Wave of Emotion

It’s been a rough time around here lately.

I’m still grappling with the death of my Aunt and then the death of my grandfather. Two events that just won’t leave my mind for a second.

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Because I spent a lot of time in Michigan this past summer, I’ve even found myself calculating my disability checks and bills and wondering if Aaron could or even would quit his job and move the kids and I back there.

Of course it’s an insane thought. But it doesn’t stop me from looking at real estate on Lake Huron.

The kids and I have started back up at school again and while I crammed in treatment and they adjusted to their new classes, my husband had surgery (for the second time) getting a brand new toe, making it pretty impossible for him to get around.

Then the kids both sucked in all the new school germs and contracted pneumonia and I received terrifying news regarding another family member (but at least this time it’s not looking too bad now…thank goodness). All of this while I work to take care of my three loves, keep up with my own classes, and try and keep the house somewhat in order while trying very hard not to break down and run to the water.

It’s what I do.

From the minute I got my driver’s license I would head down Lakeshore Dr. in Grosse Pointe to just think. I would drive all the way downtown and find a spot under the Ambassador bridge, park, and just look out a the Detroit River. It brought me peace.

When I lived in Dublin I found a bus that would take me up to these coastal, Irish cities. The waves would crash into the rocks and the local would get me drunk on Guinness and everything was ok…because I could see the sea and breathe.

When I moved to Florida I would drive to the coast in-between every shift at work, and after every bad date, or bad memory, or when I just needed to work things out in my head…I even found the one topless beach where I could find a secluded area, sunbathe, and inhale the sea air while I listened to waves, lulling me into knowing everything would be ok.

And then came my home, California. Nothing compares to the relief that washes over me when we finally hit that stretch of the 101 where ocean is visible. It’s as if it puts me back together after falling apart. Somehow making me whole.

There are just so many things I can’t work out right now…from trying to do what the therapist said and concentrating on ‘my’ life to mourning for people and a past that will never be the same.

And I don’t have the freedom to just take off and stare at the Pacific what with LA traffic and all of the above. So instead I bury my head in books and try my best to smile when really I’m hiding in the bathroom daily to let the tears flow.

There are so many things I just want to put back the way they were. So many. And not a single one of them are under my control or even slightly up to me. The more time I spend on myself, as recommended, the less connected I feel to everyone I love. I don’t think that’s how it’s supposed to work.

Yes, my illness seemed to put all of this in motion. So being ME I blame myself. Which is just about as nuts as convincing Aaron to move to Michigan on my disability checks. But emotions make you do nutty things.

So in lieu of running away to the water, I move on to plan B…the other thing I do. I plan. Oh boy do I plan. In fact, I plan to the point of lists and charts and budgets and speeches.

Right now my plan has added a second major to my never-ending quest to finish my degree. Now I’m Journalism and Political Science, Pre-law. The plan being when my body can finally find its way to remission I’ll use my skills to add that extra step to my resume making me unstoppable and ready for world domination.

It will either help with those things I can’t control, or put me in a position to make the landing softer. Because of course I think it’s all my fault and if I can just pay off the house, pay off our debt, buy my parents a house…everything will be just fine.

Why does it always come down to money? Money shouldn’t matter. It really shouldn’t.

I don’t want money to matter. But it does.

I just want everyone around me to be happy. I want them fulfilled and doing what they love and to feel love and be in love and surrounded by love. But I can’t control that…no matter how much I support or give or push. I can’t fix it, I can’t fix others. I can only fix me.

Which usually means staring out into the sea, taking a deep breath, and hoping beyond hope there is light in the darkness and hope in that glorious horizon where the colors blend and bend and the water and sky touch.

Where you can hear the waves in constant motion, yet so rhythmic and soothing.

For my 40th birthday we’re going to Hawaii. I want nothing more than to just feel whole surrounded by the ocean. To put pieces of my life back together. To make things as they should be. Because I’m 40 dammit, and by 40 my life SHOULD be what I want it to be- not what anyone expects it to be or thinks it should be…but what I want.

And what I want, more than anything, if to feel love with sand in my toes and peace given to me from the only element on earth that seems to affect my mood and quiets all the voices in my head.

Maybe it’s because I’m always seemingly panicked or anxiety ridden and rushing around as if the world is on fire…and only water can douse the flames.

 

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

Now’s Normal

Caregiving isn’t easy.

I watched my parents take in my Grandfather years ago. Things changed dramatically.

I watched my Mom care for my father. Things changed dramatically.

I watched my cousins and uncle care for my aunt. Things changed dramatically.

I watch my husband care for me. Things continue to change dramatically.

Chronic illness has many different side effects. But I swear the very worst may be what it does to everyone around the person who is chronically ill. It’s not just the sick person who’s life changes. It is everyone in their family. It is everyone they know. And it’s not a ripple effect…it’s a tidal wave. The kind that pulls everyone put to sea and everyone has to work hard to paddle back to shore.

Sadly, not all make it to the sand.

Of course this adds to the stress of illness.I worry less about my own health and worry more about my family. You don’t want to be a burden and you don’t want their lives to changes, however everyone’s lives change dramatically.

My therapist calls it the ‘new’ normal. I loathe the term. Mainly because I don’t want a ‘new’ normal. I want my old normal back. I want everything the way it was before. Of course that’s impossible, however my goal is to at least get as close as I can to what life used to be like. Becoming healthy enough to return to work, to walk a theme park, to be able to take the kids wherever they need to go and actually participate in any activity a normal parent could engage in- from a walking field trip to just helping in a classroom, filled with all those kid germs.

I want to meet my husband for drinks after work, go out on the town. Attend a concert.

So many things that I could go ahead and do now but would require a ton of planning and accommodations for the ‘just in case’ scenarios that come with chronic illness.

In fact, later this week I’ll be attending BlogHer ’14 in San Jose- but I will have to very carefully plan my days and evenings. The drive alone will be tiring, and I won’t be able to medicate myself until we arrive. Then I will be attending an event at 3pm- which means I will most likely be exhausted and absolutely need rest- rendering any evening actives null and void. Then depending on how tired I am when I awake, we’ll see what we can do. But odds are it won’t be much.

When I think about this ‘new’ normal I do get a bit upset for all those times I never considered how lucky I truly was to not have to be able to worry about a thing- to travel at a moment’s notice and not have to worry about making sure I was rested, making sure all of my medications were packed and ready…making sure I hadn’t just been released from the hospital for the 4th time this year. However I’ve learned over the years to not get angry.

I’m not in control of this disease, all I can control are my habits. So my new normal has meant pool exercise. Eating well. And making sure I’m on top of all my medication.

Of course just when I can see a difference and FEEL a difference, I get thrown a curve by ball an urgent care doctor who is adamant I be sent to the hospital for migraine symptoms that could be a mini stroke. It’s times like these I feel like I’ve failed my family and myself. What did I do wrong? What should I have done after getting a classic migraine, like I’ve been getting since puberty…especially headed to treatment where I knew I might get a little queasy?

Apparently spend the night in the hospital just to be sure all was well.

Sigh

Every test came back fine…minus my cholesterol which is now high, apparently. Oh, and my potassium which was low, apparently. But the MRI, the CT, the PT, OT, Speech Therapist…all fine fine fine.

So with nothing you can do, you sit in a hospital bed and try not to worry or be upset and accept the ‘new’ normal that disrupts everyone’s lives. The husband that once again has to take off time from work to help you. The kids who will once again act out in some way because Mom was back in the hospital.

If I could make a deal with the devil to rid my life of this…I would. But not for me, all I did was lay in a bed and injected with good drugs. I would, however, take this away from all those around me.

Now I know full well I would go to the ends of the earth for my husband and kids. For my entire family. I’d let them disrupt every day if they had a ‘new’ normal we couldn’t control. It is a no brainer. I just want to acknowledge everything they go through for me…I love them beyond words.

And I hope we settle into this NOW normal and eventually just think of it as normal, with or without Satan.

My Daughter’s Digital Duel, I Vote DISLIKE

Digital parenting can #suckit.

As many of you know, both of my kids are rather plugged in. I mean…PLUGGED IN. They game, they blog, they game, they do their homework online, they game, they watch tv online, they do EVERYTHING on their iPads or computers. So it should come as zero surprise that any discipline in this house tends to be a direct ‘take away’ of said plugged-in-ed-ness.

My 9-year old plays Animal Jam. She chats. She makes videos. She trades. All of these things are done under my watchful eye-I check her chats, I watch her videos, she tells me about her trades. I hear all the drama when someone makes a bad trade. I hear all the drama when someone wants to make a video and records her and her friends. Up until now we haven’t had a single issue.

Notice I said… until now.

The other day said 9-year old came down the stairs in tears and hysterical. She made a friend on Animal Jam she thought she could trust. He asked if he could borrow her rare spike collar to make a video. She agreed. He took the spike and bolted. She reported him, drama ensued. She asked if I could ask for help from Animal Jam support.

No problem.

H and abucka

I dutifully sent my Motherly email and asked them to check out her story and his and hopefully get her item back. If not, lesson learned. In the meantime he was blocked from her den and her chats so he couldn’t bother her any longer.

Or so I thought.

She unblocked him without me knowing and attempted to retrieve her spike herself. Continuing the drama with him calling names and her demanding her item. Yup. This is what goes on in the digital 9-year old world. HIGH DRAMA.

I found out by accident, as she casually mentioned in a Skype chat with her girlfriend that he was calling her names. Busted. So I wrote another email to Animal Jam support apologizing for my daughter having unblocked the alleged thief and taking matters into her own hands, when we had clearly handed it over to their authority. And then grounded her from the game for a week.

You’d think I’d have killed a gazillion kittens and bunnies. There was door slamming and tears. There was moping. There is currently, next to me, many sighs of boredom.

We’ve been very careful about allowing the kids their own digital spaces without invading their privacy, but also making sure they are in safe places online and are only exposed to what we feel they can handle. But I have to admit, the kids are both playing in worlds that are essentially Second Life or online playdates. With that comes real life disputes and real life hurt feelings and real life everything.

Of course we had a very long talk about her online habits. Trusting someone she had only met the day before (believe me, I worked the Frozen angle on that one into the ground) and making videos about other players, respecting privacy, and informing parents of any activity that isn’t right.

I suppose something like this could just as easily happen in the bike-riding, come home when the street lights turn on, childhoods of our past. The boy down the street might have asked to borrow her shiny, rare, Garbage Pail Kid card to make a video and promise to give it back after. Then runs off into his house and shuts the doors and pulls the window shades. I mean…I suppose that could happen. And I suppose this Mom would have then gotten on the phone with his Mom where she needed to investigate if he committed the accusations. Then I suppose my daughter could have snuck out to go see said boy and fight with him again to get her card back. That’s all very childhood and kid-like….right? Right?

Ugh. All I know is I’m exhausted from having moderated her first digital feud and our first digital foul. And her first digital grounding.

Who knew grounding a kid from an online world could be just as devastating as grounding them from real life?