Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the so many things edition

I tried to write yesterday. I needed to write yesterday. I opened the computer once, only to be called away again by the things that are more important than this.

So I waited. And it all festered.

It festered because that is how my brain operates. If I don't have an opportunity to let the things bothering me out, it doesn't fade away with time. It gets bigger and louder and angrier.

So when Mr. Hive came home from work and I had to blurt out a bunch of stuff with hand gestures and high kicks he was a little overwhelmed. Thankfully, he's used to me. And I'm writing today, so there's that.

Anyway, there is a lot going on in this head of mine, so let's go do that.

Done pretending to be fine with what happened because it might offend someone else...
You know...

You guys know how much I work here to be a voice of compassion, to have patience for the stories of other people, to be sensitive to the realities others face. And I try very hard to be all those things.

What happens sometimes, though, is that my stories get lost in the process because I'm working so hard to be that safe place for other people. Here's the thing, though...each of us have our own stories and those stories have nothing to do with anyone else. We can honor ourselves and others at the same time. We can tell our stories and communicate how we feel about them without denigrating others.

So, I'm just going to come out and say it, because this isn't about anyone else. Just me.

I hated my c-section. Hated it. Hate it still. I hate, hate, hate that the last baby I will ever have came into the world that way. I hate that I feel like I missed out so much of what I had with my other children with him. I hate the way the medical profession has taken birth and screwed with it. I hate that I tried everything to get the baby to turn and it all failed. I hate that the doctors are afraid to to do breech deliveries, that they are not skilled in them, that they labor under this delusion that surgery is safer. I hate that people tell me that as long as they baby was healthy that is all that matters because it isn't. I hate that I don't get a do-over because he was my last baby. I hate that I missed out on so much of the immediate bonding because of the circumstances of his birth. I hate it. I hate it all. 

I'm done pretending that I'm okay with it because someone else might take something I say about my experiences personally and assume that I'm implying that however they feel is unwarranted or unjustified. This is how I feel and I get to feel this way.

So there.

Tragedies and How We Respond
The earthquake in Nepal is a vast tragedy, made no greater simply because some of the people killed happen to be Americans. It says a lot about how selfish our society has become when the coverage of the earthquake was almost immediately dominated by the news that there had been an avalanche on Everest as a result. The only reason the avalanche was deemed more important news? American climbers.

Now, don't go thinking that I'm trying to make light of the avalanche or minimize the deaths that happened on the mountain because I'm not. The point I am making here is that thousands of people died in their homes and their places of work just doing whatever they were doing in their daily lives. Thousands.

Certainly that should be tragic and newsworthy on its own.

Instead the media switched gears and focused on the fate of a handful of people engaged in an activity already well known to be dangerous just because the ratio of Americans was substantially higher.

A tragedy is a tragedy is a tragedy. It doesn't become one simply because of where those who die called home.

The Trial
The trial of James Holmes began this week. I've made no secret here as to what my opinions are. I believe that the entire trial is a vast waste of time and resources. Holmes offered a guilty plea in exchange for life in prison. The prosecution didn't offer it, the defense did...and the prosecution refused it flatly, instead opting to go to trial and press for the death penalty. Holmes, in turn, is claiming insanity.

The first witness to take the stand was Katie Medley. 9 months pregnant the night of the shooting, she nearly lost her husband Caleb that night. At the hospital for a dear friend in the same unit, I spent days sitting with Caleb's family. I was there when Katie was in labor with Hugo. My friends, Caleb's friends and family, all shared the same space for days on end, waiting and wondering if the people we loved would make it, if they'd ever be made whole again.

My love and support to the Medley family, to the survivors, to the families of all the victims.

An apology is good, but WTF were you thinking???
Oh, Anheuser Busch.

What in the actual fuck were you thinking?

On Reddit.
And the rest of the internet.

Oh, you apologized and said this was a bad idea after the internet called you on it. Not good enough.

You cannot honestly tell me that no one in your offices stopped and thought...hmmm....maaaaaybe this isn't a good idea.


Let's just totally ignore the implication about drunkenness and the inability to say no and date rape and all those things.

When One Dude Gets to Decide All the Things...
The Supreme Court is set to rule on the issue of gay marriage. Again. Due to the nature of the way the system works, the court doesn't just make blanket rulings about entire subjects. They only rule on the case before them, generally with the narrowest possible holding.

Which is fine. I suppose. Whatever. It just pieces out subjects like this one and drags the situation out for years and years and years, muddying the waters in the process. Marriages in one state aren't being recognized in another. Whether that issue is even resolved, we won't know until the decision comes down.

Oral argument was heard in the case yesterday, and there are so many issues involved that make me want to throw things. So many things. Ultimately, though, whatever the court decides is essentially going to come down to what one dude thinks.

Yep. One guy. Kennedy.

We know where everyone else stands.

He's the swing vote.

I want to be optimistic. I try to be optimistic.

Gay rights aren't gay rights. They are human rights. Equality. Period.

I'm sick over everything that is going on, why it is happening, how we got here, what the vast majority of people seem to believe about it, the assumptions being made, the way that it is all being misconstrued in the media.

We aren't living in a post-racial society. Racism is alive. End of story.

Not everything is related to race, because it just isn't...but a hell of a lot still has to do with it. We can't just declare that racism is over because we wish it was or want it to be or believe that it should be or because we haven't personally experienced it. It's not.

No one person's experiences in the world mean anything when compared to someone else.

There are systemic, institutional issues in this country. There are biases that exist. There is a police state mentality in this nation that is working against some communities more than others. There is rampant hypocrisy.

Pretending that these things don't exist is what got us here today.

And people are angry. So angry.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The things I learned in my first year as a band mom...

More than anything else, parenting has taught me that I really don't know much. I might be pretty good by this point at dealing with newborns and toddlers, with handling the general things facing parents of elementary school aged kids. I can help friends navigate all kinds of conditions and situations with their younger kids, sure.

This is my first time around as the parent of a teenager, though, and it's a whole different ballgame.

Sort of.

In a lot of ways, more than I realized until I was here, parenting teenagers isn't actually all that different than dealing with much younger kids.

They get whiny when they are tired.
They will eat you out of house and home.
They have wicked growth spurts.
They absolutely still play with their friends.
They need naps and snacks.
They aren't always able to tell you what they need.
Communication can be difficult.
There are tantrums.

Sometimes they want you to go away, but most of the time they want you around. Just not right there. Like, over there. Far enough away that you aren't harshing their vibe, but close enough that they can holler and you'll come.

The Oldest just wrapped up his first year as a member of the drumline. He's not even in high school yet, but joined this year, mostly because he's wanted to be on the drumline since he could walk. Some kids dream of the day they'll run out onto a field under the lights. Some kids can't wait to get behind the wheel of a car for the first time. Some just want to make music and wave jazz hands.

It was a steep learning curve for us all this year. I know that I wasn't really sure what we signed on for back in the Fall when we walked into that first meeting. For anyone out there who has kids approaching high school, particularly those who will be participating in band (or, really, any activity for that matter), I wanted to share the things I learned this year.

- Someone always needs money. Every time you turn around, someone needs money. Whether it is for uniforms or fees or practice time or instruments or shoes or travel or lunch...someone always needs money. There is likely going to be some dollar figure attached to the activity that they are open about, the amount that you will inevitably panic about, then go home and run the numbers and try to figure out how you'll make it work. You'll set up payment plans and cringe a little bit every time you write a check...but then you'll realize it isn't just that money you'll need to come up with. There are always other things. Always. I can't emphasize this one enough. Don't sign up for this stuff without realizing it, trust me.

- There are likely ways to help offset at least some of those expenses. There might be scholarships or used uniforms or shoes you can borrow or open practices. There might be discounts for siblings or costs waived in exchange for volunteer commitments. One thing I can guarantee...if you don't ask and aren't looking for these opportunities, you won't find them. Ask. The scholarships especially exist to help make sure that all the kids who want to participate can do so. It's hard to ask for help, but if you need it, ask.

- Your life will revolve around this for weeks or months. You will feel like this is all you are doing, because it likely is. You'll give up sleep and weekends and lazy afternoons to sit on bleachers, to sit out in the sun for hours. You'll show up even if it is raining or snowing. You will.

- If they love it, they probably won't be complaining about all the time they are putting in. Unless they are. And they might. A lot of these activities are so intense, so time consuming, that it becomes quickly overwhelming. All those hours of practice aren't for nothing, though, and the benefits show up. They do.

- Pack chairs and snacks for yourself. You're going to be doing so much sitting around and waiting. Bring a book. Bring things for your other kids to stay busy. Just about any activity brings with it a whole lot of down time. Just leave sunscreen and water in the car all the time. Trust.

- You will meet so many new parents. Almost all of them will be amazing. Most of them will raise their hands and volunteer to help out. You're going to spend a lot of time together. You'll get to talking to some of them and realize that there really are other people out there who understand the madness you live with for the things your kids love. You will trust them. They will become like another family to you, because they are.

- You will cry. You're going to cry a lot. Those tears will be big sloppy crocodile tears of joy when you see your kid falling in love with this thing that they do. You will be so proud of them, more because of how proud they are of themselves than anything else.

- They will blossom. They will find a connection with people, likely in a way they haven't ever had before. They will fit in with a group, maybe for the first time ever. They will have nicknames for each other and speak in a bizarre language you hardly understand.

- When it ends, and it will do it abruptly, you will feel relief initially. You will get your evenings and weekends back. Your budget will loosen up a little bit. You will regain lazy afternoons. And then you will miss it. You will absolutely miss it. They will miss it a whole lot more, and there will be a period of withdrawal they go through when it ends.

- Next year will be here before you know it. 

- For band parents, there are a few things in particular I need to warn you about. 

  • The songs they perform will create permanent earworms in your brain. You will hear them almost constantly. 
  • They will likely switch instruments, pick up new ones, and do it faster and faster. 
  • Every surface in your home/car/life will become a drum. 
  • You'll never look at parades the same way again.
  • They'll all look the same, but you'll know which one is yours immediately.
  • They will tap their feet constantly.
  • They will walk in step even when not doing anything related to band.
  • Their taste in music will likely change and they'll constantly ask you to listen to something. When they play Pink Floyd for you, your heart will swell with pride. Stay cool. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Springtime and the living's easy....sort of. sometimes. okay not really.

It's so weird how cyclical I am. It's as though the individual cells in my body can anticipate things before my brain starts to figure it all out.

I get edgy this time of year.

There are reasons, so goddamn many of them.

Yeah, so this post will likely have a lot of the swears. You've been warned.

I was reminded of one of them this morning by my Timehop app. I think I may need to seriously delete that thing. As fun as it is to see old pictures of the kids and all that, it's hell on someone with PTSD because I get transported back in time.

Today it was this one.

2012 was rough. I mean, it wasn't as bad as 2011 because holy shit that year sucked from beginning to end, but 2012 was rough.

This day, three years ago. I can't honestly even remember who the second person in the hospital was that day, but I know for sure that one of them was my Mom. She had been flown to a hospital almost an hour away from here because they were trying to save her remaining leg. I was leaving my kids here with my inlaws, then driving back and forth from that hospital almost every day so that I could sit in a chair and watch her sleep, hoping to catch some doctor that never showed up, trying to ask questions that never had answers. Until one day when the conversations all stopped because she decided they couldn't talk to me anymore. HIPAA is a law with good intentions that makes life hell for families.

She told me that afternoon that I hadn't been there for her, then told me that she was leaving as soon as she could get out of the hospital and that there was nothing I could do to stop her.

She told me this after I'd left my children for her, drove almost an hour to be there and sat beside her for hours before she woke up.

I was stuck firmly in the middle of the generational sandwich, trying my hardest to take care of her and my kids and my marriage, failing at all of it miserably. I was never enough to anyone, for anyone and my health was suffering as a result. I ended up in therapy. My kid ended up in therapy.

It was awful. Truly.

I start to think that maybe it's finally time that I write about some of these things that happened and then my throat feels like it's going to start closing up and my heart races and I shut that right fucking down because I don't need to be throwing myself into a panic attack.

I'm in a good place most of the time, and I need to stay here.

Sorry, Timehop...I know you're a cool app for most people, but I just can't right now.

I was telling a friend, one who is struggling in some of the same ways I do, that most of the time I am good. Upright and functional, I even shower and go outside sometimes on purpose.

Then there are the other times.

Thankfully they don't happen all that often, thankfully the kids are so busy and needy and demanding that they force me out of my funk almost all the time. Thankfully.

Thankfully this time of year brings longer days and brighter sunshine and abundant vitamin D to go along with the unsettling it does deep in my psyche.

Thankfully I'm to the point where I force myself to go outside and soak up the rays of the sun because I know that it helps.

And thankfully I have been doing this long enough that I recognize when I'm having a bad day. So I let it happen. I feel all the feelings, wallow in the mud a little bit, binge watch something on Netflix, cry in the shower and get it over with.

So, like I told my friend, if you need to talk to someone who understands, I'm your gal.

And if you want company down there in the hole, scoot over. I'll join ya.

Just know that I'm dragging you out of the hole with me tomorrow.

Because it's spring.

And spring is fucking beautiful.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the suck a bottle cap edition

Hi. I don't have much time today because I have to leave in a bit to pick Little Boy up from school. He fell off of the couch weird over the weekend and hurt his foot. The xrays didn't show a clear break, but kid bones are squishy and fractures can hide. It's either that or a severe sprain, and the orthopedist didn't want to take any chances so they casted him yesterday.

The novelty wore off quickly.

He's my kid who is usually climbing and then jumping off of something, so the idea of sitting is foreign to him. He was all excited about the cast for about three minutes and pretty much hates it already. Fortunately, he only is set to have this one on for ten days. He'll be re-evaluated next week. If everything looks okay he might be released from sitting.

Crosses fingers, toes, legs, eyes....

Anyway, I'm not actually all that fired up right now because I'm tired. Exhausted is more the correct word for it. I'm not even sure why I'm so run down, but I am. And when I'm tired, it's hard to get riled up about things that make me want to throw stuff and do high kicks.

But I'll try....for you guys.

Seriously. The things I do for you people.

Can We Not?
I honestly don't care what political party you belong to or what you think about particular jury decisions or people running for office. I don't.

Pinky swear.

What bothers me a lot right now is the blatant disrespect being shown to certain people, to certain situations.

Like how the night that Hillary Clinton announced that she was running for President, the gravesite of her father was vandalized. Or how the memorial tree planted for Michael Brown in Ferguson was cut in half almost as soon as it was planted.

Not cool, you guys. Not cool at all.

Don't do this...
There is apparently this new thing where teenage girls want to have pouty lips like Instagram queen Kylie Jenner, and they're willing to do whatever it takes to get logically that means that they are sucking on bottle caps until their lips become engorged with blood...

...and in the process bruising the hell out of their faces. It's so bad in some cases that they may possibly be doing permanent damage to the tissues of their lips.

Don't do this. Seriously, you guys. Just don't.

While everyone was arguing over failed food stamp challenges, this happened...
So we all know that these food stamp challenges taken by celebrities and politicians are mostly bullshit, right? That, even in the event that their intentions are genuine and good, the idea that "living like the poor" for a week is good enough to give them some hint of perspective is a joke, because assuming they even make it through the entire week (spoiler alert, Gwyneth didn't), they go right back to champagne wishes and caviar dreams as soon as it is over. Meanwhile, the people depending on food stamps to survive are still depending on food stamps to survive.

The whole idea of all this is ridiculous, honestly. Politicians talk and talk and talk about welfare and food stamps as though they are what is bankrupting the system. Nope. Nope, nope, nope.

It's a drop in the proverbial bucket compared to other types of spending that get waved through without anyone flinching.

And after what the GOP pulled last week, it's pretty obvious that they really don't give a shit about helping out the poorest people but they'll bend over backwards to help the rich get richer.

They eliminated the estate tax in a move that will benefit only the 0.15% wealthiest Americans.  "Combined with other tax bills approved by House Republicans so far this year, our debt would grow by $584 billion to finance tax cuts for the wealthy."

And you probably didn't even hear about it.

Way to go, USA.

Sport hunting gone off the rails
Opens can of worms.

Stirs pot.

Pops some popcorn.

Okay, so one of the pro-gun universe's favorite arguments is that people need guns for hunting, for survival, for meat to feed their families.

And fine. I'll give them that, so long as whatever it is they are hunting is being hunted for food.

I'm not a fan of sport hunting. At all. **ducks because I know people are going to start throwing things at me...

It's not even just guns though, it's any weapon used to kill animals for fun that I take issue with.

Like the veterinarian who shot a cat in the head with a crossbow just because she could. Fortunately her dumb ass posted it in a humble brag on Facebook and it backfired magnificently.

Or like the crazy trend towards hunting large game in other parts of the world, taking gross pictures with dead elephants or giraffes or whatever with big gleaming smiles full of entitlement and wholly lacking in shame and posting them all over social media...then getting bent when the rest of the world says what the fuck??? When did killing giraffes become a thing?

Also, I'd like to address Rebecca Francis directly for a second. You aren't getting death threats because you are a girl. You're getting death threats because you're an asshole.

(disclaimer: I don't agree with the death threats AT ALL, but her argument about why they are happening is asinine.)

Oh right. We're supposed to believe that it was an old giraffe and you were doing it a favor. Uh huh.

Bangs head on wall.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

To The One Most Like Me...

Though it isn't technically your birthday yet, you've already declared that you are celebrating birthday week from now on, so I guess it's okay for me to write this a little bit early. You've always been a fan of early.

You'll be 10 years old in a few days. 10. Double digits.

It seems like just yesterday that the little girl with the long golden hair was dancing in circles on her tippy toes in this living room. I think it really was yesterday.

It all goes so fast, sweet girl.

And you? You always want it to go faster.

Rarely content to be where you are, it seems like you're always longing for the days in the future where you'll be older. You've always been that way. Trying, and usually succeeding, in keeping up with your older siblings.

We dreamt of a world with you here long before you arrived. You were the one who urged us to change those life plans of ours with intention. We thought we would only ever have two children, but something told us both that we weren't quite done yet. Only a few short weeks after your father and I decided to try again, I found myself reeling in the desert, the sky spinning as we stood in front of the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas.

I didn't need a pregnancy test to tell me you were on your way. I already knew.

Your pregnancy was a difficult one, from beginning to end, but once you arrived everything was different. You were unlike your brother and sister before you. Quiet. Joyful. Content. And gorgeous.

Oh, you were such a beautiful baby.

You had a head full of hair already when you were born, which explained all that heartburn I endured (even through those cravings for hot wings almost constantly surely made it worse). You were a mellow baby, squishy and happy and delicious in every way.

As you became a toddler, you started to show both your sense of humor and your stubbornness, refusing to say anything but "no" and "mama". You'd call your father "mama", then giggle. About 200 times a day. You haven't stopped antagonizing him yet.

You are passionate about everything, a feeler like I am. It's overwhelming sometimes to feel everything you feel so deeply. Believe me, I know. Trust me when I tell you that it will get better as you get older, and I'll help you along the way.

Everything is bigger for you. Your hopes, your dreams, your disappointments. It's all bigger. It just is. When the rest of the world doesn't understand you, know that I always will.

The rest of the world is going to try, oh is it going to try, to tell you not to feel so much. The rest of the world is going to try and quiet your passion, silence your voice, convince your heart that you shouldn't feel everything you feel.

Don't listen to them.

Stay true to who you are.

This thing that we do, you and doesn't come without negatives, but oh, it is something amazing too. You'll see. I promise.

Your capacity for love is endless. It just means you have to deal with a lot of other stuff that life will throw at you. You'll be okay, though. I promise.

You're a worrier like me too. I wish that part of my personality hadn't transferred so much to you, but it has. I'll do my best to help you.

You love to document the world around you. You've loved to take pictures for what seems like forever and recently fell in love with writing. I hope that you find comfort in these forms of expression, that they give you an outlet in a world that won't always make sense to you, that you find some peace with them both.

When you were a little girl, the thrills you'd seek always involved speed. You even stripped the tires on your little Power Wheels Jeep spinning them so much. Don't always go so fast. Life will go fast enough, I assure you. Slow down sometimes.

There is a part of you that will always be my little girl, the one who still snuggles in with me in bed in the morning. The one who asks for help with things you've known how to do forever, just because you still want us around. The one who wants to go and do all the things, but wants us there, watching, just in case you need us.

And we'll be there.

We'll always be there.

Of all my babies, these past few years have been the hardest on you. You've absorbed more, seen more, felt more, cared more, loved more, hurt more. I wish that there was a way to ease all these burdens life has set on your shoulders. I do the best I can to help you carry them, but I know I can't take them away completely.

It's okay though.

You're strong. So much stronger than you know.

You're brave. That part of you that makes you feel everything more than most people also pushes you harder. You run until your lungs burn. You won't stop until you finish. You don't give up. You play and play and play.

You're smart. You are so smart. You have a perception about the world most people could never imagine. You see things most people never can or will. You remember everything. I swear you've been here before. You have what we call an "old soul", the wisdom that just seems to come from having done this all already. You are smart in ways that tests at school could never begin to measure, which is why I always tell you that I don't care about them. Not even a little bit. All I ever ask is that you do your best, because your best will always be good enough.


Always remember that.

Happy birthday, sweet girl. I love you.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the oh SNAP edition

It's one of those no-holds barred weeks around here. I'm telling people how I really feel, so you might want to duck.

Just kidding.


Off we go.

P!nk and shaming the shamers
You know....this whole story pisses me off. P!nk is gorgeous, she is strong, she is powerful. She could probably (okay, almost certainly) kick my ass AND yours. At the same time. With one arm tied behind her back. Seriously, though....have you seen some of the stuff she can do???


She went to a charity fundraiser over the weekend and wore a black dress with a plunging neckline. She posted a picture of herself online and out came the grumpy old trolls who live under the bridge. They had to tell her that she looked fat in just about every way imaginable (and no, I'm not linking any of the things they said).

Her response, though, was just about perfect. She basically said that she's happy and that she loves her body and she isn't worried about you, so don't worry about her.

Take that, trolls.

Do YOU want a mother/grandmother/vagina owner as President???
I'll be the first to tell you that I don't love love love Hillary Clinton as the Democratic front runner, but (and this is a BIG but) we're gonna have to rally and deal with whatever our issues with her are, you guys, because she's absolutely going to be the candidate and it's either her or whichever version of the same dude gets tapped from the GOP.

If you are one of those oh but I don't love her and wish Warren would run kind of people, please go read this and then come back....because Warren isn't going to run. She just isn't. And there are much larger issues at stake here that we need to get serious about.

Anyway, the thing that is actually pissing me off right now, aside from the fact that the Presidential election is very much underway already even though it's over a year and a half before the election is the fact that the pundits on television and the other potential candidates seem to think that just because she is a woman, there is a whole new set of rules that apply to only her.

Kinda like how there was a whole new set of rules that only applied to President Obama.

Namely, that it's somehow acceptable to question if people would elect a mother or a grandmother. What in the actual fuck??? Do we go around addressing the qualification of male candidates based on whether they've had children or grandchildren?

No. No we don't.


Which is kinda like the ohbutracismdoesnotexist argument.


How About We Stop Doing This...
There are far too many examples of this available online, so I just grabbed one for you to read about in the event you haven't heard about this trend already.

Basically, there is this thing where self righteous people decide for themselves whether people parking in handicapped spaces deserve to use them, then they write obnoxious notes shaming the people that they decide aren't handicapped enough.


Not only are most of the people who do this TOTALLY WRONG about their assessment of the disability of the people they are shaming, they are total assholes as well.

Not all disabilities are visible physical ones. Some people have other conditions that affect how far they are able to walk.

It's none of your damn business what is or isn't "wrong" with someone. For the love.

Barbara Walters
Normally, I don't like to single people out and call them by name, even in these TTPMOT posts, but it's happening twice today. You are in for a treat. A treat, I say.

First up is Barbara Walters, someone who has had a long, lucrative, successful career in "journalism". (I use the term loosely...)

She ran a piece on Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau. In case you don't remember who they are, they are the teacher and 13 year old student that "fell in love" even though the law said they couldn't. She went to jail for child abuse, got out on parole, hooked up with the child pregnant....and then was released from prison early. The abused and abuser ended up getting married (because that doesn't have Stockholm Syndrome written all over it) and Walters interviewed them to talk about how blissful their lives together are now all these years later.

Except that she's a convicted sex offender, their teenage daughters are older than he was when she molested him, he's confessed to mental disturbances and substance abuse AND SHE WANTS TO TEACH AGAIN.

So. I'm not linking the ABC piece because they are as gross for running the piece as Walters is for interviewing them in the first place. This was a ratings stunt, a glorification of sexual abuse and wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

I just can't.

Gwyneth, I'm trying not to hate you but GAWD you make it so hard...
There's this thing where people in positions of privilege and wealth experiment with living on the amount of money the average SNAP beneficiary is given, so as to somehow convey that they "understand" the struggle of those with less money than they have.

Uh huh.

Not to be left out, Gwyneth Paltrow did it. She bought mostly calorie free produce, including an inexplicable number of limes.

I could go on and on about what she bought and why her perception is wrong and why people need to stop doing this and pretending that they get it, but the internet has done a fantastic job of taking care of all that, so you can read some of the best stuff here.

I'm sure I'll catch some hell for writing about this, but so be it. I try...I reallllllllly try to give her the benefit of the doubt. She really doesn't seem to realize how out of touch with normal people she is, and I suppose that isn't exactly her fault. But just stop it. Stop trying to relate. Just stop.

Get back to writing about the merits of vaginal steam baths, please. The world needs more comedy.

Monday, April 13, 2015

You know they say the road to hell is paved with good intentions....

Why do our feelings make other people so uncomfortable?

Why can't other people just respect that we are entitled to feel however we feel about the things that happen in our lives?

Obviously, I don't have the answer to either one of those questions, but they have been frustrating me tremendously of late.

It seems like anytime someone expresses their emotions about something, whether in a blog post or a Facebook status or a tweet these days, someone has to come along and try and tell them that they are wrong.

Their feelings aren't justified.

It can't possibly be that bad.

You're being overly dramatic.

You're just wrong.

Here's the thing, people of the universe...none of us gets to dictate how someone else feels. We don't. We just don't.

None of us has ever walked in the shoes another person wears. We don't know what their experiences are. We don't know what they are dealing with. We don't know the back story. We don't know the details.

All we know is what we infer from whatever snippet of their lives they have chosen to share.

Without rehashing everything I've gone through (well, the portions of the stories I am comfortable with sharing), I wrote a post this week about love and loss and life going on and all that. I write these things primarily for myself, but also so that others out there in similar places to where I've been and where I am will see that they aren't alone.

What happened, what always seems to happen, is that someone has to come along and try to tell me that I'm just doing this wrong. That my perspective is wrong. That my interpretation is wrong.

I shouldn't feel what I feel because I just shouldn't, and I should stop doing that because things would be better if I did.

Except that it isn't exactly that simple. My emotions weren't installed with a shut off valve. Throw in some anxiety, some depression, some PTSD, and I start to wonder if there is even a dimmer switch some days.

And it isn't just me. In fact, this post isn't even prompted by something someone said to me.

The posts like this one rarely are.

They are far more often a reaction to the things said to people I love, the things said with (I assume) some intention to make it all better, to give them hope, to soothe their pain. The things said with good intention, but the things that don't actually help at all, but only make things worse.

You know they say the road to hell is paved with good intentions....

It's like when my husband was diagnosed with cancer and people would say things like, "well, at least it's a good kind of cancer to have". Um. What? It's cancer. It could have killed him. It could have left him with all kinds of other issues. It did change everything in our lives. It did change him. It did lead to an unscheduled pregnancy and loss of a child.

Or like when I lost that child I just mentioned up there and people would say things like, "well, at least it was early." Or, "at least you are young." Or, "you can always have more babies". Um. What? We lost a child. Period. How far along I was shouldn't be some gauge that determines how I get to feel about it. Once I was pregnant, we were immediately attached to that child. The comments about being young always boggled my mind a little bit, because really it just meant that we have that much longer in life to wonder how different things would be, that much longer to mourn. Oh, and the one about having more babies....oh, that was salt rubbed in an open wound for sure, because we didn't have any idea that we'd ever be able to have more kids at that point, in fact we were staring down an infertility diagnosis. These things said by well-intentioned people just made things worse.

Or like when my father died and I wrote about how this was the first day I would wake up in the world as a fatherless daughter and people said things like, "well, you aren't fatherless, he is still here with you". Um. No. No, he's not actually. I mean suuuuure in some ways there is that sense that the lessons he taught me will stay with me forever and all the warm fuzzy things that come from memories will exist for however long my brain retains them...but he's not here, here. I can't call him. I can't talk to him. I can't ask his advice. I can't go out to lunch with him. I can't lean on him when life gets complicated because physically, he's just gone.

Or like when my mother died and I expressed confused feelings about it and people said things like, "well, she loved you and she tried" as if "trying" is ever sufficient to repair damage. Or  who don't understand that relief and grief can coexist and are not mutually exclusive, or that it was entirely appropriate for me to feel them both simultaneously. Or when they shamed me for having the audacity to say that I missed her. Or when they refused to believe that there was any merit at all to my side of the story and wrote me off without hesitation.

Or when I have written about how losing both parents translates to the reality that I'm now fully grown up, without a safety net anymore, not that she'd ever have been able to catch me if I'd needed her, and people placate me by saying things like, "you aren't alone". Well, yeah. I am. I have my brother and my extended family and my husband and my inlaws, but I don't actually have parents anymore. They aren't here. Let's not pretend that the idea of them or that the memory of them is the same as them actually being here, because it isn't at all.

I wonder, truly, how our society got to be this way. Why do we want so badly for other people to just feel better about things? Why can't we tolerate emotions? Why can't we allow for other people to have grief and loss? Why?

On the flip side, it seems like people get just as annoyed with you if you're too happy.

We can't win.

Life isn't always rainbows and puffy stickers. It just isn't. We can't will it to be that way by forcing a smile. Sometimes terrible things happen to us, to those we love, and living in a society that urges us to just hurry up and get over it is counterproductive.

It sure doesn't help when you're in the thick of it.

Instead of placating people, instead of saying these phrases filled with illusions and falsehoods, can't we just say, "I'm sorry that you're going through this"? Instead of urging them to get over something quicker so our discomfort will be eased, can't we ask them how we can help? Can't we just be there for each other?

Why is that so impossibly hard?

Part of the fault, for certain, rests at the feet of social media, in these falsely constructed shiny versions of ourselves that we project to others. We live in a world where every image is cropped and filtered and edited, where we deliberately choose what we roll out onto the stage. It's easy to see how quickly reality can get confused in a world where so much of our interactions with one another are contrived.

The challenge is to be real. To feel the feelings. To be happy and sad and motivated and complacent and joyful and bitter and angry and elated and all the things that we humans are in real life.

I promise to be as real online as I am in person. I try every day to make sure that the me you'll meet online is the same you'd meet on the street. And that girl, sometimes she's happy and sometimes she's sad...and that's okay.


She doesn't tell you these things because she wants or expects that you'll be able to remedy them. She doesn't want advice or cures or suggestions. She sure as hell doesn't want placated. She tells you these things because she wants to, because she wants to be real, because she wants other people out there to know that they aren't alone.

Let her.

Feelings are what make us human.

Let's feel all the feelings. Let's let other people feel all the feelings.

We'll all be better for it.

I promise.

Friday, April 10, 2015

On being ahead of the curve...

For what seems like forever, I've tended to be the first one in my group of friends to hit all the major milestones in life.

Ironic, considering that I am generally the youngest of them.

I was the first to get married, the first to have kids. The first to deal with a serious illness, the first to buy a house, the first to move halfway across the country, the first to lose a parent.

The first to lose both parents.

I've lamented this fact time and time again, I'm tired of being first.

Not that I'd wish any of these life changes on the people I love most, no. It isn't that at all.

It's just that there are times I tire of being the first one down the path. There are times that I wish I had a close friend that I could call and that I wouldn't even need to say anything, that they'd just understand where I was and what I needed to hear.

By the time my father was sick and nearing death, I'd made new friends, some of which had been to that place I was headed. Those people, they truly have no idea how much help they were in that time. The leaning I did must have been oppressive at times. I probably asked more than I should have. I was so relieved to finally have a familiar place to go for help, for advice, for sage words, for gentle reminders about the reality I was facing.

Things with my mother were different, harder, infinitely more complicated. I can honestly say that I've never known someone who has been through all that we went through with her, though a dear friend is facing some of the same issues now with her mother.

And now, I can be the voice of reason for her while she struggles in this place. I can reassure her that she is doing all that she can, that she can't fix someone else, that she can't help someone who refuses it, that she is unable to make the choices she wishes she could on someone else's behalf even if she is at the mercy of the consequences of those choices. I can tell her that I love her and that I am sorry and that I understand. I can tell her that I don't judge her in the least, that those who opt to do so are judging something they don't have a full picture of.

I can tell her all that because I have been there.

I'm at a point in life, having lost both of my parents, having raised my oldest child to the teenage years without messing him up too terribly, having endured some serious issues in my marriage, having confronted plenty of my personal demons publicly enough that other people know about them, having gone through the cancer diagnosis process more than once, having witnessed a downward spiral, that some of my friends look to me for wisdom, for advice, for silent nods of understanding these days.

And I can give them.

It is hard emotionally for me to watch them go through these transitions, these friends of mine. It is hard to watch for several reasons. One, because when they hurt, I hurt. Two, because watching them on their journeys tends to remind me of the paths I've walked and the places I've been.

I can get dragged to some unpleasant places back there in the past.

Sometimes it's too much and I have to take a step back and breathe and remind myself that I'm not the one going through all of this again and that it isn't my life being upended and shaken this time. Sometimes I want to be there for someone when I just can't. When it's too much emotionally. When the peace that surrounds me now becomes threatened merely by the suggestion of revisiting things that have occurred.

There are reasons, wholly legitimate ones, that I suffer from PTSD. I assure you. I'm in a better place now, but it isn't one built on entirely solid ground. There are cracks in the earth beneath me. Some big enough that they pose no threat at all, but others are gaping crevasses that threaten to swallow me whole and keep me.

In the past few days, several friends, in places similar to those I've been, have shared where they're at. I sympathize. I hurt. I regurgitate the words of wisdom others shared with me when I was there. I offer shoulders and consolation.

And then, when I get enough distance from it all, I appreciate the fact that such distance now exists.

I've been through it already.

I don't have to do it anymore.

I never have to lose my parents again.

As awful as it was and still can be to live in this world without them, I never have to go through all I went through again. I don't.

It's a sobering, but freeing realization.

I never have to endure that particular set of conflicted emotions and gaping loss ever again. I don't.

I'm done with that part of it all.

Sometimes being ahead of the curve has just have to be on this side of it, and far enough out to see it all come into clear focus.

The clarity of grief, a gift that just keeps on giving.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Close Your Eyes and Write - Starry Knight Word Slayers (of awesomeness) (okay, I added that last part)

Oh, you guys.

I love the woman who is writing for you all today so much. So, so, so much. You don't even know.

Not only is she one of the most talented writers I've ever known, she inspires me in ways she isn't even fully aware of. She is the heroine of her own story, she is a fighter unlike any I've ever known, she is a tireless force to be reckoned with in this world.

She's also raw, witty, funny as hell and genuine.

I could go on for days. For days. I won't.

I'll let her tell you.

Without further adieu, Starr.

Close Your Eyes and Write

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.” – Anne Lamott

I need to get that quote tattooed on my body, somewhere very visible. I need to record it and play it on a loop throughout the day. I need to hammer it into my head so I can get past my own barriers that are causing writers block that isn’t really writers block.

I started writing a book in March. A creative non-fiction memoir-like novel. An autobiography that reads like a literary piece. I want it to entertain and intrigue readers, not bore them with my life’s events. To rather, tell a tale of a journey I was rudely forced into and am still embarked upon. A fight I never wanted to fight, a battle I keep losing.

To tell my story.

To reach someone else who has faced the same struggles. To let someone out there know, you are not alone.

I began writing in a furious frenzy, the first 10,000 words flew out of me faster than I could type. I could hardly keep up with the words that wanted to spill out of me. My story wanted out. It was cathartic. Beautiful.

When I made the decision to publish the book upon its completion, I froze. Paralyzed, I’ve hardly eked out 1,000 words in over a month. Because now, when I sit down to write, I worry about the ramifications. I stress about what events and names will need changed. I fret about being sued and having an entire shit storm of drama fall from the skies to bury me and smother my words.

All I want to do is tell my story.

It’s MY fucking story. Why shouldn’t I tell it?

What began as a therapeutic writing project has stymied into a stress inducing, sleep depriving, terrifying monster in my closet.

“Just close your eyes and write,” I tell myself, “Breathe. Write.”

I have an eidetic memory, a habit of remembering conversations and details most people eventually forget. I can tell you exactly what was said in a conversation five years ago and details about who was standing where, what they wore, and the facial expressions they made.  

Between my stellar memory and all of the journals I’ve kept over the years – the book is already written. It just needs to be typed out.  

Fuck that monster in the closet.  

Breathe. Write.

The following is an excerpt from the book, a true account of my custody battle and the journey I’ve been on for three years. Across the country and back again, through the end days of my Father’s life and eventual passing, and the depletion of thousands of dollars thrown at attorneys- this is my story. This is my fight.

My 13-year-old son lay next to me across the bed. On our sides, we faced one another. Tears were in his eyes, tears that were streaking down my face as we looked at each other.

"I don't want you to leave," I said. "I already miss you. One weekend a month is not enough." I ran my hand through his hair, down his handsome face.

He caught my hand in his, held it tight. "I know, Mom. I know. I want to be here."

"Do we have to go? Do I have to give you back?"

He nodded his head, those dark brown eyes he inherited from me so full of wisdom beyond his years. "Yes," his voice cracked.

"But why?" I implored.

He paused. Squeezed my hand. "Because the government says so. The courts say you have to. Even if we don't like it and it's f'd up."

"I think in this situation, I'd forgive a swear."

"It's fucked up, Mom. It's so fucked up."

In a moment that was so poignant, both of us on the verge of breaking down, we were taken by surprise when his brother ran into the room, jumped on the bed in full attack mode, and rolled around while snorting and squealing.  

"I'm a wild pig!" he exclaimed.

I scooped him up in my arms. My baby. "Can I at least keep this one?" I asked his older brother.

He nodded, grinning. Then he frowned and looked at the floor, contemplating. He shook his head and whispered, "No, not even him, Mom. Not even the baby. You can't. It's fucked up."

In addition to writing this book, I’m in the process of launching a new start up business that offers promotional services to indie and self-published authors. I’m really excited about this endeavor. I have a great team of blog tour hosts and several clients in the pipeline. What I don’t have is a website, or the ability to afford attending upcoming seminars in my area where I can network with authors and writers- so I’m crowdfunding.  Take a peek at the story behind the business. We love donations, but if you can’t afford to give, please share us. If donating isn’t your bag, we have t-shirts featuring our logo available. Don’t forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Starr works from her home in Pittsburgh as a freelance writer.  Her professional work includes editing, Social Media marketing and management, ghost writing, content management and SEO for websites, entertainment journalism, and book promotion for self-published authors.  In the past, she has taught classes at writers’ conferences in Pittsburgh about freelancing as a career and the best practices for blogging and social media.  

Starr’s creative writing ranges from humor laced snarkfests, gritty and painfully raw non-fiction all the way to the dark world of Erotica. The author behind The Insomniac's Dream, she claims blogging was only the beginning of an amazing freelancing career.

In her spare time, Starr writes fiction and is working on a paranormal novel and companion serial.  In addition, she writes short stories and manages a local writing group.  When she’s not writing, Starr is kept busy by her two hilarious and fantastically disgusting boys.

Starr enjoys adult grape juice, reading in her non-existent spare time, the occasional Netflix binge, and connecting with other writers and her readers.  She loves Halloween, Zombies, and all things horror. She aspires to be a Vampire someday.  

Her claim to fame is her caustic wit, copious swears, and an ongoing battle with insomnia.  You can catch up with Starr on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.  You can see what Starr has published by visiting her Amazon Author Page.

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Talking About The Hard Stuff With Teenagers (Secret Tacos Help)

I am working on writing this parenting book, and this is one of the topics that people have asked me to write about the most frequently.

I won't claim to be an expert at this teenage parenting stuff, especially given that I'm in the earlier stages of it, but I've found already that my general approach to parenting seems to be paying off so far.

That, and the wonder of secret tacos.

Secret tacos is not some code phrase. I really mean secret tacos, as in sometimes after school I take the older two to get secret tacos before we pick up the rest of the kids. Shhhh. You can't tell anyone about the secret tacos or they won't be secret tacos anymore.


My general approach is a blunt, realistic one. We use the real words for things, we don't shy away from uncomfortable topics, we ask questions, we let them know they can ask us anything.

As I picked up my older two kids from middle school yesterday, I knew that they were likely to have discussed some of the "hard stuff" at school that day. Late start days have been designated for the health lessons this year.

They both climbed in the car and started talking about what they'd covered in class today. In front of each other. With no hesitation.

There isn't much to be embarrassed about in our house, unless you confuse the powers of a superhero or forget which universe someone belongs to...then you bring shame upon our family. (Just kidding. Sort of.)

One of them had talked about birth control (FINALLY) and sexually transmitted diseases. The other had talked about drugs, cigarettes and alcohol.

I was far too excited about all this, both that they'd finally started to discuss these things at school, and that they were both so eager to talk about it.

I tried to suppress my excitement.

I probably failed. In an epic fashion.

In the half hour or so that followed, the three of us talked about everything they'd gone over and I told them some things they need to know about our family.

1. There is a history of addiction and alcoholism on both sides of the family. They absolutely need to be aware of that truth, of their genetic predisposition to it, and will need to be more conscious of this reality as they get older.

2. I told them (for the first time) that I used to smoke. Briefly, and when I wasn't much older than they are now. I quit because I loved it, because I knew it was terrible for me, because I KNEW that I was getting addicted to it. I quit because I'd spent my entire childhood trying to convince my parents to quit and I knew that I was being reckless with my own health.

3. We talked about the fact that cigarettes killed their grandfather and contributed to their grandmother's death. Harsh?? Maybe. The truth tends to be that way.

4. We talked about the reality of growing up in a state where marijuana is legal. It will be readily available and accessible to them here. Just because something is legal for people over the age of 21 doesn't mean that it is legal (or a good idea necessarily) for anyone under that age, and it doesn't mean that using it is without consequences. Employers can still refuse to hire people and fire employees for violating drug use rules, even though it is legal. We talked extensively about the particular dangers of edibles.

5. We talked about the fact that marijuana has legitimate medical uses and the fact that their grandfather used it to help alleviate the side effects of his cancer treatment.

6. We talked about the different types of herpes, how they are transmitted, the fact that there is no cure for them, although there are treatments now that can help with flare ups.

7. We talked about which of the forms of birth control are protective against STDs and which aren't.

8. We talked about how prevalent HPV is, about the fact that there is a vaccine for it and about cervical cancer.

Some of the things that they brought up were pleasant surprises, things that assure me that they really are paying attention.

The Oldest mused aloud about why our society allows kids to drive at 16 but not drink until 21. He thinks that we are doing it backwards, and I'd tend to agree with him. Many European countries in particular have lower drinking ages but don't allow driving until later on. Those countries tend to be set up with better mass transit, though, which is certainly a part of the larger issue.

They both asked a lot of questions about marijuana, and about the names of other drugs. I told them the truth - that drugs come in different forms and the street names change frequently.

They asked me a lot of questions about IV drug use and HIV transmission, knowing that I spent years working for an AIDS clinic.

It may seem strange to some people out there reading that I was actually excited as a parent to have this conversation, but it's the truth. I'm glad that my kids are willing to talk to me about all these things, that they ask me the questions, that no one is ever embarrassed.

These conversations don't need to be awkward. They don't need to be uncomfortable.

And they can absolutely happen inside a minivan that smells like secret tacos.

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