Friday, July 31, 2015

to find the joy

It's amazing, this life sometimes.

In between all that we are required to do, the monotony, the obligation, there are moments filled with breathtaking beauty if we allow ourselves to just slow down for a moment and drink them in.

I've been struggling lately for many reasons, I've been forthcoming about that all. I have to be to preserve my own sanity because that is just how I function. This time of year is hard for me. Postpartum hormones and I don't much get along. There have been more days when the anxiety in my head has overflowed lately than not. It's just a part of who I am, for better or for worse.

Even in between all that, though, there are these moments, these fleeting moments that make everything else fade away.

The moments like this one, this morning.

The times when I am driving my oldest child back and forth to school...because I'm literally always driving him back and forth to school...and he confides in me the things that other kids his age might be hesitant to talk about. He asks me all the questions in the universe because he somehow still trusts that I have the answers. He is so grown and mature and so tiny and fragile all at once. He got out of the car a few days ago and my eyes irrationally filled with tears, overwhelmed with responsibility and pride. I made that. I don't know how, but I made that.

Then there are the times when the child that I least understand catches my glimpse across a room and her eyes fixate on me, then squint a little bit in playful defiance. I don't understand her, I don't know that I ever truly will, but lord help us, I'm trying. Really trying. Just when I think she's outgrown any desire to interact with me beyond simply fulfilling her needs and requirements, I find her reaching out for my hand somewhere in public and am reminded that she's still my little girl with the golden ponytails, trapped in the body of a 12 year old. She's figuring out who she is, and I am lucky enough to have a front row seat.

Then there are the times when the one most like me becomes completely overwhelmed with everything in the world, when the fear rises up in her and I can see it coming out of her pores, when she needs someone to talk her down and to guide her in this quest to beat the worry. And then she does it. This summer has been an important one in her life, the one that will forever be known as the summer she left home for the first time without us. She was scared, but she did it. As I write this, she's in the middle of the mountains somewhere with her father on a backpacking trip, overcoming whatever life throws at her.

Then there are the times that the boy who for so long was my littlest climbs up into my lap and rests his sweaty head on my chest. He wants to run faster, jump higher, be stronger. He wants to be bigger until he wants to need me. And he does. He is stubborn and so determined to be brave, even when he isn't. He caught a huge fish this summer that he keeps in our freezer. If you come over, chances are you'll be asked if you'd like to meet Fishy. Someday we'll eat him, but for now, we just take him out and hug him occasionally. This boy makes me proud and he makes me crazy, usually all at the same time.

Then there are the times with him, my last. The baby. The one that I wished for and dreamed for. He's squishy and delicious and I could spend hours watching him sleep. He still insists on holding my hand when he nurses, and I oblige. For the longest time, I felt like something, someone was just missing from my life, and I know now that it was him all along. He completes us. He brings joy and love and pterodactyl squeals to our home. He just arrived, but it feels like he has always been a part of us.

And last but not least, there is him. The man that I chose to spend my life with. The one that I've chosen every day since then. The one who has become a better father, a better husband, a better person. He is my center, he is my home. And even after all these years, when I catch his eyes staring back at mine amidst the noisy chaos that is our family, he melts my heart.

I am working to take those moments, to focus on them, to overlook all the rest of it, to find the joy.

The joy.

It's there.

The trick is letting yourself see it.

Maybe there are people who see the joy and beauty at each and every opportunity. If they exist, I know I'm not one of them.

I have to remind myself to look.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Summer School of Rock ~ Tina Turner

There are so very many things going on in the world, with my friends, in my own life right now that I can hardly think straight let alone speak a coherent sentence right now. Garbled nonsense is all that is coming out of me when I try to talk or write about the things that are going on, then I can feel the anxiety rising up and putting its hands around my neck.


In order to hopefully avoid a full blown panic attack right now, I'm writing this instead. And I've been meaning to get back to the music posts anyway. So here we are.

I had a few other bands and performers lined up before this one, but I think the world needs some Tina Turner right now.

In fact, I may have showed the Proud Mary video to my son a few nights ago to remind him that women can rock just as hard as the men can, do it forever and still kick ass after many many years on stage.

This video, in fact.

She was 70 years old in that video. FOR THE LOVE.

Born Anna Mae Bullock in Tennessee in 1939, she was raised by several different family members over the years and grew up singing in church. She wanted to become a nurse, but that all changed when she saw Ike performing in a club one night and felt pulled to the stage to perform. One night, a drummer with the Kings of Rhythm gave her a microphone. Shortly thereafter she was invited to perform with the band.

When another singer failed to show up for a recording session, she got the lead.

Ike insisted she change her name to Tina, though the reasons aren't entirely clear. Some say it was to ensure that if she left the band, he could replace her with another woman easier. Others say it was to discourage her from trying to make a name for herself.

Ike started beating her very early on in the relationship, and their marriage would become one filled with drug abuse and violence, even as they were successful on stage together. The abusive nature of their marriage was the center of the 1993 film What's Love Got To Do With It.

They opened for the Rolling Stones on tour in 1969 and shot to fame.The duo recorded and toured together until the mid 1970s. Tina filed for divorce in 1976 and started performing solo in Vegas the following year. Her 1984 album Private Dancer was a smash hit solidifying her career without Ike. She won four Grammys the following year and starred in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. 

She can dance, she can sing, she can act, she can do it all. And she's a badass. So there's that.

And those legs. My goodness.

She even holds a Guinness World Record for performing before the largest audience ever with Paul McCartney. She moved to Switzerland in the early 90s. She and Ike were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. Ike was in jail at the time of the ceremony, and though her career after they broke up was far more successful, she has yet to be inducted as a solo artist.

She moved to Switzerland in the early 90s and would consider herself to be semi-retired these days, though she showed up on stage beside Beyonce in 2008. Tina was a diva before Beyonce was born.

And she still had it. She still totally had it.

Hey, Hall of might want to get her another nod.

“Physical strength in a woman -- that's what I am.”
~Tina Turner


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the hey look it's actually Tuesday edition

Alert the media. I actually have my shit together this week. Sort of. Well, okay, fine. I don't, but I am at least writing this post on the correct day of the week, so I get a high five.

Let's just get to it because I don't know how long I'll have before the kids stage a mutiny. No, but really....

Rape is rape is rape.
If you haven't seen the cover of New York Magazine this week, go. Here is the link to the story. 

On the cover, black and white photos of every woman who has come forward (so far) accusing Bill Cosby of drugging and abusing them. At the bottom of the photo, an empty chair to represent the victims we still don't know about, the ones who may still not even realize they are victims, the ones who may never come forward.

I've seen a lot of people angry over all this, for the fact that he wasn't charged with anything when he should have been, for the fact that he basically confessed in a deposition and still nothing happened, for the fact that there are people who seem hell bent on still defending him.

There is a legal argument to be made that he could still be charged, though it would take a little fancy footwork to get it done. The statute of limitations has run, Cosby believes he is in the clear for the crimes he perpetrated, but the truth is that he may not be. All it would take is one very creative and convincing attorney. In the law, there is a way to stall the statute of limitations, to arrest it and keep it from running when there is active concealment of a crime. Here, since Cosby routinely drugged the women before raping them, there is at least a theoretical argument to be made that some of them may not have actually realized that they'd been raped until other women started to come forward. The drugs he used could have fogged their memories of the interactions to such a degree that the couldn't have reasonably known what actually happened to them.

I hope one of them seeks charges, and I hope that there is a prosecutor out there willing to go for it.

Oh, speaking of rape....
As if Donald Trump isn't disgusting enough as it is, it's come out now that Ivana accused him of raping her several times while they were still married. His lawyer seems to think that the fact they were married is enough of a defense, but actually it isn't. Rape is rape. Period. Just being married to your attacker doesn't make it okay.

Marital rape is...wait for it...rape.

The advisor has since apologized. Sort of. Then threatened to sue the reporter who published his comments. Because that's the Trump way, right? Make an ass out of yourself, then threaten other people because of it.

    So fucking gross.

    Money can buy anything....
    By now, some of you may have seen the story of the Minnesota dentist who paid $50,000 to kill a healthy male lion in Zimbabwe. 

    I just can't even with this shit.

    What the hell is wrong with people???

    Poor misunderstood hunter man is now dealing with the wrath of the internet. Awww, almost sucks as much as getting hunted for a trophy. Let me play a tiny violin. NOT.

    The Boy Scouts Make Progress. Just not entirely.
    The full vote of the national executive board was taken yesterday, and they decided to do away with the ban on gay leadership.


    Church sponsored units can still choose to limit leadership to exclude gays if they so choose. 

    We are fortunate to have found a troop that has always been inclusive and will continue to be so.

    Here's the thing about boy scouts (and just about any organized activity for kids as it is)...ready for this truth I'm about to drop on you?

    It's hard....really freaking hard to find adults who are willing to take on leadership positions to begin with. BSA has seen a fairly dramatic drop in membership, and I can tell you that I know many many people who've pulled their children because of the policies against gay youths and leaders that existed until now. A lot of the people who left because of those rules had been leaders, and damn good ones.

    BSA knows that society is evolving. They also know that a core part of their membership is based in churches who refuse to see that. This decision is a compromise of sorts. Let the churches keep their outdated rules, let the rest of us embrace all the kids and adults who want to be a part of the organization.

    It's progress. Slow, lumpy, ugly progress.

    Tragedies are tragedies, for sure, but they aren't what social media makes them out to be
    The case of Madyson Middleton, a missing 8 year old girl appears to have come to a tragic end when a body was found yesterday in a dumpster. Shortly after the discovery a 15 year old boy was arrested in her disappearance. 

    This is an awful, unimaginable, horrible tragedy. Please don't misunderstand what I am about to say and confuse it with trying to minimize how awful this particular case is, though.

    Cases like this are rare. Exceedingly rare. Statistically less common than in the past even.

    The biggest threats to kids when it comes to abduction, kidnapping, abuse and murder are family and friends, not strangers. 

    The problem is that cases like this one, where a child just disappears, are terrifying for parents. The media, social media especially, hyperfocuses on these specific type of disappearances, not ever recognizing just how rare they are. In the process, parents become scared and anxious, living in fear of something like this happening to their children.

    Reasonable caution is important, obviously. Children should be taught to trust their instincts when it comes to interactions with both strangers and people they already know. What shouldn't happen though, is what I'm seeing in the comment sections and attached to shares of the story, where parents are vowing never to let their children play outside or ride their scooters or go to the park out of an irrational fear, fed by social media, of something like this happening.

    Could it happen? Of course.

    Anything is possible.

    It's just not very likely.

    We can't let fear dictate how we raise our kids, you guys.

    Go Set A Watchman
    It took me months to decide whether I would read this book or not because of all the controversy surrounding it. I read it and haven't honestly had the visceral reaction to it that so many people assumed I would. I see it for what it is, a rough first draft of a story that wasn't intended to be made public. People are having a hard time reconciling this Atticus with the Atticus of TKAM, not realizing that these characters are fictions. It's entirely possible to see them as separate and distinct individuals, one more evolved than the other through the tools of time and editing...but it's as possible to see them as exactly the same person, separated by time and point of view.

    Reconcile the two Atticuses or don't, but the truth is that the version of him that appears in GSAW is probably a hell of a lot more historically accurate given the time and the setting of the story. For that matter, it might even be more accurate now, and perhaps that is what is so threatening about this book.

    It certainly makes reading it timely in 2015 in light of all that has been going on.

    Atticus isn't perfect, but he never was. In TKAM he did his duty in court, did the best he could one could argue, but only after he was assigned the case in the first place. He is more preoccupied with the Ewells than he ever is with the Robinson family. It's entirely possible that the GSAW Atticus and the TKAM Atticus are indeed the same person.

    And people don't like that.

    Because people don't like having their biases revealed. People want to be resolute in their convictions, not revealed to having given in to their biases and practicality. Atticus did both.

    Atticus is just a little too close to home, I think.

    I didn't hate the new (old) book, in fact to me it humanized Atticus and Jean Louise in ways that TKAM never did. This book was far more about her personal evolution, about how her view of the world changed, about seeing the flaws in the people around her.

    It hasn't ruined anything for me.

    I do sincerely hope that Harper Lee wasn't manipulated into releasing it, though I suppose we may never really know the truth.

    My favorite quote from the book is this one.

    "Prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, 
    have something in common: 
    they both begin where reason ends."

    Monday, July 27, 2015

    Paper Towns, Teenagers and Remembering What It Was Like

    Every summer, I come up with a list of books that I plan to read with the kids. I try to pick books that have all been (or will be) made into movies, so that they can compare and contrast the books with the films. I also try to mix up the material throughout the summer so that there are some classics, some new books, some science fiction, some YA fiction, and so on.

    You can get it on Amazon here.
    This year, I chose the book Paper Towns, not knowing at all what it was about. I chose it for a few reasons, the biggest of which is that it is written by John Green. I read The Fault in Our Stars with my daughter last year, and it spoke to me on a level I'm not even sure he intended as the survivor of a couple trips to cancer-land myself. 

    His books are about teenagers, sure. There are lots of books out about teenagers these days. Most of them are dystopian novels set in some post apocalyptic world of strife and struggle. Green's book are infinitely more real, more present, more likely to strike a nerve.

    The best part about them is that, unlike far too many writers (and far too many parents of teens), he seems to really have a handle on what it was like to be one. 

    He actually remembers.

    I think too many people forget what it was like, especially once they have teenagers of their own. The trend towards hovering parenthood, the strange attachment and simultaneous disinterest of this generation of parents has been interesting for me to watch, certainly. I've seen far too many people out there who seem to think that they truly can micromanage the lives of their children, that they can dictate from the mountaintops what their children want, who their friends should be and so on. What I see less of these days is the parenting that guides from a distance, that tries to equip them with life skills and then sets them free on the world to make their own inevitable mistakes. 

    I try every day to be that parent, the one that teaches and trusts, guides and releases. It is excruciating at times, don't get me wrong. But it's important.

    I want my kids to feel like they can make their own choices in this world. That they have the set of skills necessary to make those decisions. That they will screw up, but that I'll be here to cushion the fall when it happens. 

    I can't prevent those mistakes. I won't even try. They have to learn.

    I had one of those parental pangs just this morning as I dropped my oldest child off at school for yet another band event. As he got out of the car and flipped his hair to the side, checking his phone as he waved goodbye to me, I hardly recognized the man he'd become. This six foot tall being can't possibly be the same little boy I just remember starting kindergarten, can he? 

    He is starting high school in a few weeks, already planning to work at summer camp next year. He'll be gone for most of the summer, and there is a dull ache in my heart forming already at the thought of it. I struggled to express what was bothering me the most about his wanting to do this, and finally I blurted out to my husband, "but we only have him for a few more years and then he will be gone and I'm not ready".

    And he is growing up. I know this. I'm not ready now and I won't be ready then, but I'm going to do my damnedest to make sure he is.

    Anyway, as he was getting out of the car this morning, I lamented the fact that I'd only had my daughter read Paper Towns, and resolved to have him read it in the next few weeks before high school starts. The story centers on the friendship of three boys as they near the end of high school. Much of the message in the book is about realizing what is important in life, about grabbing the joy now, about refusing to let fear make our decisions for us, about the value of true friendship. 

    Forever is composed of nows. ~John Green

    I mean, yeah, there's the whole romance girl quest for love thing, but it really isn't the most important piece of the story. I promise. 

    I want him to read this book now, before he starts these four years. I want him to know that I get it, that I remember what it was like to feel all those feelings, that you can wish for something to last forever and hurry up and end at the same time. I want him to understand that sometimes teenagers do crazy, irresponsible things, and that I'm the kind of parent that he could call halfway through a roadtrip like that and get the support he needs. (Not that I'm saying I want my kid to drive 1200 miles totally spontaneously, mind you...)

    I want him to know that these years are going to fly by, that some of the relationships he makes now will shape who he becomes, regardless of whether that person stays in his life long term or not. I want him to see people for who and what they are, not the illusions created. 

    Mostly, though, I want him to live. I want him to enjoy it. I want him to work his ass off and learn as much as he can. I want him to fall in love and have inside jokes with friends and find the joy in little moments. 

    A few years ago, I wrote about how I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that he liked middle school. I hated it, I felt like most people hated was it possible that he didn't? I couldn't reconcile it in my head. I had to come to terms with the fact that nothing about my experience had any bearing whatsoever on him. He had to have a chance to make this life for himself, and if he loved every second of middle school, then I had to let him. 

    I had to let him. I had to let him live his life without being ruled by my memories or my fears or my worries. 

    I had to remember what it was like to be a teenager so that I could let him be one himself.

    And therein lies the trick of parenting teenagers. 

    I have to let him be.

    First, though, he has a book to read.

    Friday, July 24, 2015

    depression is why i'm going outside right now...

    I'll have you know that I have been staring at this blank screen for a while now. I start to type a sentence and then I hit the backspace button until this giant empty space sits in front of me again.

    I have so much I want to say, so much I need to say, so much that needs to get out of my head, but I hesitate. I hold back.

    I just do.

    It's hard, really fucking hard sometimes, to be an advocate for maternal mental health and all the other things I try to fight for when I'm dealing with it here. In the inside of my skull. Like right now.

    I catch myself not opening up about it and then I know that I need to write or talk to my husband or something and then it tends to come out like this.

    I'm just going to apologize in advance if this is hard to follow. I'm not editing whatever I am writing right now because it is just going to come out however it needs to come out and if people can't understand that, I'm sorry. This is just how my brain is operating right at the moment.

    I've been having a hard time lately. Part of it is the time of the year, the time of the year that threatens to undo whatever work I've put in and whatever progress I've made toward being marginally saner. I know that. July and I don't much get along, at least not for any length of time. I wonder if it will always be that way, if I'll always feel this subtle unsettling just beneath the surface for the entirety of the month or it someday it will fade away.

    I hope it does, obviously. I've done as much as I think I can to will it away. Part of what needs to happen, though, is that time just needs to pass more. I need more distance between then and now, even though it's already been more years than I can really believe.

    The PPD is raging about in my head, though I am doing all that I can to cope with that the best ways I know how. Let me tell you...intrusive thoughts are incredibly fucked up. Like, all the way fucked up. The human brain, especially the postpartum can conjure up some really disturbing shit. It's not as bad as it's been, it's not happening all the time, it's not to the level of severity where it is really messing with me, but it's there, lingering in the shadows, waiting for just a moment of downtime in my head so that the thoughts can take over and get creative. If any of you out there have never been fully in control of your thoughts at any time for any reason, you might understand what I mean. If you've never experienced this, let me promise you that you never want to deal with it.

    The best way that I can describe it is that your brain takes bit and pieces of what it sees, hears, absorbs, and then turns it into graphic horror film scenes filled with unimaginable things.

    I never in my wildest dreams thought that post partum depression could fuck with my head this much, that I'd never be totally in control of my own brain. It sucks.

    I know now that this beast is fed by my suppression of it. If I don't talk about it and tell people what is going on, if I try to somehow convince myself that it's fine, that I'm fine, that it will go away, that it won't get worse, it will do exactly the opposite. I've been here before. I've been in worse places with it before.

    I know that I have to get outside. I need to be occupied. I need to feel the sunlight on my face, the breeze in my hair. This isn't some lofty idea of something that makes me a tiny bit happier, no. These are things required for my survival.

    And I know this because I've been here before.

    Some days, it's a fine line I'm walking.

    It's hard. It's so fucking hard sometimes to make sure that I take care of myself, but I do it because I know that I have to. Not just for me, but for them, my kids, the ones that I swear to myself every single day that won't have their childhoods ruined because their mother was a wreck.

    The anxiety that I live with anyway, all the time, it is ramped up pretty high right now too. I suppose I should own all the things wrong with me at the moment, right? This summer has been a test of my ability to let my children go, one that has been relentless from the beginning of the break and still is going on now. They're getting older and they want to go places and do things. They want to visit family members out of the state and get onto perfectly good airplanes and fly away and it takes everything in me to stuff the anxiety down into my gut sometimes. I want to hug them to my chest and tell them to stay home, to stay safe. I want to warn them about all the dangers in the world and the things that can happen and I want to keep them here with me. I want to protect them.

    But I don't. I trust others with their care, I teach them to be independent and responsible and make good choices and then I let them go.

    And it terrifies me.

    It scares the everloving shit out of me.

    I can't ever let them know that while I'm reassuring them that everything will be okay and that I'll certainly miss them, but they'll have a good time anyway that inside my own head I'm working through every single possible harm that could befall them and seeing them all through to their ends. I can't. I can't tell them that I'm imagining about 973 things that could go wrong. I can't especially with the one who is gone now, the one who is just like me. She has so much anxiety all to herself that I can't let her believe for even one second that I'm worried about the things that she is worried about. I have to be strong and brave and confident and all of those things and I have to teach her to do it even when what my head and the rumbling in my gut tells me to tuck her under my wing and keep her safe.

    I didn't do that. She got on a perfectly good airplane and flew away and seems to be having a wonderful time. She's doing that even though she was afraid of everything before she left, and she's doing it because she is strong and brave and confident in the face of the anxiety she lives with every day.

    A very long time ago, I promised myself that I was going to do the best that I could not to let my issues negatively affect my children. I didn't want their childhoods cluttered with memories of my panic attacks or the times I freaked out or the places I refused to let them go. I don't want my issues to become theirs.

    And I'm trying. I really am.

    I think it's working. I hope it's working.

    All I really know is that I need to go outside right now, so I'm going.

    Because I have to.


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