Old News: Past Blog Posts

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

#ALSIceBucketChallenge Backlash Backlash

I'll keep this short because people seem to be quickly getting #OverIt.  But I have just a few quick things to say about the #ALSIceBucketChallenge before everyone goes back to watching cat videos and bitching about politics.  

1. If you'd never heard of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) or Lou Gehrig's disease before this month, you are not a bad person (unless you are a physician. If that's the case, then WTF?)

2.  If you dumped a bucket of ice on your head instead of donating 100 bucks to ALSA, you are not a bad person. 

3.  If you declined to participate, you are not a bad person.

4.  If you only donated a few dollars, you are not a bad person.

5.  If you openly questioned others motives for publicly dousing themselves in frigid water, you are not a bad person.  You're not my favorite person on the planet, but you're not a bad person.

There are bad people out there.  Sure.  There are people who use questionable, excessive and deadly force against others.  There are people who think setting fire to a convenience store and stealing shoes and liquor will bring about justice.  There are people who exploit the tragic death of a beloved celebrity.  There is death and violence and illness all over the world.  And dammit if that doesn't bum me out completely.  But please don't criticize me or anyone else for choosing to participate and perpetuate a cause that is worthy.  Even if it's just that one cause. And just this one week.  

Did I also decide to spend this week donating money to and spreading awareness for Neuroblastoma or Parkinson's Disease, or Multiple Sclerosis, or Spina Bifida, or any other neurological disease process? Did I send money to developing and/or war-torn countries? Did I write my legislators to encourage them to help improve public education or healthcare access in my state?  


The truth is, what I have done this week was five loads of laundry, took my 2-year-old to his first day of preschool, made an emergency visit to my MFM's office to calm an irritable uterus, and provided approximately 12 hours of skilled physical therapy services to some nice folks at work (none of whom have ALS, but many have equally nasty and debilitating illnesses). I also dumped ice water on my head and sent some money to ALSA.

And no, I don't think dumping ice-cold water on my head and making a meager donation makes me a 'philanthropist'.  But some blogger's criticism doesn't make them anything better.  

Go ahead world, call me and my friends narcissistic, self-serving assholes with short attention spans and questionable motives. I've been called worse (and it's possible so have they).

Or maybe we could just take it easy on each other instead? Can we instead just sit back and enjoy a nice, positive trend that isn't pointless and strange (planking, parcour), actually narcissistic (sexy selfies), potentially illegal or career-ending (sex-ting), psychologically damaging (bullying), or just plain annoying (posting endless pics of your children and blog posts about your boring life...GUILTY!)

I'm sorry, but I just can't get enough of watching my friends and family dump ice-cold water on themselves. I laugh every time. 

And call me crazy, but isn't it nice to laugh?

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Week the World Turned Dark

My gut told me things were going to get worse before they got better.  And it turns out, my gut is pretty reliable. See, in a town called Ferguson, just about a 20 minute drive north from my house, in an area I have frequented for work purposes in the past (and never felt remotely unsafe), a teenager was gunned down in broad daylight on a Saturday.  

I will stick with the vague facts here, because it seems like a case that has and will be painted with a thousand different brushes over the next few weeks and months (and probably years) and frankly the rumors and possibly exaggerated statements are what fueled the fire for the next bit of news.  

The victim, 18-year-old Michael Brown, was involved in an altercation with a policeman which apparently began in the backseat if a squad car where the officer's weapon was fired once (it has been alleged that the young man was 'reaching for the gun').  The teen then apparently fled the car and was shot and killed by the officer involved.  The media reported that 'multiple shots' were fired by the policeman, but that the number of shots hasn't been disclosed by authorities.  The victim was supposed to start college this week.

The following day, what began as peaceful gatherings in the area, grieving the loss of a young man's life morphed over the course of the day into a violent and destructive mob, destroying property, looting businesses, and setting fire a convenience store.  

Like most things in my life these days, the story initially unfolded on my newsfeed but eventually also on our television (some days, mommy gets lots of screen time) and then was debated with my husband and neighbors.  I responded as a mother, immediately imagining one of my sons being involved.  I am well aware that the judgement of an 18-year-old male is often questionable at best and I live in constant fear that a poor judgement call on the part of one of my boys will result in anything from a night in jail to a senseless death, but this case smelled fishy to me.  My husband who made his fair share of poor choices as a teenager (and I often wonder how he came out alive and without a criminal record) argued that this is just something that can happen when you tangle with the law.  I argued that we rely on law enforcement to make us feel safe, and shots fired in a public area at an unarmed teen just makes me feel confused and sad.  

As is often true of cases like this, the underlying issue quickly became a question of race.  The victim was African American, the officer's race hasn't been disclosed (but as the force has only three black men, is presumably white) and the protesting crowd pictured on the 5 o'clock news was a mix of ages and ethnicities.  But the shooting has already been likened to the Treyvon Martin case on a number of occasions (the Martin's lawyer is already representing the Brown family). I have a Facebook friend who quickly responded to the incident with a post 'that this is one of the main reasons' she and her husband were 'always on the fence' about having children.  She was obviously incensed and finished her post with the statement that if it was her child, she and her husband 'would be dead from shooting up the police station.' The comments section below became a debate over raising young black men who can easily become a target of racial profiling and settles with waiting to hear more details before passing judgement and praying for the victim's family.  
The problem is that my friend was not the only one outraged by the incident -- not by a long shot, and probably not without just cause -- and while she apparently worked through her initial anger and desire for further violence, others felt compelled to take their frustrations to the streets.  

In a way, I can understand how people could become so furious.  The internet is hot with rumors about the case.  The victim's mother alleges that her son was shot eight times and I have read accounts stating there were as many as 10 shots fired.  One rumor alleges that the officer fired twice from his car and then shot twice more at close range.  A clip can be seen of an eyewitness telling reporters that she watched the young man stop, turn and that he was facing the policeman with his hands raised when the officer began firing.  The boy's body apparently lay in the street, exposed and uncovered for 4 hours after the shooting. There are rumors that the teen was guilty of no more than walking peacefully down the street when he was harassed and eventually killed.  I even read that the boy had a friend with him during the incident who was found dead later that day behind a pizza place, insinuating a police cover up (it's notable that the case was turned over by the Ferguson city police almost immediately to the county police force and  will eventually probably also involve the FBI).  

Sure, it's unsettling in the least and if I believed all the gory details to be 100% true, I might be calling for heads to roll too. I might even drive 20 minutes to throw a slushy at someone and holler some profanities while I'm at it (and quickly leave, because angry crowds make me very nervous).  If It was my son who met with such a violent and senseless death for apparently nothing more than walking down the street, I don't honestly don't know how I would respond (though it's highly doubtful my response would include a gun).  

But that's the problem.  As I was dozing on the couch Sunday night, people who firmly believed that this was a clear cut case of abuse of power, racial profiling, and cold-blooded murder were storming the streets and answering violence with violence.  

I remember learning about the 'mob mentality' as an undergrad psych student and how people can suddenly morph into something other than rational human beings.  It's dangerous and devastating.  It can result in property destruction, injuries, and innocent loss of life.  It's maddening to know such a thing can happen. 

It has been an embarrassing week for our city.  News of the initial incident and resulting violence spread quickly across the country and it feels like all eyes are on St Louis and we all look like animals.  It's true that we are among the top racially divided cities (top six) and tensions seem to run just high enough on a daily basis that we were just one (or possibly two) bad judgement calls away from near racial warfare.

I arrived home from work Monday to a television showing images of outraged community and church leaders calling for action (which frustratingly seem to lack in specifics, other than the prosecution of the officer involved in the shooting).  

In a town neighboring mine, two department stores were put on 'lockdown' due to rumors of looting and fighting in the mall we frequent.  I couldn't help but wonder how I would have felt had I picked up my boys from the sitter and headed to the mall with them, as we've done before.  When I couldn't handle the news any more, I took the boys to play across the street. As I gazed at our cozy Dutch Colonial with it's sturdy brick porch, potted plants, and overgrown lilac bushes, I suddenly felt overwhelmed by sadness and a deep sense of insecurity that is thankfully pretty foreign to me.  The world is full of senseless violence. People can be batshit crazy and I am lucky to live in a country that isn't run by those people (at leaast not entirely) and living in constant conflict and fear.  I have been lucky enough to have led a life where this senseless violence typically only happens on my TV (or newsfeed) and not in my backyard.  So maybe I am naive, but it makes me feel hopeless and sick to my stomach.  

The 9 o'clock and 10 o'clock news Monday night showed us live footage of police gathered in riot gear, some with guns drawn.  The next morning, there were reports of looting overnight in south city (also not far from where I live and work) and on Tuesday night -- the third night of near violent protests -- a young rioter who pulled a gun was shot by police.  

More violence.

My St Louis moms Facebook groups were overrun with comments by women who were keeping their children home from school and canceling doctors appointments in order to stay off the streets and keep their kids safe.  It all seems somehow surreal.  

And somewhere in the middle of all of this Robin Williams, a talented and beloved man somehow went to a dark enough place that he was compelled to take his own life.  

The world has gone completely mad. And all I can do is go to work, do the laundry, clean my house, and try my damnedest to raise children who are smart and kind enough to not contribute to it's madness.  


Friday, August 8, 2014

Boy VS Girl

I have this fringe friend whom I respect greatly, and though our relationship is based mostly in the virtual worlds of Facebook and Instagram, I would totally would spend more actual time with him if he wasn't so busy vacationing in Cabo and Aspen and happy houring at the hottest new foodie venues and generally way too cool for me.  Anyways, when I was pregnant with my second boy, he told me, 'I know I don't know you that well' (which he doesn't) 'but you seem like you'd be a really good mom to boys'.

Now, I immediately took (and still take) that statement as a complement.  Granted, he could very well have meant 'Anyone who wears their hair like that probably shouldn't produce any female offspring' or 'I always took you for a closeted lesbian' but I still think of it as a complement nonetheless.  

As my pregnancy ambled along and the official 'anatomy scan' loomed closer, I found myself spending more time thinking about the possible outcomes of that scan.  Honestly, I am a person who really enjoys a good 'surprise.'  I like to fly through life by the seat of my pants, not knowing exactly what to expect around each twist and turn of the road (which perhaps at least partially explains why I seem to be churning out offspring with the proficiency of a damn rabbit).  If it were totally up to me and my instincts, I would prefer to wait until the day our little bundle arrives to learn what sort of genitals we'll be dealing with.  I just love to linger in suspense and anticipation.  

Unfortunately, being a working mom of a one- and two-year-old who can just barely make it out of the house with everyone properly clothed and is generally operating just one spilt sippy cup short of a nervous breakdown, I have learned the grand benefits of operating two steps ahead of life when possible.  

Plus, with biweekly ultrasounds to monitor the competency of my mommy parts, concealing the gender of our baby will become harder and harder as my pregnancy progresses.  I would much rather find out intentionally then unintentionally.  

The plan with my first born was for my husband to be the one to deliver the delightful news of the baby's sex in the delivery room.  When my son made his dramatically rapid appearance, my husband was busy racing his way back from the dinner I had insisted he have with his sister.  

Therefore, the long awaited news came instead from a doctor -- whose name I ashamedly cannot remember -- as he tried consoling my post preterm delivery tears with the words 'he's doing great' and was probably a little perplexed when his use of a gender-specific pronoun only made me cry harder.  Nothing had gone as expected, and this was the icing on my shocked and overwhelmed cake.  

With our second, we were determined for things to go drastically different (i.e. normally) and somehow I felt that I could take some semblance of control over my previously uncooperative reproductive system by learning the baby's gender in advance.  

We had a nice little party with our closest friends and family where I insisted everyone guess at the gender before the big reveal.  By wrapping my ponytail in a pink bandanna and snatching up an un-inflated pink balloon, I found myself both outnumbered by our party guests and also wrong.    

This is how I look when I am wrong.

My friend who had been given the sealed envelope from the ultrasound tech and subsequently poked holes in all the pink balloons, gave me an apologetic smile as the air seeped pathetically from my pink balloon.  The millisecond of disappointment I felt stemmed (yes, it happened) less from learning it was another boy and more from my genetic predisposition that lends me to hating being proven wrong.  

Still, I quickly got excited at the prospect of having two boys who would grow up together so close in age.  I am, after all, a 'good mother to boys.' The word 'princess' frankly makes my blood boil a little and these days, I apply makeup about as often as I change the oil in my car.  I enjoy wrestling with my boys and have a low tolerance for tea parties (pretend, political, or otherwise).  As a child, I once openly declared my disgust for my growing collection of 'kitchen sets,' tore the wallpaper filled with tiny pink hearts from my bedroom walls as soon as I had the chance, and have since become a woman who can barely boil water properly.  It's true.  I am probably a better mom to boys than I would be to girls. 

But that doesn't mean I would decide to negotiate a baby trade with some other expecting woman if this one turns out to be female.  Sure, I would probably experience a whole new level of anxiety and maybe arrange for an extended vacation that could be taken alone in 15 years when the kid subsequently becomes the monster that is a hormonal 15-year-old girl (take it from me, I was no picnic at that age). 

Come to think of it, I'm not crazy about teenage boys either.  I think I'll book that trip either way.  

Still, I can't help but think it would also be kinda great to accept the challenge of raising a strong, smart, confident woman in a world that seems to favor empty-headed stick-figures with boobs.  

So at yesterday's routine biweekly lady-part check up, the ultrasound tech casually asked if we already knew the gender.  When we responded in the negative, she asked if we'd like to know.  I had convinced myself they would save that info for our official 'anatomy scan' scheduled in a couple weeks, so I just stammered for a minute or two before accepting her offer, given she would just write it down and seal it in an envelope.

So now we have this envelope.  
"I know something you don't know!" 
--Mean Envelope

At one point early in my last pregnancy, I honestly thought the gender of our second child would determine whether or not we would have another to 'try for a girl.'  Maybe in part, I felt this because the whole world seems to be rooting for all families to include one of each sex (and no more).  If that were actually the case, that would put a heap-load of pressure on the contents of this envelope.  But at this point, I honestly don't know what I want.  I know it's P.C. and relatively common for an expecting parent to say that the only thing they really care about is that the baby is healthy, while secretly yearning for one gender or the other.  But I think I'm just the right combination of both wishy-washy and paranoid to actually mean that now.  My very sincere answer to the inevitable question: 'are you hoping for a girl this time?' is that I really just want a nice, fat full term baby.   My cervix measured at 4.4cm yesterday (which is good) and that was the most important news we left with.

Still, now that we have the envelope, I am feeling totally preoccupied by it's contents.  We haven't opened it yet, but now I feel pretty certain I can't let it remain a mystery for much longer.  It's not that I'm rooting for one or the other, I'm just curious beyond belief.  Now it's like when someone teases you with their knowledge of a juicy secret that directly involves you. It sits there lifeless in my living room, taunting me.  

Maybe it's a boy.
Maybe it's a girl.

We do know it's a human child and that we will love that kid like crazy either way...at least until he/she turns 15.