Thursday, December 31, 2015

If it's not a resolution or a bucket list, WTF is it?

By now, you all should know that I'm not one to do platitudes. I don't do sweeping generalizations. I don't tell people that they should trust that things happen for a reason. That this next year will be the year of magic miracles and flying rainbow unicorns and happiness and all that.

Those things make me twitch, truth be told.

At the end of the year, though, I think it's human nature to take an inventory, muse about the things that have happened. The goals you'd perhaps set the year prior. Maybe you reached them, maybe you didn't. Maybe you just don't care about that anymore because life came along and gave you something else to do or told you that the thing you thought was important wasn't actually important at all.

I've had that last one happen so many times that it's essentially prompted me to stop trying to think I can control what happens. Plans are great and all, having goals is commendable, certainly.

Life just don't often afford us the opportunity to do a full check off on the list of things we think we want. At least for me it hasn't.

Instead of doing annual resolutions, I started a 40 by 40 list a while back. I'll be 40 in February 2017.

I try not to think of it as a bucket list.

I don't know what it is exactly.

Here's a picture.
Yay.

Here are the first 10. I haven't come up with the rest of the list yet.

1. I'd really like to scatter my parents ashes with my brother before then. I have to get their 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.

I wrote this last summer, and I'm now down to 13 months until 40. I don't know what the rest of the list will look like, but I've managed to check three things off already, four if we're counting the short trip I took for a friend's wedding where we only took the baby. Trust me, it was a piece of cake only having one kid to worry about.

I could totally get behind doing the podcasts, if I thought that there were people out there who would listen to them. Would you listen? Would I sound weird? Can I even figure out how to do it? What do you want me to talk about?

Maybe by my birthday this year, I'll have the rest of the list formed. Maybe.

But probably not.

After all, I'm not so good with following through on plans, and at some point I just accepted this truth about myself. It's amusing to me that I'm even making this list.

Have any of you done a 40 by 40 list or anything similar? What was on your list? Did you do it?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My Top Ten Posts of the Year

I haven't done one of these end of the year posts in a while, but I figured I should try this year. I haven't written nearly as much as I would have liked to, and I'm hoping to get better about that in the new year.

This list is an interesting one, for sure, demonstrating how wide the the range of topics I write about truly is. If you click on the titles, you can read them if you haven't already.

Thank you all for sticking around this year. xoxo

Here they are, in no particular order:

You know they say the road to hell is paved with good intentions 
I wrote this one as a response to all the people in the world who insist on platitudes and placating us, who insist on minimizing our pain and grief, who try to tell us that whatever we're going through isn't that bad.

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

Attachment Parenting as Children Grow Up
I wrote this one at request, as people were seeking more information on what attachement parenting looks like once kids are out of the toddler stage. Many people believe that AP is limited to infancy, or that it requires adherence to every principle to be legitimate. I disagree. AP is more of a general approach to how we've chose to raise our children.

Also, this is sexy as hell.


"...We don't expect or demand the same things from all the kids because they are all different people. What works for one won't work for another. What is a reasonable goal for one might be unattainable for another. We stay flexible, and we let them screw up. We just help fix it afterwards."

50 Shades of Abuse
I wrote this one when the movie came out, because it does a vast disservice to the BDSM community and portrays this relationship in highly unhealthy ways.

"...He tells her she can't leave him because he will find her. 

He dictates to her that she needs to take birth control.

He pushes her into doing things she isn't comfortable with.

Does any of that sound romantic?"

When the Tragedy is Local and the Horror is Real 
I wrote this in the wake of a horrific tragedy locally, when a pregnant woman was attacked, her baby cut out of her womb. The baby did not survive. When horrible things happen, people tend to rush to blame the place where it happened. Terrible things happen everywhere.

"...Nothing happened to this town. Terrible things happen everywhere. Live anywhere long enough and something will happen there. It's just reality. I grew up in a place with a bad reputation, with a name that still to this day leaves a bad taste in peoples' mouths. That place never deserved that reputation. This town where I live now doesn't deserve one either.

These two tragic stories have far more to do with mental health than geography."


We Ain't There Yet, A Guest Post from Anonymous 
This was a submission from a fan who asked to remain anonymous. It is a story about her fight for her child in a system that isn't equipped to help either one of them.

"...He set fire to my house and killed his sister all in one week, and went right back to watching Blues Clues. 

He melts down and calms down with out any notice, there are no indicators or blinking lights alarms don't sound, he just goes rageangerviolencecursingcryingsobbingthrowingscreamingkickingpunchingsuicidethreatsattemptsvoicessayingkillkillkill.... 

Then. Calm.

Mommy I love you.

I love you too."

5th Annual Photo Challenge Contest 
Always one of my favorite posts of the year, always one of my most popular. I host a 30 day photo challenge in June, then run the contest at the end. Learning, growing, sharing. It's amazing and it gets bigger every year.

friendship and loss and the lessons we learn 
I wrote this one, through tears, sitting on my front porch as I watched my daughter say goodbye to her very best friend in the world.

"...These two have known one another since they were first learning to walk. They toddled around the neighborhood together, trying desperately to keep up with their big sisters. They drove the little powerwheels jeep so fast they spun the tires bald, their blonde hair flowing in the wind behind them. We used to nervously laugh about what it would be like when they were driving for real.

And someday, they will both be driving, it just won't be together."


TTPMOT - the of course I am going there edition
The most read Things That Piss Me Off Post of the year, it was the one that I raged and ranted about the sexual abuse in the Duggar household.

"...Interesting that no one here is talking about the victims. Not Josh, not his parents, not the apologists.

They are but a mere footnote in this story, as they've been raised to believe that they are.

They, the female children, are just waiting until they can bear the fruit of their husband's will, at the mercy of his whims and wishes.

These girls were victims long before they were victims."

50 Things About My Mother
I challenged myself to write this one after seeing something similar online. My mother and I, we had a relationship that can only be categorized as complicated, though that doesn't seem big enough a word. I wasn't sure I'd be able to come up with 50 things, but by the time I got to the end of the list, I could have written four more posts.

"...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."


One of those women
Finally, one of my most personally revealing mental health posts, one where I talked at length about my personal struggle with postpartum depression. I share for my sanity. I share so others won't feel alone. I share to help lift the stigma. I am one of those women.

"...we need to admit that this happens far more often than most people realize. Then we need to confront the fact that most of what we believe about post partum depression is wrong. We need to understand that the images we are fed are misleading.

Postpartum depression looks like me."

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Ten *More* Things We Should All Stop Doing In 2016

I know, I know.

I hate lists. I hate writing them, a lot of people hate reading them, but there is just something about the last week of December that makes me feel compelled to write things in this format. Again. The first list went live yesterday. If you haven't read it yet (and you may not have because my mobile app erased half of it for a while...technology hates me), you can find it here. 

Sorry for the lists.


I apologize.

Wait, no. I don't apologize.

1. We should stop apologizing for the way we are. 

Heh. See what I just did right there?

The apologizing is out of control these days. I find myself doing this all the time, and it drives me nuts when I hear the words coming out of my mouth. I'm sorry I'm sad. I'm sorry I'm happy. I'm sorry I share things. I'm sorry I don't share things. I'm sorry I'm angry. I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry. Blah blah blah.

It needs to stop.

I am the way that I am, and you are all the way you are. It's not something we should feel compelled to apologize for. Take me or leave me, this is who I am.

2. We should stop trying to censor what children are taught.

This one is especially irritating me in the new world I'm living in as a homeschooler. I want to believe that people teach their kids for academic reasons, for medical reasons, for mental health reasons. That they keep them home for some compelling reason having to do with the school system's inability to meet the needs of that specific child given their specific situation. I want to believe that. I know that there are many people out there doing this for those reasons. I do.

There are a lot doing it for other reasons though, ones having to do with trying to limit exposure, control the curriculum, shield their kids from whatever they perceive the evil in the world to be. Those people, I'm in groups with some of them online. I left many of those groups recently because I couldn't handle the amount of censorship going on, not just with what the kids are being exposed to, but within the group itself. No one puts Baby in a corner.

It isn't just the homeschoolers of the world though. We live in a world where parents forced a school district to close because of an Arabic lesson, where creationism is put into science textbooks, where sex ed is removed entirely because parents can't stomach their kids learning about penises and vaginas and IUDs and HIV. (p.s. humans are sexual creatures. deal.) We live in a world where the vast majority of the history books ever written have been penned by those in power, from the perspective of the people in control, where the stories of literally everyone else have been ignored and left untaught. That creates a situation like we have now, where entire generations of people have been raised to believe that the stories told in their history books are the only ones that matter.

They aren't.

3. We should stop telling people how they should feel.

Ooooh, this one makes me start hopping around and doing high kicks. I hate this so fucking much, and I see it all the time. People, probably well intentioned ones, have even done it to me on more than one occasion. You'd think I have a warning label on my forehead by now, but apparently not.

Regardless of what is going on in someone's life, regardless of whether something similar has happened to you or to your friend or to your neighbor's uncle, twice removed....you don't get to tell them how they should feel about it. People get to feel however they want about the things that happen in their lives. Insisting that they should feel anything different does a vast disservice to them, minimizes their true feelings and shouts from the rooftops that you are incapable of actually being supportive to them.

Just stop it.

4. We should stop giving out unsolicited advice.

This one goes out especially to all the people who like to tell other people how to raise their kids. You know what is even worse then this phenomenon, though??? Ready for this??? The only thing I have found worse that human sanctimommies are pet sanctimommies. If you think people shaming you for parenting choices is bad, you haven't ever posted a picture of a dog wearing pajamas online...

Every person is different, every parent is different, every situation is different. We're all different. What works for you most certainly won't work for me. If I ask for help, please offer suggestions...but if I don't, please don't try and tell me that I'm doing it wrong.

5. We should stop believing there are arbitrary age limits how we dress, do our hair, etc.

This one annoys me as a freak flag flying nerd and cosplayer. I'm probably too old to paint my nails black and dress like a superhero. I'm probably too old to keep my hair long and buy t-shirts at Hot Topic. (p.s. they still let me in the store) I'm too old to ________ (literally insert anything there).

I'll do me.

You do you.

I really don't care how old you are or I am as long as we're comfortable in the skin we're wearing.

6. We should stop insisting that our experiences translate to other people.

This is a wide sweeping blanket request, applies to literally anything in the world. Have you only ever had friendly interactions with the police? Have you successfully breastfed your child without supplementing? Did you love your c-section? Have a totally functional relationship with your parents? Are you only surrounded by people who own and store guns responsibly? Were you able to receive help for mental health issues successfully? Did medication work for you?

Great!!!!

I'm super happy for you.

Your experience means nothing for anyone else, though. It's limited to you and you alone, and you can't think that your experiences translate to someone of a different age, race, gender, health status, etc etc etc.

7. We should stop condemning women who need help postpartum and instead find ways to help them.

This one is a fresh wound for me, given that there was yet another story in the news this week, this time of a mother who committed suicide while her children were with her. As soon as the story broke, the internet jumped all over her, condemning her situation, blaming her for what she'd done. The truth is, as much as the media thinks they're being accurate, what happened was a result of postpartum psychosis, not postpartum depression. They are related, but different conditions. It's an important distinction. Acting like all women with PPD are homicide or suicide risks actually makes it less likely that women in need of help will seek it out, actually makes it more likely that the stigma will keep them from calling, actually makes it more likely that a women teetering on the edge of psychosis won't get help in time.

We need to do better, we need to get her help and we need to do it before she kills herself in the car in front of her kids, instead of claiming to do it after she's gone.

We need better support systems, not just within the medical establishment, but among friends and family. We need to keep an eye on one another, ask the hard questions, offer to help, build resources.

8. We should stop qualifying what we're about to say because no good comes from that kind of justification.

You know this one, I'm sure.

The "I'm not a racist, but...." or "I have a gay friend, but...." or "I don't mean to offend you, but..."

Yeah.

It doesn't work. You can't magically erase the effect of whatever it is that follows those statements with the qualification. If anything, it makes it worse.

9. We should stop ruining things for other people.

This seems to be something that the internet encourages...as if there is an entire segment of society that gets off on ruining things for other people. Haven't seen the new movie yet? HERE IS A SPOILER. Haven't watched the latest episode of your favorite show yet? HERE IS A SPOILER. Posted a selfie? OMG YOU ARE SO FAT. Share a picture of your kids? JUST WAIT UNTIL THEY ARE TEENAGERS. Frustrated with your parents? YOU KNOW THEY WILL DIE SOMEDAY.

Don't do that.

Let people be happy. Let them share what they share. Let them enjoy this moment or be frustrated in this moment.

10. We should stop picking on anyone who loves something different than we do.

Do you love the NFL? Major league baseball? Video games? Knitting? Comic books? Skiing?

Awesome.

I'm all about everyone finding the things they love and doing them with unbridled passion.

What isn't cool is mocking people who don't happen to love the same things you love, calling them names, picking on them. Not cool. For whatever reason, this phenomenon seems to have ramped up lately because of Star Wars, and it's "trendy" again to declare that you aren't a geek.

If you haven't seen the movies and don't get the appeal, that's fine. If you have seen them and still don't get it, more power to you. Honest. It's not everyone's thing. We don't all have to love the same things.

Just let me put my hair in Leia buns in peace. Mmmkay?

I think I'm done now, Hive. 

Maybe.

But hey....I'm writing again....so there's that.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Ten Things We Should Stop Doing in 2016


A few years ago now, I wrote a post very similar to what I'm envisioning for this one. A post full of all the things that people should stop doing in the new year.

It's that time again, though the list from last time could bear a revisit. If you haven't already read it, or would like to again, you can find it here. It had good things like "stop talking. start listening" and "stop making judgments based on hypotheticals".

I fully expect this one to catch me some heat. Posts like this one usually do.

Anyhow, off we go.

1. We should stop being afraid.
There is a troubling trend in our society right now, one that seems to be working magnificently for some politicians (or wannabe politicians). It is this: tap into whatever deep rooted fear people have, focus disproportionate amounts of energy on it, and convince people to make decisions based on those fears, regardless of whether or not that fear is grounded in anything legitimate or not. There are people who are profiting from that fear. There is someone attempting to win the Presidency relying on the fear. Don't let them.

2. We should stop taking things personally.

I've said this before and I'll say it again - it's not about you. It's not about me, either. If there is any lesson I've learned in this lifetime more than the others, it's this one. One person's choices, actions, words, decisions almost never have anything to do with other people. Almost never. That doesn't, by the way, mean that those choices, actions, words or decisions don't affect other people, for they almost certainly will. It just means that people do what they do for their own reasons. It really isn't about you. Honest.

3. We should stop blaming victims.

Just in general, we should do this. Rape isn't about what a woman is wearing, child abuse isn't some slippery slope where children at one point deserve what is coming to them, 12 year old boys in parks gunned down within seconds of police rolling up aren't to blame for their deaths. Hold the people who make decisions to harm others accountable. Stop making excuses. Period.

4. We should stop policing women's bodies.

Just today a friend asked if drug testing in pregnancy is required everywhere. Sadly, it is becoming more and more common for states to pass laws stripping women of even the most basic rights just because they happen to be gestating. We seem to have no issues supporting patient autonomy in any other area, but pregnant women have fewer and fewer rights with time. It isn't just the pregnant women either. It's about limiting access to birth control options, about refusing funding for IUD programs proven to cut the teen birth rate in half, about girls being sent home for wearing leggings at school, shamed for being a distraction to the boys in a class just because they have bodies, women being told to cover up while nursing while people compare it to defecation.

5. We should stop being hypocrites.

If you want to enjoy a world where you can post whatever you want on social media, then demand that the rest of the world either refrain from commenting or agree, lest you defriend them immediately, then you sure as hell shouldn't be trolling other people's pages and entering comment wars. If something offends you, either engage it and deal with people engaging you or scroll on by. You can't have it both ways, and if you only ever surround yourself with people who agree with you, you'll never learn where other people are coming from, you'll never see the world through someone else's eyes and you'll never be forced to see the flaws in your own logic. There's a damn good reason that I encourage respectful discussion of controversial issues on my page. I want to know not just what you think, but why.

6. We should stop calling each other names.

The internet has become a place where people hide behind their keyboards, simultaneously calling anyone who disagrees with them a bully and often acting like one themselves. If you automatically label anyone an idiot (or use any one of the long long long list of names I've seen people called) just because of their opinions, no one is going to take you seriously. No one. Respect goes a long way.

7. We should stop assuming the worst about people and instead have compassion.
That parent with the screaming child in the grocery store? That young mother with 6 kids who look like they must have different fathers? That woman in the headscarf on the street? The homeless man on the corner? The woman who commits suicide? The child who is habitually ditching school? The bully making life hell for someone else?

Got some news for you all...there’s more to their story than whatever you see in the small seconds you observe them. That parent might be dealing with a child on sensory overload. That young mother might be fostering her friend’s children, or they may all be hers and they may all have different fathers and it’s not your business to comment on it either way. The woman in the headscarf might be Muslim, she might not be. It’s none of your concern. The homeless man has a story long before this day. He sees you. See him. The woman who commits suicide might have battled demons in her head for seconds or decades and you have no idea what led her to this place. The bully has, in all likelihood, first been a victim. Probably still is.

Snap judgments, assumptions, snide comments and rude remarks, online chiding of “I would nevers…”, they do no one any good. They may make you feel better. Bigger, stronger, more stable, whatever...but only for a moment. Compassion gets your further in life. It gets us all further.

8. We should all be more mindful of what we say.

This one got me monologuing in the shower today. I was musing aloud to my naked self, as I’m oft to do, about whether it’s hypocritical for me personally to ask others to be considerate of the world around them when I haven’t always been that way myself, when I still struggle at times even now. I don’t think it is. I don’t think it is because people necessarily change as we get older. We evolve, hopefully. We learn better, so we do better.

What I mean by asking that we should all be more mindful of what we say is that we should all take a moment to pause, run whatever is about to come out of our mouths (or keyboards) through our minds for a half a second, and consider what someone else would hear or read. Think about what we put out there into the world from the perspective of someone, anyone else but ourselves.

Of course doing this requires privilege checking. (told ya this one was going to ruffle some feathers...I'm here to make you uncomfortable...)

We cannot control what other people do with what we say, we cannot dictate the set of eyes that they see the world with or the ears they hear things we say with. We cannot alter how they twist our words, what they take personally.

We can, however, do our best to mean what we say before we say it.

9. We should stop competing with one another, and we should absolutely stop shaming each other when we feel like we can't compete.

Oh, the internet. So fun.

I've seen so many of my friends post a birthday cake they made or a gorgeous posed photo of their family or a pregnancy announcement or an album of vacation pictures...only to see someone in the comments come along and shit on their happiness, make it about them, compare this person's life to their own, use the post as some vessel to unload their personal insecurities. Life isn't a contest. Motherhood isn't a contest. None of us are going to win, and none of us are losers either. We all have things we kick ass at doing, we all suck miserably at other things. Personally, I'm rooting for us all. Most people online only ever share the good stuff, which seems to have warped an entire generation's self worth. I try to keep it real and share the good and bad, which...not surprisingly...has led some people to accuse me of being negative or pessimistic. I am those things sometimes. I'm also oozing with happiness sometimes.

10. We should stop believing anything blindly. Ask questions instead.

I truly believe that skepticism is a good thing. Questions are good things. Doubt is important. Blind faith in anything can be dangerous, especially if it's something that resides online. (No, Zuckerberg isn't going to give you stock, and no you shouldn't share that post just in case.)

Don't blindly share things. Do a little research first. Check sources. Check the credibility of those sources.

Ask where the data comes from. Ask who funded the study. Ask why they wanted the study done. Ask who tried to quash the results, or who skewed the data. Ask who made it impossible for the research to be done in the first place. Ask who stands to profit from the outcome. Ask who controls the information. Ask who writes the history books. Ask who writes the laws and who is funneling them cash. Ask who. Ask why. Ask how.

Question everything.

Teach your kids to question everything.

And then teach them to go find the answers themselves.

Happy New Year, Hive.

2016.

Let's do this.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Let's Go Bake Some Cookies and Shit.

I haven't had time to write consistently in so long that I'm starting to wonder if I've lost it. You know...it. There was a time when the computer would whisper my name, when I'd have running lists of things I needed to write about, when I felt compelled to find time, however I needed to do that, to come here.

I think the internet has sucked the joy out of writing.

I've been attacked so often, called names. I've had people make assumptions about me, about the people in my life, about the things that have happened. Those who tend to make those assumptions never seem to realize that we, the writers of the world, don't tell all the stories.

We don't.

For every story written down, there are countless left untold.

When you're like I am, and as seemingly open about things as I appear, that might seem odd. For certainly, there can't be more?

Oh, but there is.

So.
Much.
More.

These past weeks have been difficult for me. They always are anyway, the holidays and all the emotional baggage. The reminders of people who aren't here, whether they have departed from this life entirely or just from mine for one reason or another.

I didn't send cards this year. I just couldn't do it. I dragged out the address book to mail a package earlier this week and was reminded yet again of why. The book, one that I've had since we were married, full of addresses of people gone from my life. The dead. The disconnected. The divorced. The disowned.

It's just too goddamned much sometimes.

I've been edgy all week for a whole bunch of other reasons. My anxiety is ramped way up, so up that all my physical indicators are flashing their red lights at me. The insomnia, the heartburn, the carpal tunnel, the jaw, the sciatica. The feeling like I've been on the verge of a full blown panic attack for over a week now. It's a bit ridiculous how much my body punishes me for internalizing these things.

My husband, the good man that he is, he sees it. He nudges me away from the ledge, tries to reassure me that things will be okay, that we'll find a way to work through whatever it is. Urges me to believe that I'm not just some liability in this world when that's all I can see.

He sees it now, forces me to sit down and talk to him.

We weren't always that way, he and I. We became that way, by necessity. It wasn't a great path to walk, one that I highly recommend you all avoid if at all possible, but it was one that ended here. We're far more functional people as a couple these days, far more grounded, far more supportive. Instead of feeding into one another's fears and anxieties and pain, we balance one another now. He can see the edges of me, feel the sharpness, immediately see how fragile I am and how close to losing it I am, and he tempers that. Now.

It wasn't always that way, and I was reminded of those things in the past in the most unusual way this week. Reminded of just how far we have come, of how bad things really were.

That was the last straw. Sent me down the rabbit hole a bit. I'm crawling out now, slowly. Trying anyway.

I have to try.

Fuck that. 

I have to do it.

Do or do not, there is no try. Right?

I have to do it because Christmas is in a few days, and no matter what else is going on in my life currently or in the past, I have five kids who need me to get right with myself, who need me to muster whatever joy and happiness I can find.

And I need to do it because my burdens can't become theirs. 


I won't allow it.

Let's go bake some cookies and shit.

You with me?

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