Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the #mylifeisnotforprofit edition

Hellllllooo. It's been a week already and it's only Tuesday. My inner rage could have something to do with the fact that I've been accused of being a racist several times since the weekend.

Possibly.

Fiction can be fun, ladies and gentlemen! Hey, instead of actually dealing with the fact that racism is totally still a thing, let's just call anyone that talks about it a racist! Sounds like a plan!

There's so much to talk about this week, so let's just get to it. You all don't want to hear about how I've been spending most of my time following a puppy around, trying to prevent her from eating her own shit. I promise. So gross.


#MYLIFEISNOTFORPROFIT
For whatever reason, one that honestly mystifies me a little bit because it's been an issue for a really long time already, the public in general has decided that the price of Epi-Pens is unacceptable. The CEOs are making tons of money, hand over fist, jacking up the price without regard for human life because they want more.

Greed is good, right?

Yeah, not so much when your life is the one depending on whether this amount of profit is enough for a greedy corporation.

It isn't just the Epi-Pens, although the price gouging is particularly painfully obvious with them. Lives depend on the availability of this medication, and I can honestly tell you guys that I have two expired Epi-pens sitting in my own medicine cabinet because I can't justify paying the cost to replace them. (Although we did just switch insurance, so I might be looking into that right away)

Epi-Pens, the life savers that they are, aren't something anyone is going to be using often or even frequently. They are truly for emergency purposes.

Insulin, on the other hand, is necessary on a daily basis for people living with diabetes to survive.

Buy it or die. 

Every.
Single.
Month.

All while someone gets rich at your expense.

Greed isn't good for the health care system, but the entire system is currently dominated by the illusion that the free market works.

The free market lets people die every day.

For profit.

Lives shouldn't be leveraged.

End this insanity. Demand better. Stop falling for this idea that regulation of the health care industry is the greatest threat to humanity the world has ever seen. It isn't. People dying because they can't afford basic medications is something we should all be ashamed of. People starting fundraisers online so they don't die is something we should be ashamed of. People filing bankruptcy because of medical bills is something we should be ashamed of.

Sign the petition for insulin affordability here. 
Sign the Epipen petition here.

Rape Culture is Completely a Thing
Brock Turner gets out of jail Friday.

Austin Wilkerson was convicted of rape, but wasn't sentenced to prison time. 

Nate Parker is struggling to deal with his history of rape before he was a famous actor. His victim struggled with the attack so much that she committed suicide. But it's hard for him to deal with. It was a painful moment for him. Uh huh. 

Safe Spaces
There's a trend in the world of academia to either encourage or condemn safe spaces. The argument against them goes a bit like this: if we restrict what students or teachers can say, the material that they are exposed to, if we limit discussion or discourse then we are necessarily limiting the education itself.

Those who linger in ivory towers can certainly be idealistic about all the wonders of academic rigor, for sure.

The problem with this idea that safe spaces are what is actually dangerous, though, is quite frankly a disturbing one, particularly since those most opposed to the creation of safe spaces seem to be those with the most power and privilege, the most likely from a statistical standpoint to be the beneficiaries of a world where the oppressed are kept silent and left unprotected.

One of the best discussions of the issue that I have read can be found here. 

The Right to Sit Down
Colin Kaepernick ignited a nationwide debate during an otherwise uneventful preseason football game this weekend when he remained seated during the national anthem.

When asked about it after the game, he gave his reason:

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

To many people, particularly those who support a presidential candidate constantly complaining about how terrible things are in this country are, his actions were unforgivable. Jerseys burned online, some of them hanging from trees. God, I wish I was kidding.

If you can't see how that perfectly makes his point, I don't know how else to explain it to you.

This comment, lifted directly from my Facebook page is another great example of how much people are getting wrong about this debate:

Hes far from ever being oppressed his father dumped his pregnant mother she gave him up, upper middle class white family adopted him.. So hes jumping on the fool bandwagon, perhaps he move to another country where people are REALLY oppressed.. I will join the millions who want him benched for life.. Oh

Wait. So are you really going to try and say that he needs to be currently and actually oppressed to complain about racism? Who gets to decide that he is oppressed? You? If he is not currently oppressed does that mean that he can't express his concern and outrage in general? Are you assuming that because he was adopted by a white family, that he's never had to deal with racism? Are you assuming that because he has money, racism has never been an issue for him?

Because every single one of those assumptions is wrong.

Dead wrong.

I've seen people demand that he shut up and play the damn game he's paid to play...which isn't too far off from the way that black people historically have been made to perform for the entertainment of white people. Play the game, keep your mouth shut.

I've seen a friend of a person I consider a friend call him a half-breed. Shudder. I've seen more call him a nigger. (OMG I HATE THAT WORD AND I HATE TYPING IT SO MUCH)

CAN YOU NOT SEE THAT YOU ARE MAKING HIS POINT?

Everyone seems focused on his actions, not his reasons.

People who didn't get upset about athletes being tried for murder, rape, abuse...can't get over their anger right now. They can't see straight they are so pissed about it.

People who've never served a day in the military demanding that all veterans are supposed to detest everything he stands for because he's somehow made their sacrifices worthless, when in truth many veterans are supporting him.

A huge part of what they fight for is the freedom to question, the freedom to demand better, the freedom to silently protest, the freedom to sit down.

Being a patriot doesn't mean that a person must blindly follow, comply and listen. No. It demands that a person demands truth and fairness and transparency. It demands that a person demands better.

It's significant here that the national anthem was penned by Francis Scott Key, himself a slaveholder, and that the third stanza contains words about killing slaves.

It's also significant here that nonviolent protest is something that has been utilized not just by leaders of great social movements, but by black athletes specifically for generations, often making them deeply vilified at the time. Muhammad Ali, John Carlos, Jackie Robinson.

If you stand against what Kaepernick did, you stand against what they've done as well.

Personally, I haven't said the pledge of allegiance in years. For years before that, I omitted "under God". I have refused to sing the national anthem for a while already.

Does that make me unpatriotic?

Want to tell me to get the fuck out and go back to wherever I came from?

Feel compelled to call me names?

I don't do jingoistic patriotism. I do real patriotism. The kind that asks questions and demands better, the kind that is revolutionary and challenges the status quo, the kind that understands that the way things have always been has never been good enough. The kind that will always defend the right to protest. Always.

You should too.

I'm with you, Colin.

Instead of arguing about what he did, let's talk about why. 

That's far more important.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Removal Anniversary Day is Coming

My bebe will be two in a few weeks.

I'm rather in denial about it.

I have never been one to wish away the infancy of my kids, least of all with him. My last.

We've been working on teaching him how to make a two with his tiny little chubby fingers for a while now, and he's just about got it down.

Even if I'm not particularly ready for him to be another year older, he is.

We have this family tradition here where we make a video of the kids singing Happy Birthday to whoever we can't sing to in person. Many of our family members and close friends live far away, so there tend to be a lot of singing videos.

The baby has started to sort-of sing along with the older kids.

One time, totally jokingly, The Oldest mentioned that we shouldn't sing Happy Birthday to him. We should instead sing Happy Removal Day, since he was born via c-section.

I laughed because it was pretty hilarious at the time, and it's still pretty damn funny.

It's also the truth.

I've had nearly two years now to come to terms with the fact that my last child was born surgically.

Haven't done it.

Nope.

Still not past the anger portion of that grief process.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
oooooookay, ladies and gentlemen, this is the part where I make a few disclaimers.

1. I am talking about MY feelings, and they don't have anything to do with anyone else, so don't take my words and project them onto yourself or anyone else or make assumptions about my general feelings about c-sections.

2. I am a doula. I literally spend my life trying to help mothers have amazing birth experiences. I never got one myself. Even with five kids.

3. I will never have another baby, so this was my last personal birth experience and it was rather shitty. I'm not apologizing for being honest about it.

4. If you had a c-section and loved it, I'm happy for you. Truly.

5. C-sections are a vital piece of maternity care. I have a long background in maternal child health and know that they do indeed save lives. I also know that most of them are avoidable and unnecessary. I also am well-versed in the side effects in all manners of delivery. No need to lecture me.

6. I repeat, this is about me. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. I'm entitled to my own feelings and emotions. If you don't like them, stop reading.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Oh, the disclaimers. JFC the way the internet is anymore, even with all that nonsense, someone will still come along, absolutely guaranteed and insist that all that matters is the health of the baby and how dare I say anything negative about this procedure that saved ______________ life.

The health of the baby is not all that matters.

The health of the baby is not all that matters.

The health of the baby is not all that matters.

That's a lie you've been told, that people have been told for generations now, and guess what.....we seem to believe it.

Birth trauma is a real thing. It happens to women every single day in this country. Every single day.

I can virtually guarantee that if it hasn't happened to you out there reading this, you know and love someone who was emotionally scarred from her birth experience. Maybe she was even physically injured. It has happened to me twice and I am a birth professional. 

Does a healthy baby matter? Yes, absolutely.

Is it the only thing that matters? No.

Insisting that the health of the baby is the only thing that matters strips autonomy from every pregnant woman. It makes her, her physical being, her mental stability, her emotional healing, it makes everything about her secondary at best.

Without a healthy mother, a healthy baby won't stay healthy long.

If that statement makes you uncomfortable, we should have coffee sometime. For real.

The problem with my last, most terrible, birth experience is that I know that it was unnecessary. I know that. I knew it then.

The only reason I had a c-section was that the baby was breech.

He was not my biggest baby.
He was in the most favorable breech position for vaginal delivery.
I had already birthed FOUR other children with no delivery complications.
The longest I'd ever pushed with my prior children was five minutes.
I have, shall we say....a roomy pelvis.
I am basically the perfect candidate for vaginal delivery of a breech baby.

It wasn't even an option, and I was stuck with the physician group I was stuck with, in the hospital I was stuck with for insurance reasons.

My regular OBGYN, the one that I called in tears afterwards, the one that wasn't covered by my insurance at the time?

He'd have delivered, no questions asked. He hugged me while I cried. Told me that he wished things had been different.

The worst part?

I knew all that.

I'm not the typical obstetric patient. I know far more about the ins and outs of birth than most pregnant mothers ever will. I knew that the doctors weren't giving me an option that I should have had. I knew that I was a perfect candidate for a natural delivery. I knew.

And I was stuck.

Because they refused.

I sobbed uncontrollably for the week leading up to delivery, for months afterwards. The moment I expressed any degree of anger or frustration or sadness at the fact that I wasn't allowed to have this baby the way I should have been was immediately met with criticism, usually from women, usually from mothers.

And do you know what they said to me?

A healthy baby is all that matters.

No.
It.
Is.
Not.

Mothers matter too.

If all that mattered was the safety of my child, I wouldn't still be upset two years later.

Mothers matter.

I mattered.

Or at least I should have.

Removal Anniversary Day is coming.

Grrrr.

Don't worry, we'll sing Happy Birthday the correct way, and I'll keep fighting to make sure that the women who come after me have an opportunity to have the amazing birth experiences I was denied.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The tooth fairy, no longer.

I always knew that this day would come.

I have.

Knowing doesn't make it easier.

Not much about grief is ever made better by advance notice, though. I've learned that one more than a few times.

There was, of course, a part of me wholly in denial about it all. A part of me that believed that things would always stay the way they were, that the experiences of my children would be similar enough to keep it going.

They weren't.

I knew they wouldn't be, but I allowed a part of myself to believe it anyway.

My father, gone over five years now, was the Tooth Fairy. It's a funny story, actually. He earned the title eleven years ago when my eldest child was in preschool, back before cancer and panicked phone calls in the middle of the night and hospice.

Back then, my son was a curious kid wondering about the occupations of people in the family. In class that day, they'd talked about jobs. Some of the people in the family had jobs that were easy to explain to a preschooler. Policeman, firefighter, accountant, writer, grocery checker. My father, though, his was a little more nuanced. Took some more explaining.

He was a dental technician.

He designed and created dentures and partials for people who'd lost their permanent teeth.

I did the best I could to explain this to my child, and within seconds, he'd figured it out. Grandpa made teeth for people who lost them, so clearly that meant that he was the Tooth Fairy.

Made perfect sense to a four year old.

We named our fundraising team
for the Relay for Life after him.

I called Dad that night and informed him of his new profession.

He laughed heartily, accepted the position immediately.

From that point forward, any time the kids had a loose tooth or had something happen at the dentist, they'd call him. He was the one to talk the nervous child off the ledge over a procedure, he was the one to explain why they needed to really floss instead of just saying they'd flossed. He was the first one they'd call when they lost a tooth.

Then cancer arrived and took him away from us.

He kept the job, though, after death. He even took the last tooth lost on his watch with him when he left, tucked into his shirt pocket.

The kids reasoned that he'd just have wings to go along with the tutu now, so it made sense.

Instead of calling him, they'd leave him notes when a tooth fell out, hoping that he'd write back.

In the span of a few weeks this summer, my middle child lost her last tooth and my now-eight year old lost his third. That middle child, she had a special connection with Grandpa. She was the content and squishy one as a baby. His death hit her than hardest, as have most things since.

She always knew, though, that for as long as she had baby teeth, he'd be around.

She lost her last molar a few weeks ago, left her last note for him.

I don't think it's really hit her yet. 

She's in such a hurry to grow up sometimes that she has no recognition of the things she's leaving behind in childhood.

Maybe it's better that way.

I know that I'm not about to point it out to her. 

A few days after she lost her last tooth, her little brother finally lost his third.

He was late to get his baby teeth, has been late to lose them too. His roots are long and deep and stubborn. It takes months for him to wiggle them enough to get them out.

When he lost his tooth, he tucked it under his pillow, as all his older siblings always have...but for him the Tooth Fairy is just the Tooth Fairy. 

The Tooth Fairy was never Grandpa in his world.

He was only two when Grandpa died, and whatever memories he might have are secondary ones, constructed from pictures and stories other people tell.

He doesn't actually remember my Dad.

I realized this truth, then had to sit with it for a while.

Really sit with it.

Like.
Sit.
For.
A.
Long.
Damn.
Time.
With.
It.

I knew all along that this day would come, I just wasn't really prepared for it. The reality of having children who were so young when my Dad died is that they won't all remember him. My youngest was born after he died. To him, Grandpa will only ever be a story.

For a flash of a second, I thought about trying to perpetuate the Tooth Fairy. I thought about recruiting the older kids to tell their stories. I thought about it in a desperate attempt to keep this connection to my Father alive.

But I was thinking about it for myself. I was wanting this connection, this perpetuation. For me.

Not for them.

And I can't do that.

I can't allow my grief and my processing of the loss of this piece of my Father to affect them.

I can't put this on them.

And I won't.

I'll let him go, one more time.

Quietly.

Because this is mine and not theirs, and I need to make sure it stays that way.

Thank you, Dad, for all those years of flying around and dropping off dollar coins and fancy two dollar bills and packs of gum, for all those letters left and read and answered. Thank you, Dad. Thank you for everything.

You were the best Tooth Fairy in the history of the universe, but even the best have to retire eventually.

Love you.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

the hardest lessons...

It's August. Around here, this month is wildly predictable. It begins with rampant lethargy, boredom and heat. So much heat.

Within the first few days, the panic starts to set in that summer is almost over and an urgency develops. We need to do this or that, go here or there, do all the things we set out to do back in May when we were full of optimism and planning, back before the pajamas and sleeping in really took hold. The urgency turns to dread as the days on the calendar tick off, each one closer to the beginning of schedules and lunch making and alarms and obligations.

We take a brief break for a birthday celebration, then chaos descends.

The first day finally arrives, with its insistence that we adjust immediately. Except that we don't. We never have. We probably never will, for as long as we have children in this house in school of any kind.

We have these lofty aspirations to be people who adapt seamlessly to change, but we aren't those people and we almost certainly never will be those people.

The back end of August is always like this, filled with frustration and anxiety and sleep deprivation.

We get on each other's nerves, all of us.

This week, one of my children, who shall remain nameless for these purposes, hit the proverbial wall. The changes too many, the adjustments not immediate, the emotions all over the place, the demands of getting older and having more expectations placed upon them too much. It was all just too much.

This kid hit the wall, much like I do when I hit it, in a spectacular collapse of emotions.

First there was yelling. Projecting. Lashing out. Then the tears.

Tears, the dry heaving variety.

And it all came out.

In that moment, I was so grateful that my kids see me as the safe dumping ground....even if that means that I'm blamed for far too many other things I can't control all the other times.

My lap will never be too small, not in those moments.

After it all came out, a few days after, I asked this one how they were doing now. Were things better? Encouraged this particular child to come to me before hitting the wall if possible, to let the frustrations out in pieces when they come, so that they don't boil over, spilling onto everyone around them.

(I'm far better at giving this advice than following it, I know.)

The response:

I don't talk about it because I know that my emotions have to come after everyone else.

Wait.

What.

No.

No.No.No.No.No.

Knocked me back, that particular set of words strung together, uttered by this child of mine.

Because I know where this comes from.

This whole idea of stuffing your emotions down so that you can do whatever needs to be done for whoever else needs it at that moment.

I know exactly where that comes from.

Me.

I know that the tendency to ignore what is bothering them, to tell those emotions to get back in the box....that comes from both of us, their father and I.

Our children, they come by this honestly.

Because they come by it honestly, from an origin so deeply organic and entrenched not just in who they are, but in who we are, it is our obligation as parents to make sure that they understand just how unhealthy this can be.

Ignoring your own emotions, your feelings, your mental health, dismissing it, disavowing how much it impacts you, stuffing it down....it is a seductive short term solution that never makes things better. It sounds great because it works well right now. In the immediate period.

But you'll always, always, always hit that proverbial wall.

And it might not just be yourself that you are running into that wall at full speed by the time you hit it...by then, you could absolutely be dragging other people along with you.

How odd it is that a coping mechanism so often designed to put others first and suppress emotions can end up resulting in even more harm?

Humans.

We're so terribly complicated.

I told this child, in no uncertain terms, devoid of a hint of sarcasm, in the realest way possible, that their first priority in this world has to be self preservation. Do not sacrifice yourself at the altar of other people's needs. Do not do this.

No one else is going to take care of you first. 

No one else is going to put your emotional well being first.

No one else is going to worry about you before they worry about themselves.

Not friends.
Not boyfriends or girlfriends.
Not spouses.

No one.

The only possible exception to this would be parents, and even then it's far from an absolute. Some parents put the needs of their children before their emotions. Some don't.

It's a hard lesson to learn in life. One I've learned over and over and over again and I know to be the truth, even if I have so desperately wanted to be wrong.

When I was done speaking, the look of shock on my child's face told me that I'd really rocked them to their core.

It's not every day that you're forced to erode a bit of your child's faith in humanity...

I don't want to be the bearer of bad news.

I'd rather be able to tell them that you can rely on people to look out for you.

I'd rather be able to tell them that your friends will always have your back.

I'd rather be able to tell them that no one will ever lie to you or break your heart.

I'd rather be able to tell them that you can trust other people with your emotional well-being.

I just know it's not the truth.

And I can't lie to them.

I can't.

Even if I really, really, really want to.

The hardest lessons to teach are the most important ones.

teach them anyway

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Before You Go To School This Year, 2016

Before I even start writing this one, I have to tell you guys that I meant to get it done before school actually started....I did. I just didn't end up that way.

But hey, that means that I already have a current first day of school picture that includes all of you to put here, so there's that.


Since you always reap the benefits of being the oldest kid, Oldest, I'm going in reverse order this time. So, hang on a sec.

LAK
I really need to come up with another nickname for you. Little Asskicker made sense when I was pregnant and even when you were a little baby, but you're going to be two here in a few weeks and it's generally frowned upon to have a swear word as a nickname for a toddler. 

So....let me think about that one for a minute.

Anyway, you're hell on wheels if ever there was such a thing. You've figured out how to actually run, as opposed to what you used to do when you were smaller. You used to swing your arms super fast and pant and make all kinds of movement, believing that you were running fast, when really you weren't going anywhere faster than you would if you were walking. 

Truthfully, it was pretty adorable. That...and I didn't have to chase you too much back then. Now, the chase is on. All day every day. You're the first kid that we've actually had to remove chairs for. All the kitchen chairs reside on the other side of the baby gates unless someone is actively sitting in them. You figured out a long time ago that you could get on the counter much easier if you pushed them around the kitchen.  You scare me a little. 

You aren't going to school this year, obviously, but I'm going to do my best to teach you all kinds of stuff here at home. Letters, numbers, songs, colors. You already sing almost constantly and have been working on making a two with your fingers for a while now. You're ready for that birthday picture. 

Don't grow up too fast. You're the last one. Enjoy that. 

Little Boy
As I write this, you're emptying the dishwasher and watching Bill Nye the Science Guy episodes on Netflix. You're here, at home. Again. 

I'm not sure how long you're going to be doing most of your learning at home, but for now it works. You've made so much progress in the last year that there are times I forget just how much we had to work to get here. 

The fact that you could do most of it in pajamas was just a bonus, I suppose.

Keep working hard, keep doing your best. It shows when you try. I know that so much of this is hard for you, that it doesn't come easily. You've got to fight for all those little pieces of progress sometimes, but keep fighting. 

Also, do jazz hands at every possible opportunity.

I can't wait to see how much you will learn this year and I'm so excited to start attending the programs at the Botanic Gardens with you. ALL THE FIELD TRIPS. All of them.

You also need a new nickname. We should work on that. Your feet are almost as big as mine, so that "little" part won't last much longer. 

Mini Me
Oh, child. You've been such a ball of nerves these past few weeks. I know that it's been making you worry, all these changes. Middle school, new teachers, new friends, new experiences. I know that you don't anticipate change well, even if I've had to remind myself of that more than a few times in the last couple of days.

Maybe it is a good thing I didn't get this written last week and didn't actually get around to it until you were at school for the second day. Maybe. 


Now I can tell you with absolute certainty that you're going to be okay, because you already are. The tiny little skeptic in you is always doubting my words, and this would be no different, but since we're already over here on this side, maybe you'll hear me.


You're going to be okay.


You aren't just going to be okay. You're going to be awesome.


This year is going to be a big one filled with many challenges.


You can do it.


I have to be honest with you...remember when you said that you wanted to do the triathlon this summer? I want to say you mentioned it for the first time in March or so. You just blurted it out one day, and your Dad and I looked at each other a little shocked. Where did this come from? Was she going to be able to do it? Would she stick to the training schedule? Would she finish? I think we were as nervous as you were.


You did it. You did all of it. And almost all of it, you did on your own. 


We were just there cheering you on from the sidelines. 


You can do anything you set your mind to. Don't ever forget that.


Freckles
Are you my best friend? 

I miss you.

Those are two things that come out of your mouth countless times a day, and while I know that you're almost always totally kidding, I also know that it's your unique way of connecting with me. 

I KNOW.

Now that school is in session again, I fully expect that the emails will start arriving soon. (at least I hope so)

You've grown up so much this year. It's startling, actually. You look entirely different, like some little girl was in your body last year and this young woman is there now. Maybe like a chicken wearing a human suit, or is it the other way around? (for those of you reading at home, I know this doesn't make sense. Inside joke.)

You've spent so much time lately working to help others. Between volunteering at the humane society and band and helping your siblings and father with whatever needs done, you've matured in a way that I wasn't really prepared to see. 

It's been amazing to watch. 

Stay weird, keep pushing yourself in school, join all the science and math nerd groups and dammit, girl, if you want to join drumline, DO IT. 

Do it do it do it do it. Or I'll sing. Don't make me sing. 

The Oldest
How did this happen? I know I keep saying that, and I'm sure that by now you are exceptionally tired of me asking questions that probably don't make much sense to you...but deal with it. 

I'm not stopping any time soon. 

How did you get to be a sophomore? How? 

I just put you on the bus for kindergarten yesterday. And now you're taller than your Dad and learning to drive. What the???

Gosh. 

You're almost done with your Eagle Scout Badge, which is crazy. Only one merit badge left and that project. I know you're proud of yourself, and we are proud too, but we also know that you're highly motivated by the electronic promise at the end of it all. HIGHLY MOTIVATED.

Your Dad is insanely proud of you. I know it doesn't seem that way, with the incessant teasing and all, but he is. 

You already know what you want to be when you grow up, which is weird because I don't even know what I want to be when I grow up. You have everything all planned out, too. My advice, the thing I feel like I'm always saying to you...make good choices. And be flexible. 

Life isn't always going to work out the way you hope or plan. Don't let that mess things up for you. Adjust and adapt, get up and dust yourself off when you have to. 

And always know, that no matter how old you are, if you need me, I'll be there. Waving my arms frantically from the audience. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Have a great year, you guys. I love you.

p.s. math homework is still the worst

Monday, August 15, 2016

When You Woke Up This Morning, You Were 8

Dear Little Boy,

You aren't so little anymore, I suppose. I keep asking you when you are going to outgrow my lap and you've started to believe that it is going to eventually happen. You used to just laugh and tell me that you'd always be my Baby Chicken. These days, though, you know that time marches forward and that you get bigger and stronger and older all while my lap stays the same size.


You tell me that when you outgrow it (which your siblings haven't yet, so I am not entirely convinced you ever will either), that it'll be fine because I can just sit on you instead.

Always with the touching and the tucking.


You've always been a tucker. Hands, feet crammed underneath me in some odd way. It looks terribly uncomfortable and doesn't always feel fantastic from this end, but you seem to crave it sometimes and so I indulge you.

If you were to ask your siblings, they'd probably say that I indulge you more than them. They've taken to referring to you as my Schmoo. They nicknamed you that, to go along with their collective insistence that you're my favorite.


You know what?

Let them think that.

I don't actually have a favorite kid, as I am certain I've explained 783 million times this summer. You're all special and different and unique and challenging and difficult and weird and awesome in your own ways. I love you all for who you each are. I struggle with every single one of you in a different way.


But hey, that's the wonder of parenting I guess....no matter what I do, someone is mad at me for something, and so I say let them believe that you're my favorite.

So are they.

This year has been an interesting one, and if you'd have told me one year ago today that we'd be prepping for a second year of homeschooling, I'd have probably laughed in your face.


But then the last year happened and something deep in my gut told me that it was time. School wasn't working for you. In too many ways, it was causing more harm than good and so it was time. I pulled you out just weeks after the year started, panicked a little bit, worried for a long time, and then we figured it out.

You've thrived at home in a way I never imagined. You have made so much progress with reading. You're nearly two full grade levels ahead in math. You are always asking when we can make the next science experiment. What are we going to grow now, Mom? Can we do this?


My living room has been full of race car tracks and rainbows and art projects and presentation posters. I have a chalkboard in my dining room now and spend hours and hours developing curriculum. You've discovered just how much you love music, now learning to play piano, doing musical theater, falling in love with performing.

You have never learned in the conventional way, the one that school seems to focus on. You don't sit, you don't absorb things the way they say you are supposed to. You need to move and do and see and feel. You need to experience the world, and when you get it, whatever it is, you understand it on a fundamental level that a classroom could never teach you.

You make me think. You make me create. You make me wonder every single day if I'm doing the right thing.

I've never really been sure of much with you. You've taught me so often that I really don't know nearly as much as I think I do. You've taught me that I always have something to learn, a new way to do things, a new experience lurking out there in the world inviting me to join.

You live outside. You need outside. You crave it, even.

You don't sit well, but you don't get bored. There's always something to do in your world. Always.


Baseball, bikes, scooters, skateboards, rollerblades. There's always some kind of helmet in my car, and it always belongs to you.

You never know when you're going to need it.

You're a born helper. The more physical work is, the more you love it. You need to move. You love to build. You love to destroy. You're teaching your baby brother to follow in your footsteps and half the time I am not sure whether I should be ecstatic or terrified or a little bit of both.



This year you've been fortunate not only to have your Dad be your den leader for scouts, but your big brother as den chief too. I don't know if you'll stay in scouts as long as your brother. I don't know if you'll ever love it as much as your Dad does. I don't know if sports will take more and more of your time, leaving less of it for scouts over time. I don't know.

I do know that this experience for you, with your Dad and your big brother, has been something that really is amazing. I hope that you understand just how special it is.


This summer you started backpacking, learned how to cast fly fishing, and I hear you caught more fish than your Dad...which could be true or you could just be refining the very important life skill of telling a good fish story.

You've been telling good fish stories for a while now.

One of the coolest things about you is that even when you're scared, you try new things anyway. Fear has never stopped you. I am not sure it ever will.

You're the bravest person I know.


You've been through a lot this year. This whole school thing has always been more complicated for you, even from your first days of preschool. I don't know how long you'll be home, but for now, it works.

I know the transitions have been hard for you, but you've weathered the changes well.

You've always been my most patient child. You have always had to be.



When you woke up this morning, you were eight. You went to bed with one less tooth than you started the day with. Things are changing, you're growing up.

It seems to me like you were just turning three. It seems like there is no possible way that you are already as big as you are. And just when I think you're getting too big, you manage to fold yourself up and tuck your hands and feet under me just like you used to when you were little. Tuck in under my wing as long as you need, Chicken.

School starts tomorrow. Meet you in the dining room, pants optional.

Happy birthday, Chicken.

I love you.

Mama Chicken

Thursday, August 11, 2016

And if you don't know, now you know...

This week, I spent some time with one of my oldest friends. And by oldest I obviously mean greatest, as it couldn't possibly be any reference to how old we both are now. I'm not even telling you how many years we've known each other, because it's wholly irrelevant.

Ways to Tell Someone is Almost 40

She lives in another state and we don't get to see each other very often, so when we do get to see each other, there is usually a lot of apologizing to wait staff about how long we're occupying that table or booth because we're both too damned old to go out anywhere else. We don't want to hang out in a bar or hit a club. We did that shit forever ago and it's almost bedtime.

Get off my lawn.

She's been through a lot. So have I. Some of the things one of us have been through eventually affected the other, and I have to say that there is something comforting about knowing that you're not the only one who has had to deal with this messed up bullshit called life.

It's twisted reasoning, I know.

I mean it's not like you would wish this, any of this, on other people, particularly the ones you like, but it's also nice to know that there are people in this world who won't shake their head at you wondering how you've managed to fuck your whole life up this way.

Again.

Those head shakers, most of them are friends. I guess. Or family. Or well-meaning people who think they are helpful. I'm sure that they believe they are being kind, or that whatever completely irrelevant advice they've bestowed is THE ONE MAGICAL THING WE NEEDED TO HEAR and now we're going to get our shit together.

And it's fine.

Really.

See, the thing about living though as much of this crap as I have, and hearing the endless chatter of the advice givers and the head shakers, is that I KNOW they're trying. I do. I know that they think they're helping. I do. And I know that they're doing those things because, at least on some level, they care enough about me to attempt to help or feign support or whatever.

So I try to forgive them.

I used to not do that.

I used to be terrible about it.

I used to harbor some long ass resentment, you know the kind that chips away at your faith in humanity. I'd wonder who the hell they thought they were judging my situation. I'd micro-analyze every word they'd said in some attempt to make sense of it, just getting more and more bitter each time. And frankly, there are some people that I probably still carry grudges towards, simply based on what they said. I'd like to believe that most of those grudges are more about what the words they said told me than what the words actually were.

The ones that had to take my pain, whatever it was at the time, and try to one-up me tend to get the grudges.

I mean, for real...what kind of people do this? Life isn't some competition of who has been dealt the shittiest hand. You can sympathize with someone, you can communicate that you understand, you can even try and make them understand that you have an idea of what they are going through based on your own life experiences, but don't take whatever they're setting down in your lap and trusting you with as an opportunity to win some "my life sucks more" gold medal.

Truth be told, I don't talk much about the things that have happened to me with many people any more because I just got sick of that part of it.

Then there are the people who vanished as fast as the words trickled out of my mouth. It's real crap when you think you can trust someone enough to not just listen but be supportive and the moment you make that leap, they tuck tail and run.

Real crap.

And I've learned it time and time again.

This friend, though, she gets it.

I get it.

And when she doesn't get it or I don't get it, we try to get it. We try really fucking hard. And when we know we don't get it, we shut up and just listen. To each other. To other people.

Maybe it's just because we've both been dealt fairly shitty hands. Maybe.

(This doesn't mean, BTW, that our lives are glorious trainwrecks for people to ogle at from the sideroad. Nope, not even a little bit. Life, though...it changes you. And it's not something that anyone can truly understand until you've lived enough of it, had enough of these experiences personally. If you never have to deal with them, great. Good for you. If you have to deal with them someday, the people like me and like her will be over here. On this side. Waiting to listen. Punch is on the table. Cookies to the left. Grab a chair. I'll get the tissues.)

Most people don't really want advice anyway. They sure don't want your proclamations about what you would do in a hypothetical situation you've not ever dealt with. They don't want your judgment. They REALLY don't want your declarations about how God only gives us what we can handle or that we should pray more or that this is all part of a plan. If that helps you, that's rad. Don't say it to other people.

They just want someone to listen. Someone with a welcoming shoulder. Someone who won't laugh when they ugly cry with the dry heaving and the snot bubbles. They want someone who won't just ask "what do you need?" in an empty eternally unfulfilled question...but actually does whatever needs done. They want someone who shows up at their door with three large pizzas and a cake because they know you're too emotionally wrecked to cook.

Plus, cake.

I guess what I'm saying is that if you don't know whatever it is your friends and family are dealing with, take a second and refrain from the advice and the judging and the head shaking. Show up and listen first. Bring a casserole. And cake.

Cake is always welcome.

And if you don't know, now you know.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday (okay, Wednesday) - the Olympics, as told by mansplainers, edition

Before I go any further, I have to confess to you guys that I love the Olympics. I love everything it stands for, I love the idea of world peace and unity in the name of sport. I love hearing about the stories of athletes like Yusra Mardini, the teenage refugee who dragged a sinking boat full of people to safety before swimming her way to this international event.  Seriously, if you haven't heard of her, please go read. She is amazing, and I tried to advocate for her winning all the medals before the games even began.

I love it. The spectacle, the study in what other nations excel in. The awkward hugs and high fives given by athletes who don't speak the same language, but know exactly what they're saying even without words. It's all just damn good stuff.

I'm totally deliberately not talking about the corruption and the displacement of people in the areas where the games occur, I'm ignoring Zika and the water pollution and the unsafe courses and the violence in the area and the general political unrest too.

I see all those things. I have railed against them in the past and will keep doing so for as long as people will keep reading my rants. Today, though, is reserved for the misogyny of these games.

The misogyny that becomes evident almost immediately upon turning on the television to watch the coverage, naturally brought to you by the networks of NBC. They "know" that women watch the Olympics more than men, that women don't actually like to watch the "sports" and that we'd rather see endless commercials. Which is why there are approximately 47 minutes of commercial for every 2 minutes of action.

I'm being flippant and exaggerating, obviously, but the point remains. They deliberately show more commercials because they think us womenfolk don't actually want to watch sports.

Nope.

We'd apparently rather watch the same clip of sweeping landscapes, where some voice over actor glosses over the controversies inherent in the games. Hear about this athlete's third uncle, twice removed. Watch 20 minute warm-up sessions, but then cut before scores are posted.

Oh, and we'd clearly never want to watch any of the athletes from other nations compete because this is AMERICA, and we only want to watch AMERICANS. Duh.

This is what NBC believes, and the coverage reflects it in gross detail.

They're even posting spoilers of the events they intend to hold for prime time, which doesn't end until 11 or midnight depending on your time zone. TOO BAD KIDS, you can't stay up late enough to actually watch the gymnastics we've been shoving down your throats with "previews" for weeks.

That's okay, the women's gymnastic team just looks like a bunch of girls hanging out at the mall anyway. NBD.

As if the general coverage issues aren't bad enough, this year will likely be remembered as the year that women kicked ass, but only because of their husbands, or because they swim like men, and they're only worth mentioning even though they won a medal because they're married to a football player.

THE FUCK?

These women are kickass athletes and this is the headline? This is the immediate commentary on her victory? How does she do it all? THANK GOD SHE HAS HER HUSBAND. She can't possibly be both this fast in the water and have a vagina??? There must be some explanation!!!

Katinka Hosszu and Katie Ledecky are amazing swimmers. The ones actually in the water, doing the swimming. Like women.

Corey Cogdell-Unrein won a bronze medal in trap shooting. Like a boss. One who also chose to be married, as if that is the most interesting thing about her.

It's also going to be known as the year of the mansplainer, because almost as soon as Annemiek Van Vleuten posted an update on her condition to her Twitter account, a man-hero rode in on his bike (well, I assume that asshat knows how to ride a bike) to inform her that the first rule of cycling is to keep your bike steady.

THANK YOU CAPTAIN OBVIOUS!!!!

I bet she didn't already know that since she's a fucking Olympic cyclist.

I also bet he didn't feel compelled to school the several MALE cyclists that crashed in the same spot the day prior.

I've been dealing with mansplainers all damn week on my Facebook page, and my new strategy to annoy them (and to essentially refuse to engage with them because really, they're just trying to help my tiny little female mind understand things) is to use this emoji:


It's basically my way of saying fuck you dude I think you're hilarious but I'm not going to sit here and argue with you about shit.

Nope. All the nope.

I had a few friends employ this technique just today. It went amazing, I have to say.

Anyway, I just needed to complain.

I'm probably premenstrual....in fact, I'm sure that's what it must be....

And if I'm not sure, some man will be along shortly to let me know.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is my favorite thing on the internet today, a piece written about Michael Phelps as though he was a female athlete. Sounds pretty ridiculous, right? Because it is. Go. Laugh. Slow clap.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

OH! Also.

Since you're still here. You don't have to put your hand over your heart during The National Anthem...and you don't have to do it during the Pledge of Allegiance either! Facts are fun! So Gabby Douglas critics, have all the seats.

I'm really going to go now....

There I go again, changing my mind. Such a girl. ;)

Thursday, August 4, 2016

15 Years Late and Repurposed...

I've been meaning to write about this for a while. In fact, I think about how I need to write this post every Thursday when I'm getting out of the car for work, but then I'm too busy wrangling a/v equipment and drunk people for a few hours to make a note of it, and by Friday morning, I've forgotten all about it for another week.

This is my brain on ADHD.

Hi.

I like shiny things.

Anyhow, I've been meaning to write this. So here.

My brother bought me this bag. For work. It's a really nice leather attache case.


Fifteen years ago.

It was a graduation gift.

Fifteen years (and a few months ago), I graduated from law school.

For the moment, we'll ignore all the stuff about how I should have quit school when my husband was diagnosed with cancer because it was in that moment that every.single.thing in my life changed completely. Fifteen years ago, I was still kidding myself about wanting to be a lawyer. I thought I still had a plan, even if that train had completely derailed.

The train was rolling downhill and I was desperately clutching my ticket, trying to climb back on and will it onto the tracks.

Yeah.

That's a whole different story.

I don't like to talk about all that much because it's a reminder of who I was supposed to be when I grew up, and also of how I totally didn't become that person.

I became this one. She's not a lawyer, not really anyway. She has the loan balance to go right along with it, of course, but not the job or the income or the prestige or the whatever comes with being some fancy pants attorney.

I wanted to do pro bono work anyway, so I suppose I was always destined for non-fancy-pants.

At the time that I was gifted this bag, I was hugely pregnant. With a kid that we weren't supposed to be able to get pregnant with after having lost a baby and being diagnosed infertile. I walked (okay, so it was more of a slow waddle) across the stage to receive my diploma and walked into labor and delivery three days later.

I was going to be a lawyer, but first I was a Mom.

An unplanned one. An unexpected one.

A grateful one.

That Mom was still clutching the tickets to the derailed train, of course, insisting that she'd get back on it someday. And my friends and my family bought the lie that I sold them, although in my psuedo-defense, I bought it too.

Time passed. More school to increase my specialty in the field I was supposed to work in someday. More kids.

Then we moved out of state and whatever hope I had of ever finding my way back into the field stayed behind in a box in the rafters in the garage.

(This is the point where I'm going to stop anyone who tries to tell me that I didn't really leave my career behind in the rafters in another state, insists that I can get back to it someday or whatever. Sure, maybe. Because what law firm wouldn't love to hire a 40 year old mom of five who hasn't worked in the field in fifteen years, especially when she needs to be able to leave at a moment's notice because of those five kids and everything that comes with them. I'm stopping you right there. I might get back someday. I might not. I don't need someone who doesn't get it trying to insist that my ship hasn't sailed. It sailed. Fuck, it circumnavigated the world. I just didn't get on it. And, I've made my peace with it. Mostly.)

The bag, though, the one my brother bought me for work. It moved with us. Still in the box and everything.

It mocked me a little bit, if I'm being honest. It went from actually living in the rafters in the garage in the other state to living in the basement here. For years. Every time I'd see it, I'd cringe a little bit.

HEY KELLY HERE IS A REMINDER OF 
THAT THING YOU TOTALLY DIDN'T DO
AND HERE IS A LOAN STATEMENT

It sat and sat and sat. I wondered what the hell I was going to do with it. Yeah, I'm a writer, but I write from home in my pajamas. I don't "go" anywhere. I don't go to fancy writer conferences because I convince myself that those are for people who actually can call writing a career, and that implies that you're supposed to have an income that more than a gnat could survive on based on what you do. "For a living".

I never needed to use it.

I can't even bankroll a gnat, let alone take a bag like this to a fancy conference.

I couldn't get rid of it though.

I have bizarre emotional attachments to the weirdest things. 

And then last winter, I turned in an application to be a quizmaster. I was hired.

To run the quiz, I need a computer, and I can't do it from home in my pajamas. So I need to carry an actual computer to actual places.

The husband reminded me that I had the bag.

"The" bag.

(quotation marks here for emphasis, and YES I COULD MAKE MY POINT WITHOUT THEM AS SOMEONE SO KINDLY POINTED OUT TO ME ON FACEBOOK THIS WEEK BUT I FUCKING LIKE THE QUOTATION MARKS)

Sorry, I didn't mean to yell.

I had the bag.

The bag that sat in the rafters and in the basement, the one my brother gave me as a gift for my new career....it's finally being used.

It has a Wonder Woman pin on it, beside a Spock hand making the Vulcan greeting sign and Superman.

It's full of answer sheets and mixer cheat sheets and speeches I rehearse in case I have to deal with belligerent assholes. There's not a single legal document inside it. The only fancy pen I have is a red Sharpie, gifted to me on my first night of work by a friend. The computer it contains is covered with brewery stickers. It accompanies me to a bar, not a courtroom.

It's not what my brother intended when he bought it for me.

This isn't who I intended to be.

But it works.

And it's perfect.

It's also a constant reminder to me every week that just because life gets off track doesn't mean it can't be dusted off and repurposed someday.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the list of people Trump has offended edition

I had a ton of other topics I planned to cover today, like the fact that I just got a Fitbit and so now I'm hyper-obsessed with all of my bodily functions that can be objectively quantified by this thing. I got 7 hours and 2 minutes of sleep last night, you guys.

Also, it is hard to type wearing a Fitbit SO I AM TAKING IT OFF FOR A FEW MINUTES AND SITTING DOWN LET THE WITHDRAWAL BEGIN.

Not to worry, I'll walk laps around the kitchen to catch up as soon as I'm done.

I wish I was kidding.

See???

Told you. Hyper-obsessed.

Anyway, what I am actually writing about today is pretty straight-forward. I am just going to make a list of all the people that Donald Trump has offended in some way or another, in a feeble attempt to get the point across to the handful of people I know who genuinely support this disgusting human being's attempt to win the Presidency of the United States.

Ever wonder what the fuck happened to this country that we are here right now? I do. Almost constantly.

Here's the list. I'm sure that I will leave people off the list, fail to catch them all...and I'm sure that he'll be adding to the list soon enough, and there is no possibly way it could ever be all-inclusive.



He's promising to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! For rich white dudes who aren't losers. Everyone else, though.....


  • Losers. They are his least favorite people, all the time. Arbitrarily. Without reasons or explanations most of the time. Just whenever he declares.
  • Babies. Yes, babies. A mother and crying baby were just shamed out of a rally. Today. 
  • POWs. He likes people who don't get captured.
  • War veterans in general, particularly those who might be a different ethnicity or religion.
  • Latinx people. For about a million reasons. Wall. Rapists. Illegals. I could go on. 
  • Muslims. See above.
  • Teachers. He tossed them right under the bus in his RNC speech.
  • Journalists. He's pulled press credentials, accused them all of being biased against him, and doesn't seem to care at all about the freedom of the press.
  • Native Americans. His Pocahontas comments apparently don't exist in a vacuum of offensiveness. Not that this should surprise anyone...
  • Firefighters. He insulted the fire marshall here in Colorado over the weekend for refusing to allow the crowd to swell past capacity. The firefighters later had to rescue him when he got trapped in an elevator.
  • Refugees. Promises to "send them back". Uh huh. He doesn't like poor or huddled anything.
  • People with disabilities. He famously mocked a reporter, hand gestures and all.
  • Judges. Because apparently all judges with pending cases involving him are biased in some way. 
  • Anyone who asks for his tax returns. Or proof of charitable donations. Not much else to say there, I guess.
  • The entire #blacklivesmatter movement. He'd like to push some inflated stats about black on black crime your way as some justification for police brutality. 
  • Women. Pretty much all of us. We all exist on some plane of beauty for men like him, and we're either 10s or not good enough. All women should be beautiful, young and obedient. Talk too loud, you're shrill. Challenge him, you must be bleeding from somewhere.
  • Breastfeeding Mothers. He thinks it's icky.
  • Seventh Day Adventists. Not sure what his reasons are, but they got a special call out one day.
  • Scientists. He knows better than the experts. Global warming isn't real. Trump knows. He knows everything.
  • Doctors. He likes to perpetuate the debunked vaccine controversies.
  • Immigrants. He paints with a pretty broad brush here.
  • LGBTQ people. He doesn't seem bothered by discrimination, doesn't support gay marriage, and wants states to be able to decide where everyone pees.
  • Iowans. They voted for Ben Carson.
  • The Pope. Yeah, even the Pope.
  • Jews. Even made a comment about how he didn't want their money. Yes, really.
  • Football players. Rules enacted to try and protect the brains of players have made the sport "soft".
  • Every single one of his opponents. Some of them have come back licking his boots, standing behind him while trying not to vomit on themselves afterwards. Chris Christie, I'm looking at you. I see you there, regretting your choices. Yep.

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