Old News: Past Blog Posts

Monday, January 23, 2017

word of the day: Division



 If you don't think our nation has waded into dangerously divided waters, allow me to push aside that big gnarly rock you've been living under and introduce you to this trendy little thing called the Internet.

I will advise you to practice caution if living in that underground bunker has caused you to be easily nauseated by spinning sensations.

It's brutal. It's name-calling and bullying and condescension and defensiveness and aggressive language. Quite frankly, it reflects the usual tone the latest Commander in Chief takes, 140 characters a time. 

Or, perhaps his tone is reflecting ours. 

It's dizzying and upsetting and so we retreat to the safety of our happy little echo-chambers. We block or unfriend those who post a spin that doesn't align with our ideals or our narrative just so we can sleep better at night.

We argue over lives that matter for fuck's sake! People! Listen to yourselves!! 

(SIDENOTE: If you don't understand why saying 'All Lives Matter' out loud makes you sound racist, we can certainly chat about that later).

There are plenty of theories trying make sense of how America became such an angry and confusing place; a place where a sort of lower-case kkk has emerged (thanks Aziz!) and people are somehow so numbed to the hateful rhetoric, we've hardly even noticed. 

Maybe it boils down to our life-lens and the impact our basic levels of security have on those goggles we don each morning. We look out from lenses tinted by our experiences and our support systems; or lack thereof. Some of us feel secure and some of us just don't. Some of us long for a time when we felt more secure and spend lots of energy looking for who to blame for that loss. 

Anyone who's ever been in 5th grade understands how insecurities can breed bullying behavior. Although, in the interest of fairness, a version of bullying can also come in forms of condescension by those who feel their life lens is more accurate and lack the tolerance or patience to gently address ignorance or opposing viewpoints. 

Additionally, to be informed in this complicated era means you need hours to devote to reading, listening, and watching the vast influx of media options. And to be informed in a real and meaningful way means being able to filter through the smelly sludge that is the partisan bull crap that floats around, stinking up real, legitimate news sources
. You have to be able to spot a spin but also an outright falsehood, and that's not easy for a novice consumer or for someone without a lot of extra time to vet their sources. We feed our own narratives with whatever click-bait BS we come across, because nobody is comfortable with cognitive dissonance. Then we cry 'fake news' when something doesn't align. (This is DANGEROUS, but that is a big issue for another post).

Politics are sticky. Policy issues and party platforms will forever be in debate. We all have different experiences and different ideologies and that will forever inspire disagreements and play out in party legislation tipping one way and the other. And that, my friends, is DEMOCRACY. 

However, if we all just stick our fingers in our own ears until we can find refuge in a sound-proof echo-chamber, we are doing a disservice to ourselves and our fellow Americans. We need to be able to speak to each other in a productive way. We need to somehow find a way to step across this deep divide and start talking civilly to each other. Treating opposing viewpoints with respect and engaging in honest and dignified debate is really the only way we can come to reasonable conclusions on how to move forward. 

In the days after an inauguration address where the incoming president has painted our country as a bleak and deeply damaged place and doesn't appear to give much play to healing our great divides. In contrast to the apparent agenda of our new leader, we, as citizens need to find it in ourselves to knock down a few walls and build some bridges. 

I was fortunate to overhear such articulate discourse very recently and I was inspired. I have vowed personally to block less and engage more. But, I am setting some ground rules for myself. I want to be effective and also respectful. It is my hope that I can articulate myself and my feelings but also try to take something away from this experiment in civil discourse. 


Here are the ground rules I have come up with thus far: 

  1. Listen WELL and with a neutral ear. Don't let your biases get in the way of hearing what the other speaker is saying. Don't dismiss the alternate viewpoint, try to understand it.
  2. Don't make it personal. Attacking the person instead of the idea only evokes anger and shuts down my credibility. Also, assuming my verbal adversary is innately evil based on a political affiliation will shut down my ability to engage productively. 
  3. Don't take it personally. Just because someone disagrees with me, doesn't mean they hate me. If I take it that way, it will distract me from the conversation and set me unnecessarily into defensive or offensive mode...and it's almost assuredly an untrue assumption anyways (because I'm so damn likable).
  4. Don't be afraid to be uncomfortable. These are squirm-in-your-seat sort of topics. Be ready to squirm a little. 
  5. Watch out for broad generalizations and stereotyping. Labeling my conversation mate was a 'lib-tard' or a 'conservative knuckle-dragger' is counterproductive and mean-spirited.
  6. Fact check and site only credible sources (NOTE: the 'mainstream media' will always carry greater creidibility than that blog post your cousin re-tweeted, even the 'liberal media' and yes, even Fox News). 
  7. Find the common ground. It's there. We just need to unearth it. 
  8. Take caution inside my happy echo-chamber. If I see someone crossing the line or propagating false intel, speak up. We need to raise the bar here.
  9. Be willing to step outside my own experiences to understand his or hers. If we can't kick our own shoes off for a minute, we'll never understand how someone else's might feel. NOTE: my shoes have always been fairly sensible and comfortable, so I can't assume that to be the case with everyone. 
  10. Be passionate, but don't lose my cool. If my talking buddy sees I care, that's a perk. But if they see I'm hysterical, it will work against me. 
  11. Avoid snark. This one is gonna be tough, so I bolded it. Still, if I want to be taken seriously, I suppose I'll have to act like an adult. It's too bad too, because in college I Minored in Smart-Ass Comments.
  12. Be open to learning something new (but be sure to have healthy criticism, use good judgement, and fact-check!!). Guess what, I don't know everything, and neither do you. If you're currently thinking 'you don't know me, I do know everything!' Then stop reading and Google 'Dunning-Kruger Effect' before you read even one more word of this post...I'll wait.
  13. Remember, we may disagree with how to get there, or what it looks like exactly; but we are all ultimately rooting for our nation's success. If America loses, we all lose. 

I pledge to stick with this list. I vow to spend less time hiding out in my happy little private like-thinking groups and more time engaging with those people on he other side of the great divide. And I promise to do it with dignity.

Finally, in an effort to end on a note of levity, here are some things I believe we can all completely agree upon without hesitation:

  1. Calliou is a devil spawn.
  2. Taco Bell is essentially an endless combination of 4-5 basic ingredients and only good at 2am; and even then, only if you're as inebriated as the kids working the drive thru.  
  3. Matching socks and folding fitted sheets are tasks equally suited to drive a person into a clinical state of lunacy.
  4. Everything is better battered and fried.
  5. Cable prices are bullshit. 
  6. Bacon.
  7. Social media felt a lot friendlier when it was mostly just people sharing cat videos. 
  8. Something like 1 in 3 adults 'doesn't drink tequila anymore' because 'of that one time back in college.'
  9. If you're a working parent with young children, you have definitely spent at least day at work unknowingly wearing your child's boogers smeared across a sleeve or pant leg. 
  10. Thin crust pizza is an utter waste of time......

.....I stand firmly on that last one, even if it gets me killed someday. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

word of the day: Feminism

Wikipedia, in it's infinite wisdom, tells us that the word 'feminist' may be traced back to 1837, when a French philosopher and (unsurprisingly) socialist coined the phrase. It took the better part of a century to swim across the pond to these United States where a bunch of wealthy white ladies adopted it by climbing into white dresses and mustering up the audacity to demand the right to participate in our democracy. 


Over the course of the next century, women found their shoes (sensible flats) and clawed their way out of the kitchen. By the time my peers and I arrived to represent the very tip of the Millennial iceberg, the idea of a woman going to graduate school and pursuing an actual career didn't seem even the slightest bit crazy. 


Well, we did it. 


Go us. 


Big fat thanks to the baby boomers who burned their bras and made a whole boat-load of people uncomfortable so we could earn almost 80% of a man's salary!! 


Yes, it's progress. 


It is. Obviously, I slipped for a moment there into my smart-ass, sarcasm font, but I am truly grateful for those women who refused to conform; those gals who knew that maybe JUST maybe, lacking a Y chromosome shouldn't disqualify us from enjoying the same sort of basic rights that men enjoy. 


But I am also well aware that the fight of our foremothers is far from ended. 


We judge, shame, and lecture women about their clothing, their actions, their behavior. When an unconscious female is assaulted behind a garbage dumpster, we shudder and bristle and wonder what she did to put herself 'in that position.' We make the most personal and delicate decisions for her by limiting her access to certain medical treatments and claim that her body, because it is capable of creating life, is an open target for legislation. 


We congratulate her for making it into the workforce and reward her with wages amounting to more than 20% less than her male counterparts and then refusing to join the rest of the developed world in offering paid family leave. Not even one stinking day people. 


Oh, you wanted kids too?? 


We use the word 'pussy' to denote weakness and ask each other to 'man up' and 'grow a pair.' Little girls are deemed bossy and ushered gently away from STEM curriculum; their confidence battered by society openly rewarding 'cute,' but brainless behavior.   


Indeed, from the day she is born, we coo over a little girl's appearance and by the time she reaches puberty; she's learned to despise her reflection. She will stand cautiously in front of a mirror and contort her body in uncomfortable angles; grimly noting the areas that don't reflect the billboards and magazine covers and all the other images bombarding her as the impossible gold standard. She will learn that her value can be rated on a 10-scale and her worth is tied very directly to the number printed on the label of her pants and blinking back at her from the bathroom scale.


And to decide one day to embrace the feminist movement? That my friends, is a complex and somehow divisive sort of move to make. Women with great success stand at podiums and denounce this movement. They seem to happily embrace the fruits of their laboring predecessors; but can't seem to stand the thought of embracing the disruptive nature necessary to enable those changes. For reasons not totally clear, they scrunch their noses at the idea of pressing further the cause of ending sexism and sex discrimination (bell hooks). Perhaps it's just easier to let the waters calm and accept that females are indeed the weaker sex; better than causing waves that might draw attention to those dark insecurities which were handed out like candy to grade schoolers and then took firm root before high school graduation. 


Men, white men in particular, may cringe at the idea that the feminist movement should even exist. Nobody wants to be labeled the 'bad guy,' and it sure does suck to be told that you have been afforded every privilege but somehow still didn't conquer the world. Likewise, to discredit their accomplishments by implying it was all an accident of genetics is just as unfair as denigrating women for their gender. Also, where's their movement? A club promoting the advancement of white men? Pretty sure we all know what happens when that sort of thing gathers any sort of momentum. Yup, it's a lot of pressure to be on the team favored to win. It's a lonely place and nobody is picking up a poster board and marching down the street in your honor (at least nobody who isn't hiding behind a white hood and looking for trouble). 


Sure, historically men haven't always been the most gracious winners. But it's certainly arguable that the sense of entitlement rewarded to boys at birth is not evenly distributed among all men. My personal experience has been that most men are gracious and humble and at least marginally empathetic. The men in my life for the most part haven't bullied or condescended and wouldn't dream to openly practice misogyny; they instead stand firmly against it in most cases. 


But I am fully aware that this is not always the case. And having respectable and honorable men in the world does not negate systemic sexism. It does not un-assault countless women, many of whom were too afraid to even report the violence or violation. It does not solve the issues of equal pay or equal representation in our elected offices. Having reputable and decent men in the world does not undo the damage that the media has inflicted upon the collective female body image. 


So having men in the world who are willing to try and understand a women's complicated perspective doesn't mean the problem is solved; but it does mean the problem MAY someday, be solved or at least, be less of a problem. 


One could say the same for those women who cannot bring themselves to be called 'feminists.' Indeed, there are plenty of women who stick firmly in their space and are totally contented with the world as it is. They may scoff at the very notion of feminism; calling out 'crybabies' and 'liberal snowflakes' and paling at the idea of a pro-choice agenda; believing also that we've come far enough and it's best to let well-enough alone. 


It's a movement that is living and breathing and ever-evolving. It will be met with resistance and criticism until the end of time I suspect. It's a movement I didn't personally see as very important until just recently, when I saw that it was so greatly threatened. 


And now? We March. 


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Lessons From The Potty


I had a lot of misconceptions about motherhood. I thought I would never hand a smart phone to a 2-year-old and tell him to get lost. I never expected that the soundtrack of my home life would be an intermittent chorus of screams on par with what I imagine would rival the collapse of a crowded building or maybe the Zombie Apocalypse. 


I ignorantly believed our children would eat whatever they were served; and I never once imagined one day I would find myself preparing my four-year-old his 12th peanut butter-cheese stick roll-up of the week. 


As the realities of parenthood quickly set in, I realized that guiding a very small human to appreciate the joys of bowel and bladder control would likely be nothing short of a total nightmare. Having already been tasked with the unpleasant burden of welcoming two younger siblings into his home, our oldest was well past his 3rd birthday before we sat down and studied him carefully for any small signs of 'readiness' to use the toilet.  


There were none. 


He happily traipsed about in poopy diapers and gave us the stink eye whenever we suggested a visit with the potty. He was unimpressed with the concept of underpants and was totally unfazed by bribery of all sorts. 


So months passed with half-hearted attempts, cycling through various 'foolproof' strategies. Soon enough, our oldest's 4th birthday looming ever closer on the horizon, little brother hopped in on the action and we doubled down; me inspired, having sat patiently though a lecture on the topic, furiously scribbling notes, collecting literature, and asking questions. 


This renewed effort coincided brilliantly with our decision to embark on a major home renovation. 


Step one: demolish the bathroom. 


From there, things were at best 'inconsistent' and at worst, quite accurately described as a 'shit show'; Suffice to say, the months following this brave/incredibly foolish move were a blurry, tiresome parade of victories and failures and endless laundry.


Having now spent the better part of two years in some phase of 'potty training,' I am 100% certain of exactly nothing on the topic. And so, in the spirit of having learned essentially nothing from my experiences, I will now share my advice to those of you who may someday be embarking on this wet and smelly journey, to those of you who have already killed it and don't know what all the fuss is about, and to those readers who would sooner toilet train a baboon than attempt to potty train a toddler. 


Grab a pen people, this is invaluable stuff:


LESSON #1:  Don't listen to anyone


Seriously. Turn off your phone. Disconnect your Internet. Literally walk in the opposite direction if you happen to see anyone (ANYONE) approaching you on the street. If you happen to find yourself stuck in the unfortunate circumstance of being within earshot of another adult, stick your fingers in your ears and start humming as loudly as humanly possible, then RUN. 


See, once the world catches wind of your endeavor, you will be SHOWERED with unwanted advice. And believe me, the would-be advisor's qualifications mean nothing. Take me, for example, I just spent several paragraphs proving to you how inept I have been in avoiding soiled underpants and somehow you are STILL reading this post  


Just because some lady on the checkout line's now 47-year-old son quit wetting himself after she took him to a Shaman and drizzled honey on his earlobes doesn't mean that I should buy a plane ticket to South America and stop off at the grocery store on the way back. 


LESSON #2:  Don't fool yourself, you're not running this show.


If you're currently parenting an average or even slightly better than average child, this is a lesson you've likely already learned. I don't care how much Law and Order you're unleashing upon that poor little rugrat; you simply cannot take credit for how things unfold from day to day. This extends to a number of things; the least of which is when that kid decides to quit crapping in his or her Disney Junior brand underpants. If your little ray of sunshine tossed her diapers out the window at 15 months: congratulations and guess what? You're raising a freak of nature and it's HER success, not yours, so spare yourself the nerve injury and quit patting yourself on the back. 


LESSON #3:  Bribery is just an ugly term for positive reward system, so hop off your moral high horse and just flipping go for it.


I have shamelessly offered the following items as 'positive rewards' for one or more of my children when they just couldn't be otherwise bothered to interrupt their day to have a bowel movement. 


  1. Chocolate 
  2. Candy
  3. Crackers 
  4. My phone
  5. My husband's phone 
  6. iPads
  7. Special designated 'potty toys' picked out for exclusive use on the crapper.
  8. Coffee


Note: my gut is telling me that this is not a totally inclusive list, there were probably more shameful things offered which I have already suppressed. 



LESSON #4:  It will happen


Just when you think you couldn't possibly do another load of soiled pants without losing your mind completely; you'll find yourself happily driving to Toys R Us to pick up a coveted toy as the ultimate reward for '7 days, no accidents.' Now, I wish I could say that was that; no more boo boo in the laundry. But alas....



LESSON # 5: All kids are different 


Once our oldest got over his apparently debilitating fear of what horrors might befall him if he took a moment away from his play to visit the toilet; he just flipped a switch. It happened almost literally overnight. Suddenly, the kid was deemed 'potty trained.' And it was just in time. This was shortly after his 4th birthday, which was when I was expecting to receive a letter from the Mom Police informing me that having an incontinent 4-year-old was grounds for dismissal from parenthood. 


Our 3-year-old, however, was a totally different story. This came as zero shock to us, since the kid has been charting new parenting territory for us since the minute he arrived. He earned his 'potty toy' months ago, after we pretty much literally dangled it over his head for 7 days straight, essentially relying on coercion to drag him on out of diapers. He's calculating like that, the kid played us. Since that time, we expect at least 1-2 accidents a week and it still surprises me when he actually volunteers to visit the bathroom without first engaging in a 10 minute negotiation process. 


#WeDoNegotiateWithTerrorists


And so, I leave you with this parting thought, it's in response to an adage I've heard on endless occasions and one that always makes me chuckle a little: 


Well, they won't go to college in diapers


Why do I chuckle? Because I work closely with the geriatric population and guess what people, we all pretty much end up BACK in diapers eventually anyways....


🤦🏻‍♀️


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

a letter to my boys: regarding a great man

Dear Boys,


You are happy tonight because we are allowing an extra 30 minutes of screens. This is made possible because a great man is addressing the nation and the current state of our cable-boycott/streaming TV doesn't presently allow us the ability to pause live television. He is great because he is instantly wagging a finger to silence those in the crowd who began to 'boo' at the mention of our next President. He is great because he is thoughtful in his words. He is great because he has boundless and blatant respect and honor for the women in his life and in this nation; noting that his girls are indeed both 'beautiful and smart' but then acknowledging the greater importance of also being kind, thoughtful, and passionate. He is great because he understands that the world is a complicated and nuanced, and that we are 'all in this together, and we rise and fall as one.'  He is great because he doesn't just tout his accomplishments but he also acknowledges his failures and shortcomings and learns from his mistakes. He is great because he cares deeply for the people in this country, giving all of us love and respect. He is great because he would never dream to single out or demean or humiliate a person or group of people. He is great because he consistently rises above the bleak ugliness that has been flung at and around him, and sometimes at each other in his name. He is great because he is a student of history, and he understands that we often stand in the same places we've already been and we must learn from yesterday to move on this time with greater success. He is great because he is begging us to stand together and see ourselves in each other. He is great because he acknowledges our desire to retreat into our own 'bubbles' of sameness and security; accepting only 'information that fits our opinions' but asks us to come out and open our hearts to residents of different bubbles. He is great because he understands we need to welcome new information that challenges our own opinions and that 'science and reason matter' in order to grow and succeed. He is great because he calls out hypocrisy, even when it implicates his own party. He is great because he sees our nation's true enemies, and one of those enemies is 'an intolerance of dissent and free thought.' 


He is great because he is gracious and sincerely humble. He is great because he knows that 'democracy can buckle in the face of fear' and 'we must guard against the values that make us who we are.' He is great because he understands that we cannot discriminate against a greater group because of the horrific acts of a few. He is great because he understands the power of fear and the threat it poses: 'Let's be vigilant, but not afraid.' He is great because he notes that 'our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.'  He is great because he understands that government works best when lawmakers 'cater to common sense and not rigid extremes.' 


He is great because he energizes and inspires and he challenges us to 'accept the responsibility of citizenship.'


His politics may not align with everyone's; indeed, they come in conflict with the politics of many.  But to have a man with such enormous class, dignity, and grace lead us and then leave us with such a powerful sense of optimism and encouragement is such an honor and one we should all acknowledge.


I will not spoil the tone of this letter by providing a comparison to our next President. I will instead leave you with this brief concluding thought: 


There will be people in your life that you will be driven to emulate. There will be some draw, some nugget of that person's personality that will peak your interest and engage you. I don't expect you to find your mentor in a former President who left office before you were out of preschool; but I hope there continue to be men and women like him who stand in front of giant crowds to inspire us to be better; and that they inspire you to be better. 


I love you. 

Now turn off those damn iPads and go to bed. 


Love, 

Mommy




Saturday, January 7, 2017

resolutions

New Years Resolutions: 2017


...as told by a 34-year-old and her 4-year-old, 3-year-old, and 2-year-old boys.


Resolution #1:

34 y/o: Eat fewer processed foods, less sugar.

4 y/o: Eat essentially only processed foods and sugar; but only if cut in triangles, no squares; wait, no, ALL TOGETHER!!

3 y/o: Eat maybe every other day or every third day; alternate between refusing meat and refusing carbs.

2 y/o: Stand in the middle of the kitchen and scream 'chocolate!!' until passing out.


Resolution #2:

34 y/o: Be more spiritual, less skeptical of religion. 

4 y/o: Choose to say my very first curse word ever within earshot of grandma.

3 y/o: Embrace a variety of organized religions and cultures. Alternate sing-shouting between Jungle BellsFeliz Navidad, and Dreidel Dreidel from the backseat

2 y/o: Spend bi-annual visits to church being man-handled into submission for 60 minutes, making mama feel less spiritually revitalized and more like she just finished a crossfit workout. 


Resolution #3:

34 y/o: Be more present, loving, and patient.

4 y/o: Be more hilarious, enthusiastic, and slightly more oblivious.

3 y/o: Be more sensitive, curious, and charming.

2 y/o: Be more demanding, aggressive, and adorable.


Resolution #4:

34 y/o: Be more present, loving, and patient.

4 y/o: Be more hilarious, enthusiastic, and slightly more oblivious.

3 y/o: Be more sensitive, curious, and charming.

2 y/o: Be more demanding, aggressive, and adorable.


Resolution #5:

34 y/o: Be more accepting and less critical of my appearance.

4 y/o: Wear my underpants backwards and not apologize for it.

3 y/o: Occasionally poke mommy's tummy and ask if there's a baby in there. Keep that lady on her toes.

2 y/o: Run around stark naked whenever possible. Point at belly command.


Monday, January 2, 2017

word of the day: 1

Grey.

That post-holiday feeling; manifested in the Midwest sky and splattered with non-committal winter rain. 2016 in the rear view mirror and the grocery stores action-packed with shopping carts filled with New Year's resolutions. 

The two-year-old, awake before 7 in spite of recent late bedtimes; demanding to plug the 'lights!' still coiled around the bannister along with faux evergreen that sheds it's needles onto the wood steps.  

The lights will soon be stashed in basements and garages and the light is fading fast from the eyes of exhausted adults returning to work for another year of what we hope to be a better version of last year. 

The light is strong though, in the wide and wondering blue and green eyes of our boys. They still jump and land on two feet, arms flailing happily at their sides for no reason other than the possibility of 'chocolate!' They eagerly ask 'what comes after night-night?' eagerly, enthusiasm not waned at all by the idea that soon it will be school and work and mundaneness. 

I take that light with me on an afternoon run, splashing through puddles with another glow that is the happy company of friends who somehow share my willingness to traipse through the wet winter weather and laugh at ourselves.