want to have them see floating by on their news feeds someday is a false proclamation that their beauty, their desirability, their worth, their value can be measured in the space between their thighs.

In all likelihood, this thigh gap thing will have faded by then and we'll be on to the next false measure of beauty being thrown at us from all angles.

As an adult, even as one who has struggled with anorexia in the past and whose mind can still drift that way when things spin out of control in my life, I am mostly able to ignore all the noise. I can see this movement for what it is, a fad, a trend, another way to attempt to demoralize young women by making their appearance more important than anything else.

I've never had a thigh gap, not even when I was starving myself and spending hours a day exercising to the point where I was fainting. Not even then.

You know why I didn't?

Because my body isn't designed that way. God knows I tried. My thighs in particular are not thin and even when I was literally killing myself to try and get thinner, I couldn't.

My body isn't designed that way, and neither are the bodies of my girls.

Even when they are thin, they don't have thigh gaps. They likely never will, because they are my children and there is something about our bone and muscle structure that prohibits such a gap even in the absence of fat.

And then there's the matter of fat.

I know, it's the F-word.

I saw another picture float by yesterday, and it said something to the effect of this:

I may have fist pumped the air for a hot second.

I did, but then within mere moments another post about thigh gaps appeared and I realized immediately that the ratio of body positive messages to body shaming ones is so skewed that it's no wonder that young girls in particular get sucked into believing them.

This is why we all have to care about thigh gaps.

Not because they are desirable...in fact most people I know (and most studies I've ever seen on the subject tell us) like women in all shapes and sizes. Even the ones whose thighs touch. Honest.

Not because they are even attainable...because many, many girls and women don't have body types that would ever create thigh gaps, no matter how thin they are. Other girls and women naturally have thigh gaps. People come in different shapes and sizes, and that's okay.

Not because they are any indication of beauty...because we are all beautiful in our own ways and because our uniqueness is the most beautiful thing about us. If we all looked the same, what a tragic and dull world we would inhabit.

Not because they are any indication of worth...because women have been fighting this fight to be valued for more than their physical attributes since the dawn of time and we aren't about to lose this war over the size of our thighs, especially when photoshop is so frequently involved (sometimes painfully obviously) in the twisted messages in the media.

Not because any of us really care if our thighs touch...because most of us don't. Even those of us who have struggled with eating disorders in the past. Most of us are more worried about whether we are strong and healthy and centered and fulfilled than measuring the circumference of one body part.

Not because we as women should even be giving this movement a moment of attention...because honestly we shouldn't. The more people talk about it, the more traction it gets. However, just because we feel like we shouldn't be paying attention to it, doesn't mean we can ignore it. We absolutely must talk about it...

...and we must because right now there are millions of little girls seeing the same messages we are seeing. We must work to undo the damage the media is doing to them. We must teach them to find their value internally, to push away this notion that they are supposed to seek approval from a society that will readily tell them if they are "hot or not". We need to build them up and teach them to be strong and healthy and centered and fulfilled.

We need to teach them that no one gets to define who they are or how worthy they are, regardless of the size of their thighs.

Then we need to teach ours sons the same thing.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

In this place

In this place I am in now, things are strange more often than they seem normal.

Whatever normal is, anyway.

I feel like I'm completely distracted almost all the time about almost everything. Mostly because I am. I normally struggle when it comes to my ability to focus as it is, but right now it's as if all the things are shiny and all the things are shaking keys to get me to look at them and all the things are jumping up and down and waving their jazz hands at me in some desperate attempt to divert my attention from whatever it is that I am supposed to be doing.

It is seriously that bad.

I forget everything unless I write it down or put it on the calendar in my phone. And even then, I still find myself forgetting things or pushing them off not because I intentionally do so but because I am so distracted by the shiny key shaking jazz hands.

I've gone to the store to buy potatoes three times. I still don't have potatoes.

It's not just that, though.

I mean, I know that I'm distracted because I'm hormonal and because I'm trying my best not to think about and worry about the things that come along with being pregnant in my world.

But it isn't just that.

I am in a strange place emotionally. At some point early on in this whole incubation process, I had this moment of profound sadness upon realizing that my parents were both gone this time. I've never done this without them. I don't have anyone to call and give appointment updates to. I don't have any visits to look forward to, there won't be any more first introductions, there won't be any more stolen glimpses of them holding this one.

There are pieces of it that will be made simpler now in this world without them. Sometimes the truth sucks like that. Negotiating holidays doesn't exist anymore. I don't have to worry about duplicate gifts or anyone's toes being stepped on about who gets to get what. I don't have to have the conversation with my mom about how she can't just decide to stay here for six weeks without asking me first. I don't have to tell her she doesn't get to plan their birthdays or that I'm their mother and that it's my turn to do these things. I don't have to listen to the constant comparisons and the chastising of my choices as a parent. I don't have to nod along with the empty promises to really stop smoking this time.

I don't have to worry about whether I can trust her to be with my children anymore, whether they are in another place or just the next room. I don't have to worry about all the things I worried about before.

But, goddammit it still hurts.

It hurts because as messed up and twisted as our relationship was, as many issues as she had, she was the only mother I ever knew. And as much as it made my life painfully complicated and anxiety ridden at times, I wanted her to have a good relationship with my kids. I did my best to shield them from the negative things that happened, to insulate them from all the chaos. She never understood that, and she never understood that no matter how much happened and how much she hurt me and used them, they always still just loved her.

They still do.

But now she is gone. With her, she took whatever relationships I had with several other people, irretrievably damaged by whatever stories she spun. I know what really happened, I know that I did the best I could, I know that ultimately I had to do what I had to do. I know that they will never understand me. I know that they will never forgive me for the wrongs they've decided I perpetrated upon them. I know that things will probably never change.

And it hurts. I pretend all the time that it doesn't bother me, but my guard isn't as high as it normally is right now and reality is harder to hide. I'm emotional, I'm exhausted and I'm sad.

And I'm having another baby, a baby who will never know my parents and in all likelihood will never know an entire side of my family.

Some doors are just harder to close, especially when we aren't the ones choosing to close them.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I must not be an #AmericanBlogger

Apparently some documentary filmmaker is releasing a movie about what he has deemed and titled, the American Blogger. The very pretentious trailer shows several magnificently beautiful people in magnificently beautiful places and spaces talking about how they communicate their love of all things (mostly fashion, their equally beautiful children and throw pillows from what I can tell) to the masses through this platform of blogging.

American Blogger Official Trailer from Chris Wiegand on Vimeo.

He claims that they, these women he profiled who almost all look almost identical, are supposed to represent this universe of bloggers, that the film is giving insight into this platform that will change the world. While I'm absolutely certain that he is right for a small percentage of the bloggers out there, namely the ones like his wife, he is missing so much more.

Like men, for instance. I'll get to that in a minute.

First, I must tell you that any trailer that talks about how gorgeous the cinematography of a film is makes me a little nauseous. It could just be the fact that I actually took classes in the USC Cinema School back when I was in college. Statements like that one could literally launch a thousand lectures about the intractable egos of directors.

I wanted to talk a little bit about what being a blogger really is, at least from this world that I dwell in now, one that happens to include a fairly large circle of other bloggers.

P.S. not all of us refer to ourselves as bloggers.

Some of us, myself included, consider ourselves to be writers that happen to utilize the blogging platform as one type of media. I am published in actual books. I am working on writing more actual books. I've been published in scholarly journals before, back when I lived in the world of academia. I've had posts picked up by several other websites as well, and I have been a contributing writer to two collaborative sites. My writing exists in far more places than this blog you are reading here.

Over the years I have developed relationships, friendships, kinships and in some cases deep spiritual connections with these people like me, these bloggers. He seeks to categorize us, seeming to want to proclaim that most of the bloggers are just like the ones he films, but I can honestly tell you that I don't know too many out there who are like the women profiled.

Are there some? Women who lounge in hammocks with fedoras and write about fashion and crafts and how connected they are to their children? I'm sure there must be for the simple fact that he found several of them.

When I first started blogging, I followed a few of those blogs. The ones beautifully photographed with fancy recipes and DIY projects and scarves. Lots of scarves these blogs have.

Which is fine, honestly. Truly, I don't mean to diminish the contributions of those blogs in the least. They see a need, fill a need.

The advent of Pinterest has transformed this social media universe into one that is far more visual and highly conducive to lifestyle and fashion blogs. My Pinterest page, on the other hand, is full of wildly inappropriate jokes, pictures of Norman Reedus and geeky things.

I don't do niches. Honestly, most of the writers I know don't either.

I have formed these relationships I speak of with almost as many male writers as female ones. They are somehow missing from the documentary entirely, as though men don't write at all. Men do write, they write a lot, and they lend a different voice, a different perspective, a different experience to almost every topic out there. I'd definitely make the argument that some of their most important contributions of the blogging world are in the areas of relationships, marriage and family for the exact reason that our world needs to hear their voices in these areas more than any other. In this film, they don't even exist.

I have come to know writers who focus on social justice issues almost entirely. They are some of the most intelligent writers I've had the pleasure of knowing. They don't write about scarves and hammocks, they write about food stamps and privilege.

I know writers who have documented the journey of their child through cancer. Their photographic essays are a bit different than the ones in this trailer.

I know writers who focus on health and spirituality, others who have carved out a comedic voice, still others who explore grief and loss. I know motivational writers, I know musicians, I know artists. I know natural birth advocates and crafters, I know gamers and fiction writers.

None of them is very much like any of the rest, so how could we ever be grouped together at all?

Some bloggers focus almost exclusively on writing about parenting or their children or the specific challenges that their family faces. My blog started out that way, as a chronicle of the things that happened around here in a format that family and friends far away could keep up with.

It didn't stay that way for very long, though.

I hardly ever write about my kids these days and the posts I write about parenting are just different now.

As my writing has evolved and my children have aged, I have realized that my responsibility to protect them has to be paramount to whatever else I do. I have to be a mother first, a writer second. It's a moral imperative. I have to be conscious of the effect that the words I write might have on them someday. I have to honor their individuality, their privacy, their personal space.

I'm not going to sacrifice any of that for a few views. I never will.

I write about mental health, specifically about the fact that I endured post partum depression, PTSD and live with anxiety every single day. I have written about ADHD, allergies, asthma and diabetes as they pertain to my family. I was writing through my father's entire journey with cancer, from before he was diagnosed until the aftermath of his death. I have written about losing my mother, not just to the diseases that took her, but I've written a little bit about how I lost her long before she died.

I've written about losing my own child, about how much cancer changes everything, about infertility, about what happens when your marriage falls apart and you will do anything in the world to put it back together. I write about politics and news and international stories. I write about crime and the Constitution and equal rights and poverty and the law. I write about science and medicine and ethics and morality and addiction. I write about empathy and compassion, both how they are lacking in our world and how to foster their development in children and adults.

I stare at blank screens a lot. I stare out windows a lot. I sit by the river a lot. I don't write the words I want to more often than I write them. I write on napkins in my car. I send myself text messages when I run out of napkins. I do my best thinking in the shower and run an almost constant dialogue while I'm in there. I think about blog posts at 2am, then find myself moderating comments at 3am. There are times that I cannot focus on anything else in the world until I let the words out of my head. I write because I have to.

Sometimes that means I don't clean the house. Sometimes that means that the kids eat cereal. Sometimes it means that my hands cramp up. Sometimes that means that I sit in front of this screen and cry until there are no more tears left.

Sometimes it means that the words that I write are never put out there into the world for you to see.

One of the things that bothered me the very most about the trailer is the part where one of the women interviewed says something to the effect that if we don't put our writing out there, what are we doing it for? As if to say that the only value inherent in writing is that someone else reads it.

I challenge this statement on its face, and I question if she's actually figured out what it means to be a writer yet. I don't think she has, and it makes me sad for her a little.

A person who is just a blogger writes for an audience, particularly if they are doing it in some attempt to make a living which necessitates a loyal audience.

A writer just writes.

I write for myself more than anyone else. I do this because my brain and my fingers require it of me. I do it because it keeps me sane, it helps me put things into words that my mouth could never manipulate properly. I do it because I can't not write. It is a part of who I am. I am more articulate and can get my point across here than I ever can in conversations. I am socially awkward, but here the awkwardness fades away into the lines between the words.

I write for me.

What am I doing it for?

I'll tell you what I'm not doing it for....

I'm not doing it to fit in. I'm not doing it just to get views. I'm not doing it to hang with the popular kids. I'm not doing it because I'm following some formula. I'm not doing it because everyone else is doing it.

I'm doing it for me, and I've been doing it a very long time.

You all, my readers, are a beautiful bonus.

I'm not the #americanblogger.

I'm Kelly.

I'm a writer, a mom, a superhero. I'm a nerd, an intellectual, an over analyzer of all things. I'm a wife, a friend, a sister, a daughter who lost both of her parents. I'm a doula, a photographer, a hater of pants. I'm funny, I'm serious, and then I'm everything in between.

I'm more than all that, even. And a bag of chips.

So are all the other writers I know.

Don't let some movie tell you otherwise.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” 
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

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