Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Slowing Down

I couldn't go to sleep last night. I wasn't comfortable, I couldn't get comfortable, no matter what I tried. My mind was racing with all the things I'm worrying about.

I was overthinking everything, as I'm inclined to do, not just because of the pregnancy, but because of who I am.

These past few weeks have been a test for me. I suppose that I shouldn't be upset since the reality is that this entire pregnancy has been an easy one so far. Sure, I've had to deal with the complications that always arise for me, but at this point I'm so used to them that I just deal. Being upset about anything won't do me any good when it comes to the conditions I struggle with, and if anything it will just up my stress level, which can pretty quickly spiral out of control and make everything worse. I've worked pretty hard to stay grounded and centered and focused and all that ethereal stuff.

Then it all went to hell.

I knew that the baby wasn't in the greatest position for a while now, but having it confirmed on the flickering screen in the dark a few weeks ago drove it home. For most of the past 8 months, I've just kept my head down and kept trucking along...balancing all the things I have to keep balanced to keep my body healthy. And I've done a great job of it, truth be told.

Until I saw that screen. Frank breech. And I knew that from that moment everything was going to change.

I knew that I was closer to the end of this pregnancy than I'd really come to terms with. I knew that though the calendar said that I had 7 or 8 weeks that I really only had 3 or 4 if I was lucky. I knew that. I'd just preferred to live obliviously, relishing the time that was left.

Until I couldn't because I was so wrapped up in worrying about things that are so largely out of my control.

I have done everything I could possibly do to try and get this baby to move.

It hasn't worked.

I've spent the past two weeks running myself ragged to get to appointments and making sure that I got in so many minutes of positioning at a time and so on and so on and so on. I'm sore. I'm tired. I'm stressed out.

And it isn't working.

All the while, I've had to face reality. My body seems to want to evict him sooner rather than later, regardless of whether he is in the right position for it or not. I'm quickly running out of time for him to turn, and the look on my doctor's face yesterday told me that my concerns weren't just mine but hers as well.

I don't just have a history of preterm deliveries, I have a history of precipitous (ridiculously fast) labors. I go early and I go fast...and I live about 40 minutes from the hospital, which could absolutely become a problem in a hurry. If he isn't turned and I go into labor with him breech, I'm far away. Maybe too far away. Even if he turns and I go, which it is looking more and more likely with each day, he's early. Earlier than the rest of them were. Earlier than I was hoping he'd arrive.

When you've had a baby fight to breathe in the NICU, you don't ever want to be there again.

For this little guy, I need him to turn so that in the event he starts to come early, we can at least get a few hours of labor to help his lungs have a decent shot.

In the office yesterday, the concerned look on the doctor's face led to a discussion about when we should try to turn him. She was afraid to wait until next week, even though she'd prefer to for maturity reasons. And I know she is right.

The version is scheduled for tomorrow. It could work, but it might not. I could end up in labor immediately, which wouldn't surprise me in the least considering how dilated I already am without him being in position. I could end up in the OR having an emergency section if there are problems. I could walk out afterwards and stay pregnant for another week. I could be scheduling a c section.

I don't know what will happen, and I quite literally have no control over it.

After I saw the doctor yesterday, I went for acupuncture and moxibustion again, though I'm beginning to feel a bit defeated by it all. She was kind and understanding, she knew that I was doing everything I could...and more than that, she understood why I had to try.

Not everyone does.

Having this platform, having a public place to muse about the things in my head...it's usually a positive thing. I adore my fans for the most part, truly. It seems though that there always have to be a few people who don't get why this is important to me. Who question my efforts. Who feel compelled to tell me that I'm wrong.

Like I told the acupuncturist, this is important to me just because it is. I don't want to have a c-section on my fifth and final child if there is anything I can do to prevent it, and so I've done all that I can.

I say this as a doula.

I say this as a woman who will never be pregnant again.

I say this as a women fighting for the birth she wants.

I feel like I shouldn't have to explain myself, and yet here I am. I am a doula and an advocate for natural birth. I have helped women work through birth trauma. I have helped women cope with unexpected complications. I became a doula, in part, because of the bad experiences I had with labor in the past.

It's important to me just because it is.

I've done all I can because I felt like I had to.

What happens from here is out of my control.

And I, a woman who fights constantly for the choices of other women, have no choice but to accept that, which is a hard place for me to be.

I'm doing the best I can.

For the record, I never asked or expected anyone else to understand my journey. It is mine and mine alone. I'd prefer not to be judged or mocked for it, extended the same courtesy I give to others, though.

At some point last night when I was staring at the ceiling, it dawned on me that all this worrying these past few weeks have stolen what time I had left to enjoy this pregnancy, my last one.

I don't want my memories of these last days to be of what I tried and failed at. 

I want to remember what it feels like when he gets the hiccups for an hour straight. I want to remember how he nudges his siblings hands when they sit beside me and talk to him. I want to remember how amazing and fleeting this time is. I want to remember how fortunate I've been to do this as many times as I have.


I want it to last just a little bit longer.

I'm slowing down for however much time I have left. I'm letting go of the struggle. I'm just going to sit and be with my last baby in these last moments because I know that I'll never be here again.

The rest of it is out of my hands. However he arrives, he will be here soon.

And everything will change, for the last time.
xo

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the holy balls there is a lot to cover this week edition

I'm going to level with you. It's entirely possible that I'm just particularly sensitive this week. ENTIRELY.

I'm not going to kid myself about that for even a second. I don't think it's just me, though, in all honesty because the topics I am covering this week have seemed to piss off a ton of other people too.  I am talking about Wendy Davis and abortion over at Lefty Pop today, and you should go check that out after you are done here. 

Speaking of which, let's just get to it because there is a lot to cover.


Dress Codes
Yeah, yeah, yeah...I know I wrote about this last week, but I have a feeling that it's going to become a recurring theme around here. Mostly because I never had to give the dress code a second thought until my daughter entered middle school.

Then said daughter was forced to wear a sweatshirt all day when the outside temperature was 98 flipping degrees. The reason? She had on a tank top. One with wide straps and a high neckline that covered everything and was longer in the torso length intentionally so that everything would be covered. It was not obscene or inappropriate in the least. I routinely take clothes out of the laundry once they get too small and wouldn't send her in anything that was scandalous....but that doesn't appear to matter. Upper arms are inappropriate in the eyes of the teachers at her school.

Upper freaking arms.

I have had a few friends called to the office to bring clothing changes, only for girls.

Then there is the case of the girl forced to wear the shame suit at school for a dress code infraction. What the hell??? I just....grrrr.

The Ice Bucket that Wasn't Ice
In the category of things that make me fear for the future, a group of obnoxious shitheads tricked an autistic kid into getting a bucket full of urine, feces and spit dumped on his head by telling him it was ice for the ice bucket ALS challenge. They've finally been identified after a few celebrities came forward with reward money to whoever would reveal them.

Why anyone would do something so awful to another human being is beyond me. I sincerely hope that whatever charges exist in the world for being an asshole this way are thrown at them.

The Woman with the Mattress
Emma Sulkowicz is a student at Columbia University, and she's made news for a reason that is both inspiring and disgusting at the same time.

She was raped in her dorm room on the first day of classes last year. She says the school mishandled the entire situation, that the suspect has been accused of attacking two other women and that her case against him was wrongfully dismissed.

As an aside, for those wondering why the regular police aren't involved and why this is a school issue...it just is. Campus police tend to handle on campus incidents, particularly the ones that occur between students. It's been that way for a long time, and honestly is something that needs to change. Allegations of rape are too serious to be handled by universities who refuse to do the right thing.

Her assailant still attends school.

So, she is making a point by carrying around a mattress until they do something about it. An actual mattress, to symbolize the weight of everything she has to carry in her life now because of this rapist. 

She plans to carry it until he is expelled, and will accept help from others who offer to share her burden, but refuses to ask for help.

She's a freaking rock star, and Columbia (as well as all the other universities that fail victims) should be ashamed of itself.

GOP and OTC birth control
Four of the most conservative GOP candidates have waved some magic wand in the land of make believe, and I don't want you to get tricked by it for one second. They all, including local candidate Cory Gardner are outspoken pro-life, anti-abortion, anti-birth control, anti-ACA candidates, and nothing about that has changed at all.

What has changed is that they are all suddenly supporting over the counter access to birth control.

Seems like a step in the right direction, right? Like they have come more towards center and become more reasonable, like they've heard and been compelled by the arguments in favor of unrestricted access and all that, right???

Wrong.

So, so, so wrong. It's a ploy. A ploy dressed up to look like it's pandering to those in favor of birth control when the entire idea behind it is something much more underhanded. They want unrestricted over the counter access so that insurance won't have to cover it at all. They want to put the entire cost of birth control on women, refusing to allow them to utilize their coverage entirely, take it out of the discussion about insurance completely.

This would actually limit access for millions of women because of cost alone.

Don't be fooled. This isn't about them suddenly becoming more reasonable. Not at all.

The NFL and the NCAA
Yeah, sure we are going to believe that the NFL didn't know about the video of Ray Rice sucker punching his then girlfriend. And I'm a purple unicorn.

They knew. They just didn't do anything. The fact that they came along now and finally did something after the media was in an uproar, after the public went nuts, after other players were calling them out for their inaction....is a nice gesture and all, but it's too little too late.

For the record, this is the same NFL who wanted to ban Broncos kicker Matt Prater from playing the entire season for having a beer on vacation (he has a prior dui, there was no involvement with law enforcement that prompted the current 4 game suspension he is under).

As for the victim blamers, get off your damn high horses right quick. You might see a woman in a press conference who is standing by her man and defending him and contributing to the violence or whatever it is that you see. I see duress and fear.  Read this. Then think about what life might actually be like for half a damned second before you blame the victim again.

As if the NFL hadn't done enough half assed disciplining to piss me off yesterday, the NCAA had to go and do it too.

I fully own the fact that part of my issues with the NCAA have to do with the unfairness with how schools that violate rules are penalized. I'm a bitter Trojan. A very bitter Trojan.

If you haven't heard, they are letting Penn State off sanctions early. USC's sanctions stemmed primarily from Reggie Bush accepting gifts from agents, though the involvement of OJ Mayo from the basketball team was included eventually. The school was stripped of titles, Bush gave back the Heisman Trophy. There were wins vacated and years of scholarship sanctions.

Penn State's sanction stem from the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal in which there was high level involvement and cover ups. The NCAA initially slapped them with heavy fines and, scholarship sanctions and a four year bowl ban...but the scholarship sanctions have been modified already and will be lifted entirely for next year. The bowl ban is no longer in effect and they will be bowl eligible this year.

So let's get all this straight, k?

Drug and alcohol offenses are way worse than beating your girlfriend and accepting gifts is way worse than an institutional coverup of sexual abuse.

Seems legit.

NOT.

Monday, September 8, 2014

I'll be focused tomorrow. Maybe. But probably not.

Hi.

I'm currently sitting in the only accessible chair in the house. The carpets are scheduled to be cleaned later on today, the vents all cleared out. Normally I clean the carpets myself, but that is sooooo not happening right now.

I've been doing battle with a breech baby for well over a week now. I'm 100% distracted and making my family crazy.

My husband is sure that I've lost my damn mind. The kids aren't sure what to think. Some of them are willing to humor me and will believe anything I say, the others...born skeptics.

This kid, he's earning his nickname. Little Asskicker. He is soundly kicking my ass at the moment, and it's starting to wear on me.

I've been, literally, doing everything I can think of to try and get him to turn.

I'll be 35 weeks Wednesday. I'm already dilating without any direct pressure, which isn't the greatest sign given my history. Regular contractions 24/7 strong enough to show up on monitors aren't helping. The meds to stop contractions don't work on me, so we aren't bothering. The doc won't even attempt a version until I hit 36 weeks...I'm doing everything I can until then to get him to turn.

I started the Webster technique with a friend who is a chiropractor. My ligaments are all nice and loosey goosey now, and the baby gets pretty fired up afterwards, but he'll get sideways at the most and go back.

I started acupuncture as well, concentrating on the pressure points that affect the uterus and assist with relaxation. I have to tell you that I was a little skeptical about this, even though I have referred doula clients to them for years, but it is awesome. As soon as she put the needles in, my uterus stopped contracting completely. It was probably 6 hours before I had another contraction.


In addition to the acupuncture, she started moxibustion in the office and sent me home with a moxa stick to do it at least once a day until I see her again. This is about the point where I lost my husband completely. Like he waved from the shore as I sailed off into the depths of the ocean. He generally thinks I'm nuts when it comes to the alternative medicine world, but this is a new highlight, particularly since I need his help. You should have seen the look on his face when I explained it to him. Basically, it is a rolled piece of mugwort that he has to light and hold next to a pressure point on the outside of my pinky toes. The heat is supposed to (and does) encourage the baby to become more active, getting them to move into a better position. As for the baby, he's all up in there doing high kicks and shit, but still not flipping.

On top of all this, I'm doing positioning too. Which means that at any given time, I could be hanging off the couch or the bed or laying upside down or propped against the wall or on my knees. I'm familiar with many of the positions from yoga already, but these are exaggerated ones. And apparently very entertaining to watch. My husband has taken pictures. If he ever posts them online, I'll torture him in his sleep. True story.

I'll sit with ice packs on the top of my belly to try and get him to move. The theory is a pretty simple one...that the baby won't want his head to be cold, so he'll move. Again...high kicks and stuff, wiggling away from the ice, but not a full flip. At least not yet.

Then there is the music and the talking to him and the deep concentration and all that. About the only thing I haven't tried are handstands in the pool, and that's mostly because we have public pools here and I'd look ridiculous.

Not that I don't look ridiculous hanging upside down with ice on my belly or fire near my toes or anything....

Anyway, that's where I am at. I have deadlines to meet, topics that people want me to write about. I have a book review I need to get finished. I have dishes to wash and laundry to fold (assuming my dryer decides to work today...it's on the way out....we ordered a new one yesterday but it won't be here until next week). I have my bag almost completely packed for the hospital. Lined up the placenta encapsulation, waiting on a few more things to arrive in the mail. The nursery is ready to go, everything is washed.

Now we just need him to cooperate.

Until he does, I'll be in the world of squirrely jazz hands trying desperately to stay focused on anything but this stubborn baby.

I make no promises that it'll work and apologize in advance if I'm driving everyone else slowly insane too. That means you. My bad.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Changing How We View Mental Health and Addiction

As I was watching the Emmy's with my family this past weekend, we commented on just how many losses there were in the industry this year, of celebrities who were being remembered that evening.

One of them, perhaps one of the most talented of them all, Philip Seymour Hoffman. His death affected so many people I love deeply, and touched the hearts and minds of just about everyone who has ever struggled with mental illness, with addiction or with them both.



It was my hope back then that his death would stimulate a more open dialogue in our society about the comorbidity of mental illness and addiction, spur more people on to acknowledging and accepting the reality that these two things often come hand in hand with one another. Sometimes it is one that precipitates the other, usually the addiction coming after a struggle with mental illness.


Gratisography

There was, to some extent a dialogue opened in the wake of his death, but eventually it seemed that the focus on the drugs themselves drowned out the parts that mattered more. The underlying depression. The connection between depression and addiction. Those important pieces got lost in the discussions and arguments about drugs.

It is impossible, even with all the best resources in the world, to truly combat addiction without addressing the very conditions that often lead someone to substance abuse (or any other form of addition for that matter) in the first place. Those conditions, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and more, conditions that our society doesn't seem to fully understand. Conditions we don't often treat or manage adequately.

People struggling with some of these conditions are still frequently blamed in our world, held accountable for this thing that happens to them through no fault or choice of their own. We do not, on a societal level, see mental illness as a true illness in the same way we do diseases of the body. We, for some reason, prefer to labor under the delusion that mental illness is different, more conscious, more intentional, more controllable.
If we believe that about mental illness, we believe it even more about addiction.


It isn't, and we absolutely need to change the dialogue about it in this country. We need to start having the difficult conversations about mental illness and how prevalent it is. We need to talk about how woefully inadequate our system is to diagnose and treat patients. We need to make a conscious choice to elevate the treatment of mental health conditions to the same level as all the other conditions people suffer from. Ultimately, we need to begin to unravel the connections between mental illness and addiction.

We need to change the way we see and treat addiction. We need to ensure that people can receive coverage of treatment through their health insurance plans. We need to make programs accessible and affordable to all who need them. We need to understand that there are so many variations among patients and that what works for one may not work for another, so they need options. We need to admit that the way we've approached this in the past isn't good enough, and then we need to do better.

To do it, we need a revolution of sorts. We need to educate the new generation of medical professionals, of therapists, of counselors, to treat patients as a whole, not just address the specific symptoms that brought them into the office that day. We need new ways of thinking, and we need brave leadership to get there.

The Center for Health Innovation at Adelphi University is doing just that. In a poll just released, they have found that mental health professionals want to change how addiction is treated, they want more options to help patients, and they want to see more technology being used in the field.



http://adelphi.edu
http://chi.adelphi.edu

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Adelphi University. The opinions and text are all mine.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Random Rushed Thoughts About Back to School on a Thursday Morning

I don't have a ton of time to write today. This week is almost over, thank goodness. I'm clearly not back in the school year swing of things yet, have managed to schedule appointments that overlap more than once for this week and am currently debating the likelihood that my two younger children and I all survive to the bell ringing this morning.

It's been a day. Already.

I can't just scream UNCLE at 8:15 though.

I mean, I guess I could. That would be awesome. But I have too much to do because of all that poor scheduling I mentioned up there.

Anyhow, it's been a weird week.

Holiday weeks always throw me off, the beginning of the school year always throws me off. Toss in trying to adapt to a second kid in middle school who sees the world completely differently than her older sibling and pregnancy fog brain, and you have a hot damn mess.

I have one child who has been screaming like a banshee since 6:45. She yells because she doesn't want to get up early, then proceeds to spend almost the entire next two hours screwing around. She wonders why I have to get her up so early, but it's pretty obvious. It takes her that long just to function at the most basic level.

She's up, she's down, she's pissed, she's excited, she's worried, she's all of this and about 673 more emotions all at the same time and it's too damn early and I only get one cup of coffee these days and it isn't enough. Clearly.

They wonder why I make them get their lunches together at night....

The fact that I can get this one on the bus in actual clothes is a freaking miracle sometimes. Of course, that's only because she knows I'll totally send her in her pajamas.

Her little brother isn't helping. He rarely does. He can get up, eat, get dressed and be ready to go in exactly 3 minutes if he isn't distracted by her.

IF.

He's a follower. A realllllllly good follower. Life of a younger sibling, I suppose.

When he is distracted by her, which is almost always, things rapidly spiral out of control in the morning.

It's a good thing the other two have already left the house by this point, or I'd lose my damn mind.

You see, The Oldest likes to play 20 questions. Every day. First thing. It's like his brain is constantly going, constantly asking questions, and it assumes that I know all the answers to all the things.

This morning he woke up asking me about the fourth dimension.

What the hell? It's too early for this, child. For serious.

He is constantly asking me crazy questions like that, but can't seem to remember to charge his phone. Or to put on pants. Or to turn in the homework he finished.

I'm pretty sure his head would float away on the daily if it wasn't actually attached.

At the polar opposite end of the spectrum, his sister. She's been in middle school for days. Literally. And she's got her act together more than he's figured out in over two years. She's organized, almost to an obsessive level. She's constantly on top of deadlines and requirements and paperwork and assignments. She worries incessantly about every.single.thing.

.....and she totally gets it from her mother.
It is to the point that we have to still sometimes grab her face like when she was little and sit her down and remind her to breathe and tell her that the outcome of her life isn't going to hinge on whether she gets the app downloaded onto the school issued iPad tonight. Honest.

How are all of you out there in the internets adjusting to school being back in session? Please tell me that I'm not the only one losing my mind on a daily basis.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What We Wish You Knew

Maybe it was just a particularly rough weekend, but something kept happening to the stories on my Facebook newsfeed. Over and over again, I was seeing my friends frustrated about the comments made by family members, by friends, by strangers about whatever struggles they face. I was seeing snippets of heartbreak at those I loved being cast aside by the people who are supposed to be there for them simply because those people couldn't deal tangentially with whatever that individual personally lived.

It's something with which I'm all too familiar myself, and it got me thinking. How many things are there that we, those who struggle with whatever we struggle with, wish that other people understood about us?  What would we stamp on our foreheads if it made people a little more compassionate and less judgmental? Why have we been cast aside, why have we had to endure the terrible things that people say?

And so I asked my fans what they would want the world to know.

I wasn't really prepared for the response.

Essentially, it all comes back to this truth, one that reveals itself over and over and over again.


Yeah, everyone. We all have our issues, we all have our struggles. Some of us carry greater burdens than others. Some of us struggle more. Some of us have to deal more with what the world says about us.

And none of us ever really knows what someone else is facing.

The best was to approach this truth? Compassion.

It's pretty simple, actually.

The common thread that began to run through the comments left by my fans and friends became obvious quite quickly. Most, but not all of the conditions that they were struggling with are the invisible ones. The things people can't see. The things that aren't obvious to the casual observer. The things that happen inside our bodies, inside our minds.

Fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, anxiety, depression, thyroid problems, diabetes. I could go on and on. The vast majority of the frustrations were rooted in these diseases of invisibility.

Is it possible that people are really that simple? That they are more sympathetic to the situations of those with obvious physical problems?

Honestly, I think so.

There's an argument to be made, in addition to this, that people are more understanding of the more common conditions that they can wrap their heads around. We all know what cancer is, so we all have a sense of the gravity involved. We might not be so understanding of MS or COPD, not because they are less serious, but because we're just collectively less familiar with them.

Is any of this an excuse? Of course not.

An explanation? Perhaps.

So, what I'm trying to do here is to gather the comments these amazing and brave people left and consolidate them into a list type format for reference. I have never attempted this before, so cut me a little slack if it's discombobulated.

Here's What We Wish You Knew

  • Blaming and shaming us for our conditions is cruel and it doesn't help, even if we might have had a hand in it. Many of us had no choice and are not here through any fault of our own.
  • We are more than our diagnoses. Please remember that we are humans who live with _______, not _______. My condition may limit me, but it doesn't define me.
  • If you have something to say about my condition, say it to me, not to anyone behind my back.
  • When we ask for help, it's for a damn good reason. It probably took us a long time to work up the courage to ask. Please do not mock us.
  • If we tell you that we are tired or sore or hurting or need to take a break, we really do need these things. 
  • If we can't deal with a social situation, give us some space. There's a reason we walked away.
  • Please don't question our choices, the choices of our caregivers, the choices of our doctors. If we want another opinion and we want it from you, we will ask.
  • Please don't mock our conditions or try to minimize them.
  • Please don't compare what we are faced with to anything you have had to deal with, or to that one person that you knew ten years ago who dealt with it. This is our journey. Feel free to come along for the walk, but remember this is our walk, not yours.
  • Depression and anxiety ebb and flow. Some days are good days, some days are bad days. It's almost never a reflection of you. It is us. There is no fast fix. There is no set time frame for when we'll rebound. Telling us to cheer up or calm down makes things worse. 
  • Telling me to just "take a pill" doesn't work. Sometimes pills don't work. People being dismissive certainly doesn't help.
  • PTSD is different for every single person who faces it, and it happens to far more people than most understand. Triggers can come without warning and at any time. 
  • We may not react logically, not because we choose this, but because we can't.
  • ADHD isn't something that only happens to kids. Adults deal with it too. Just because you got distracted once doesn't mean you have ADHD.
  • OCD is a serious condition. Being particular isn't the same as OCD. Joking about something that compels a person to engage in repetitive behaviors constantly isn't funny.
  • Bi-polar is a real condition with complicated treatments.
  • Fibromyalgia is a real condition. I have a hard enough time with doctors, I don't need people who are supposed to care about me to question the legitimacy of my condition.
  • I'm not here to be your inspiration. Please don't focus on how awesome it is that I function. It's degrading.
  • If my condition causes me to be forgetful, please be respectful of the fact that I may need you to repeat things. I'm not being a pain in the ass on purpose.
  • Seeking treatment for chronic pain does not make me an addict.
  • If I'm having a good day, it's because I'm having a good day. I still have ______, and tomorrow could be a bad day. I haven't been magically cured.
  • If you want to pray for me, that's fine. It would be more helpful if you offered to actually help me when I need help though. Don't tell me that God is going to cure me or that I need to pray harder. 
  • I don't want sympathy. Don't be nice to me just because of whatever is wrong with me. Treat me like a normal person.
  • If I mention what I struggle with occasionally, don't accuse me of being negative. I'm being real. Sometimes life sucks. Don't just cut me out of your life because you think I'm not positive enough. 
  • If you want to give me opinions on my condition, educate yourself first and don't confuse what is going on with me with something else unrelated.
  • Don't send me links to fad diets or supplements or rumors or magic cures. If it was that easy, don't you think I would have already done it?
  • Sometimes I can get overstimulated and that can trigger symptoms. Heat, light, sound and weather could affect it. I'm not being sensitive to make your life difficult. Honest.
  • I might not be patient with you if you complain about having a cold or other temporary ailment, especially if it's something I have to live with every day. Try having Lupus for a few decades.
  • It's entirely possible I passed whatever is wrong with me onto my kids. I worry about this all the time. Please don't try and make me feel worse about it.
  • If I look different, if I look tired, if my face has changed because of my condition, if my hair has fallen out, try not to stare. Try not to make a big deal of it. I know already. Trust me, I know.
I *think* I got through most of them. If there is something I missed, or something else that you would like people to know, please add it in the comments. 

xo

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - The pictures, playgrounds and dress codes edition

Howdy. My brain is confused and thinks it is Monday. These holiday weeks throw me off, and this week is going to be particularly challenging since I scheduled a bunch of stuff for the same times and days and haven't figured out how to build a Tardis yet.

Anyway...it is Tuesday, so it's time to rant. There's plenty of material, of course. Isn't there always?

Off we go.


Pictures, The Cloud and Theft
I have a lot to say about this story, so brace yourselves.

First, when you use a cell phone, you should be careful about when and how you use it. Pictures and other data are often backed up online, uploaded to remote servers. This is done so that if you lose your phone or drop it in a toilet, your stuff isn't gone forever, presumably. It's usually a good thing.

It isn't always a good thing, and it's becoming pretty obvious how many people are unaware that it happens at all. Android based phones do it, but only if you tell them to. Iphones on the other hand, automatically upload everything to the cloud. The result is that even if you delete things from your phone, or you get a new phone, or you drop it in a toilet and destroy it...whatever was uploaded is still sitting in a server somewhere.

Most people don't realize this.

I repeat, most people don't realize this. Not just celebrities.

I hope, hope, hope that the news of this weekend will force people to understand this in a hurry, and that they will use this as a reason to motivate themselves to learn more about what data is stored remotely and how to remove it.

I also sincerely hope that this opens up a dialogue, particularly with parents and their kids, about how the internet age works. Images, words, status updates, emails...all of it...this shit lives FOREVER. Don't take a picture or send a text or make a call or post a tweet or any of these things that you wouldn't want coming back in a year or two or ten.

Having said all of that...people use their phones for pictures. Adults take consenting pictures with their phones all the time. And it's totally legal. It isn't something they should be shamed or blamed for. Not at all. They have a reasonable expectation that that picture is not going to be disseminated to the public. They have a reasonable expectation that the server storing their data should be secure. They have a reasonable expectation that it won't be hacked and shown to the entire internet.

Pictures belong to the taker. Period. They do not belong to the hackers of the world or the internet.

These pictures over the weekend weren't leaked, they were stolen. STOLEN.

They are being shared all over the internet not because they are charming, fully clothed images. They are being shared because they are nude photographs. That ups the ante here. These pictures are being used in god only knows what ways by whoever comes across them, making this entire situation not just an issue of theft, but of a sex crime.

Don't argue with me that it doesn't matter because they are celebrities. It absolutely matters because this can and does happen to ordinary people too. Being a celebrity doesn't mean that they willingly open up their entire personal lives for perusal online. The vast majority of the celebrities targeted have not done nude scenes for a reason. End of discussion.

Their bodies are not public domain.

If you are engaging in looking at or sharing these pictures, you are absolutely part of the problem.

Calling Bullshit
Last week, a five year old little girl came home from school with her face covered in bruises. The school tried to say that she tripped on the playground and that was the source of the injuries.

She says she was repeatedly kicked in the face then fell off the top of the slide, which seems a whole lot more consistent with her injuries.

Here is the link with the picture if you haven't seen it.

I find it so terribly interesting that the school refuses to discipline the child she says did this to her on the grounds that no teacher was watching, so they "don't really know what happened", but are at exactly the same time claiming that she simply fell on the playground and that is what caused the injuries.

If no adult was watching, no adult was watching. Period.

That fact alone should probably be a cause for concern. Her mother filed a police report, and the police said there is nothing they can do because it is a case of the girl's word against the school.

This Country Has Lost Its Damn Mind
Last week a horrific story hit the news. A nine year old girl was taken to a shooting range by her parents and signed up for a lesson. The weapon she was shooting? An Uzi. A fully automatic assault weapon that spits out 30 bullets per second.

The gun recoiled when she was shooting, she lost control and the instructor who was teaching her was shot in the head. He died.

She is nine flipping years old and will have to live the rest of her life knowing that she had a hand in someone's death.

This story isn't about gun rights as much as people want you to believe it is. It's about freaking common sense, or more appropriately, the lack thereof. A nine year old child has absolutely no reason in the universe to be anywhere near a weapon like this. My son is trained to shoot rifles and shotguns...but not a flipping automatic weapon.

Her parents and this gun range allowed her to be in this position.

The consequences? Not a goddamn thing. It was already ruled as an "industrial accident" and no criminal charges will be filed against either her parents or the range. Nothing about what transpired was illegal somehow. The range upped age minimums for some weapons.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have the case of a nine year old child spending her afternoons at the park because her mom works and can't afford to pay for daycare. "Concerned" parents at the park called the authorities and the mother is being charged with child endangerment. Are you fucking kidding me?

This is what the concerned parents of 2014 do, my friends. They don't actually help anyone figure shit out, they don't actually give a rat's ass about the situation they are judging, they just call the authorities.

In case you weren't sure that empathy was dead...here's your sign.

Parents who allow a nine year old to access and use an automatic weapon that results in a death have no culpability whatsoever, but a mom trying to do the best she can while she works to support her daughter is somehow a criminal?

This article from Time delves into this disturbing contrast in how people are treated in our society, how some parents are given free passes to make horrible choices and others are shamed for doing the best they can. 

I'm pretty sure we've lost our damn minds.

Dress Codes 
I am not a fan of dress codes in general. I blame Catholic school for that, at least in part.

An issue that I didn't really have to deal with the past few years directly involves the middle school dress codes in the district here...and I haven't had to deal with it because my oldest is a boy. A male. As long as his body parts are covered with something, he's good to go.

Even if he wears his Finn hat to school. Yes, that happens. Facepalm.

Anyway, my oldest daughter is there now too, so I get to deal with all the rules made just for girls. About skirt lengths and exposed shoulders and gasp leggings.

Seems that all of these things are subject to judgment now, grounds for sending someone home if their parents won't bring acceptable attire.

I can certainly get behind the rules that require skin to be covered within reason. Dresses or skirts that don't allow for basic movement without flashing everyone your bits aren't a good idea...but exposed shoulders and leggings????

For real???

Let's tell girls at the age of 11 that their bodies are something that boys will ogle uncontrollably and that it's their responsibility to make sure that doesn't happen.

Let's shame the girls into thinking that something about their upper arms is sexual.

Let's tell them that leggings aren't pants in the hopes they will just quietly comply even though leggings were totally pants 3 months ago in elementary school.

God forbid we see an outline of a female body.

Here's the thing that no one seems to understand....middle schoolers are hormonal no matter what. They're going to stare and be distracted no matter what. They could all be required to wear potato sacks and it wouldn't make a damn bit of difference.

How about we bend over backwards to teach boys not to objectify girls, that an outfit doesn't equal consent, that bodies aren't shameful, that no one belongs to anyone else....how about that instead???

Nah. We'll just tell a bunch of 11 year old girls that it's their fault they are distracting the class with their pubescent bodies and that if they do it, they'll be sent to the office.

This my friends is what rape culture looks like.

This is indoctrination.

This is setting girls up for a world where they are supposed to be excited that nail polish that can detect roofies was just invented because it's their job to make sure they aren't being drugged...the guys dropping pills into their glasses can't help themselves, apparently.

It's all bullshit. Men are more than their primal urges and women are more than sexual objects.

ARGH. I FEEL LIKE I'VE BEEN SAYING THIS FOREVER. OH WAIT. I HAVE. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

What's Worse? Yelling or Spanking?

A friend and fan asked me to write about this a while back, and I've been meaning to get around to it. I'm crazy busy right now, and almost entirely distracted at the moment, so I apologize for taking a bit to do it.

She asked me this question without giving much indication of which way she would answer it herself, so I'm just going to bite the bullet here and tell you what I think. (not that you guys would honestly be expecting anything different anyway...)

First, let me just say this. Parenting is hard. REALLY hard. It's not at all what you think it is going to be like in the days before you had kids. Your vision of what the future would be like probably included the high points, like the breezy afternoons pushing entirely contented toddlers on the swings at the park and Rockwellian family photos and perfect birthday parties.

Then you got here, with the kids you have and realized that those moments, though they happen, are few and far between.

It's not to say that parenting isn't amazing and awesome and rewarding and fulfilling. It is absolutely all of those things, but it is absolutely not all of those things all of the time.

Unless you're slightly delusional, that is.

I wonder and worry sometimes about the people who always say that being a parent is bliss.

It can be bliss, but it's also the polar opposite of bliss too.

It is episodic. It has crazy highs and lows. It is filled with struggles and triumphs. It's not always rainbows and glitter.

Hell to the no.

If you have a particularly difficult child, for one reason or another, you likely already know this truth. I was lucky, soooo lucky with my oldest. He really is the mellowest human on the face of the Earth, given to me first to break me in gently. He does his fair share of driving me nuts at times, but is nothing compared to what came after him.

I have kids with high anxiety levels and attention problems. I have kids who internalize every single thing that happens in the universe, where it sits and festers (usually not for very long), then gets projected back out into the world. I have yellers with anger issues who lash out at others. I've quite literally sat on my own kids to keep them from hurting one another at times.

And I know people who deal with far more than I do.

Parenting any child is hard, parenting one with more struggles, harder still.

Which brings me to the question I was asked. Which is worse, yelling or spanking?

I think that ultimately, this is one of the most fundamental issues with parenting that we have to be conscious about from the time our children are very young. We should make conscious choices about what kind of parent we want to be. I think there are three basic types of parenting.

1. Do we want to rule from the mountaintops, declaring what is right or wrong?

2. Do we want to guide our children, equip them with the tools to make their own choices, correct when necessary?

3. Do we want to let them figure it all out on their own and in their own way?

If I made a guess, most of us strive to be type 2 parents. I know that has always been our goal. The type 3 parents tend to be the ones who place more value on their friendships with their kids than parenting them necessarily. This conversation might not even hit their radar because they don't engage in a whole lot of discipline. (Like the kids who looked at me like I was insane one day for placing my daughter in a time out for throwing sand at five years old. They'd never heard of such a thing. Don't ask how that's worked out so far...)

Many of us were probably raised in type 1 homes, though. I know that I was. Though there were certainly times that I was given a little more leeway as a young child, for the most part things were pretty structured. Within those homes, whether in our generation or the one we are raising, there is probably more spanking and yelling going on than in the other types, because spanking and yelling are ways to force compliance, to demand attention, to communicate authority.

They are also ways to punish kids for doing things we don't like.

They are also, probably too often, ways for parents to vent their frustrations.

Spanking is one of the great debates in the realm of parenting and has been for decades. I don't for one second think that there is any way that debate will end anytime soon. It is something that has become publicly unacceptable even though I'd venture a guess that more parents still spank their kids than will ever admit to it.

Personally, I don't see a problem with it in a very narrow set of circumstances. When a young child puts themselves or someone else in serious danger because of their actions, when there is an immediate need to get their attention, when it is absolutely imperative to communicate the wrongness of the action and the danger involved, a light swat on the behind might be just the thing that is needed (not more than once, and not hard enough to leave a mark...it's more about getting their attention). In my personal opinion, it should only be used when absolutely necessary in that narrow set of circumstances, and really only for a child too young to reason with in any other way (think toddlers as really the only time this would even come in).

An example of this...a two year old running out into the street.

There is certainly an argument to be made that a two year old running into the street is the far more the fault of the parents, not the child anyway, though.

Outside of those kind of circumstances, I don't generally support spanking...which means that I choose not to do it. This isn't to say that I haven't had to restrain my children. I have, a great many times. I have had to grab arms and physically contain children, I've had to hold arms and legs down, I've even had to sit on them at times.

I can't get behind spanking being used as a punishment, or any other type of physical harm. Essentially, this means that even in the times I'm personally okay with a spank (like the kid running into the street), it happens right at that moment or it doesn't happen at all. The idea of threatening a kid with violence later on in the day, or when the other parent gets home, or any of that....not something that sits well with me.

Then again, I was raised in the generation that routinely heard, "wait until your father gets home...."

My father didn't often actually hurt us when he got home, but we lived with that threat all the time. As in almost every single day. Forcing compliance purely out of fear doesn't generate a secure home environment for a kid.

The reality is that spanking, as it occurs in most homes, is really more about the frustration of the parents than about the lesson the child is supposed to be learning. If you can't control your anger and lash out at them, how are you supposed to believe that you are teaching them to control themselves? Walk away, count to ten, put yourself in a timeout until you can calm down. Do whatever you need to do in order to get back to a point of balance before you confront your kid with what happened.

Trust me, you don't want to regret how you behaved fifteen minutes from now...and that's just the immediate effect of physical punishment. Think about how they are feeling. Think about how your reaction to this one episode of anger and frustration might be something they remember for the rest of their lives.

And trust me, they'll remember it.

If you were a kid in those homes, you remember.

Yelling, in my opinion, is actually worse than spanking. Spanking has gotten the attention because of the physical nature of the harm, but yelling is just as bad if not more damaging.


I work really really really hard not to yell at the kids, but it happens sometimes. What I've found is that it doesn't make things better. Ever. Then I feel worse.

If I yell, they just tune me out. Or they yell back. It doesn't ever do anything to resolve the underlying conflict or issue, it doesn't make anyone feel better, it just makes it all worse.

As a society, we are conditioned to try and calm ourselves down so we won't physically harm our kids, but how many of us use those same techniques to avoid yelling?

I'd guess not too many.

I've locked myself in the bathroom more than once just to breathe for ten seconds. I've refused to engage them when they scream at me, because I know that if I yell back, it could spiral out of control. I know that if I yell back, I'm not being a good example for them. I'm not being consistent. I'm not being mature. I'm letting my frustration get the best of me. I'm not being the adult in the situation.

There are times that I have videotaped the kids to show them how they treat me.

If they did the same to me, would I be ashamed of how I acted?

If I would, then I'm doing something wrong.

I force myself to be as consistent as I can, which is a struggle at times. They all have different personalities, they all push different buttons. Staying consistent, though, it helps them to understand that my boundaries are firm and my limits aren't negotiable.

What I have found that works light years better than yelling is just talking to them after I calm down. Getting down to their level (okay, so this works when they are little, but now that one of them is taller than I am, I make him sit down with me...) and talking in a calm, controlled voice.

Whispering tends to get their attention more than anything else, honestly.

Done right, it also freaks them out a little bit.

I kid, I kid. Sort of.

They know I mean business when I start whispering. For real.

The main reason I try not to yell, aside from the fact that it just doesn't work, is that it can do some serious damage to my relationship with my kids and harm their self esteem, among other dangers. I've been a victim of emotional abuse and words stick with you a whole lot longer than bruises do. It's not just about the tone of voice you are using, but about the words you speak.

Focus on the actions, not the person.

In other words, say this was a bad choice, not you are a bad kid. That kind of thing. It seems simple enough, until you're caught up in the moment. Those are the times that stepping away and calming down is best for everyone involved, and I'd encourage all of us to do it. Including me.

What do you think? Is yelling worse or is spanking worse? What alternatives do you use in your homes? How do you calm yourself down?

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