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.
In the wind.
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 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 try not to make it weird, you guys.)


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 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 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.


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.


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.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Where Do We Go From Here?

The past week has been a difficult one for me and for so many of the people I love. I won't go rehashing what happened, mostly because it isn't my story to tell.

My involvement with an organization that will soon disappear was short lived, relative to my life and my work in postpartum mental health, and relative to the involvement that others had with this group.

This is a tremendous loss in our collective lives and has left many people wondering what we do now. Where do we go from here?

I want to assure anyone who has ever come to me with their questions or concerns, with their set of symptoms wondering what might be going on, with questions about resources or can still do all of that. My work didn't begin with this organization and it isn't going to end. In fact, I'm shifting my focus to one that is more local in nature and have launched a Colorado advocacy group.

The hardest part about all of this for me is that we're all problematic. Every single one of us. We all make mistakes. Sometimes we make the same mistake over and over and over again. That doesn't mean that we can't also do good things. It doesn't mean that we can't also do good work. As human beings, we are complex and deeply, deeply flawed.

At the end of the day, though, it's my opinion that the mission of an organization is meaningless if that mission isn't one that is extended to all those served equally. The mission is meaningless if people within it are not treated properly.

Change is not easy, but it is necessary. Change has to be forced. Equality in any form in this society has never been extended without those who are marginalized demanding it.

There are so many people who will claim that intentions matter, and sure...they matter a little. What matters far more than intentions ever will or could or should, though, is impact. We don't get to decide if what we say or do hurts other people. We don't get to tell someone else whether they should be harmed at all. We don't get to insist that our lack of awareness of the fact that we've hurt them is an excuse or an explanation. We don't.

We certainly don't get a free pass to perpetrate the same harms repeatedly.

The road to hell truly is paved with good intentions.

Good intentions are particularly damaging if they can blind someone to the damage they're doing along the way.

So, this morning, sitting here, organizing and planning and starting fresh, I know that even if it doesn't make sense, things will be okay. Eventually.

They might be hard for a long time. We all might have questions that never get answered. We aren't all going to have the same questions or the same feelings.

We need to grieve the loss of this thing we were a part of. The grief demands that we acknowledge it, that we stand in its truth and confront it head on.

And we, all of us survivors of mental health issues in the past, know that we need to let the grief in. We need to give it the time and the space, we need to work through it. It's going to look and feel a little different for everyone, and that is okay.

We need to also come to terms with our own disappointment: our disappointment with individuals and with institutions.

Perhaps even our disappointment with ourselves.

That's always the hardest to confront anyway, isn't it? And it's one of the reasons we're here in the first place.

I hope that all who are out there reading this today and understanding why I am writing it know five things.

  1. Self care is essential right now. Take care of you. If that means you need to step away, do it. 
  2. This movement isn't contained to one person or one organization. It is all of us. And we are all going to keep doing this work. 
  3. This community is not going away, and we are here to support one another.
  4. Believe those who tell you they are harmed, and work to undo the harm. 
  5. I love you.  

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