Learning From That Health Club Shower Picture

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I’m sitting propped up in bed as I write this, my eight-year-old daughter sound asleep beside me.  As always, she’s a charming mix of rough & tumble and feminine grace, even when she sleeps.  She’s sleeping in the same running shorts and black t-shirt she had on yesterday.  Her arms and legs are golden brown, thanks to the Arizona sun and hours in her cousin’s pool.  The pixie cut she’s been growing out since January is now long enough to be flopping across her face, completely obscuring one of her eyes.  Her breathing is deep and even, her mind no doubt dreaming up adventures that she’ll likely recount to me when she wakes up.

She’s perfect.

Like her three brothers before her, her very existence has made me grow, made me question, and made me think – about so very many things – in a whole new light.  One issue that’s become increasingly important to me since I’ve had a daughter is that of positive body image.   I feel like it’s one of my jobs as her mother to make sure she feels good about her own body, so that she can then go out into the world and accept other people’s bodies, exactly as they are, and truly recognize that beauty really isn’t one-size-fits-all.  And it’s not that it’s not important for boys too, because of course, it is.  It’s just that there’s such a disturbingly high amount of girl-on-girl judgment and shame and ridicule out there when it comes to our bodies.  Everything from fat shaming, to “feed that girl a sandwich” thin shaming, to taking covert pictures of unsuspecting naked women in a health club shower, for the sole purpose of making fun of them and posting them on social media.  

Dani Mathers, a model whose name I’d never heard of until a few days ago, was in an LA Fitness locker room recently, when she decided to take a picture of a naked woman in the shower, paired it side-by-side with a selfie with her hand over her mouth, captioned it “If I can’t unsee this, you can’t either,” and then posted it to all of her followers on Snapchat.  Her defense was that she didn’t understand how Snapchat worked, and that she thought she was sharing the picture in a private conversation, as if that somehow made it better.

What she did was horrific.  I don’t think that’s even up for debate.  She took a naked picture of an unsuspecting stranger who was just trying to use the locker room, and she publicly shared it to ridicule her.   I don’t know anyone who doesn’t find what she did completely deplorable.  She’s been (rightly) banned for life from all of LA Fitness’s locations.  The situation is (rightly) being investigated by authorities.    I hope there are pressed charges.  I hope she genuinely feels remorse.

But here’s the thing.

I think it’s far too easy to hear things like this and get too comfortable in our moral high ground.  We get self-righteous, and sort of… smug. “That’s horrible!  I’d never do something like that!”  And absolutely, I can tell you with confidence and certainty that I’d never take a naked picture of a stranger and post it on my Snapchat.  But am I any better than she is because of it?  Of course not.  We’re all humans here, making our human mistakes.

And when it comes to body shaming, am I completely blameless?  I wish I could tell you that I was.  I wish I could tell you that I’ve never ever disparaged my own body,  or that I’ve never ever made a catty comment about someone else to a friend, or that I’ve never ever made a judgmental double-take at someone’s choice of clothing (or lack thereof), or that I’ve never ever laughed at a photo on People of Walmart.  But I can’t.   I’m guilty too.

I think that most of us know the right thing to do, and the right things not to do, but that there’s sometimes a disconnect between the knowing and the actually putting it into practice…. for all kinds of reasons, but often just because we’re fallible and we make bad decisions.

The fact is, I’m still learning too.  And things like this never fail to remind me that I could do better.  That I have to do better.   For myself, for the people around me,

and most especially for the innocent 8 year old by my side.


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Pokemon Go: Saving The World One Charmander At A Time

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I was coming home from downtown yesterday, and I was ahead of schedule.  The kids weren’t expecting me for another 20 minutes, and I knew they were all involved in their own projects and wouldn’t miss me regardless.  So it was an easy decision to swing into the park (I had to pass it to get to my street anyway).  I was running low on Poke balls, and this particular park has five different Poke Stops.  A quick little 10 minute loop and I’d hit them all.

I hadn’t even parked my car yet when I saw them:  Pairs and groups and people on their own, walking around, chatting, staring at their phones, and occasionally stopping to flick their fingers to capture whatever imaginary Pokemon they’d stumbled upon.  All of this in the 110 degree heat mind you.  The first guy I passed – a man I’m guessing to be in his 50’s – gave me a friendly greeting.  “Out hunting?”  he asked me.  When I answered in the affirmative, he said,  “Can you believe there wasn’t anything on the top of the mountain?   I thought for sure there’d be something good up there.”  We chatted for a couple more minutes until his daughter, a teenager, yelled at him to come join her where she was standing, several yards away.  “Oh what’d you find?” he asked as he trotted over.  “A Poke Stop!”

I visited all the Poke stops, gathered some balls, and captured some more Pokemon.  As I walked to my car, I heard the spirited conversations behind me.

Stranger #1 – “Oh I just got a Zubat!”

Stranger #2 – “Hey I hatched one of those.”

Stranger #3 – “My son and I just found one in the Walgreens on the corner!”

And on and on the discussions swirled… happy, friendly, upbeat dialogue between total strangers of all ages, united in playing a simple and free game on their smart phones.

In case you somehow missed all the hoopla over the past week or so, here’s a quick little Pokemon Go primer:

It’s sort of like geocaching, but instead of looking for physical caches, you hunt virtual Pokemon.  It uses something similar to Google maps to plot your location, but when you spot a Pokemon, it switches to camera view, so you literally see the Pokemon on the sidewalk, in the trees, on your friend’s head, on your counter, on the edge of the bathtub.

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When you find one, you use your finger to flick a Poke ball at them to capture them.  You can stop at Poke Stops (at malls, stores, churches, parks, etc) to gather items like more balls.  There are also eggs that you can hatch by walking a certain distance, and Poke Gyms where you can battle with other Pokemons … but I haven’t gotten into all of that yet.  My 12 year is a little bit ahead of the curve, so he’s giving me pointers as we go.

It’s just a really fun, addicting, happy little game.  But that’s not why like it.  Or it’s not the only reason anyway.  This game, as silly as it may seem to some people, is getting kids and parents and teens and strangers uniting in a way that I haven’t seen in a long time.  It is helping people with social anxieties come out of their shells.  It is lifting the spirits of people with depression.  It is providing a conduit for a new way for parents to bond with their kids, and siblings to bond with each other.  It’s getting people out and exercising, running around their parks, and their neighborhoods and their city streets.  It’s getting people excited about something.

It’s not for everyone, and that’s cool.  Truly.  We don’t all enjoy the same things.  But in this internet day and age of the “I must find something negative to say about everything” crowd,  I’m seeing a large number of naysayers.  And why?  Because it makes people happy in a way you don’t understand or approve of?  With all that’s going on in the world around us, is a little bit of happiness such a terrible thing?

Anything that’s good harmless fun that gives people joy, that gives them a connection with others – heck, that gives them a connection with themselves – is always going to have my vote

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So do I really think a game is going to save the world?  Well, no, not exactly.  But I do believe that people can change the world.  And who better equipped for the job than the people who are happy, passionate, and engaged… no matter what it happens to be that makes them that way.


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Finding Common Ground

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This won’t come as a shock to anyone who’s read my blog for any length of time, but in case you’re new (or haven’t been paying very close attention):  I’m the designated non-Republican in my marriage.  I’m actually the designated non-Republican in my entire extended family, but it’s never felt quite as acutely as it is with my husband.

As you’d imagine, this disparity has caused a great many spirited discussions, ranging in intensity from “I’m going to pick my words carefully so this doesn’t escalate from ‘discussion’ to ‘argument” to “I need to get out of this house and go for a walk immediately, because I’m so mad I can’t even look at you right now.”

After all the horrific and polarizing events of this past week – the highly publicized deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, followed so closely by the murders of the five police officers in Dallas – I knew from past experience that 1) we’d have very, very different takes on the situation, and 2) that any conversation we’d might have about it would be emotionally charged.

That conversation happened a couple of days ago, and I was right, on both counts.

But then, afterwards, I was able to take a step back, and I finally realized something.  An epiphany, if that word works for you.  (I’ve been having a lot of those lately.  A steady dose of mood stabilizers and weekly therapy appointments will do that to you):

If we can’t find a point of commonality within our own home, how on earth could we expect to do it in our country?

Here then are four (important!) things on which this liberal Democrat and conservative Republican can agree, even as the rest of the country argues on.

1   Everyone should be treated with dignity and respect, especially those who are mistreated or maligned or oppressed by much of society.  When our eight year old heard our slowly rising voices the other day, and came into the room to make sure all was okay (she’s our little peace-maker), she asked what side each of us was on.  I explained that we weren’t really taking sides, and she pressed a little harder, asking me what it was that I wanted to happen.  “I just want people to be nice to each other, baby,” I told her.  And as I heard the words come out of my mouth, I knew.  My husband wants the same thing.  We may differ on the path that will take us there, and we might not even agree on what it ultimately looks like,  but kindness, respect, and love are always the ultimate goal.  For both of us.

2  A little bit of empathy goes a long way.   I pretty much walk through the world as one big, open, bleeding, ball of exposed feelings, and Mike is led more by logic and practicality.  But when it comes down to it?  He has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know.  He knows how to put himself in someone else’s shoes, and he knows how to put others’ needs ahead of his own.  We are both painfully familiar with the feeling of being alone and of being the outcast, for various reasons.  At the same time, we both recognize that there are others that feel more alone, and for much deeper reasons.

3  We have to keep having the conversation.  Open communication is key here.  The only way we can grow, and better ourselves, and learn, is to keep having the uncomfortable discussions.  Asking the hard questions.  Genuinely trying to hear the other side.  Shutting up periodically in order to just listen.   Over the past week, I’ve observed a couple of mature, respectful discussions between people with opposing views; people who were honestly hearing each other.  Unfortunately I saw far more of this:  people stubbornly shouting their beliefs with a bullhorn, and straight-up refusing to hear anything else…. some with figurative fingers in their ears, while they chanted, “Lalalalalala I can’t hear you!” and others with full-on internet tantrums, complete with yelling, stomping, and “Leave me alone!”s   Having the conversations and being open to hearing the other side (even if you continue to disagree!) is so, so important.  And shutting down a conversation with name calling and insults and being a general jerk about it is never the answer.  Mike and I both know this, which is why we keep talking about it, and keep revisiting the same issues – discomfort be damned.  We miss the mark most of the time sometimes, but we keep on trying.

4  The best place to start making changes is in our home, with our own children.    There is a bumper sticker that says something like, “World peace begins at home.  Be nicer to your kids.”  Wiser words were never spoken.  We are sending our four kids out into a world that is confused and broken and – in times like this past week – downright scary.  But we have hope (both for our kids and for the world they’re going to inhabit) because we can see with our own eyes how powerful it is to raise kids with kindness instead of control.  Respect instead of coercion.  Compassion instead of punishment.  We can’t fix all the ills of society.  We often don’t even know where to start.  But being nicer to our kids?  That we can do.  That’s something that all of us can do.  We can raise kids that care about other people.  Kids that are compassionate and strong and who stand up for the needs of others.  Kids that do the right thing, not because it’s what we’ve told them to do, or because they might get punished if they don’t do it, but because it’s the right thing.   And more than anything, kids who know how to love… deeply, fully, and without condition.

As L.R. Knost so beautifully states:

“It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.”

And I honestly believe – indeed, I have to believe – that my kids (and your kids too!) will help make that a reality.

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There are some pretty big things that we’re never going to see eye-to-eye on, to be sure, but if we can continue to agree on the above, I think my husband and I will be okay.

And maybe, eventually, the rest of us will be okay, too.


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Raising My Orchid Child

Today’s post is a guest post from someone who could relate to my recent stories about my own mental health issues (and the decision to use medication as part of my treatment).  I thought it segued nicely from my most recent post about my complicated relationship with natural health.   I think a lot of parents out there will be able to see themselves/their child in this story.

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Here I am, where I never thought I would be. I have a child who is not receptive to my magical way with children. This was one of the hardest things I have ever had to deal with as an adult. This child is not just some child off the street who didn’t connect with me, as a teacher or mentor, whose family decided I wasn’t a good fit for them. This is a child born of my womb. He is beautiful. He is creative. He steals the hearts of anyone who gets to know him. But he was not connecting. There was no amount of cuddles and love that happened between us that helped change him into a well-mannered, calm, sociable child. He was not receptive to my parenting.

Before you start telling yourself , “She is obviously a self-centered, egocentric know it all”, I need you to understand that I love to be challenged and questioned. I am always looking to be better. I altered my parenting as much as I possibly could, but no amount of parenting was going to take the Sensory Processing Disorder out of my child. I tried love. I tried diet change. I tried firm (read gentle, but firm) discipline. I tried therapy. I even attempted school. I tried isolation (for his and his friends’ safety). I tried simplification of everything from his schedule to his lifestyle. Minimalism is a way of life for us.  I was willing to try anything a pro thought would help. There was just NO WAY I was going to medicate him for anxiety.

The fact is, Sensory Processing Disorder is not something that has a quick fix. It is not something we can change about a child. Imagine walking into a room and feeling every ounce of energy in the room; all the sadness, excitement, anger. You name it, you feel it. Imagine there are 10 people in the room and half of them you do not know, but you feel their energy. You feel it fully, as if it were your own. Imagine seeing every color in the room. The slight hue of blue that is different on one wall than another and the orange that makes a friend’s red hat slightly brighter than his friend’s red hat. You hear every thought, as if they are sounds coming from the company’s mouth. Imagine trying to organize those thoughts and do so before you forget what you wanted to say.

How do you feel? Are you feeling anxious? Not sure what to do? Imagine that the adults in your life don’t understand this about you. Oh, your mom does. Your dad does. Imagine feeling so much love for them, but hearing them have to explain you to other people. Imagine feeling their anxiety about how people will take you. Imagine hearing a grandparent who barely knows you tell your mother that she had better get control of you before you run the house. Imagine being asked why you cry so easily. Imagine a child of the same age hitting you as a game or teasing you for fun and the adults doing nothing. Imagine that everything you know in your heart is wrong or sad or unhealthy is ignored by the masses.

How would you feel?

I am guessing you would feel anxious. Well, you know what? I can protect him from all of these things. I can keep him safe and only with people who understand him and offer him grace and see his beauty. I will keep him near people who see that he can take 3 combined Thomas the train puzzles with slightly different hues of blue in the sky and put them together faster than I could put one together, by seeing the difference in the back ground. I can manage his people to be only those who offer him calm. Guess who that would eliminate from our life though? Probably you. You might not realize that you make him anxious, but just wearing the wrong pair of shoes can make his senses go haywire. Bringing his favorite snack can make his senses explode.

So, you know what? I am going to ask you NOT to give an opinion on my parenting around him. I am going to ask you not to offer an opinion about him. I’m going to ask you to not bring his favorite snack. All you will do is build his anxiety. All you will do will make him feel those huge emotions even bigger than he normally does. You know what happens then? He does what we call cycling. He tolerates nothing. His senses go haywire and he becomes someone watching his body from the outside. After his body takes on a mind of its own, he feels anxious about his actions and he goes more haywire. He becomes completely out of control and he HATES it. The more out of control he becomes the more anxious he becomes. It is a spiral. It comes on quickly and no one can stop it. Trust me: I. Have. Tried. He. Has. Tried.

So, let me go back. I can eliminate all people and activities and things that make him anxious. I can. It is what I have done in the past. I can eliminate his life of anything but where this Orchid child is protected and safe from people who can not offer him grace. It is so tempting to go for the long haul and protect him and guide him and hope that once he is an adult, he will be able to filter the information flooding his brain. Or, I can help him now. I can help him learn a new norm. I can let the doctors medicate him. I can let him live in society and still feel his emotions and never punish him for them; because that is the stupidest thing I have EVER heard. Whether you believe in punishment or not, punishments are NEVER for emotions.  Punishing a child for feeling is asinine. That is all I have to say about it. I will not punish my child for feeling beautiful, healthy emotions; but if I can help him feel safe NOW and feel those emotions a little less NOW… if I can turn down the volume just a hair; why wouldn’t I? And, you know what? It took me three years to accept it, but my child is happy and in control of his feelings. I have medicated him and I am proud of myself for coming to this decision. I am proud of myself for taking this long and trying anything and everything to help him. I am proud of myself for saying “my child needs help that I can’t give him”. I am proud of myself for parenting my Orchid child the way he needs to be parented. I am proud of myself for knowing that my child is more than his SPD and his anxiety.

It turns out that my child has heard everything we have been teaching him. He heard it. He felt it. He saw it. Now, he can express it. It won’t be linear. It won’t be consistent and it won’t be forever. We will still need to make and cancel plans at the spur of the moment. I know that probably bothers you.  But guess what? Now, he enjoys jokes, family barbecues, athletics, friends coming over and, selfishly; me…

and maybe even you.

~ Anonymous


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Why I’m A Natural Health Dropout

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I used to be very adamantly against pharmaceuticals.  I remember after the birth of my first son – 19 years ago – they offered me Tylenol with codeine and I declined.   Then they wanted me to take a stool softener, and I declined that too.   I was kind of obnoxious about it too, now that I think about it.  I didn’t need that stuff.  I had my supplements and my herbs (and if essential oils were as big a thing back then as they are now, I’m sure I would have used those too). I had my ideals.  I had my self-righteous resolve.

Over the next several years, I would spend a lot of time studying, reading about, and learning about natural health and nutrition.  I took several courses, and I earned a handful of certificates.  I was passionate and motivated and… have I mentioned obnoxious yet?

And then I got gall stones… in a gall bladder that eventually got inflamed and infected.  Then I got gall stones lodged in my bile duct.  Then I got pancreatitis.  Then I needed surgery.  Next was kidney stones, followed by hydronephrosis and a stent.  A couple of years later, it was two rather painful shoulder surgeries in as many years, one involving detaching my bicep and reattaching it on a different spot on my bone, held in place with a permanent metal screw.

Suffice it to say, I made my peace with allopathic medicine.

Over that tricky six year period, there were narcotics, there were muscle relaxants, there were antibiotics, there were anti-emetics, there were sleep aids.  Last year I tried, and eventually rejected, a medication prescribed for suspected fibromyalgia.  It’s not that I’m proud to say I took all of that… but I’m not ashamed of it either.  I made informed decisions, I took what I needed, and I took it all responsibly. At the time of this writing, I’m taking a mood stabilizer (which is making a world of difference for me) and am in the process of carefully weaning myself off of a benzodiazepine, prescribed during an acute time of crisis when I began treatment for bipolar disorder.  I’m not ashamed of that either.

And the thing is, I never abandoned anything I learned when I studied natural health.  In fact, having bipolar and wanting to get well has necessitated my paying more attention to it than ever before.  I absolutely understand the importance of nutrition.  I know how inextricably our stress levels are tied to our health.  I’m exercising, six days a week.  I’m taking a careful supplement regimen, designed with the help of my doctor.  I’m meditating daily.  I’m not drinking any alcohol.  I’m using essential oils, for all kinds of things.   I’m working hard to develop better sleep patterns (even giving up watching TV in bed, one of my favorite things, in an effort to create healthier habits).  Self-care and natural health are wonderful things indeed.

But there’s a balance.

I don’t think I truly understood that balance until I went through my own health crises, and to an even greater extent until I was met with my former self, again and again, in the form of people whose version of “help” included chastising me for my choices.  There was the one who messaged me after my second shoulder surgery, not to offer up a “get well soon” but to lecture me about the dangers of prescription painkillers.   There was the one who, after I’d already had my gall bladder removed, told me why I should never have done it, and how I should have just healed it naturally instead.  There were the countless others, who no matter what the issue, were convinced that I just needed to take more supplements/get better sleep/eat more whole foods/take more walks in the sunshine.  I saw in real time the black and white thinking to which I myself had once subscribed.   I saw the danger of, and felt the sting of, polarity.  I saw how many people tried to shame me (and who continue to try to shame me) for not taking a solely natural approach.

I saw judgment – So. Much. Judgment. – from family members to friends to strangers alike.

That’s the natural health movement that leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth.  That’s the natural health movement that I no longer want to be a part of.

I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we just trusted one another to make informed decisions.  To learn not just about treating disease but about maintaining health.  To weigh the pros and cons of all our options.  To educate ourselves about natural remedies and pharmaceuticals both.  To learn about risks of side effects versus possible benefits.  To respect that my path to health is different from your path is different to your best friend’s neighbor’s path.  To completely remove shame from the equation. 

And if you ever have to have your bicep drilled back into your humerus, I hope that your recovery goes as smoothly as possible.  I hope that you’re given all your options to control the pain, and that you make the choice that best works for you…. whether it’s a steady regimen of Vicodin or a thrice-daily walking meditation session in a sunny meadow.

I promise not to judge you either way.


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How I Am

I didn’t make this video, but I could have.

“I am becoming well.  I am fighting.  I am slowly winning the war against my own mind.”

“I’m not fine.  But I will be.”


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The One About The Boobies

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We talk about boobs a lot in our house (and before I go any further, I’m using the word “boobs” only because it’s my preferred euphemism. I’m not a fan of most of the others, and the word “breasts”, while of course anatomically correct, feels strangely formal. And we’re all friends here, right? So boobs it is. But if you don’t like that word, feel free to substitute your favorite alternative as you go.)

Anyway, as I said, we talk about boobs a lot. Not in a creepy or weird or crass way, but just because we have an eight year old who is extremely open when it comes to talking about… well, everything… and a favorite topic at the moment happens to be puberty. Side note: She also talks about farts way more often than the boys ever did, combined. I always laugh when people equate potty humor with mostly boys, because they obviously haven’t met Tegan yet. But I digress.

She knows – at least in basic concept – about sex, she understands what happens during puberty, and while not necessarily excited about it, she accepts that she’s going to have boobs one day.  She knows that they make milk should she become a mother.  She knows that they come in different sizes.  She knows that you don’t get to pick your size unless you have surgery of some sort.  She knows about bras, and sports bra, and as of recently, she knows about these too:

 

These are the greatest things ever if you don’t wish to wear a bra, or if the cut of your top or dress means that straps would show, or if you’re like me (a 34A to be… lying. An AA, with zero reason to wear a bra for support) and want to be comfortable, but don’t want to worry about any nipple issues.

They’re also similar to what Kaitlyn Juvik  says she was wearing under her (completely modest and appropriate and loose-fitting) black top the day that her teacher reported her for not wearing a bra, because it made him “uncomfortable.” Juvik – rightly – protested, it instantly became a whole big internet thing, and people are quickly jumping to one side or the other. I read one article that had a little survey at the end about whether or not girls should be required to wear bras to school, and the response was rather disturbingly divided down the middle: something like 54% to 46% in favor of yes.

There are so many things wrong with this, I don’t even know where to start.

1. No teacher should be looking at an underage girl’s chest long enough or closely enough to even be able to discern if she is or is not wearing a bra.  Let’s just start there.  Her shirt was not see-through, it was not sheer, it was not tight.  It was a black t-shirt; nothing that demanded special attention.  Why was he looking at her breasts long enough to determine that there was no bra in the first place?  That to me is a larger issue that I wish more people were talking about.

2. Schools shouldn’t be in the business of policing undergarments.  If Juvik had violated the school’s dress code, this would be a slightly different conversation.  But she didn’t.  She wasn’t showing cleavage, and she wasn’t wearing anything revealing.   I’m not a fan – to put it politely – of the idea of dress codes in the first place, but I understand why they exist, and can even get behind them if they are fair to both male and females… which, let’s just be honest, they so very rarely are.  But the school’s dress code said nothing about bras (as it shouldn’t, because HELLO they are undergarments!)   What sort of underwear someone does or does not choose to wear should  be nobody’s business but the owner of said underwear.  The fact that I even need to say that out loud is so disgusting that I feel like I need to immediately take a shower to wash off some of the ick.

3. It encourages misogyny and rape culture.  We find ourselves, again, with another situation where a woman’s body is deemed responsible for someone else’s discomfort.  THIS IS NOT OKAY!  Women are not responsible for men’s thoughts.  Women’s bodies are not responsible for men’s comfort. Women’s boobs are not responsible for men’s actions.  My body, and my daughter’s body, and Kaitlyn Juvik’s body have just as much right to take up space in this world as my husband’s, and as my son’s.  If someone is uncomfortable due to what someone else is or is not wearing, that is on him, and him alone.

4. They’re just boobs.  Let’s just take a minute here for some perspective.  Males and females both have nipples.  We’re basically talking about a matter of a little bit more (in my case, a very little bit more) fatty tissue beneath them.  That’s it.  It’s nothing to get freaked out about.  Seriously, they’re just breasts.  Yes, I understand that they’re often viewed and used in a sexual context, but these are not genitals.  And you know what?  Even if we were talking about genitals…  I might not be “comfortable” if I were eye-level with the graphic end of a Speedo, but I would defend till my last breath the wearer’s right to wear it. 

It makes me angry, and to be completely honest, a little bit scared, that this is the world in which my daughter will grow up…. a world that wants to tell her that she needs to wear a bra, whether she wants to or not, lest she offend the delicate sensibilities of the men around her.  A world that wants to tell her that she is nothing more than a body.   A world that wants to tell her that she is somehow less than exactly as she is, and that she doesn’t deserve to be here, exactly as she is, as much as her male counterparts.

My daughter?  I’m going to tell her to be strong, and to hold her head high.  I’m going to tell her that she matters, not because some man told her she mattered, but just because she is her.   I’m going to tell her that she can be anything, and do anything that she puts her mind to.

And that it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference whether or not she’s wearing a bra while she does it.


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Humiliation Isn’t Funny

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My husband and I have had sort of a tricky year.

I remember after one particularly heated argument, I put on my shoes and left the house.  I just went for a long walk to clear my head, and when I returned we’d both cooled down and were ready to apologize and put it behind us.  But wouldn’t it have been funny if I’d packed a whole suitcase, told him I was leaving him, and stayed at a hotel for a week to teach him a lesson?

Or if I showed up at his office in the middle of the workday, for no other purpose than to humiliate him and air our dirty laundry in front of all his coworkers?

Or kicked him out of the car and made him walk home when I didn’t like his tone?

Or spent hours – or days – purposely ignoring him, not speaking to him, and acting as if he didn’t exist until he apologized?

Or made him stand on a street corner, holding up a sign detailing everything he’d done wrong, while wearing something ridiculous of course?  Hundreds of people would pass him.  They’d laugh, and point.  Funny, right?

Or changed the password on his computer, and wouldn’t give it to him until a certain number of days had passed, as penance?

Or put his car up for sale on Craigslist, along with a long and rambling and embarrassing description… not of the car (that would defeat the whole purpose) but of my husband, and how he’d misbehaved, and why I had to sell his beloved car, and what a great lesson it would be, and hahahahaha what a freaking hoot I thought I was.

Or took away all his clothes, and tools, and personal items, and made him earn them back one by one?

The best part would be how humiliated he would feel, how embarrassed, how ashamed.  He would eventually beg me to stop punishing him.  He might even cry!

Hysterical.

Seriously, comedy GOLD, right there.

I guess I’m not that funny though, because I’ve never done any of the above to my husband.  And even though it’s not what’s popular, it’s not what sells, and it’s not what gets likes and shares and accolades on social media…. I’ve never done any of the above to my children either.

And I know, I know, I’m in the minority on this, a fact I’m reminded of daily.  Lest I forget, tonight I was faced with a Facebook post by a popular blogger that has been shared over 32,000 times, received over 67,000 likes, and – at the time of this writing  – had almost 8,000 comments.  Comments filled with story after story similar to what I wrote above, of parents purposely punishing, humiliating, embarrassing (and I’ll just say it:  in some instances, abusing) their kids.  The content wasn’t actually even the most disturbing part though.  The disturbing part was the absolute GLEE that everyone took in the conversation.  They were absolutely reveling in it.  If we’re to believe this thread, making your kids feel badly about themselves is REALLY REALLY FUNNY.

The last time I wrote about a similar topic, I received some confused replies from people who just didn’t understand where I saw people celebrating cruelty to children.  Facebook is where.  Twitter is where.  Church is where.  School is where.  SOCIETY is where.  It is all around us.  It’s cool to mistreat our children.

I don’t understand why everyone not only thinks this is okay, but thinks it is something to be celebrated.

And I’m an honest person… I’ll be the first to admit that I’m certainly not a perfect parent any more than I am a perfect wife.

I just have this crazy notion that we should be sort of… I don’t know… nice to the people we love.  Sometimes I miss the mark and I have to apologize (that whole being human thing trips me up sometimes), but the overall general goal is kindness.  And I get it, kindness isn’t sexy.  It’s not funny.  It’s not the kind of thing that garners billions of likes on a single Facebook post.  But seriously, if we don’t have kindness, what do we have?

I’ll tell you what we have:  We have 8,000 people congratulating each other for purposely tormenting their kids.

Being a parent is hard sometimes.  Keeping our cool is hard sometimes.  Dealing with stressful or disappointing or frustrating situations is hard sometimes.  But you know what’s even harder?  Dealing with difficult situations when you’re still a child.  When you’re still learning about yourself.  When you’re still learning how the world works.  When you’re still maturing.  When you’re still growing.  Our kids need our help and our guidance and our compassion, not our scorn.  They need us to reach out our hands for assistance and reassurance, not for punishment.

And if we want our children to grow up to be adults who live passionately and love freely and trust deeply, we first have to show them that they can trust us, as their parents.  Punishing them and delighting in their humiliation isn’t really the best way to do that.  A little bit of grace goes a really long way.

I hear people lamenting this generation and its “coddled” children.  They worry about kids being spoiled, and entitled, and selfish. But I’m worried about something else entirely.  I’m worried about the vast number of people who think it’s not only okay, but preferable to treat your children like second-class citizens, to parent through fear and intimidation, to use humiliation and shame as “teaching” tools.

I worry because these kids are going to grow up and become adults who think that it’s normal.  Adults who believe that children should not have the same basic human rights as all our other loved ones.  Adults who think that children don’t deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.  Adults who perpetuate the same negative and damaging cycle on their own children, and on the next generation.

This is what is being passed down.  This is what we need to be concerned about.  And until or unless enough people stand up and make another choice, the cycle is never going to stop.

God help us all.


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I Could Have Been The Disney Mom

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I could have been the Disney mom.

My now 19 year old almost drowned once.  I almost watched it happen.  We were at a friend’s party at a lake, and I was there with him and his little brother, who was tiny at the time, and spent most of the party asleep in the baby carrier on my chest.  Spencer must have been about five, and wasn’t yet a strong swimmer.  But the water was shallow (wading-level) for a long distance, and he was happily running around and playing with his friends while I watched with the other moms from the shore, dipping our flip-flopped toes into the cool water.  It was happy, and it was carefree… and then it wasn’t.  And the worst part of the day, and the memory, is that I wasn’t even the one who saw it happen.  I’d been watching him!  The whole time!  But I, his mother, did not see it happen.  He’d had some sort of toy in his hand, and he dropped it in the water.  When he bent down into the water to pick it up, he’d either swallowed some water, or got disoriented and lost his footing (he was still in water that was not anywhere close to over his head, but he didn’t realize he could stand up)  When another mom questioned what was going on, I looked more closely and saw him floating, his head under water.  I ran out through the water, clothes and baby and all, and pulled him up out of the water.  His eyes were wide and terrified, but aside from an initial cough of water he was physically fine.  He would later tell me that he knew to hold his breath, and that he was just waiting for me to come and rescue him.  I will never, for the rest of my life, forget the fear and terror of what could have happened, of how that moment could have gone instead.  That one second when I wasn’t looking.

I could have been the mom at the zoo.

My now 15 year old slipped away at a gift shop once.  We were there with my sister and my nephew, and we were looking at books and trinkets and insignificant doo-dads, while the kids played at our feet.  I picked something up to look at it, and when I put it back down, Paxton was just…. gone.  I called his name.  I looked down the next aisle, and the next one, as panic started to rise.  I saw the front door to the shop (set on a not terribly busy, but not exactly quiet street) left open to take advantage of the beautiful spring breeze, and my heart sunk.  I bolted out the door, frantically scanning everything as quickly as my brain would allow.  Seeing no sign of him outside, I went back in, where – after what felt like an hour but was in reality about 2 minutes – we found him, happily playing with some trains in the toy section.  I will never, for the rest of my life, forget the fear and terror of what could have happened, of how that moment could have gone instead.  That one second when I wasn’t looking.

I could even have been one of those parents whose routine was thrown off, and who horrifically and tragically forgot that their child was in the car.

You know the ones.  The ones who, whenever it’s talked about in the media, or on Facebook, or anywhere, are met with the people with the pitchforks;  the ones who are screaming, “YOU DON’T DESERVE TO BE A PARENT!!!”

I was teaching yoga at the time; Private classes at a student’s house.  It was a fun class, with about 5 to 10 people every week, and I always looked forward to it.  My daughter, who was probably around four at the time, was having trouble separating with me one night, so I decided to bring her along.  I knew that the host would not mind, and that she would have fun with her own daughter.  It was 8:00 at night, so not exactly early, and Tegan (who’d been chatting my ear off for the first several minutes of the ride) went to sleep in her car seat and fell silent.  I turned on some music, started running through my class in my mind, and drove the rest of the way lost inside my own head.  When I got there, I started unloading all my stuff from the car… my extra mats, my water bottle, my bluetooth speaker, my essential oils.  It was hot out – in Phoenix during the summer it’s still often 95 at 8:00 at night – and it was more arduous work than usual.  It wasn’t until I reached to get something in the back seat and I saw that face.  That angelic, sleeping face, and the mop of wild curls that framed it.  I’d completely forgotten that she was in the car with me.   And it wasn’t because I was a horrible parent, and it wasn’t because I didn’t deserve to be a mother…. it was because I’m a HUMAN who’d never taken her child to yoga before, and had gone into autopilot in the silence of the car.  I will never, for the rest of my life, forget the fear and terror of what could have happened, of how that moment could have gone instead.  That one second when I wasn’t thinking.

You know the only difference between the rest of those parents and me?  The only one?  They experienced tragedy, and I – for whatever reason – was spared.

We’ve all had those moments when we’ve looked away.

We’ve all had those moments, even when we did not look away!, when something unexpected or tragic or scary befell us or our kids in some way.

No one expects that an alligator is going to snatch away their baby on a family vacation.

No one expects that their toddler is going to climb into a gorilla’s cage.

And if you’re telling yourself, “Well it wouldn’t happen to me,” you’re being blinded by your own fear of the unthinkable.  The unimaginable horror that yes, it could happen to you.  It could happen to any of us.  No one is immune.  And the more we protest, and the more we point fingers, and the more we lay blame, the less energy we’re able to put where it really belongs:  on support, on kindness, on compassion.  On overwhelming love for these parents who’ve endured these unspeakable tragedies;  tragedies that could have happened to any one of us.

So much love and sympathy to the parents who so horrifically lost their little boy this week.


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And Then My Husband Made a Joke – Part Six

bipolarJune 2, 2016

Yay, you made it to the end!  If you’re confused by that, and you’re coming here for the first time, you might want to go back to the beginning.

I started writing these last several posts for two reasons (and I realize that it would have made much more sense to mention this at the beginning of the story, instead of the end.  But I’m doing it at the end.  Let’s just make peace with it.)

I started writing them for two reasons:

To process.  This part was entirely selfish (a healthy kind of selfish, I believe).  I was dealing with a lot of new information, thoughts, and feelings, and once enough time had passed that those thoughts and feelings starting cohering themselves into words, I needed to start putting them down and getting them out of my head so I could move through them, and

To connect with others.  A lot of people don’t understand the need/desire to open up about stuff like this.   There’s a definite segment of society with an attitude of “We’ve all got issues, so what?  Doesn’t mean you need to blab about them all over the internet.”  Or “Why would you want to share something so private?”  Or “Why do you think anyone would care about your problems?” And this is why:  First, I think it’s important to stand up and say – again and again – that there is no shame in mental illness, and no shame in seeking help.  Second, no one wants to feel alone, especially when they are struggling.  When all of this peaked for me, it helped me in ways I can’t even express to see others telling their stories, being open with their struggles, and giving hope about recovery.  Hope!!  And so, whether this is shared with 10 people or 10,000, if ONE is helped in some way, if ONE feels a little less alone, if ONE finds a new sense of solidarity, if ONE feels a little more hope…. it’s worth the vulnerability it took to share it.

Having said all that, I have no intentions of turning this into a mental health blog (and the people cried, “Amen!”)  I don’t want to start writing about bipolar all the time, and I don’t think anyone wants to read that.  I know I’ll write about it from time to time as it’s part of my life, but …. I want to get back to talking about parenting, and unschooling, and the current mess state of American Christianity, and current events, and all the other things that tick people off on a daily basis.

This was just something I had to write about until I felt done.  And as of last night, for now, I feel done.

Because last night, my husband made a joke.  Aimed at me.  And bipolar.  I feel like I shouldn’t actually repeat the joke, out of respect for the people who are raw and sensitive (and/or who don’t use wildly inappropriate humor as a coping mechanism like we do in my family), but to set the scene:  we were all eating dinner, talking about what we perceived must be the pros and cons of long term RV travel as a family.  I said something about nobody wanting to be in that close proximity with me for too long because I’m crazy, he made his joke…. and there was Dead. Silence.

It was only a fraction of a second, but I felt it.  I felt the silence, I felt all four kids look at me, and I felt the unspoken question of, “Wait, is this okay to joke about???”

And then I laughed, because it was funny. And then the kids laughed.

And then we all breathed.

*UPDATE*

It’s now been two weeks since I wrote this last installment (and over 5 weeks since I started treatment), and I didn’t feel right posting it without giving one final little update on where I am today.  The problem is that I don’t really know how to explain where I am today.  I’m…. working on it.  I’m making strides.  I’m celebrating small victories.  I’m taking my medication faithfully, and building routines, and getting exercise and forcing myself to go to therapy even when I don’t feel like it.  

Therapy by the way, is very different than I thought it’d be.  I thought I’d hate it, and it turns out that I DO sort of hate it, just for different reasons than I anticipated.  I like my therapist.  He is kind and knowledgeable and really good at what he does.  But therapy is REALLY FREAKING HARD.  Facing your issues and figuring out your shit when you’ve had the lies of bipolar yelling in your ear for 20 years is excruciatingly painful (especially when you’ve taken looking for answers in the bottom of a bottle of Captain Morgan off the table).  Like, one of the most painful things I’ve ever done kind of painful.  I told my therapist last week that for every issue I’m learning to manage, I unveil another 50 issues that I’ve been avoiding.  A veritable Pandora’s Box of dysfunction.  But I’m doing it.  And I’m learning.  And I’m taking baby steps.  I have some tools now, rudimentary though they may be, and I’m adding to them every week. 

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I had a rough couple of days earlier this week, the worst I’ve had since I started treatment.  I panicked.  I braced myself for the downward slide.  And I did slide.  But I didn’t slide all the way.  Instead I stopped, and I looked around and I clawed my way back up.  Today is Friday, and today I’m smiling.  And I’ll tell you what.  Depression that lasts for three days is a hell of a long way from depression that lasts for six months.  I will take it.  I will celebrate the heck out of it.  I have no doubt that there’ll be more bad days, but I also have hope that I’ll be increasingly equipped to handle them when they come.  Good days are out there somewhere, too.  And they’re so, so close.

I’ll be okay.  We’ll be okay.

Thank you, for reading, and for being so awesome.

xo

 


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