Tuesday, December 20, 2011

You have a right to do your job, but I have a right to my rights

Alrighty... I have mixed feelings about writing this blog. I am in no way trying to bag on these people, or say they don't have a right to do their jobs (especially in this economy!), but the more I study and strengthen my own convictions about personal liberties, the more I expect mine to be respected.

It wasn't until maybe a year or two ago that I began to really understand my rights, and then be able to recognize when they were being treaded upon. A few friends with strong, similar political convictions to my own began to indirectly encourage me to go back and review all I learned (and apparently didn't retain) about the Constitution in Mrs. Stanley's 7th grade history class. As I began to understand and identify my personal, Constitutional rights, it became less and less okay for others to walk all over me, or manipulate me into things I felt that I had to do. Because the truth is, unless I am directly breaking a law, I have a right to my rights.

Not following? Here is what went down this week, thus prompting this entry.

First, I got a phone call from my kids' school telling me that, for the third year in a row, my son had failed his hearing test. As its been explained to me multiple times, the only thing he really failed on is low-decible, high frequency noises. He can hear everything else just fine; voices of all tones, music, horns, sirens, smoke alarms, security alarms...all the important things.

The first year, I was advised to take him to our family doctor for an evaluation. She checked his ears and told me there was absolutely nothing, as far as she could tell, wrong with his ears. I took the paperwork to the school, and they dropped it. Well, until the following year.

Last year, he failed again. And they called me again. And I explained that I had taken him to the doctor the previous year and he checked out fine. I was advised then to take him to an audiologist. I already knew that our insurance didn't cover "specialists," but nevertheless called the insurance company, then some audiologist offices, and all told me I'd have to pay completely out-of-pocket. Which I neither wanted, or had the money, to do. I relayed this information to the school, and they reluctantly left me alone.

At a conference with his teacher a few weeks later, I asked if he seemed to have a hard time hearing. She said not at all. And my husband and I have noticed no problems at home either, except for the selective hearing that comes with being a male. So then, what's the problem? If its not inhibiting him in any way, then what does it matter?

So when this year's testing came around, I was prepared for him to fail yet again. And I braced myself to have to go around and around with the school again. And I had to. Yet again I had to explain that he'd already seen our doctor and checked out fine, we couldn't afford an audiologist, and most importantly, neither his teacher nor my husband and I thought it was inhibing him in any way so we didn't think it was worth addressing. I was again told I had to take him to an audiologist, even if it meant them trying to find funding for me. I don't like it, but okay, if they want it to be on their dime, fine, okay, I'll take him.

But that's the problem. I don't have to do anything. If I actually thought something was hurting my son in any way, I would find a way to cover the expense. When he's miserably sick, I take him to the doctor. When he fell on his shoulder and was in a lot of pain, I took him to the ER (which wasn't covered by our insurance because we were out of state), and it turned out he'd fractured his collar bone. If something is genuinely wrong with my child, then I seek out help. But in this case, I don't think its necessary. He's not suffering in any way, so I don't think I should have to take him, or harrassed until I give in and do. The bottom line is, he is my child, I know him better than anyone, and I know what's best for him more than anyone. I am his parent, and until he's 18, he is in my care, and I call the shots. Which includes being able to refuse treatment. I could have chosen not to circumcize him. I could have chosen not to vaccinate him. It is my right to choose how to parent, and what I deem is best for him. And in this case, I believe what is best is to leave well enough alone. He's in no danger, or inhibited in any way (I mean, big whoopty doo if he can't hear really high-pitched, quiet noises. Personally, I think that's kind of a blessing.)

However, I having this philosophy, just like so many other parents, I run the risk of being labeled - by society, if nothing else - a negligent parent. But I assure you I'm not. And I assure you there are people that, based on reading this, will think I'm making the wrong decision. That's fine. You parent yours, I'll parent mine, and let's leave it at that. I just hate that fear tactics and bullying push a lot of parents into sacrificing their own convictions. It makes far too many parents afraid to stand up for what they feel is right.

The second incident happened the other night. Unfortunately, due to switching our land line to Ooma, we don't currently have Caller ID. Ugh. So we get a whole lot of survey calls and whatnot. Its very annoying.

So a few nights ago, the phone rang. I answered, the person on the other end asked for me, I said, "This is she," and the person jumped right in to asking me survey questions. She didn't ask me if I was interested in taking the survery first, which I found odd and rude, and began asking for my age. The rest of the conversation more-or-less went like this:

"What age category do you fall into?" (Followed by a list of options.)

"Um, what exactly is this pertaining to?"

"We just want to know your opinions to better serve your community."

"Okay, that was vague. Like what kind of questions?"

"Just how you feel about the direction our country is going in, if you think its getting better or worse, stuff like that. So what age category do you fall under..."

"I don't want to share that information. That is my private business."

"Well, ma'am, we just want to know your opinions so we can better serve your community."

"I understand that, but I have a right to my privacy. I am heavily involved in my community, and if there is an issue I feel passionate about, then I get involved and do share my opinions with those I feel comfortable sharing them with. However, I don't like sharing that with strangers taking surveys."

"I understand that, but this information is to be used to better serve your community."

"I'm sorry. I don't want to be rude, and I don't want to hang up on you because I don't think that's very nice, but I am really not interested in divulging my personal thoughts."

"I understand, ma'am, but this is only going to take 5 minutes."

"I understand that, but I really feel like you aren't hearing me. I don't want to take the survey, and really don't appreciate you pushing the issue. And like I said, I am not the type who likes to hang up on people, but I will if you persist with this any further."

(Completely exasperated) "Well, ma'am, I'm only doing my job."

"I understand that, but I really don't think you're hearing or respecting me."

"Fine. Have a nice day, ma'am." (And she hung up.)

How many times, and in how many ways, do I have to say "It's none of your beeswax?" My word! I have a right to say no, I have a right to my private thoughts and business, and I have a right not to share them! I used to be the type of person who would back down and give in, but not anymore. I shouldn't be bullied into giving up my private information, and nobody has the right to try!

I definitely appreciate how hard people work, and their dedication to their jobs. I think that's quite admirable. But "no" means "drop it!" The title of this blog pretty much sums it up: You have a right to do your job, but I have a right to my rights. And if I exercise them, then you need to respect that.

I am an American, a mother, and an intelligent human being, and I deserve to be treated as such.

What about you? How do you handle it when people try and tread on your rights? Have you ever felt like someone was pushing you too hard to sacrifice your own rights and principles?

Monday, November 28, 2011

What I've learned in a decade as a mom

Today marks a pretty major milestone. Today is my son's 10th birthday, and thusly my 10 year "mom-iversary."

I've thought a lot over the past month or so about what sort of blog I should write to commemorate the day; to pay tribute to my son and how profoundly he has changed my life. I considered many possibilities, but every time I really thought about it, I always thought about how I have changed as a person over the past 10 years, and how instrumental he, and being a mother, have been in that evolution of self.

When my son was born, like most new parents, I had no idea what I was doing. I had younger siblings, had worked in childcare centers, and had babysat a lot, but nothing prepared me for my own child. At the time, I thought I knew what I was doing, but let's face it, I was clueless.

My pregnancy with him wasn't ideal. Compared to my girls, I had less morning sickness, but that's about the only thing that was better about my pregnancy with him. About midway through my pregnancy, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Watching my diet and poking my finger 4 times a day was not my idea of a good time. I couldn't even eat cake at my own baby shower! I took that in stride, but then around 32 weeks, started showing signs of pre-eclampsia. And anemia.

I went in for my 36 week appointment on Monday, November 26. My midwife took my blood pressure, checked my sugar levels, and immediately sent me over to labor and delivery, stating that I wasn't leaving until I delivered my baby, and that we would be starting induction the following morning. But it ended up being nearly 48 hours before he was born, at 12:49 PM on November 28, 2001. I was rapidly getting sicker, and the only way to avoid potentially dangerous complications was to deliver him. The next thing I knew, I had an IV in, blood pressure-lowering medications started, constant fetal monitoring, and regular blood draws. Let's just say, I felt like a human pin cushion, and I got to know the nurses very well.

I wasn't prepared for that at all. I wasn't going to be delivering a preemie, but I did realize he was going to be early. I still didn't "get it" though. I had no idea that after birth his blood sugar levels and core temp were going to drop to concerning levels. I had no idea that he was going to be so groggy and "doped up" from all the meds. I had no idea his bilirubin was going to spike so high that they wanted to keep him under the lights after they had already discharged me. (Fortunately, my midwife fought the pediatricians like a pit bull and was able to get us a bili blanket to take home with us.) And I had no idea how much each of those things were going to put me in distress. I was completely unprepared for the protective instinct that kicks in when you become a mother. The love and concern that you have for this tiny, new person is greater than any emotion you've ever felt before. You love your parents and siblings, but its not the same. You love your spouse, but that's different, too. Nothing is like the moment you become a mother. Nothing. Nothing is like the subconscious realization that this person depends solely on you, and you will do anything - anything - to make sure no harm ever comes to them.

Throughout the first year and a half of his life, he had many (minor) health problems. Due to being almost a month early, his lungs were still a bit immature, so he was sick constantly. Within his first year, he had already had RSV, bronchitis, and bronchiolitis multiple times, and pneumonia once. We were at the doctor's office approximately every 2 weeks. He had to go to the ER 3 times for breathing problems. After a few months, we went ahead and purchased a nebulizer, since we had already rented one enough times that it just made sense. After a year with no concrete answers, a lot of "maybe" diagnosis, and a lot of trouble-shooting, the pediatrician then threw out the term "cystic fibrosis." She doubted that was the case, but recommended we take him to a specialist in Portland for an evaluation. Fortunately, he checked out just fine, but hearing that remote possibility was one of the scariest moments of my life. Here I had brought this child into the world, fallen in love with him harder and deeper than anyone I ever had before, and now I was having to have him tested for a devastating disease. It was gut-wrenching. I had to, somehow, accept that there were some things I couldn't protect him from, and that was a very terrifying and helpless feeling.

As he grew into a toddler, it took him a long time to walk. It was hard to see other babies his age getting up and running, while mine was still doing the army crawl. People began to make comments about the fact that, at 18 months, my child still wasn't walking. People kept implying that there was something "wrong" with my child. I never doubted he was absolutely perfect, but to hear everyone say that there was something "wrong" with him, even at times blaming me for it, was hard. Eventually we found out why he wasn't walking - he had two undetected hernias that, by the grace of God, were found and corrected during a surgery for something completely unrelated. Within two weeks of the hernia repair, he was up and walking like all his little play mates. I think that was the experience that made me realize that I had to be an advocate for my child. I couldn't let people judge him. I realized now that I not only had to protect his physical safety, but now his emotional safety, too. I had to protect him from the judgments and unkindness of others. And I wasn't someone who liked to stand up to people, so that wasn't easy for me.

I look back, and really my only regrets are experiences when I let others make my decisions regarding my children for me. When my son was little, I really let people walk all over me. I let other people's opinions mean too much, and my own intuition mean too little. I assumed that age and/or medical degrees meant that others knew more about what was best for my son than I did.

But I remember, after getting absolutely fed up with his pediatricians (that's a whole other blog), going to see a family nurse practitioner that a friend had recommended, and she said something that I think was one of the most empowering statements I've ever gotten as a mother, or a human being. I timidly asked her a question, and she asked me, "Well, what do you think? You know him best." I know my child best! Nobody had ever affirmed that for me before. And apparently I needed it affirmed, because realizing that has been life-changing.

Since about the time she told me that, I have developed a voice and a back bone. I don't sit silently while other people take verbal shots at my kids. I read, research, draw my own conclusions, and question the "experts" on pretty much everything now. (To the point I think it may annoy people.) I don't allow myself to be guilted or duped into agreeing to something that I don't feel is right or necessary. Plain and simple, I do know my kids best, and you don't have to like my decisions. As long as I am at peace with my own decisions, and with my own child(ren)'s development, health, and well-being, then what does it matter to anyone else anyway?

The things I've learned in a decade of being a mother are infinite. I've made mistakes, and I've had triumphs. I've had many situations in which I will freely admit I didn't have the foggiest idea exactly what I was doing. But in any given moment, I go with my gut. And that is, by far, the biggest and most life-changing thing I have learned in my first ten years of motherhood.

I've learned how to parent with conviction. I know what I believe is best, and why I raise them the way that I do. And I fight for my kids. I don't let people walk all over me anymore, and I don't let anyone walk all over them. They are my world, my life, my very breath, and I take that very seriously. I know I will continue to have moments of "failure" and moments of triumph, but I will always do what I feel is right. Because I am their mother, and I know them best.

And, finally, to my son... You are the reason I have come so far. You light up my life, and everyday you challenge me to be a better mother, and a better human being. Thank you for a wonderful first 10 years, and I look forward to everything I have yet to learn from you about love, life, and motherhood. (And please, go easy on me during the teenage years!)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Facebookers Part 3 - MORE things Facebookers do that drive me bonkers

This is going to be along the same lines as the original one, . It was the pioneer post that has heightened my awareness of Facebook absurdity. I still love me some Facebook as much as ever, but I still find people really funny. Again, this is no slam on any one person, these are just observations I've made, or have been pointed out to me by friends. And again, I am sure I do some of these and am probably just as unaware I do it as anyone else.

So here is the sequel to my original list of obnoxious Facebookers...

#6 -- The advertisers
I'm sure everyone has a few; the friends who use their statuses to advertise or promote their business ad nauseum. I understand that some people are really passionate about their jobs, hobbies, and businesses, I really do, but when all, or at least the majority of, your posts begin to be business promotions, others begin to lose interest in what you have to say. Most of your friends are tolerant of a post here and there - heck, I promo'ed the the craft fair I did last weekend about to death - but when more than 90% of your posts are about your business, frankly, it just gets annoying. Tell me about you and your life outside of work! That is what I friended you for! Not to be a billboard. You're my friend, and if I need you to sell me something or swing me a sweet deal, then I'll gladly give you my business. But you don't have to be as persistent as a used car salesman to get the job done.

#7 -- The chronically infirm
You know, the ones who post about being sick all the time, their kids being sick all the time, all their aches and pains hurting all the time... I consider myself a really sympathetic person, but I'd like to hear more than, "Baby Tommy has a horrible cold again, and was puking all night. I had it last week and it was terrible," followed a few days later by, "Tommy is still sick, and now I have a migraine and a giant blister on my foot," followed the next day by, "The hubby slipped on the pavement yesterday and twisted his ankle. And now I have a sinus infection." Do you ever have a good day?! Are you ever not sick?! Again, I feel for you, I really do, but I'm not your doctor.

#8 -- The way-too-TMI'ers
Now, I have 3 kids, so I have a high tolerance for grossness. But some things do cross a line. You can (occasionally...see above) post that you're sick or hurt and nobody minds. But I don't need to hear about the color and viscosity of your kid's poop and/or how much leaked out of their diaper. (Okay, yes, I have been guilty of this one.) I don't need to know in graphic detail exactly what you puked up last night. I don't need to see pics of your gnarly gangrene toe or the tick you found on your kid's neck. If you're making others ill with what you post, then congratulations. You've just found - and successfully crossed - the line. Mission accomplished.

#9 -- The potty mouths
I know not everyone is bothered by this, so maybe I shouldn't include it, but its my list, so I'm adding it. I don't consider myself easily offended, but I just don't think its very classy to fill your posts with lots of profanity. I mean, do you really think bad words in every third status you write is necessary?! I'm sure you have other words in your vocabulary; words that have just as much, if not more, impact. And if you don't, there's this awesome thing called thesaurus.com. And just so you know, a bigger vocabulary makes you look a lot more intelligent. Or, at least to me.

I wish I had a #10 to round it out, but that's all I can think of for now. Again, nobody be offended. This is written purely in jest, and not pointed at anyone in particular. I am merely posting it for the amusement of those who deal with these minor irritations on Facebook. Because people can be pretty ridiculous on Facebook, right?! (Myself included!)

Between my 2 installments, am I missing anything? What do you find simultaneously ridiculous and hilarious that people do on Facebook?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My family is just right, thank you.

Some friends and I were discussing on an online parenting forum the phenomenon that, no matter how you plan your family, others are always going to comment that you're "doing it wrong."

I always assumed it was just me. I have three children; a son and two daughters. My son and daughter are 2 1/2 years apart, and my daughters are 4 years apart. Between my oldest and youngest is about 6 1/2 years. I had only been married 7 months when we found out we were pregnant with our first child. I was 21 when I had him. I had my 3rd, and last, child at 27. I am a stay-at-home mom, and we're supporting our family on just my husband's income.

I don't have an even number of kids; there will always be an "odd man out." I only have one son; he'll never know what its like to have a brother. My older two kids are spaced too close together, my younger two, too far apart. I had kids way too young, and way too early into my marriage. I am irresponsible and lazy for being a stay-at-home mom and not earning money to support my family. Or maybe its that we must be really rich.

I am, of course, being sarcastic, but I have heard it all. When it comes to people's families, everyone feels like they can give you their opinion about how you should be doing it "right."

One of my friends said it drives her crazy when people ask, "So, when are you going to have another child?" She pointed out that, quite frankly, its none of anyone else's business. And she's right.

Another friend has decided she is going to raise her daughter as an only child. Yet, people constantly insist that she needs to have another child, or her daughter will be scarred for life...or something. She doesn't need to do anything. She, her husband, and her daughter are all perfectly happy with that decision. The only people who aren't are people who have no right to offer an opinion.

Another has 8 kids. She has told me that people have made some comments that have been anything but nice about her choice to have 8.

I also have multiple friends who had their kids really close together in age. They have all endured comments about how they should've waited longer between kids.

I could go on and on....

The fact of the matter is, what's "right" for one family won't be right for another, and whatever I choose isn't "wrong" just because its not what you would choose. I wouldn't want an only child, nor would I want 8, but I think both my friends in those cases are making the right choice for them. If you feel like you are meant to have only one, then don't have more. If you feel like you're meant to have 8, then by all means, have 8!

The "perfect" family is all relative. For me, 3 is the "perfect" number. I didn't feel like our family was complete without our third, but I also feel like 4 would be pushing it. Others prefer to devote all their time, attention, and love to just one child. And others prefer to "fill their quiver" to the brim.

And the reasons behind how we choose to form our family are our own personal business anyway. People deal with fertility problems, miscarriages, money problems, all sorts of other logistics... And no, we don't want to share our reasons, nor do we want to have to explain or justify our choices. We are doing this our way, just like you did it your way. Your way doesn't work for me, no matter how much you, stranger with good intentions but unsolicited input, want it to! And let's be honest, what I do probably wouldn't work for you.

If you don't like my perfect, that's fine. Its perfect for me, and doesn't have anything to do with you. I am happy with my family just the way it is. I don't have too few kids, and I don't have too many. The age gaps between my kids are just right. Being a younger mom is great. Having to pinch pennies to be a stay-at-home mom is tough, but we do it because me being home with the kids is what we feel is right for us.

How many or how few kids you have, when you have them, how far apart they are spaced, or how young or old you are when you have them is irrelevant anyway. Your number one priority is to make sure your kids are loved and cared for - whether it be one child or 20! (Michelle Duggar, you make my uterus ache!) As long as you are meeting your child(ren)'s needs - if they're happy, healthy, loved, and nurtured - then you are doing everything "right." How you "did it" doesn't even matter.

What are some comments you've had to endure about your choices with family planning? I know we've all gotten at least a few....

Monday, November 14, 2011

Its official. I'm a lame parent, too.

I have arrived. I have arrived at lame, uninformed, uncool, unhip parent status. Fortunately, my kids haven't quite caught on to that yet, but I noticed it in myself yesterday.

Being a younger parent, relatively speaking, I thought I would have an advantage on not losing touch with the younger generation, and therefore being less lame, more informed, cooler, and hipper than most other parents. I thought maybe, just maybe, with only 21 years between myself and my eldest child, I could cheat the generation gap. And until yesterday I thought I was doing pretty well. But no.

The first blow was on our way to Costco. One of the big kids (I can't remember which one), broke out in song with "Moves Like Jagger." My son was singing, "Moves Like Jagger," and my daughter was singing, "Moves Like That." My son started saying, "No, its Move Like Jagger!" To which my daugter replied, "No! Its Move Like That." They began to argue, so doing what young, hip, cool moms do, I butt in and said, "I'm pretty sure its Move Like That. Move Like Jagger makes absolutely no sense." My son insisted he was right, so he challenged me to a googling duel. I grabbed my trusty smartphone, pulled up Google, typed in "moves like," and up popped, "Jagger." I stuck my proverbial tail between my legs, admitted I was wrong, and my son got to gloat. I'm not going to lie. It stung a little.

The second blow.... Later that night, I asked my kids to clean their rooms. They love music to clean to, so I turned on Pandora for them on my phone and prepared to send them upstairs with it. I thought it was preset to the Big Time Rush station for them, but apparently I had set it to Matisyahu at some point. My husband, who has a distaste for a lot of my musical preferences (and likewise, I of his), asked, "Who is this?" To which I replied, "I don't know exactly how to pronounce it, but its spelled M-A-T-I-S-Y-A-H-U." Without skipping a beat, my son chimed in, "Its Mah-tis-ya-hoo." Which is what I thought, but I really wasn't 100% sure. Apparently he knows these things better than I do. *sigh*

The third... When I did get it switched over to Pandora, a song came on by some young girl. That was all I knew, and I wasn't really listening anyway. Teeny-bopper pop isn't exactly my cup of tea. My daughter came running in and asked, "Mom! Can you guess who this is?" I had no clue so I threw out, "Selena Gomez?" "No, mom! Its Miranda Cosgrove!" My son added, "How could you not know that?" To which I uttered the most uncool words I have ever uttered, "Well, I'm sorry. I don't follow your music."


Like lightening, I had just turned into an uncool, out-of-touch parent! The generation gap is closing in and squeezing the cool right out of me!

Fortunately, as I mentioned earlier, my kids haven't caught on yet, but I'm sure they will soon enough. My son enters the double digits in a mere 14 days, so I can feel it looming just around the corner. I'd like to say I'm mentally prepared for that, but if I'm being honest, I'm not. I want to stay cool! Well, at least cool enough.

What about you? What have you done lately that's made you realize you're a lot less "cool" of a parent than you thought you were?

Monday, November 7, 2011

What breastfeeding is, what breastfeeding is not

I don't even know where to begin with this post. All I know is that I feel compelled to write it, because I am still bugged by a breastfeeding related post - and some comments made in response - I read 2 days ago on Facebook.

I think there is a serious flaw in the way breasts are viewed in America. Somehow, we're unable to separate the two separate functions of breasts: for sexual pleasure, and to nourish a child.

First of all, our view is so completely warped as a culture when this is viewed as gross, perverse, or a turn on

and this is viewed as perfectly normal, attractive, and beautiful.

(After searching for an "appropriately inappropriate" photo to use, I now feel like I need a shower. My eyes....they burn!)

There is a strong distinction between uses of breasts in those two contexts.

In the first picture (and yes, that's me), the breast is being used to feed a child her first meal. It is being used to bond mother and child. My husband was in the room watching it all happen, and I assure you, he was in no way, shape, or form turned on by it in a sexual manner! He thought it was tender, sweet, and beautiful, but certainly not sexually arousing.

In the second picture, the breasts are clearly there to attract sexual attention. It doesn't leave much for the imagination, that's for sure! I am sure there were a lot of men at that event (I can't tell if that's a stadium, theater, or what) who were sexually aroused by that woman's immodesty.

Breasts were designed to nourish children. Thousands of years before the baby bottle, there were breasts. Thousands of years before infant formula, there was breast milk. Its only within the past 75ish years that we've taken what is natural and normal, replaced it with artificials, and in doing so have thus removed all the cultural "normalness" from it, and our view has become so completely distorted that we view it as disgusting, immodest, gross, a chance for a peep show, inconvenient, embarrassing... The list is endless.

Breasts were also designed for sexual pleasure. But there is criteria for that. Certainly we were never meant to walk around with half our tatas hanging out of our shirts, arousing every guy that walks by! Sexual arousal is supposed to happen behind closed doors, between two individuals. Its not supposed to happen out in the open, unsuspectingly, by some hot little blonde walking by in a low-cut shirt.

But that's where our culture has gone. What was meant to be private and intimate, is now abundantly on display on just about every channel of my TV, walking down my street, shopping at my mall, in my magazine... And what was meant to be natural and normal, is now viewed as perverse, gross, and to be done behind closed doors. Public low-cut shirt wearing is now normal, but public breastfeeding is not.

What happened?

And as far as the whole "breastfeeding is gross" thing, I ask you, would you rather fill your baby's mouth with natural, human milk from your own breasts, or artificial milk that is a far cry from "human," from a sterilized piece of plastic? Now maybe I've just turned into a crazy breastfeeding nazi, but I always find it sad when a parent gives a child a propped bottle then walks away. Part of breastfeeding - and to me, the most beautiful part - is the one-on-one time spent gazing into eachother's eyes, the skin-to-skin contact, the hormonal exchanges between mother and baby... Those are things no bottle can ever provide.

I am not trying to guilt trip anyone who bottle fed, nor am I trying to start a debate, but I am just so bothered that so many people are so convinced that breastfeeding is gross, embarrassing, to be done only in private... As a culture we have it so backward!

Breasts are for nourishing babies. Breasts are also for sexual arousal. But don't blur the lines.

What do you think? Do you think breastfeeding is beautiful or gross? Do you think breasts are just breasts, or do you agree with my theory that there are different purposes within different contexts?

Monday, October 24, 2011

My loss matters too

I have been thinking a lot lately about a miscarriage I had in August 2003. Partly, I'm sure, is because October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Rememberance Month. But mainly, its because few people even know that it is, and even fewer than that even care. Why don't people care? Because my cause is overshadowed by Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which also happens to be October. My loss is overshadowed by the loss of lives to breast cancer.

Sorry if this post comes off as harsh or insensitive of breast cancer, breast cancer awareness, or the millions of lives lost to breast cancer. I don't think it will, and that's certainly not my intention, or my heart. I just wanted to put that disclaimer out there just in case anyone may get the wrong idea. But I have to share what's on my heart because my loss matters too.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, 10-25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. On top of that, the CIA World Factbook reports an estimated 6.06 infant deaths per 1000 births. Adding it up, that is as high as 1 in 5 for pregnancy losses, then add in infant death, and its an approximate 1 in 4 created lives will not survive through infancy. That is a pretty staggering figure when you put it that way!

Some will argue that a miscarriage doesn't count as a lost life - its only a ball of cells - but to any woman who's ever lost a pregnancy, calling it a ball of cells is little to no consolation. To that mother, it is a baby, as real as any other. To me, my baby was as real as any other. My loss was just as real. My mourning was just as real.

But by October "awareness" standards, my loss isn't real. It doesn't matter. My blue and pink ribbon means nothing next to the pink ribbons. The real person who lived - if only for a short time - commemorated by my pink and blue ribbon, means nothing next to the person symbolized by the pink ribbon. My pink an blue ribbon means that I'm a survivor of something much less notable than a survivor symbolized by a pink ribbon.

Quite honestly, that stings. That my pain, and the pain of the other parents of those 1 in 4 losses, gets overlooked to the point we feel like the lives we lost don't matter...it hurts. October makes us remember and mentally relive the vivid details of our losses that time will never erase. I remember everything like it was yesterday. I even remember what I was wearing, what my hairstyle looked like.... Everything.

So, let's get real. Here's my very real story of my real loss. And I do mean real, because there are parts of this that will probably make people squirm; graphic details that people won't want to read, but I think need to in order to understand the full scope of the pain and loss of miscarriage.

I found out in late July, 2003, at around 7 weeks along, that I was pregnant with a "surprise" baby, and I'll admit, I wasn't horribly excited when I found out. I was ambivalent at best. We weren't ready to add to our family yet. The timing just didn't feel right. Our oldest (and at that point, only) child was only 20 months old, and we'd gone through a lot of medical things with him in his first year and a half. The last of that, a surgery, ended in March. We had the expense of the surgery, on top of the expense of a blown head gasket on a lemon of a Subaru, hanging over our heads.

Morning sickness started setting in a few days after I found out. Great. One more reason to be unexcited about this pregnancy.

I had my first OB appointment scheduled for Friday, August 6th. On Thursday morning, August 5th, our 3rd anniversary, I woke up with spotting and cramping. I tried not to worry too much, but it persisted throughout the day. That afternoon, my husband and I decided to cancel our anniversary dinner plans and instead visit the midwife. I described my symptoms and she said it did sound like I possibly had a miscarriage coming on, but not to panic until we knew more. She drew my blood to run an Hcg test to see how much pregnancy hormone I had, and told me her office would call when they had the results the following day.

Friday came and at about 11:00 AM the phone rang. Before I even picked it up, I knew it was the office, and I had a feeling it would confirm my suspicions that I was losing my baby. It was my midwife on the phone, and before she could say anything more than, "This is Patti," I broke down crying. She tried to reassure me, but I don't think even a seasoned midwife knows what to say to soften the blow of telling someone their little one wasn't going to make it. She told me it was early enough in my pregnancy that I had the option to do a D&C or just let nature take its course. I chose the latter. I would rather be in the privacy of my own home, where I felt safe to grieve without others around, than to be in a hospital, with my physical and emotional pain on display for everyone there to see. I didn't want pity or the consolation of those who didn't even know me. I wanted the comfort of my husband, and the love of my son. They were the only ones who I wanted to help me through it.

I don't know why, but I felt a lot of humiliation over it. I was humiliated that I had shared the news with family, my good friend Stephanie, and a few people from my church. I didn't want them to know I'd lost my baby. I guess I didn't want their pity either. I was embarrassed that I had told people that I was going to have a baby, and then....oh wait, no, nevermind, I'm not. It embarrassed me that I was going to have to tell people. I didn't want to have to explain.

Saturday morning, August 7th, I woke up at about 4:00 in the morning and went into the bathroom and there was a lot of blood. It was happening. That realization just made me numb. I wasn't even sad, just...numb. I sat on the toilet and felt something large come out. I knew what it was. I got up and just stared into the toilet for a few minutes looking at what had come out.

One thing the midwife had said during that phone call was that it "may not even be a baby, just an empty sac that failed to create an actual embryo." I didn't believe that - as a Christian, or as a mother - so I felt the need to look and "prove" to myself that she was wrong. So I reached into the toilet and pulled out what had dropped. Amongst the blob was a little, milky-colored lima bean looking thing with a large black spot (its eye) near one end. That was my child. I just stood there holding it for a minute or two. I called to my husband and told him what had happened and asked him if he wanted to see or not. I can't remember if he came and looked or not. Then, not knowing what else to do, I eventually dropped it in the toilet and, in a fog, flushed it down.

When I returned to the bedroom, my husband and I just cried. I don't even think we said anything, we just cried.

The waiting was over, and that made the emotional pain (temporarily) a little bit easier. I was finally able to rest a little after all the exhaustion of waiting for the inevitable to happen. My husband left for work around 8:30, my mother-in-law came to pick up my son, and I was alone. The physical pain then began to kick in. It was like labor pains, but with no relief from pushing at the end. In some ways, it was worse than labor pains because, unlike my fast labors, this dragged on and on for about 24 hours.

I had my follow-up appointment with the midwife a few days later. I told her how guilty I felt about flushing it, and she quoted Nemo: "All drains lead to the ocean." I know its silly, and I know that's not really true, but that gave me some comfort. It still does.

Two months later, I got pregnant (on purpose this time) with my first daughter. I will always mourn the loss of that baby I will never get to "meet" this side of heaven, but I look back at the situation and realize that had that baby lived, I wouldn't have my daughter, and she is such a blessing! I feel like, in a way, that baby had to go in order for me to have her, so I look at my daughter as a gift that child gave me. That baby gave his/her life to allow me to have my wonderful, sweet, giving, compassionate, kind, helpful, beautiful, talented, smart, funny daughter that I have. I can't imagine my life without her, and I know she isn't just meant to be a blessing to me. I can already tell she is going to be a light to this world; someone who will lessen others' burdens and show the meaning of selfless giving and goodness through her actions.

But amidst all the blessings and good that came out of my loss, it is still a loss, and it will always be with me. It has to be. That little person of mine mattered. I won't let him/her fade into obscurity. He/she existed, and therefore I won't ever let him/her be treated as a taboo that isn't allowed to be discussed.

My anniversary (August 5th) will forever be bittersweet. April 6th (my estimated due date) will always be a day filled with sorrowful, reflective "what ifs." October will always be a rougher month than others. The names Annika (our girl name) and Josiah (our boy name) will always bring back memories of unfulfilled dreams. Its been over 8 years now, and it gets easier, but there are some things time will never erase.

I know this post is kind of a downer, but especially since its October, I need to give pregnancy and infant loss a voice. I promised that little person of mine that I wouldn't let him/her be a taboo or allow myself or others to act like he/she didn't exist. I am telling my story because someone needs to give our losses as much of a voice as breast cancer losses do. Because my loss matters too.

How about you? Are you one of the 1 in 4? Have you ever suffered the loss of a pregnancy or infant? Do you feel like you are "supposed" to keep it taboo? What have been your experiences? What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The window's got the same view

I'm sure you've heard the saying before that the eyes are the window to the soul. I alsways thought that saying was a little cheesy. I guess I just never really understood it; how does looking at someone's eyes reveal the deepest part of them? I was a skeptic. But then an amazing thing happened this week that changed all that, and hit me in such a profound way. I believe in the "windows to the soul" now.

After years of searching, a few days ago I finally found someone who was a big part of my life when I was a child. Its a long back story, but suffice it to say, this person makes up a very important chapter of my life. I've missed him a lot over the years, wondering where he was, if he was happy and healthy, and if he even remembered me. So I was ecstatic to find him!

I hadn't seen this person in 20 years - not even in a picture - so naturally the first thing I did was flip through some of his photos. He looked so different than I had remembered or pictured he would look now! He's taller, thinner... But one thing, and one thing only, didn't look any different - his eyes. Everything looked different, except his eyes.

It was kind of eerie. At first I couldn't see him in his pictures at all. As sure as I was that it was him, the pictures cast doubt. But as I looked closer at his pictures, I recognized those eyes. A small part of him had never changed - the windows to his soul.

I wrote him a message yesterday, and got his reply this morning. While we're older now, and discussing our families, jobs, and adult lives, rather than how fast we can roll apples down a hill or how to construct the ultimate tree fort, there's something 20 years didn't change - his soul. Though life has changed us both - both circumstantially and internally - he still "talks" with the same lightheartedness and excitement for life. It brought back all the memories of running through the woods, bursting with excitement and wonder, full of crazy ideas about all sorts of crazy things. There was nothing he wasn't excited about! He was the type of person who would make anything sound like a fun and exciting adventure. That hasn't changed. The view into his soul hasn't changed.

I look forward to getting to know the "new" person he now is, but I'm also glad that part of the view hasn't changed. There is an intrinsic part of him that will never change. It can never be changed.

I know some people will argue with me on that, saying that all people change, and sometimes every last bit of them changes. That's what I'd always thought, but I'm not so sure I believe that anymore. I saw what I saw in his "windows," and I hear the same voice I heard 25 years ago jumping through the words on my screen. I know what I see, I know what I "hear," and I know what I feel; its something very familiar, something timeless and unchanging.

Others may argue that I am just grasping at straws, trying to make more out of this than I should; that I'm being sentimental, nostalgic, emotional, and downright weird. Maybe I am. But again, I know those windows and I know that view. Some part of it is like 20 years never happened. We're grown ups now, but somewhere deep inside, we're still those same crazy, care-free little kids. And I'm grateful for that.

I'm glad there are things that never change. I'm glad that windows to the soul never break. I'm glad that deep bonds will always bind, and that those views will never change.

What do you think? Do you believe the saying that eyes are the windows to the soul? Have you ever been apart from someone, reunited, and it was like you were the same two people you'd always been despite time? How did it make you feel or react? I'm curious....

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Facebook Part II: Facebook can't cure cancer

Well, you all loved my first sarcasm-laden Facebook stupidity post from a few months back, "5 things Facebookers do that drive me bonkers", so I figured, hey, why not do another one? Again, this is meant in jest and not meant to put anyone down, or make light of cancer (my father-in-law died of cancer just short of a year ago, so I'm not some heartless person when it comes to cancer), but merely to point out the ridiculousness of yet one more thing Facebookers do.

So without further adieu, an entire blog post dedicated to the ridonculous "post your bra color/where you leave your purse/shoe size/birth day and month code to look like you're preggers" thing.

Okay, I'll give you that the first year it did gain some media buzz. Cool, I guess. Mission accomplished, or something. But now, in its 3rd (maybe 4th, I don't know because I lost count) installment. Come oooonnn! Just let it go already!

How ridiculous is it? Let me count the ways. ;)

1. The men know what we're doing because honestly, believe it or not, they actually are smarter than Patrick Star. (Or at least all the men on my friend's list are.) Heck, I caught on to it before I even got this year's message about it (in abundance) in my inbox! I caught it on the first dang one that popped up on my feed, for that matter!

2. While its nice to spread awareness of worthy causes - and breast cancer is definitely one of them - I fail to see any connection between where I leave my purse and breast cancer. Maaaaaybe with the bra color thing, but the rest of 'em? Not so much. Its not like when I look at my shoes my first thought is, "Man, I am so glad I posted that thing on Facebook about my shoe size for breast cancer awareness. I am going to go check for lumps right now. Thanks for making me 'aware' Facebook!" Actually I don't think that has ever happened to me. And if it ever does, I'll be completely shocked.

3. I can only speak for myself, but once something is overdone, I lose interest. And then if the issue is pushed even further, I just get annoyed. The first year it was cute, the second it was "meh," and this year, its got me thinking, "Alright already!" At the point you start bugging people with your cause, then your cause becomes merely background noise. Really annoying background noise that makes people want to tune you out. Its so much of a game now that people don't even see it as anything worthwhile anymore. Its more like, "Tee hee hee....I'm gonna play a joke on people, especially dumb boys, because, like, its funny, and um, the words 'breast cancer awareness' were included in the email, so like, I'd better do it right now because, um, somewhere somebody's boobies are depending on me to post this."

4. This is where I am going to get a little more serious for a minute, and may be the one that gets me in trouble, but I have to say it anyway. Breast cancer isn't the only cause out there worthy of exposure. The causes I am most passionate about aren't ever even brought up: mental health/depression awareness, pregnancy and infant loss/March of Dimes/prematurity, colon cancer (what my FIL died of), ovarian/uterine cancer (what my grandmother died of), Autism, ADD/ADHD.... These are all things I see little to nothing about on Facebook, with the exception of occasional posts by one or two of my friends, and heartbreakingly, they are usually posts that people seem to skim over. (Or at least that's the way it seems, due to the low volume of comments and "likes" they get, especially in comparison to breast cancer-related postings.) Somehow, its become the "cool" thing to do to show breast cancer support. Everyone jumps all over that bandwagon. However, other conditions/issues that are just as important to bring attention to (depression, for example, affects 1 in 5 Americans) get nothing more than a passing glance. I can almost guarantee that if someone started a "show support" game thing-a-ma-jigger about depression, it wouldn't go viral. Breast cancer awareness has squashed out exposure to just about everything else because nothing else is "cool" enough to get a silly game made up for it. Again, I'm not saying it isn't worthy of the exposure, I'm only saying that other things deserve a chance too. But no, we're too busy playing the game to pay attention to posts about anything else.

5. Don't kid yourself, your Facebook status can't cure cancer. Sure, its fun. Sure, I guess, it maybe-sorta-kinda makes people think about breast cancer research, which is good if it does. But if you really want to make a difference and actually do something that will make a difference, then instead of wasting your time posting a goofy status, hit the log-out button and go participate in a Race for the Cure or Relay for Life. Donate to the Susan G. Komen Foundation or one many other non-profits that are contributing to research to find a cure for breast cancer. Call your doctor and make your appointment on time for your annual breast exam. If you want to help cure cancer, go actually do something to help yourself and others! A button click ain't gonna cut it, folks. Facebook statuses profit breast cancer patients, survivors, and their loved ones nothing.

So after all that, maybe I am just one big fun-killer on a crusade. I don't know. I just think its absurd and pointless. Any effect it may have once had is gone, and now its just annoying and unbeneficial. I'll say it one last time: Facebook can't cure cancer. Its social networking, people, not a mammogram.

Monday, September 12, 2011


On September 11, 2001, I was 6 months pregnant with my first child. It was a crystal clear morning and the sun was streaming into the bedroom through the east-facing window. I was warm, cozy, and content. It was about 7:00 AM and my husband's work phone rang. His boss occasionally would call before 8:00, but not often. As I stirred, I could hear a seriousness in my husband's voice in the other room, and then I heard him flip on the news. We didn't watch news a lot, much less while talking to someone on the phone, so it did strike me as odd. But I figured it was nothing, so rolled back over, snuggled in, and tried to go back to sleep for a few more minutes.

When my husband hung up the phone, he came in and said, "You need to get up and see this. Planes just crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City, and into the Pentagon. This is really bad." I shot out of bed, and together we watched the footage play over and over. We stood there, arms around eachother, watching in complete disbelief. It took a little while for it to sink in. Not much was spoken. My husband went back and forth, trying to decide whether to go into work for the day or not (his boss had given him the option). I told him I wanted him to stay because I was scared, but he felt like he wanted to go in.

I had a haircut and eyebrow waxing appointment later that day, and considered cancelling, but then decided that I wouldn't give whoever did this the satisfaction of stopping America or paralyzing me with fear. So I threw on my khaki maternity pants and blue and white striped maternity tee and headed out in my white Ford Festiva. (Yes, for a period of my life, I drove a tin can.) The roads were nearly empty. It was somber and eerie, even though it was a beautiful, sunny day without a cloud in the sky. Normally a salon is a lively place, but the only noise I heard the whole time was news updates coming from a small radio in the corner. A few words were spoken here and there, and a few eyes were misted up once or twice, but mostly we just listened and tried to process it all.

The rest of the day was pretty much a blur. I do, however, remember calling my dad that night and crying, telling him how scared I was to bring my child into such an uncertain and scary world. I was so heartbroken that this would be the world my son would know; a world very different from the safe and secure quintessential Americana I grew up in. I knew his world would be a "new" kind of world, and not a kind of "new" I wanted for him.

In March, when George W. Bush declared the War on Terror, I was on the bandwagon. As much as I have always disliked war and everything it stands for, this time I felt like it was warranted, justified, and necessary. There was clearly a very bad person heading up a very bad establishment of terror who needed to get flushed out, along with all his cronies and suspected cronies. I didn't care at that point who got caught in the crossfire, I just wanted justice for my people! I wanted terror gone from this world. I wanted "safe and normal" back, and by any means necessary! If they were going to come and kill our people, they had another thing coming! We were Americans, we deserved justice, and we were coming for them! I lauded our youth who were bravely signing up to go fight for our cause. I saw them as heroes, the bravest of the brave. And their cause was noble, the most noble there is.

As the war picked up momentum, the words "weapons of mass destruction," "war on terror," "terrorism," "terrorist," "Osama bin Laden," "Taliban," "Muslim," "Islam," "Middle East," etc. constantly on the news served as a constant reminder that what we were doing was right and justified. We were fighting the "bad guys" for our own justice, and to protect the rest of the world, too.

Then, in time, we also decided to go to war in Iraq. Our focus shifted off of bin Laden and Afghanistan and more of our troops deployed. Nobody really took issue with that though because the War on Terror became business as usual. It wasn't war on a country, it was war on terror, and if we had to go into other countries to get the job done, then so be it.

But over time, with fewer results, more political and global hostility, more violence, and growing fear, hatred, and disrespect of Middle Easterners and the Islamic religion (I'm a Christian myself, but believe that all people and their beliefs deserve respect), my faith and support in these wars began to dwindle. I began to realize that maybe, just maybe, we weren't helping the problem with our wars and occupancy of the middle east, but rather exascerbating it. Maybe we were, to an extent, bringing this upon ourselves.

I know that sounds very "unamerican," but hear me out. What happened on 9/11 was horrible. Horrible! My heart breaks for those who lost loved ones that day, and for all the families who have servicemen and women they will never see again this side of heaven. I am not minimizing anyone's pain, or saying that those our troops aren't extremely brave individuals. Because they are. They absolutely are! But for those who are willing to look into our pre-9/11 history in the Middle East - for those who are willing to look past our own pain, contempt, and fears - and look at the broader scope, we have to accept that this shouldn't have been so unsuspected, and we are not blameless in all this.

You've heard the saying, "It takes two to tango," right? Its like that. Neither of us - America or the Middle East - are blameless in all this. And its impossible to say who "started it." We have occupied and toted guns in their countries for decades. Not a decade - since 9/11 - decades. We already waged a war on the Middle East in the late 1980's/early 1990's. Yes, "they" were the ones who killed us without warning on our own soil on September 11, 2001. But we can't pretend like we weren't poking the bear for a while before then.

If we're open-minded enough to put ourselves in "their" shoes, just imagine for a minute what it would be like. I read an article a year or so back - I can't find it now though, darn it - that said in one of the most populated Iraqi cities, there is a saturation of 1 American troop to every 7 civilians. That would be the equivalent of 1 soldier to police just my family of 5 and the old couple that lives next door! I don't know about you, but that seems excessive to me. I'm pretty sure that would tick me off!

So imagine you're living in your country, minding your own business, and then a foreigner walks past your house with a gun. Then another. Then another. They're here in the name of liberty, justice, democracy, freedom, and safety by way of elimination of your dictator and/or dangerous religious extremist(s). No matter their intentions though, I can only imagine, as a citizen, you would want them gone so you can live your life without constantly having to watch your back, right?. So, your life and your country are far from perfect, but you're probably more comfortable with the problems of your own country/governance, than having others from across an ocean coming in and getting involved. And then, what if you were a ruthless dictator or religious extremist? Then you'd be really, really chapped about now, and you want to do something ruthless and extreme, right?

So, they did.

Again, I am not minimizing 9/11, our fallen soldiers, or trying to show any disrespect toward those currently serving. Nor am I trying to say 9/11 was America's fault. These extremists made their own choices to kill thousands of people, and even the majority of their own countrymen thought it was heinous and tragic. But I still don't like the notion that we were, or still are, blameless in all this. Not all of our actions - past or present (and I'd venture to say, or future) - are with good intent.

Like most other Americans, I did breathe a sigh of relief when bin Laden was killed. But I think its tasteless to celebrate anyone's death. It was tasteless when terrorists rejoiced on 9/11, and it was tasteless when Americans rejoiced over the death of bin Laden. (Some of the things I saw/read on Facebook for the 72 hours or so following his death made me so angry that I actually didn't log in for 2 days.)

So as I reflect on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I have quite an array of thoughts and feelings. I will always remember September 11, 2001 vividly, and have a heavy heart for the thousands of people who died that day (and service men and women who have since) and their families. That won't ever go away.

But I am not plastering my Facebook page with 9/11 sentiments, pictures, and "God Bless America's" because I don't believe that God likes or supports any war - not even this one. And I just cannot pretend that America hasn't played a part in all this, because like it or not, admit it or not, we have.

But when all is said and done, I don't even care who "started it." I only care that it ends. I just want a world where I can raise my children without a culture of fearmongering, injustice, violence, and dischord. I think that's what every one of us around the world want. But you can't cure violence with violence, or injustice with injustice. Of that I am certain.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Back in the blogosphere

Hello again, blogosphere! :)

Cliffnotes version:
I still do exist.

Slightly longer, but still not very in-depth version:
The long and the short is, I needed a "mental health break," so I took it. I left town to clear my head, and remove myself from a lot of stressful people and situations, and I chose not to blog during that period of time. I know it seems crazy that I took a blogging break just when this blog of mine was finally beginning to build some momentum, but you know, taking care of my personal life will always be a lot more important to me than maintaining my blog. Sure, it would've made for some good blogs - I write my best when my head's a mess - but I really felt the smartest thing to do was spend my time working through things in practical ways, in private, and not airing them on the web. Yes, I pride myself on being pretty open, honest, and unfiltered (but still classy) about what I write, and I love sharing things that most people won't talk openly about, but even a blogger is entitled to a private life.

Am I going to divulge why I needed the break, what was going on in my life, or my thoughts and feelings about it? Maybe in time, but certainly not anytime soon. I will tell you though, I've had a month's worth of different blog post topics brewing in the recesses of my mind, so I will probably have an influx of them over the next few weeks or so. Or not. We'll see.

Anyway, I just wanted to update and let all my adoring fans (all, like, 20 of you...if that...) that I am in fact still around, and I will be getting back into the swing of blogging here soon.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Trusting, healing, and learning to let go

As I have reviewed a number of posts here, I have realized that I am very critical of the church. I feel I have the right to question the things that I see the majority of Christians doing that bug me to no end; things that make me frustrated, sad, and even a bit cynical. I have used this blog many times as a platform for trying to appeal to my fellow Christians (including myself) to rethink the way we operate; to operate more in love, acceptance, and tolerance, and less in judgment, condemnation, and narrow-mindedness. I feel its important to get people thinking, especially about the things I just don't see as right or just. But I am realizing that maybe its less of a call to action for others, and more my subconscious way of venting my anger over past hurts, and trying to let go of my distrust in little bits and pieces.

For a number of years, I attended a church that, ultimately, left me feeling battered and bruised. I know many people who still attend that church who love it and feel at home there. I often wonder why we've had such different experiences while sitting in the same auditorium, listening to the same sermons. But I never find any answer that makes any sense.

I was worn down by the attitudes and words of a number of church members. Ones who wouldn't come through for me. Ones who didn't care when I was going through trials, or worse, would kick me when I was down. Ones that scrutinized everything I did and thought that was different. Ones that got so caught up in the hope of the Rapture, that they forgot about the hurting people around them, including those within their own church. Ones that were so set in their own principles and legalism that they hurt those with "flaws." Ones who condemned those with depression, and especially those on antidepressants. Ones who criticized those who chose not to spank their children for every transgression. Ones who tried to minimize the challenges and difficulties of those going through their own or a family member's addictions. And unfortunately, that's just the tip of the iceberg.

My desire to serve was constantly road-blocked seemingly because my husband wasn't an elder or deacon, and it was sometimes implied that I wasn't "as holy" as other women in the church, and therefore unfit to serve. Things were said by leaders, both to me, and from the pulpit, that were soul-crushing to me. Actions by others in the church only served to make me feel alienated and unloved by them as a community.

I finally left that church when I just couldn't take feeling any more beat down, and didn't find a home church again for 4 1/2 years...because I wasn't interested in really looking. (I, not we, left the church. One day I just refused to go anymore. My husband, while understanding of my pain, didn't feel the same way about the church that I did. I know rebellion was probably the wrong response, and I regret that it eventually took my entire family out of church for a few years, but I had to do something because I was dying inside.)

I hate to bag on that church - a lot of good has come out that church, too. It just didn't for me. But for the sake of this blog - one that I hope helps someone, somewhere out there - I need to be honest about the things I experienced. I can't say that its an abusive church, but I am fairly sure I was abused by that church. And I do know for a fact I am not the only one. (I have talked to a few other people who suffered similar hurts and feel the same as I do.)

Recently, I have been going through some really challenging personal issues. (That not many people know about, and I like it that way.) These are serious issues, with serious implications no matter which direction I choose to move in. And some actions I may take could cause me to be harshly judged and condemned.

But there is a silver lining. And a pretty bright one at that.

The church I now attend has been so much more supportive of me. Because of my past experiences, at first, when the pastor reached out to me and sent me a request on Facebook just weeks after I started regularly attending that church, I was absolutely terrified. I left his request in my inbox for close to a week before I finally decided to take a chance. He is in regular, honest communication with me. He genuinely likes and accepts me. He chose to put himself out there and really get to know me. His compassion and unrelenting desire to pray for me and my family - whether asked for or not - has helped me learn to trust that the leadership at our church isn't out to wound me, but rather to heal me with their sincere love and compassion for me.

Through my recent trials, I have also kept extremely guarded with those who have befriended me. There are some - even my new best friend - whom I wanted to reach out to so badly for support, but was very afraid to talk to for fear of judgment, ridicule, condemnation, and failure to really listen and understand. I was afraid that these friends would abandon me based on my choices, choosing their principles over me as a person, as had happened to me in the past. After an entire month, I finally talked to my best friend yesterday, terrified that all I would hear was rhetoric, Bible verses being used to tell me I am wrong for the way I am feeling, and a complete lack of compassion and desire to try and understand what I am going through and the tough choices I have to make. But instead, she listened - really listened - and validated my feelings, and assured me she would support me in which ever direction I take, even if it pans out as the "wrong" one.

As I hung up the phone, I felt the weight of six long years of extreme fear and distrust begin to lift off me. I felt a new sense of trust and courage beginning to form. I felt a sense of a future that holds healing for me. I felt like it was okay to finally begin to let my walls start to come down.

I'm not going to lie. Breaking down walls I have been building up for so long is going to take a lot of time and work. During those six years, I have built up a lot of resentment, cynicism, bitterness, distrust, and even some unforgiveness. There are literally people I will see in public and purposely avoid, ducking down store aisles and turning my head to avoid eye contact. I am just not at the point yet where I can talk to them face-to-face without feeling insecure and/or angry. I just can't face those who hurt me so badly, especially when they have no idea how badly scarred their words and actions left me.

But I feel a glimmer of hope. I feel myself finally beginning to trust again, and to heal and let go of the hurt. And its so freeing!

I thank God that he has put a church full of people in my life that are restoring every dark, hurt place in my heart. People who don't care if I think outside the box or am a little...um...different. People who don't cast condemnation on me for my weaknesses or vulnerabilities. People who genuinely love and and care for me. And it feels so good!

As I sit here writing this, I am shedding happy, grateful tears. Tears that I am smiling through. :) Tears that are finally filled with hope and not with fear and pain. Thank you, my new friends, for everything you don't even know you're doing for me. Words can't even express my gratitude.

Have you ever allowed past hurts to make you distrusting of new people? Have you let go of those things? How did you finally begin to trust again and move on? I'm curious to know what worked, what didn't, and what the process holds for me. Any advice?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mr. Hyde sits in that pew

This is the most heartbreaking blog I'll probably ever write. In fact, who knows if I'll even ever have the courage to publish it? Its a post I don't really want to write, and am terrified to even address, but I feel it needs to be addressed. Because I know far too many women who suffer so much pain at the hands of their husbands. And the church - the one place they should have solace - usually has no idea.

Mr. Hyde sits in that pew. He's the man sitting two rows behind you. He's the man who sits two rows in front of you. He's the man who sits two chairs over from you. He very well be the man you're married to. Or, he just may be you.

He is the man that is successful. He is the man revered and respected by his community. He is the man who provides financially for his family. He is the man who walks his kids to Sunday school. He is the man who smiles, shakes your hand, and makes small talk. He is the man who is always dependable and kind toward everyone. He's the man who waves goodbye and tells you, "God Bless" in the parking lot. He's the kind of man the single women would like to marry someday. Yes, he is a good man.

His wife is the woman who smiles as if nothing is ever wrong. His wife is the bubbly, kind one. His wife is the one who bends over backward to please anybody and everybody. His wife is well known in her community as the quintessential "supermom."

But then the doors close and its just them, and everything changes....

His wife is the one who stays up sometimes once everyone goes to bed and cries, wishing things were better. And wishing somehow she was better, because maybe then he'd love and respect her more.

His wife is the one who makes excuses and justifications to herself for his impulsive, abusive behavior toward her and her children. Deep inside she knows its wrong, but she convinces herself this is only going to happen once. No...twice. No...three times. No...

His wife is the one who endures his repeated verbal lashings and insults. She convinces herself she deserves this treatment for being such a sorry excuse for a mother and wife.

His wife is the one addicted to antidepressants and/or anti-anxiety medications, convinced she is crazy and unstable. And she feels so much shame for it.

His wife is the one who is regularly maritally raped to satisfy his urges. She convinces herself that the shame she feels for having her personal, bodily boundaries violated is a small price to pay to make her husband happy.

His wife is the one starving for attention and approval from the one person who's opinion matters most to her, and is left each day feeling more and more empty. She convinces herself that there must be something wrong with her that's making him so avoidant.

His wife is the one who feels like a child, and never an equal. She convinces herself that this is what being a submissive wife is about.

His wife is the one who is insanely jealous of the women she knows who are in good, healthy, loving marriages with men who love and respect them every second of every day.

But she puts on a smile and acts like nothing is wrong. She goes on with her life. She lets people believe the person she knows, is the person everyone else perceives him to be. She bites her tongue and never says a bad word about him. She never tells anyone of the tears, shame, guilt, self-doubt, loneliness, fear, or inner turmoil she feels.

And the church never sees that anything is wrong. She can't let them. She won't let them.

Nobody believes that that man could possibly be Mr. Hyde. They don't believe he is capable of hurting his own wife to such a degree. They don't accept that these things could possibly go on in the homes of such wonderful, God-fearing people.

They believe emotional abuse is just phsychiatric babble that sensationalist non- and rebellious Christian women use to justify their own shortcomings. They believe these women are being overly sensitive. If there are no physical signs of abuse, then a woman will be just fine. If they can't see it, it doesn't exist.

The church indirectly teaches that women should endure these things because they're bound to their husband through the covenant of marriage, and that no matter how bad it gets, a woman should never have doubts about her marriage or her husband.

So the woman only sheds more tears and feels even more shame, guilt, self-doubt, loneliness, fear, and internal turmoil. So she smiles and remains quietly in agony.

I speak of all this because I see it. I see the shame, guilt, self-doubt, loneliness, fear, and inner turmoil on so many Christian women's faces. Under those smiles, I see so much fatigue. And I occasionally see their tears.

I hear it. Multiple women have confided in me that these things go on behind their closed doors. I hear stories that make me so sad and angry.

I feel the heartbreak of it. I feel their shame, guilt, self-doubt, loneliness, fear, and internal turmoil. Their emotions run so deep that once the guard comes down, it all pours out like water through a broken dam.

So look around you next time you're at church. That smiling woman you're shaking hands with may be living with Mr. Hyde. That man who seems like such a great guy may, in fact, be Mr. Hyde. You yourself may be married to Mr. Hyde. You yourself may be Mr. Hyde.

Church, please, believe these women! Love these women! Be a friend to these women! Help these women! Don't just tell them to go home, pray, and be more submissive. That solves nothing, except to make them feel even more alone and helpless.

So, I speak to all the women out there. I speak to all the men out there. And I speak to all the churches out there. Something has got to change.

Women, speak up!

Men, get it together!

Churches, believe these women when they tell you their home is not a home, but a battlefield, and help them heal!

Please, I beg all my readers out there, consider these words, on behalf of all the women out there living in this situation, and vow to do something about it.

Be a woman who isn't afraid to speak up.

Be a better man.

Be a more aware and caring church.

So I ask, what do YOU vow to do? What can YOU do to help the women married to Mr. Hyde? What can YOU do to help break this cycle?

Monday, July 11, 2011

R - E - S - P - E - C - T

"Find out what it means to me. R - E..." Okay. Show of hands. Who doesn't have that song stuck in their head now? Anyway...

I have probably touched on this topic in many ways, in many blogs, before. But probably never very directly. So, here ya go. Here's my direct addressing of something that really, really bugs me: lack of respect.

I wrote in my blog entitled, Don't Be Loose With Heavy Words, how much I dislike people loosely throwing around words and phrases that can be hurtful to certain people/groups of people. In various blogs, I have touched on how much I hate political "sides" bashing one another. I just get so bothered that so many people out there think its okay to bash people if they don't know someone personally.

I know we all have people, or groups of people, that we don't care for. That's life. That's human nature. But throwing around insults and hurt-loaded words?

My main issue is all the hatred toward the President or former president(s), or certain other politicians, media personalities, or...whomever. I guess what finally made me sit down and write this is a car I saw on Saturday plastered in Obama-hating stickers. Some of them were just so rude and mean! (I wish I had taken a pic so I could share it here.)

A lot of people will say, "Well, I think he's a lousy president. I'm allowed to voice my opinion." Yes, you are. I love our Constitution and love that we have the right to free speech. Don't get me wrong on that! However, when you bash someone, who do you think comes out looking worse? The person/persons you don't like...or you? In regards to the car I saw, I felt sorry for the president. And I immediately had a distaste for the attitude of the owner of that car. I just don't think I would enjoy sitting down and chatting with someone so openly hateful toward another person.

A lot of people will also say, "Well, its not like I know the guy. He'll never hear my insult, so who cares?" Well, I, for one, care! It doesn't matter who you are insulting or if they know you are, saying hurtful things to, or about, anyone is wrong! Whether you think they deserve it or not, whether you think they've earned it or not, its still wrong. You don't know that person personally. What right do you have to judge them? What right do you have to hate them?

Whether Obama or Bush - both of whom have many philosophies and/or policies I don't care for - I doubt they are horrible people on a personal level. I may hate that Bush started an unconstitutional war that has cost thousands of lives, but I don't hate him personally. I am sure he's probably a nice, more-or-less "average Joe" guy if you put all politics aside. The same with Obama.

If looking from a biblical perspective, too, we are told to honor those in authority over us and pray for our leaders. Do we have to agree with them? No. But are we called to respect them and honor them? You betcha. But the problem I've witnessed is, the majority of the most hateful comments I have heard about our president, or other politicians, have fallen from Christian lips. I have heard some pretty hateful, and even vile, things said about our leaders. Its heartbreaking. We preach tolerance and reverence, yet we don't always practice what we preach. And, I'm sorry, but that is just inexcusable.

I was having a discussion about tolerance with a friend the other day. He said (and for valid reasons, but reasons I won't share because they are his reasons) that there are people he just cannot respect. I told him that we can learn to respect people by learning to separate the self from the ideologies. We can respect a person without accepting what they believe. Every person the world over has different beliefs about the world and how it should be. We're all taught different things through school, culture, religion, and experiences. So while I don't agree with a lot of people, I try and separate the self from the ideologies they hold. As long as their beliefs don't turn into actions that directly harm or abuse others, then I try and give people the benefit of the doubt and believe they are a decent person until proven otherwise.

I think a part of respecting others, is knowing how and when to censor our words, actions, and even bumper stickers, toward others. Is it really that hard to keep your hateful, hurtful words to yourself?

I guess why this bothers me is the larger picture. What benefit does throwing hate and hurt around have? Whom and/or what does it benefit? It has no positive impact whatsoever. It makes you look bad, and it adds fuel to the already raging fire of hatred and intolerance in this world. I am weary from dealing with all the negativity every single day. Navigating this world and life is tough enough without all the hurtful and hateful things I read, see, and hear all around me constantly.

So let's have some maturity, tact, discernment, kindness, and respect for others - no matter who they are! Be the bigger person! Because two wrongs - two hurts - never make a right.

What do you think? Do you think withholding respect is every justified? In what ways have you witnessed lack of respect lately? Or better, in what ways have you witnessed respect?

Friday, July 8, 2011

"Wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world?"

About a month ago, I saw an article by The Huffington Post stating that a scientific study has proven that whining is the most annoying sound in the world.

So, sorry, Jim Carrey. You've got it wrong.

Duh! Tell me something I don't already know! Every parent, throughout time, all over the world, already knows this. There is nothing that grinds your sanity down to powder in seconds flat quite like whining does. The torture level, I'm convinced, is akin to waterboarding. Possibly worse. (Though, I've never been waterboarded, so don't quote me on that.) And I have a 3 year old. I know "whine torture."

So while whining is the clear winner, based on scientific "proof" - not that we needed it - I have to say, I could probably come up with the runners up. And they are also all kid-generated noises.

First Runner Up - Ear-splitting screams. And I'm not talking about the ones that send a parent running at Maurice Green speeds. You know, the ones when you just know your child got really hurt. I'm talking about the ones my girls do when they are mad. The loudest, shrillest screams ever! Honestly, I am amazed I am not deaf yet.

Second Runner Up - What I like to call "boy noise." I don't know what it is about boys, but they just make obnoxious noises without even realizing it. When I worked in daycare, I experienced it. There were boys that would be coloring pictures and making all these weird beeping, booping, squeaking, squawking, popping, buzzing, humming...you name it...noises. And they didn't even know they were doing it! However, the girls in the class, and my own girls, don't do this. And my own son is definitely no exception to the rule. In fact, he may be the worst boy noise maker who ever lived. I have certainly never met a rival that comes even close. I kid you not, my son has gotten sent to his room countless times because he just cannot be quiet, and after a certain point, I can't take any more beeping, booping, squeaking, squawking, popping, buzzing, humming...or anything else. Five minutes of respite from unnecessary noise here and there is all I ask. Five minutes!

Third Runner Up - Armpit farts. This may fall under boy noise, but I think it deserves its own spot. I would personally like to not thank whomever taught my son to armpit fart. Any time he is changing clothes, or takes off his shirt because he's hot, or he's bored, or...anytime it strikes his fancy, really...he armpit farts. And to a 9 year old boy, armpit farts are the funniest thing ever. So while he's rolling with laughter, I am rolling my eyes. Enough with the armpit farts already. The novelty has worn off!

I know there are many, many more, but if I was the judge, the trophies would go to those.

What do you think? Do you agree that whining is the most annoying sound in the world? What other noise(s) do you think deserve a trophy for most annoying sound in the world?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Don't force my hand, Beiber!

Last week I did it. I bought my son skinny jeans. And he loves them. *Forehead hitting desk*

I'm glad I made my boy happy and all, but Beiber and his dumb skinny jeans forced me to come to terms with a reality I've been avoiding for a while now: I am getting old, my style is stuck in the mid- to late-90's, and I need to get with the times.

My son often accuses me of being picky about what he wears. I don't actually think I am all that picky, but I do have criteria, and I honestly don't think its unreasonable.

* No holes
* No stains
* It has to match
* It can't look so strange that people think I let you get dressed in the dark

And, I'm realizing, apparently it has to fit my style too. *sigh* My heart is in the right place though. I just don't want my kids looking like slobs or doofs when they go out in public. There's nothing wrong with that, right?!

But like I said, I'm realizing that I'm getting old and need to get with the times. And that means that I have to - quite begrudgingly - accept "Beiber nation" and let my son wear his ridiculous skinny jeans. Because my ridiculous is apparently his uber cool. I'll never understand it, but sadly, I must accept the stupid skinny jeans and other bizarro fashions of my kids' generation.

In my world, pants need to have some room in the legs. That, and boys pants should look distinctly different than girls pants. And therefore, from behind, you should be able to distinguish a boy's lower half from a girl's. I like to think I am a flexible and accepting person, and don't think I'm generally that rigid in my thinking, but I do think there are lines that shouldn't be crossed and, well, boys skinny jeans cross a line.

However, in the world of 2011 nine year old boys, skinny jeans are the epitome of coolness. I'm not even kidding, but my son actually swaggers in his skinny jeans. I mean, really?! Son, you're nine! Save the swagger for when you're....okay, never. Just don't swagger. It pours salt in the fashion wounds of your mother.

So who do I blame for this fad, and for forcing me into finally accepting that these pants that I will never see as cool are, in fact, very cool if you're 20 years younger than me? That's right. The Beib.

You forced my hand, Beib! And made me feel old and lame. Not cool.