Wednesday, November 26, 2014

It doesn't get easier, it just gets different

Hey Dad. It's me.

It's that time of year again. You know, the one that I dread.

You and The Oldest.
Thanksgiving weekend, 2001.
This will be the fourth Thanksgiving without you, the fourth year you aren't around to lie about how old you are on your birthday with a grin on your face.

The years tick by. It doesn't seem like it's been so long that you've been gone.

It doesn't get easier. It just gets different.

This time of year has driven me a little bit crazy for as long as I can remember. The hours spent in the car, going back and forth between grandparents' houses as a kid for the holidays.

The predictable chaos that was your family, with the house full of people, the scent of chocolate chip cookies always hanging in the air. The long afternoons spent in the backyard until someone dared someone else to climb the pole. The nights of challenges around the pool table, of old bowling team stories, of that time someone ended up on the roof. Trying to figure out how many soccer balls and basketballs and tennis balls and baseballs the ivy on the side yard had swallowed and digested over the years. The recollection of the trips you all took as kids, of the famous dinner guests, the stories always interrupted by the doorbell telling us someone else was there. All the times we took turns sliding down the wooden stairs, sneaking away to do it so we wouldn't get in trouble. The way that the cabinet doors refused to shut anymore unless you leaned into them just so after years and years of Grandma coating them with the same white high gloss paint. The drawer that always held the same toys that we never outgrew and the huge tub that got smaller with each visit. The scent of Listerine that always reminded us that Grandpa was there, even after he wasn't anymore. 

So many memories in that house. Each time we'd make the trek down, it was emotionally charged. It always was. With so many people in house, even a house that size, it's no wonder. Whenever it was time to leave, you'd just announce loudly that we were leaving. We'd hide, or we'd try to because we knew that once you said it was time to go, you meant business.

We could stay only as long as it took you to find us.

You didn't linger.

You hated long goodbyes.

You were more of a rip the bandage off kind of a guy.

You left us the last time that way too. You didn't want to make any of it harder than it already was, and you were more worried about us than yourself. You didn't want to be a burden, and when you said that, you meant it all the way down to your core.

Just before you left, there was that night with your sisters, my aunts. Two of them had come to stay, knowing the end was near, sensing it, and wanting to squeeze out what they could of what time was left. That night is one I am so very grateful for. I saw a side of you that I hadn't seen in so many years before, one that I only caught passing glimpses of back in those days in the house you grew up in on the rare occasions when everyone was home. You teased them, they teased back. We all drank and laughed.

God, did we laugh.

You died on a Thursday morning, swept away by the roaring winds outside. They calmed as soon as you were gone, you know. It's like they were there for a purpose, with intention that day, and once they'd done what they came to do, their work was complete. They left as abruptly as you did.

Tomorrow is a Thursday. Thanksgiving. The first time that it will share your birthday since you died. It happened often enough that I've just always associated Thanksgiving with you, but this is the first time that the two dates are overlapping since you left.

I guess it's more efficient. (That is supposed to be a joke. I know. I know...it's a terrible one.)

We aren't going anywhere. We aren't doing anything. We're just going to be home.

And by we, I'm including a little boy that you never had a chance to meet. We named him after you.

I so wish you could be here right now to see his first smiles.

We don't have plans tomorrow, and I'm grateful for that. We're having dinner Friday with the family that is here these days. I need the break, and you know how I am. I'll be more upset than I'm letting on. I'll act like I'm fine, but I'll be fighting back tears most of the day. I'll instinctively be waiting for the phone call that doesn't come anymore, the one I was programmed for once we moved away.

I know that if you could, you'd tell me not to do all that. You'd tell me to hugs the babies and give them a kiss for you.

I know that. I do.

And I will do those things.

We'll watch the parade, bitch about the awful television coverage like you always did. We'll watch the dog show, argue about which breed is the best like you always did. We'll watch some football game, not really caring who wins or loses, but be grateful for the background noise and the distraction, like you always were.

I'll call my brother, your son, and tell him I love him. I'll check on him, like I always do on this day and he'll tell me that he's fine, like he always does on this day.

If nothing else, we're predictable.

I'll defrost the cheesecake that snuck into my cart at the store and pour the cherries on top and fight back the tears when the kids ask me why we are eating it on a night that is Thanksgiving but isn't, on a night when we are having pizza instead of a fancy dinner. I'll remind them that it isn't just Thanksgiving, that it's your birthday too, and that even though you never did want a big fuss over your birthday, you never met a piece of cherry cheesecake you didn't love.

Happy birthday, Dad.

I miss you.

Monday, November 24, 2014

30 Days of Quotes About Life - Mark Twain and Truth

Hi there. My head is an absolute mess today, just throwing that out there. I have so much going on inside my brain at the moment, I'm working pretty damn hard to suppress so many emotions right now. And all the kids are home from school. And I have to get to the orthodontist in a while...

So here we are. Attempting to be distracted by a quote.


"If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything."
~ Mark Twain

Twain was known, of course, for his writing. He wrote Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn among other things. He was a humorist, but also a great observer of humanity, and quotes like this one show just how well he understood people.

This one is something that I've had to deal with quite a few times in life. I bend over backwards to be honest with just about everyone about just about everything. It's something that has gotten me into trouble more than once, my stubborn insistence on telling the truth almost all the time.

For as much as I try to be honest, I've had to deal with my fair share of liars. Some of them were terrible liars. Some of them were so good at it that it was a bit terrifying. Some of them used to be awful at it, but honed the skill to the point of becoming so convincing that I couldn't tell the difference anymore.

Some were so pathological about it that it got to the point where I just assumed they were lying about everything.

^^^That's not a good place to be. I promise.

I've often said this about the experiences in my life, particularly in circumstances where people made assumptions about something they believed that I was hiding....I don't have the energy to devote to that kind of nonsense.

Seriously.

Lying has to be exhausting, because it is almost impossible to keep a lie contained. Lies multiply, they grow exponentially at times. One lie leads to another, then another and pretty soon that lie has spiraled out of control.

I really don't have the energy to devote to that. I have too many kids, too many things to do, too many responsibilities. There's no way I would layer elaborate lies I have to remember on top of that. I'd lose my damn mind.

Hell, I almost lost it a few times just dealing with the lies other people told.

One of the most skilled liars in my life was my mother. She could tell five different people five different versions of a story and somehow manage to keep them straight most of the time. I never understood how she could do it. After time, those of us around her realized that we all had to talk to one another about things to try and tease out where the truth ended and the lies began.

She was hardly ever honest with any of us. At best, we'd get tiny pieces of truth woven into elaborate lies.

The only time she couldn't lie anymore was when something happened and she was unconscious or otherwise unable to keep it all straight. I can't adequately put into words how frustrating it was to deal with at times.

I wanted to believe her, I just knew that I couldn't.

It's easier to be authentic, to be real. The truth might be scary at times, but it's a hell of a lot better than a constructed illusion.

Besides, I can't remember anything these days unless I write it down. Even then, half the time I forget. I have gone to the store to get potatoes four times in the same week and never come home with potatoes.

I have a gift....it's just not for lying.

Friday, November 21, 2014

30 Days of Quotes about Life - Tolstoy and Thanksgiving

I'm going to attempt to kill two birds with one stone today, primarily because the time that I get to peck away at an actual keyboard is so fleeting these days that I have to try and make the most of it. If this child has done nothing else for my writing career, he's made me infinitely more efficient, that is certain.

I was asked earlier this week to write about familial dysfunction around the holidays. The person who requested that I write on this topic may be submitting a guest post in the coming days or weeks, which I will gladly feature here upon its arrival.

This time of year always makes me think about family, as I'm sure it does for most people, at least in this country. The tail end of November has always firmly belonged to my father, as his birthday is the 27th. Was the 27th. 

Death is so pesky that way. He may not be here anymore, but there is a part of me that still thinks of certain things in a present tense, as though his birthday still falls on the 27th even though he hasn't been here to celebrate it in years now.

This year, his birthday will fall on Thanksgiving Day for the first time since his death. I hate that, though I am sure that it will just work itself out to be more efficient this year, the grief and all that comes with it. We aren't actually celebrating the holiday on that day and have nowhere to be. We'll be spending the following day with my inlaws instead.

To be completely honest, I am glad to not have anywhere to be that day, glad not to have a laundry list of tasks to complete, glad not to be cooking for a small army all day. I think we may just buy some pizzas to throw in the oven and a 6 pack of Coors Light, park ourselves in front of the television and call it a day.

I'll just be home with my husband and our kids that day, which ironically is something I longed for back when I still had both of my parents and every holiday was filled with chaos and expectation and obligation.

Be careful what you wish for, my friends, because one day you'll find that you have nowhere to go on that holiday and you'll long for the days of holidays past.


Since I'm going to try and combine the quote with the topic request, here is the quote I have chosen:

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” 
~ Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina


Tolstoy was, of course, a famous Russian novelist. The book from which this quote was taken, Anna Karenina, was one of his most popular, alongside War and Peace. One of these days, I mean to re-read them both as an adult. I have this habit of loathing some books when I was assigned to read them in the past, but falling deeply in love with them upon revisiting them with the perspective I have on life these days. 

When I read this quote again yesterday, I knew that it would be perfect for this series, and for this topic about family dysfunction, because it is one filled with so much simple truth. We are all messed up in our own ways, certainly, and our issues had to come from somewhere. 

Damned apple trees.

To me, this quote seems to say that we are all indeed screwed up, even those who appear from the outside to be stable and happy, perhaps even more so. 

I can only speak from my personal experiences, of course, but I can tell you that what others see is hardly ever a true full picture of what reality is. Almost never. Those who have family problems that play out for the world to see are called names in our society, accused of being dramatic and worse. Most of us keep it all hidden, behind closed doors, behind those perfectly manicured lawns and bright white picket fences. 

Things in my family were never perfect growing up. They didn't get better as I aged. In most ways, they got worse. Either that or I just became more aware of the dysfunction as I got older. From the outside, though, things never seemed so bad. In my adult life, with my own husband and children, I think the illusion was even grander at times because it wasn't just the outside world being snowed, it was us too. We'd fallen for the idea that things were fine when they weren't. 

We put on the fancy clothes and the happy faces and pretended splendidly.

It's easy to believe that other people have their shit together. It's easy to see what is displayed to the world and believe it to be the entirety of someone. 

It's just not true. 

It's easy to believe that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, but you should never make the climb over that fence on the assumption that your beliefs are accurate ones. The grass isn't greener, it almost never is, and even if it seems to be for a while, it might only be because it ends up being astroturf. A fake construct that you had in your head, revealed for what it truly is only once you've scaled that fence to the other side.

We've all got problems. Even and especially those of us who seem not to. 

Some of us are just better at hiding it.

The trouble comes when all those people with all those problems are thrust into the same dining room for holidays such as the one coming up next week. We build up the expectations so high, we hope that everything will be wonderful, we intend to make only good memories, and then we are slammed back down to earth when reality hits and we occupy the same space as all those people we are related to. 

Sure, some people have Rockweillian holidays. They take the gorgeous family photos, they have spirited but civil conversations, they catch up with one another, they leave on good terms. Some people have that. 

At least I assume some people have that.

Not everyone does. 

Not everyone can engage their family without flinching. Not everyone can get past the past. Sometimes the passive aggressiveness takes over, the snide remarks pile up too high. Sometimes the hurts are just too big. There's always someone drinking too much in the corner. Someone avoiding everyone else by staying busy in the kitchen. Someone who volunteers a little too quickly to try and find a store open somewhere in town because we've run out of butter or need a turkey baster. 

I've been that someone. More than once.

Oh god, there are times I've been all those someones.

Holidays are hard because we want them so desperately to be good. We want to believe in our hearts that we can overlook all the bad things about ourselves and each other for just that one day, except that sometimes we just can't. 

Perhaps if we didn't create these expectations in our minds, if we didn't wish for things to suddenly be rosy and perfect just because of the date on the calendar, if we gave everyone else and especially ourselves a break, it wouldn't be this way. 

What I wouldn't give for the chance to find out.

That ship, though, has sailed. My parents are both gone. 

Believe me when I say that as hard as the holidays are with your family, as much as you may wish to be without them at times, as much as you may want to stay home and refuse to engage them...once you don't have any other options, you will wish that you did. You'll miss them in ways you never imagined, and you'll always wonder what could have been.

Once they are gone, so is the hope that things could ever be better.

This Thanksgiving, I wish for each of you out there reading this to find some peace and solace. Be gentle on yourself. Lower the expectations you put on yourselves and on everyone else. It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful. 

And know that sometimes, on some years, pizza and beer can make the best Thanksgiving dinner. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

30 Days of Quotes About Life - Bob Marley

Hi there. Welcome to the newest series around the Hive. This time around, I'll be writing about quotes that interest me and those that I'm asked to write about. I'm hoping to get through about 30 of them, though I highly doubt it will happen without interruption.

Anyhow, I hope that you enjoy this series. If there is a quote that you would like me to write about, please send me a message at debiehive@gmail.com.


The first quote up in this series is from Bob Marley. He was an amazing man, one that left this world far too soon, but one that left behind a huge volume of material for the rest of us. His music, his philosophies, his words.

"The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for."
~Bob Marley

Whew.

Anyone else need a moment just to breathe after reading that one? I know that I do.

I'm going to start with the assumption that you all know who Bob Marley was. When I come across quotes with questionable sources or lesser known speakers, I will go into more detail. For him, I think...or at least I hope that you all know a little bit about him.

He was a reggae musician that shared the music of his people with the whole world. He changed so much about the music industry as a whole and has left his legacy through the influence and inspiration of countless artists. He was a peace loving man who made some of the most poignant observations about society in a tumultuous time.

His words cut right through to the heart of the issues that affect us all, and this quote is a perfect example of his uncanny ability to reduce humanity to a sentence.

This quote, one that has painful truth attached to it. One that those of us who've lived long enough know to be true.

When we are young, when we are naive about how the world really works, we don't believe things like this to be true. We think that our friends, our families, our partners will never hurt us. For certainly, if they love us, they wouldn't, right?

In an ideal world, that might be true.

In this world, it might even be true...for a little while.

Eventually though, any relationship with any person at any level will result in pain. It's just a part of the reality of human interaction. There is no universe where two people can exist in perfect harmony forever.

We hope that those we love don't hurt us with intention, and in many cases there may never be intent involved with the pain that is inflicted. As individuals, we necessarily want and need different things in life. At some point, our wants and needs may diverge. At some point, we may act selfishly and do things that hurt others, even if hurting them is never part of what we are wanting.

In my life, I've been hurt the most this way, by those closest to me.

In many ways, the harm inflicted this way is the worst. It would be one thing if someone meant to hurt me, if they made a conscious choice to do something to hurt me.  I've been hurt that way, certainly. I've hurt people I loved that way too, though I carry regret for doing so.

Being hurt without intention, though, it carries more pain I think. At least it has in my experience. Knowing that I was hurt as badly as I was simply because they just weren't considering the damage they were doing to me, that I was irrelevant in their choices, that I was collateral damage...it hurts more. It hurts more, and it requires more levels of forgiveness to move on from the hurt. We don't just need to process and forgive the harm done, but the fact that we were so willfully ignored first.

People do stupid, selfish things. In the process, they will hurt those they love most.

I've hurt others like this. I've been utterly devastated by others doing it to me.

The recovery from this particular pain is something that took years, something that isn't complete and may never be. It's something that changed, fundamentally, who I am as a person. It altered just about everything in my life.

I could have refused to let those who hurt me back in to my life. I could have harbored resentment. I could have stayed angry, stayed hurt. I could have. I could have built walls to protect myself from being hurt again, but those walls would have kept out the good along with the bad.

The people we love can and will hurt us more than anyone else ever could, but if we protect ourselves from the hurt, we deny ourselves the love too. To stay safe, we stay isolated. Opening your heart to love means opening it to the chance of being hurt.

There is great risk in love.

That risk is terrifying once you've been hurt. Allowing yourself to love and be loved requires a huge leap of faith once you've been hurt because it requires a conscious choice to be vulnerable again.

It's terrifying, but for the right people, it's worth it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the broken internet edition

The sleep deprivation is starting to really take hold, and I'm having a hard time getting riled up about much these days. 

I'm also deliberately avoiding the news because it makes me mad right now. I am fully aware that the head in the sand approach isn't a long term solution, that the problems of the world won't go away simply because I am ignoring them and that I can't kid myself for too long. I know that.

Right now though, I'm tired. And emotional. So there.

Having said that, there is one story that is really pissing me off this week, and it has to do with this.


In case you need a caption, that's my boob in my son's mouth. Yep. 

What is pissing me off about this has nothing to do with nursing, actually. It took him and I several weeks to get our particular nursing relationship all squared away, but now that he's mastered latching, we are good. The funny thing about nursing is that it should be so natural and it isn't. Even for someone like me, a doula with over a decade of nursing my own babies already, it's not always this simple beautiful easy thing like we believe it should be. 

It's frustrating and painful and exhausting and messy at times. It's hard to teach a baby how to do something that they don't seem to want to do, and doing it all while under the microscope of twice a week weigh ins and growth charts and threats of supplements is a special form of torture. I won't lie and tell you that nursing is this magical thing. It can be, but it isn't always, and it especially isn't in the beginning. 

My daughters latched easily and we never had problems. All three of my boys struggled. 

We got here though and we are settled in. Finally.

In these weeks since he was born, the typical fights on the internet have raged. I've tried to avoid them, tried to keep my head down, tried not to comment on things. Really, I have. 

This though, this is what is pissing me off. 

What, you ask?

I'm pissed off by the fact that my picture up there, the one of my beautiful baby boy eagerly nursing discreetly, would in all likelihood be deemed offensive and removed from social media if I posted it there directly and someone complained. Hell, even having it as the photo attached to this post might mean that it gets yanked. 

Instagram and Facebook are notorious for removing pictures of breastfeeding mothers and their babies. I have countless friends who have had pictures pulled. 

To have those pictures pulled, someone had to have reported them. 

Someone on their friends lists, presumably.

Look. If you are on my friends list and you have a problem with seeing a picture like this one, maybe we just shouldn't be friends. Anyone who has known me in real life in the past 13 1/2 years has likely been around me while I was nursing one of my babies. I don't hide to feed them. I don't sneak off to bathrooms. I don't drape huge covers over their heads. I don't. 

I never have and I'm not about to start doing it now.

I feed my babies when they are hungry, wherever we happen to be, and I have the legal right to do so. 

There is nothing offensive about a breast being used for what nature intended.

There is nothing offensive about a picture of a nursing mother and child, particularly in a world where celebrities are stripped down, oiled up, paraded around and turned into trending topics. 

So there.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the Judgy McJudgerson edition

Hi. I'll warn you in advance that I'm in a mood today. One of those moods where I really just need to avoid looking at my fb newsfeed because I'm virtually certain that it will be filled with more things that will just piss me off.

I'm sitting here in the dark with my coffee, listening to the baby swing creak back and forth, the washing machine spin. In the background, The Crow. One of the best movies ever. Also one of the movies that some Hollywood executive has decided to remake. I'm not pleased. Sure, they could make it so that it is closer to the comics, less related to the original version of the film. Here's the thing, though. Brandon Lee died making that epic film, and I think we should all just agree to leave it alone.

But no one asked me.

Anyway, off to some of the other things pissing me off this week.


Bill Cosby
So, it turns out that America's Dad in the ugly sweater is also a rather rapey guy. Vomit.

He's done his fair share poking bears and pissing people off in recent years with his outspoken nature about race relations, welfare and more...but the recent news he's made is the worst yet. Apparently, he has a long sordid personal history of bad bad things, not the least of which are rape allegations.

For some bizarre reason, either he or his handlers decided to ask people to make Cosby memes this week, and it backfired in the most spectacular way. Check out some of the images people made here.

I'm disappointed. Sigh.

Ebola, still
This is something that will in all likelihood piss me off for a very long time. Now that we've dealt with a threat of this disease on our shores and it suddenly hit the radar of the millions of people who live here, we care about it as a society. Well, sort of. We are totally paranoid about getting it ourselves.

The last Ebola patient being treated in the United States was released today. No one else is sick, though there are some still waiting out quarantine periods. I'm sure that there will be some more people who contract the disease, and I'm sure that the media will pounce all over it again and scare the shit out of everyone because that's what they do, even if it is completely irresponsible.

I want to know when they're going to apologize for scaring the shit out of the American public.

Don't worry. I won't hold my breath.

Speaking of infectious disease...
There was a minor outbreak of a stomach virus last week at the school that my kids attend. Bad enough that they sanitized the entire school over the weekend. Bad enough that the health office was overflowing with kids who needed sent home when I was called in to pick up one of mine.

Schools are giant petri dishes, truly.

Don't lick anything, you guys.

What pisses me off are the parents who send their kids to school knowing that they are sick. Who dose them intentionally with fever reducing meds and send them on their way, knowing full well that those meds are going to wear off at some point during the day and will do nothing at all to address the fact that their kid is probably contagious. I cannot even tell you how many times I'll hear about this kid or that one running a high fever or barfing or whatever, only to see that kid at school the following day (or even later the same day in some cases).

Criminalizing Compassion
There is a very disturbing movement nationwide going on right now, one having to do with criminalizing homelessness and poverty. Some areas are putting spikes on sidewalks to keep people from sleeping near buildings, others are enacting ordinances that criminalize feeding the homeless. One such law is on the books in Florida. There, a 90 year old man has been arrested repeatedly for feeding the homeless.

As soon as he gets out of jail, he goes right back to doing it too. Because he's a compassionate man, a kind soul who has been doing this for years and a badass. Because the law is asinine. Because there is something very, very, very wrong with the powers that be enacting a law like that in the first place.

The Mother Who Threw Her Son Off a Bridge
If I have a chance, I will likely be writing a post exclusively about this, mostly because I have a lot to say about it and the short little TTPMOT snippet won't be enough. I'll try to summarize my thoughts here just in case I don't get to it.

By now, you've probably heard about this disturbing case. A mother in Oregon threw her 6 year old son off a bridge. She had a long history with mental illness and a sick husband. She had asked for help with her son, who was autistic, in the past and those calls had gone largely unanswered. She was arrested and has been charged in his murder. 

As seems to be the case when something like this happens, people rush to vilify the parent or defend them. I try the best I can to look at the entirety of the situation, learn from what happened, see how we can do things different going forward so that tragedies like this don't happen in the future. Many say that the son's autism is irrelevant, that the diagnosis of the victim shouldn't matter. Many say that her mental health shouldn't be a consideration if she failed to get treatment. Some say they understand what drove her to this place. Some say they will never understand it. I'd never do that, they say...except none of them know what was going on in her head at the time.

Ultimately, there are some uncomfortable truths we as a society need to face when something like this happens, aside from the ugly reality of a mother taking her child's life. We need to admit that there are not enough resources to help parents who have children that place more demands on them. We need to admit that our mental health system sucks and fails people all the time. We need to understand the burdens placed on caregivers of those with serious health conditions like what her husband faced. We need to stop being a society so hell bent on blame and judgment and somehow start to give a shit about other people again, before they get to the place she did where she did what she did. We need to ask people if they need help, what they need help with...and then there needs to be a system in place so that they can actually get that help. Period.

Standing around and pointing fingers won't get us anywhere, and it won't bring this little boy back. 

The Bandwagon to Judgyville
This was really pissing me off yesterday. I've learned through years and years of human interaction, that sometimes I just really need to keep my damn mouth shut and not get involved in arguments. So I don't. Or at least I try not to.

There is this lovely phenomenon in the blogging/fb world of bandwagon riding. Someone starts talking about some controversial subject, then everyone with a keyboard has to weigh in. Last month, everyone cared about the inseam length of their daughters' shorts. Next month will bring the obligatory posts about Christmas as it always does.

Right now, for whatever reason, the internet is full of posts and rants about the mommy wars and dad bashing. It's the topic of the month, and it's a particularly frustrating one because it seems like there are two main groups of people involved. First, those who have an opinion about everything and want to impose it on everyone. Second, those who advocate for supporting the differences in parenting styles and decisions.

Except, here's what happens fairly often, even with that second group of people, the ones who want people to leave other people alone and stop judging....wait for it....the judging starts.

I totally respect the right of parents to make all their decisions and I won't impose my opinion on them or shame them or insist that I'm right except with ______, because well, that's just unacceptable. 

That.

I saw it SO many times yesterday in particular because there is a post on Jezebel about how people don't get to have opinions about how women give birth. It's gone viral, not so much because of the point she is trying to make, but because of her insistence that people don't get to have opinions.

People absolutely do get to have opinions about everything. It's human nature to opine on things.

What isn't cool, though, is burdening other people with your opinions.

If you don't want people judging you, you can't turn around and bash others for their choices. As a doula especially, this pisses me off because pregnancy and childbirth and parenting are all things that are hugely important in our lives. We have some degree of control over the things that happen, the choices we make. Sometimes, though, we don't get a choice.

To have self righteous people condemn how things played out for you isn't helping. I wrote a post about the mommy wars a while back - a tongue in cheek sarcastic bit. You can read it here if you are interested. Suffice to say that if you're running around telling people not to judge how a woman delivered, where she delivered or how she feeds her child, but if she eats her placenta, she's disgusting because that's just nasty....you're absolutely part of the problem.

Go buy a mirror and look in it for a hot second. You're just as bad as everyone else you are condemning.

I ate my placenta. Get over it. I'm not telling anyone that they are less of a mom because they didn't eat theirs. Stop telling me that I'm gross. SMH.

I really need to stop reading the comment sections.

For the love.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

My Inner Critic, a Guest Post from Mome


I'm thrilled to be sharing another guest post from mome with you all today. Rather soon after the last post went live, she asked me if I'd be interested in running another piece. Without a moment of hesitation, I said yes.

This is what she sent, and I'm in love with it.


Wilson: Who's Harvey?
Miss Kelly: A white rabbit, six feet tall.
Wilson: Six feet?
Elwood P. Dowd: Six feet three and a half inches. Now let's stick to the facts.
Harvey (1950)
Starring: Jimmy Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd

I'd like to introduce my inner critic.
His name is Ralph.
He's a 6 foot tall white rabbit.

Ralph comes and goes. He's a bit of a free spirit.
I haven't seen Ralph for a while, but he's reappeared recently.
He's got a lot to say about my first attempt at writing in as long as I can remember.
I wrote a guest blog last week, exposing a lot of feelings I haven't shared before.
Ralph thinks it's very egotistical to write about myself.
He thinks people will think I am just looking for attention.
He doesn’t like my writing.

Ralph also reminds me of all my faults.
I’m too heavy
I don’t exercise enough
I watch too much TV and spend too much time on the computer.

Ralph originally appeared about 10 years ago. I was struggling with a lot in my life and I really had to compartmentalize a lot of things in order to cope.

Anger
Self-image
Feelings of inadequacy
Self-criticism

Just sweeping them under the virtual rug wasn’t working anymore (it was getting pretty lumpy under there), so I tried visualizing them.
Making them kind of silly.
Naming them.
Cartoony characters worked well for me.
About the time I “named” my inner critic, Ralph, I ran across this comic… it seemed too perfect  to be coincidental. Thank you Universe

6.03.04.jpg

Ralph, in the strip was an invisible childhood playmate, but he was just snarky enough to become the perfect image for my inner critic. And nobody had to know about him.

Sometimes Ralph is helpful.
Sometimes he keeps me from doing or saying or eating things that I may regret.
Sometimes he just a big furry pain in the ass.

It's not a good idea to eliminate Ralph, or any of the other issues I’ve compartmentalized.
He does serve his purpose.
But sometimes when he gets a little too outspoken, I need to stick Ralph in the corner.

I put him at a corner table in a very dark bar. He can cool his jets where I can’t hear him while I stand on the stage of life and make a fool of myself. Or not. My voice. My choice.
He doesn’t get a say in it.

Harvey again...
Elwood P. Dowd: Well, I've wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I'm happy to state I finally won out over it.

I have friends who seriously worry about me when I talk about Ralph.
Others just see it as “my quirky sense of humor”.
Either way, I figure it's better than some of the alternatives.

It may sound a tad bit nuts, but it works for me and Ralph.

mome (pronounced mom-my) is an ex-teacher and software project manager living in WA with 3 cats, 2 boys, 1 dog, 1 husband and 1 hamster.

currently she herds cats and boys, tries to keep herself healthy and coach others do the same.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday, the election edition

Elections. Blargh.

The upside to today is that regardless of the outcome, the ads will stop for now at least. It appears that there will be a fairly dramatic swing of the pendulum with this cycle and the Republicans will gain control of the Senate.

Ah, midterm elections. Where no one shows up even though almost as much is at stake.

Grrr.

Anyhow...as you can probably imagine, there are a lot of things pissing me off right now. Off we go.


All the election bullshit
So many things, you guys. SO MANY THINGS.

I hate Citizens United with a deep and burning passion. It is, without question, one of the worst Supreme Court decisions ever handed down and we are living the consequences of it as I type this. Over 4 billion dollars was spent on campaign ads this year. 4 BILLION. 

Most of that wasn't from individual donors or the candidates themselves. Noooo.

It was bankrolled by corporate entities, by the super PACs that are allowed to funnel as much money as they want into campaigns these days, thanks to the dumbest SCOTUS decision ever. Suuuuuure, it's not manipulative. Suuuuuure, it's not an unfair advantage. Suuuuuure it isn't skewing our system of government.

And if you believe that....

It's not all that pisses me off, though. The amount of money, while absolutely insane just on the merits is one thing, but the ads it all went to pay for is worse. How much truth was actually in any of those commercials? How much was spun? How much was an outright lie?

Oh, we don't have to worry about accuracy...we just make the most offensive ads against the other person running and it's all good. We scare the shit out of the American people because let's face it....fear works.

In case you don't believe that, I have one word for you. Ebola.

Speaking of Ebola...
There were some projections that came out this past week about the epidemic as it pertains to the spread here in the US. I use the world epidemic because that's what everyone is so accustomed to, but really there is no epidemic taking place within our borders. A handful of cases and one death does not an epidemic make....but don't listen to me....I just have a background in public health and epidemiology.

Ready for the projections???

Worst case scenario, they're estimating that we will see up to 130 cases by the end of the year.

130. Not 130,000. 130. That's it.

They're saying that every major city will probably see at least one patient, and that person will most likely be returning from a trip to the areas of the world where there is an actual outbreak. You know, the three countries in Africa that haven't stopped the spread yet.

As opposed to all the rest of Africa, where Ebola isn't even an issue. The geographically challenged Americans and their ignorance here trumps facts so often that there are people freaking out about anyone who has traveled to any part of Africa.  Truly, these are facepalm moments that make us look like idiots to the rest of the world.

Since we're talking about Ebola...
We should probably talk about Kaci Hickox too. By now, most people know at least who she is. She's the nurse that returned from working with Doctors Without Borders and was stopped at the airport in New Jersey, placed in isolation because they thought she had a fever that she didn't actually have. She was then released to go home to Maine where everyone proceeded to freak out that she had Ebola, which she doesn't actually have.

Are you seeing a theme here?

The Governor went to fairly extreme measures to try and force a quarantine on her for the full 21 days that she could potentially be symptom free and carrying the disease. It didn't work. Why???

Well, the court refused to force her into quarantine because she's not sick. 

Even if she has Ebola, which is looking less and less likely with each passing day, she isn't contagious until she starts to show symptoms. Which she isn't.

Everyone, calm down. Good lord.

Are we really willing to force people into isolation for three weeks at a time just because there is a possibility that they might have been exposed to something?

Maybe this is just the constitutional law scholar in me, but that's more than a little bit frightening. You see, my background is one in both legal rights and public health.

I can totally get behind the isolation of patients with communicable diseases for the greater good of society, but I'm not about to begin advocating for quarantines of people who aren't sick. That's a very slippery slope my friends, a huge intrusion on personal freedoms and not grounded in any scientific reasoning at all.

Which is why the judge said no.

Go ahead and yell at me if you want, but if we begin to allow irrational fear to police our society, we're opening a can of worms that no one wants to open.

The right to die
Brittany Maynard took a lethal dose of barbiturates this weekend as she planned to do, resulting in her death. In the days since, it seems that everyone has formed an opinion about this, made some kind of judgement call about whether what she did was morally right or wrong, mused about the culpability of her physicians, wondered about the emotional well being of her family and friends.

I've seen more than a few people say that what she did was commit suicide, usually people upset with her because they have personal history with the suicide of a loved one. Her choice had nothing to do with anyone but her. She was surrounded by her closest friends and family.

Her loss is a tragic one, regardless of the mechanism of her death, but it was a certainty. She was going to die. Period. This way her suffering was limited, the suffering that her loved ones were forced to witness was limited. In the last statements she issued, which I fully encourage people criticizing her to read, she says point blank that this wasn't really suicide. The cancer was what was killing her.

I sincerely hope that her message is spread and that more states will write laws allowing people in her position to make the choice she made.

I also sincerely hope that those critical of her decisions will respect that they were hers to make.

Monday, November 3, 2014

And I exhaled

For some reason that remains a mystery, I went back and read through some of my old posts from three years ago this month.

November has always been and will probably forever remain emotionally charged for me. I've had some trials and tribulations these past five years or so, and for whatever reason a lot of it went down in November.

This month holds a few days that I dread the approach of, a holiday that has always been a bittersweet one, my father's birthday, which overlaps with that bittersweet holiday this year and one day on the calendar filled with the painful irony of one of the hardest moments of my life.

November 14th.


To most people, it's just a day on the calendar that comes and goes without significance.

To some of us, it's a day prompting awareness campaigns about a disease that affects us or someone we love. It's World Diabetes Day.

To me, it's that day wrapped in painful irony, because on that day three years ago, my mother lost her first leg to diabetes. It was a day where everything changed in a year that held far too many other days where everything changed.

If you've ever wondered how many times everything can change, the answer is infinite.

If you've ever wondered if things can get worse, they can. They always can. Don't tempt fate.

2011 is a year that I would just prefer to be wiped from my memories. From the first moments to the closing minutes, that year was hellish. By November so much else had already happened, so many lives were altered, so many terrible awful occurrences had transpired.

Then that day arrived, the day that we had known was coming for while by that point, the day that we'd done everything within our power to avoid coming to, and it hadn't worked. There was no other choice, aside from imminent death.

I was scared for her, and I was angry. I was hurting but I was so numb that I couldn't even cry anymore. I'd long since run out of tears.

That morning, I'd shuttled my kids off to school. Entrusted my in laws with their care for the rest of the day, not knowing what the immediate future would hold. Insisted that I didn't need anyone to sit and wait with me. Walked into her room at the hospital to see the reality of it all had finally hit her. The unavoidableness washing over her. She had resigned herself to the necessity of it all, but hadn't begun to really wrap her mind around it until that day. She had also spent the better part of the prior two weeks heavily medicated to manage the pain, trading complete awareness for comfort. It was all worn off now that they needed things like consent forms to be signed and witnessed.

The gravity of it all sinking in, weighing on her, tears welled up in her eyes. I spent so much time trying to be stoic that morning, trying to push the tears back in, staring off out the window when I needed a second to collect myself.

I held her hand. Went on the walk down to pre-op with her and waited inside the tiny room as she was prepped for surgery. I sat there feeling useless, knowing that there wasn't a damn thing I could do to make any of this better for her. They gave me a piece of paper with a code for the surgery waiting room screen, assigned her a number for anonymity purposes, useless in a room where only three people were having surgery that day, only one for the amount of time she was in for, only one undergoing an amputation.

I kissed her goodbye, wiped the tears from her eyes. Told her I loved her.

I never knew if it was for the last time.

There were so many of those goodbye kisses. So many.

I sat there in the waiting room, staring at the screen blankly in a haze. It would be something like four hours, they'd said. At some point in that four hours, my husband brought my son to the ER. He'd cut his finger bad enough to need stitches and I was almost relieved at the distraction. His injury was minor and fixable, but it was sufficient to distract me from everything else going on, if only for a moment.

The places my mind wanders aren't generally good, and knowing what was happening inside that operating room didn't help. I needed the distraction.

On the long walk down the long hallway from the surgery waiting room to the ER, I passed a table strewn with leaflets. A small banner hanging from the front of it, indicating that today was World Diabetes Day. I chuckled unintentionally at the irony of it all.

Oh, I was aware. I didn't need some awareness campaign and its leaflets just now. Nope.

I went back to the surgery waiting room after making sure my son's needs were attended to, the waiting room that had briefly been occupied and was almost empty now. Just one man left staring at his randomly assigned number on the screen, urging it to change colors indicating the patient he was waiting for had safely made it to the recovery room.

My friend walked in, the one that I'd told I didn't need to come, the one that I'd told I would be fine. She hadn't listened and had come anyway.

She has no idea how grateful I am for that.

The hours ticked by a little faster with company.

Finally, the color on the screen changed and she was in recovery. My friend hugged me and told me to call her if I needed to. The doctor came in to tell me that the surgery had gone as well as they could have hoped. The blood vessels looked like they would be sufficient, but only time would tell. They wouldn't, but we didn't know that then. They'd get me back to see her as soon as possible. I shook his hand and thanked him, made the phone calls I needed to make, the phone calls that I'd never get in return later on.

And I waited.

When the nurse finally came in to get me, it had been at least another hour. I readied myself for what she might look like now, not really knowing what to expect, grateful for the long walk to the room she'd been moved to.

I took a deep breath and opened the door.

She'd made it, this time.

Things wouldn't get better for her or for us, but in that moment I wanted to believe that we'd been through the worst of it. I did believe we'd been through the worst of it. Nothing before then mattered anymore and nothing that would come in the future was known yet. The relief washed over me when I saw her smile.

And I exhaled.

The Hug, A Guest Post from Gayle at So Much For The Mother Of The Year Award

Up today in the Best Guest Post Series Ever, we have Gayle from So Much For The Mother Of the Year Award. Originally, she was going to write something else entirely, but when she sat down, this story is what came out instead. It's a story of the love of a mother told over generations, through the simplicity of a single item. I fell in love with it immediately, and so will you. 


I walked in from work and went immediately to slinging frozen french fries on a cookie sheet. Will walked in to the kitchen and said, "Mama, I would like to say thank you for everything you do for us. Around here. Going to work. All that stuff. We are, well, we are pretty much for anyone I guess and I just wanted to say thanks."

I froze, turned, and stared at him.

He laughed and said, "We were talking about gratitude in Social Studies today for a conversation about Veteran's Day. And I was thinking that if anybody deserved some gratitude, it is you."

Whew. I thought he was going to say he was going in to the military... which is exactly what he said next. 

"As soon as I get done with my shoulder surgery, I want to go and talk with a Marine recruiter."

Thud, thud, thud, thud. I can feel my heart beating. 

I remembered the first time I felt him flutter in my belly. The first time I saw his face. How I cried tears of frustration on him when he couldn't latch to breastfeed. Pictures of us flashed at each birthday party, me always hovering and smiling at him, loving at him. How he always tried not to cry when he threw up when he was little. When he wouldn't stop watching a train go by during his first baseball game when he was six.  His explanation about why he broke up with his first girlfriend, too much talking on the bus in the morning.  The wobble in his voice when he called me at work from 7th grade, “Mama? I think I’m in bad trouble.”  How he danced the Wiggle Wiggle Wiggle when he tried on his tux for the first time for prom.  When his friend took a whole bunch of pills and he told her to tell her mom or he would call 911, and then he watched Chopped with me on my bed and silent tears streamed down his face. The strength in his arms when he hugs me and how my head lands on his shoulder now.  How much he makes me laugh every single day, how he always hugs me, even in front of his friends. 

And I said, "Sweetheart, if that is what you want, I will help you."

The shoulder isn't better.  He won’t ever pass the physical for the military.  But he and his Dad have plans.  His Dad bought property in Alaska, not near a city.  Not near anything, actually, somewhere between Fairbanks, Alaska and the border of Yukon, Canada. They are stockpiling food and supplies now and they will leave to drive there April of 2016.  They will camp the first summer and build a small cabin.  The first winter will be the worst part probably, a winter of canned foods and isolation.  They are taking a Maine Coon who will have no crunchy cat food for the first time in her life.  They are planning to stay, homestead, farm, hunt, and have bed & breakfast guests eventually.  His Dad is a trained chef and Will is finishing his second year of welding as he completes high school.

I think about little things like chapped lips and what will the cat use for kitty litter.  I think about bizarre things like scurvy.  Phone service, maybe?  Can I hear my son’s voice or will I wait breathlessly for sporadic letters?  People gasp at the plans and ask, “How can you stand it?”  

My heart already aches.  

I am pre-missing him, because I’m a planner like that but he doesn't know.  I don’t ever want the thought to cross his mind, “I can’t go there, it would break my Mom’s heart.” or the words to leave his lips, “I wouldn't ever take that chance, Mom would freak out.”  I want him to feel me with him where ever he lands in the world.  I did not just have a baby 17 years ago.  I was just getting a person ready for his own journeys. 

I’ll sneak an old, oversize, blue sweatshirt in to his bags.  In 1996, my own Mama hid it in my bags when Will’s Dad and I were moving to Alaska.  I was thirteen weeks pregnant with her first grandchild when we visited with her and then drove across the United States and through Canada to reach the Air Force Base.  I was sorting and unpacking a month or so later when I came across the old blue sweatshirt.  Mama had folded a note inside that said, “This is my oldest, softest sweatshirt.  When you need a hug from me, put this on, and give yourself and the baby a hug and know that it is filled with Mama love.”  I sat in the floor and sobbed.  I have that same sweatshirt tucked carefully away.  It is a little more threadbare now, but it is going to Alaska again in 2016, to be a hug for a child, from a Mama. 

Gayle McDaniel Johnson

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