Sunday, May 31, 2015

5th Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 1 ~ Self Portrait

HI!!!!! I cannot believe that this is the fifth year we are doing this. This project gets bigger and bigger every year, which is amazing! This year, we're going to change things up a little bit as a result of that growth.

All pictures are going to be shared in the group on Facebook. If you aren't a member yet, please request to be added to it here.

Ideally, you will add the picture directly into the album designated for each day in the challenge. The number of the day corresponds to the date in June. For example, day 3 = June 3rd. The challenge runs from June 1-30. Please try to get them into the correct albums. With this many people, it's going to be impossible for me to move all the pictures that aren't put in the right place.

When you post a picture, please be sure to tag it with the number of the day in the challenge and any pertinent information you'd like us to know about the picture.

We will be utilizing the hashtag #debie30dayphoto this year. Please add it to the images you post so that they will all be searchable with the hashtag.

Please remember that the group is a public group on Facebook. All images posted will be viewable by anyone.

One picture per day, per person. Please do not share more than one picture a day during the challenge.

The full list of rules and guidelines can be found here.

Now that we have all that out of the way, Day 1. Self portrait.

A few years ago, I wrote a list of tips on how to take better self portraits. Here they are again:

1. Pay attention to the lighting. Avoid using the flash whenever possible
2. Decide what your best angle is - makes faces at yourself in the mirror if you don't already know.
3. Look just up and to the side of the lens, not directly at it.
4. If you have double chins (not that you do, of course LOL), look slightly up to take the picture, hold the camera a tiny bit higher than you normally would.
5. Make sure there isn't anything messing up your background, or giving you bunny ears, or growing out of the top of your head.
6. Take more than one picture, with slightly different expressions. Then you can pick the best one.
7. Try to laugh naturally so your smile doesn't look forced.
8. Remember you can always zoom in, but you can't zoom out once the picture is taken.

Here is my self portrait for this year. I took this a few days before Mother's Day, when I was in the middle of writing a very complicated post about my relationship with my mother and the holiday. When I think of myself, this is honestly how I think most of the world sees me. 

Slightly annoyed. Skeptical. Dorky.

Now it's your turn. Show us who you are!

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Thing That Time Does

My Mom would have turned 62 today. My son is turning 14.

If she were still here, she would have called him as soon as she woke up this morning and sang him Happy Birthday.

The two of them once shared this day. He was born on a Tuesday morning, the day after Memorial Day. I'd graduated from law school just three days prior and my parents had been down for that celebration. They'd left the morning before he was born, only to get a phone call that prompted them to get back in the car.

They didn't make it in time to see him born. No one did. The doctor almost missed it, in fact.

He was swept away to the NICU, connected to a ventilator and more. She was overcome with joy and worry as were we all that day.

He, obviously, endured what he needed to, weaned off the ventilator and then the CPAP, was allowed to go home after the longest nine days in my life.

His first 11 years after then were spent celebrating this shared birthday with her, whether in person or over long distant phone lines.

When he was old enough, they sang to each other. At the same time.

This day in 2013, she was in a hospital somewhere in California, again. I didn't know where she was at the time, though I tried every day to find her. I called a phone that had been disconnected, again, hoping that she'd pick up this time. She didn't sing to my son that day.

A few months later, she was gone.

Time doesn't really heal like they say it is supposed to. I wonder sometimes if the people who insist time heals have ever truly lost someone, if they have any idea what they are talking about, or if they're just placating us with words that sound right even when there isn't much truth to them at all.

Either that, or they just feel compelled to say something to make it seem better.

It's okay to be sad. Honest. It's part of life.

Time doesn't make it hurt less, for sure, it just changes how we interact with these days on the calendar slightly from year to year.

Last year was the first one since her death, the first birthday that had been shared and wasn't anymore. I know that my son isn't quite sure what to do with all the feelings that accompany this day. He is glad to celebrate his milestones, for sure, but he misses her. More than that, though, he remembers her. He is old enough to have memories of who she was before the great unraveling. He remembers what she was like when he was a little boy and he remembers what happened in the years more recent. He remembers the things that occurred, the choices made, the pain involved. He remembers it all.

He misses her, but I think we both know that he misses who she was before all that. Before he came to me and quietly asked if it was okay if he didn't want to go see her alone anymore, before he realized that she had become unhinged, before he absorbed the things that he saw, before all that.

When she left, just after the last birthday they shared together, he asked me if she'd be happy now that she was leaving, if she'd find what she was looking for where she was going.

I told him the truth - that I didn't know, that I hoped so.

Between last year and this, he's grown up so much. He still doesn't understand why things happened the way they did - nor do I - but he has begun to understand her more. He knows that she wasn't well, that she was doing the best that she could given the circumstances, that she didn't mean to hurt us, to hurt him. He knows all that now. Perhaps he even knew it then.

And now, he just misses her.

So do I.

If there is one thing that time does seem to accomplish, it would be that time seems to dull the anger, dulling and dulling until it has almost completely vanished. Once you accept you'll never have answers to the questions you ask, you stop asking them.

Once the anger dissipates, the love is what remains.

Happy birthday, Mom.

We'll miss you today.

We'll be spending this day celebrating him. He's turned into a young man and I think you'd be pretty proud of who he is. 

I love you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Everything is relative

My eldest child is a question asker, as in he is constantly asking questions of the universe from the time he wakes up until he goes to bed at night. If I had to guess, I'd say that he probably is even asking them in his dreams. 

One of questions he asked me recently had to do with the relativity of time, about why time seems slower when you are younger, about why he's already noticed that it is speeding up for him.

He's always been one to savor the place he was at, this kid. Occasionally, he's looked forward to something out there looming in the future for him, but far more often he's prone to hanging on to the place he's at for dear life.

We mused about why time seems to march us forward at different speeds. Personally, I think it's just a matter of mathematics. When you are four years old, it seems like an eternity until your next birthday, but by the time you're my age, the years fly by (and you start to genuinely forget how old you are). My personal theory is that a year takes so long when you're young because at four years old, a year is a quarter of your entire lifetime. By extension, a year takes up far less of your life's total by the time you're approaching 40. It's just a smaller portion of the memory pie.

As he asked me this question, from the front seat of the car, wearing a shirt that used to belong to his grandfather. My father.

The two of them,
Thanksgiving 2001
The one who has only been gone just over four years now.

In that stretch of time, this son of mine has turned from a little boy to a young man. He was in elementary school back then, obsessed with LEGOs and creating his own cartoon characters. His hair was almost always buzzed short and I was still taller than him. He wanted to be a master builder back then.

Now, that little boy isn't little anymore. He towers over me. He's starting high school here in a couple of months. Weeks really, if we're being honest. He's obsessed with new things these days, including the songs that my father used to play in the garage while he worked. His hair, much longer, swept to the side, part of the package of uniqueness he's developed.

He's big enough to wear shirts that used to belong to my dad now, though this phase likely won't last very long at the rate he is growing. In all likelihood, the shirts will grow smaller and smaller until they are put aside, the reminders of another man who came before him.

It's strange to see him wearing them, especially when I think about how little he was when my father was still here.

He was 9 when my Dad died. He'll be 14 by week's end.

It seems like it can't have been that long since my father died, but these shirts, they remind me of just how much time has passed. I can't just trust my perception of time, it moves faster than I think it is moving, faster than I believe it should.

I think my father would be proud of this boy he once knew, this young man who sits beside me today. I think he'd even be a little bit humbled that he made such a profound impact on him. This boy who lived in a world where his grandfather needed to be cared for by others, who was lucky enough to have a male nurse in the ICU when he most needed one...he wants to work there someday too.

When his grandfather told him all those years ago that the world needed more men to work in those jobs, this boy who was truly just a little boy then...he listened.

He had orientation at the hospital today, in fact. He asked a few months ago if he could start volunteering.

Of course I said yes.

His grandfather, wherever he is, is probably pretty proud today.

I know that the next four years will pass faster than the last four have, and I know that at the end of those four years, my son will be graduating from high school. I know that I'll blink and it will be here, no matter what I might do to try and hit the pause button to slow time down just a little bit.

He already sees time speeding up, this boy of mine. He knows.

He knows that everything is relative.

And his grandfather, of all people, helped teach him that.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Family Tree Craft Project

I was looking for some ideas for gifts a while back on Pinterest. You know how Pinterest works, right? For those who aren't well-seasoned, the Pinterest process is something like this:

1. Log on
2. Search the thing you are looking for
3. Pin 1300 versions of the thing you're looking for
4. Get distracted by something shiny
5. Get sucked into a Pinterest vortex
6. Pin a bunch of recipes you'll never make and crafts you'll never attempt
7. Lose track of time
8. Eventually come back to reality
9. Months pass
10. You remember that thing you went looking for and pinned forever ago
11. Spend a ton of money on craft supplies
12. Get halfway through project and realize you need more supplies
13. Spend even more money on craft supplies
14. Shake fists at Pinterest when your entire kitchen floor is covered in glitter
15. Swear you'll never try another thing again
16. Decide everyone on Pinterest is a mean lying liar face
17. Finish the project and decide it isn't terrible
18. Post it on Pinterest and feed the beast

Sound about right?

Yeah. I thought so.

Anyway, I had an idea of what I wanted to do, which was to make a family tree craft for my Mother in Law for Mother's Day. It took us this long to actually give it to her, and I couldn't share it here until she'd opened it. I SWEAR it was done days before Mother's Day. I swear. Sigh.

Initially I wanted to do a button tree, but then I went to the craft store and inexplicably couldn't find buttons. I mean, there were some, but they were ugly and weird colors and I was about to give up when I spotted the glass marble stone thingies and thought they might work. So I got them.

Here's the supply list:

- Blank canvas (I used a 16x20, but you could do any size just make sure the things you're gluing on are to scale)
- Paint in the background color to make into a watercolor wash
- Dark brown (or black) paint for the tree trunk
- Buttons, little stones, or whatever else you'd like to glue on
- Paintbrushes
- Craft glue (I use Aleene's Tacky Glue)

First, I prepped the canvases by painting the background. I made regular acrylic paint into a watercolor by adding a few drops of paint into a cup of water and stirring completely. Using a wide brush, brush the watercolor paint lightly over the canvas in horizontal strokes, covering the entire surface.

If you want it darker on top, just keep layering. (I realized while doing this that I actually do miss painting. Also, my kids think I'm a genius because I made watercolors...)

After that is completely dry, decide what basic shape you'd like the tree to be. I wanted the tree to be on the edge of the canvas and have many branches of varying lengths and shapes. Using a smaller paintbrush, add in all the details you'd like. Some of the trees on Pinterest had swirly branches. I wanted mine to look a bit more realistic. After drying for a while, go back and touch up any spaces that might need more coverage.

When the paint is fully dry, take out your decorations and sort them however you would like. I had each of my five kids choose a color of glass to represent them and sorted them accordingly. We rotated through them, with them each choosing where to place their next piece until the tree looked full enough. I put a decent sized dot of craft glue where they chose and they glued the items on. Press lightly to make sure there is enough contact with the item being glued on.

Once all items are glued on, place the canvas somewhere flat for several hours so the glue can set fully.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Summer School of Rock - B.B. King

Hello old friend, I've missed you.

So, before we get to the post itself, a little background for those of you who haven't been here since the dawn of time...

A few years ago, this all started when my husband was a den leader for Webelos, covering a lesson on music with the boys. I was shocked/appalled/sad that the vast majority of them had no exposure to anything outside of whatever is played on the top 40 stations. One had never been exposed to anything other than country music. When they didn't all know who the Beatles were, an angel cried. 


And thus, this began. I decided standing in the kitchen that night, watching it all unfold, as my husband exposed these kids to Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana and Metallica and Nirvana, that we had to make more of a point to share our love of all types of music with our kids at least. (My son had obviously heard it all before that night).

I started to teach him about the history of rock music. We started with rock because he'd just received his first guitar and wanted some simple, easily recognizable riffs to play that gave him a bit of street cred.

I spent the better part of a summer exploring new bands with him (and by extension, his siblings). After mentioning it a few times around these parts, people started to ask if I was going to share it all the following year I began the Summer School of Rock. 

My initial goal was to spend one month showcasing the most influential 31 bands/artists in rock. I got sidetracked because of things that happened and didn't get a chance to finish it, but then I realized that it was never meant to be done. There are so many more than 31 worthy mentions that this could go on indefinitely. 

So here we are. 

SHARE THE MUSIC YOU LOVE WITH YOUR KIDS. It totally pays off when you catch your 11 year old daughter singing along to The Wall

If you'd like to read about some of the other bands and artists I've already covered, I will link them by name at the end.

Up now, B.B. King.


Born Riley King in 1925 on a plantation in Mississippi, B.B. was the son of sharecroppers and raised primarily by his grandmother. He grew up singing in the choir at church and bought his first guitar at the age of 12. As he grew older, he started playing at neighboring churches and on the local radio station.

He started recording albums in the 1940s and would end up with over 50 albums to his credit.  In 1947 he hitchhiked to Memphis to pursue his dream. A fight broke out between two men in the audience during one of his shows, starting a fire. After leaving the building, he realized that his guitar was still inside and went back in for it. He made it out, barely, with that guitar. Upon learning that the men were fighting over a woman named Lucille, he decided to name that guitar (and every other one he'd ever use) Lucille to remind himself never to fight over a woman.

Speaking of guitars, he always played a Gibson. Always. In fact, he and Gibson teamed up in the 1980s and crafted a guitar specifically inspired by him.

His playing style, in a word: legendary.

He was never just playing notes in a sequential order, no. He was massaging the emotions of anyone who could hear the music he created. He was story telling.

He integrated the sounds and techniques of the best guitar players that came before him, then added his own sound to it, becoming one of the most influential blues musicians in our nation's history in the process. His list of accomplishments would take up entire pages to list, including his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. 

Up until just before his death, he was still touring. He was still playing over 250 shows a year well into his 80s. He lived with diabetes for decades and became a well known spokesperson about the disease, proof of the fact that it's entirely possible to manage the condition and thrive with it. He refused to let it hold him back.

The news of his passing was hard to swallow. His gifts were many, his talent seemingly endless. B.B., simply put, was the blues. Rest now, B.B.

We'll miss you.

The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

To The One That Asks All The Questions

Dear Oldest,

This is early. It's not your birthday yet, even though it seems like we've been celebrating it for weeks already. It's been that kind of year, but you've always been that kind of kid anyway. You arrived much earlier than you were supposed to, scaring us both in the process. For some reason that we'll never understand, you decided to join us ahead of schedule. Too far ahead.

You were in such a hurry that your body wasn't quite ready yet. Those first few days with you connected to machines that were breathing for you were some of the worst moments I've ever experienced. We went from planning for you to be with us in a few weeks to worrying about whether you'd get to stay at all. It wasn't a fun process, for sure. You rallied and we brought you home after what seemed like the longest nine days of my life.

We didn't have a clue what we were doing.

You laugh when I tell you that you are my practice child, but it really is the truth. We thought we knew what to expect. We'd read those books and taken those classes and then the day came when they said we could leave the hospital and take you home and we both looked at each other a little bit panic stricken. I don't think your father has ever driven home so carefully as he did that day.

We've been winging it ever since. If how you've turned out so far is any indication, I think we've done a fairly good job.

We weren't supposed to have you, you know. You've heard that story too, the one about how we'd just been told that we wouldn't be able to have kids and then that little pink line appeared the morning of your Dad's birthday. You were the most unexpected gift, then and now.

You are growing up so fast, pushing the envelope of it all now. You decided to jump into the world of high school a year ahead and join the drumline as an 8th grader. Which is crazy. I didn't quite know what to expect with it all, but I can see how much you've grown and matured just in the past few months, in part because of this love of music you have. You truly have found the place where you belong.

I hope you understand how crazy awesome it is
that you already lettered in band as an 8th grader.
Music is just a part of your soul, it's a gift you have. The things you can already do, picking out the notes from a song by ear and transferring them to all the instruments you already play - it's nothing short of amazing. I hope that you stay in love with music and that you carry it with you for the rest of your life.

In this past year, you seem to have solidified those career goals of yours, and chose the high school you did because it fits the plan. Next year will be hard for you academically. You will be challenged in ways you haven't yet been, but I know you can do it.

When you told me that you wanted to start volunteering at the hospital already, I wasn't entirely surprised. You've always been a caregiver, a helper. A giver.

Organization doesn't come naturally to you, but you're learning. I know that it's been a struggle, and I know that you really are working on it.

You are, and always have been, an inquirer. You wake up asking questions, you go to bed asking questions. All the questions. You are never satisfied with knowing enough, you crave more. You have a rare passion for learning. You trust that somehow I will always have the answers, even now that you know I don't. You keep asking anyway, knowing that I will tell you to go out into the world and find them yourself. And you do.

I haven't held your hand. I haven't done things for you. I haven't made it easy for you. I haven't fought your battles and slayed your dragons. I've been here, cheering for you quietly instead, hoping that you would make the right choices.

You almost always have.

I can't promise that the next four years will be easy. They won't be. 

I can't promise that there won't be conflict and worries. There will be. 

You'll fall in love, probably more than once. Chances are that you'll get your heart broken along the way. You're going to form new friendships while others will fall apart. I can't protect you from any of that. I can't tell the rest of the world that you are a gentle soul with a kind (but goofy) heart, and that they should take care of you.

I can't.

It's okay, though. You'll be okay.

And if there ever comes a time when you're not okay, I hope you know that I'm here, cheering quietly for you. I'm always here, and I always will be.

Keep laughing at yourself. Keep doing the things you love. Keep asking questions. Keep caring about the people you love.

I'd ask you to stay my little boy for just a bit longer, but we've past the point where I can entertain such notions. You're 6 feet tall these days, with a voice deeper than your father's. You aren't a little boy anymore, you haven't been for a while now. You're a young man, one that I'm so proud of at times that I could burst, even if you drive me crazy in all the spaces in between.

You have one day left in middle school. Less than a week left of being 13.  I hope that you cherish this time, sandwiched between childhood and adulthood, and that you squeeze every drop of joy out of it all.

Work hard, play hard, love hard.

I love you,

(Don't worry, I won't tell anyone you still call me that.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the MC edition

Holy cow, you guys, there is a lot this week. I started making my TTPMOT list yesterday and it quickly took up over a page. There are so many things going on right now. So many things.

It's the last week of school here, which logically means that I had two kids home from school sick yesterday, and they just so happened to be the two kids of mine that are in walking orthopedic boots. One for a strained Achilles (plus a raging ear infection since she refuses to take allergy medication then her head fills up with mucus and festers and here we are...but noooooo don't listen to your mother, child.) The other for a mystery injury that might be a fracture, but they aren't sure what is going on and actually just scheduled an MRI because we need some answers about why it isn't improving at all.

Oh, and it's 48 degrees and pouring. We might get snow tonight. Colorado, you so crazy.

Let's get to the stuff on the list, though, because there is a lot.

Off we go.

The I'm not judging but I'm totally judging crowd
Lord. The internet is a lovely thing, really it is. Most of the time. When it sucks ass is when it gives people a platform to proclaim to the world all their opinions about how other people live their lives. I've just never understood why it bothers some people so freaking much how other people live. If it doesn't affect you, it's really none of your damn business.

In the past week, I've seen condemnations of parents who allow their children to have soda (or GASP have it in the house ordinarily). I've seen people climb up onto that soapbox to talk about the books kids shouldn't read and the movies they shouldn't see. I've seen people in one breath say that they aren't judging other parents but then go on and on and on about how the way they are doing it is really the only right one. I've seen people bitching about the "kind of people" who get tattoos (p.s. you should know that you're talking shit about me if you're talking shit about the inked, so keep that in mind, folks). I've seen people ranting about open marriages and polyamorous relationships, mostly in biblical contexts about the sanctity of marriage and chastity and loyalty.

That last one, just wow. If you think that open marriage and polyamory (which, btw are two different things that can in some circumstances co-exist) have anything to do with deception or betrayal, then you clearly don't know what you are talking about. Deception and betrayal are as forbidden in polyamory and open marriages as in traditional relationships, perhaps even more so. If you don't even understand the dynamics of the agreements and can't conceive of the fact that we're talking about consenting adults who are all completely open to the arrangements they choose, then spare the world your condemnation.

Just because you wouldn't choose something for yourself doesn't mean that other people can't or won't or shouldn't. Also, you should probably know that throwing the Bible at people who aren't religious is a waste of time.

Save Chase
In Florida, there is a little boy named Chase at the center of an intense legal controversy. Well, more specifically, his foreskin is at the center of the controversy. And no, I'm not kidding.

Chase's parents split up when he was a newborn. At the time, they agreed that he would be circumcised. She changed her mind shortly thereafter, saying that the procedure is unnecessary and dangerous. Chase's father has continued to pursue legal action to compel the surgery, even though Chase is now 4 years old.

Chase's mother was just arrested after taking the child and going into hiding to avoid complying with a court order to hand him over to his father for the procedure. Several doctors have refused to have anything to do with the matter, and the case has become a huge issue of contention between anti-circumcision activists and those who advocate for the rights of parents to force children to undergo medical procedures.

Whether you personally agree with it or not, whether your sons are circumcised or not, it is almost always a procedure done on newborn babies, not preschoolers fully aware of what is happening to them. At this point, Chase is sufficiently old to have full awareness of what his father plans to force him to go through. I can't believe that there are judges out there ruling that the father has the right to force this issue at this point, since there is absolutely no indication of necessity of this procedure. This isn't akin to the cases where courts will compel parents to administer chemotherapy to sick children. Chase is healthy. Removing his foreskin won't save his life, it will just make his father happy.

Chase should be permitted to grow up without being subjected to this surgery at this point in his life, and if and when he decides to remove his foreskin as an adult, that should be none of his father's (or anyone's) business.

Meghan Trainor isn't a role model
I feel like I've been saying this for months already, but she isn't a role model, she just plays one on the radio. Her songs are bubblegum pop with lyrics that claim to be about female empowerment, but really that isn't what they are about at all. All About That Bass might have claimed it was celebrating the girls with curves, but it did it at the expense of the "skinny bitches" and implied that because boys like a little more booty to hold at night somehow matters in the overall scheme of things.

Nope. All the nope.

We can celebrate body empowerment and embrace people of all sizes without shaming others or telling a bunch of little girls that their sex appeal to men is what matters most about their bodies.

Her new song, I think, actually bothers me more though. You've probably heard it. The Dear Future Husband one.  Ugh. If you haven't heard it, I'll share some of the lyrics here.

Buy me a ring
Buy-buy me a ring, (babe)

You gotta know how to treat me like a lady
Even when I'm acting crazy

I'll be sleeping on the left side of the bed (hey)
Open doors for me and you might get some kisses
Don't have a dirty mind

Here's the thing. I really don't care if her ideal future self doesn't give a shit about cooking and expects to be treated like a princess. That last little group of lyrics is extra charming because she's really saying open doors for me and you'll get some head. The kisses part might as well come with an asterisk. If you don't believe me, watch the video.

Which, again, is fine if that's how she thinks marriage works. Women are crazy but men need to deal with it, then if they just open doors for us and give us money, they get blow jobs in exchange. Uh huh.

Good lord. She is SO not about empowering women, as she rolls around on the kitchen floor...

I sincerely hope that my kids never believe for one second that an actual relationship is based on any of that shit. I'd rather them think that marriage is about commitment and shared interests and supporting one another and mutual respect. Not rings and BJs.

Let's just call it what it is - bad pop radio music made by a young girl who hasn't a clue about the world. She's not a role model and she certainly isn't advancing empowerment.

The Boston Bomber Verdict
In the event you missed it, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was sentenced to death last week for his role in the Boston Marathon bombing. Some people celebrated. I'm not one of them. There are a few reasons, and I could (and have) written entire posts about this topic. I'll save you the long diatribe and reduce this to a bulleted list because there's a lot to cover this week.

- The fact that we still use the death penalty is an international abomination, one that we were called on the carpet for yet again by the UN Human Rights Commission recently. We are not in good company when you see what other countries in the world also still use death as a punishment.

- Death sentences carry with them a lot more mandated appeals, dragging out the already lengthy appeals process and costing a ton of money.

- The last time someone was executed after being convicted of a federal crime was in 2003. There have only been three killed since the federal death penalty was reinstated.

- When you are dealing with religious fundamentalism, often death is considered a tribute to the cause. Killing him may only make him more of a martyr in the eyes of many people.

- We are supposed to be better than the terrorists.

I could go on, but I suspect I've already got a few of you out there shining up your pitchforks and getting ready to yell at me.

Game of Thrones and the trouble with Sansa
Ooookay, so if you haven't seen this week's episode, skip down to the next section. I'm going to write spoilers. Also...trigger alert...

Sansa married the very sadistic Ramsey Bolton this week, in a huge departure from what happens in the books. At this point, the books are really more like a suggestion more than a path we're on anyway, but there are a few departures that fans of the series are having trouble reconciling. Sansa's fate is a big one.

In the books, she doesn't marry Ramsey, and she certainly doesn't get raped by him on her wedding night as Theon (a.k.a. Reek) is forced to watch. I'm not sure how or why they did things this way, but I have to assume that it was to try and make Theon seem like a more sympathetic character given his past history of killing children.

There are a LOT of people pissed about the rape scene, about the violation of Sansa in this way. My personal perspective, though, is that considering the episodes leading up to this point and how she came to marry him, it wasn't exactly unexpected, even by her. In fact, there's an argument to be made (not that I'm making it, mind you) that she knew this would happen.

The show runners seem preoccupied with rape far more than Martin ever has and this is hardly the first instance where sexual violence was added to the show when it is absent from the books. They've never managed to come up with a compelling explanation for why that is. I'm listening.

AYFKM Disney?
Oh, Disney. Really???? The Princess of North Sudan is a movie supposedly in production right now. But it's not about what you think it would be about. Nooooooo.

It's not a movie about an African Princess. Nope.

It's a movie about a white little girl who says she wants to be a princess, so her daddy goes and declares himself the king of a piece of land in Africa, which makes her a princess. The best part??? It's based on a true story.

Who the hell thought this was a good idea?

Finally....what I wrote last week didn't actually need to happen....
Sheesh. I wrote in last week's TTPMOT about how I wonder what the reception of Sons of Anarchy would have been like had the gang at the center of the story been the Mayans or the Niners instead of SAMCRO. I wondered aloud why this show about the horrendous violence of a white gang was celebrated so much in a world that would condemn such violence from any other group.

Then Waco happened this week, and mostly white motorcycle gangs got into a huge gunfight that left 9 people dead. One of the gangs involved, the Bandidos, is the second largest MC in the world behind Hells Angels.

Like SOA playing out in real life, no lie.

What happened immediately and has happened in the days since, though is pretty freaking telling about our society. The main suspects were alive, sitting on the curb, chatting with police. Other club members are seen in pictures playing on their phones aside officers. The gangs involved are being referred to as "serious enterprises" by the media, not thugs or hoodlums. We aren't seeing lengthy discussions about the decay of the white family or the absence of white fathers contributing to white on white violence. The National Guard hasn't been called and there aren't curfews being issued. The NY Times called the altercation a "melee", not a gang war.

People are already shouting about how this has nothing to do with race. And to a certain degree, they are right. Gangs exist in every racial group. Violence exists in every racial group.

What is different though, is the way the gangs and violence are perceived and treated by the media and law enforcement.

And like it or not, that absolutely has to do with race.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

We're okay. Even when we're not.

Dear Mr. Hive,

This week has rattled my cage. A lot. There have been things brought up in the last several days that have reminded me of things in our past, of things that happened, and I'd be kidding myself if I said they weren't bothering me.

They are.

But they're bothering me in a different way than they likely would have been a few years ago. Because things are just different now.

We're different now.

I'm different now.

You're different now.

You wouldn't have been caught dead doing this before.
And this is hot as hell.
Just saying.
There are people out there who'd probably say that we are crazy. There are people who've told me that I am for sure. We shouldn't be together. There were people who didn't think we'd last over twenty years ago when we started college and I went one direction while you went another.

They were wrong. They were all wrong. We made it through that and through everything else that has happened to us, between us, around us, in that time.

Distance was a piece of cake, all things considered.

It hasn't been easy. There were times that I was ready to give up.

So many times.

There were times that I truly believed that you had done just that.

But here we are still.

We're not here because we love each other. That's part of it, sure. It has to be, I think. We're still here because this thing that we have, it's so much bigger than just love. Love isn't enough. I know that now. Love won't fix us. Love won't make us stay. Love won't heal. Love won't do any of those things.

We're still here because we're committed to what we have. We're still here because we were both willing to fight for our family. We're here because we actually fought.

And we both have the scars to prove it.

We aren't perfect, the two of us. We aren't perfect alone and we aren't perfect together, but we don't need to be. We're perfectly imperfect broken people intent on figuring this all out.

Things haven't gone as planned. This life of ours has gone off the rails a few times, but we managed to drag the cars back on track and pick up the debris scattered around us.


We talk more now. We share more now. We're more open and vulnerable and honest now because we know we have to be. We have to talk about the things that hurt us before they evolve into things that will hurt us.

We're here.

And we're okay.

Even when we're not.

I love you. I love who you are now more than I've ever loved you before, scars and all.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the mama drama edition

Heeeey. It's been a week and a half already and it's only Tuesday. May always seems to be like this. May and December - the months that fly by so fast because we are always too busy to catch our breath for a second. (and no, this isn't some glorification of busy thing, dear internets, this is just reality...)

Anyway, there is a lot, and I don't have time to dilly dally because I need to get my entire house clean in the next two days. THE WHOLE THING. Because even though we've refinanced more than once in the past and have never ever had an appraiser need to see the inside of the house, they need to this time. With three whole days notice. In May. With five kids, two of which are in walking boots with injuries and one of which is a newborn.

I'd totally throw some things, but then I'd have to pick them up right away and I clearly don't have time for that nonsense.

Off we go.

While Watching the End of SOA...
I had to finish this series before the end of the school year, so it gave me even more incentive to binge watch it in the past week than I'd ordinarily have had. I mean, c'mon. Jax. Also, I totally still have a thing for Jimmy Smits. So there's that.

Anyway, I knew how it ended already, thanks to the people online who get off on spoiling things for people like me, even when I've deliberately avoided reading anything about it. Seriously. If that's what makes you happy, you need to get a life.

For those who haven't yet seen the show and plan to watch it, you might want to skip down to the next section, just in case I spoil something. I'm not doing it intentionally, and not saying how it ended other than to say of course it ended that way because it had to. Being the huge SOA fangirl nerd that I am, I picked up on the Shakespearian thing early on and was not surprised at all when I read a few articles that reinforced my thinking. Once that was confirmed, I knew how it was going to end.

What bothers me about the show, I mean aside from all the things that over the course of seven seasons made me gasp audibly, is that it has been held up by huge portions of the population as a wonderful show, and it was. But I can't help but wonder if the shows like this one and Breaking Bad, also an amazing show, were celebrated because the protagonists were white. Imagine if Walt and Jax had been any other race, would the gangs they built up and the murders they committed and the crimes perpetrated be wildly popular and award winning? Would we be talking about a show that ran for this many seasons and won this many awards if the Mayans or the Niners were the focus? Would a show centering on Tuco have been as successful?

I don't have answers, this is just the stuff I think about...

This week in nerd:
Constantine was officially canceled, which sucks. The show was a.m.a.z.i.n.g. It was crazy dark and mysterious and dealt with not just supernatural stuff, but with religious undertones and ohmygosh it was sooooo good, but now it's over. And I'm pissed. There were rumors for a while that SyFy would pick it up if it wasn't renewed, but that's looking unlikely at this point, especially since NBC waited so long to make a decision. 

Marvel just can't even right now with all the Black Widow controversy. Jeremy Renner and Chris Evans were talking about how her character is dating both of them in the movie, so of course she's a slut and a whore...then they realized that that probably wasn't a good thing to be joking about and tried to cover their tracks. Ugh. In the past week, it's also been made public that the toys being rolled out in conjunction with the film don't include her, even the toys that center on HER scenes from the movie. Instead of her riding the motorcycle to help out Captain America, he's riding the bike and she's not even included in the play set. Grrr.

Jem is getting a movie. This should be something that please me, operative word here being should. I am not pleased. For all those out there who aren't familiar with the awesomeness that was Jem, it was a show in the 80s about a woman who was a kickass business genius with a secret identity of a rockstar with her band, The Holograms. The's about a teenager and her sisters finding their voices. Basically like if Hannah Montana and Destiny's Child wore a lot of neon and pleather together...and having nothing to do with the original characters in the cartoon. Nope. All the nope.

It was announced yesterday that Tom Brady is suspended for 4 games, the Patriots are being fined $1 million dollars and losing two draft picks as a result of the ball deflation controversy surrounding the Superbowl this year.

While Brady's lawyer vows an appeal and people in the sports world debate whether he should individually be punished this much and whether they should get to keep the Superbowl win and all the other things involved with the sport itself, I can't help but struggle with the message this sends about behavior infractions in the league.

Players have beaten their wives, girlfriends, children and been punished less. The league was willing to basically ignore domestic violence issues until public outrage forced them to deal with it. And we won't even talk about pot smoking, which is basically like the worst violation ever in the eyes of the NFL. Bangs head on wall.

The week in post racial America
Good guy George Zimmerman was shot at this week, which I'm sure had nothing to do with the fact that the guy is perpetually armed and aggressive. Uh huh. Amazing how, no matter what his altercations are, how many times the police are involved...he stays alive. This most recent incident was a road rage one, and I'm sure he's the victim because he's always the victim. Bangs head on wall again.

A high school graduation turned into a whole lot of WTF this week when the principal went on a racist tirade. If you haven't seen the video, just go watch it. Ugh. As if the things she said weren't bad enough, the comments made afterwards by her son in her so-called defense are even worse.

The world is watching, and right about now, they're shaking their heads at us. (but then, I kinda get the feeling that happens a lot). The UN Human Rights Council just released a report criticizing the United States for a few things, including:

- police violence towards black men
- Guantanamo Bay
- continued use of the death penalty
- racism

There are people, many people here who like to pretend that these things aren't problems, that they are made up by the media to stir the pot and create race wars. People like to use phrases like "race card" and say things like well, we have a black president, soooo...

The rest of the world gets it. Maybe we should too.

Drama About The Mamas
Mother's Day was last weekend. Thank you sweet baby Jesus that it is over. It's an emotionally charged holiday that isn't all sunshine and roses for some women, and every single damn time I see someone express conflicted emotions about it, someone else has to come along and be all like don't try to ruin my holiday!!!

For the love, people. No one is trying to take away mother's day. No one is denying you all the massages and pampering and spa days and flowers and candy and whatever else you feel like you need to get cosmic credit for mothering.

What one person feels has nothing to do with anyone else, and people are entitled to feel however they feel about it.

Mother's day sucks for a good portion of people. Like those who are childless not by choice. Like those who are childless by choice but then people try and tell them that they can't know unconditional love, which is total bullshit. Like those who have lost pregnancies or babies or children or grown children. Like those who have lost their mothers. Like those who are estranged from their children or their mothers. Like those with dysfunctional relationships. Like those who were abused. Like those who were discarded by their mothers for whatever reason. Like those who have children with physical or emotional or mental issues that are difficult to deal with. Like those who are doing this without any help. Like those who struggle with postpartum depression or psychosis. And on and on and on.

Mother's day might be this awesome day for some people but it isn't that way for everyone.

Stop believing that everyone has to feel the same way you do, that if they feel differently it's some threat to your way of life. It's not.

Because it's not about you.

Monday, May 11, 2015

50 things about my mother

A friend shared this piece late last night on Mother's Day, and it got me thinking about a lot of things. About the specific memories recounted in her words, about the universal truth that seems to be complicated mother/daughter relationships, about whether I could list 50 things about my mother.

I'm going to try.

More than that, though, I'm going to try and remember the good things. I could certainly list 50 bad memories just from the last few years of her life alone, but I don't want to remember her that way. I don't. I want to remember who she wanted to be and who she occasionally was. I want to remember her without all the baggage. I want to remember the way she laughed and what she loved.

1. She would wake us up every morning when we were kids the same way, by opening our window shades and singing the same song. It wasn't until very recently that I realized that she was always singing the wrong lyrics. The song she sang was "Rise and shine, and give God the glory"....but she instead sang the lyrics "Rise and shine and bring out your morning glory". I wonder if there was some significance to her alteration of the words. I know she struggled with faith itself, with religion more. I come by that part of my personality honestly.

2. She loved to swim but hated the beach.

3. When she was a teenager, she would go down to the studios in Los Angeles to dance on American Bandstand.

4. Both her and my father had very characteristic bowling approaches. My dad's was refined and precise (like everything he did), he had a mean hook and the ball would hang on to the edge of the lane before kicking back right before the end. Mom, on the other hand, threw a back-up ball and her approach included a tiny little hop near the end. None of us could ever re-enact it, and no matter what she did, she couldn't un-learn that style. It was uniquely hers.

5. I could count on one hand the number of times that I ever saw her drink when I was a child.

6. She made almost all of our Christmas decorations growing up, handcrafting and needlepointing. A few of the ornaments hang on my tree every year still.

7. She loved painting ceramics. There was a beautiful Christmas tree with tiny lights she painted. It was my favorite decoration to put out every year.

8. She couldn't walk past a Christmas store, even in the middle of summer. She always had to look and she always had to find something she couldn't live without.

9. I've never known someone to love Christmas more than she did.

10. Speaking of Christmas, she loved all holidays. All of them. When I was a little girl, we didn't have much money, so she'd get the cardboard cutout decorations and put them up all over the house for every single holiday that we celebrated....and she celebrated them all.

11. I can remember how she curled her hair and a few of the dresses she wore when she'd go out dancing with my father when I was little. She was so beautiful when she was dancing.

12. She wore purple eyeshadow. She always wore purple eyeshadow.

13. She wouldn't leave the house without her makeup done and her hair curled.

14. She was so excited when I was old enough to help her dye her hair, and I can remember all the nights we spent laughing in the garage. I'd tease her about the grays and she'd remind me that I'd get them soon too. She wasn't wrong. Though her hair did start graying before mine, I was 12 when I plucked my first gray hair from my own head.

15. She loved, loved, loved Jean Claude Van Damme. Didn't matter how terrible the movie was or how bad his acting was, she'd watch him in anything.

16. She loved to take drives up the coast, and when we were little we would pack a lunch and head to Santa Barbara, eat beneath the enormous Moreton Bay Fig tree, then walk to the end of the pier.

17. She made sure we learned about culture and art. We spent so much time in downtown on Olvera Street. She pushed us to learn Spanish even though she didn't speak it. She'd taken French in school and regretted not having learned a more useful language for living in California.

18. She adored Solvang. We always had to stop at Pea Soup Anderson's on the way there. My brother and I would watch in horror as she and my father ate split pea soup, and they'd laugh and laugh.

19. She had a lead foot and loved to drive fast. We could usually egg her on too. She passed that one on down to me.

20. She was great at making hats and vests and skirts out of brown paper bags. We didn't have many dress up clothes, but we didn't need them.

21. She not only tolerated my weirdness, but encouraged it. She knew my favorite toy was Kermit the Frog and that I'd strip any baby doll anyone bought so he could wear the clothes.

22. When I left that Kermit at my Grandma's house, she made sure that Grandma mailed him home with air holes and snacks.

23. She loved root beer floats more than any other dessert. If it was from A&W in a cold glass, even better.

24. When my great grandmother needed to come live with us, she did the best she could for as long as she could, even after the night Nana ate 8 dozen chocolate chip cookies that Mom had made for my brother to take to school. She let Nana tell the story about how she didn't know who did it and just made more.

25. Her favorite perfume was L'air du Temps, but she wouldn't buy it for herself because it was too expensive. She wore Red Door instead because it was cheaper most of time unless one of us bought it for her. Krystle was actually her favorite scent, I take that back. It was the Krystle named after Krystle Carrington from Dynasty. She was so upset when they stopped making it.

26. She adored Disneyland. Her favorite ride was It's A Small World, and she always sang the song.

27. She had really expensive taste when it came to purses and was very picky about the style. The straps had to be the exact length she wanted, and there had to be at least 3 zippered compartments. My father never once managed to buy her a purse she liked.

28. When I was in college, I went on a cruise with her, my grandmother and my brother. We drank and laughed and had a fantastic time. She made sure we went on a plane tour of the glaciers, and she looked just like a little kid seeing fireworks for the first time.

29. She preferred visiting the wharfs because they are really beach adjacent. All the smells and sights and feelings, but none of the salt or sand. (She really hated that)

30. When I was a stupid teenager who did stupid things like get drunk to the point of being belligerent, she'd shrug off what I said or did, then drag my hungover ass to church the following morning.

31. She wanted to be a teacher. When they planned the wedding, she'd realized she was a couple of units from graduation and figured she would finish afterwards. Then she was pregnant with me. She never taught.

32. She went through phases where she would get wrapped up in making or doing something new. One of the last involved the fleece blankets. Anyone who was around those last few years can attest to the blankets. We have tons of them. They are still the ones my kids grab on the coldest nights, and we took one to the baseball game yesterday on Mother's day.

33. She really really really wanted to visit Ireland. She never got there.

34. Her tacos are something that people still talk about. Friends would always come over for dinner on taco night...even when my brother and I were away at school.

35. My favorite memory of her is when she'd ask me to help her make her bed, and I'd incessantly throw the sheets up in the air and dive under them. She'd tell me to stop and do what I was supposed to, then laugh. Over and over. Sometimes it took us half an hour to make one bed.

36. She didn't sew often, but was quite good at it. She made one of the dresses I wore to a dance in high school and a gorgeous dress for me the year I wanted to be Scarlett O'Hara for Halloween. It was beautiful.

37. When my older kids were very little, she wanted to buy them a swing set. I told her no since we lived right next to a park at the time. She said she was going to get a playhouse instead....and she did....with a swing set attached. It still sits in my yard 11 years later.

38. We joked that when my brother and I went to school, they replaced us with dogs. They really did. They loved their dogs just like humans. Maybe more.

39. She and my father wanted to have 6 children. She had complications after my brother was born and needed an emergency hysterectomy. I don't know that she ever truly made her peace with that all.

40. She loved red roses the most but her favorite color in general was purple.

41. Her favorite song at church was Ave Maria, and she'd always cry when it was played.

42. She told us stories about her cousin who'd been killed in Vietnam. When the traveling wall came, she wept as she rubbed his name.

43. She worked on Reagan's campaign when he was running for Governor. She adored the man, and was one of the first to visit the library when it opened.

44. I can't whistle. Neither could she.

45. When my son was born on her birthday, she was elated. It meant she didn't have to have anymore birthdays, they were his now.

46. She loved The Wizard of Oz. We watched it every year when it aired on television growing up.

47. When I was about 8, she picked us up from school with purple hair. It wasn't intentionally purple, something had gone wrong when she dyed it. My brother screamed and refused to get in the car at first, not recognizing her.

48. She always sang "Happy Birthday" to us all on our birthdays, whether we were with her in person or not.

49. She didn't quite know how to navigate the world without my father. I believe in my heart that wherever they are now, they are together.

50. Her favorite song, an appropriate one to end a list like this one, was "Smile".

I love you, mama, and I miss you so much. It's taken me this long to get to where I just miss you. The hurts are less, the pain is fading, the questions I'll never have answers to have aren't being asked anymore.

I just miss you.

I am who I am because of you.

I love you.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

What I want my children to know about the world

To my children,

Last night, we talked about relationships and drugs and alcohol and sex and so much more. I'm honest with you for a reason. I tell you what has happened in my life. I tell you what you need to watch out for. I answer your questions.

I do it all because I don't want to be sending you out into the world without the information you are going to need once you're there. I don't labor under any delusions that I can keep you small and naive and safe. I know I can't. I know you're growing up, I know you're going to be put into positions where you have to make decisions, I know that sometimes you're going to make mistakes. I know all of this.

My job is to equip you for life.

And you're growing up so fast. Too fast.

We talked about so much last night, and those conversations are still playing over in my head. These are the things I want you to take away from last night.

- All relationships take work, no matter what kind of relationship it is - family, friends, romantic. If a relationship is too one sided, where one person is doing most of the work and the other is taking more, take a step back and think about whether it's healthy. You shouldn't feel unsafe in any relationship, you shouldn't feel controlled, you shouldn't feel anxious. Be aware.

- As you get older, people will change. You will change. Friendships will change. You'll grow away from some people and meet new ones. That's okay. Be open.

- Look out for the people you love. Keep an eye on your friends and your siblings. Support them. Be helpful.

- People will hurt you. Don't stoop down to their level. Keep your pride and your integrity. Be dignified.

- Laugh at yourself. If you can keep your sense of humor, if you can laugh at your weirdness, you take the power away from those who would use it against you. Be grounded.

- Manners matter. Please and thank you will help you more than expertise and knowledge sometimes. Learn how to take a compliment and how to genuinely give one. Be gracious.

- Stand up for what is right, even when it is unpopular. Fight the fights worth fighting, let the other stuff go. Recognize unfairness and inequality and then strive to do better. Be vocal.

- Always try to imagine what things are like for other people. Don't judge others. Be empathetic.

- Respect yourself, respect other people. Nothing substitutes for consent. Ever. Be honorable.

- Think before you speak. Don't insult others. Don't make fun of people. Know that the choices other people make are almost never about you. Recognize that although you may make your choices for your own reasons, those choices will have consequences that affect other people. Be kind.

- Stay true to who you are. People will love you for who you are. Don't change for anyone. Be unique.

- Bullies don't really grow up, they just get older. You'll be dealing with them far into adulthood. Be brave.

- If you drink, call me to come pick you up. Think long and hard before you ever try any other drugs. Be smart.

- Be careful about drinking. Alcoholism is a real thing that you will need to worry about more than some people because of the wonders of genetics. Be conscious.

- Speaking of genetics....all addiction is something you are predisposed towards. There are many mental health conditions that people in our family have dealt with, so keep an eye out for them too. Be mindful.

- Your bodies are yours, and they are beautiful. Be leery of what the mirror tells you sometimes, because it lies. If you start to think about how you look too much or worry about dieting too much or start exercising too much, please talk to me. Y'all have eating disorders running in the family too. (sorry for the genetic short straws, you guys). Be gentle.

- Take care of your body. Take care of your mind. Take care of your soul. If you need help, ask for it. Be disciplined.

- Pregnancy isn't the only thing you have to worry about when it comes to sex. Not at all. There are diseases out there too, and some of them will never ever go away. Be careful.

- Some things in school will come easy to you. Some will be difficult. There will be some subjects that don't interest you at all. Learn them anyway. Do your work. Turn in your assignments. A good deal of success in life can be measured just by showing up. Be diligent.

- Find things you love to do. Find passions and interests. Find hobbies and refine your skills. Fill your time with things that make you happy. Be great at something. If you love something, play...even if you aren't great at it. Be passionate. 

- Give your time and your energy. Volunteer. Be generous.

- When you make mistakes, learn from them. Don't make the same mistake twice. Forgive others. Forgive yourself. Be compassionate.

- Don't worry too much about the past. Plan for the future, but realize that all we ever really have is right now. Be present.

- Don't try to suppress your emotions. Feel all the feelings. Your feelings are yours and they are always okay. Be genuine.

- This world isn't fair. Bad things happen sometimes. Don't let that dull your spirit. Be joyful. 

- There is nothing you can't talk to me about. Nothing. Be honest.

I'm sure there are more things I'll want you to know, but for now, this will do. 

I love you guys.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

How Lucky Am I

It's that time of year again. With every day that we edge closer to Sunday, I can feel the anxiety building up. The familiar discomfort with it all.

These holidays, you know, they aren't exactly welcome for all of us.

This upcoming one, the day for the celebration of mothers and motherhood and mothering.

It's a day filled with pause and reflection and wondering how different things might have been. For some people out there, these holidays are unencumbered days to celebrate with their families, or at least it seems that way from where I sit.

For me though, virtually every year since becoming an adult has brought with it a little bit of heartache. Up until I was married, the holiday was always about my mother. My grandmothers. I'd do the obligatory card buying, letter writing, phone calling.

If I'm being completely honest, I never actually gave it much thought. I never did because back then I was still blissfully unaware of all the bizarre familial dynamics that had driven my childhood, I was still in a place where expectation dictated what I did and when and why.

Simply put, I was supposed to buy the card and the flowers and make the phone calls, and so I did.

Then shortly after we were married and my husband sat in that doctor's office chair and I held his hand and the word cancer slipped out of the lips of the man in the stark white coat, it all changed.

We'd had every intention of someday having children, but no plans at all for them yet. We were 22 years old and newlywed. We were so clueless and unaware of what the future held for us. We were living in a tiny one bedroom apartment and in no way prepared for even the idea of children. They resided somewhere in the future, after we'd settled in our careers and paid off the debt we'd acquired and bought the house and traveled the world.

Until we were told that we might never meet them at all.

When you're 22 and being told that you may never have children, you suddenly want them more than you've ever wanted anything else in your entire life.

Our lives derailed, magnificently, entirely and wholly out of fear.

We took a chance, crossed our fingers, and tried. We had such a short window of opportunity, and the odds were all stacked against us. There was, simply put, no reason to believe that I'd get pregnant.

But I did.

And we were elated. All that planning for someday far in the future was gone, we were doing what we needed to now because we knew it was more important than all that other stuff. Our priorities were forever changed.

Until months later when we sat in the dimly lit room beside a screen that wasn't flashing the way it was supposed to. The baby was gone.

And everything changed.


The following months brought nights of endless sobbing and phantom cries heard at 2am. A diagnosis of infertility after months of trying every trick in the book to conceive.

Mother's Day that year, it came anyway. It didn't care what had happened to us, what had happened to me. It didn't care that I was to be a mother until I wasn't to be a mother anymore.  It didn't care that I might never be.

I was, of course, still expected to do all the things for the other mothers in my life because I just was and that day wasn't about me even a little bit because I wasn't a mother.

That year would bring the formal diagnosis of infertility and the most unexpected faint pink line just three weeks later, on my husband's birthday of all days. The doctors were wrong. The roller coaster was heading back up again, though this time we waited, anxiously, for the fall that could come at any moment.

That next year, I was pregnant on Mother's Day, against the odds again.

For every year since, I have had children.

Now that I have my last child, the one that my own mother will never meet, I feel like this holiday finally just belongs to me.

Last year was the first one without her here. The one where I marked her absence, where the void was real and plain and immediate. There was no phone call to make, no card to buy, no expectation anymore. The day was a bittersweet one.

For as much sadness her absence brings, there is peace too. Peace in knowing that she is in a better place now, peace in knowing that she isn't suffering anymore, peace in knowing that she can't co-opt these days anymore and make everything about her, peace in knowing that she can't hurt me anymore, peace in knowing that I don't need to jump through the hoops and surrender a piece of my own happiness at the altar of her need.

I no longer need to feel like I had no choice but to fail her as a daughter in order to protect my own children. I don't have to feel conflicted and torn.

I felt all those feelings before, and I don't have to do that anymore.

I'm choosing not to do that this time.

I'm choosing to live here, in the present, the present that was never supposed to exist.

This year, I just get to be the mom. For the first real time in my life.

With no expectations, with no demands, but with gratitude for all that I have.

These children, they aren't the ones I expected. There are certainly more of them than I ever imagined someday having. They are all unique and different and beautiful souls. And not a single one of them would be here had my first child not entered and then left my life in the way that she did.

She made them possible.

I am the daughter of a woman who did the best she could. I miss her every day.

I am the mother of six children, one that lives only in my heart, five living here with me in this world.

How lucky am I.


Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there, whether their children are with them in this world or not, to all the women with the heart of a mother, to all the women who care for the children who aren't theirs. Gentle hugs to everyone out there for which this day brings pain and sadness. Know that you aren't alone. xo

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the chlamydia is bigger in Texas edition

It's May. How the hell did that happen already? There are only two weeks of school left here, which means that the end of the year madness has begun. It seems like there is something scheduled every day of the week...and that day to celebrate mothers looms on the calendar.

Mother's Day.

It's complicated.

It's complicated because my mother is gone and because our relationship was complicated when she was here. It's complicated because I hated mother's day when I was supposed to be a mother and then I wasn't because I lost the baby...because our society is really bad at that handling people in that place. We don't know what to do with those who don't fit nicely into the boxes we construct and so the mourning mothers without the children they should have are left on the outside, urged to do what they are still supposed to do for all the other mothers surrounding them and push aside the grief that goes unrecognized. It's complicated because in the years since that year, I have added children to my life that remain here with me today and those children are amazing and wonderful it's true, but there is always this tiny part of my heart that wonders what life would be like if she were still here, that first baby of mine.

In all likelihood, I'll write more about mothers day before we get there, so I'll move on from it all now. There are other things to talk about.

And it's Tuesday, so let's throw some stuff.

A Princess is born and the internet explodes...
Saturday, Kate Middleton gave birth to Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. It's been reported that she had a very quick labor, and the family left the hospital later that same day, stepping out of the hospital to cameras and the eyes of the world.

Since that moment, it seems like everyone on the internet has had something to say about Kate. The vast majority of the commenting is coming from women, other women, wrapped up in what she looks like.

It's so wrong.

All of it.

Some of them are in disbelief that she could look so good right after having given birth. Some insist that it's only because of the entourage of hairdressers and makeup people she has. Some devised conspiracy theories that she certainly must have birthed the baby days prior and hidden because there was no possible way that she looked that way immediately after having a baby.

Some talked about the dress she was wearing or the roundness (or slimness) of her belly. Some pondered how tired she must be or how sad it is that she is being paraded out in the public or how she should have known this would happen when she married into royalty.

And on and on and on.

Seriously, people. Can't anyone just say congratulations and wish them well anymore?

How she looks is how she looks. How much help she has or doesn't have to appear that way isn't really that important in the overall scheme of things, is it? I've known many women who walked out of the hospital hours after birth looking like they'd never been pregnant. It happens. I promise.

She just had a baby, and it's pure speculation to try and guess how she feels, though the internet is doing that too.

Honestly though, if I had to guess, I would guess that she probably feels amazing. I had one pregnancy with hyperemesis. I felt like a million bucks after that baby finally was born because I felt so awful the entire time I was pregnant.

How she looks, how round her belly is, how shiny her hair is, how big her ankles are...none of it has anything to do with anyone else. It isn't a judgment or a commentary on how women should appear after giving birth. It's not a criticism of anyone who isn't up and ready to go and made up immediately afterwards. It doesn't say anything about women who (like myself) look more like they've just been run over by a truck after birth.

It has nothing to do with anyone else. It has nothing to do with you or with me or with anyone but her.

This is her birth, her body, her baby.

Leave her alone.

The Cluelessness of Privilege and the Masks We Wear
I'm so sick to death of people defending racism, or dressing it up fancy and calling it something else so that it seems more justifiable.

It's to the point where I find myself avoiding my newsfeed like the plague because I'd rather not know how biased some of the people I call friends truly are. I don't want to see the links that try to explain away disparities in our society. I don't want to see the actions of one mother held up as the example, particularly by those who on one hand demand peaceful protests and claim to abhor violence, but then on the other act as though the impulsive outburst of a mother is something to be celebrated.

It's hypocrisy.

I'm asking you all to go read this link here. Then come back.

Do you do those things?

If you want to understand more about what privilege means, outside the scope of race alone, you can go read this piece that I wrote last year about it. It links to a survey of the most comprehensive list of the elements of privilege I've ever seen. So much of the issue of privilege is misunderstood. It isn't about apologies or anyone taking something from anyone else. So so so much of this discussion is just about acknowledging it exists at all. Pretending it doesn't will get us nowhere.

Presidential politics. Already.
The race is on, whether we want it to be or not. There have been a few developments in the last week worth noting. One is that Bernie Sanders threw his hat into the ring, then did some really kickass fundraising in a hurry immediately afterwards. His biggest hurdle is money, because he's going to have to raise a ton of it if there is any hope that he'll be able to take on the other players.

Because this is America, where money is really the most important issue when it comes to who should be elected President, right? Let's just be honest. It isn't about who has the best vision or the best ideas or the most integrity. It's about who puts out the most commercials.

Eyeroll so hard the top of my head hurts.

Carly Fiorina announced she was running too, but neglected to register the domain for her name, so it was snatched up by someone else who is using it to remind people of all those laid off when she was running HP. She dropped out of law school...and having been to that rodeo, I could tell you a few things about the people who dropped out of law school after one semester, none of which would qualify them to run the damn country.

There have been quite a few other people who've announced they are running lately as well.

Hillary Clinton, long said to be the Democratic front runner, actually did something that impressed me this week, which is pretty hard to do these days for a politician. She spoke out publicly about the events in Baltimore and the underlying issues. Talk is one thing, though...we need action.

Abstinence Only DOES NOT WORK because chlamydia.
The social conservatives have really done a number on the education system in many ways, one of the most glaring of which is the push towards abstinence only sex education. Shame based lessons that provide no guidance about birth control or STDs or pregnancy have created entire regions of kids clueless about sex.

It doesn't work.

There is a chlamydia outbreak in Texas right now as a result.

(because everything is bigger in Texas, right???)

What does work is legitimate information provided to kids in an honest and open setting, in a universe where they are actually given access to birth control methods. Like here in Colorado, where a private grant has paid for thousands of young women to have IUDs placed. Guess what???? The birth rate is WAY down. Not because we've shamed these kids into purity...nope. Because we educated them and gave them access to birth control.

Results aren't enough though, because as crazy as it sounds, there is actually a movement underfoot now to dismantle the program. You know, the one that works. The grant funding runs out this year and to maintain the program, it needs funding.

Republicans voted against it. One of the reasons given is that they don't want to be "subsidizing teen sex". Uh huh. Because subsidizing teen sex (if you even want to look at it in that twisted way), is less palatable than subsidizing the cost of a teen pregnancy and the assistance that may be required in the raising of that child.

Bangs head on wall.

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