Friday, August 28, 2015

The journey to marriage equality

Earlier this week was the 95th anniversary of the day women gained the right to vote in this country. I saw many people sharing links about the date, the significance of it all, and I couldn't help but laugh at the tagline Facebook attached to the story. "Happy Women's Equality Day!"

I wouldn't go that far.

It's not as though finally being given the right to vote automatically conferred equality then - after all we had to be "given" that right by men and women of color were in many places stopped from exercising their rights fully for several decades to follow. Things weren't magically equal between the sexes then and they still aren't today, though we've come a long way.

The fight for marriage equality is happening today, in real time, in living rooms and church pews and statehouses and bakeries and hospitals. The fight for true equality doesn't begin and end with the recognition and inclusion of the marriage contract alone, just as the quest for equality among the genders didn't begin and end with the right of suffrage.

There are so many obstacles standing in the way of full marriage equality still, not the least of which are the comprehensive laws on the books across the nation permitting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. This map provides a pretty eye opening display of which states permit which types of discrimination.

Ultimately, though, this post is about more than all that. It is about the idea of marriage equality as a construct, one that, even if extended without reservation to the lgbt community still isn't fully inclusive.

Marriage, at its simplest, is an agreement between consenting adults. Attempts to narrow that definition in any way will inevitably fail a thorough challenge.

For example, marriage does not exist simply for the creation of children. Babies are conceived and born out of wedlock as easily and often as they are within the boundaries of marriage. Not all married people want or can have children. Some marriages take place later in life, past the point where fertility has diminished. None of those people are "less" married in the eyes of the law.

Marriage, real marriage, is something beyond all that. It doesn't fit into tiny boxes, it can't be easily categorized. There is no normal, even if we've been raised to believe that the nuclear family version is the only acceptable one.

Marriage takes as many different forms as there are married people in this world.

I know plenty of traditional couples. Him. Her. Kids.


Some of them fit the mold just like we're told they're supposed to.

Some of them hardly see each other at all, living almost entirely separate lives. On purpose.

Some of them routinely vacation alone or with friends instead of one another.

Some of them have worked through marital trauma.

Some of them are staying married just until the kids are out of high school.

Some of them stay married for other reasons.

Some of them married out of convenience and expectation, because it was what they were supposed to do.

Some of them have left first or second or third marriages, some have remarried, some have pledged never to marry again.

Some of them have open marriages where they are free to explore relationships outside the marriage. Some of those are expressly sexual in nature, others are more focused on the emotional components of the relationship being fulfilled outside. Those in open marriages don't hide anything from one another and it is all done with express consent, approval and permission.

Some of them are closeted bisexuals, refusing to tell even their spouses that they are attracted to both men and women, but remain faithful to the marriage because there is a difference between sexual orientation and fidelity. I'm going to repeat this one. There is a difference between sexual orientation and fidelity. 

Some of them are openly bisexual.

What works for one marriage is none of my business, not any of my concern. It works for those individuals and as long as they are in agreement, that's all that matters.

For that matter, there's a compelling argument, one which I wholly support, in favor of polyamorous marriage. Polyamory exists in forms other than the highly religious polygamy we've been spoonfed on reality television. I know several polyamorous families forbidden from legalizing their bonds to one another for the simple fact that there are more than two of them. They live together, raise their children as one cohesive unit. In many ways, poly marriages would actually be more functional than two person marriages, particularly in the area of parenting, because of economies of scale. More adults in a home setting means that more of them are able to pursue full time careers, fewer need to be present for the raising of children. It's amazing to see in action, though that requires you get over whatever your preconceived ideas of marriage are supposed to look like.

I'm not sure at what point people in this country became so hyperfocused on how other people live their lives, while at the same time defending their absolute right to do as they pleased in their own lives.

I wouldn't want someone examining my marriage from the outside, condemning or condoning the choices I've made. I doubt anyone out there reading this would either. Just because I might not choose something for myself doesn't make it wrong for someone else.

Why then does it matter how other people's marriages work? Why does it matter what they look like or who they include?

Short answer.

It shouldn't.

I'll do me.

You do you.

Let's talk about the journey to equality, not claim we're already there.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A place called there

It is often said that life isn't about the destination, but is instead about the journey required to get there, wherever there is. That all assumes that a place called "there" exists.

I know that my vision of there has changed dramatically over the years, altered irrevocably by the very journey I believed myself to be on in order to get there.

I've never arrived.

You have to wonder though what happens in the event someone ever ends up exactly where intended to someday, or at least these are the things I wonder about. What happens when and if the life train pulls into that station? If you've completed the precise goal you always intended, if you've done what you planned, if you've completed whatever brought you to that point?

Obviously most of us never get there, wherever it is that our individual theres might be. Life interferes, it laughs abundantly in our confused faces and pulls us off the tracks, setting us down on some other track that we never even realized existed until that precise moment, one that had remained hidden until life illuminated it, usually under a blinding spotlight.

The new destination, often unknown at least initially. We usually need time to process the track left abandoned, the one that we'll likely never see or travel again. We need time to mourn, and often we need time to even realize that something worth mourning is gone.

For me, that track, the one that went one way while I went another, it remained in sight but just out of reach for a very long time. Lord knows that I tried all I could for far too long to get back there. Well over a decade of misplaced efforts reaching for a life I'd never live, of wishing for something that would never be.

How much time I wasted chasing this imagined life of someone I wasn't anymore.

Since the first major time there was altered irreversibly in my life, there have been others. Many others.

Some of them were relatively minor alterations to the course of my life, while others were entire re-writes that began with a sudden ceremonial burning of the book I thought I was writing, both literally and figuratively.

I wasn't supposed to be a writer.

This thing that defines me more than almost anything else, something I never imagined someday being.

Some of the paths in my life were revealed to be deceptions, falsehoods, places I thought I was going but never was, not really anyway.

These experiences changed me more than any other in some aspects, solidified who I truly always was in others. Maybe they just revealed the truth.

This version of me on this journey now to wherever it is that I'm going is a hell of a lot different than any prior version.

I've set and achieved goals in my life, sure, but never felt like I was there, mostly because I'm not even sure where there might be anymore.

Just one of the many lessons I have learned, thanks in large part to all my derailments.

I wonder though, are there people who get there someday? Then what?

I'd imagine that it's only ever even possible if a person was to attain the pinnacle of their chosen field or accomplished something of great significance. And then what - where does one go from there?

The answer surely can't be a book deal and lifetime of speaking engagements, can it?

Or perhaps there has nothing to do with measurable success, at least not for most people. Perhaps there is simpler, smaller, more attainable.

Perhaps there isn't a destination at all.

Perhaps there is here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the holy hell I'm getting old edition

Hey. I probably don't have much time because the battery on the laptop is slowly dying and the baby has been asleep for just over two hours. But, for the love, I need to get some of this stuff out of my brain.

* Aging Gracefully

Sure, it's great in theory until more and more people in your house approach and/or surpass your height and can tell you when it's time to dye your hair again. And ohmygodmom it's so gray now. What happened?

Hmmm, child. I have some theories.

As I was sitting with the dye on top of my head today, I decided to tackle my eyebrows, only to realize upon having a good close look that a whole bunch of them are gray now too. White really. Like invisible. So, not only do I still have bushy eyebrows in the places I don't want them, I have to fill in the rest because it's so sparse up there.

Yes.

Aging.


But enough about me.

* Birthright citizenship

Oh for the love of Thor, where am I even supposed to start with this one? This is the new sexy issue for the presidential candidates to argue about, one that is so deliciously enticing to them because it feeds off subtle (and not so subtle) racism.

There are some (far too many) people in this country who don't seem to understand that birthright citizenship is actually part of the Constitution. It's in the 14th Amendment. Anyone born subject to the jurisdiction of the country (i.e. within the borders is one of the ways), is a citizen by birth. End of story.

This whole rhetoric is based on a lot of half truths and flat out lies about illegal immigration in this country that have been spun so far out of proportion that it's hard to see where the little snippets of truth really are anymore. Candidates are getting defensive about their use of the term anchor babies, refusing to see that it's offensive. The children born here are citizens. Period.

If anything, they're actually born at a pretty significant disadvantage since their birth doesn't automatically confer any benefits at all to their families. They can't petition to have their parents stay, their parents can be (and are far more often than most people realize) deported. In those cases, the children often leave the country with the parents because the only options for them to stay are if there is a family member not being deported, or getting placed into the foster care system.

This movement underfoot to remove this type of citizenship is a bit on the preposterous side when you consider what would actually have to happen if it were to be eliminated - a Constitutional amendment. The last amendment ratified in modern times was the 27th, having to do with Congressional salaries. It took 202 years to be ratified. The 26th amendment lowered the voting age to 18, a far more recent amendment, passed quickly. In 1971.

The equal rights amendment was never ratified because there was too much disagreement about it. The likelihood that an amendment removing birthright citizenship would even get through Congress and even make it to the states is minute; the chances of it ever being ratified, virtually nonexistent.

Let's not make this any more than it is - political posturing that feeds on fear and racism.

* Ashley Madison and the fallout

The site is disgusting. I hate that it exists, I hate that there were so many registered users, I hate that there are people all over the country (well, world, I suppose) hurting because of the fallout of the data hack. I'm concerned (enough) about the users who were revealed to be on the site, but I'm more concerned about their spouses and families.

There are a few things I wanted to briefly discuss though, food for thought if you will.

- The data is reporting that between 90-95% of the users were male. Assuming that many of them were on the site in the hopes of finding a female affair partner, you have to wonder how many of them actually met someone physically in person through the site...or if they were all talking to bots the whole time. Chances are decent, in my mind, that just because someone registered on the site doesn't mean they had physical contact as a result.

- Having said that, intent matters. Intent fucking matters a lot, because looking for an affair requires someone to willingly discard their personal integrity and honesty in the relationship they're supposed to be faithful in. That first step is the biggest one. If you don't want to stay, leave. Don't cheat. FFS.

- Even as hard as it is to feel sorry for those who've had their affair seeking revealed, the size and scope of this data breech should be alarming to anyone. Just because this group is hard to conjure sympathy for doesn't negate the enormity of the information being hacked here.

- There are many more victims than those revealed to be on the site. Their spouses and families are victims here too, though those releasing the information may believe that they're doing them a favor. Finding something like this out is hard enough, but to have to do it all so publicly ups the ante for all involved. Nothing like public humiliation to go with your ordinary humiliation.

* Frat Houses 

There is yet another story this year about signs being hung from fraternity houses telling parents to drop off their freshman daughters there, (and mom too).

Hardy-har-har.

So funny. Not.

For the love.

When I was a freshman in college, I rushed sororities. Not because I had any interest in it at all, but because my Mom REALLY REALLY REALLY wanted me to do it. Fine. Whatever.

I got all dressed up and tried to be nice to a bunch of strangers. Then we went for a walk down the row. Most of the frats had guys outside, organized, watching us walk up and down the street. A few had drug out the couches so they could be more comfortable during the viewing.

One held up signs rating us as we walked by. I left and didn't go back the next day.

Over 20 years ago.

This shit isn't new, but it's still fucking disgusting. This isn't just one fraternity at one school. This is what rape culture looks like, you guys.

* This week in post racial America

There was a group of black women, members of a book club, kicked off a winery tour train because they were being too loud. Those who refuse to see that this is racism at work defended the action as necessary because of the noise level. Except that groups of white women haven't been kicked off in the past, no matter how loud they were. Mmmhmmm.

There are two competing dialogues about the anniversary of Katrina going on right now, and the distance between them reveals a lot about the state of race in this country. In the area hardest hit, whites are far more likely to be pleased with the rebuilding efforts and progress, while blacks are far more likely to say that work still hasn't been done.

It has taken a long time, but there are finally some real changes taking place in Ferguson. A judge issued an order withdrawing all outstanding arrest warrants that are more than a year old and reissued all licenses that were suspended for reasons like missing a court date or failing to pay a fine. There are accusations of a strong bias in the legal system there, amounting to what is referred to as a debtors prison that disproportionately affected blacks. This will clear the records of many people. Change, goddamn...it's slow and hard, but every step forward counts.

Alrighty then, my battery light is flashing and I'm being paged by a tiny man. Rage on, my friends, rage on.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Making Peace With the Girl in the Mirror

The post below was one that I wrote over a year and a half ago. It's been sitting, unpublished, in my draft folder ever since. I couldn't bring myself to hit the publish button then, for whatever reason. I'm publishing it now, unedited, because it's time.

I may not like who I've been in the past, I may not like who I am capable of becoming, but I refuse to hide it anymore. Admitting it is hard, but necessary.

------------------------------------------

I write about mirrors here a lot. Even my guest posters have written about them. Sometimes they are the literal mirrors, the ones that show our physical beings to us accurately, whether we want them to or not.

It's rare that I'm literal around here, though most of you probably already know that by now.


Usually when I'm talking about mirrors, I'm talking about reflecting on more than our physical selves. More than just checking our makeup and hair, straightening those collars, eyeballing the lines sinking deeper and deeper into our skin. I'm talking about seeing who we are, who we really are, far beyond the physical.

I find it harder to lie to myself when I'm looking in a mirror. It forces me to be honest with what is going on, even if it hurts.

The past few years have been growth years for me. Growth, whether physical, mental, emotional or spiritual, doesn't come without the requisite growing pains. It hurts, this process.

I've forced myself to admit things I don't want to admit. I've owned my responsibility for choices I have made, people I have hurt. I have replayed events in my head like a broken record time and time again, trying to tease out what really happened, then somehow trying to reconcile that with what I had allowed myself to believe.

It mostly started a few years ago, in, of all places, my childhood bedroom. I had retrieved a bag of belongings from the attic where I had hidden them away years before then. Things I thought I needed to keep, things I could not let go of, but things I didn't want with me until then.

In that bag was a box, and in that box were letters and notes that had been written on loose leaf paper in junior high decades earlier. Little pieces of who I was, who they were, folded up in different shapes, passed under desks and hidden in lockers. Secrets. Questions. Polls.

Some of them made me laugh. Some of them were pleasant memories of the friendships I had back then. Some of them, bitter reminders of the people who went one way while I went another.

Then there were the hard ones to read. The ones that told me that I was wrong about so much I had believed. That I was the one to blame. That I was the reason they all distanced themselves. That they tried, oh how they tried. Some of them tried far longer than they should have.

I sorted them. Put them in chronological order. Then I saw it.

The notes told me that they did the best they could until they couldn't do it anymore. That they walked away because I was toxic and damaged and I was damaging them and none of it was fair.

At the time, and for most of my life afterwards, I blamed them. I thought they abandoned me. I thought someone had spread a rumor or told a story or tossed me under a bus and that they all believed whoever this mythical enemy was. I was hurt because I truly believed it all.

Then, twenty years later, sitting on my bedroom floor, I re-read the letters and notes and I saw it.

It was me. It was always me.

I was in a bad place. A bad, bad place. Being in a bad, bad place is not an excuse for what I did. It's just the reason I was such a mess, coupled with who I am hardwired to be.

I was fourteen and I was lost. My parents were struggling with their marriage and I was too old to be insulated from any of it. I was drinking. I was drinking a lot. I managed to hide the drinking from them both for a very long time since they were preoccupied with what was happening between them.

I was teetering on the edge of the bottle already. At 14.

I had taken up smoking too, stealing the cigarettes from my parents.

I smoked my first cigarette at an Al-Anon meeting. Ironic, yes?

I rationalized it all. Told myself that it wasn't me.

I did things, some terrible things, to people I loved, friends I cherished, all of whom deserved a better version of me than existed at the time.

I rationalized it all. Told myself that it wasn't me.

I still struggle with guilt now for what happened then. Realizing that the monsters weren't out there, but right here inside of me was an unsettling to say the least.

It took me almost twenty years to see it.

Once they'd all distanced themselves from me, I wallowed a bit. Things got a lot worse before they got better. I was bitter and angry and blinded to my role in it all.

I stopped smoking because I could feel myself becoming addicted. I wanted to feel my lungs burn and then do it again. Over and over. I knew that if I didn't stop then that I would never be able to. I knew that it would kill me someday just as I feared it would kill my parents.

I stopped drinking because I had no one to go to parties with anymore. I didn't drink again with any regularity until I was in college, until I was older, until I had a better grasp on it all.

I stopped because I was slipping down into the rabbit hole.

I live in fear of that rabbit hole every day.

All those years later, I realized why I had kept that box and tucked it away. I needed to read it when I was finally ready. I needed to face who I was, I needed to see the truth. I needed to understand that I wasn't the victim, but that they were.

I needed to confront my past.

I needed to take a long hard look in the mirror.

I'm not that girl anymore, but now I embrace the truth that I can become her. I know that I have been her. I remember. I own it.

I still haven't forgiven her yet, but we're on the way.

I'm learning to make peace with her, one mirror at a time.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Before you go to school this year, 2015 edition


To The Oldest,

Good lord, what happened? No, seriously though, how did you get to be this old? It seems like it was just last year that I put you on the bus the first day of kindergarten and followed it to school just to make sure you were fine (you were). Tomorrow you're starting high school and it is all surreal. Well, for me it is anyway. You seem perfectly okay with it all, especially since you've spent more time hanging out at the high school than anywhere else lately.

I wasn't prepared at all for what we were agreeing to when you said you wanted to do drumline last year, but I will forever be grateful that you did it. You've grown up so much just in these past few months, you've found something you love to do, a group of people that share that joy. I wonder now what high school might have been like for me if I'd have had half of your confidence back then, if I'd have been brave enough to join something as huge and time consuming as band. I see how much fun you're having, how excited you are to begin this next chapter. It's amazing. 

This year is going to test you, push you, ask more of you. School is about to get a whole lot harder, in part because you asked for the challenge. You can do it, I know that you can. There are times it seems like you're being pulled in a million different directions and I can tell you that isn't going to get better any time soon. You just made Life Scout last night and I know you want to finish Eagle. That won't be easy either, but I know you can do it. We're here to help.

Friendships are going to change more than they already have. You'll meet so many new people. Some of your old friends will still be there, some of them won't. Sometimes you'll understand why people leave, sometimes you won't, and it will always hurt at least a little bit. You're going to fall in love, and chances are that someone who has no idea how lucky they are to have you love them won't appreciate it. That sucks and there's no way I can tell you to avoid it because it's just part of life. I'm supposed to tell you that whoever you meet in high school won't matter ten years from now, that high school relationships don't last...but you know I can't do that because I was only a few months older than you are now when I met your father. It can happen. 

Make good choices. (I'm going to say that a lot this year. Like A LOT. I'll probably yell it at you a few times.) Stay organized. Get your work done first, then do everything else. Learn a lot. Play hard. I'm proud of you.

To Freckles,

It's weird because I'm sitting here not even sure where to start. You're so ready for school to start back, you've been prepping for it all summer. You read every book in the house, some of them twice. I even managed to convince you to read Jane Eyre

School is your happy place. You love to learn, you love to be with your friends. You thrived in middle school last year, and now you're a veteran middle schooler. I don't have to tell you that because you already know. 

I know you know

This year will be one that teaches you many things, not the least of which is how to deal with a teacher you don't love. The downside to looping teachers is that if you get one that doesn't fit great, you're stuck with them for the duration. It's not the worst experience in the world though, because the truth is that you will always be surrounded by people that you don't get along with perfectly. Learning how to do what needs to be done anyway is a huge life skill. I wish you didn't have to learn it this way, but believe me when I tell you that you'll be glad you learned how to do it now instead of being forced to do it for the first time as an adult. You aren't going to like everyone and everyone isn't going to like you. Real life isn't preschool, and we don't have to all be friends. Honest.

You had me sign you up to play soccer again this year, this time through the school. It's been a couple of years since the last time you stepped off that field, and I know that there's always been a little piece of your heart that regretted giving it up. It will be hard, soccer has always been hard for you with your lungs. We'll have to wait and hope that you've outgrown at least some of that asthma. If not, though, we'll figure it out and do whatever we have to do to keep you running. 

You've grown up so much this past year. You've made some amazing new friends, cultivated relationships with the ones who've always been there, seen more than a few fade into the background. And you've done all of it, every single bit of it, with grace. You've stayed as far away from drama as possible, you've bowed out of conflicts, you've said no thank you to the petty arguments and disagreements. Life will be much better for you if you can keep doing that.

Stay grounded. Keep learning how to deal with people you don't like, because that is never going to change. Stay quirky and unique and funny and kind. Continue to read everything you can get your hands on. Run as fast as you can. I'll be on the sidelines, just far enough away, cheering you on quietly so things don't get weird. 

To Mini Me,

Walking into the school last night was bizarre. It didn't really hit me until then that you'd be the big kid on campus now. Back when we first moved here, when your brother started school there, you were just a baby. You learned to crawl in those hallways. 

I remember how much you mourned the day when your brother finished there, when he wasn't going to be around anymore. You used to run up to him and hug him whenever you saw him on the playground. You thought it would be weird without him there, but it wasn't. You were fine. You thrived. Made a name for yourself instead of just being so and so's little sister. 

Then your sister left. By then, though, anyone who knows you two had long since realized just how different you are. You are a million questions, with a little bit of worry and a whole lot of glitter. And now you're the big kid. It just doesn't even seem possible. 

You've worked so hard this past year, pushing yourself more and more with reading. You read an entire chapter book in one day this summer, and if I'd told you last year that you'd do that someday you would have told me I was crazy. But you did it. 

There is so much to look forward to this year for you, so many new experiences and adventures. So many opportunities await you in these next few months. Camping trips and choir concerts and projects and more. I know you worry about school getting harder. It has and it will continue to do that, but you're so much smarter than you ever give yourself credit for. I look at you and I see someone who has to fight a little harder for everything, but you do it. You always do it. 

You know that your brain works a little bit differently than most peoples do, and that's okay. For so many years I believed that it was a hindrance, these brains of ours, yours and mine, but I know now that I was wrong. I was so wrong. We see the world in all the ways other people never do. We hear more, we see more, we feel more. Sometimes it takes everything in you to sort out the noise, to quiet the clutter, to concentrate on the task at hand...but you know what? Sometimes that chaos is really beautiful too. 

Stay passionate. Keep working hard every single day. Believe in yourself, and know that if there is ever a moment when the doubt sneaks in, I'm here, rooting for you. You can do it. You can do anything. In heels.

To Little Boy,

When your teacher saw you last night and the first thing she noticed was that you've grown so tall, I choked up a little bit. You have grown. A lot. All the pants you've finally outgrown are evidence of that, but it's not just the length of your legs that has changed. Not even close.

When you started first grade last year, we were unsure how it would go. Nervous. To say that kindergarten had been rough for you would be an understatement. It was awful, almost all of it. You walked into first grade without the tools you needed, but your teacher equipped you quickly. She figured out your quirks, she caught on quickly to how you learn best. And you thrived. 

This summer, we've spent so much time focusing on sight words, trying to boost that basic set of vocabulary to get you reading confidently. I hope we've made some progress. It feels like we have. You just need to remember that you can do this. Read it out loud if you have to. If it sounds wrong, correct it. If you don't know it, sound it out. I know it is hard, but I know you can do it. 

Do your best in the classroom to listen, to behave. Be funny when it's okay to be funny. I know that sometimes you truly just need to run for the fences, and I hope that the schedules this year allow you to do that. When you get outside for recess or p.e., run. Trust me. Run. There's a reason I have you run around sometimes at home, and it's because you need to let that energy out. 

Stay sweet and kind and generous. Work hard. Run whenever you get the chance. Do your best. I don't care how many spelling words you get right. I don't care how many math problems you can do correctly in a minute. I never have and I never will. Those things don't measure how smart you are, don't for one second believe that they ever could. 

To LAK,

Last year when I wrote this, you were still living on the inside, stirring up trouble already. Determined to come into this world on your own terms, you were. As I write this, you're letting go of the furniture and taking 3 steps, then 4 steps, then 5 until you fall flat on your face, then getting up almost immediately and doing it again.

I can't wait to see who you are, aside from stubborn and persistent.

You could slow down just a little bit though. Your mom is old and sentimental and you're the last baby. 

Humor her occasionally.

Friday, August 14, 2015

To The One Who Runs Everywhere He Goes

Dear Little Boy,

The countdown is almost over. The days you've been crossing off on the whiteboard this week have almost run out. Tomorrow morning you'll wake up and magically you'll be a seven year old instead of a six year old.

I'm sure that you'll tell me that you feel older and taller and bigger and stronger.


And you just might be right. You're at the age now where it seems like you change overnight sometimes. You've always been picky about your shoes, never a fan of anything that ties, but you told me a few days ago that you really need to work on tying shoes anyway because seven year olds tie their shoes.

This morning, you came in to show me you'd taught yourself how to do it.

That's how you've always been, teaching yourself. You were riding a two wheeled scooter before you were 2, able to ride a bike without training wheels when you could hardly reach the pedals. I don't even remember pushing you on the swings, it seems like you always knew how to pump your legs. You haven't met a tree you didn't want to climb or a wall you didn't want to jump off of yet.

You scare me. I've learned both to look away and to trust your agility. Somehow, your fearlessness rarely translates to injury. When you have been hurt, it's always been for silly things, never for the scaling of walls.

3 days old.
Man, you were teeny.
You exhaust me. You still run everywhere you go. Most kids outgrow that as toddlers, but not you.  Nope. You have enough energy for 16 people, and I wish that I could tap into it for a little while. You push yourself to the limits, you want to go faster, higher, longer. Maybe it's all those years of trying to keep up with your older siblings, maybe it's just who you are, maybe it's a combination of both.

You make me laugh. You are hilarious, sometimes without even trying. That sense of humor is going to get you into trouble if you don't watch it, and I'm sure you'll spend more time sitting in the principal's office. You've already been there more than the rest of your siblings combined. Try to reign it in, especially in class. Be funny when it's time to be funny. Work when it's time to work.

When you were 4.
You are wickedly smart in so many ways. Show the world that. Trust me. The world isn't going to know how smart you are unless you show them, and that means you're going to have to pay attention and try hard and not worry about what other people think about you long enough to show them. Reading doesn't come easily to you, but you've come so far in the past year. You can do it. I know you can. I can help you and I can cheer for you from here, but I can't make you want to do it. That has to come from you.

You are brave. You've grown up having issues with your blood sugar and you've had to endure a lot more poking and prodding because of it. Just when I start to allow myself to hope that you're finally outgrowing it, your numbers start to edge up again and we have to wait and watch some more. No matter how much I've ever worried, though, you've been strong. You've been brave. You've been independent. You want to do the tests yourself. You know that regular blood draws are quicker and easier and so you just sit, braver and quieter and stiller than kids twice your age. You're brave because you have to be. It's pretty awesome to watch.

You crave the outdoors something fierce, but can do a netflix marathon with the best of them. I'm pretty sure you are actually Beast Boy.

You are always the first one to volunteer to help. With anything, even the yuckiest of chores and the most menial of tasks. You want to help. You help me, you help your father, you even help your siblings. You do it without complaint, without any expectation of repayment from the universe. You just give, without question. It's beautiful.


You are caught between wanting to grow up and wanting to stay little. You so desperately want to be older until you want to curl up in my lap and then you want to be both. And you are both. I feel like you might always be both. I've called you my baby chicken since you were a little guy, tucked in firmly underneath my wing. At some point, you started calling me chicken mama. I ask you what happens someday when you grow too big to fit on my lap, and your solution is a simple one - I can just sit on yours. You'll always be my baby chicken, and I'll tuck you under my wing for as long as you need me to.

You are so full of joy. You do it all big. You love hard, you play hard, you try hard. You know when to fight to do something alone, you know when to ask for help...which is something most adults can't figure out. I'm not sure how you know that already, but I'm going to guess you taught yourself. Because that's what you do.

Stay happy. Stay hilarious. Stay energetic. Stay kind. Stay generous. Stay my baby chicken for as long as you want.

I love you more first,
Mom a.k.a. Chicken Mama

p.s. Dragons like ramen. But only the red kind.

Monday, August 10, 2015

20 Questions To Ask Your Kids This Year

I have done a few different things like this over the years, little surveys with the kids. Some focused on them, some focused on their perceptions of the world around them. Every time I do this, I'm taken aback by some of their answers.

I'm hoping to take them out for a photo shoot today since we haven't done one in a while. I always mean to do a session with them around their birthdays, but forget to more often than not.

In the next week or so, I'll be asking each of my kids these questions. I urge you all to do the same. Maybe not with these questions, maybe not every year, but do it and write the answers down. You'll be grateful you did someday and so will they.

We are not talking about the fact that
this picture was five years ago.


1. What is your name?

2. How old are you?

3. What grade are you starting this year?

4. What are you the most excited about learning in school this year?

5. What are you afraid of right now?

6. What is your favorite thing to do?

7. Where is your favorite place to go?

8. If you could spend all day with just one person, who would it be?

9. What do you want to be when you grow up?

10. What is your favorite animal and why?

11. What are you the most proud of?

12. Can you describe your mom/dad in three words?

13. What new skills would you like to learn this year? (ride bike, tie shoes, drive, etc.)

14. What is your favorite song and why?

15. What makes you happy?

16. What makes you angry?

17. What is the best dream you've ever had?

18. What is your favorite outfit/pair of shoes and why?

19. Can you describe yourself? How tall are you, what do you look like?

20. Can you tell me what the best day ever would be like?

Friday, August 7, 2015

What this old mom would tell the new parents as school begins

Hey, Mom. Hi, Dad.

I see you.

I'm the one hanging back, clinging to the little piece of shade that I staked out years ago. I've been here for a while now, some days it seems like I've been here forever.

Maybe because I have been here forever. I've had kids walking through these doors for ten years straight now.

You're new here. This must be your oldest? First day of school, huh?

I remember that.

The shiny new backpacks and the ironed shirts and the hair combed just so.

Maybe you have a younger baby perched on your hip or in a stroller beside you. Maybe you're pregnant with the next one in line.

I see you fighting back those tears, trying to be strong. Whispering words of encouragement in unsure ears, whispering to yourself as much as to them.

It seems like it was just yesterday that I was you, bringing my oldest baby to school for the first time filled with anxiety and worry and hope and trepidation. I remember the nerves. I remember following the bus to school for the first week because he wanted to ride it and I wanted to let him, but I needed to make sure he got where he needed to be.

wikipedia
I was that parent. I was you, not so long ago.

I remember the pangs in my gut when that bell rang for the first time and the door to the classroom opened, like a portal to the future of some kind where the child who entered was never coming back again, where the child who would exit that door just hours later would somehow be more grown up, more independent. Different.

I remember dwelling longer than I should have, making small talk that even seemed unnecessary at the time, trying to get a glimpse into the person who'd be guiding him in this new endeavor.

I remember bowing out of the room after locking eyes with my baby one last time, knowing that it was time to go. I remember knowing in my heart that he'd be okay, that they'd all be okay, that even the little one crying in the corner was going to be okay.

I remember knowing that we had to go. We all had to go. We had to get out of the room and out of their sight and away from it all so that the teacher could do the most important job of the first day of school and hug whoever needed it most for however long they needed it.

I remember sobbing in the car, watching the last five years pass by my eyes in an instant. It goes by so fast, and it will only get faster, that much I can promise you.

Time never slows down. I know that now.

I remember how ridiculous it felt to be so upset. I remember people giving me a hard time about it all, telling me I was silly for feeling those feelings.

I'll never tell you any of those things because I get it.

I'll tell you the truth about parenting. It's bittersweet, almost all of it. You'll be proud of every single milestone, and you'll cry. A lot. They will mostly be tears of happiness. You're going to cry a lot at school, and those of us who've been here a while are used to it. We'll pass you a tissue. We get it.

I remember how eerily quiet it was at home without that one there. Even if you have younger kids still at home, something changes when the oldest goes to school. And then something changes each time another one goes. It gets quieter and quieter and all those moments of chaos and exhaustion and frustration where you'd longed for silence seem like a distant memory now with them gone.

Even if it's for a few hours.

I remember how much I thought I'd be able to get done without them there, and just how little I managed to ever get done. I remember finally sitting down alone for the first time in forever and not knowing what to do with myself.

I remember watching the clock, waiting for it to be close enough to being time that I could justify sitting in a parking lot. I remember pulling into that parking lot and not being alone, seeing it filled with the other new moms and dads. Nods of solidarity.

Eventually, we'd get out of the cars, find our way to one another, make introductions that began with the names of our children instead of our own. We weren't just us anymore, from this day forward for all of eternity, we were so and so's mom or dad to an entire group of people. That wouldn't ever change. It won't ever change. Some of us would and will struggle with that reality. Some of us will lose ourselves entirely, wrap our whole identity up in being mom, in being dad. Some of us will find a way to make our peace with it. Some of us never really will. You'll see.

I remember waiting outside those doors again for what seemed like forever, wondering what was going on behind them. Did he makes friends? Did he have fun? Did he eat his lunch? Did he struggle? Is he where he should be? Should we have waited another year?

Finally, the bell would ring and the door would open and children would emerge, one at a time, desperately scanning the faces of all the parents waiting.

I remember when I saw his face that day. Smiles. He ran to me and told me all about school. What he liked and didn't like and how he made friends but he can't remember any names yet. He still does that now, by the way. Even in high school.

But, oh I remember that first time.

I remember him almost falling asleep in the car on the way home the first day. I remember how exhausted he was, how long the adjustment took.

I remember the relief I felt when I knew for certain that he was going to be okay.

Since that first time, I've done it three more times, each child with a different set of circumstances, a different set of needs, a completely different personality. I've felt all those feelings and all that relief every time, and I see you.

I see you.

I feel you.

Breathe.

It will be okay.

They will be okay.

And so will you.

Trust me.

I've been here forever. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

It might almost be time.

Though it might seem like it from the outside, that it might seem like I share so much about myself and my life, in reality there is a lot I choose to hide.

Some of it purely for privacy reasons, some for the protection of people I love. 

Some to protect myself.

Some because I know that if I open up that part of my soul, I might never get a handle on it again. If I set what is in there free, if I let it out, I might never be able to contain it.

Some of those stories were revisited yesterday in the confines of my mind.

There are things that happened in my life, awful things, where I know in my heart and in my soul that I did the best I could.

It wasn't enough.

Not because I failed, but because it never could have been enough.

I could have never been enough.

I tried.

I know all that in the parts of my brain that are rational and reasoned.

It's the parts of my brain that are hurt and sad, where the little girl who wasn't good enough resides, where the one who was blamed and discarded lives. Those parts, they are trying to wield their power over me.

They are trying.

I won't let them win.

This isn't on me. It never was.

There is a book that I've outlined, that I've worked on when I have been able, that I've largely avoided writing for too long for fear of what other people would say.


It might almost be time.

I have some things I need to do first, but it might almost be time.

There's a quote that resonates so much with me when it comes to all this, one that I have to remind myself to read every so often.

“You own everything that has happened to you. 
Tell your stories. 
If people wanted you to write warmly about them, 
they should have treated you better.”
~Anne Lamott

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the dog days of summer edition

This is about the point in summer when I really start to hate being hot. I'm not a hot weather person. I adore rain and I love the 40s. Yes, the 40s. Fahrenheit.

Summer is hot and gross. There is nothing worse than hot wind except perhaps for windless days when the mosquitoes come out like the flying evil they are. Plus, the flies are here now. I'm predicting that fall shows up a little early this year just based on the early arrival of the flies. Usually they aren't this bad for at least another few weeks.

I'm whining.

Whatever. It's Tuesday. That's kind of my thing on Tuesdays.

It's funny because I have several family members who tease me incessantly for writing this weekly rant, but you, the people, seem to love this stuff. So, off we go.


Really with this crap?
In case you ever wondered why so many people in the world completely hate Americans, I can tell you that the controversy over big game hunting is a prime example of a wholly justified reason. In the past week, several people aside from the ahole dentist have been revealed to love paying tons of money to kill animals just to hang a head on their wall.

If you want to hunt for meat, fine. Totally legitimate.

If you want to hunt to help control populations of animals that are known to be problematic, fine. Keep in mind, though, that humans are often the reason the populations are out of control in the first place because of habitat issues or destruction of predators or a whole host of other reasons.

If you want to try and defend big game hunting of this type in Africa as some kind of conservation measure, or claim that locals get the meat or that all this money is being funneled into the local economies, do some fact checking before you climb up on that high horse.

Human beings are more complex that we give them credit for
There's this trend lately that any time something happens that causes people to be outraged (see above), if someone mentions that thing, then someone else comes along and accuses them of being a terrible human because they aren't outraged about something else instead.

Here's the thing.

There is a lot of shit to be mad about. A lot of it. If you think there is only one issue, you aren't paying attention...either that, or you genuinely think that only one thing is worthy of your attention at a time, which is your own prerogative I suppose.

Most people are capable of thinking about more than one issue at a time, though, and just because someone mentions one doesn't mean they aren't worried about other things too.

Having said all that, I can't help but take issue with the level of outrage some people express about some things, or their inability to care at all about other things.

This issue ^^^ has a few layers, one of which is first world privilege, personified. The whole idea that I can't handle worrying about this or this or this or it doesn't actually affect me so I just won't confront the fact that it exists. 

In other words, I can ignore it because I can.

Planned Parenthood
There is so much misinformation out there about PP right now.

I posted the following on my FB page last week.

Heeeeeeey.
How's everyone today? I still need to write about marriage equality but now people are asking me about planned parenthood.
So here goes.
Planned Parenthood does abortions, yes. They do far more preventive care, screening, birth control and well woman care.
It is illegal to profit from the sale of fetal tissue. It is illegal to use fetal tissue for research without consent. It is NOT illegal to assess charges for processing/storage/transport of tissues legally obtained and legally consented to be used in legal research.
I am a bioethicist. Given the choice between disposal and using fetal tissue in research, research is preferable because there are many diseases and conditions that we can learn more about and treat through this research.
I am a supporter of choice. I trust women to make their own decisions. I trust providers to care for their patients.
I don't trust heavily edited videos churned out by groups with political agendas.
I stand with Planned Parenthood.

3% of PP's services are abortions. 3%. The other 97% of services are preventive care, STD testing and treatment, wellness, birth control, cancer screening and more. They provide services to both men and women, and in many areas, they are the only provider of birth control services available. They do not receive federal funding for abortion services except of cases of incest, rape and when the mother's life is in danger because the Hyde Amendment prohibits it expressly. 

The attacks on PP are politically motivated. The man behind the videos has ties to violent extremist organizations. The videos being released are heavily edited. 

Like it or not, fetal tissue is used in research. It has been for decades, and is something that has always had bipartisan support in Congress. The alternative is to just dispose of the tissue, which would be a complete waste and detrimental to active research on many diseases.  Fetal stem cells have been used to develop vaccines, HIV/AIDS treatments, eye disease treatments, to treat spinal cord injuries, to treat Parkinsons and more. 

Far too often those railing the loudest about the right to life, demanding that PP be defunded, that abortion be banned don't see the flaws inherent in their own thinking. They aren't pro life, they're just pro birth. 

There's a difference, and it's a big one.

If a person was truly pro-life, they'd want to ensure that the child born would have access to medical care, food, adequate education. They'd worry about the health and safety of that child's parents, about their housing situation. They'd rail as hard against the death penalty as they do against abortion. They'd be as outraged about gun violence as they are about pregnancy terminations. 

Yesterday, the efforts to defund Planned Parenthood failed in the Senate, but this fight isn't anywhere near over. 

I stand with Planned Parenthood.

Monday, August 3, 2015

40 by 40....or things I might do in the next 18 months

I've been seeing a lot of people posting their 40 by 40 lists lately, and that probably has more to do with the fact that I'm a teeny bit younger than most of my friends than anything else, the byproduct of having skipped a grade in school.

They're all starting to creep up on that nice round number and I'm sitting here at 38 1/2, trying not remind them all that I'm a year younger than they are.

Just kidding.

Anyway, I thought that maybe I'd work on a 40 by 40 list too even though aging really isn't something that bothers me all that much.

I used to set goals and deadlines for things in my life, had a short list of things I wanted to do by 30. One thing. I wanted to be done having kids by 30.

Um.

I was 37 when I had LAK last year. Insert maniacal laughter.


I think that the motivation behind this list is pretty easy to identify. Milestones make us look forward and back, make us question where we are in life, if we're where we thought we would be, if we've done what we thought we would. All that. 40, for some reason, seems to be the most dreaded milestone.

I guess.

I'm not there yet. But it's coming.

I highly doubt I'll be able to come up with 40 things here, and this will be something I add to (hopefully).

1. I'd really like to scatter my parents ashes with my brother before then. I have to get my parents ashes first...which is a long damn story. Ugh.

2. I'd like to go to Washington D.C. since I've never been there before. (I know....I KNOW)

3. I'd like to run a mile. Just once. I've never been able to run a whole mile in my life, even when I was 15 and ran every day. I have bad knees. I have asthma. I tend to end up in a pile on the ground gasping for air almost immediately then limp for a week afterwards. I don't know why I want to do this, but it is mostly because I've never done it.

4. I'd like to finish one of my books. The problem is that I don't even know which one I should be working on right now. They're all so emotionally draining.

5. I'd like to start doing podcasts. But then people would be able to hear my voice and that freaks me out.

6. I want to get back to the beach by then. I miss the ocean.

7. I want to get at least one more tattoo. I have some of the funds squirreled away and I know what I want, it's just a matter of finding a place and deciding where I want it.

8. I want to finish repainting the rest of the downstairs, get everything back on the walls and not hate the color. Long story, but last time I did this, I chose poorly and then had to live with it a long time.

9. I want to travel more locally, go places we haven't been yet here in Colorado.

10. I want to go on a trip with my husband and no kids. Somewhere. Anywhere.

11-40. I'll figure those out later. Maybe.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Something Borrowed

There are many third rails I've discovered in my journey through parenthood.  The biggest one being breastfeeding.

It's such a hot button issue that there are two categories of bloggers who talk about it: those who stir up controversy on purpose, and those who generally avoid it and talk about it only in passing.   I generally fall into the latter of the two.  I've mentioned it here, yes.  I nursed all my kids, the first three exclusively.  Little Boy was supplemented, but only right after birth for weight issues and after he turned a year. LAK was supplemented with donor breast milk in the hospital after birth for health reasons until my milk came in.

I'm a doula, I'm a natural birther, I'm a breast feeder.  I'm crunchy. 



I don't write about nursing often. I know that it is a super emotional issue where just about any mother can be instantly offended.

Breastfeeding really is the third rail of motherhood, and I'm about to touch it.

The FDA issued a statement about milk sharing it a few years back, basically saying that informal milk sharing is dangerous and if people need to obtain human milk they should only do so through use of milk banks. 

The reality is that there are many babies who need breast milk for health reasons.  And some of their mothers cannot make enough milk, or any at all.   I will, for now, ignore the fact that most women who don't think they can make enough milk probably could in reality if given the proper support and determination.  Milk insufficiency, though a legitimate condition, affects a very small percentage of women. 

So, what you have is babies who need milk.  And women who pump too much.  They just don't always happen to be mother and child.

A lot of people are just grossed out by the whole idea of milk sharing.  I think that is amusing to say the least.  In this country, we drink milk without an issue....as long as it comes from another animal.  But drinking milk from a human???  That's just plain weird. 

Many people cite the dangers of milk sharing.  They say that you could be exposing your baby to all kinds of diseases and substances passed through from the donor mother without knowing what is in it.  Some cite storage concerns, that the milk may not have been handled and frozen properly and is therefore dangerous.

How is any of that more worrisome than the formula recalls?  I almost died as a baby from salmonella....that I got from a jar of baby food.  Don't believe that the food supply is safe just because it's nicely packaged from some corporation.

There are milk banks, yes.  It is possible to get breast milk that has been screened for disease and processed.  The banks collect donated milk and pasteurize it, which negates a decent amount of the health benefits of breast milk in the process.  The thing that most people don't understand about milk banks is this: they aren't free.  They charge insane prices per ounce of milk.  When you figure that most babies will need somewhere between 24 and 60 ounces of milk a day, that adds up quickly.  Sometimes insurance covers it, sometimes it doesn't.  I know I don't have $300 a day to feed one child.

So there are moms out there who ask their friends, their family members.  I'd say that most cases of milk sharing are not between strangers.  It's not like women are swapping milk in dark alleys with people they don't know.  They know the women who give them milk.  They trust them.  The donors understand how important the milk is.  Most women who spend the time pumping and storing milk are not going to be doing it for anything other than altruistic purposes.  It's extremely time consuming and not very much fun to be honest.

Women helping other women feed their babies.  It's not anything that hasn't happened since the dawn of time.  It's just something that happened quietly before and is now out there in the open.  And the FDA has an opinion about it now.  So everyone suddenly has an opinion about it. 

Frankly, I don't see what the big deal is.  Everyone always gets defensive when people talk about how we choose to feed our babies.  I don't honestly see how this is different.

This is one of those topics that is close to my heart.  Once upon a time, I pumped religiously every day.  Once upon a time, I had a baby who refused to take a bottle.  Once upon a time, I had a freezer full of milk.  Once upon a time, I had a friend who had to instantly wean her newborn.  And once upon a time, that baby still got breast milk until her first birthday.  ;)

Link to what the FDA says about milk sharing
A local milk bank site, for information on cost. Here, $3.50 per ounce.

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