Moving Forward…When All You Want is to Move AWAY

Sometimes you don’t realize you are in the thick of it, until you come out the other side. That’s pretty much how I feel about the very worst parts of my life with lupus, thus far. In fact, I should capitalize that and call it as though it’s a book title or a very important chapter in my (almost) 40 years on this earth: My Life With Lupus, by Erin Kotecki Vest. Heh.

It’s also why I agreed to be part of what turned out to be an amazing conversation sponsored by Stayfree® pads during BlogHer ’14 in San Jose.  

I was asked to participate in a ’roundtable’ (and the table actually was round, as you will see below) discussion with Zakary from Raising Colorado, Natalia from Ma Nouvelle Mode, and BlogHer editor-in-chief Stacy Morrison.

As it turns out the four of us know a little something about moving forward, or what I like to call the ‘just keep swimming’ effect. All of us have had to power through some tough times, or at least some rather uncomfortable times, in which we are coming out the other end changed, yet still ourselves, battered but not bruised, and oddly grateful for some of life’s more mundane moments.

I hope you will watch and walk away knowing first and foremost you are not alone, sometimes powering through is your only option, and that everyone handles life’s more difficult times in their own way.

And because I really am a true believer in the power of community to foster true friendships and to give that ‘I am not alone’ feeling, it bears repeating your blogging (or microblogging) tribe will always contain exactly the people you need to help you though, from those who pick you up with a good kitty meme or send you a giant, stuffed unicorn (no really, I have one that came to my front door) or holding fundraisers to help save your home, pay your medical bills or simply make sure you are fed. Because that is just how we do…enjoy.

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Leave a comment below letting me how you pamper yourself for a chance to win a $100 Drugstore.com gift card! Sweepstakes Condensed Rules:
No duplicate comments. Your household may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods: 1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post 2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: #SweepstakesEntry; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post 3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post 4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry. No Purchase Necessary. This Sweepstakes is open to legal residents of the 50 U.S./D.C. age 18 or older (19+ in AL & NE). Void elsewhere & where prohibited. Winners will be selected via random drawing, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 72 hours to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

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Be sure to visit the Stayfree® brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other blogger posts!

Sweepstakes is sponsored solely by BlogHer. Energizer Personal Care LLC is not a sponsor. Sweepstakes is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with,Twitter. 2014 Energizer.  Stayfree and all other trademarks are owned by Energizer. Bloggers were compensated for creating blog posts in this Stayfree campaign.

Whores & Studs Before They Are Teens

There’s a lot of talk about sexualizing girls way too early.

Many of us have written posts on the topic. Many of us have discussed it over Facebook and twitter. You know, when you are bra shopping for your tween and all you can find are padded, sexy bras. or how some girls are wearing make-up in the 2nd grade. Or how some parents allow their 10-year old to wear short-shorts and thigh-high boots.

Inevitably we talk and talk and blame our culture and society for exposing young girls to the idea they must appeal to men always and even, at very young ages, encourage them to have a boy crush or to smile for the nice men or, in some extreme cases, encourage them to be nothing but wives and trophies for the males of the world.

And while many of us talk to our children about these things, one headline made me realize far too many of us are forgetting the message we are constantly sending our boys:

Young Fan Plays Casanova at Fenway

Yup. That’s the headline you get if you go to share via Bleacher Report the touching story of the awesome 12-year old who gave up a foul ball that came his way during a Red Sox game to the girl behind him. The piece by Ken Chin even ends with “Slick move, kid, you’ve got a bright future.”

But it doesn’t end there. Over at Fanside, Mike Dyce writes, “There is one young Boston Red Sox fan who is showing himself to be quite the stud.” Yup, a 12-year old was just called a stud. Imagine calling a 12-year old girl the equivalent.

I’ll let that sink in… 

On NBC’s HardballTalk we get the headline “Smooth Kid ” and Craig Calcaterra’s commentary, “Everyone’s gonna say stuff like ‘this kid is going to do well with the ladies one day’ after watching this video. But he’s doing pretty well already.”  I encourage you to keep reading for the cougar reference just after. I wish I were kidding.

Sigh.

So as we are using something as simple as a kind gesture to insinuate a child is hitting on another child-not to mention totally cheering on the idea.

But of course with a “wink wink hubba bubba” thrown in because the writers all realize these are kids we’re talking about. But isn’t it just so darn cute?

And that is exactly the problem. The cutesy nudges do not excuse the underlying issues. Just like teasing preschoolers if they have a “boyfriend” or a little “girlfriend” at school encourages the idea they should be on the prowl.

While I almost don’t blame these writers and editors for going for the obvious cutesy jokes, I also wish they would stop and think about how they contribute to the problem.

I’m no prude. I’m not some uptight Mom, holding her babies tight and refusing to allow them to grow up. (ok, maybe a little but not unlike ANY mother) My son is just about that boy’s age. My daughter, just about that girl’s age. I can’t you how many times we’re with friends or relatives or whomever and the minute a boy child stands anywhere near a girl child and they actually play there is an outburst of “awwwwwwwww, maybe they will grow up and get married one day!” All while the Moms of the group start plotting out where they will register the two and which holidays they will spend with which set of in-laws.

I have been so caught up in all of the ways society has been trying to turn my little girl into a little whore, that I’ve entirely overlooked society’s role in prepping my son to step into his role – so much so that I am recalling how just the other night my husband and I were gently teasing my son over a girl (and her family) that we really like at school and how we’ve arranged their marriage.

Guilty and I didn’t even realize it. Just like all these headlines and all these wisecracks.

If we’re going to demand our daughters are allowed to remain children and NOT be sexualized at such young ages, we must demand the same for our sons.

I commend 12-year old Ryan for being a good kid. Way to go Ryan…but dude, no pressure. You were simply doing what everyone should do- be kind, share, and think of others. Way to go.

Ferguson

I, like many, have been struggling with the events in Ferguson, MO.

It’s hard to get the words out, and nothing seems right. So I’m going to first do what is most important right now: LISTEN TO PEOPLE OF COLOR and HEAR their experiences. These are women I know, love, and respect. I think their words really say it all and then some.

Sunset in Ventura

“…it is hunting season for our children and truly it always has been. The world has no love for dark people… Black people. And no matter what I say the truth shows up everyday.”- Babz Rawls Ivy

Kelly Wickham brings our attention to Fannie Lou Hamer. Why? Because Hamer said,
“Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where our lives be threatened daily, because we want to live as decent human beings?”

Jasmine Banks makes sure that everyone who is “tired” keeps talking and listening…why? Read just a snippet of her status update and then go read more,

When Isaiah came home from Pre-K at only 4 years of age and told me he hated being brown because the little boy he wanted to be friends didn’t like brown people. 

Addison crying because she hates Princess Tiana because she is a frog and not a real pretty Disney Princess.

The lady who looked shocked and asked me if Tobias was adopted because he was light and ‘you kind of look black, but why does he not look black at all?’

How about we talk about how I try to maintain normal life in my very small, very white town? How do I look some of these folks in the eye when I quietly observe their racist and hateful status updates on my newsfeed. ‘Those people are just thugs’ ‘So what if he didn’t have a gun, Black people don’t need to have guns to be dangerous, we proved that with Trayvon.’

You eat our food, listen to our music, and even laugh at the cultural references in our movies. You love the way the feel good storyline of The Help made you feel… you love our stories, as long as they don’t require you to look in the mirror too long, and face the fact that you’ve cherry-picked from our culture the comfortable beautiful parts while we still get to carry the burden of being Black. Still cultural mules to your cultural illiteracy.”

And then Briya, aka Undercovermamma had me sobbing with this,

Last night I called my baby boy just to check in on him. With everything that’s going on, I had an overwhelming urge to hear his voice and make sure that he was okay…and that he knew that I loved him. 
His response was to tell me that I was just being a mom. 
And I said yes. Yes I am. And I reserve the right to be worried because the entire world has gone crazy.

This morning he called me and because I was in meeting I missed his call.
He called Nesto to get my work number and I guess they talked about how upset I’ve been about Ferguson
And how personally I’m taking it because this could happen to him. Or to Nesto. Or to any of the black men in my family.
And then he called me back to reassure me that he was okay, and not to worry.

But I do. Because I love him. Because he matters”

I’m not going to stop talking about Ferguson because it makes many of you uncomfortable. It’s well beyond time we leave our comfort zone in this racial discussion.

 

 

 

Merck for Mothers Will Help Me KEEP HUGGING YOU at Every BlogHer

One of my favorite things about the annual BlogHer conference is being able to physically wrap my arms around women I love. The rooms are filled with blogger after blogger, all of whom I want to just tackle and hold tight when I see them. What can I say? This is what happens when you grow close in a community of women.
Now imagine if in the next 10 years, nearly 3 MILLION of those wonderful women we love- mothers- will lose their lives if we don’t do something about preventing maternal mortality.
That is exactly what the Merck for Mothers campaign set out to do at BlogHer ’14 by bringing a rock star line-up of speakers to discuss just how dangerous it can be to simply give birth in this day and age. Jennifer Albert told her story and it sounded a lot like MANY of our stories… including the one I told you all about before we even left for San Jose. Except hers was even more like the story of one of my best friends and a blogger I LOVE hugging every BlogHer Con… Sarah, from Sarah and the Goon Squad. Many of you may not know that Sarah, like Albert, lost a ridiculous amount of blood after giving birth to our favorite internet twins and we nearly lost her. She could have been a statistic. She could have been one of the many deaths Merck for Mothers is working to prevent.
Imagine not hugging Sarah at BlogHer.
And as we learned, even our wonderful United States is not immune to maternal mortality. You might want to be sitting when you hear what they told us but… the US ranks #64 in the world for maternal mortality. “We’re #64!!!!” doesn’t exactly have a nice ring to it, does it?
In fact, every 10 minutes a woman in the United States nearly dies from complications from pregnancy and childbirth. The three leading causes? Preeclampsia, embolism, or, like Sarah and Albert, Post-Partum hemorrhage. Put them all together and you get Merck’s PEP talk. At the event women in the room told their stories and honestly, I’d love to hear YOURS.
A virtual roundtable for those who couldn’t make it to San Jose.
One of the things that seems to stand out most is we women feel totally off-guard with pregnancy and delivery complications. Many of us agreeing we just don’t have enough info. I also think WE think it’s something that just happens in 3rd world countries. Places far, far away that can’t possibly be as industrial as we are.
Let’s change that.
If you have a birth story to share or not, you DO have information to share that can help save women’s lives.
Take the pledge just like I did and tell me who you will now have a PEP talk with… it might be your sister or your co-worker or your niece. I chose my daughter, because the more she knows now and the earlier she knows it, the better.
I look forward to your stories and who you would choose to “have the PEP talk with” because I want to hug all of you for many, many more BlogHer conferences to come.
My huggin girls
Learn more about Merck for Mothers and follow them on Twitter and Facebook!

Summer Boredom Hits….

My daughter hasn’t gotten out of her owl PJ’s since Monday.

My son hasn’t brushed his hair since Tuesday.

My Goddaughter has binge watched three shows on Netflix.

Yup, we’ve hit that part of summer where it’s not quite time to go back to school, but everyone is a bit bored. I’m in treatment, leaving them at home and me hooked to an IV.

So I’m devising a plan to get everyone OUT of the house and active lest the first day of school arrives and everyone begins to whine that we did nothing and went nowhere.

First of all, if they say we did nothing and went nowhere…they are big ‘ol liars. We were in Michigan for the start of the summer, where the kids took a side trip to West Virginia. The girls and I went up north to San Jose…and…ummm…we’ve done a ton of swimming in the pool.

Ok so the cross country trips were family oriented because of illnesses and very sad goodbyes, not exactly ‘vacations’… in fact the Michigan trip was such a blur to me and filled with so much emotion I don’t remember a lot of it unless reminded. It was hard. Certainly not a vacation, even if the kids were mostly shielded from it all and had some fun.

The San Jose trip was fun, but there were several incidents along the way (allergic reactions, car sickness, and my grandfather passing away) that pretty much shot that as a ‘real’ vacation as well.

So I’m putting in media requests for Disneyland and Universal Studios – and we’re looking at a trip to the Santa Barbara Zoo. ANYTHING to make it seem like we’ve had a ‘vacation’ this summer. I have some points I might be able to use for a hotel. Maybe we can find a suite, bring the dog, and hit the beach and everything. Who knows.

Kids in pjs

And these kids really need to get the heck out of their PJs.

Wish me luck. BTW I wish beaches rented scooters and they were all lined with cabanas. Adding my illness to the mix makes all of these things even more challenging but if there’s a will…there’s a way.

My Grandpa

Sigh.

To say it’s been the ‘summer of change’ could be the largest understatement ever around here. So much has happened in EVERY corner of our lives that I feel an upheaval like never before in my life.

As we drove to San Jose, a week ago today, I learned my beloved grandfather passed away.

It was one of those moments I knew had been coming for the past decade, it seems…yet I was almost unable to process it as I stared at the open road ahead.

I don’t have many words yet to describe how all of this is making me feel. I can say, in all honesty, my Grandfather has only wanted to be with my Grandmother since the second she passed away when I was a little girl. So I’m taking comfort in knowing he is now with my Grandmother. At least I like to pretend that’s where they are, regardless of my beliefs.

So I’m going to just pretend for awhile longer, because all of the reality heaped on us this summer is too much. Good or bad news, it’s all just too much.

Grandpa & Me

BlogHer 2014: San Jose

It’s the first year for my daughter, a brand new blogger. It’s also a first for my Goddaughter, visiting for the summer.

I’d say we started off our first BlogHer with the right attitudes, don’t you think?

first BlogHer with the girls

The Beauty of Survival: Merck for Mothers, BlogHer, My Daughter & Me

HalaMerck

It’s funny how life works out, and I mean the word life in every way possible… in every breathing, heart-filled sense. About a decade ago I was bedridden and pregnant with my daughter. We weren’t sure she, or I, would make it through. She was my second baby. I also had complications with my son, who came two years before. Neither pregnancy was easy, and back then we didn’t know why. We know now many of my issues were caused by Lupus. Regardless, bed-rest was the best we could do. I would bemoan to my husband that despite advances in modern technology every time something was going wrong while pregnant, the best my OBGYN could do for me was to tell me to rest and put my feet up. With my daughter it was no different. It was on and off rest and putting my feet up. Again getting to the point of only being allowed to get up to shower and use the bathroom. This second pregnancy was a bit more difficult though, as my little girl decided to scare us all a few days before her scheduled arrival. After heading to the hospital with consistent labor pains, the doctor ordered an emergency C-section as her heart rate dangerously dipped and I frantically panicked. Our story, however, had a happy ending. With a crying baby and a safe, if not shaken, mother. And instead of what could have been the anniversary of a tragedy, we’ll be celebrating a decade of BlogHer in San Jose with thousands of other women. Mother and daughter, together. HalaMerck A decade of blogging, a decade of strong women, a decade of survival for my daughter and I despite the reality that women around the world die from complications related to pregnancy every day.  So while in San Jose, Hala and I will be honored to attend the Merck for Mothers event at BlogHer ’14. We know we are the lucky ones, because no woman should die giving life, not when it’s preventable. Yet, as Merck for Mothers tells us, every day some 800 women around the world die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Some 800 women die every. single. day. Think about that for a minute. And we’re not just talking about third world countries that don’t have state of the art medical care. According to Merck for Mothers, the number of deaths from complications of pregnancy and childbirth has more than doubled in the past 20 years in the United States. Hala and I could have easily been statistics. Instead, my spunky 9-year-old will be learning about the amazing things women can accomplish when we join forces. She will be empowered by the many amazing speakers, encouraging her to become the best version of herself and she will have the opportunity to learn more about how she, along with many other babies that had a hard time getting into this world, can help make sure all women have proper prenatal care and healthy pregnancies. Merck for Mothers is a 10-year, $500 million initiative – to help tackle this tragic issue. If you are headed to BlogHer ’14 in San Jose check out the Merck booth (411) in the Expo Hall.

Motherhood, in a word, to me… means survival. Every day I celebrate the survival of both of my children and myself. And the survival of having simply made it through another day of this amazing journey… teaching them about life, cleaning up after their spills, making sure they eat right and behave properly and learn all of the things necessary so they can eventually leave our home and become productive members of society. Of course my kids leaving will mean another type of survival for this Mom ;). In one word, what does motherhood mean to you? Now that you know not everyone has the easiest of times even safely carrying and giving birth to a child, does motherhood mean the same as it did? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Tell me your story in the comments below and explain to me what word you would choose to express what motherhood means to you. You can also learn more about Merck for Mothers on their website and follow them via Facebook and Twitter.