Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mental Illness - are we really in control or are we at the mercy of our minds?

It's been a rough few weeks in the news when it comes to mental health stories, and anyone out there who relates in any way to the demons Robin Williams struggled with has felt it.

The reason his death has affected, and is still affecting so many of us is a simple one could be us.

Chew on that one for a while, nonbelievers.

There is so much rhetoric and argument in the wake of a high profile death, there are always those who chastise those who mourn, there are always those who question the motivations of the person involved, and there is always a vast abundance of people speaking openly about something that they so clearly don't understand.

For a few days, I had to make a conscious decision to step back from the updates and the news and the blogs and the rants. I had to make self preservation a priority for myself, which is something that I came to learn the hard way as I've walked the path I have walked in my life. Stories like his are so overwhelming to some of us that it is difficult if not impossible to shut it all out.

Our minds don't work like those who enjoy the luxury of complete mental balance and stability. We can't just shut off the computer or television and be done with something. We can't just distract ourselves and ignore that looming thing over there.

It follows us. It gets into our heads. It toys with us.

It all was really starting to get to I did what I had to do, which is essentially to remove myself from wifi connections as much as humanly possible, throw as many balls up into the air as I could to try and distract myself and do anything within my power to think about something, anything else.

It isn't easy, though there are a great many people out there who believe it should be.

Which brings me to this post here today. The one that has rattled around in my brain for days now. The one that I feel compelled to write even though I have no answers relevant even for myself, let alone anyone else. The question is simple and uncomplicated, the answer anything but that.

Are we, the people who struggle with mental illness at the mercy of those diseases or do we have a choice?

I know, right?

Talk about a loaded question...

What made me really start to think about this were all the people who made statements about how Williams chose to commit suicide. I don't know that anything that happens in those darkest moments could legitimately be construed as involving actual choice, if I'm being honest.
I've been at the mercy of my thoughts, wholly incapable of controlling them at times, and it is absolutely terrifying. I can't say with any degree of certainty that decisions I made in those moments were rational ones. They were anything but. They weren't based in any realistic perception of my circumstances, they weren't thought out, they weren't any of that. They were irrational. Period.

Post partum depression soundly kicked my ass and taught me some lessons I never wanted to learn. I hid it for over a year before I just couldn't do it anymore, flirting dangerously with psychosis at times. Ultimately, I did get help and admitting I needed it was what pulled me out of that place...but not everyone gets help, and even those who do aren't always saved in time. Some mothers kill their children. Some mothers kill themselves.

Is any of that a choice, per se? I don't personally think so, only because I've been there myself. 

When I have had panic attacks, reason and rationality fly out the window and I go into full blown fight or flight mode. I'm focused, quite literally, just on breathing each breath and then the next and then the next. There is no amount of education or help or focusing or whatever that will get me out of it. Medication may work, though it just knocks me out. I have to ride it out for however long it takes, no other option.

Is any of that a choice, per se? I don't personally think so, only because I've been there myself.

When PTSD set up residence in my brain, it screwed with my life in almost every way imaginable. The triggers, the nightmares, the insomnia, the irritability, the paranoia. All of it affected me every single moment of every single day. I couldn't make any of it go away on my own, lord knows I tried. Trying just made it worse.

Is any of that a choice, per se? I don't personally think so, only because I've been there myself.

The idea that we are at the mercy of these conditions, at least at times, is unsettling to say the least. We live in a society that assumes that we are all in control of ourselves at all times. We dwell in a health care system dominated by HIPAA, a law that presumes that we are. We are so focused on independence as a society, so very threatened by the idea of that independence being threatened, that people are reluctant to seek help far too often because of the possibility that any of that could be jeopardized.

In my own situations, I made choices that helped me. I sought help for PPD. I sought medication for the panic attacks and have worked to find ways to manage my anxiety in the hopes of avoiding them. I deliberately sought specific therapy to work through my PTSD. I made choices. I had choices.

Those choices did not, by the way, cure the things wrong with me. They enabled me to live a semi-normal life again. A life with them, but not dominated by them.

Which is the best that we, the people who struggle with mental illness, can ever really hope for. We can hope to quiet the doubt and the shame and the self talk, we can hope to be functional, we can seek therapy and medications to help that process...but we can't ever just make it go away.

We can't.

No matter how hard we try, no matter how much we will it to be so. No matter how badly we want it, how much we want to be better for other people, be better for ourselves.

We can find balance, we can manage things to whatever degree we are capable, but it's always there.

In any discussion about mental illness like this one, I always come back to the parallels with conditions of the physical being, those widely recognized and accepted by not just the medical community, but by society in general.

When a cancer patient is given a terminal diagnosis, we don't tell them to just cheer up and things will get better. No. We understand that these are the cards they have been dealt.

When a person with diabetes struggles to control their blood sugar, we can offer encouragement to them in that fight, but we know that no matter how hard they try, it will never go away.

When a person is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, we don't encourage them to suck it up and just make the best of their situation, we don't question the legitimacy of their diagnosis.

But it happens every single day with mental illness.

And it needs to stop.

My name is Kelly. I am a writer, a wife, a mother. I am wandering around this planet without my parents now. I am intelligent and articulate and a complete goofball. I am a doula and a photographer. I have endured post partum depression, anxiety and PTSD, but they do not define me any more than any of the rest of the things about me do.

I am a person, not a diagnosis. I am worthy of support and love and patience and understanding. I am deserving of a health care system that cares as much about my brain as the rest of my body, and I will fight for a society that does just that for as long as I live.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the there's a lot pissing me off this week edition

Quick, before I start typing, everyone turn around counterclockwise and chant Beetlejuice. Or something. I got the blue screen of death yesterday and though my computer appears to be working at the moment, I have no idea if it will continue to do so. Let's just hope.

Technology and I don't get along. Our disaffection for one another is not anything new, mind you, but it is pretty much a constant source of frustration in my life. There's a lot to cover this week, so I'll just get right to it. I am covering Ferguson today for Lefty Pop, please make sure to check out that piece. I'm analyzing the legitimacy of police authority and how it's all gone terribly wrong there. 

The ALS Challenge and all the drama about it
I'm going to do this quick and dirty style, partially because I have a lot to say, and partially because I have a sneaking suspicion that this is just one of those things that people are destined to argue about. Ready?

Wait, first, I have to do some education because that's how I roll. ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a degenerative nerve disease. It affects the brain, spinal cord and all nerves in the body. It eventually leads to paralysis and death. There is no cure. Life expectancy from the time of diagnosis is usually 2-5 years. About 5,000 people will be diagnosed with ALS this year in the United States.

  • People are more likely to donate to charity if they are getting something in return. That something doesn't necessarily have to be anything tangible like a coffee mug or license plate can be likes on Facebook. Should people just donate and skip the stunt? Maybe. Maybe not. Those who say it's a waste of water, time, money, whatever...clearly haven't ever attended a charity event like a golf tournament or a gala. Even the super wealthy give much more if they get something in return. This really isn't that different in some respects.
  • This movement has done wonders to raise awareness for ALS, a horrible disease that has taken people from those I love. Awareness is never a bad thing, particularly in the world of rare diseases.
  • This movement has raised a boatload of money for ALS research, which is huge. There aren't many treatments at all, there is no cure and more research is needed.
  • Whoever thought this up was basically a fundraising genius, and I can promise you that the rare disease community in particular is envious, trying to figure out something to do like this that can reach as many people. I'd give anything for Type 1 Diabetes to get this kind of visibility.
  • People are wasting water doing it, yes....but water gets wasted in countless other ways every single day in this country and most people don't complain about it. If you're gonna dump some on your head, stand on the grass. Two birds, one stone. Boom. If you're gonna whine about water in this case, go protest the water usage by golf courses in Vegas first. Or swimming pool owners. Or long shower takers. Or chronic car washers. Or whatever.
  • It's entirely possible that many of those doing it aren't actually donating to the cause, but still believe that dumping ice water on their heads is a good cause. If it increases awareness, it is. Honest. Those who can should donate as well, but the act of spreading information about a disease like this is a good thing in and of itself.
  • The whole calling people out thing is a little bit annoying for a few reasons. First, not everyone can donate. Second, not everyone can or should be dumping ice water on their heads. Third, plenty of people have devoted their extra money to charities already, have another cause close to their hearts, and that is okay. What isn't cool is publicly shaming those who don't dump water on their heads or donate. I'm sure they have their reasons, so let's just leave it at that, okay?
It's super hard to get mad at this. 

If you don't need a cold shower of your own after that, I'm not sure we can still be friends. Just throw some ice cubes on top and give a few bucks to research and we'll call it good. By the way, you are welcome.

Let's not get distracted.
It was revealed late last week that Robin Williams was in the early stages of Parkinson's disease, speaking of rare diseases. Parkinson's is another progressive neurological disease, this one affecting movement. Tremors are the common visible symptom, but it also causes stiffness and difficulty in movement. It can be treated with medication to reduce symptoms. There is no cure. It is related to, exacerbates and may cause significant troubles in other areas, ranging from sleep deprivation to depression and more.

The medications used to treat the symptoms of Parkinson's all bring their own sets of side effects as well, some of which can trigger or worsen depression.

What some are afraid of happening in this case is that this revelation that Williams stuggled with this disease will become the fall guy for his depression and suicide, that it will explain away what happened that night. Though it most likely was a factor, it is but one factor involved here.

Williams' struggles with mental illness predate his struggles with Parkinson's. Parkinson's may have absolutely worsened his personal situation, without doubt, but it is not the simply packaged answer that many are looking for it to be.

Let's not get distracted here. Let's not for one moment believe that because he had something else in addition that we can place less importance on the conversations that need to happen about mental health.

Let's keep talking about the hard stuff. Please.

Diabetes is a fucker
Oops, I let the swears out. My bad.

Sorry. I just spent all day yesterday dealing with it. I thought I had everything together for school to begin, not realizing that I neglected to pick up an extra meter to leave at school. Nothing like a huge thing to overlook on the first day of school, right??? Now that Little Boy is in school full time, he needs to be tested at school...which means I have a bunch of hoops to jump through, papers to file, letters to write, conversations to have.

And, ultimately, it means that I have to place my trust in the hands of other people to manage this condition in a newly six year old boy.

Terrifying isn't really sufficient a word to describe it all.

Fortunately, none of this seems to phase the above mentioned newly six year old boy.

There is something else that I feel compelled to rant about regarding diabetes though, and it's the story in the news about the drive in theater owner who kicked a teenager with Type 1 diabetes out for bringing in food.

The kicker??? The owner of the drive in is a pediatrician.

I so wish I was kidding.

Sure, I get the profit motive here and the right of a business owner to refuse to serve anyone and all that jazz. I get that he really really really wants to sell his overpriced popcorn and candy to the captive audience. I get it.

But seriously??? If anyone should know better than to boot a T1 kid, it's a pediatrician....except for the harsh reality that those of us who deal with this every day live that almost no one (even doctors) seems to understand.

That reality?

No one understands. Period.

Unless you have to take a mental inventory every single time you leave your house to make sure that you have a meter and strips and lancets and insulin and fast acting carbs, not just out of habit, but because YOU NEED THEM TO SURVIVE, you just don't get it. Even doctors don't get it unless they live it.

Frankly, I'm a little surprised that he did it, and he may have to deal with legal consequences as a result. There is absolutely an argument to be made here that diabetics should be permitted to bring whatever they might need with them wherever they go, regardless of whether there is a snack bar or not. This isn't about a kid trying to pull a fast one on a theater owner, this is about survival.

Get the fuck over yourself, Dr. Theater Owner. I hope his family comes after you for an ADA violation.

Monday, August 18, 2014

To my kids, at the beginning of the school year...

I started writing these out a while back, mostly as a way to document the life changes for my children, but also as an homage to what my blog used to be.

This here blog didn't start out with legal analysis and rants and medical information and all that. Nope. It started off with mundane stories about my family. Of course, back then, the only people reading it were the friends and family members far away. It was a way to keep them up to date on everything.

Then I found my voice. Gradually, I wrote about the kids less and less, in many ways intentionally. My most important job has to always be mom, not writer as far as they are concerned. As a result, I am pretty deliberate about what I share about them.

There are a lot of changes happening in our household this year, even more just on the horizon. These are the things I wish for them this year.

To The Oldest
You are starting 8th grade tomorrow morning, which doesn't even seem possible. We'll be picking out a high school in a couple months and I ask myself all the time how this happened. You were just getting on the bus for Kindergarten, I swear.

This is your last year to goof off before it all starts to count. Do it at least a little bit, but not too much. Please start writing stuff down, or if that won't work, find some kind of organization system that makes sense to you. No one likes deadlines, but they're going to start to matter, and this world doesn't usually care how capable you are, how interesting you are, how intelligent you are or how talented you are....they need you to show them in exactly the manner they demand it.

Be passionate about the things you love, but get the rest of your work done even if you don't love it. Try new things. This year is a new blank page of opportunities, so find something new. Sleep in all the days that you can, try not to scowl at me too badly on the others.

You are learning US History this year. I hope, hope, hope that your teacher will teach you all the things you should know about history, not just the sanitized version history book publishers tend to prefer. Trust that if she won't, I will. Perfect the five paragraph essay, because lord knows you're going to need it in high school.

Stay goofy. Stay genuine. Stay kind. We like you this way.

To Freckles
As I am writing this, you are swimming in the bigger pond for the first time. Middle school. I know you and I know how you are, and I know that there are about a thousand butterflies in your stomach right now, but you can do this. And you will. And it will be amazing.

Just like you.

You know how when you were playing soccer and there would always be that wave of worry that would sink in right before a practice or a game and you'd tell me over and over about how you didn't want to go and you hated it and then your tummy would hurt and then everything would hurt? Remember that? Remember how after you went to that practice or that game we couldn't wipe the smile off of your face? And how YOU LOVED SOCCER even though you hated it just an hour earlier? Remember that?

This entire year is going to be like that. I promise.

This year will be filled with so many new opportunities, new chances, new friends and new experiences. Take chances, meet new people, find things that interest you. Sometimes those might be things that none of your friends are interested in, and that is okay. You'll find people who share your passions even if they don't happen to be people you already know.

Stay interesting. Stay strange. Stay focused. Stay organized.

Don't let anyone change you, you're pretty awesome as is.

To Mini Me
My little ball of what ifs, my little worrier, my tiny firecracker. This year is one that should be a bit calmer, at least as far as school is concerned. That fire in your heart for reading has finally been lit, and now we just have to keep it going. I think we found a strategy that works, and if it takes me reading all the things after you do and seeing every movie ever made about a book, then that's just what we will do.

You're back with some of your besties from years ago this time around and I hope that brings you some calm. You don't love change, but then most people don't I suppose. This is the first year that you'll be the big sister at school, the first one without someone who came before you still around. I know that might seem overwhelming and scary in some ways, but in others it is amazing.

You just get to be you now, not so and so's little sister. Isn't that awesome?

I think so. You're growing up so fast, urging it along even faster than it is already going. If it were up to you, you'd already be in high school, I think. You're so much like me in that way. When I was your age, people always told me to enjoy being a kid. I'll say the same to you knowing that it'll likely never happen, that you'll always be looking ahead...but try, even if it's just sometimes, to remember that you're only 9.

Run as fast as you can, jump and throw and swing on the monkey bars. Don't worry about who is friends with who today, because you already know that tomorrow it will all change anyway.

Just be you. Just worry about you. Just remember to be a kid sometimes. We love you.

To Little Boy
Oh, child. You make me worry. You make me crazy. You make me laugh. You terrify me and amuse me. I know that you'll be okay even when you aren't, honestly I do.

You have so much more to deal with than your siblings ever did at this age, but it doesn't even seem to phase you. You have to go through speech therapy, and it's never bothered you at all. The fact that your speech therapist is pretty gorgeous doesn't hurt either, I suppose. (shhhh, I won't say anything)

I brought an extra meter into the nurse's office today, hating every step I took on the way there. I hate this disease. I hate that you have to worry about it. I hate that I have to negotiate every little detail about how to take care of you with a bunch of other people and that I have to trust them to do it.

Then there is you. You just walked in, asked for the poker and checked your blood sugar without any issue. You're the calm here, the center, the strongest and bravest little boy I know, and to you it's all irrelevant. This is just who you are.

I think this will be a big year for you, not just because of all that silly diabetes nonsense, but because of all the things you care about. Reading. Friends. Sports. You love, love, love school...almost as much as you love to spend time with your classmates.

Keep that passion for learning. Keep pushing yourself. Keep wearing your heart on your sleeve.

We'll worry about the rest.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Summary of Summer Science Experiments We Did This Year

At some point I gave up writing the Summer Curriculum posts because I just got too busy, but I was asked if I could compile a list of the science experiments I did with the kids to share here.

I can do that.

I'm hoping I can remember everything we did....

* Animal Kingdom/Classification/Diversity

  • Animal adaptations - we explored how different animals see, eat and defend themselves with simple experiments using toilet paper rolls to simulate vision differences and different common kitchen tools to simulate having different types of ways to eat. 
  • Tree of Life project - name as many animals as possible in different sections as possible, breaking it down into subcategories at each level of classification. (Invertebrate, Vertebrate...then fish, reptile, amphibian, mammal, bird, crustacean, insect, echinoderm and all other invertebrates). Construct a tree on a large poster board out of construction paper, giving each group a branch, write the animal types on leaves and place them on the tree where they belong. 

* Human Body

  • We tested strength, reflexes and reaction times with a few different experiments. We did several experiments on baby teeth, including soaking them in vinegar and soda to see what happens to bone when exposed to acids. We visited the human body exhibit at the museum and were lucky to be there on a day when the curators were dissecting sheep hearts and lungs. We tested endurance and did experiments about heart rate after exercising at various levels of intensity. We spent a fair amount of time discussing the endocrine system and diabetes since Little Boy is in Type 1 limbo. We also talked quite a bit about puberty and reproduction, helped along by my 20 week ultrasound that they all attended this week.

* Cell Biology
  • This one wasn't a huge focus, mostly because the kids do spend a decent amount of time on this subject in science class at school. We did dye celery and flowers to show how nutrients are transported within a plant. Freckles used her student microscope to start to differentiate between animal and plant cells. 

* Genetics, DNA, Evolution
  • This week, we did a lot of comparing and contrasting between the kids to show how genes determine traits. I had the older two kids watch the evolution debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye when it originally aired. We also visited a fossil location to study dinosaurs, which turned into a game of 20 questions about extinction and more. 

*  Food Chains and Ecosystems
  • This is another topic that the kids tend to get a lot of school exposure to, so we didn't do a whole lot...but we did focus on the bee crisis, colony collapse disorder and what we can do to change it. We constructed a bee watering hole in the front yard.

* Geology

* Meteorology, Weather and Climate
  • We did quite a bit this week, including simulating tornadoes in bottles with oil and water. We spent most of our time talking about the cause, damage, lasting effects and lessons learned from the floods of 2013 here locally. We did travel up the still very damaged canyons to see the destruction first hand.
* Electricity
  • This is a hard one for me since I can explain electricity but don't entirely understand it myself. We constructed a potato clock to demonstrate the need for an energy source and a complete circuit.

* Space, Solar Systems and Planets
  • We visited a local planetarium and learned about the shape of orbits, talked about the differences between the planets in our solar system. And then we saw Guardians of the Galaxy...which should count, right???

* Chemistry
  • We built a periodic table this week, talking about the properties of the different elements and why they are placed where they are on the table. We did a lot of experiments about the properties of matter, showing how metal increases melting time of chocolate, how oil and water will separate unless soap is added (which slows the process). We talked about how adding salt to water creates a solution, and that salt keeps water colder longer by doing experiments timing the melt of ice cubes in cups with various set salt concentrations. 
I'm sure we did more stuff, I'm just drawing a blank right now. Hooray science!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the riots, suicide and back to school edition

Hi. It's Wednesday. I have spent the better part of the last 36 hours reflecting on the death of Robin Williams, and devoted my writing to him yesterday, pushing this off until now.

I figured you guys would understand.

I'm up early, way early, but not by choice. At some point around 3 a.m., I developed an earache so horrible that I can't stand to lay down at all. Sitting up isn't helping much, tea isn't making anything better. I broke down and took something for the pain, which I hate doing, but it is what it is. I'm sure I will be at urgent care later this morning when they open.

The last time that I was pregnant I had an ear infection start just like this one. Sudden, painful, out of nowhere. No cold or flu before hand, no warning that it was coming. That time, within about 12 hours, my eardrum had ruptured. I could count on one hand the number of ear infections I have had in my life, but when I do get them, I do a hell of a good job. Sigh.

So forgive me in advance if I'm unusually whiny or snarky today. I'm tired and I hurt.

I have this theory about myself, and it goes a little bit like this...emotional upset causes me physical pain. It has happened so many times that I don't even really think it is a theory anymore, but more of a crappy fact about my immune system. The news this week has unsettled me. I've been writing about it, but that's not always enough. Doesn't appear to be this time.

Anyhow, off we go. Quietly.

The Police Shooting and Riots You Haven't Heard Of
Over the weekend, a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. At least some of the shots hit him in the head. The stories coming from the community, of people who say they were with him at the time are vastly different than what the police are claiming happened.

The area has a long and sordid past with race relations as it is, the city being predominantly black, the government officials being predominantly white. The police aren't releasing the name of the officer involved in the shooting, claiming that such restraint is necessary for the safety of the officer. The police have requested, and received, an order of a no-fly zone from the FAA, effectively blocking all air traffic in the area outside of law enforcement.

They claim this is being done, again, for the safety of the police...but it also has the effect of banning news helicopters from the area, limiting the ability of the press to report on what is happening in the town. When asked why the order was put into effect or what the timeframe is for an autopsy to be performed on Brown, the police defiantly told reporters to file a FOIA (freedom of information act) request.

The FBI and federal civil rights agencies are investigating the case, peaceful protests have turned violent, and people are collectively just fed up with what they say is the latest instance of a horrible injustice.

Perhaps even more troublesome is the fact that this story, in large part, hasn't been picked up nationwide by the media. It certainly isn't receiving the level of coverage it deserves. Part of that could almost certainly be attributed to the demeanor of law enforcement in the area, but a large part of the blame rests at the feet of the news industry, for focusing on other stories above this one.

Mental Illness, Suicide and the Oblivious
As is generally the case in the wake of any high profile death, people are talking, pointing fingers, musing about why and how, making judgments about the person gone. Robin Williams took his own life Sunday night, and there are people out there in this world certain they know why. Some decided he was just selfish, some that he was a coward, some that he made a conscious choice.

Others have mused about the legitimacy of depression, whether it is a true medical condition, or whether that person just needed to work harder to focus on the joy.

The thing that none of these people seem to understand about depression is that depression doesn't care how many things you have to be happy about in your won't let you. It lies to you. It whispers in your ear. It tells you to ignore the good, or that you don't deserve it, or that you've done nothing to earn it, or that people would be better off without you.

It isn't cured by a walk or a happy thought or a bank balance. It can be treated, yes, but even the most thorough treatment in the world sometimes fails to help the person suffering.

It doesn't appear rational to those on the outside who don't understand because it isn't rational to those on the outside who don't understand.

It is a disease of the mind that can affect every single other thing in your life, and if you don't believe in the legitimacy of the condition, whatever. Honestly. Go ahead and muse about things which you don't understand. Kick someone when they are down. Insult the family members left behind. Say hurtful and horrible things that proclaim to the world your cruelty and ignorance. Keep on living in your bubble of obliviousness where the world plays out just as you believe it should.

Or, you know, maybe, just maybe stop and think about something for a second. Think about this.

Do you honestly believe that someone would choose to be depressed given any other option?

I sure as hell don't, and I know that to be true because I have been there. Personally. Stuck. I've been in some dark, evil places. Places so bad that I never even imagined they could even exist. I wasn't there because I wanted to be or because I wanted to stay there. Don't judge that which you don't understand.

The Unleashing of the Back to School Judgments
I don't know if it is just my perception about things lately, or if this is really a trend that is happening for sure, but I know that I'm being irritated far more this year about the back to school articles and blog posts than normal.

I think part of it is that writers, bloggers in general, are suffering more than a bit from sanctimommyitis lately. There are more than a few people out there willing to proclaim to the world that they've mastered parenting, that they are doing it right. They have no hesitation about judging other parents, judging other kids.

More and more of these websites are running slanted article submissions, stirring up arguments just for views, throwing fuel on the mommy wars then sitting back and watching the view count tick upwards. It's gross, honestly, when you take a step back and see it for what it really is.

All these writers and the people leaving comments and the people sharing the drama, they are really just standing in the middle of the ring, scrapping it out with blood, sweat, tears and CAPS LOCK arguments...and who is benefiting? Oh, yeah....that website hosting it all.

Man, I am getting cynical in my old age.

The posts that are bothering me the most this BTS season are the one that tell us, usually in some kind of top ten format, all the things that we need to teach our daughters. Or the things that our girls need to know. Or the ten things girls should avoid doing in middle school or high school.

Maybe I've really embraced this hippie feminism thing too much, but I see all these gender specific articles as reaching, as unnecessary, as destructive.

Are the things we should be teaching our daughters about being passionate, about being cautious, about taking chances, about finding themselves really lessons we shouldn't teach our sons? Are there really that many people out there who believe that there are vast differences in how we should bring up boys and girls?

I'm raising my kids to be genuine, authentic, passionate, tolerant, kind, compassionate, and a whole bunch of other things. I'm teaching them to respect the boundaries of others and form their own. I want them to be strong and independent and confident. Boys and girls. My lessons and hopes for them, my struggles with them and their triumphs, have nothing to do with whether they are genetically male or female.

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