Monday, May 22, 2017

7th Annual 30 Day Photography Challenge - June 1-30, 2017

It's the 7th year of this challenge!!!

Let's do this, people.

Here are the prompts for this year, in the image below. Each day of the challenge corresponds with the date in June. For example, Day 1 is for June 1st, and pictures should be posted on the 1st. Ideally, you will add the picture directly into the album designated for each day in the challenge. Please try to get them into the correct albums. With this many people, it's going to be impossible for me to move all the pictures that aren't put in the right place.




All pictures are going to be shared in the group on Facebook. If you aren't a member yet, please request to be added to it here. It is DeBie Hive's Project 52+ Photo Group.

Note: There aren't two day #29, those are the options you have to choose from for that day.

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

We will be utilizing the hashtag #30dayphoto this year. Please add it to the images you post so that they will all be searchable with the hashtag.

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


The Rules

  1. One picture per day per person. Please stick to this rule during the 30 day challenge. There are hundreds of people in the group now. Thanks in advance.
  2. Please try to add the pictures directly to the albums that will be set up for each day. If you can't add them to the album, no biggie, but it would be preferred.
  3. There is no requirement that you participate every day to be eligible for the contest.
  4. You MUST email me your pictures to have them considered for the contest. There is a strict limit of 5 entries per person, and the pictures MUST be sent to me at debiehive@gmail.com by midnight on June 30th. There will be a release you must sign in order to enter the contest. More information on this later.
  5. What is chosen for the contest is entirely at my discretion.
  6. I will remove photos I deem offensive, and reserve the right to do so.
  7. Only post pictures of people you have permission to post images of.
  8. The idea is to take NEW pictures. You may not re-use pictures submitted in past years.
  9. The contest runs after the challenge ends, hosted on my blog, for seven days. It will start July 5th and run for one week.
  10. THE PRIZES ARE AMAZING THIS YEAR. More details to come!
  11. HAVE FUN!!!! I love photography and started doing these to get people out there experimenting with their cameras.
Tips for taking self-portraits

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

I will not be posting blog posts with the prompt each day this year. I will post each day's picture in the group and on my Facebook page. They will all be posted to Instagram and Twitter as well. If you aren't following me there, Twitter and Instagram are FAR better at showing people the things I post.

My Instagram profile can be found here. 

My Twitter profile can be found here. 

Finally, if you would like to offer up a prize for the contest, please let me know ASAP. Your link and a picture of the item submitted will be added to the contest post, which is seen by thousands of people each year. My email is debiehive@gmail.com.

Have fun with it!

Friday, May 19, 2017

I blinked and then you were 16

Dear Oldest,

I started thinking about writing this a few weeks ago. I've been putting it off in a sort of denial that if I don't write your birthday letter, then maybe I can will time to slow down a little bit. Maybe this time I can finally make it stop, push the pause button.

I know I can't, of course, but it was a nice thought.

I won't tell anyone you borrowed this medal for a picture...
I went through and re-read some of the old birthday letters, looked through old pictures of you, and I'm still completely at a loss about how we got here already. How are you going to be 16 already?

I wasn't joking when I told you that time doesn't truly seem linear once you have kids. I know that to you it was some silly philosophical conversation, but it was me really trying to communicate the detachment with time that seems to happen once you become a parent. You don't know because you just don't know, but you probably will someday.


Or maybe you do.

It wasn't so long ago when you woke up one morning with the realization that you were getting older, when you climbed into my bed upset with the knowledge that you weren't going to be a kid forever. I couldn't make it stop then and I can't make it stop now, and even if I could, I suspect you wouldn't really want that anyway. You're already looking forward to the next phase of your life, planning for those last two years of high school, weighing the options for what comes next. 


And you should be. You've got some amazing ideas for who you want to be when you grow up.

You've already grown up so much. These past few months, it seems especially true. There are days that you inexplicably just age before my eyes. It used to be more gradual, your transitions, but now it's as if you wake up dramatically different some mornings. The physical changes have been remarkable, sure, but it isn't just that. It's your demeanor. Your outlook on the world. Your maturity. Your level of responsibility, one that society likes to tell us teenagers simply cannot possess. And yet, here you are, defying the conventional wisdom. 



In this past year, you've accomplished so much. Completed so many goals. Achieved so many things in so many different facets of your life. You've put yourself out there, taken risks, done the things that scared you, not sure how it all would go. You didn't let the fear hold you back. And when things didn't work out the way you'd hoped, you sat with the disappointment, but only for a moment...then shrugged it off, moved on to Plan B, and set about how you could make yourself a more appealing candidate the next time.


You finished your Eagle rank, which would be a huge accomplishment alone if it was all you'd done this year. I told you a story about how I recently got into a heated online argument with someone who insisted that it is impossible to achieve that rank prior to the age of 16. I'll never understand why some people are so committed to the things they believe when the evidence - in this case your very existence - to the contrary is so obvious. I suppose, though, that is a conversation for another day. 

We still haven't had your Court of Honor since you've been so busy with everything else, but we'll get there. Eventually. The hard part is over, the rest is just gravy.



You took on a challenging course load at school and have thrived. Long gone are the days when I'd have to check your grade book online to make sure that you were turning everything in. You, as I knew you someday would, finally figured that out. So much success in life really just comes from showing up, and you've learned that already. I won't go into a lengthy list of your academic successes, but I don't need to anyway - you still insist on hanging all those certificates on the fridge or displaying them on the mantle. Just make sure you scoot over and let your siblings have a chunk of the mantle from time to time.

You have volunteered to help your father and brother with the Cub Scout den, you have volunteered at the hospital, you have volunteered teaching younger kids how to play shiny new instruments in summer band. You help me around the house and with your younger siblings. You help. You were just born to help. Sometimes you need to find a bird statue first, but you always do it. (Inside joke)



You went on your first real trip without us this year to NYC. Band has opened so many doors for you and will continue to do so. You came back home from that trip so much more mature that it defies explanation. You.were.just.older. In four days. Drumline won state this year with you leading the base line, but what mattered to me more than the medal in the end was the look on your face when you were performing out there during finals. I posted a picture of you in that moment, one that was blurry and so far away, but one that showed the pure joy on your face. I want you to remember how you felt that night and never let it go. Hang on to those moments forever.

Life isn't really about the pursuit of happiness in general, because no one can be happy all the time, even if we tell people that lie in our society all the time. You know me...I'm not going to lie to you. Life isn't always great, but you will find those moments of joy. Oh, those moments. Keep them. Tuck them into your pocket. Pull them out when you need them most. 



You think you know what you want to do after high school, you've been set on a certain school for a while now, but I know that is all subject to change. You've shifted that eventual career path already, currently in love with higher mathematics for reasons that mystify me. You're good at it, damned good at it, and you've started talking about the beauty of math, which to me sounds like a nightmare. But hey...kid...you do you. The world needs nerds that love math, which means the world needs people like you.

When you're messing with my emotions, you like to say things like, "Two more years, and I'll be gone...", but lately, I've started turning it around on you. That oppressive weight of time, the gift that keeps on giving. It'll be hard for you to leave, I know. It'll be hard on me and it will be hard on you, and it will be devastating for your siblings (that's payback for the feelings, kid...), but I'll pack your bags and slow down enough to kick you out the door before I drive away sobbing. Because that's what I do.



It's not my job to keep you little. I couldn't even if I tried. It's my job to get you as ready as I can for that great big world out there, then like the mama bird building her nest out front, it'll be my job to shove you out and teach you to fly. You can't fly if I'm hanging on, so I won't.

I'm teaching and pushing and nudging, reminding you that you can do it every step of the way.

And I'm proud of you. I'm so proud of you. Of who you will one day become, of who you already are. 



The certificates and awards and grades and accomplishments are amazing, sure, but what matters more than any of that every will or could is that you are kind. You are humble. You are considerate. You look around you to see who is watching. You make the choices not because of what the consequences to you might be, but because they are the right choices to make. 

You aren't a kid anymore, you're a young man...even if you still call me mama. 

(Seriously, never stop doing that.)



I don't know what this next year holds, but I can't wait to see what you come up with. 

Keep working hard, keep managing your time, keep finding friends that love the same things you love. Keep setting goals, keep putting yourself out there, keep dusting yourself off and trying again when it doesn't work out the way you had hoped. Keep pushing yourself for bigger and better. Keep balancing all of that work with play. Make sure you take care of yourself in all this. Don't ever lose sight of who you are, because you're pretty spectacular.



While you're at it, stay weird. Stay goofy. Keep laughing at those terrible jokes. Never stop singing and dancing and squatting in front of things. 



I love you, sweetheart. 

Happy birthday.

Love, 
Mama

p.s. the video still lives. Ho Ho Ho.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

I wasn't going to write about it this time...

I wasn't. I wasn't going to write about Mother's Day this year, and yet here we are.

The times that I want to believe that I have some control over when and how and what I write often are the times that I realize just how delusional I can sometimes be.

I write because I require writing. Without it, these thoughts stay locked in the confines of my head, and there they fester and do their bidding and battle with my common sense and my joy until I give in and find myself here. Pecking away at the keys.

I wasn't going to write about it this year because I spent most of the week working on a book submission, one that isn't even really about my mother, but is completely about her in a tangential way that almost everything was for so long. For better or for worse, who she was and the relationship we had have defined so much of who I once was and who I am today.

I want to push it away at times, defiantly insist that I am my own individual person and that I've been shaped by my experiences, but not by people. It just isn't true.

She was my mother. The central figure in my life for so many years, far more than she should have been, and one who still shapes who I become with each passing day.

Her influence, the good and the bad, irreversibly changed who I might have otherwise been, creating, at least in part, the person sitting in front of this screen the day before this holiday not wanting to write but doing it anyway.

I learned in this past week that there is so much yet that I haven't processed, so many things that I pushed away from memory and buried, possibly believing that they would or could stay there forever. The problem with that strategy is that it's terribly effective for a while until it isn't, and until it piles up enough that it becomes unmanageable. I try not to do that to myself anymore, because I can promise you that once you've been through the hell of PTSD, you don't ever want to repeat the experience.

So, I wrote the story I was intending to write and things seeped out of me that I had forgotten. Moments in time where I questioned everything about who she was and what I thought I knew. Moments since when I've realized things about my childhood that probably looked nothing like I remember them. Times when I've had to come to grips with the fact that I can't even trust my own memories because my reality was manipulated.

This holiday, it stings.

It's been hard for different reasons, for combined reasons, for many years, from before society told me that I was a mother. Before then, there was the year that I was supposed to be a mother and then I wasn't and there's nothing that our society tells those women who've been there and are there now that their experience with mothering is valid.

We tell them that they aren't mothers at all.

We hang on to this one idea of what mothering is supposed to be, and in the process we shut out everyone who doesn't fit into that exceedingly tiny box.

There are the mothers who've never been able to conceive, though they've tried and wished and hoped for what seems like an eternity.

There are the mothers who never held their babies, but loved them anyway. Science now tells us that the DNA for every conception remains in the mother's body forever. A few months back, I mentioned this piece of trivia to a mother who'd lost a child in utero, who'd never felt vindicated in her emotions, in her connection, in her grief. And in that moment, she found it all. They stay with us forever, even if we never ever meet them.

It's a profound thing to think about on a weekend like this one.

There are all the mothers walking this planet without the children who should still be here.

There are the mothers sitting at the bottom of a deep, dark pit of despair right now, tossed in there by mothering itself. There are the mothers battling anxiety and depression and rage and numbness and fear. There are the mothers convinced that they will never be the right mother for their children, that those kids would be better off without them. Depression is such a convincing liar, and far too many of those mothers don't come forward and tell their stories and ask for help because they're afraid that people will judge them.

There are the mothers who gave their children to someone else, for whatever reasons they chose. For every joyful adoption that we see on the outside in those shared pictures on social media, there is a mother without a child, and perhaps a mother with a child who will someday ask questions, calling her identity as a mother into question. These are not easy places to exist in, and I don't pretend to understand them at all. I only extend love and strength and support to anyone who has been there and is there now.

There are the mothers who, for whatever reason, aren't with their children. Maybe the life they built with a partner was destroyed, maybe their vision of a happy family decimated, maybe they've lost custody, maybe they're stuck in an ongoing battle with someone they once loved over the children they had together.

There are the mothers without their kids because their children chose to move out, live with the other parent, live with someone else.

There are the mothers who struggle every day to do what is best for the child they struggle with the most, never sure they are making the right decision and agonizing at every step.

There are the mothers with children that have grown and left, that have enlisted and enrolled in schools far away, that have gone on with their lives as they've been raised to do. And still, the mother sits and waits and hopes and worries. Forever.

There are the mothers with children who've distanced themselves for their own sanity because their mothers were toxic and damaging and refused to see it. For every one of those mothers, there are the children who had to walk away and construct boundaries and make choices and cope with the lashing out from friends and family members committed to believing what they want.

There are the all the mothers who society says aren't mothers. Who limits their roles and titles, saving this day in the most selfish way for those who fit inside the tiny boxes. There are the stepparents and the foster parents and the teachers and the neighbors and the partners and the friends.

What is mothering, really? Everything in our world is a construct, and we've allowed this particular construct to be too narrowly defined for too long.

Mothering, simply put, is loving a child unconditionally. Teaching them, raising them, worrying about them. Mothering is spending hours on the floor braiding hair and hours on the phone arguing with insurance companies and hours in the car crying when you realize you've just figured out why this child struggles so much in school and then trying to forgive yourself for not knowing sooner. Mothering is nights spent watching them breathe in their sleep, rubbing their backs when they are feverish, pacing the hallways in the hospital. Mothering is guiding and shaping, and nothing about it requires a biologic connection between a cisgender woman and a child. Nothing.

Society. Relentlessly trying to shove us into tiny boxes, excluding everyone else, then telling us what to feel.

Mothering is so much more than that. And I see you, all you who are mothering.

I see you, those who society is shutting out.

I see you, those who don't know what to do with the emotions of this holiday because it is just too much, too many expectations.

I see you, all those who've lost your own mother.

I see you, all those who weren't given the mother you needed. I see you as you try to learn to do what you weren't taught.

I see you. And I love you all.

I'm lucky to share this world with each and every one of you.

I hope you all get mothered a little bit right now. xo

Thursday, April 27, 2017

2017, The Year That I Start Biting People

I warned a friend months ago that I felt like 2017 would be the year I start biting people.

Months ago.

I haven't actually bitten anyone.

Yet.



But...I know that's probably because some of the people I have been the angriest with should be thanking the fact that they live far enough away from here that they're firmly outside of my bite radius.

There have been so many things that have angered me in so many new ways this year. SO FUCKING MANY THINGS.

Oh, yeah, I'm probably going to swear a lot here, so prepare your delicate sensibilities. Unless you've been here a while already and know that about me.

I swear. A lot. And I really don't care what other people think about that. I'm sure that in some people's eyes, that means I'm not a lady. Whatever.

If you think I care about your assessment of my femininity...excuse me while I have a good hearty belly laugh for a minute.

This year has truly been one shitshow after another, and I'm wholly convinced that this election season has infected our entire society. Not only do some people resoundingly NOT care about other people, they're not even trying to hide it anymore. Just go ahead and slap that proclamation of hatred on your forehead, folks.

I've watched as people around me suddenly woke up to systemic racism, only when it was revealed that someone else they held up on some pedestal wasn't who they pretended to be.

Hero worship is a powerful fucking drug.

I don't do heroes. I never have.

Wanna know why?

Because people are the worst.

For real.

Sure, there are lots and lots of people who do important things, who invent and create and lead and produce amazing benefits to society.

And every single one of those people has done or said something that would knock the air out of your hero sails, rip the mast in half and sink the motherfucking ship.

Does that invalidate the good things they do? Of course not.

Is it disingenuous to talk about the terrible things they've done, that they've said, that they've encouraged, that they've benefited from? Not only no, but hell no.

It's disingenuous NOT to talk about it.

We're all human and we all make mistakes. Some of us make those mistakes over and over and over again enough times and with volition enough that they aren't mistakes at all, but deliberate choices to be assholes. Just because we also did something amazing doesn't make us infallible. Nope.

Of course there are degrees of awfulness. Some people who've done amazing things don't have a long list of horrendous offenses. Sometimes the harms they've perpetrated are relatively minor. But some of them have stood on the backs of others climbing up to the top of that pedestal, content to take the work of others and claim it as their own. Some of them hurt other people in unimaginable ways. Some of them aren't who you think they are at all.

Two of the universes I'm part of have dealt with this already THIS YEAR, and people wonder why I don't want to talk to anyone at this point.

TWO OF THEM.

The problems at the core?

Cultural insensitivity, racism, appropriation, abuse. All kinds of shit that no one likes to talk about or admit exists...the kinds of things that people can't seem to see until that spotlight shines down and they have a come to Jesus moment.

Age isn't an excuse here.

It just isn't. I don't care how old you are, it doesn't give you a pass on this stuff.

Systemic racism is absolutely a thing. One of the comments I've written and written and written this week goes a bit like this:

The entirety of maternity care in this country is rooted in misogyny, in racism, in classism, in fetishization. Our system routinely fails MOST women, but it fails women of color more. It fails children of color more. The evidence is indisputable.

The entirety of postpartum care in this country is, wait for it....the same. Failing most women, failing women of color more.

And a HUGE part of the reason it fails women of color more? The resolute unwillingness by those in positions of power and privilege to see it in the first place.

So, you know, if you're totally fine sitting idly by as maternal mortality rates tick higher and higher in this country that somehow simultneously claims we're going to be great again while stripping women of their access to the not-good-enough health care they currently have, you're what is wrong with this country.

Talking about inequalities, particularly those supported by the data, does not perpetuate racism. Racism wasn't invented by health researchers. We didn't just conjure it up by running a regression analysis.

FFS

...

My husband wants me to try and relax, to stop being so fucking furious all the time. He wants me to be able to let stuff go. And he does and says all these things to me because he worries about me. He knows how much this all wears me down. I'm writing this in the hope that letting some of it out will lift some of that weight off my shoulders. Maybe it'll work. Maybe it won't. He wants me to understand that I don't need to choose to engage in every fight to which I am invited.

Sometimes, though, those fights come right to my door and won't stop knocking.

Knock

Knock

Knock

And sure, I (maybe) could let shit go. Maybe. Some of it. Within reason.

Unless it involves my children. In which case, you don't want to knock on this mama bear's cave door.

And if it is my children that you come knocking about, know that you will unleash a wrath within me that might never fade entirely. I don't care how long I've known you, or how close we once were. I don't care that you're older, that you believe I owe you my time or my answers or my respect. There is no respect left. There is no love left.

We are just done.

When someone shows you who they are, believe them.

Besides which...

I am the one who knocks.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

To The One Who Pushes Harder and Harder...

I haven't written this yet, but it's not officially your birthday yet, right? You weren't born until the afternoon, so technically this isn't late. Yet.

I still totally have time.

Winky face.



You won't be able to read it until tonight anyway since you have a track meet after school. Birthday = Hurdles. Somehow, for reasons that I don't fully understand, you are running and jumping over things on purpose. My dad used to do that when he was back in high school. He was actually really good at it, too...even ran the steeplechase. Held on to some records for decades. Clearly the affinity for track and field skipped a generation. I have always had bad knees, and somehow on hurdle day, they were always giving me trouble. Okay, maybe I milked it to avoid the hurdles. *runs away*



I know that if Grandpa were still here, he'd have been on a plane to watch your first race. He'd be so proud of you. Wherever he is now, I hope he's watching.

You see something like a giant hurdle and say to yourself, "I can do that".



And then you do.

About this time last year, you decided to compete in the triathlon over the summer, even though you hardly had the stamina to swim one length of the pool at the time. You pushed yourself, you developed the endurance, and you finished.



You've already started training for this year, making your pool distance on your first attempt and shaving time off your personal best. For your birthday, you wanted a road bike. And you got one.

Ever since you were a baby, you've been obsessed with going fast. Then going faster.



You were the one who spun the tires on the powerwheels Jeep bald as a toddler, now you're the one timing miles on the bike.

Let me just take a moment right now to thank whoever Craig is for inventing his list, because we were able to find you a bike for a reasonable price.

Just last night, after getting home from helping your dad with your brother's cub scout meeting, you whipped up a batch of white chocolate fudge. The house is usually littered with your cookbooks and magazines and recipes and ingredient lists. There's always something in the works, some new creation you need to try out.



This year, you started middle school, going back into the world of public school again. You were nervous at first, but have transitioned easily. You've made new friends, you've rekindled old friendships, you've branched out on your own. When the ugliness of adolescent drama has reared its head, you've weathered it with grace, learning the hard lessons in life that people will disappoint you, but that it almost never has anything at all to do with you.



I know how impossibly hard it is for you to not take things personally. I know because I am the same way. You're learning. I'm still learning. It's hard when you feel things as big as we do, it's harder still when people you love choose to hurt you.

I wish I could tell you that this lesson would end soon, that people would stop being awful...but it won't. You'll just get better at dealing with it all.

Don't let it harden you to the world, though. Don't let it change who you are. Don't let it stop you from putting yourself out there, from forming new friendships, from trying new things. Don't let it change your passion, your determination to do the right thing, your seeking of fairness and justice. Don't.

Those things make you who you are.

You were hesitant to sign up for the science olympiad team this year, not sure of what it entailed. Your sister would be participating for the last time before she moves on to high school. Though I know that it may not seem like it now, and certainly didn't seem like it then, someday you both will look back on this time and see what you achieved together.



Speaking of things you did together, you were on the same volleyball team too. Then you have been there, quietly supporting and cheering her on as she built the gay/straight alliance club at school. You even helped her find a dress for the gala dinner she was invited to attend.

That's who you are. You're always there, for all of us. You're always the first one asking if you can come along. You're always willing to sit in the stands, help out, cheer the loudest, hang out in parking lots at drumline shows for entire days. Even if your siblings don't always return the favor, even if they're too busy, too moody, too teenager-y, you always, always, always support them.



You have a special bond with the baby because of your willingness to help, and he is drawn to you especially. He blows you kisses every morning after I drop you off at school, and when he wakes up from his naps in the afternoon, you're usually the one he asks for. You're always the one that volunteers to wear him when we go somewhere that his little legs won't carry him.



You've grown up so much this year, learning to juggle all the responsibilities of school and homework and sports. You've pushed yourself in things I would have never even attempted. You've always got a second bag packed, whether it is for volleyball or basketball or track or the pool or a sleepover.

You're a journey in chaos at times, a whirlwind of activity and emotion, wrapped up in this tiny body that came with two hollow legs. You can out-eat anyone in the house when you're training...it really is impressive. It's a good thing you cook too.



You're a force to be reckoned with in this world, a passionate fighter who loves with your whole heart. You don't do anything small. You're not afraid of a challenge. You'll teach yourself if you have to. Then you'll start timing laps, keeping track of how much faster you went this time.

Keep running, baby. Keep going faster.



I'm proud of you.

Happy birthday.

...and I love you more first.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Is there a statute of limitations on this stuff?

My husband stayed home from work yesterday. Over the weekend, he'd fallen up in the mountains, going and hurting himself in the process. When he could hardly move, I insisted that he should probably go to the doctor just to make sure he didn't do anything that won't heal on its own. The diagnosis? Torn cartilage around one of his ribs.

And yeah, he got the, "At your age..." lecture from the doctor. Weekend warriors of the world, I salute you. So do all the orthopedists.

Since he was here, he did all the things he does on any given day...just most of the time, at least during the week, he does it when he is at work. On that list of habitual daily things...he checks the pictures on the cloud from this day in prior years.

I tend not to do that, for a few reasons. One, I am deeply in the realization that my kids are growing up before my eyes right now and don't particularly need to see pictures of them as squishy infants at the moment. Two, I've got issues. A boatload of them in fact. Once you've dealt with PTSD as a result of your issues and needed years of therapy to work through them, you kind of give up being a tourist in your own life. Three, I'm usually too busy teaching the homeschooler and preventing the toddler from dismantling the house all day long to remember to check.

He checks.

Sometimes when something makes him feel things, he sends me a picture or texts it to the kids.

Sometimes he laughs, trying to figure out what that picture was - especially on the days when it's abundantly clear that some kid lacking photography skills had clearly taken one of our phones and had a little photo session.

Sometimes he's quiet and reflective.

And sometimes he's a mixture of annoyed and pissed and amused.

Yesterday was one of those.

The pictures he saw, and then showed to me immediately since he was here?

The ones of the day of the fire.

"The" fire.

I always feel really unsettled this time of year. Edgy. Or at least I have for the last five years. It took me a while to put two and two together, but the days when it's prematurely warm and windy are always the worst, especially when it's towards the second half of March.

The reason? The fire.

The one that I still don't really talk about, and have only mentioned briefly here before. I think maybe it is time for me to finally write about it. I know that it'll likely end up with me getting a few messages from people. I know that someone will probably tell me I'm wrong, because that is usually what happens.

I actually brought it up independently a few days ago, not realizing we were so close to the anniversary. A friend is dealing with a situation similar in far too many ways to the one I was in back then, six years ago. I see her and what she is going through. I see the guilt and the conflict and the questioning, I see her trying so fucking hard to do the right thing, never sure of what it is. I see her shielding her child from as much of it as she possibly can, knowing that she has a duty as a mother that is bigger than her duty as a daughter. I see it. I see it because I lived it, and because I understand how impossible a situation like that truly is to endure.

So, the fire. "The" fire.

My father had died about six weeks earlier. My mom had come out here to visit, in anticipation of moving out this way. She needed to get out of the house he died in, and I understood that she had to come here. So she did.

And she was not in a good place. She hadn't been for a long time, and maybe never really was. She was doing this thing that I've seen so many people do when they lose the person who was the center of their life, and they spiral out of control. She was reckless, she was irresponsible. She was spending money as if it actually grew on trees, which was precisely the kind of thing my father hated most when he was alive. She was newly free of his guidance, and living it up on her terms. Smoking like a chimney, even in the wake of watching her husband die of lung cancer.

And then she was here.

That afternoon, I had to take one of the kids to an eye appointment. She offered to stay here with the other kids so that I wouldn't have to take them. I hesitated just a moment, but then the overwhelmed mother in me said, okay. I left and took my daughter to the doctor.

At the time, my oldest was not yet nine years old. The same age his younger brother is now. My younger daughter was five. The youngest back then was only two.

The wind had picked up quite a bit, but I didn't pay too much attention to it.

When we turned onto the street coming home, the gusts had picked up more. I saw what appeared to be smoke and started to panic a bit. As I pulled around the curve and could fully view our house, I realized the smoke was coming from our yard.

She was out there, trying to connect the hose to the house, as it was still too cold to leave it connected overnight. Desperately.

The mulch was smoking all over the yard, visible flames in a few areas. The underbrush of the plants all along the fence were engulfed. And the flames licked the top of the fence line, urging their way upward with each gust.

I screamed. Threw the car into park. Told my daughter to go into the house and immediately call 911. I ran to the side yard and ripped the hose from her hands, still not connected. Got it all together, and started stamping out what I could with my feet while pouring water on the fence.

She was yelling.

"I don't know what happened".

"It's not my fault".

"It was the wind".

I screamed something to the effect of, "Why didn't you call 911? Where are the kids? What the fuck happened????", then told her to go inside and get the kids and get them out of the house. Make sure 911 had been contacted.

She told me that we didn't need to call 911. And that everything was fine.

She finally stopped arguing and went inside.

I started screaming at the sky right about then. Sobbing.

Tried to call my husband over and over, his phone going straight to voicemail.

The only thing that kept the entire yard from going up was that I'd just soaked the dry brown winter grass the day prior. I shudder to think how quickly it might have spread if not for that. Whether the house could have gone up, whether my neighbor's might have.

Then the sirens. They got louder and louder.

Two trucks. Fire chief happened to be on duty that day.

By then, I'd managed to put out most of the fire myself. They checked​ the fence for hot spots, dug around the post to make sure there wasn't anything smoldering where we couldn't see.

Chief asked what happened. I told him I didn't know. That I'd been at the doctor with one child, my mother left here with the other kids, and I'd come home to this.

She came outside, hysterical. The oldest was holding the baby. The girls were holding each other.

Immediately defensive, she confronted the fire chief. Insisted that it had been put out. Not the fire, the cigarette.

She pointed at the can she insisted she'd extinguished the cigarette in, now rolling around the yard in the wind.

He didn't believe her.

My eldest child stepped forward, told them what he'd seen. She had gone outside, again, to smoke. Left him in the house to watch the others. Told him to leave her alone.

She was out on the porch, smoking in 40mph+ winds, talking on her cell phone. She'd put her soda can on the railing, laid the still lit cigarette on top, and it blew off, starting the fire. 

She was on the phone.
Smoking.
In the wind.
Outside.
Instead of watching the kids.


The cigarette that was more important to her than watching
the kids. The cigarette that lit my yard on fire and destroyed
my relationship with my mother.


She turned around and with a vengeance in her face and in her voice that I'd come to be quite familiar with, she called him a liar. To his face. In front of us all.

He insisted he was telling the truth.

I had no reason to doubt him.

He had no incentive to lie.

The chief pulled me aside, asked me if she was mentally stable. I said I was questioning it. He asked if there had been anything traumatic in her life recently. I said yeah...my Dad literally just died. From smoking.

He shook his head.

Asked me if I wanted to press charges.

Told me they'd have her arrested and charged with arson and child endangerment.

I said no.

I said no.

I said no because I hadn't yet fully wrapped my head around how reckless she was. I said no because I was still trying to protect her. I said no because I wanted her to just get her shit figured out and be a responsible adult.

I said no because I was in denial of the truth.

I said no because I was still leveraging the safety of my kids for her benefit.

I said no.

I should have said yes.

Maybe things would have been different. Maybe the path she was on would have changed. Maybe things wouldn't have ended the way they did. Maybe she'd still be here now.

I don't know and wondering does me no good now, on this side.

She's been dead now for three and a half years, and nothing about that is reversible.

What I learned in that moment and the months and years that followed was that I couldn't fix her. I couldn't make her better and no amount of trying would help. Didn't stop me from trying.

What it did, though, was damage my kids. Damage me. We required years of therapy and work to undo the damage.

She referred to it from that day forward as, "a small incident". Never took responsibility. Never accepted that she'd caused it all to happen, never admitted that she was lying, never once apologized to my son for accusing him of lying.

And I knew that I could never trust her again.

I could never leave her with my children again.

She absolutely could not live with us.

All this happened six years ago yesterday, and it took me this long to tell this story.

Is there a statute of limitations on this stuff?

Maybe, just maybe there is.

I'm guessing it's around six years.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Unpredictability of Time

I wrote a post on Facebook yesterday, lamenting the fact that one of the theories I'd held fast to throughout my tenure as a parent was breaking down.

I used to believe that there was a little bit of comfort in the fact that we don't really observe our kids growing up, at least not in the "oh my gosh, they are so much older" sense that occurs when we see children who don't live with us after a few weeks or months and they're suddenly so much taller and more mature.

I used to believe it. Clung to it, in fact, because this parenthood gig is essentially a lifelong journey with bitter sweetness.

The days can sometimes drag on for what seems like an eternity, but you blink and inexplicably, that toddler is looking at colleges and you wonder what the hell happened to the linear progression of time.

They were just born yesterday, weren't they?

They grow up, children. Whether we want them to or not, and they opt not to obey our time frames at all.

I used to think that there was at least some small comfort in the fact that we can't really tell how much or how fast it all has happened though, just because of the benefit of proximity. We are with them daily, see them constantly, and that truth makes it virtually impossible to pick up on the subtle changes constantly taking place.

Sure, they get older, but it's just a minuscule amount at a time, virtually impossible to take notice of.

Or at least it was.

Until this past week.



The theory broke down.

It no longer holds any weight, at least not in my house.

For reasons that defy explanation, I can suddenly see my kids aging before my eyes. I don't know if it is the days ticking off the calendar that my oldest child will still be here at home and my need to confront that reality. I don't know if it is the fact that both of my daughters are smack dab in the middle of their growth spurts at the same time. I don't know if it's the ever changing set of gaps in the teeth of my eight year old. I don't know it's the toddler who has seemed instantly to have transformed into a kid in the past handful of days.

I suspect it's likely a combination of all of those things, hitting me at once.

I suspect also that it probably has something to do with my deliberate awareness of it all, those moments as a parent when you just quietly sit and observe who they're rapidly becoming and you wonder how you were ever able to create these people and how they chose you to be their parent and why you are so lucky to have this chance.

Kids. Teaching me I've been so wrong about so much of what I thought I knew, and on a daily basis no less.

I've given up wishing for a pause button because I've had children long enough to know that such a thing doesn't exist. Instead, I'm trying to just live in this moment as much as I can. I know it won't last for long.

I've blinked before.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

How a Pregnant Giraffe Gives Me Hope (in a world rapidly descending into chaos...)

I feel like I've already written about this giraffe, and I know for certain that I have been periodically checking in on her for about a million years. Maybe I overstate a bit, but it sure feels that way.

I've spent more time looking at giraffe vagina lately than I ever imagined possible.

And I say this as a person who generally spends more time staring at vaginas than most people ever will.

(If you didn't already know, I am a doula....so try not to make it weird, you guys.)

Anyway.

I can't even remember who the first person was that insisted I watch this live video of this giraffe in labor all those weeks ago. Whoever you are....side eye.

"In labor".

Giraffes aren't actually deemed to be in labor until hooves are showing, which means that this giraffe we've all been staring at for weeks is not now and hasn't yet been in labor on this live video, but we've all wasted hours of our lives watching giraffe vagina just to get filled with eager anticipation every time she lifted her tail.

Then pooped.

Also, this is information that I did not know about giraffes until a few weeks ago, so look at that....we're all learning, here.

There was a night this week that I really thought she'd finally go. She looked like I remember in those last weeks. Miserable. Uncomfortable. Pissed. Couldn't get up and down without a whole production. She was having labored breathing and everything.

But then no.

Let me tell you...as a doula and a as someone who has birthed five humans, this is a thing. The whole OMG the baby is coming right now but then....nah. How about you stay pregnant for another week or so? Good times.

My name is Kelly and it has been seventeen minutes since I last checked on April.

This is not April, but it is a giraffe.
Thank you, public domain pictures.
In these past few weeks of staring at the backside of this giraffe, though, I've been amused. People watching is basically my favorite activity in the world as it is, and something about the semi-anonymous nature of the internet brings out the best and worst in people.

Clearly, it's not actually anonymous because all those comments posted to live videos have the name attached, but there's an illusion of insulation involved as we all sit from behind our own screens away from other people, all staring at the same ass together.

And people reveal so very much about themselves, and collectively they reveal so much about humanity. It's interesting, to say the least.

There are people that clearly have spent large portions of time watching and waiting. They are the people who are hardcore invested in this birth, the ones who express great relief every time they have to go actually do something else and come back and she's still knocked up. OH THANK GOD I DIDN'T MISS IT, they exclaim! Yeah, she totally waited for you, Karen from Columbus, Ohio.

There are the people who are constantly praying for April to have a safe delivery, asking Jesus to help her. I'm not convinced that's how it works, but whatever floats your boat. I'm pretty sure that if Jesus or God or whoever actually intervenes when asked like that, he/she/they would probably opt to tackle larger issues than a giraffe who isn't actually in labor yet. Just saying. Also, I'm pretty sure prayers about sporting events fall into the same category.

There are the people who are convinced she needs pain medication or induced, and as an actual doula, this one annoys me for about 47 different reasons, but I figure there's no reason to argue with people who can "sense" that a giraffe on the other side of the country that they are watching on their phone is in pain. Maybe they have abilities I don't possess. Who knows?

There are the people who show up just to rant about zoos in general, about how awful it is to have animals in captivity, and I while I agree that humans are generally terrible about forcing animals to entertain us, the past few weeks also saw a rhino have its horn cut off with a chainsaw by poachers in a zoo, so the common denominator seems to be that humans are the worst, no matter what.

There are the people who seem certain that the animals are being neglected and underfed and forced to live in these tiny stalls...but anyone who has watched for more than a few minutes knows none of those things are true. Some people are super committed to what they believe, though, and nothing will sway them otherwise.

There are far more giraffe experts than logic says should exist in this world on these threads, arguing with other giraffe experts about every aspect of giraffing. Oh wait, they aren't experts. They're just people with an internet connection and time to kill.

There are the people who reported the live feed for obscenity because thousands of people staring at a giraffe's vagina must be sin filled and dirty. Yes, that actually happened. I assume those are the people who have only ever had sexual relations for the purpose of conception, and probably stuck to the missionary position, then said a few rosaries afterwards. Sex. It's how we all got here. For real, though.

There are the people who honestly know nothing about mammals in general, like the fact that humans are mammals or that giraffes are mammals or that mammals feed their babies milk. And the self-amusing trolls of the world have seized upon the ignorance and gullibility of them by creating the egg movement. If you've watched April, you are familiar with #teamegg already. I'll try to be brief in the description. It's basically a group of people who insist (in a completely joking and ridiculous way) that the giraffe is going to lay an egg, then the giraffe will hatch from the egg. They make up statistics and information about the egg, tell people what size and shape it is, how long it will be until it hatches or whether it will break upon landing on the ground. It's a whole thing. Intended to be ridiculous and amusing, a way to kill time while staring at giraffe vagina. There are three general groups of people who respond to #teamegg. 1) the people who get disproportionately angry, 2) the ones who actually believe that the giraffe is going to lay an egg (this is why we need more science in schools, you guys), and 3) those who just ignore them. I'm sure, as a blogger and personal troll magnet, you can all see how this amuses me deeply.

Among all these terribly interesting groups of people, though, there have been glimmers of hope in these rolling comment sections.

People sitting vigils over dying parents and grandparents, watching the giraffe to distract themselves from what is happening in real life for them.

Families in the process of welcoming their own new babies into the world, sharing their labor stories and worries and concerns.

People struggling with their own mental health issues, staying online to keep in contact with someone else out there in the world.

And all of those people have been supported and loved and surrounded by this community of complete strangers. It's beautiful to see, actually, and with everything else going on these days, we need these reminders.

We need to hang on to that hope, the hope that tells us that people can be strange and paranoid and selfish and ignorant, but that they can also be loving and supportive and committed and entirely invested in something that has nothing to do with them.

So, giraffe watchers of the world. I see you. And I think you're pretty fucking amazing. Keep it up.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Danger of False Allies

The internet is quite literally full of articles about the right way and the wrong way to be a feminist right now, especially after this weekend.

For the record, transgender women are women. Full stop.

Any argument people attempt to make about how they have/still benefit from male privilege ignores the anecdotal and statistical evidence that says otherwise.

Trans women are one of the most marginalized groups of people in this society, the most likely to be the victims of violence.

So, let's just not have that conversation, please.


~~~~~~throws things~~~~~~

What I'm here to write about, and what I will try to be as brief as humanly possible about in this discussion, is the reality that our society is full of false allies right now.

I can see some of you cringing at the mention of those two words together already.

We see it in white feminism all the time, where white women center the conversations around their needs, their concerns, their issues, far too often at the expense of women of color, at the expense of trans women, at the expense of anyone who doesn't feel at home wearing a pink pussy hat.

p.s. not all women have vaginas, not all vaginas are pink, and really can we not??? I mean, I get that whole wanting to reclaim the word thing and how the focus is on that simply because the guy we just elected to the highest office in the land is a proud grabber and bragger of grabbing them, but can we not?

Feminism that holds that up as the center ignores women, silences them, tells them that they aren't women, that their concerns are not at the forefront or even welcome at all.

I really don't want to talk about feminism, though, because this issue is so much larger than that (and feminism is a pretty fucking big deal, so what I'm talking about must be virtually constant and legitimately dangerous, right? Right.)

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

Seriously. I cannot focus today. This is my brain on ADHD and anxiety and I need to go teach a group of LGBTQ+ kids to meditate in an hour and I haven't showered so freaking focus, self.

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

The False Allies. Let's talk about them. White feminists are just one variety, but they come in all flavors, all races, all genders, all sexual orientations, all political affiliations. Basically, anyone can be a false ally. Me included. You included.

What is a false ally?: someone who claims outwardly to be, and probably really believes that they are, an advocate for someone else, in whatever way they are attempting to express that advocacy, but who messes up fundamental parts of that relationship, whether intentionally or unintentionally, and in the process makes things worse.

Holy run on sentence, Batman.

I swear, I am coming back to edit this later.

I just need to get it out right now...

So, these false allies....I was talking to someone about them recently, about how in my view they are often more dangerous than people who just oppose whatever the issue is, because they create the illusion that they are there to help. They want to believe they are helping. They think they are.

The path to hell is paved with good intentions, and they are super committed to paving that road.

These are the people who step into leadership positions, wanting to organize groups or events or marches or whatever, but who can't understand that their perspective is necessarily limited by their own experiences.

These are the people who think that because they had a friend go through a situation one time, and they were sort of around tangentially, that they're qualified to give people who are actually going through it now advice, but then they stumble over the words and sometimes say terrible things.

These are the people who really do mean well, and want to make a difference, until someone points out the fact that they aren't being inclusive, or that their platform ignores this entire group of people, or that their terminology is ableist or that they've made assumptions steeped in privilege that just aren't going to apply to others. And then it gets hard. And then, instead of acknowledging their own limitations or lack of information or experience, they get defensive. They shut down criticism. They refuse to do the work, instead claim they've already done it or that it isn't necessary at all.

They keep paving that road to hell with good intentions, hurting people along the way.

I wrote a piece last week or the week prior about how we are all problematic and we all are. We are all necessarily limited by our own experiences, by the stigmas and lies we've been raised to believe, by the set of tools we have currently at our disposal.

No one comes to advocacy a wholly inclusive person, no one comes to this with the ability to fully incorporate the needs and concerns of all those who deserve a seat at the table. No one does.

And no one should be excluded from being an advocate because they occasionally screw up.

But if you're going to sit at that table, and if you're going to hold yourself out as an ally and you're committed to really doing the work, then you've got to understand that we're all problematic and the only way we become less so is to learn.

Listen.

Grow.

When you fuck up, and you will, apologize. Not that "well, but I tried" or "but I meant ____" or "I'm sorry you're upset" kind of apology. A real apology. The kind that just says, "I am sorry and I will take this experience and learn from it and do my best to do better next time."

That's all.

Seriously.

Being a human is hard.

Being a human who hurts other people can be emotionally devastating, but we all do it.

What matters is what you take away from that experience.

Either you learn and grow, you listen and do better.....or you build a wall of defiance, certain that your intentions matter more than harming other people.

Do that, and you're a false ally.

And you know who false allies hurt more than anyone else?

The people who believe they are real.

Don't pave the road to hell with good intentions. Dismantle the machine that fucks up the road in the first place, then build a better one.

Have a good day.

Monday, March 6, 2017

foreshadowing the floor crying

The following is a post I wrote on Saturday morning. I was sitting in a college classroom on the other side of the state, there for Science Olympiad with my daughters. They participated together.

(I know that someday they are going to be so glad they did this together. I know that day won't be for a while and it certainly wasn't on Saturday.)

Anyhow, I wrote this roughly 24 hours before I hit the proverbial wall and ended up on the floor sobbing uncontrollably. I knew it was coming. I saw it from a mile away. I needed to do it. And since I have, I feel better.

So, fellow humans of the world, I implore you. Feel the feelings. All of the feelings. Even the ones you are suppressing.

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

I really want to stop writing about this.

I really want to stop talking about this.

I really want to stop thinking about this.

The problem with me being me is that I know that until and unless I completely process all the shit that has happened in the past 8 days, I won’t be able to be done with it all. Maybe ever.

Hi.

Once you’ve been through the whole ptsd thing as a direct consequence of unprocessed trauma, you don’t willingly ever want to go back there.

Trust me on this.

The thing is that I was really only tangentially involved in the whole thing. I’m affected, sure, but this isn’t my story to tell. This isn’t my trauma. This isn’t about me, and I have zero delusions that it ever is or could be.

And still, it is affecting me.

It’s affecting me because I’ve been through trauma enough times to recognize the warning signs, some of which I feel like I should have seen earlier, most of which I’m already beating myself up for diligently.

Should I have done more? Should I have done less? Am I responsible for anything that happened? Could I have done anything to change it?

None of those questions really have answers. I know this.

And I know that I need to just accept that there are way too many things in this world that I cannot control, but that will inevitably affect me. And I need to sit with that truth, ugly as it is.

I’ve learned things about people through this experience. Good things. Bad things. Terrible things. Awful things.

I’ve been through enough horrible experiences in life that I can tell you there is one commonality that runs between them, as predictable and unsurprising as it is disappointing. It is this: people will always let you down. When the going gets rough, when situations become difficult, when the moment of truth arrives, there will always be people who reveal themselves to be someone you wished they weren’t.

And it sucks.

2017. The year of being disappointed in humans.

For as many terrible things we learn, though, there is the good. The hope. The optimism. The allies and partners and fighters revealed. You learn who your people are and you learn it in a hurry.

I’ve always joked that I’m the person you want on your side when the zombie apocalypse happens. There are reasons.

I mean, I totally will flake on you if we make plans a week from now, particularly if they involve going out in public, wearing pants, talking to people I don’t already know, or anything remotely scary.

I will. I’ll worry so much about whatever it is that we have planned that I will literally make myself ill over it, because that is the wonder of me.

But.

When shit goes down for real, all that overthinking and overanalyzing comes in handy.

And then, when the shit going down starts to wind down, I pay the price of running on adrenaline and caffeine and vodka. While it’s a terribly effective short term fuel source, there are consequences.

And right now I can feel those consequences in every cell in my body. My back and my neck and my shoulder ache. My head has been hurting for days. The kind of headache where even your hair hurts. I’m drained. I’m exhausted. I’m worn down.

And I know that for as awful as I am feeling right now, I’m on the periphery.

This wasn’t about me. It wasn’t then and it isn’t now.

So whatever I am feeling right now is just a fraction of what others are possibly feeling, probably feeling, almost certainly feeling.

That’s what we do, though, us humans. We feel.

So feel whatever you are feeling right now. Ask yourself the hard questions. Demand better from others, from insitutions, from yourself. Drink water. Sleep.

Get up.

Get some more coffee.

Kick ass.

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