Friday, January 29, 2016

Kefir: What it is and How to use it

What is Kefir?
Kefir is a sour drinkable fermented beverage, made usually with milk, containing yeast and probiotics. It is made with kefir grains, milk and time, simple as that. It is very slightly alcoholic, just as a result of the yeast breaking down the sugars in the milk. The probiotics are abundant, and are the main reason I started drinking it myself, and then making it.

Kefir is available commercially, but can get quite expensive if you have several people in the household drinking it. This is the biggest reason I started making it at home. We were buying 4 bottles a week. Ack.

Kefir is traditionally made with cow's milk, but can be prepared using just about any drink containing sugar, including soy milk, coconut milk, fruit juice and more. Water kefir is something different than what I am discussing here.

In order to make it at home, you will first need to find kefir grains. The grains themselves aren't actually grains, just referred to as such. Kefir grains resemble small clumps of cauliflower, and are white or slightly yellowish in color. 

Here is a picture of mine at the moment, still coated in the last batch of strained kefir.

I know, I know....looks pretty gross. Hang with me, I promise it will be worth it. 

Anyhow, kefir grains can't be "made", you are going to need to find some grown from an existing batch. As you make kefir at home, the grains will multiply and grow. The extras can be shared with friends. I found mine online, but many people have luck looking on craigslist locally as well. Natural health food stores may carry them in your area, or be able to put you into contact with someone who has them.

Why Make Kefir?
Kefir is full of probiotics, the benefits of which are several fold. Most people in our society don't have a strong gut flora, leading to a variety of issues. Add onto that the existence of antibiotics, some of which can wipe out your good bacteria along with the bad, and you can start to have digestive issues, among other things.

Personally, I have a history of IBS and indigestion, among other things. Aren't you glad you know that? I kid...I kid.

If you have a personal or family history of digestive issues, I highly recommend you try this. Of particular interest for me personally is that I've seemed to develop a hint of lactose intolerance as I've aged. When kefir is made, almost all of the lactose is consumed by the yeast, leaving very little of it left afterwards. I don't have digestive upset when I drink this, but I do with ordinary milk.

How Do You Make Kefir?

  1. Procure some kefir grains.
  2. Spoon them into a glass container. I use a quart sized mason jar.
  3. Cover the grains with about 3 cups of milk. I use whole milk from our local dairy.
  4. Cover the jar with a cloth. You want it covered, but you want the kefir to be able to breathe. I use a washcloth, secured with a rubber band around the top. 
  5. Set it on the counter at room temperature and wait. The time will vary depending on the temperature and how active your grains are at that moment. 24 hours is good rule of thumb. It will take a bit longer when it is cold, can be quicker when it is warm. 
  6. When the liquid has thickened and you see chunks floating around the top, it is ready.
  7. Using a plastic strainer, strain the kefir into a new clean container, reserving the grains in the strainer. 
  8. Kefir can be consumed immediately or run through secondary fermentation at this point. Store in the refrigerator. Grains can be immediately placed into a clean jar and used to make another batch.

Secondary Fermentation
I prefer to use a secondary fermentation process for my kefir. I've used several different options to do it, and it's just a matter of personal preference which you might try. My favorite is to toss in some boiled lemon peel, but I usually use lemon juice because it is simpler. I have used fresh and frozen berries as well. All you do for secondary fermentation is to throw in something with more sugar (I only use fruit or fruit juice), shake it up and put it in the fridge for another few days. It thickens the kefir more as well as flavors it.

I Have SO Much Kefir. What do I do?
It can get ahead of you, for sure. As the grains multiply, you will need to pull some out to keep the ratios right or add more and more milk. If your ratios are off, it will start to separate into clearish liquid and thick chunks. If you have a fridge full of kefir and don't want to keep making more, strain off the grains and put them into a small glass jar, then put them in the fridge. They'll keep in the fridge for quite a while without feeding them. When you are ready to start making kefir again, know that it might take a little longer for them to "wake" back up. 

Kefir Smoothies
I tend to drink it straight, but most of the people in my house will only drink it in a smoothie. Here's my go-to breakfast recipe, and what I drink almost every morning. This recipe makes enough for 2 people. Toss it in a blender and enjoy. 

- 2-3 cups of kefir
- 1 large banana
- 2 tbsp chia seeds
- 1 tbsp wheat germ
- 1 cup frozen berries
- 1 cup washed kale, stem removed

One smoothie, three of your daily servings of fruits and vegetables, lots of protein and all the probiotics you need! 

I hope that I've answered most of your questions! If you have more, please add them in the comments. 

Happy bellies = happy people. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Marianne Williamson is Wrong.

Up until yesterday, I'd never heard of Marianne Williamson.

She is a writer and a motivational speaker with over 600,000 followers, one that appeared on my newsfeed because of something she'd written about mothers with post partum depression. Here is the text of her post, taken directly from her Facebook page:

CODE ALERT: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says women should be "screened for depression" during and after pregnancy. Their answer, of course, is to "find the right medication." And how many on the "Task Force" are on big pharma's payroll? Follow the money on this one. Hormonal changes during and after pregnancy are NORMAL. Mood changes are NORMAL. Meditation helps. Prayer helps. Nutritional support helps. Love helps.

Her target audience is women. She writes her books for women. Thousands of women follow her. 

After perusing her page briefly, I knew immediately why I didn't know who she is. I would never choose to follow someone like her, someone that insists that prayer and faith and positive thinking seem to be the cure for all that ails the world. I'm far too much a realist to engage ideas such as the ones she promotes.

If they work for you, fine. It's just not my cup of tea.

Anyhow, after writing that post yesterday, a few of my friends, friends who are currently more vocal in the movement to ensure adequate care for postpartum mothers than I can be, friends who fight for women every single day, they started responding. 

They shared her post. They shared their stories. They took to Twitter like the warrior moms that they are and tried and tried and tried to make people understand just how wrong she was in making her statement.

By employing strategic quotation marks, she makes it seem like "depression" isn't real. That depression during pregnancy and in the postpartum period isn't real. That the feelings many of us endure aren't real. That those of us who've flirted handily with psychosis were just imagining it all. She insists that the goal here is to "find the right medication" for women who might be struggling, and that those on the "Task Force" must be on big pharma's payroll. 

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Asking, demanding, requiring providers at all stages in pregnancy care to screen women for mental health concerns is a huge step forward. Pregnant women can come into pregnancy with pre-existing depression, they can develop depression during pregnancy, they can develop it afterwards. Post partum depression can lay dormant for weeks or months after delivery. 

For many women, particularly those with otherwise uncomplicated pregnancies, those well-baby checks and single postpartum recovery visit may be their only contact with the health care system at all. 

Asking the providers caring for these women to run through some questions, take a few moments to evaluate how mom is doing emotionally, to check and see if she might have developed more than just the baby blues, and yes, in some cases, to recommend medication is not a part of some larger conspiracy to turn women into catatonic addicts at the mercy of big pharma. 

It is not. 

"Hormonal changes after pregnancy are normal."

Post partum depression is NOT normal. 

"Mood changes are normal."

Post partum depression altering mood is NOT normal.

"Meditation helps."

Of course it helps some women. It doesn't help them all.

"Prayer helps." (?)

Maybe it helps some people. A suggestion like that would anger me endlessly. I certainly wouldn't recommend it as a part of any standard medical protocol. Not everyone believes the same things. Not everyone prays. Women shouldn't be made to feel that some higher power could somehow remove the chemical imbalance in her head if she just prayed hard enough...because if you believe that, then you must also believe that the higher power caused it in the first place.

"Nutritional support helps." 

Of course a balanced diet and exercise help. Those things won't help everyone.

"Love helps."

Of course love helps. Love can't cure diabetes or cancer or depression. It can't. It's not enough for everyone.

The very definition of post partum depression involves the set of symptoms she ascribes to the baby blues, but lasting longer, or occurring in greater magnitude than she seems to realize exists. 

I was fortunate to escape PPD with my first child. With my second, the voice started whispering in the back of my mind. With my third, I fell down the rabbit hole, deeper and deeper and deeper still. I fell for over a year. I didn't get help even though I am a doula. I am trained to recognize the symptoms. I knew something was wrong. I KNEW. And I did nothing. It spiraled out of control until I ended up hysterical one night in bed. I suffered alone, in silence, for over a year.

When my fourth child was born, it didn't return as badly. My provider did an excellent job of following up with me. 

And then my fifth came. I prepared this time, knowing that it might come back again. I had my placenta encapsulated. I had long stopped hiding the condition, telling myself that I could keep it a secret and it would go away. It came back anyway. 

I wrote this last night on my personal wall. 

More people need to read it. 

Lots of mothers live with PPD. Some suffer with it more than once. I'm one of them. I'm making this public on purpose, because those of us who've been down that tunnel and escaped need to speak out now.
Some of us recover without any major interventions necessary.
Some of us seek therapy.
Some of us meditate.
Some of us encapsulate our placenta the next time in the hope it won't come back.
Some of us need medication.
Too many of us do nothing.
Too many of us don't have help.
Too many of us don't have support.
Too many of us are mocked for the ways we heal.
Too many of us are judged.
Too many of us are laughed at by people we consider friends, family.
Some of us never recover.
And because of that truth, some of us will die.
Some of us will die.
Do you hear me?
Some. Of. Us. Will. Die.
Can you hear me now?

To all the mothers out there right now, whether you're in some stage of treatment, whether you've just started to develop symptoms, whether you're trying to convince yourself that you're fine and it will go away...please, please, please know that Marianne Williamson is wrong. She doesn't speak for me and she doesn't speak for you. 

Please talk to someone. Please seek therapy if you need. Please ask for help. Please be open to medications if you need them. 


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Occasionally Random Quote Series of 2016 - Albert Einstein

When I said occasionally random, I truly meant that. Obvs.

“Never memorize something that you can look up.” 
― Albert Einstein

In a world where the education system seems increasingly obsessed with timed tests, where kids are spending more and more and more time being assessed, quotes like this one really make me think we're doing it wrong.

My eldest child, the one currently in a math class 3 grade levels above grade level....

He couldn't memorize multiplication tables.

He just couldn't. 

He still can't. If you were to ask him what 11x12 is today, he'd stare at you for a while, then guess incorrectly at least twice before he actually replied with the correct answer.

He doesn't do rote memorization well. He never has. His success in math has never hinged on how fast he could recite 6x8=48...except back in elementary school when he felt like a constant failure for not being about to spit it out immediately.

As he got older and his true actual math abilities began to reveal themselves, we realized that the memorization requirements weren't helping a kid like him. They were hurting him. 

Think about that. 

Here is a highly intelligent kid who felt like an idiot because he couldn't memorize things he'd never actually need to memorize. The school system convinced him he needed to do it accurately and immediately in order to succeed....except it was a lie.

He uses a calculator now. Everyone does.

It isn't just math either, these simple words by this genius here could apply to just about anything. 

How much time and energy do we invest in this life memorizing things we don't need to? This is particularly true in this digital age. Anyone with a smart phone in their pocket now has instant access to a vast amount of information online. 

If we weren't spending so much time memorizing things we don't truly need to, just imagine all the things our brains could be doing instead. 

Thinking. Dreaming. Creating. Analyzing. Inventing. 

We should probably listen to Einstein. He was an actual genius, one who failed abundantly in school at that. Maybe he knew more about this than we do...

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the slow down world, this list is too long edition

At some point, I stopped adding things to this list because it was getting too long and I was getting too angry. Apologies to Sunday and Monday, because I just stopped watching and reading the news for a few days. I'm sure some horrible stuff worth mentioning happened, but we're all full up here for now. No vacancy.

Let's get this over with.

Welcome to white privilege, 2016 edition
When I first saw the picture on Facebook, it was only a few minutes old and I sat, shaking my damn head for a long, long time. A high school in Arizona gave students shirts with letters and/or asterisks on them to spell out words for yearbook photos. As I'm sure you've seen by now, 6 smiling, laughing white girls decided to pose for a picture while spelling out "NI**ER" with their shirts. 

You know....there are moments when I really have faith that this generation we're raising right now will come up to do it better, to be more mindful, to be more aware of their place in this world and how much their words and actions can affect other people. And then there are moments like this one when I'm banging my head on the wall repeatedly, disgusted at a society that raised up these kids to believe not only that this was okay, but that it was a hilarious photo op.

Nothing about this is funny.

I'm raising my kids with their eyes wide open, teaching them to appreciate the existence of the white privilege that still allows shit like this to happen.

On your knees, little girl....
This dress code shit has gone too damn far, you guys. Too goddamn far.

This past week, a female high school student was ordered to kneel in front of her male principal so that he could measure the length of her skirt.

Take a moment to go back and re-read that sentence.

Drink it in, in all that misogynistic glory. This grown man ordered a child to her knees, into a submissive sexual position before him to re-measure a skirt he'd already measured once.

Her skirt was an inch longer than it was required to be, not that it fucking matters.

Commandeering a field trip
Hi little children!!! I know that you're here at the Botanical Gardens on a field trip because you want to learn about plants and bugs and things that are totally age appropriate. Your parents signed all those permission slips so that you could watch butterflies and learn about how seeds grow, sure, but since you're here, could you just sit right down in front of Auntie Carly? These nice people over here just need to take some pictures of your adorable cherubic faces sitting at my feet as I rail about the right to life in front of a giant picture of a fetus. Oh sweetie, can you look that way and pretend to be interested? I'll give you some candy in just a second. 

Does that sound gross?

Uh, because it actually happened. Fiorina commandeered a preschool field trip and used the kids as props in a campaign speech without the consent of the vast majority of their parents. 

She's so lucky right now that one of my kids wasn't in that class. Holy shit.

You do not use other people's kids as props. 

I'm sure she was ranting about the evils of Planned Parenthood, which makes sense because she still hasn't figured out that the videos were fake. FFS.

Zika Virus
If you've missed the reports on the Zika virus, enjoy your last few moments of obliviousness, because I'm about to tell you why you should be scared. Zika is a mosquito borne disease that is almost always asymptomatic. The virus only lasts about 5 days from what the scientists can tell, but the damage it seems capable of is unlike anything we've seen.

It seems to be causing microcephaly in babies born to women who contracted the virus while pregnant. Microcephaly is a birth defect resulting in abnormally small heads and underdeveloped brains. Many of the babies die in utero, many more don't survive delivery. There is no treatment for the children born with this condition.

The virus is predominately in warm tropical climates, though it seems to be working its way North fairly quickly. Pregnant women are being urged not to travel to countries with known outbreaks, and women living in those countries are being urged to avoid getting pregnant at all for at least one year, if not longer.

These recommendations are sound ones, absolutely sound, from a public health standpoint. The issue I have with them is that they are being issued in heavily religious countries where birth control is not readily available, some where abortion is forbidden even in cases of serious birth defects.

Only 52% of women in the region have access to birth control, and 97% of women of childbearing age live in areas where abortion is prohibited.

Track Palin and PTSD
Rather than retype out what I wrote on my Facebook page about this, let's just cut and paste.

God. I don't want to talk about Track Palin, but here we go. Dammit.
1. He may have PTSD, he may not. I don't know because he's not my patient. I am not a person who questions and doubts when people say they suffer from something.
2. Buuuuut...He isn't the one claiming he has it, his Mom is. Not the same. And she's using his alleged diagnosis as a political tool to try and both justify his criminal acts and vilify Obama. That's ridiculous and opportunistic in like 47 different ways.
3. He didn't see combat. IT DOES NOT MATTER WHETHER HE SAW COMBAT. I'm yelling now. Combat is not required for PTSD. Physical injury is not required. It can happen as a result of any trauma.
4. As a person living with PTSD myself, this whole issue has me doing high kicks and throwing shit.
5. PTSD is awful, like actual living hell. Pitchforks and brimstone and all that shit. If you don't understand it and/or haven't lived it, don't judge people who have.
6. PTSD is treatable. EMDR therapy saved my life, saved my sanity, saved me. We can help those suffering. I promise.
7. The VA isn't doing enough for people living with PTSD. Guess what? The private health care system sucks abundantly as well when it comes to mental health. As a society, we need to have some real conversations about mental health.
8. PTSD sufferers of the world are done no favors by claims that this condition somehow justifies violence. It doesn't. Full stop. Have some damn respect for all the people getting tossed under the bus here.
9. I don't like those blaming his mother for his behavior either. Don't do that. At some point, we all have to grow the fuck up and take responsibility for our own lives.
10. I'm done. Going to do more high kicks.

So there. I'm still pissed.

Believe it or not, I had four more topics to rant about, but I need to put on some goddamn pants so I can drive carpool. Pants. The worst.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

2016 Summer Reading Challenge List

Yeah, I'm aware of the fact that it is only January. Honest.

This is the fourth year that I've written up our list and shared it with you all. I hope that you'll enjoy the books I've chosen this time around.

This year, I've been fairly deliberate in my selections. I wanted half of the books read to have been written by women. I wanted to expose the children to different perspectives as well, and narrowing down the list wasn't easy this time around.

Most of the books chosen have, at some point, been made into movies as well. We like to read the books, then watch the films and compare the two.

As we get closer to the summer, I will add more details about the books and movies, what our actual schedule will be with reading them, as well as places to find them. For the moment, though, I wanted to get the list out there so that people will have ample time to locate the books. I've started hunting for them myself at the used book stores and thrift stores. Check used book stores, check the used books on Amazon, check your collections at home, ask friends if they might have copies you can borrow. Libraries are also a great resource if the books are available at the time you need to borrow them. One of my favorite places to pick up books is at the friends of the library sale section, where used books are available to purchase for a few dollars, and all proceeds go to the library.

Here are the books selected this year.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey

Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, Sherman Alexie

The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison

James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl

A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle

My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank

Shakespeare - Julius Cesar, Othello, Taming of the Shrew (subject to change)

Poetry by Emily Dickinson/Walt Whitman/Shel Silverstein/Sara Teasdale

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Thursday Nerdsday ~ King of Tokyo

Has it really been over a year since the last Thursday Nerdsday post? Nevermind, don't answer that.

I've been busy, you guys.

Well, it's back now and we have a whole bunch of new games that I will be sharing with you in the weeks and months to come.

Up this week, King of Tokyo!

This was actually one of the first purchases we made when we started to get back into playing board games, and was one of the first that we started playing regularly with the kids. The recommended age is 8+, but that age is clearly just a recommendation as our 7 year old is generally the one winning this game every time we play.

He's been playing this one for almost 2 years now, and winning.

Seriously, he and I played 5 rounds yesterday while I was taking pictures for this post. He beat me 4 times in a row. And he told me that I needed to tell you all that.

The game can be a very quick one once you get the rules down and are familiar with playing, averaging about 20-30 minutes. The first time you play it, the game will likely take about 45 minutes or so, depending on how many players you have. The game is meant for anywhere between 2-6 players, though I'd say it is probably the most fun with 4 or more.

Each player chooses a character, then selects the play piece and cardboard tracker for that character. I like to either play as the Giga Zaur or the Kraken. No reason, just my personal preferred monsters. My son almost always plays as The King, which makes sense because he almost always wins. The cardboard tracker has wheels for victory points (stars) and life (hearts).

You begin the game with 0 victory points and 10 hearts (life). The goal is to defeat all other players. To do that, you can either kill everyone (if hearts reach 0, you are dead) or you can acquire 20 victory points.

To begin play, you roll six black dice.  You have three rolls per turn, saving the dice you wish to keep with each roll.

Heart icons heal you one tic on the life wheel. You can only heal when you are not in Tokyo. If you are in Tokyo, you cannot heal, but you do acquire victory points faster.

Paw icons attack other players. All attacks occur only on players in other locations. For example, if you are in Tokyo and roll 3 paws, you attack all players not currently in Tokyo 3 hits.

Lightning bolt icons each earn you one energy gem (the little green cubes...we call them candies, no idea why). Energy gems are used to purchase cards. The cards all vary in terms of cost and the powers they confer. Some must be discarded to be used, others you keep with you.

Numbers (1, 2 or 3) give you victory points. In order to acquire victory points, you must roll 3 of the same number. If you roll three 1's, you earn one victory point. Three 2's equal 2 points. Three 3's equal 3 points. If you roll additional dice of the same number, you earn one additional point over what number is showing (if you have five dice with 3's, you would earn 5 points).

The first player to roll a paw goes to Tokyo without conducting an attack. Just for traveling to Tokyo, you gain one victory point. Only one player can be in Tokyo at a time unless both locations are being used. Each turn began in Tokyo earns you 2 victory points, so being there has its advantages for sure. You cannot heal while in Tokyo, though, so you are quite vulnerable to attacks, especially as the number of players increases. When playing with 5 or 6 players, Tokyo Bay is also used, which complicates the game more.

All attacks are played on players not currently in your location. If you are the monster currently in Tokyo, you attack everyone outside the city. Likewise, all monsters outside of Tokyo attack the one (or two) in Tokyo.

Any attack made by a player outside of Tokyo results in a choice by the person in the city. They can opt to leave Tokyo (necessary to heal), which forces the person attacking them to go to Tokyo. The player who opts to leave during an attack may escape, but must still take the damage dealt before leaving.

The game seems fairly complicated while I'm sitting here writing out the rules, but I promise you that you will get it quickly. My son usually kills me by attacking me while I'm in Tokyo and cannot heal. ( usually works). He never bothers trying to win with victory points, opting to kill his opponents first.

It is a game of mixed strategies for sure, as there are a few ways to win and a few ways to die. You're constantly trying to rack up points, acquire energy gems, attack everyone else and make sure you don't die...all at the same time.

It helps if you develop a signature roar to go along with your monster. I highly recommend that, and this game.


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Beginning and The End and I Can't. i just can't.

I can't.

I just can't. I'm not ready, though I'm not sure I'll ever be truly ready in any sense of the word.

I know that time moves faster and faster with each passing moment. I know that there is nothing I can do to stop it or even to slow it down. I know it with all the certainty that I've ever known anything.

I know that I have far less time left with this life than I believe that I do.

I know.

I just can't.

Not yet.

My bookends.
The Oldest and The Baby.
The baby's face when his brother got home.
Separated by 13 years, but inseparable.
At least for now.
I caught a glimpse of the future this past weekend, the one where the oldest one is grown and gone and the little one is left here, behind.

The Oldest was up in the mountains with Scouts. They actually go camping, on purpose, in the dead of winter. And they like it. I'm grateful that there are adults in this world who will agree to go on trips like that one so that people like me don't have to sleep outside when it's 3 degrees. For reasons that will never make sense to me, he loves it.

It's quieter when he isn't here. It's strange.

One person lost without him home, the baby.

The baby spent two solid days wandering the house. One of the clearest words he says is his brother's name, and he kept saying it. At first, it was in his usual insistent tone, the one where he demands his brother's attention, the tone that he's probably learned watching me holler up the stairs for his entire lifetime. As his paging requests went unanswered, the tone started to shift.



Then, questioning.

He'd look around corners and glance up the stairs, as the name he was calling got a little bit fainter. His shoulders shrugging, his arms would go up in the universal body language of I don't know.

Where is he?

I don't know.


He couldn't find his brother, and it broke my heart.

It broke my heart because I know what is coming, the moment when that older brother, the child upon whom the sun rises and sets for this boy, will leave for far longer than two days at a time. He won't just be gone for a little bit and return home again.

And it is all coming sooner and faster than we might wish it to.

I know this.

I know that it won't just be my heart hurting when the oldest packs up and departs, when he goes from being a constant presence in the house to an occasional visitor. I know it won't just be me glancing around corners and hollering up the stairs, then catching myself when I realize he isn't here.

It won't just be me.

It will be him too. The baby.

And then he'll have to do it again and again and again.

He'll be left behind four times.

And then, for a long time, it will just be him.

I know all these things, but I can't think too much about them now. I see friends with children just a few years older than mine living these moments now, applying for college, packing them up and dropping them off somewhere else. I see the younger siblings being left behind. I know that it is coming.

But it's not here yet.

And I just can't.

Parenthood, so filled with simultaneous anticipation and dread all at once.

I used to believe that it would get easier.

I was completely wrong about that, and about so much else.

Nothing about this gets easier.

For now, I'll be dwelling in this moment for as long as I can. I'll be soaking up the joy on the baby's face when his big brother comes home. I'll be giggling each time he yells his brother's name around the house. I'll be etching all the times that older brother drops whatever he is doing to get down on the floor and play into my mind.

Because I know that it won't last.

I know.

I just can't go there yet.

Not yet.

I'm not ready.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the still not a post racial society edition...

I'm in a mood. This will, in all likelihood be similar to me right now. Abrupt and full of snark.

Let's just get it over with.

Yesterday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I spent just about the entire day teaching my kids about him, about the civil rights movement in general, about why there is so much work yet to be done. As part of that, I had them all watch the eulogy that President Obama gave at the funeral for Rev. Clementa Pinckney last summer. After dinner, we all sat down and watched Selma as well. (If you are an Amazon Prime subscriber, it is available on there currently. I highly recommend watching it.)

I also urge you to watch the eulogy if you didn't watch it live.

I'm in a mood because of MLK Day, because of the people who try and twist his words, misuse his legacy to try and imply that either we live in some illusioned post-racial society, or that his focus on non-violence should be used to shush protesters.


We don't live in a post racial society, and he'd understand probably better than anyone why people are angry. Watching the movie last night, knowing that the VRA was effectively undone in large sections by the Supreme Court just recently made me so very disappointed. We have to do better, and to do that, we need to open our eyes to reality, not imagine that the world we live in is beyond all this already.

There are so many instances of racial injustice, even just in the news this week. Here are a few of them.

Had what has happened in Flint happened anywhere, I'd certainly hope that we'd be outraged. The fact that the affected population is predominately black and low income, that every young child is assumed to suffer from lead poisoning, that those in charge knew damn well what was happening and chose to do nothing, all horrible and unimaginable truths. The people in charge, the ones who made these short sighted and damaging decisions absolutely must be held accountable for what they have done.

Throw child abuse charges at them for every single sick child, negligent homicide for the Legionnaire's deaths. Throw the entire goddamn book at them.  They knew, they knew and they tried to cover it up. It's sick. All of it.

Governor Rick Snyder shouldn't just forced to resign or be impeached, he should be held criminally liable.

FLOTUS and her dress
The State of the Union address was last week. Michelle Obama wore a yellow dress to the event, and the internet immediately erupted, questioning the cost of her dress, whether the poor blacks who voted her husband into office would approve, wanting to know how she could justify spending money on a dress and worse. So. Much. Worse.

I will not even get into the names I saw her called.


People seem to forget that both of the Obamas had successful careers prior to their time in the White House. They seem to believe that it's appropriate to question every single expenditure of the couple, as though how they choose to spend their personal income has any bearing whatsoever on the public. It's no one's business.

The Happy Slaves Book, 2016
I simply cannot believe that in the year 2016 this would even be happening, but a book was recently published and distributed on Scholastic's website about George Washington's birthday. Specifically, the book was about the slaves who happily prepared his birthday cake. 

After widespread criticism and accusations that the book perpetuates the whitewashing of history, Scholastic announced that they would no longer be selling the book. And almost immediately, people started to cry censorship in response...not seeming to realize that a company's refusal to distribute materials largely considered to be revisionist and offensive is not equivalent in any way to state-sponsored censorship.

Scholastic is a school based book distributor. They have a responsibility here to do a better job. Period.

There really is no excuse.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Lessons Only Time Can Teach

I don't know why I do these things to myself, why I occasionally torment myself in the ways that I tend to do. I'd reason that at least a good part of the why is that I need reminders sometimes of how much I've been through, all that I've survived, how bad things were and how far I've come.

And still I find myself learning something new each time I do it.

The middle of January, clear through until anniversary of the day my father died are a time of this familiar pattern. The revisiting. The unsettling.

It's an annual occurrence now.

It's been enough years now that I can recognize it when it snuggles up beside me and makes itself at home. It's not exactly a feeling of sadness, though certainly that is part of it. It's an edginess. A discomfort.

It's familiar enough that I know precisely what it is, but vague enough that I can't quite describe it.

There are so many things that happened in those days and weeks, things that happened in the following year, things that I have blocked from my memories still, things that unearth themselves a few at a time now, all these years later.

This time, though, along with all the bad being dredged up from the soupy bottom, there was good. A good that I was blinded to at the time, unable to see because of everything that was going on.

Good that I couldn't see for years. Good that I couldn't see until now.

I was 100% in survival mode back then, barely even able to do that. I'd be left with the wonder of PTSD in its wake, as my attempts to survive created issues all their own. It's not a huge surprise that I was unable to recognize the good back then.

It was there, though, and I found some of it today.

I found a piece of love, proof of it, buried among the wreckage.

Only with the clarity of time, with the deliberate healing of therapy and the obsessive nature of keeping all the records that might someday be important was this possible.

I saved just about everything from that time, for different reasons than lead me back to it now.

I'm glad I did, because even if it hurts like hell to travel back in time, my eyes are now open to the things I could not see before.

And I am grateful.


Friday, January 15, 2016

Homeschooling 101 - Where do I Begin?

If you're reading this, I'm going to bet that either you are already homeschooling, you're thinking about it, or you're looking for ways to supplement the education your children are currently receiving. This post is by no means intended to be a full guidebook of how-to homeschool, but I'm hoping to cover a lot of the basics. I will be including all the resources I have used so far on this journey, and some of the ones I am planning to use in the future.

First, let me say congratulations and welcome to homeschooling! Making the decision to homeschool was a little bit terrifying, if I'm being honest. I wasn't sure how it would go at all, but I knew that the situation my kids were in at the time wasn't working. Something had to give. My two oldest children are still in public school and we are intent on keeping them there. I am currently homeschooling my 5th grade daughter and 2nd grade son, and they were pulled for a variety of reasons, the primary one being that neither one of them fit into the tiny boxes they were expected to fit into. Conventional school wasn't working for either one of them and they were falling further and further behind. We needed to do something else, and so we did.

We all homeschool for different reasons; ours are primarily academic in nature.

Homeschooling and the Law
Once you've made the choice to homeschool, you will need to do a little bit of research about the laws specific to the state you reside in. Every state is a little bit different in terms of the notice you are required to provide to the district, records you will need to keep and/or submit, hours of instruction expected, content you are expected to cover and testing. The level of regulation varies widely from state to state.

I highly recommend doing some research about the district you reside in as well. Our school district has many alternative school types, one of which is a homeschooling supplemental enrichment program. My kids attend once a week, where they have exposure to ordinary classroom settings, age appropriate peer groups and material that I might not otherwise be able to cover. For example, my daughter is taking a class on Shakespeare and both of the kids are in a musical theater class.

Important Decisions in the Beginning
One of the first decisions you will be faced with when you begin homeschooling is what type of teacher you intend to be. Are you planning to structure lessons, organize materials ahead of time? Are you intending to let the child's interests guide the lessons? Are you unschooling? This choice will in all likelihood shape the path you walk as a homeschooler more than anything else. Here, we do a little bit of everything. Some lessons are planned out in advance, some are triggered by an interest the kids have in a subject. Sometimes we get hooked on a documentary series and watch them all day.

Though you are expected to spend a certain amount of hours a week on instruction, know that you aren't limited to weekday lessons. Homeschooling happens any time, day or night, weekday or weekend. I do a fair amount of teaching on the weekends and at night, particularly when I am focusing on topics that I want the older traditional students to learn as well. Homeschooling also isn't limited to "home". You can teach math at the grocery store, science at the zoo, history at the museum.

Also important to the initial days and weeks of homeschooling, and something we had to deal with here, is that you may be undoing damage done from prior school experiences. If you have a child who is hesitant about reading because they've struggled in a classroom setting and been teased, if you have a child who was bullied, if you have a child who needs help focusing (or an entire laundry list of other issues), you may find that the initial adjustment phase to homeschooling involves slaying a lot of old dragons.

Before you make any curriculum decisions, I highly recommend that you take a quick personal inventory, being totally honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. Are you strong in math? Is it something you struggle with? Do you think you can teach grammar? Reading? How much you can rely on your own background will largely determine how well you will be able to teach different subjects.

Dealing with Other People
The one question everyone always seems to ask any homeschooler has to do with socialization. What about the socialization?!?!?! Be prepared to get asked that question a lot. A. Lot. Playgroups, homeschool field trips, parks, supplemental programs, scouts and sports are all good ways to ensure that your kids are well socialized.

There are not many areas of parenting that elicit more comments and criticism than homeschooling. For whatever reason, people have preconceived notions about it and don't often hold back on sharing their opinions. You will have random strangers ask your children whey they aren't in school when you're out and about during the day, that's virtually guaranteed.

It isn't just strangers, either. You will, in all likelihood, have friends and family question your prepare yourself. The truth is that you know your child better than anyone else ever could, and no one else gets to make this decision. Period.

Building Your Classroom
Most of our lessons are at the kitchen table or on the couch in the living room. No fancy furniture necessary. I did purchase a small chalkboard that I use along with a whiteboard we already had. Aside from that, I did not do anything special to start homeschooling.

Building Your Curriculum
There are fully inclusive curriculum packages available for your use. Some are online, some are tangible materials, some are a combination. I do not use any of them, nor am I comfortable giving my opinion on them. I looked into them briefly and opted to build my own curriculum instead. My only piece of advice here is that you should look into who devised the curriculum and what angle (if any) they are pushing. Many companies that make the packages are Christian in nature, which may alter the materials covered in history and science especially. We use purely secular history books and evidence based science materials.

Here are the resources we've used and/or will use in the future, broken down by subject. I'm positive I will forget something. There is so much great information out there, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.


  • Khan Academy - This is a fully inclusive site that has math programs from K-12 and beyond. There is test prep as well. There are also science lessons, art history and more, though most of the other subject content areas are taught at a high school level. The programs include assessments to determine the level children are at, where their strengths and weaknesses are, what areas need more work. It is very much aligned with Common Core strategies. Free.
  • Moby Max - This website is used by some people as their primary curriculum source, though we use it only as a supplement. The basic website is free, and the content adjusts based on the skill level of each child. There is more on the site if you pay.
  • Used textbooks - found on Amazon, this is about as basic as it comes. My second grader is almost finished with the 3rd grade math book and learning division right now. Not free, but low cost. Used textbooks can be found for as little as $0.01, plus shipping of $3.99. 
  • Workbooks - I've focused on word problems, data interpretation, fractions, decimals and percentages with my 5th grader. We have a few workbooks from Scholastic. Look for sales.
  • Worksheets - There are quite a few websites where you can search and print math worksheets by grade level and area of content. The sites I have used most are and


  • Khan Academy - for high school level subject and above.
  • icell - An app for middle school science and above, it gives you microscopic views of different cells. 
  • Bill Nye - Bill, Bill, Bill, Bill. You already know and love him. His website has tons of videos, experiments and worksheets. Lessons can be easily adapted to all age levels.
  • National Geographic Kids - Great resource for animals and more, from early elementary and up.
  • Used textbooks - Yep. I'm a big fan of the cheap used textbooks on Amazon. I purchase the books and accompanying workbooks. Not free, but cheap.
  • Worksheets - There are some on that we have used.
  • Netflix. For real. There is a huge amount of science educational material on Netflix, in just about every area imaginable. 
  • Pinterest. Yep. For real. I'm always looking for hands on experiments for the kids, and there are a ton of homeschooling boards on Pinterest with ideas. You don't have to reinvent the wheel, I promise...there is a lot out there already. There is usually some kind of science experiment sitting on my kitchen counter. 

Language Arts

  • Reading Rainbow - Without a doubt, this is my favorite resource for reading, though it is subscription based. 
  • Moby Max - We use this for periodic reading level assessments mostly. It's not perfect and the robo voice is a little funky, but it's free.
  • Lexile website - I recently went through most of the books in the house to sort them by the Lexile levels. When you have emergent readers or struggling readers, this can be fairly important. You want them to be challenged a bit, but not too much by the material you present them with. If it is too hard, they will get discouraged. It's very important to foster and grow confidence in reading.
  • Spelling workbooks - I did purchase workbooks at grade level for the kids to use. We aim for one lesson a week. The workbooks we use are by Flash Kids/Harcourt and under $7 each on Amazon.
  • Cursive. I'm teaching this because I think it's an important life skill, and vital for kids to be able to read historical documents. There are many cursive workbooks available as well as free printables online.
  • Grammar. So important to learn this, I use a variety of resources, including...C.M. Punk's videos on youtube. His grammar slam series is awesome. 

Social Studies

  • Netflix! Yes. I know, all the Netflix. They had a TON of History Channel series that just expired, though I believe you can still access them on the History Channel's website. The Story of Us and How the States Got Their Shapes were awesome.
  • Liberty's Kids - This was a PBS cartoon series, now available on DVD. I think I paid $10 for the whole series. Elementary level.
  • The Complete Book of United States History - I don't love everything about this book, but it is okay. Not a standalone resource in my opinion.
  • The Story of the World - The kids have two volumes of this series from their homeschool supplement history classes, and while I like the storytelling aspect of the books, I don't particularly like the religious slant. Not my favorite.
  • Howard Zinn. I use both the online resources as well as have purchased used copies of the Children's History books he wrote. He strives to tell accurate history lessons from the perspective of all parties, not just the lessons we learned, told from the angle of whoever had the power to write the books. 
  • Time For Kids. The website is filled with current events stories, written for children from mid-elementary level and up. 


  • Museums. I cannot stress the value of the museums enough. Here in Denver, the art museum no longer charges admission for children at all. Free every day. It is wonderful. 
  • Netflix. By now, you should know this was coming. From musicals to concerts and more, there are tons of great resources here.
  • Pandora. This isn't free, but was a subscription we already had. Searchable by genre or artist, this is the background noise while we work almost every day. Vivaldi, The Blues, Bach, The's all there. I tend to teach the kids about music as an ongoing affair as it is, so for me, this is vital.
  • Check into your local arts facilities. They may offer reduced tickets for performances. In the summer, many areas also have Shakespeare festivals that may offer free productions.
  • I adore The Artful Parent

Other Resources

Thursday, January 14, 2016

After All This Time? Always. A Farewell to Alan Rickman.

It has been a rough week, hasn't it? Cancer and all that it takes from us has reared its ugly and public head again. Earlier this week, it took David Bowie. This time, Alan Rickman. The element of shock makes it all seem more sudden, as neither of them had told the world about their diagnoses.

Not that they should have felt compelled to, by the way.

Celebrities are allowed to be sick without us knowing. They are allowed to die in private, away from the glaring eyes and the snapping cameras. They are allowed. 

We forget that sometimes, especially in a world so prone to oversharing. We live in a society where some people use this very disease as a platform. They start Facebook pages and Instagram accounts and make it all public, ask for prayers, beg for miracles. And that's all well and good for those who choose that path. Each journey is our own.

And yet, not everyone is like that. Some people prefer to keep it all secret until the end. I respect that more than words can express.

To be honest, it kind of makes sense that Rickman would take something like this to his grave. After all, he was the man who brought Severus Snape to life, who knew the great secrets and kept them until they were finally revealed in the end.

He was an actor for years before he arrived at Hogwarts, this is true. One that I'd already loved, for sure.

He was Hans, oh was he Hans. The baddest bad guy to ever try and ruin Christmas.

He was Sheriff Nottingham. Of course he was.

He was Metatron. Wax on, wax off.

He was Alexander Dane, the annoyed veteran actor who always took his craft seriously.

He was Harry, and he didn't just break Emma Thompson's heart. He broke ours too.

He even left us a gift for later, voicing the Caterpillar in Alice Through the Looking Glass.

He was all of those characters and so many more, but there's one that means more to the people in my house. One that united us in anger, in loathing, in confusion, and finally in love. He was Severus Snape.

"Ootp076" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia -
Harry Potter holds a special place in my heart, and will do so forever because of the way it came into our lives. I decided long before my children were old enough to know anything about the books or the films, that I wanted to share it, all of it, with them. I insisted that we read the books before they saw the films.

We read the first four books together several years ago over the summer. My eldest child, a newly confident reader, would take turns reading aloud to the others with me. We started the journey slowly, with just a chapter a day. We would read in the afternoon as the thunderstorms formed in the sky. Often, my youngest at the time would fall asleep midway through, the others urging just one more chapter as they were pulled further and further, deeper and deeper into this imaginary land. Soon, they were pouring over the books, begging to just get to the end. They needed to know what happened.

Once we'd finish a volume, we'd watch the movie almost immediately

They'd pick apart the differences, catalog all the variations in the story telling. And as soon as the credits rolled, they'd be bringing me the next book, eager to start again.

My older two children grew up with Hermione, with Ron, with Harry. They adored Hagrid, they marveled at Dumbledore, they feared Snape.

They hated him.

Until they understood him.

My oldest finished the series by the end of that year, then had to wait for the rest of the movies to come out. My older daughter is finishing up the 5th book now. I'm starting it again with the younger kids, and I feel like I'm going back to Hogwarts all over again myself, but with a new perspective. A deeper understanding.

It all means more this time because now I know who Snape was.

Rowling created him. Rickman made him.

It wasn't until a few weeks ago that I shared the video of the important Snape scenes in chronological order with my children. The video is long, but well worth watching if you haven't seen it before. My daughter was beside herself by the end. I cry every time I watch it. You'll realize, if you haven't already, that Snape is one of the most interesting characters ever written, and that Rickman's portrayal was essential to making it all work.

Rickman, having been told Snape's secret while they were shooting the first movie, long before J.K. Rowling had even finished writing the series, was in charge of protecting everything about Snape's motivations. He had to play the bad guy who never was, but he had to do it in such a way that he was able to convince us all. In secret. And he did.

He made us hate him, then he showed us how entirely wrong we were.

For that, for teaching my children the depth of his character, for portraying undying love and devotion, and for keeping the secret for as long as he did, he has my endless gratitude.

Thank you Mr. Rickman.

Thank you.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Why Is It So Hard to Just Say No?



Of course.

It's fine.

Insert any stock phase routinely uttered by those of us who struggle to say no _____here______.

Why is it so hard to just say no?

Why is it taking a huge step of bravery to tell people that we can't, that we don't want to, that we have no interest in something, that we won't be doing whatever it is that they want us to do? Why?

This isn't exactly a question that is without answers, of course. For me personally, I know that the reasons are as layered and complicated as my own past. Part of it, inevitably, who I am as a person, who I was born to be. Part of it is almost certainly genetic, this aspect of ourselves. As humans we want to please others, we want to surround ourselves with people who want us, who need us, who are grateful for our presence.

You see it in infants and toddlers, too young to carry the burdens of a lifetime of experiences yet. Even they want to make those around them happy. We encourage it, we foster it...but at what cost?

A certain amount of helping, a certain amount of selflessness, a certain amount of giving is required for a society to truly function, of course. No man is an island and all that jazz.

The truth is, though, that there are many of us, myself included, who struggle to draw boundaries. Who can't turn down an opportunity to do something that someone asks us to without being internally conflicted about it.

My issues are complex, go back to family of origin stuff. Growing up, things weren't calm or peaceful often. I was expected to be older, more mature, more responsible than my age said I should be, and so I was. I was expected to do more, to take on more.

I was conditioned to deal with more, to put up with more, to take verbal abuses, to listen to the negative voices in my own head. Then to come back and do it again.

My parents were in conflict with each other, with issues in life, with family, with themselves. They each dealt with their own sets of problems, often pushing them onto me whether intentionally or not.

The rally cry of the dysfunctional parents everywhere: "Oh, but I tried..."

Uh huh. They tried.

I'm sure they tried.

I still paid the price.

In a lot of ways, I wouldn't fully pay the price for the the conditioning done as a child until I was well into adulthood. Then, the true damage of the conditioning would reveal itself, as I tortured myself trying to do everything I could to help my mother to the point that I was sacrificing my own sanity, and at times, the sanity and physical safety of my children.

I wasn't allowed to give up.

I had to do my best.

I had to do my duty.

I had to.

Until I stopped.

It wasn't until I was quite literally faced with the reality that I was damaging my own children that I stopped saying yes. I had to do the right thing for them. I had to be capable of stepping back, of realizing my powerlessness to help someone who didn't want it. I had to see not just the futility of my efforts, but the injuries I was inflicting on myself and those who relied on me most.

I was sacrificing too much at the altar of obligation. 

And I was doing it because it was what I had been taught to do, what I had been raised to do.

It's been a recurring theme for me. It wasn't just with my mother. Of course it wasn't just about my mother. It was almost everything. Even this. It was blogging too, with this here. I was so caught up in trying to meet everyone else's expectations that I'd forgotten why I started doing it in the first place. As it ended up, I was pretty terrible at making people happy regardless of what I did. I was always trying to keep up, read everything, share what I was supposed to, jump through the hoops people threw up in the air for me. Getting called out any time someone thought I'd done something wrong. Having my words twisted by people who believed I owed them something.

So I stopped. I just stopped.

I excused myself from the obligations, I backed away from the commitments, I stopped doing things because other people acted like I was supposed to.

Unlearning this has been a difficult process for me, I can't lie. It took hitting rock bottom a few times, the rapid decline of my own health, facing the truth that my kids had been harmed because I couldn't say no to my mother, that I'd started to hate writing because of the expectations.

Around the time I hit bottom.
Bottom doesn't actually look this nice in real life.
Trust me.
Then the guilt.

Oh, the guilt. That Catholic upbringing, sticks with you.

These days, after months of intense therapy, after years of self loathing, after being judged by just about anyone who thought they knew the whole story, after being disowned by many people who didn't understand, I am better about it. I'm better about it, even if I know that there are people who hate me for what they think I owed them and didn't deliver on.

I'm better about it.

I have to be, for my health. For my children.

I fear that the pendulum has swung too far, though. I fear now that I isolate myself too much. I do too little outside of this comfort zone. I don't reach out much to others anymore. I tread lightly outside of my bubble.

I learned to say no. Finally.

Maybe now I say it too much.

Maybe I'm okay with that.

Alright, fine....I'm working on being okay with it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the I did this twice in a row edition

Heeeeey. Lookie here. I'm doing this two weeks in a row. It's a goddamn new year miracle.

I'm in a weird place. Really weird. Feeling very conflicted and disappointed about things. Big things, little things, personal things, things that truly have nothing to do with me.

I've actually spent most of the morning trying to avoid writing this because I just don't want to deal with it. But alas, here we are.

I guess we should just get to it then.

Let's start with some serious first world shit.
My house is falling apart. Not literally, of course...but in a sense. We've lived here over ten years and everything is just wearing out. The floors need replaced, the kitchen cabinets are beat to hell, but having five kids and a dog that currently thinks drywall is a good snack, I know there is literally no point even trying. I repainted most of the house recently and that has helped. A little.

I have a repairman coming tomorrow to fix the dishwasher. The brand new dishwasher. I know what is wrong with it. It just needs a part replaced, but since it is still covered under warranty, I'm making them do it. It drives me crazy how cheaply things are made anymore. There was a time when consumer goods were made to last, that they could be repaired, that companies stood by their products. Now, they just hope whatever crap they sell you lasts through the first year until the warranty runs, then you're on your own. Good luck with that.

Fortunately for me, we use the dishwasher way more than most people ever would, so the wear they'd hoped wouldn't surface until after the warranty expired showed up now. I suppose there has to be something redeeming about doing 4 loads of dishes a day, right?

Mothers judging mothers.
This one is a recurrent theme anymore, an epidemic of "please don't judge me, but I'm totally judging you for _____". It makes me so frustrated.

As a society, we bash the everloving fuck out of mothers. We condemn them, question their choices, shame them online, rant about the "I would nevers", and so on. Truth is, we're all doing the best we can with the information we have at the time. What works for you probably won't work for me.

It's particularly upsetting to me to see women struggling with post partum depression being attacked, and this one is absolutely personal. I have a history of dealing with the condition, among other things. I chose to be proactive about facing it this time around, and as a part of that, I had my placenta encapsulated. I was never as sick as I'd been in the past without it. Did it help? I believe it did. I'm not running around shoving pieces of my placenta in your face, I'm not insisting that anyone else consume theirs in any manner. I'm doing what I need to do to make sure that I stay emotionally grounded, stable and alive.

Frankly it doesn't bother me if other people are grossed out by it. I stopped caring what other people thought about me a long time ago. What I do totally care about, though, is that this dialogue is damaging to women in this place, women like me, women who need help, women who might look to natural remedies, women who are already beating themselves up for dealing with PPD in the first place, women who need support from the women they rely on and are instead mocked for their choices.

Stop it. Just stop it.

A lot of women deal with PPD. Some women take medication. Some women seek therapy. Some women encapsulate their placentas. Far too many of them don't do anything, and a huge part of the reason they won't seek help or treatment has to do with the judgment they are afraid of, the judgement that I see out there, the judgement that I have personally dealt with. Be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.

Police Dogs.
I was asked to write about this one this week, though I have been thinking about it in a different capacity anyway. Police dogs are an important tool in law enforcement, that can't be denied. They can hear things we can't, smell things we can't, find people we can't and more. Their value cannot be understated.

They are, though, highly trained weapons.

There have been far too many cases of the dogs being used inappropriately, particularly in cases where innocent children have been injured as a result. These cases aren't reflective of the dogs as much as they are of the handlers misusing them. Also troubling is the fact that 11 police dogs died in hot cars this summer. The responsibility for those deaths lie at the feet of the handlers.

What has also happened, and I can't be sure if it is occurring more frequently, or if it is just being more frequently reported, is that suspects are injuring the dogs on purpose. Jethro and Kruger are just the two most recent deaths. Some animal advocates are calling for increased penalties for those who injure or kill police dogs.

Forced sterilization takes an even darker turn.
It isn't news that thousands of women who had been deemed "mentally unfit" and then "promiscuous" were sterilized against their will in this country. What is new, however, are the findings of statistical analysis of the women sterilized. It's been discovered that women with Spanish-sounding surnames were 3.5 times more likely to be sterilized than the general population.

As if the situation couldn't have been made more disgusting...

Sigh. This would be the subject I didn't want to write about. His death came as a shock to all of us yesterday, particularly since he'd just released an album days prior. As we know now, it was his swan song, his great farewell to the world prepared as he knew he was dying.

I still haven't listened to it. I'm not emotionally ready, especially after losing my own father to cancer that had spread to his liver.

He truly left a magnificent collection of work behind. He empowered an entire generation of kids who didn't fit in to live their lives authentically.

What happened almost immediately after I read of his death was something I didn't expect. Articles posted and shared telling stories of things he'd done in the past. Terrible things. Things we don't want to believe that a man like him was capable of having done.

It's alleged that he had sex with underage girls, and the stories (printed months ago, not in the wake of his death) are primarily first hand accounts from the women involved. The age ranges have varied in the descriptions, anywhere from 13-16 years old. The women involved, members of The Baby Groupies, a well documented group of underage girls who were known for their relationships with rock stars.

Bowie was never charged with a crime, though that fact is virtually irrelevant as it has nothing to do with his culpability. We all know that legal charges do not a crime make, they only legitimize the accusations in the cases where the system becomes involved. The girls (now women) who were involved with him maintain that the sexual acts were consensual.

The trouble with that, of course and by definition, is that they were too young to legally consent. By definition, then, any contact amounted to statutory rape.

I've seen the full range of reactions to these stories being shared. Outage. Disbelief. Denial. Some have compared him to Cosby, others have forgiven him immediately as if nothing improper occurred.

It's not for me to say how anyone should react to this news. People get to feel however they want about it. Bowie certainly wasn't the only star with this following, and when compared to the acts of others, his violations were not "as bad". This, by the way, is not in any way shape or form me condoning what happened. He should not have done what he did. Full stop.

I just can't personally equate what he is accused of doing to forcible rape. It certainly isn't on the same level to me as someone who drugged and raped women repeatedly for decades. (For me. If you think they're equivalent, that is okay.)

There is a reason that rape has different definitions and degrees in the eyes of the law.

The industry, as well as our larger society, is deeply immersed in rape culture, in the objectification of women. These men were in a position of distinct power, the relationships they cultivated with underage girls vastly lopsided. Many have justified everything that happened because the girls followed the men around, put themselves in these positions. No. The men should have known better. They were the adults. Period.

Ultimately, this is all becoming an issue now because he died. Some people can't stomach his legacy without at least a discussion of this subject. He certainly isn't here to defend himself. We don't know whether he knew their ages, we don't know what actually happened, we don't know much aside from their highly romanticized descriptions. It's worth mentioning that the girls (now women) involved do not consider themselves victims.

Some have said that because of the ages at the time, they don't get to decide if they were victims at all. They were victims, and under the law (had it been involved, which it wasn't), they would have been considered victims on age alone, without regard to anything else.

People are people. They are flawed and broken, they are selfish and they do terrible things. Sometimes they commit crimes they never answer for. And sometimes we don't know until they die.

Having said that, I've been through some shit and never once have I wanted to violate someone else. Personally, I can't just wave this off. It colors my opinion of him (and many others), irreversibly.

These revelations don't mean that all his other contributions to the world lose their value, for certainly they don't, at least for me. It just means that rock stars aren't superhuman and we shouldn't idolize them. They can't be put up on pedestals. They shouldn't ever be.

Maybe you can separate the man from the music legend. Maybe you can't. Maybe you can't see past the awful things he did. Maybe you frame what happened as part of his entire lifetime.

We're all allowed to feel differently about this.

I'm not even sure how I feel, other than vastly disappointed.

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