Foam Fingers vs. Peanut Butter and Jelly

My daughter tries to show me she’s a “big girl” all the time. She makes her own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Gets herself dressed, even when her choices may not match. She even tests just how much she can do on her own by trying things that she may not, exactly, be ready for…

#allhailhala successfully bedazzled her face #gravityfalls #subway

Last night Miley Cyrus tried to show the world she’s a “big girl” too. But instead of sweetly accomplishing the culinary pb&j, she masturbated with a foam finger on stage with teddy bears and Robin Thicke.

We get it Miley, you’re not a little girl anymore. Unfortunately Ms. Cyrus you also showed us you aren’t a woman yet. At least not a responsible one.

I’m all for music and art shocking and pushing limits. But I don’t think that’s what Miley was trying to accomplish at the MTV Video Music Awards. She was no Madonna rolling around in a wedding dress, shedding her virginity. She was no Lady Gaga showing off her avant-garde art schooling.

She simply looked like a little girl trying very hard to show us she was a big girl. Just like my daughter tries to show me every single day. The difference?

My daughter is eight.

The good news here is we all can relate. Remember when you were younger and you so desperately wanted to be seen and taken seriously and NOT treated like you were, well, 20? Miley really wants us to know she’s to be taken seriously as a “big girl” and not a little kid…certainly not one who could possibly be associated with Disney or anything young and pure.

Unfortunately she failed miserably to show us she can be a responsible “big girl.”

We get it, we get it…you’re not a little kid anymore. But Miley hun, you could have just as easily of shown us that by rocking out in a sexy outfit, complete with teddy bears, and by throwing in just a touch of class.

Instead you used that foam finger to stroke your vagina and give the middle finger to all the kids who looked to you as a role model. You made it very clear you do not want that title any longer. And as a parent, no worries there, you’re not getting it.

Luckily in my house we don’t idolize celebrities anyway. However we do enjoy being entertained by good actors and singers. Notice I said good actors and singers. After last night’s performance I’m not sure you fit in that category either. But hey, you are young. And as we all tried to show the world we were “big girls” we’ve screwed up a bit. So I’m willing to give you another chance. After all, the world gave me more chances when I was trying very hard to be taken seriously in my early 20′s.

Just take it from those of us who have been there- if you want to be taken seriously a foam finger and long tongue aren’t your ticket to adulthood. Unless that adulthood consists of a trailer park, a stripper pole, maybe an abusive partner and a few addictions. Is that what you want? Is that what you want the world to see you as? The former Disney star turned white-trash entertainer, doing shows at the local watering hole while dirty old men stick dollars in your teddy bear thong? Is that “big girl” Miley’s dream?

Next time, stick with pb&j sandwiches and mismatched clothes.

Trayvon’s Heart Missing for White, Mom Jury

I think we need to talk about the other elephant in the room regarding the Trayvon Martin case:

this jury of predominantly white “Moms”- or so I keep hearing.

As if, magically, this will take away any issues of race or privilege or any other issues…simply because all these jurors were mothers and female.

I’ll just go ahead and say it and take the heat: some of the biggest people with racial issues I know are white feminists. Mind you I did not say every, I did not say ALL, I said some. Simply…some.

I found out first hand when I was the first blogger to publicly ask former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to step down from her run so then Senator Barack Obama could claim the nomination for President. 99% of my hate mail came from white feminists who were shocked and appalled I dared ask a woman to get out-of-the-way for a man. They accused me of being at traitor to my gender. They accused me of being a N-gger lover, out to “impress” the “other” minorities, while ignoring my own. They also told me women needed this more than people of color and I should know that because I AM a woman. How dare I fail to understand their struggle and how dare I put those of color’s struggle above women’s struggles?

So when I heard the jury was made up of a bevy of white females, I did not feel any better for the prosecution’s chances. Even if they were liberal, white, females. I knew all too well the history of racism some of these women carried in their hearts and I knew some believed their plight was far worse than any other minority’s plight. I also knew, deep down, some may be harboring some very racist views.

It was the age-old “but our struggle is harder than your struggle” fight that I’ve watched play out over blogs over the years. Even on my own.

But hey, maybe I was way off base. Maybe my gut feeling was totally wrong and these were enlightened, totally biased free women. Sure they might have the usual issues anyone would have with race and gender and class, but perhaps they were smart enough to put all that aside for the trial and move forward like rational humans.

And then came Anderson Cooper’s interview with one of the jurors. My stomach churned and sadly, I felt like my initial thoughts just might be true. I certainly didn’t feel any better about my theory as to the panel composed of George Zimmerman’s peers. Juror B37 said she had no doubt Zimmerman was “afraid” – my question…how afraid can you be if you take your gun and pursue the person you are allegedly afraid of? But what caught my attention most was juror B37′s comments on witness Rachael Jeantel. “A lot of the times she was using phrases I have never heard before and what they meant…that’s way they talk…” (emphasis mine)

Does she means the way teens talk? Doubtful. I think considering she was discussing her “communication skills” she was speaking directly to race. Directly. Go ahead and click on the link to her discussion of Jeantel. How she felt bad for her. How she felt she was uneducated. Really? She was speaking about her being a teen then? Juror B37 sure tried not to say it, but it was clear to me she was speaking about race.

And to Jeantel’s credit, she was respectful of the juror’s comments, even saying her parents helped her calm down and she was raised to not cuss and respect her elders.

Certainly doesn’t sound like someone who was ashamed of herself or her education to me there Juror B37. In fact, Ms. Jeantel out-classed you and showed her education far better than you did on national television.

So where does that leave us? With a generation gap or a racial gap? Or does that just leave us with those who are upset at the verdict and those who are not?

I’ve been told I’m race-baiting by even bringing up black witnesses and white jurors in this case. But an unarmed black teenager was killed, he was considered suspicious for walking through a neighborhood in the rain, carrying candy and tea. SO VERY SUSPICIOUS that George Zimmerman felt it necessary to follow Trayvon with a loaded gun.

I can’t think of any teen or man who wouldn’t confront Zimmerman if they were being followed. And there sits this jury of predominantly white women actually thinking it’s Zimmerman that was scared. The man with the gun. The man who did the following. SO SCARED HE FOLLOWED TRAYVON. If you are scared and afraid for your life, do you chase after the person who you are afraid of? I’m just asking here. And if you are a white woman sitting on that jury -are you the typical stepford-wife thinking Mr. Zimmerman was oh so brave for following that thug of a black boy daring to traipse through their neighborhood?

Nevermind it was Trayvon’s neighborhood too. Because I get the distinct feeling neither George Zimmerman nor the white, female jurors thought of that neighborhood as Trayvon’s either. Even though it was.

Tie in Juror B37′s comments on Ms. Jeantel and I see exactly how this went in their minds. Yes, I am a mind reader. (That’s sarcasm, people…I’m giving you my own theories here, not fact).

And to say race didn’t come into play is either total denial on the jury’s part or just another sad chapter in the long history of white, sometimes very feminist, women denying the plight of people of color in favor of their own struggles.

This isn’t a competition. We are not post-racial and we are not post-gender and we are not post-patriarchy.

Imagine what we could do together if we could only see the other’s fight and help. See the other’s pain and history and empathize instead of compare.

If we could only see the facts surrounding the death of a young man and not let things like our prejudice of a black woman’s “education” get in the way of her account of that fateful night.

And if only Juror B37 could have seen into Trayvon’s heart the way she claims she could see into Zimmerman’s. The man who pulled the trigger. Why is it she knew Zimmerman’s heartfelt intentions yet she couldn’t fathom Trayvon’s intentions and heart? Even after the witnesses and those who told of his unarmed walk home. His entirely legal, unarmed, entirely NON-suspicious walk home. But B37 couldn’t find any heart there…

and I can only come up with one reason why…

Meanwhile THIS white, feminist Mom has nothing but a broken heart for Trayvon and his parents. I can’t imagine their pain. I can’t imagine how they must feel after a jury of women couldn’t find reason under the law to put the killer of their son behind bars. I can not speak to the racism they may feel due to this case or the fallout regarding race sweeping through the nation. I can only speak to what I know. and I know white women. I am a white woman.

Sadly I had hoped they would see into the heart of a young boy before they saw into the heart of a shooter.

For Better or Worse

This is the week my husband and I celebrate bringing unconditional love into our lives forever. Love that no one can describe to you, that no one can begin to try to get you to grasp no matter how hard they try. Our children celebrate their birthdays. Two years and six days apart. One a decade old. The other, eight.

Beautiful signs of spring on the way to school

The rest of the country will be watching the United States’ Supreme Court hear arguments on another type of love. A love that can be legalized with the institution of marriage. Something else many find hard to put into words. Many find beyond difficult to explain the overwhelming joy it makes them feel.

My husband and I were married and had our two children. In my mind, we became a family when we declared our love for one another in front of our friends and family and even before that when we became domestic partners in the eyes of the law in order to make sure we could take care of each other in sickness and in health and in any legal matters. This happened BEFORE we were legally married.

Some would say, “…isn’t that enough?”

NO. It’s NOT enough.

Just because we were domestic partners does not mean that we were protected had we left California’s borders and it certainly did not protect us in the rest of the US and it’s territories. To this day, there is no one else I want making decisions for me should I become unable, than my husband. It does not matter why…it’s who I CHOOSE. I CHOOSE him. We are adults and adults should be able to make sure the person they want is allowed in the hospital room with them when they want, makes important legal and medical decisions, and inherits any and all and everything I find necessary-from property to personal items. And if I do not happen to write it down in time, it should be common sense this is the person who is in charge of all these things and GETS all these things. Oh, and by the way, this person also gets full custody of OUR children. The ones born of love.

The ones born into a family made of love.

In a “marriage” that did not include God or a preacher.

It also was not guaranteed to create chidden.

I now have no uterus or ovaries. If you were to ask my husband before hand, there would be no promise this “marriage” would produce children. Apparently my body agreed.

As you can see, I’m knocking down all the reasons many say you must “save traditional marriage” left and right with our family.

We did not have a traditional wedding. We did not have a traditional wedding ceremony. We do not have a traditional marriage, unless you consider “traditional” one that means we love each other and wish to spend the rest of our lives together.

As the country, once again, consumes itself with what “marriage” means in this day and age I only ask that you consider one question: What does family mean?

Our family started in a way many would consider illegal and immoral. Yet here we are, with two beautiful children celebrating birthdays and we’ve stood by each other through every vow repeated to one another long ago.

That’s more than I can say for millions of Americans claiming to be truly “married” while shunning my husband and I, while saying things like “why can’t they just have a civil union and not be married like us” and while trying to convince the country separate can be equal. In fact, I think I’ve heard that before…didn’t turn out too well then either.

Actions, Words, And Insanity

I don’t think many of us have stopped thinking about Sandy Hook. Which, in a way, I am grateful for because our country seems to have such a short attention span as of late we tend to move on to the next bright and shiny object before the last one has had time to figure out what happened.

December 14th, 2012 should never be just another one of those days that is pushed away and referred to as an aside by some street reporter at the next school shooting.

Because make no mistake, there will be another.

I hope with all my heart we never see another, but it seems any sense of unity or togetherness or willingness to do what it takes to stop the next is slipping away quickly.

I awoke to a post by a conservative woman recommending, against every law enforcement training and instructions I have ever been told, that we should be teaching our six-year olds to RUSH and ‘dogpile’ the next armed assailant that enters a school.

As a mother my blood boiled more than I could handle, and given my health I screamed and shouted as much as I could on my phone before finally pulling out of the school parking lot. You know, where I was dropping off my kids where they go to learn things like math- NOT HOW TO DIE. I had to get it out, because as the days roll on, it seems the fringe is once again attempting to co-opt the conversation and lead the country down the crazy path. One that has zero business at the adult table. One that is devoid of any common sense. And one we can not afford to listen to this time around.

As suspected, my fears were realized later in the day when this gem of an article popped up at the National Review. Another fringe/ultra conservative woman but this one was clutching her pearls and blaming the feminization of schools for the additional deaths in Sandy Hook. Had there only been big, strong, men around….we poor, defenseless women wouldn’t be ‘sitting ducks’ – as though this were some pioneer settlement or something.

This is when I became unhinged and my tweets and Facebook posts went off the rails. Angry does not begin to describe how the article made me feel. Offended doesn’t even slightly cover the rage. The author, Charlotte Allen, clearly has never seen me protect my children. Ever heard of the term Mamma Bear? Understand WHY it exists? Do you have any idea what I would DO for these two? ANY?

I snapped this as we left this morning. They are so ready for winter break cc: @aaronvest

Allen also did zero fact checking (there were men in the building- she expected them to throw buckets or something, btw) and then insulted the memory and heroism of the women who GAVE THEIR LIVES saving children that day. Doing the exact thing she seemed to think only a man could do. Perhaps she thinks a man can DIE better, I’m not sure…but her linkbait, full of CRAZY post did what it was probably intended to do: rile up the feminists.

As a feminist and mother sometimes it seems some conservative women want to box me in. How can you be both? Don’t you hate men? Wait, you are a mother? I thought you aborted babies?

We don’t fit into their boxes and this confuses them. It can be hard to wrap heads around the idea that we love, have family dinners, take our children to school, help with homework, choose to be stay-at-home mothers and sometimes have no choice and must work to support our families. So when we ROAR just as loud to protect our babies, and willingly throw our bodies or do whatever it takes to save children, ours or others, it seems to not compute with some on the Right.

So when Allen wrote her drivel, throwing us back into the Romney-esq, 1950′s version of the America they all wanted us to go back to…with all males as the only possible heroes and the women just waiting to be saved…the Internet exploded in protest. And at the very least, my brain couldn’t handle yet another senseless and ridiculous blame game for what went wrong with society as a whole to lead to Sandy Hook.

Today it’s feminism, tomorrow it will be video games, next week it will be reality tv. When, if we are truly honest with ourselves…it’s ALL OF US and EVERYTHING.

And I want to be perfectly clear about the outrageous comments being thrown around as the entire world Monday morning quarterback’s what went on: these types of discussions have no business at the table as we attempt to assess, as a nation, just how to solve our gun violence problem. NO BUSINESS.

Yes, I realize what the President said. And I understand he would like all voices heard and I understand that we must look at everything. But we must look at everything REASONABLE and that has COMMON SENSE attached.

Children being taught to rush armed gunman against everything law enforcement has ever taught and women and children waiting for male knights on white horses to come save them are not reasonable nor do they have common sense attached.

And just to be clear, this also did not happen because GOD is ‘been kicked out’ of our public schools. First of all, a child may pray on his or her own whenever he or she likes in a public school. Quiet reflection is always allowed. Had a teacher lead my child in prayer while something like this was happened it would scare them further, as they are not religious nor would they understand what was going on.

And if your God isn’t around during school shootings due to some law on a book somewhere in some country, your God is rather weak. I suggest you shop for a more powerful one that can take out the law and the armed lunatic.

The bottom line here…this is NOT the time for your grandstand posts on crazy, far out, political dogma. This is the time for your grandstand posts on just how BOLD you can be when it comes to solving our nation’s crisis. On helping our nation heal. On coming up with ways we can all agree upon to make sure THIS NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN.

How many times can we all say this? This can NOT happen again, yet the more we do the CRAZY above, the more IT WILL. The more we only stick to our old ways, the less will get done. But that does not mean we let the fringe IN and that doesn’t mean we cave. Far from it. It means we fight like hell and we compromise. We are mature adults who should be able to solve this before more children die. We are mature adults who can come up with at least the start of some solutions while we work to fix the overall ills.

Let me repeat that: we are mature adults who should be able to solve this before MORE CHILDREN DIE.

I can not be more clear. If action is not taken there is blood on ALL our hands. YOU for not compromising. YOU for not listening to the valid argument of a gun owner. YOU for not accepting the stats on video games and kids. YOU for not doing more to fund mental health services. YOU for fighting against insuring 30 million more American through Obamacare.  And especially YOU for adding insult to one of the most horrific tragedies of our time.

Enough is enough. It’s now time to get to work and act.

My Knee-Jerk, Mom Reaction to Today’s Events

My son and his friend are running around my house ‘shooting’ each other with Nerf guns right now. They are diving on the floor, collecting bullets, telling the other “YOU ARE DEAD DUDE” and generally being nine-year olds.

I want to make them stop. I want to freak out and take away their toy guns and stop their game and tell them they are DONE.

photo.JPG

There will be no more fake gun fights in this house. I no longer want to raise a son that glorifies the gun culture. And as a parent I take full responsibility for allowing him to go down that rabbit hole. The toy guns. The endless video games with nothing but war play. Things we find totally normal.

Normal.

photo.JPG

I realize in his mind it’s make-believe. In his mind he KNOWS the difference. But today I just can not take the fake vs. real when a friend’s nephew was in that kindergarten class in Connecticut. When so many parents tonight grieve. When the unthinkable CONTINUES to happen again and again in our country.

It begins at home as the culture of guns and violence is forever put in front of their young faces. Even responsibly they are desensitized to the bloodshed. And yes, kids have been doing this forever. If not Nerf guns they would be making guns from sticks or out of their hands. But would they be doing it as much? Would it be as vivid? As real? As daily? As routine?

I just don’t know. I just know I can only control what happens in my own home. I can not control what happens in my child’s school not matter how involved I may be. Or if they are at a friend’s house no matter how well I think I know the parents.

I have to teach my children just how dangerous this world can be, without stealing their childhood…their innocence. Without taking away the very thing youth should be about: discovery and joy and laughter and play.

I watched the President cry. I felt the pain in my friend’s words from across the miles. And I agreed with the Governor when he said evil came to their community.

The problem being…I see no end to the tears, or the pain, or the evil until we, as a nation, face this culture we have created and now celebrate. A culture of hate and violence. A culture of “I’ve got mine, who cares about yours.”

A culture of not being your brother’s keeper. All anyone wants to do is make sure they’ve got their weapon, their safety, and to hell with anyone else.

This is the last lesson I want to teach my children. Ever. Yet this is the lesson so many are teaching theirs’.

As others fight to make further cuts to services we need…like mental health services. And education-the ONE thing that could save us all.

So as I debate all the toy guns scattered about my home, and the violent video games we play…I ask you to think about where this conversation begins as a community. Where it starts as a nation. Where we really dig in and make some changes so no parent, no family, no children ever have to go through this again.

Because I don’t think any of us can take this anymore. Our hearts can only break so many times before healing becomes impossible.

Four Years Later: Indivisible

I can tell you that many, many things have changed in our home in the past four years.

From celebrating the election of President Obama, who I backed earlier in the race than some which got me into a good bit of hot water, to my first visit to the White House.

Yes, the first year of the Obama Administration was a whirlwind for myself and my family.

I had taken on my first full-time  job since having our first child and thrown myself in the same way I throw myself into everything- with all I have. I traveled, I spoke in front of small crowds, large audiences, students, and chatted it up with national news outlets.

My mission was to make sure the world knew that women online were a force. They could not only be the difference in elections but also change the world.

I’d like to think I succeeded in spreading the word and creating opportunities for every woman. The stay at home Mom, the career woman, the childfree, the childfull, the hobby writer, the hard core moneymaking writer, and even the just finding her way blogger.

At home, I would like to think I put just as much effort into my children and into my marriage. Making dinner when I could, making sure everyone was where they needed to be, had what they needed to have in their possession, got done what needed to be done, and was loved ridiculously along the way.

I was exhausted, but happy. It was chaotic, but fun. I looked forward to important conference calls, parent teacher talks, and husband wife romps later on.

And just as my life began to reach the peak of where I had always hoped it would be, everything came crashing down.

Everything.

And now nothing is where is should be. Where it was. Or where I want it to be. Parts of my body are missing. I do not recognize myself in the mirror and when I do, I struggle with what I see.

I try so very hard to keep the normalcy of what once was, only to find I’m the only one still trying. Or at least, the only one who seems to think life can go on just as it was.

Before Lupus.

BL. AL. It’s like Before Christ and After Christ, but without all the miracles.

I now cherish every moment I have with so much more enthusiasm than I thought possible, only to find blank stares from the kids with the typical ‘Mom, stop hugging me so tight’ eyeroll. And that romp in bed is more of a snore induced by drugs and the hope of maybe a kiss before work. Hope being a strong word.

I feel like I am living someone else’s life. Because this certainly is not the life I planned. It’s not the life I had. It’s not the life I want.

But it is, currently, the life I am given.

So I remain grateful that the stroke wasn’t even detected until after, and the rehabilitation was minimal. That I only lost part of my colon, not all of my colon, and I do not have to wear a bag…which certainly would have destroyed any hope I had of a sex life.

I remain grateful not having a gall bladder means I can only have one or two fried pickles instead of a basket full, keeping the 100lbs I have gained from steroids to just 100lbs.

And I will forever pretend I am grateful that the total hysterectomy, which finally rid me of the excruciating pain from the inflammation destroying my uterus and ovaries. I will never have another period and never have to carry tampons or pads or worry about any of that mess ever again. Even if it has destroyed me emotionally in too many ways to count.

I’m grateful my little family has grown closer in many ways, having gone through a tremendous crisis that my kids can now talk to producers on camera about it:

…the worst was when she got sick on Mother’s Day..WHY WHY DID IT HAVE TO BE THAT DAY!!

Now it only reduces me to minor humiliation and minor, inner sobbing.

Just like every single day when everyone finally walks out the door to go about their lives, and if I don’t have to leave for the doctor I sit here wondering what to do with my life…feeling again, only minor humiliation that I no longer am what I was to any of them, yet am something different. Some of which I am proud of, most of which I am not.

As I grow stronger, as we get a handle on this beast, I am getting a handle on me. And she’s pissed off.

I have no one to talk to about this anymore, because frankly no one should have to talk with me all the time about this. They deserve a break and a normal life. So I write here. After so many years- getting sick just after President Obama was elected, and now coming up on the next election, all of this is old old old old old.

And the truth of the matter is I hate it. And while I understand things will not be the same, I want them as close to the same as they can get. And I am fighting so fucking hard to get there. So hard. Too hard maybe.

I know I am the only one who can fight, I just miss doing it with locked arms all around me.  My husband, my mother, my brother, my father- all my biggest supporters have their own lives that must be tended to and they can’t spend four years on me, me, me, and only me. I don’t expect them to. And I do appreciate their support now when it’s given. They remain amazing and there for me. In very different ways now, of course. But they are there. For that I am grateful. So many have lost their family over so much less. I’m trying to remind myself of that as I trudge through.

So four years later I keep getting asked over and over and over again if my life is better than it was four years ago.

I got mail #Obama2012

No. No my life is not ‘better’- but that depends greatly how we are qualifying ‘better.’

It’s ‘better’ in that I am getting healthier. Stronger.

It’s ‘better’ in that our medical bills are becoming more manageable thanks to the Affordable Care Act aka ObamaCare.

It’s ‘better’ in that we did not lose our home due to foreclosure, or even get near foreclosure, because JP Morgan Chase worked with us to modify our mortgage (through HARP and HAMP) and I was finally granted the private disability check that took a chunk out of every paycheck I made with that full-time job I took after the President was elected.

It’s ‘better’ in that my daughter still has Title IX in place to play co-ed, PeeWee basketball, and she can score her very first every basket:

It’s ‘better’ in that the President has backed same-sex marriage, equal pay for women, he has repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, he has taken care of Osama bin laden, he has put into place an Auto rescue of Detroit keeping many of my friends and family back in my hometown in jobs.

And, as always, his administration has taken the time to show the compassion to follow my illness and express their concern and thoughts when necessary. For that, I am grateful.

These are good people.

I don’t think any of us are where we thought we would be four years later. My family being probably more surprised than any of you.

But I know there is no way we’re going back. None. Just like I refuse to go back and allow this illness to overcome my mind, body, and soul…I refuse to let the political illness attempting to turn back the clock in this country to overcome our collective mind, body, and soul.

We are Americans and we do not give up. We have a strong family here in my home and we certainly do not give up.

I refuse to allow setbacks, and seeing that brink of the abyss, to scare me into thinking turning around is the right answer. I know nothing could be further from the truth.

I also know the hearts of all those involved. From my family, to my friends, to those working for me and you in the White House. And I know how hard *I* fight.

There is too much fight in me left to allow how far we have come to slip away with fast talking, slick, typical frat boys trying to sell me an easy fix.

There is no easy fix to Lupus, and as the President has said from day one, there is no easy fix to the mess we’re in. We will have to continue to work hard and continue to work together.

I know it is a lot to ask of anyone. We are all tired.

I’m willing to go this alone and shoulder it all for myself and for you and yours. But I ask that you join me, because we are so much stronger together. We are so much stronger when we work as a team.

We are so much stronger united.

…indivisible. Through sickness and in health. With liberty and justice…

…for all.

Sugar 2.0

As I’ve done the speaking circuit for several years now on this whole social media thing I’ve always had my schpeil about it being my ‘virtual cup of sugar.’ You know, gone are the days where we borrow that cup of sugar from our neighbor and we talk kids and schools and life and we’ve moved that conversation and companionship online. I’ve found my ‘virtual’ cup of sugar in my blogging and social media communities. We still share the same friendship and advice and community-we just do it through our computers and smartphones and tablets and gaming systems.

After today though, I’ve realized the yearly (or sometimes less or sometimes more) face-to-face meet ups aren’t enough. I want my virtual cup of sugar to magically turn back into that real cup of sugar. And throw in some eggs I need for that cake I’m making too.

I want you all here.

I have seen it first hand with my illness: it does take a village. And while I LOVE that my village is available to me 24/7 with a click and a keystroke…it does not and has not replaced the need for actual kitchen table talks. For a long while I really thought it did. I truly thought this online community was what I had, and it was enough. It was all I needed.

I was wrong.

This week two of my friends came and just sat and chatted with me. I needed it. I needed just having girlfriends over to talk kids and life. Then my Mom called with news you expect parents to give after a certain age and I felt the tug of wishing they were closer so I could be there to help with doctor appointments and life. Then another ‘blog’ friend shared her trials and tribulations while she goes through a divorce and again I felt that tug of wishing she were next door, so I could walk over with tea and a pie and we could grab forks and talk and eat straight from the tin as we gabbed the night and fears away.

I love social media for this wonderful and robust community it has given me. Friends I never would have, people I never would know, true companions that have touched and helped my family in our time of need. But I also hate social media for giving me this ache in the pit of my stomach as I have become so invested in their lives and knowing so much more than I might without it- forcing me to care and love and give and curse the distance between us all.

We joke that we’d start our own commune, just so we could all be near. But even if we were, would we stay inside or walk next door to share that pie and talk shop? Hell even my husband and I tweet each other from the same couch.

Think about that for a second. We tweet each other from the same couch.

Part of why we are what we are…this community of misfits and writers and oversharers and friends…does involve the safety of our screen and keyboards. I tell you more some days because I know I won’t bump into you as I drop my kids for school and I won’t hear about it from my Aunt’s friend’s hair dresser who heard from the plumber’s roofer’s golf buddy who told HIS wife. You know, the small town thing.

So I lament our long distance relationship but wonder if it is only possible because it is the way it is. I get to have you and you get to have me because we feel safe becoming friends and staying friends this way. We feel safe falling in love with one another and one another’s worlds because we only occasionally dip our toes into those worlds and even then it’s under the guise of vacation or dinner or a brief meet up.

However with Lupus now here to stay many of you have gone from dipping your toes into my world to crossing the entire foot and body over the threshold of my door. Your luggage in hand, leaving your shoes in our cubby and figuring out which kitchen cabinet holds the mugs for tea.

And I like it. No…I love it.

I want your visits to never end and I cherish the moments from the fleeting drive through towns, to the long weekends, to the week-long stays to help.

And I think to myself…we could pull off that commune. We really could. And my mind wonders and I worry if you’ll find the right bakery or the right library or if your animals would eventually get on my nerves or if you’d quickly tire of my ailments and medications and constant need for a ride to the doctor and back.

It is because of all this I find myself wondering if we’ve gotten in over our heads with social media. Far, far over our heads. And yes, I realize I’m saying this as a professional social media strategist.

I now have more close friends who have supported me in so many ways that I can’t even begin to thank them for the love they have given me and my family. And these are NOT fake friends. These are people who have slept in my home, picked me up from procedures where I was barely conscious. I needed help putting on my bra or I told you I looked terrible with a tube down my nose and throat. You’ve met me at my doctor’s office to hug me or to hand me gifts, homemade for me or my kids.

These are the people with whom you do not just share a virtual cup of sugar. You share the real thing, so much so that it spills over the measuring cup and makes your fingers sticky as you walk back up the drive to your own home.

Maybe that’s the answer right there though…just like everything in life, relationships are sticky. And the more real they get, the stickier they get.

Social media has just brought a bigger mess into our lives. A mess that which I, for one, am grateful. It has brought family closer together as the miles continue to push us apart. It has brought old friends back into the fold and new friends into our lives.

I guess we’re all still working on how we balance that virtual vs. next door. In every neighborhood there is always the busy body looking out her blinds too much, or the neighbor you avoid because you just know she’ll talk your ear off for an hour, or just one of your best friends who you really wanted to hug and help, knowing it didn’t matter how sticky, the mess was well worth it in the end.

And while I thank the medium for giving me this community, it’s time my cup of sugar got an update.

Survive Thanksgiving With Your Conservative Relatives

Believe me, I know. I have them too. I have cousins who call me a socialist hippie and I have uncles who still yell ‘Run N*gg*er! Run!’ during a football game.

Now I have the luxury of being far, far away from family in California…eating my elitist, ivy league educated turkey…while I’m sure they shot and killed theirs from Sarah Palin’s helicopter. But whatever our differences, family is family, and sometimes they all have to be in the same room together.

First and foremost prepare the kids:

The final word on #muppets

Of course we know that sort of talk is wrong, and we would never speak like that at our house, our school. I’m not sure why they believe that way, but they do, so we just try and be as polite as possible and tell them as nicely as possible they are offensive and wrong, and then we go home. But hopefully we won’t talk about those sorts of things at all and we can just discuss how nice the fall leaves look and how great you are doing in school, ok?

Of course that will lead to the discussion about their hippy, progressive, charter school….but let’s just take one issue at a time.

Luckily the great folks at NPR have your crazy Aunt that sends all those crazy e-mail forwards covered. You know, the ones in all caps that claim Obama is a secret Muslim and the Democrats are really building concentration camps to lock away all the Christians…or something. Check it out:

You should start by telling tell him that the emails are nearly always wrong. PolitiFact has checked 104 claims from emails and rated 80 percent of them “False” or “Pants on Fire.” Only 4 percent of the claims have earned a “True.” …

The chain emails cover a few broad themes:

Obama is unpatriotic! E-mails have said Obama complained that the troops were whiners (Pants on Fire), that he refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance (False) and that he wants soldiers to take a loyalty oath to him rather than the Constitution (Pants on Fire).

Democrats have passed a secret tax! Some recent emails claim that because of “Obamacare,” monthly Medicare premiums will more than double by 2014 (Pants on Fire) and that home sales will be taxed 3.8 percent (Pants on Fire) to pay for the new health care law. Another one in this genre says Obama’s finance team is seeking a 1 percent tax on all financial transactions (Pants on Fire).

Perks of office. Another theme in the emails is that members of Congress get excessive perks. The emails say members of Congress get full retirement pay after one term (Pants on Fire) and that congressional staffers and members don’t have to repay their student loans (Pants on Fire).

The government is coming for your guns/health data/light bulbs! Some of the conspiracy theories are truly wacky. During the health care debate, one claimed that under the public option for health care coverage, people would be implanted with data-storing microchips (Pants on Fire). A more recent email claimed the government was mandating that everyone get rid of their existing light bulbs (Pants on Fire). Another email said you must list your guns on your tax return (Pants on Fire).

Not enough to convince your Grandpa that he’s NOT about to face a death panel? Try this one on for size…the DCCC Thanksgiving Cheat Sheet!  it’s got everything from Health Insurance Reform (they call it ‘Obamacare’) to how to really appease your far right Tea Party relatives with FACTS:

EXTREME AGENDA TO APPEASE TEA PARTY

· Three times, House Republicans pushed our government to the brink of a shutdown to put their radical agenda ahead of the American people’s interests. · Voted to repeal health insurance reform; Voted to defund NPR, PBS and Sesame Street; Voted to classify pizza as a vegetable for school children; Voted to defund Planned Parenthood and stop them from offering cancer screenings; Voted to protect companies that do business with the Iranian regime

· Pushing plan to privatize Social Security · Forced the Supercommittee to fail because they insisted on more tax breaks for billionaires and Big Oil at the expense of the Medicare guarantee and creating jobs.

And if that weren’t enough, and things get REALLY ugly, Colorlines put together a nice guide on how to discuss RACE:

Instead of just being reactive, why not be proactive? Start with a question. Use plain language. Set the frame and tone you want. Create an opening for some constructive dialogue. For example, “Did you see that video of the police cracking down on the non-violent student protesters?” Or, “What do you think of the plans to shut down the neighborhood health clinic that serves mostly low-income people of color?”

Remember, if you get flustered, I’m home on Thanksgiving and if you have to, you can tweet me or text me and I will talk to Grandma and tell her that I’ve sat in the West Wing, looked these people in the eye, and they are NOT out to take her money, her 401k, or her guns.

I am a mother. I am disabled. And I have every reason to believe there are good and bad people in government -just like there are good and bad people in the world. In our own families. But at the heart of it all, we want the same thing: the American Dream. We are not that different regardless of if we show up with the big turkey or the vegan casserole. We want to make sure those we love get what they deserve and those we care for are taken care of. We may just not agree on how to get there. But make it clear that no one wants anyone to suffer. I know that one is hard to swallow when we all could swear those conservatives really do not care if we live or die, but I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt this holiday, and tell them you expect them to give you and their President the benefit of the doubt as well.

The First Lady isn’t trying to take their burgers. She is simply trying to help kids exercise and eat better- right along with moderation in many things she enjoys her fries and her ice cream and allows her kids to have treats just like we do. Her overall goal is to just make sure kids know what brocoli is and that it’s better for them than a chocolate bar. No biggie, right?

Now, with that in mind, and some ammo in your pocket (the factual kind I provided above, not the real kind your Uncle has behind that glass hunting case you’ve told the kids they aren’t allowed to go anywhere near) try and enjoy your family. Give thanks that our country is so diverse that we can argue and not be thrown in jail for speaking out. Tell them you stand by the PEOPLE not the BANKERS (if they dare bring up OWS) and that you would expect they too would be for hard-working citizens, not heartless foreclosure mongers who give out billion dollar bonuses while charging them extra claiming they aren’t making enough money.

And always, always, eat the dark meat. It’s the best by far, and it will piss off your racist Grandpa when you tell him dark is best.

Good luck.

*updated on Thanksgiving morning – it’s been pointed out that I have not mentioned how to handle the ‘gay’ issue with your family. It saddens me because I’d hope that we’ve come far enough where even the craziest of families HAVE GLBT at their TABLE helping cut the turkey, so they’d keep it civil…but alas I am probably giving too many families the benefit of the doubt that they even acknowledge their family who prefer the same sex or are transgendered people…so here is what you do…and buckle up, this is where it gets really ugly:

Listen, Aunt Betty, in our family all men and women are created equal. That means they get all of the same rights you and Uncle Bob do. Now, you might not believe in that, and your God might not believe in that, but this is America- and in America we have many Gods and many different kinds of people. So if you are a GOOD American, you will make sure everyone is EQUAL under the law. Believe me Aunt Betty, if I could take away you and Uncle Bob’s marriage I would…considering he’s been an alcoholic and has been beating you or threatening to abuse you for as long as I was a baby, and why you two get to be married and some of my best friends don’t seems like a real shame in the eyes of the Lord….but I digress. Oh, what’s that? You say ‘why do they have to call it marriage and can’t they just have some civil rights marriage or something?’ …you see it doesn’t work that way for real. Marriage and civil unions come with VERY different rights. In fact, marriage has over 1049 rights while civil unions has 300 with NO FEDERAL protection. What does that mean? It means if Chris and Chris get married in Vermont, legally, and they decide to go vacation in Mississippi…and Chris ends up in the hospital, her partner can’t make her medical decisions for her in Mississippi. There is also the problems with immigration, child support and adoption (think of all those NOT aborted babies that you want to have homes…and the LOVING homes they could go to -instead of the fucked up homes like yours) and many, many other unequal problems. Now yes Aunt Betty, I know, it all comes down to God. But again, this is America…and if I have to tolerate your God- you have to tolerate mine…or my lack of one. Was this nation founded on Christian values? Yes. But our founders were smart enough to know we’d abuse that and put protections in to make sure we didn’t. So please Aunt Betty…go get Uncle Bob another scotch and piece of pie, so you don’t get a black eye tonight and just don’t tell him you voted in favor of same-sex marriage in your state. I won’t tell if you don’t.