I Had No Idea What I Was Getting Into When I Got Married

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I thought I wasn’t the marrying type. The relationship type? Yes. But marriage is so… permanent. Long. Endless. Boring.       

I used to lay on the floor for hours, headphones on, music turned up. I would daydream and imagine my future. I pictured a life of work combined with creativity. With love that came with no contract. I wasn’t like everyone else, I thought. Boredom came too quickly to me and I could not imagine enduring a lifetime in a relationship out of obligation.

I told myself I would be independent and strong. I would make decisions about my life without consultation and without negotiation. Be my own person. And if a man captured my heart and wanted to walk through any part of life with me, he would have to play by my rules.

Yes, I had it all figured out.

Then I met him.

Our meeting was prophetic. I turned to look over my shoulder, saw him, and walked right into a wall. I stuttered an awkward hello as I rubbed my offended forehead. Introductions were made, pleasantries were exchanged, and I scurried off as soon as I could.

Months passed with small talk in the office, text messages sent in purely professional language. There was an energy between us that I refused to acknowledge or admit.

Then things changed. He asked me out. I said yes in spite of myself. I told myself it was just a date. It didn’t mean my plans were off track. It didn’t mean anything more than a nice evening with a nice guy. But even as I was telling myself that I knew it was a lie.

Everything changed. I fell in love. We fell in love. It was quick and intense and undeniable. It was nothing either of us had ever experienced. We marveled at how little control we had over what was happening to both of us.

I knew right away I would marry him.

Just like that, my life plans changed.

Just like that, the picture in my head of my future was a completely different picture. There was a house and kids and maybe a dog. It was everything I always thought I didn’t want.

And now I wanted it so bad I could taste it.

That was 19 years ago. I got the marriage. The three kids. The house. A dog.

Is it what I thought it would be? No.

There have been bumps in roads and curve balls thrown and surprises around corners. There have been many walls that have been run into head first.

There have been fights. And pain. And frustration.

But there’s also been comfort. The comfort of knowing we are both in this. The comfort of reaching out and knowing his hand will always be there. Of knowing that I can lay my head on his ready shoulder. That I can go to him for his advice and I will receive the unvarnished truth. That there’s someone there who is willing and happy to walk through life with me.

There’s been helping each other through loss. Lifting each other up when life knocks us down. There’s been stress that’s been carried by two sets of shoulders instead of one.

There’s been passion and laughter and love.

Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

I had no idea what it would be like. All I knew was I was marrying the man I loved. I hoped and prayed that the rest would fall into place. People were full of advice, as is custom when young people get married. But looking back, there’s no way anyone can fully prepare you.

I couldn’t have possibly understood what it is for two lives to come together. To navigate all of the needs and curves of another person’s life and dreams and desires. To understand all of the life experiences that make and shape a person. That marrying someone meant marrying their past and their experiences and all of the things that influence them.

I couldn’t have known that the fights would be bigger because there would be more at stake. That hurts would run deeper. That the struggle to understand what truly lies behind every misspoken word would be the key to having less misunderstandings.

I couldn’t have known that it would mean digging into my own past. That all of my life experiences, my hurts and fears and expectations would hitch a ride to my new future. That my issues would bump up against my marriage and leave it bruised at times. I had no inkling of the depth of humility and willingness to learn and change that would be crucial to staying connected.

I didn’t know that through the years, you would negotiate and make concessions. That marriage is built on compromise. That to not do this would leave a marriage bitter and lifeless. But to engage in the act of compromise, to do it honestly and whole heartedly would make a marriage healthier and happier.

I couldn’t have imagined that the love that you started with? The love that kept you up talking to each other all night and walking around in a state of blissful exhaustion? That it would grow. That you would find yourself wanting to share good news with him first. That bad news sent you running to him for comfort.

That you would still get butterflies when he walked in the door.

That the deep connection and the years of getting to know each other’s intricacies and nuances would nestle deep into your bones and become a part of you.

That there’s a warmth and comfort in all that hard work but that it’s never too comfortable. That complacency or apathy will kill the passion and dull the life you’ve built together. And you will fight to keep that from happening.

I thought being alone would prove I was brave. I thought independence meant not tethering my life to another’s. I thought getting married would inhibit me and stifle me.

It didn’t. I’m still me.

I’m more me than I was before I ran into that wall so many years ago.

Giving up all of my plans of wild child, against the grain freedom and independence took me to far more adventurous places. Living a life on my own terms? There’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s not a badge of honor I needed to wear. Living a life on our terms means  advocating for my own needs while taking into account his. There’s a glorious beauty in that. It’s a hard won challenge to stay wholly intact while becoming a part of something bigger. A feat of honesty to oneself and dedication to each other.

Easy? No. No one said it would be easy. I  know there will be many more walls that will be run into head first. Maybe that’s what marriage is… knowing you will run into a wall and agreeing to do it. To know it won’t be easy.

That’s ok. I never liked easy anyways.

Easy is boring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ciara Exposes Cleavage, Ruins Football

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photo: Christian Peterson/Getty

photo: Christian Peterson/Getty

Did you feel that? It was subtle, so maybe you missed it. The ground shook a little and the skies cracked open. Swear jars and chore charts toppled off of the shelves of suburban track homes all across the country. There was a collective gasp from young children, their eyes assaulted. Parents everywhere rushed to shield their children’s eyes from the horror, sloshing their Lite Beers in the process. Salsa was spilled while furious Tweeters and FaceBookers took to the social media airways to express their disgust and admonishments. What was responsible for this onslaught of carpet stains and sticky phones?

Boobs.

Nuclear families all across our great land had settled in to watch a game of skull crashing, mind pulverizing, wholesome fun. It was the College National Championship game. What should have been a time to bond as a family and celebrate good old fashioned Americana was sullied. Because boobs.

Ciara sang the National Anthem wearing a lovely rhinestoned dress and cape that would have had Liberachi drooling in his bedazzled goblet. She was pristine in her white sparkliness. Her hair pulled back in an elegant chignon. She stood regally, mid field, and sang the most sacred song of our nation. The one that makes every good American pause, hand over heart, one single tear slowly trickling down their cheek. Except the eyes were dry on this good night. The patriotic moment overshadowed by her classless display of body parts.

“It’s a family event!” the people cried. “Cover up!” “Not appropriate!”

There were Tweets from ESPN reporters, the arbiters of decency and propriety.

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The pearl clutching was in full effect. It was a little too much for a nation still in recovery from the yoga pants episodes of 2015. You know, the one where women and girls were shamed and scolded for wearing yoga pants as… err… pants? The wound is too fresh on our delicate sensibilities to now have to contend with breasts.

It was reckless and selfish of Ciara. Being all… there. With her body. Who the hell does she think she is, trying to draw attention to herself on national tv? Because of her, the fans of the SEC and ACC were distracted from the game. They could only half-heartedly scream profanities at their tv screens when coaches called the wrong plays. Their FaceBook updates -that the public at large relies on for game updates and sideline coaching- were lackluster. Their hearts weren’t in it knowing that their children would never be the same.

Breasts have no place on tv. If you have them, it is your duty, nay your responsibility,  to make sure they are covered at all times. It doesn’t matter if you are 13 and headed off to middle school or 25 and headed to the gym. Breasts have no business being seen. Throw on that turtle neck and get thee to a baked goods sale, ladies!

It’s a slippery slope for our youth. They see breasts when their young brains are still supple and growing. The next thing you know, they’re snorting meth off the stomach of a stripper at the Lucky Penny. Breasts are the gateway drug for debauchery and a lifetime of Hooters Happy Hours eating bad wings and drinking stale beer. No one wants this for the youth of our country. Our kids deserve better.

And please, spare me the arguments. I’ve heard them all: “breasts are natural, they shouldn’t be sexualized” “I just want to feed my baby without being banished to a smelly public restroom” and “other cultures aren’t afraid of breasts.” Pffftt. I scoff a these pleas that are trotted out to try to instill some common sense and civility. In our country we like our breasts hidden from view, modestly hidden from sight. Until we want to see them. And then you can wear that v-neck shirt that’s been gathering dust in the back of your closet. Then you can proudly strap on your Victorias Secret Miracle Bra with pride. But only when we want to see them. It’s up to every single one of you to figure out the difference. Getting it wrong can have dire effects so tread carefully. Public shaming or assumptions about your character will be doled out based on the status of your breasts. It’s best to think of your boobs as weapons. Unless you have an open carry permit, you best keep ’em wrapped up tight.

I tried to stay strong through this whole ordeal. I tried to not get upset at the awful display that came across my tv screen. But then I saw this:

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Ciara. Women everywhere. Next time you’re getting dressed to sing the National Anthem,  or getting dressed to go to the grocery store or to go anywhere for that matter, think of Coop. What would Coop say? Coop and all the other innocent children out there. Can we spare them this kind of inappropriateness? Coop hasn’t even grown into her Vineyard Vines Shep Shirt yet and already she’s had her poor little mind tainted.

It’s incumbent upon all of us, those of the ever present breasts, to consider the ramifications of the clothes we wear. To speculate upon the effects our OOTD may have on the people who cross our paths. And, most importantly, to think of the legacy we are leaving the children.

 

 

 

 

 

YOUR REBEL HEART

I wrote this a year ago as a guest post for the amazing and beautiful Hasty Words. I’m sharing it again because the death of David Bowie reminded me the importance of being a rebel…

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Six months ago, on our way to dinner, I had a conversation with my 10 year old daughter.  I wanted to watch a movie and hang out with her for our girls night but she had her heart set on asking a friend over.  I said “Oh ok” and she immediately changed her mind and said she didn’t want to disappoint me.

I pulled the car into a parking lot and stopped the car.  I asked her to climb over the seat and sit next to me.  You see… this was an important moment.  This was the first time she had let my disappointment alter her own decision.  I do want her to carefully take my ideas and thoughts into consideration but I do not want to become her voice.  She has her own voice.  It was a fairly long conversation so I will highlight a few of the points…

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Who’s Raising Who?

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*I published this post a year ago. Since today’s my son’s 15th birthday and since I’m a sappy, emotional mess on my kids’ birthdays, I’m posting it again…

 “And you can tell everybody this is your song
It may be quite simple but now that it’s done
I hope you don’t mind
I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you’re in the world”

-Elton John, Your Song

My brother died 10 days before my wedding. I was caught between suffocating despair and the happy prospect of marrying the man I love. But I didn’t think I’d ever feel pure joy again. I couldn’t imagine joy in a world without my brother.

Six months later we lost my Grandfather. My big strong Grandpa. The Purple Heart Marine with the big booming voice. I will always believe that he died of a broken heart after the loss of my brother. A few weeks later I found out I was pregnant.

The sun started to peek through the darkness, just a little.

Nine months later my beautiful baby boy was born. He came into the world wailing and thrashing. “Feisty” was the word that came to mind. Barrel chested and dark hair. He was strong and vibrant and ready to take on life.

I was scared out of my mind. I had spent my high school years babysitting, but I felt like I didn’t know how to do this, being a parent. I was responsible for this other person and I felt inept and inadequate.

I was scared I wasn’t feeding him enough. I was scared that he would stop breathing in his sleep. I was scared that he was in a pain and I didn’t know it. I was scared that there was something wrong with him that I was missing. I was scared that I was screwing it all up. I was scared that he knew that I had no clue.

I was scared that he would get sick and die. The impossible such a real possibility to my family.

Fear dominated the first few months of my son’s life. Every doubt about myself magnified in the face of motherhood. Every fear I had after watching my brother suffer intensified as a possible threat. Could it happen to him, my baby?

And I worried that he could sense my fear. I didn’t want to put that on him. I didn’t want him to grow up neurotic. I didn’t want my stuff to affect him, to change him. Another thing to worry about.

As the months went on, he proved me wrong. He defied all of my worries and fears. He was thriving. He was full of life and provided endless hours of entertainment for me and my husband. I would look at him in awe. He was a part of me. I couldn’t’ believe that something so beautiful and amazing came from me. I mentally attributed it all to my husband.

Now my son is fourteen years old. I’m watching him grow into an amazing young man. He’s compassionate and smart and funny and good. He’s good. He seems unscathed by those early years when his mom was fighting anxiety and fear. He’s happy and confident.

I watch him play with his little sister and I see a glimpse of the father he will be. A loving, nurturing dad. Like my husband. I see him smile and laugh with his friends and I  see the natural charisma that his father carries. I watch him run, swim, play and I see the natural athlete that is my husband. I see him crack a joke, his dry subtle wit reminiscent of the humor that made me fall in love with my husband.

I listen to my son ask questions when we’re in the car. Questions about world events. I listen as he talks about Syria. And Egypt. And North Korea. Israel and Palestine. He wants to talk about Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and Eric Garner. He wants to watch the morning news and catch up on what’s going on in the world. I listen to him as he gets mad, I see his frustration and anger towards people that hate. He doesn’t understand. And I see a little bit of me.

I see the look he gives me when I’m fishing in my purse for a dollar for a man with a sign on the corner. He takes the ten dollar bill out of my wallet and hands it to me. His look says it all. He needs it more than you, mom. On another occasion I watch with overwhelming emotion and pride as he pulls a few dollars out of his own pocket when I am out of cash and a homeless veteran is standing at the stop light.

I watch as he insists on buying a small toy for his little sister. Even though I know he wants to save up for the latest video game, he’s willing to hold off a little longer to bring a smile to her face.

I watch all of this and I feel more joy than I ever thought possible. My son opened up my heart again fourteen years ago. He proved me wrong. The pain of losing my brother isn’t gone, but I’ve learned that the pain doesn’t eclipse the joy. The two can co-exist.

I watch all of this and I feel pride. My son’s a good kid. I think he’ll grow up to be an amazing person. One who works hard and who cares. Cares about those he loves and about those he doesn’t even know. I look at him and I know that I did some things right. I know that along with my husband we’re raising a good person. And I realize now that our raising him isn’t the remarkable thing.

We raised him for the last 14 years, but more importantly, he raised us.

I’ve grown in to motherhood. My husband has grown into fatherhood. All on my son’s dime. He had to endure our learning curve. His burden similar to that of many first borns. His siblings owe him a debt of gratitude for him teaching us how to be parents.

As I look back on the past fourteen years, I see how far my husband and I have come. How much we’ve gone through, how much we’ve navigated. As I look back I realize that the credit isn’t ours alone.

Thank you, my sweet beautiful boy. You’ve been patient and you’ve navigated this path with us.

Thank you for taking our lessons, for enduring our long lectures. For humoring us when we think we’re cool. Thank you for still letting me into your world. For sharing your thoughts with me. Thank you.

Thank you for allowing me to feel joy again.

Thank you for raising some pretty o.k. parents.

Thank you for being you.

Because who you are couldn’t make me any prouder.

The Thing All Women Do That You Don’t Know About

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image: Shutterstock

image: Shutterstock

There’s this thing that happens whenever I speak about or write about women’s issues. Things like dress codes, rape culture and sexism. I get the comments: Aren’t there more important things to worry about? Is this really that big of a deal? Aren’t you being overly sensitive? Are you sure you’re being rational about this?

Every. Single. Time.

And every single time I get frustrated. Why don’t they get it?

I think I’ve figured out why.

They don’t know.

They don’t know about de-escalation. Minimizing. Quietly acquiescing.

Hell, even though women live it, we are not always aware of it. But we have all done it.

We have all learned, either by instinct or by trial and error, how to minimize a situation that makes us uncomfortable. How to avoid angering a man or endangering ourselves. We have all, on many occasions, ignored an offensive comment. We’ve all laughed off an inappropriate come-on. We’ve all swallowed our anger when being belittled or condescended to.

It doesn’t feel good. It feels icky. Dirty. But we do it because to not do it could put us in danger or get us fired or labeled a bitch. So we usually take the path of least precariousness.

It’s not something we talk about every day. We don’t tell our boyfriends and husbands and friends every time it happens. Because it is so frequent, so pervasive, that it has become something we just deal with.

So maybe they don’t know. Maybe they don’t know that at the tender age of 13 we had to brush off adult men staring at our breasts. Maybe they don’t know that men our dad’s ages actually came on to us while we were working the cash register. They probably don’t know that the guy in English class who asked us out sent angry messages just because we turned him down. They may not be aware that our supervisor regularly pats us on the ass. And they surely don’t know that most of the time we smile, with gritted teeth. That we look away or pretend not to notice. They likely have no idea how often these things happen. That these things have become routine. So expected that we hardly notice it anymore.

So routine that we go through the motions of ignoring it and minimizing. Not showing our suppressed anger and fear and frustration. A quick cursory smile or a clipped laugh will  allow us to continue with our day. We de-escalate. We minimize it. Both internally and externally, we minimize it. We have to. To not shrug it off would put is in confrontation mode more often than most of us feel like dealing with.

We learn at a young age how to do this. We didn’t put a name or label to it. We didn’t even consider that other girls were doing the same thing. But we were teaching ourselves, mastering the art of de-escalation. Learning by way of observation and quick risk assessment what our reactions should and shouldn’t be.

We go through a quick mental checklist. Does he seem volatile, angry? Are there other people around? Does he seem reasonable and is just trying to be funny, albeit clueless? Will saying something impact my school/job/reputation? In a matter of seconds we determine whether we will say something or let it slide. Whether we’ll call him out or turn the other way, smile politely or pretend that we didn’t hear/see/feel it.

It happens all the time. And it’s not always clear if the situation is dangerous or benign.

It is the boss who says or does something inappropriate. It is the customer who holds our tip out of reach until we lean over to hug him. It’s the male friend who has had too much to drink and tries to corner us for a “friends with benefits” moment even though we’ve made it clear we’re not interested. It’s the guy who gets angry if we turn him down for a date. Or a dance. Or a drink.

We see it happen to our friends. We see it happen in so many scenarios and instances that it becomes the norm. And we really don’t think anything of it. Until that one time that came close to being a dangerous situation. Until we hear that the “friend” who cornered us was accused of rape a day later. Until our boss makes good on his promise to kiss us on New Years Eve when he catches us alone in the kitchen. Those times stick out. They’re the ones we may tell your friends, our boyfriends, our husbands about.

But all the other times? All the times we felt uneasy or nervous but nothing more happened? Those times we just go about our business and don’t think twice about.

It’s the reality of being a woman in our world.

It’s laughing off sexism because we felt we had no other option.

It’s feeling sick to your stomach that we had to “play along” to get along.

It’s feeling shame and regret the we didn’t call that guy out, the one who seemed intimidating but in hindsight was probably harmless. Probably.

It’s taking our phone out, finger poised over the “Call” button when we’re walking alone at night.

It’s positioning our keys between our fingers in case we need a weapon when walking to our car.

It’s lying and saying we have a boyfriend just so a guy would take “No” for an answer.

It’s being at a crowded bar/concert/insert any crowded event, and having to turn around to look for the jerk who just grabbed our ass.

It’s knowing that even if we spot him, we might not say anything.

It’s walking through the parking lot of a big box store and politely saying Hello when a guy passing us says Hi. It’s pretending not to hear as he berates us for not stopping to talk further. What? You too good to talk to me? You got a problem? Pffft… bitch.

It’s not telling our friends or our parents or our husbands because it’s just a matter of fact, a part of our lives.

It’s the memory that haunts us of that time we were abused, assaulted or raped.

It’s the stories our friends tell us through heartbreaking tears of that time they were abused, assaulted or raped.

It’s realizing that the dangers we perceive every time we have to choose to confront these situations aren’t in our imagination. Because we know too many women who have been abused, assaulted or raped.

It occurred to me recently that a lot of guys may be unaware of this. They have heard of things that happened, they have probably at times seen it and stepped in to stop it. But they likely have no idea how often it happens. That it colors much of what we say or do and how we do it.

Maybe we need to explain it better. Maybe we need to stop ignoring it to ourselves, minimizing it in our own minds.

The guys that shrug off or tune out when a woman talks about sexism in our culture? They’re not bad guys. They just haven’t lived our reality. And we don’t really talk about the everyday stuff that we witness and experience. So how could they know?

So, maybe the good men in our lives have no idea that we deal with this stuff on regular basis.

Maybe it is so much our norm that it didn’t occur to us that we would have to tell them.

It occurred to me that they don’t know the scope of it and they don’t always understand that this is our reality. So, yeah, when I get fired up about a comment someone makes about a girl’s tight dress, they don’t always get it. When I get worked up over the every day sexism I’m seeing and witnessing and watching… when I’m hearing of the things my daughter and her friends are experiencing… they don’t realize it’s the tiny tip of a much bigger iceberg.

Maybe I’m realizing that men can’t be expected to understand how pervasive everyday sexism is if we don’t start telling them and pointing to it when it happens. Maybe I’m starting to realize that men have no idea that even walking into a store women have to be on guard. We have to be aware, subconsciously, of our surroundings and any perceived threats.

Maybe I’m starting to realize that just shrugging it off and not making a big deal about it is not going to help anyone.

We de-escalate.

We are acutely aware of our vulnerability. Aware that if he wanted to? That guy in the Home Depot parking lot could overpower us and do whatever he wants.

Guys, this is what it means to be a woman. We are sexualized before we even understand what that means. We develop into women while our minds are still innocent. We get stares and comments before we can even drive. From adult men. We feel uncomfortable but don’t know what to do, so we go about our lives. We learn at an early age, that to confront every situation that makes us squirm is to possibly put ourselves in danger. We are aware that we are the smaller, physically weaker sex. That boys and men are capable of overpowering us if they choose to. So we minimize and we de-escalate.

So, the next time a woman talks about being cat-called and how it makes her uncomfortable, don’t dismiss her. Listen.

The next time your wife complains about being called “Sweetheart” at work, don’t shrug in apathy. Listen.

The next time you read about or hear a woman call out sexist language, don’t belittle her for doing so. Listen.

The next time your girlfriend tells you that the way a guy talked to her made her feel uncomfortable, don’t shrug it off. Listen.

Listen because your reality is not the same as hers.

Listen because her concerns are valid and not exaggerated or inflated.

Listen because the reality is that she or someone she knows personally has at some point been abused, assaulted, or raped. And she knows that it’s always a danger of happening to her.

Listen because even a simple comment from a strange man can send ripples of fear through her.

Listen because she may be trying to make her experience not be the experience of her daughters.

Listen because nothing bad can ever come from listening.

Just. Listen.

 

Parenting In A Trigger Happy Country

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 (Photo by Phil Mislinski/Getty Images)

(Photo by Phil Mislinski/Getty Images)

Sometimes, when my phone rings or I get a text during the school day, my heart stops for a minute.

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At my first high school football game, four people were shot. My parents were horrified and scared. They tried to find a way for me to switch schools. I didn’t want to. I loved my school and I was proud of it, in spite of it’s tarnished reputation. My senior year, a former student was shot and killed at the entrance to our school.

My parents put our house up for sale soon after that.

You see, my school was in a rough neighborhood. The kind of neighborhood that saw violence and crime on a daily basis. As soon as they could afford it, my parents moved so my younger brother could go to a school without the threat of gun fire. They found a smaller town with less crime and a safe place to live.

That was in 1991.

Now, no one’s safe.

No neighborhood or town is immune to stray bullets or bullets aiming to kill.

Guns are in angry, itchy hands. Guns are stockpiled and guns are wielded over the slightest offense. And sometimes guns are in the hands of well meaning people who make mistakes.

Now, school shootings are common place.

As a parent, I’m not sure how to process that. Sometimes I’m scared to send my kids to school. I have fleeting thoughts as I’m saying good bye to them in the morning. This is a day just like any other day. I bet that’s what the parents at Sandy Hook thought. What are the odds that it would happen here, in our town? I bet that’s what the parents thought when their kids went to class at Umpqua Community College. 

I received a text last week. I was mindlessly doing something else and didn’t rush to check the message. But then I had a thought… what if it’s my daughter crouched in a hiding spot, texting me to tell me about a shooter? 

These thoughts pop into my head every now and then. How could they not? Since 2013 there have been more than 149 school shootings in America. My kids come home and tell me about Active Shooter Drills. My daughter tells me about trying to find the best hiding spot because it’s the one she’s supposed to use in the case of a real threat.

We are teaching our kids how to hide from an armed intruder in school. We refuse to take action, to have the hard conversations. We go about our days, sipping our lattes and shopping at Target. But we are ok with our kids practicing scenarios of death and carnage. We don’t demand that law makers finally do something, meanwhile a sick version of doomsday prepping has become a mainstay in our schools.

The method by which we safe guard ourselves and our children against the inevitable when guns are considered a right instead of a privilege? It’s no more than crossing our fingers, wishing on a star and pinky promises.

We are hoping that people will be responsible with their guns.

We are hoping they won’t pull out a gun in a fit of road rage.

We are hoping that they won’t fire on a shop-lifter in a crowded parking lot.

We are hoping that they will not leave them loaded and within arms reach of young children. Or anyone.

We are hoping that guns won’t end up in the hands of people with violent pasts and violent tendencies. We are living on a wing and a prayer that the people with guns actually know how to use them and when to use them.

We are basically using voodoo hocus pocus to keep our kids safe. To keep our country safe.

And it’s not working so well.

When I get the robo-call that my son’s school is on lockdown because a hunter wandered onto school grounds, I don’t feel safe. I feel terrified. Even after the police determine it was an honest mistake and not a threat, I’m still scared. What about the next hunter? Will he be careful? Will he make sure that when he aims his gun it’s not pointed in the direction of the school? I cross my fingers and hope.

When the people that own the land behind me target practice or hunt or walk right by our property line with big guns strapped to their back, I’m scared. Are they sane? Are they responsible? Are they making sure they aren’t aiming in the direction of my back yard? Is anyone who lives in their home suffering from delusions or severe anger? Are their guns kept under lock and key or fingerprint scanner? I have no way of knowing. When I hear gun shots ring out in rapid fire, I call my kids inside. And I say a little prayer.

When a neighbor gets held up at gun point down the street? My heart seizes up. My son and his friends had been on that very street within minutes of the robbery. They had been walking home to play video games. Should I not allow my high school age son to walk the streets of my neighborhood? Should I keep all my kids home out of fear and not let them ride their bikes or play in the woods behind my house? Should I try to wish away the problem?

No. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Common sense laws. Ones that require safety courses and universal background checks and close loopholes. These are some of the things that will help. Why is this so hard to swallow? Our kids hiding under a desk in fear is easier to consider? Kids being killed accidentally by siblings or in road rage incidents is preferable to legislation and enforcement?

We are not safe in our trigger happy country.

We have not created a safe environment. As parents and citizens, that’s our job. And we have failed. When you fail, you are supposed to change and adapt. You are supposed to fight your way back to a place that is beyond surviving. You are supposed to act, not cower with helplessness. You are supposed to do something beyond hoping and crossing your fingers or knocking on wood.

Our kids shouldn’t have to practice hiding from gunfire.

We shouldn’t be nervous when we send them to school. Or send them down the street. Or to a movie theatre or mall or anywhere.

We shouldn’t be complacent or repeat tired phrases and mantras that have been fed to us by wealthy men with big agendas that include making them money and have nothing to do with our best interests.

We shouldn’t be ok with the fact that death by gunfire has become common place.

When I send my kids off to school, or anywhere, I shouldn’t have to be afraid they’ll be next.

 

For more information on common sense gun laws and initiatives: http://everytownresearch.org

 

 

 

 

Five Rules For The Jackholes Trying To Ruin Halloween

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Can we not suck the fun out of Halloween?

Can we have one day? One day where it’s just about having fun and there are no guidelines or parameters or judgement or rules?

I’ve been hearing plenty of grumbling on both mainstream and social media. Things that annoy people about Halloween. “Rules” for trick or treating.

There’s been an abundance of people who seem to have a stick up their candy bowl.

They have been lamenting the kids who trample their grass, don’t ask politely for candy. The ones who take the candy and don’t say thank you. People who wonder at the wisdom of giving candy when more kids are overweight. Remember the lady who handed out fat shaming letters to trick or treaters? And there are people who think it’s their job to determine how old is too old for trick or treating.

As a public service and as a person who loves this holiday, I am going to share some thoughts.

Halloween is supposed to be the bad-ass holiday. It’s about being scary. It’s about being scared. It’s about running around in the dark. It’s about playing pranks, having fun. It’s supposed to be harmless mayhem. I don’t want to see Halloween morph into some nauseating Elf On the Shelf type of watered-down cuteness. I don’t want the pre-planned manufactured fun borne of Martha Stewart and Pinterest. Let’s not ruin Halloween.

On behalf of those who like this holiday and aren’t mean fun-sucking candy haters, I’d like to share a few of my “rules.”

1. Turn Off the Lights This one’s really simple, you don’t have to participate. You can turn off your porch light. In fact, if kids and their seeking of candy really bother you, I’m going to ask that you turn off your lights, close your blinds and go to bed because it sounds like you could really use a good night’s sleep.

2. This Ain’t No Disco. And It Ain’t No Country Club. And it’s not a dog and pony show. This is not an exhibition in which kids curtsy and look cute and act proper and display their good grooming and well-appointed manners. It’s not a test in ettiquete or in ANYTHING. Even the most well-disciplined well mannered kids will possibly- nay probably- forget a “Thank you” in their haste and excitement to run off to the next house. Don’t take it personally. Really, it’s not about you. They’re just excited, mkay?

3. You Can’t Guess No One’s Age So Don’t Even Try. Don’t be coy. You know what I’m talking about. The big kids. You know, the ones with a five o’clock shadow and awkward gangly limbs? They travel in packs. They mumble. They look at the ground when talking to you. They look like they might be too old for such childish antics. I’m going to try to appeal to your sympathies as someone who once went through this yourself. Please understand that the kid with the mustache might only be 13. The girl with the ample bosom may only be 12. Kids this age are impossible to identify by age. I dare you to go to any middle school or high school and try.

They are going through the most confusing and awkward period of adolescence. Their brains are sucked dry by the hormones that are running roughshod over their whole existence. They are uncomfortable in their own skin and they probably debated about even going trick or treating. They are at that stage where they still want to be a kid and have fun, but know it might not be cool. So don’t make them feel completely uncool by sneering or asking their age or refusing them candy. Even if they’re not dressed up. They may not have planned on going trick or treating. They may have had their friends knock on their door at the last minute pulling them out of the house. Let them have this. That kid that looks like he could be changing the oil on your car may be still watching Sponge Bob and cuddling on the couch with his parents. Don’t make him think he’s too old for any of it.

4. Kids From Other Neighborhoods ARE Allowed. I honestly can’t believe I have to even say this….

But we cannot segregate Halloween and trick or treating by class or by race or by neighborhood.

If you are bothered by “others” encroaching on your precious ‘hood, then I am going to politely point out that you might be an asshole.

And by this I mean that your head is so far up your McMansion that you may need to seek professional help.

I live in a neighborhood with sidewalks and houses close together. Around our ‘hood? It’s largely rural. We have carloads and vans that drop their kids off to trick or treat. From (gasp!) other neighborhoods. We have to buy insane amounts of candy to give out. I’ve heard grumbles from some. But those grumbles are drowned out by the rest of us. By most of us. You know, the ones having fun. The ones who don’t care where a kid is from. Those elitist whiners are muffled by the all of the houses that put on interactive displays in their front yards. By the neighbors that go to a lot of trouble and time and expense to put on haunted houses in their garages. By the parents that sit at the end of their driveway and chat with the adults passing by. Sometimes handing a cold beer to a weary parent. By the people that want others to enjoy the holiday, no matter where they’re from. If all of this welcoming and camaraderie is disturbing to you, please see Rule # 1.

5. There Are No Rules. Yes. There are no rules. Other than the basic rules of conduct. Like no vandalism or stealing. Rules that don’t even need to be stated because they should be an intrinsic part of being a decent human being. Rules like don’t judge parents or kids based on where they’re from and if they belong on your doorstep. Rules like don’t be mean to a growing kid. Basic civility and decorum. Try it. Try having no expectations and just go with it. Have fun. Laugh with the kids. Laugh and chat with the adults. You may find yourself enjoying Halloween more than ever.

Me? I love Halloween. I’ll be painting my kids’ faces, helping them with their costumes. I’ll be managing a sleepover of 4 teen age boys who want to play video games and watch horror movies. And I’ll be scrambling to help them piece together last minute costumes when they decide to go out to “just a few houses.” I’ll be lecturing them about being respectful and letting the little ones go first. I’ll be holding my breath hoping that ALL of my kids, younger and older, listen to their Mama and do right.

I’ll be enjoying all of the adorable kids, younger and older, who end up on my doorstep. I’ll visit a few of the haunted houses in my ‘hood. At some point I’ll put a giant bowl of candy on my porch with a little sign asking the kids to take just two. And I’ll do this knowing that some kid is going to dump the whole bowl in their bag. That’s ok. I’m not gonna sweat it.

I’ll be down at my neighbor’s. I heard they’re passing out cold beers.

Heart On Fire… Happy Birthday Samara

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No one tells you that blogging will become about more than just writing. It may start off as a way to find your voice, share your thoughts and exercise the writing muscle. But it becomes so much more.

You start meeting other writers. People who care about the same issues you care about. People who breathe through writing the same as you. People who blow you away with their talent and inspire you and make you want to be better at this thing you love.

A little over two years ago, I stumbled onto Samara’s blog through a mutual blog friend. I was a little curious to check out this person who left witty and intelligent comments on another blog. I was immediately sucked into her words. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the screen. Scrolling from one blog post to the next. Laughing. Then crying. Enthralled. Yes, her life has all the makings of a Scorsese movie. But that wasn’t what got to me. It was her writing. I fell in hard love with her writing.

I would scramble to her blog every time I got notification that she had posted something. Reading, but not commenting. I was intimidated and scared to comment. The comments section read better than some blog posts by other writers. One day I had to say something. She’d written a gut wrenching post. I was moved to tears and had to comment. Somehow my serious comment on her serious post turned into a conversation about music and eventually realized we both were huge Lenny Kravitz fans.

And from there we started to get to “know” each other in bloggy terms. We read each other’s writing and we commented and supported. And in the midst of that we became to know each other in more “real” terms. One day she reached out to me with an email to say something about a post I’d written. It was a hard day for me, a hard post to write. One that I was reeling from for hours after hitting “publish.” The things she said in that email healed a little part of me that was in so much pain that day. It gave me the push to keep writing, just as I was considering giving it up.

See, that’s what she does. She sees something in others and pushes them to be better. She listens to your dreams and tells you to go for it. Underneath the tough exterior that burns with fire is the soft soul of a person who deeply cares about others. She helped to create this amazing place that is a safe haven for writers to unleash their pain and write with blind fury. She is fiercely protective of the people who come there to lay their hearts on the line. She is the embodiment of Together, We Are Stronger.

I’m so grateful that in this huge infinite world of blogging that I connected with her. And though in some ways we couldn’t be more different, there are so many ways I relate to her. We are both fierce protective mothers who share similar parenting philosophies. We are sisters who will never let the memories of our brothers die. We are passionate about music. Music means as much to us as writing, it is intertwined with our words. It inspires us and saves us. We are writers. We live and breathe for our families but writing is what tears us apart and puts us back together. All of these things have connected me to this woman who I got to know through her words. And now I can say we are friends and SisterWives. 

Today is her birthday. I’m a big fan of birthdays. I think they are a glorious reason to celebrate a person. To show them that you are glad they are in this world. To let them know that they are awesome and amazing and special. Samara, Happy Birthday.

Happy Birthday to the passion, to the fire, to every word you bleed onto the paper. Happy Birthday to your soul that you open up and share with us every time you write. Happy Birthday to the fearlessness to Write Free. Happy Birthday to a beautiful person full of love and imperfections and intricacies.

For your birthday, I’d like to take you to a Lenny Kravitz concert. And I think we both agree we want to see Lenny circa 1990. So put on your platform shoes and your hip hugger pants. Mess up your hair and let’s jump and dance and scream. Cheers, my friend. Let’s rock.

*Write Free and Breathe Through Writing are two terms I learned from Samara. See? She’s so good with the words…*

To join the party and listen to Samara’s Birthday Mix Tape, go here.

The Voice That Made All The Difference. Thank You, Mom.

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None of us get through life unscathed. We all have things that caused pain or fear or rejection or shame. Sometimes I look back and I marvel at where I am. I feel incredibly lucky that the hurtful and the shameful and the painful didn’t define me. They are there, but they didn’t win. They were overshadowed and overcome and drowned out by one voice.

It was the voice of encouragement and love and wisdom.

It was always there, always available, always ready.

Thank you, Mom.

Thank you for being the voice that made all the difference.

Thank you for being the constant listener. For never tiring of the endless chatter of a little girl full of questions and observations and random thoughts.

Thank you for not laughing or minimizing my fears or my dreams.

Thank you for bringing a little laughter and silliness to late night car rides to the grocery store on pay day. Our tummies rumbling in hunger momentarily forgotten by your outlandish stories and made up songs.

Thank you for fighting to survive when a lot of women would have given up. Divorced with two little girls, no job, no car. Thank you for reinventing yourself from, the timid small town girl too scared to drive, to the independent working woman respected by her peers.

Thank you for giving us a Christmas even when you couldn’t afford to buy gifts. For making a game of giving each other imaginary gifts, pictures cut out of magazines of the things we would give each other if…

Thank you for quietly not eating so you’d have enough food for us.

Thank you for putting up with my endless performances and jokes and precocious antics without ever showing annoyance.

Thank you for encouraging my dreams. For making me believe I could be an actress on Broadway one day. For never shooting down a little girl’s pipe dreams.

Thank you for always talking to me like I was a person. For always valuing my opinions and thoughts. Even when they may have been immature or misguided.

Thank you for making me feel like I had a voice. And that it mattered.

Thank you for giving me a beautiful sister and precious brother who became my best friends.

Thank you for walking with me through a painful back surgery and months of wearing an embarrassing brace and body cast. For being sensitive to my struggle but not letting me wallow in self pity.

Thank you for talking me through my first heartbreak. For not hesitating to come get me when I called you sobbing from the school pay phone. For taking me to lunch and letting me talk about it. For telling me that I deserved better. That I would take that heartbreak and I would be stronger. And that I would NEVER let anyone hurt me like that again.

Thank you for letting me sit in on the adult discussions about life and politics. For letting me chime in on occasion and insisting that others listen to what I had to say.

Thank you for making me feel special when I felt stupid or ugly or unlikeable.

Thank you for exposing me to art, to theatre, to Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire and Joel Gray and Debbie Reynolds. And to jazz. And for taking me to see Fame and Ghandi even though they were rated “R.” For watching A Chorus Line with me over and over because Broadway.

Thank you for marrying a great man who loved us and took care of us. And whose deep appreciation and knowledge of all things rock and roll gave me an education and a passion for a music that influences almost everything I say and do.

Thank you for teaching me about working hard and toughing it out and treating every job as if it were the most important job in the world.

Thank you for listening when I called you from my apartment in Atlanta. Not sure if I should walk out on a long term relationship that I’d thought was my future. For telling me that I would never settle. That I would find that amazing love that is written about in great novels.

Thank you for not laughing or questioning me when I called you after the first date to tell you that I’d met the man I was going to marry.

Thank you for taking care of my brother. For being his nurse and his mom and his friend. And for taking hit after hit during a brutal 18 months and standing with him as he stared Cancer in the face and said “I don’t have time for you. I’ve still got a lot of living to do.” For being steady when your legs were shaking in fear.

For not giving up on life when Cancer won. Even though you wanted to.

Thank you for showing up at my wedding ten days after the worst heartbreak any mother could face. For showing up and smiling and laughing and dancing. For allowing all of us to have a few moments from the grief… to do what he would have wanted us to do.

Thank you for still talking about him. For letting me talk about him. For making sure he is still a part of everything we do. For listening to me when I’m struggling and in pain and missing him so much I don’t think I can breathe. Even though you’re struggling more. For putting your pain on hold to be there for me.

Thank you for still walking through life 15 years later. When I know sometimes each step is just as painful as it was in those darkest days.

Thank you for always being a fighter. For showing me what strength is. For being an example of persevering and not giving up and for being real while doing it.

Thank you for helping me breathe in moments where I felt like I couldn’t.

Thank you for showing me how to be a mother and a friend. And how the two can come together to be a beautiful thing.

Thank you for being a mom and a grandmother who will stop whatever she’s doing to be there for any one of us.

Thank you for being that strong voice for you grandsons and granddaughters too.

Thank you for having a louder voice than any of the bad. For speaking to me over the negative. For giving me the confidence and the optimism that the negative tries so hard to steal.

Because of your voice I was able to grow. To love. To dream. To learn.

Thank you, Mom.

Mom and Todd. One of my favorite pictures of all time.

Mom and Todd. One of my favorite pictures of all time.

 

You Know You Want To…

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C’mon. You know you want to hop on over to the SisterWives and see what I’ve cooked up!

I love the inter webs. The new vocabulary, the memes, the judgement cast about in passive aggressive terms. It’s a wild world of anything goes and sometimes it makes for great blog fodder. And sometimes we have a little fun with it. Come read all about RDF and the issue confronting all men. Even if they never realized it.

Click on this link: Your “Resting Dick Face” Is A Problem and I’ll see you there!

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