Thursday, August 28, 2014

"Killing Time"

(source: The Firearm Blog)
Let me make sure I have this straight:
Those who are against gun control of any kind, the NRA folk, say that guns don't kill people, only people kill people. Ok. That says to me that it is the people who use the guns improperly who are to be held responsible. Is that right? Ok. BUT in cases like this most recent one in which a 9 year old CHILD is put in control of a fully automatic Uzi (an Israeli open-bolt, blowback-operated submachine gun), all of a sudden, it's "just one of those things" rather than the responsibility of the people who put the gun in her hands. Am I still getting this correct? So, we shouldn't control guns, because it's not the guns that are the problem, it's the people, but when there IS a problem where the gun and the people are involved, we should not blame the people or the gun. Ah, got it. So, essentially, guns are here to stay, so are the dumbasses who put them in the hands of children, and que sera sera. Nobody and nothing is responsible. Check. Now I know. And the more you know...

As a former high school English teacher, I used to examine this poem with my students every year. I'd like to pass it on to you. It's not 100% pertinent to the case of the poor girl whose life will never be the same after suffering this trauma, but it lends itself to further thinking on all the issues at hand.

"Killing Time" by Simon Armitage

Meanwhile, somewhere in the state of Colorado, armed to the teeth with thousands of flowers,
two boys entered the front door of their own high school and for almost four hours
gave floral tributes to fellow students and members of the staff
beginning with red roses strewn among unsuspecting pupils during their lunch hour,
followed by posies of peace lilies and wild orchids.
Most thought the whole show was one elaborate hoax using silk replicas of the real thing, plastic imitations, exquisite practical jokes,
but the flowers were no more fake than you or I,
and were handed out as compliments returned, favors repaid, in good faith, straight from the heart.
No would not be taken for an answer.
Therefore a daffodil was tucked behind the ear of a boy in a baseball hat,
and marigolds and peonies threaded through the hair of those caught on the stairs or spotted along corridors
until every pupil who looked up from behind a desk could expect to be met with at least a petal or a dusting of pollen,
if not an entire daisy chain, or the color-burst of a dozen foxgloves, flowering for all their worth, or a buttonhole to the breast.
Upstairs in the school library, individuals were singled out for special attention:
some were showered with blossom, others wore their blooms like brooches or medallions;
even those who turned their backs or refused point-blank to accept such honors were decorated with buds,
unseasonable fruits and rosettes the same as the others.
By which time a crowd had gathered outside the school,
drawn through suburbia by the rumor of flowers in full bloom, drawn through the air like butterflies to buddleia,
like honey bees to honeysuckle, like hummingbirds dipping their tongues in,
some to soak up such over-exuberance of thought, others to savor the goings-on. Finally, overcome by their own munificence or hay fever,
the flower-boys pinned the last blooms on themselves, somewhat selfishly perhaps,
but had also planned further surprises for those who swept through the aftermath of bloom and buttercup:
garlands and bouquets, planted in lockers and cupboards, timed to erupt either by fate or chance, had somehow been overlooked and missed out.
Experts are now trying to say how two apparently quiet kids from an apple-pie town could get their hands on a veritable rain-forest
of plants and bring down a whole botanical digest of one species or another onto the heads of classmates and teachers,
and where such fascination began, and why it should lead to an outpouring of this nature.
And even though many believe that flowers should be kept in expert hands only, or left to specialists in the field such as florists,
the law of the land dictates that God, guts and gardening made the country what it is today
and for as long as the flower industry can see to it things are staying that way.
What they reckon is this: deny a person the right to carry flowers of his own
and he’s liable to wind up on the business end of a flower somebody else had grown.

As for the two boys, it’s back to the same old debate:
is it something in the mind that grows from birth, like a seed, or is it society that makes a person that kind?

Think on this. Think on the former observations, as well. Get angry. Get angry because there is a little girl who will never be the same because of a bunch of people who exhibited piss-poor judgement and will not be held responsible for said judgement or the actions that took place afterward. Get angry, because hers isn't the first case and likely won't be the last. Get angry, because the NRA is still touting the benefits of and good times to be had by a small child playing with automatic assault weapons. Get angry, because of the hypocrisy of those saying "guns don't kill people, people kill people" are the same ones saying "except for in this, no, this was just an unfortunate accident." Get angry because "a recent ... investigation found that out of 72 cases in 2013 in which kids handling guns accidentally killed themselves or other kids, adults were held criminally liable in only four." (source) Get angry for the myriad other things that are wrong with this scenario and all the other scenarios that happen ALL THE TIME in this country.

Now, do something about it. Act. All that anger means nothing if you don't do something with it. Don't waste that energy. Act. Now.

Monday, August 25, 2014

I've Been Challenged

No, it's not the ice bucket challenge. No, I wouldn't accept that challenge anyway. Yes, I'd be the Scrooge who refuses to waste perfectly good water in an area where we're in a drought, in a world in which people are dying left and right for lack of clean water. Yes, I'd be the one who quietly writes a check and moves on. Though, I will say that, while I DO think ALS is a worthy cause, I'm more apt to donate to other causes, e.g. SUDC research (on behalf of Julie and PatPat), clean drinking water efforts (on behalf of the brothers and sisters of mine in the world who do not have access to what we take for granted), melanoma research (on behalf of my mom), diabetes research (on behalf of my grandpa), and groups dedicated to aiding in supporting and educating on breastfeeding and circumcision (and behalf of my child and all the other children in the world). We all have our causes that matter to us and these are some of mine. I don't tend to get wrapped up in what is fashionable and trendy. I am glad, though, that the ALS challenge has raised awareness and funds. Moving on.

No, this isn't that challenge (it was just my opportunity to speak my tiny piece). No, this is a challenge from my beloved Angie Lewis (see more of her HERE) to list the 10 books that have affected my view on the world. She knows, as many of you do, that books are a passion of mine. I adore everything about them. Everything. So, she challenged me, I accepted, and I'm posting it here for you to see, perhaps consider adding to your "to-read," and maybe even create your own list.

In no particular order (click the title to order from Amazon):

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
2. Hiroshima by John Hersey
3. Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston
4. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
5. An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison
6. The Politics of Breastfeeding by Gabrielle Palmer
7. The Table Where Rich People Sit by Byrd Baylor
8. Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
9. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
10. Knock Yourself Up by Louise Sloan

Dishonorable Mention: I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max (no, I'm not linking you to this, because I hope nobody ever reads this harmful, foul drivel again and I rue the day I took the advice of a former friend that was to read this)

I could write whole posts on each of the above 11 books (though the 11th would be a rather angry one and I'd prefer not to write it), but, for now, I'll refrain and simply steer you toward each. If you've only ever seen the movie of one or two of them, do yourself a favor and read the books now. If you've not yet heard of one of the books, not yet read them, do yourself a favor and head to your library or click the links to order them now. My hope is that they'll touch you as much as they have touched me, change you as much as they have changed me.

Every book I read impacts me in some way or another. These are those that have had the greatest impact. I hope you find yourself being impacted by them, as well. Happy reading, fellow bibliophiles!

30 Things Series #23: My Favorite Holiday

It occurred to me the other day that I'm getting close to the end of the 30 Things My Son Should Know About Me series. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I think I'll save those feelings, unsure though they may be, for a final post at the end. Until then, I give you my favorite holiday and why.

Before you were born and for as far back as I can remember, Thanksgiving was always my favorite holiday. There were no expectations, no obligations, just time with family. Coming from a broken family (no, not every divorced family is "broken," but mine was and still is, pathetically), I never got any time with all my family together, so when even a good portion of my family was near me, I was in heaven.

When I was a kid, I spent Christmas with my mom and whichever part of her family she decided to see that year (always a good time, as well, of course) and Thankgiving was spent with my dad's family. Note, I did not say 'with my dad and his side of the family,' because like we talked about in a previous post, after he got remarried, we never really saw much of him. My brother and I did continue to spend Thanksgiving with our Bray side of the family, though. Grandma Bray, being one of my all-time favorite people ever, was a highlight for me. Any time I get to spend a day in her presence was a good time indeed. I remember my grandpa cutting the turkey. That's a memory my younger cousins missed out on, since he passed away before most of them were born or aware. I got to hang out with my aunts and uncles, my cousins, my beloved grandparents and just be. Sure, there was delicious food (always a bonus!), but I didn't need any reason to love being with my family, laughing and loving. That was my idea of a good day.

I still love Thanksgiving, of course, but it's different now. Not only do I live in another state, so I'm not able to be with my family as often, I also have you and you, my best love, have changed my perspective on, well, most everything, including the holidays. Christmas is now my favorite holiday, because of you. Christmas was always a close second for me, but now, through your eyes, I see it in the most magnificent of ways.

You love Christmas even more than I recall loving it as a child. You love Christmas books, decorations, food, the tree, the anticipation and surprises, and yes, the gifts. Unlike most kids your age (a whopping three years old), you remember every gift and who gave it to you - even months and years later. You're so thoughtful and kind. You make Christmas the most wonderful time of the year, cliche though that may be. Though, like I said, you love the gifts (who doesn't?), you don't make Christmas all about what you get out of it. I've never met a kid like you, certainly not a toddler like you. Maybe that's why I want to give you SO much.

I loathe shopping, in most cases, but shopping for you, especially Christmas shopping for you, makes me positively giddy. I mentally file away all the times during the year that you take an interest in something, that you say you want something, that your eyes light up when you see something cool. I turn those into your gifts. And we drag out those gifts in the best of ways. We open our Christmas Eve eve gifts to each other (consisting of matching Christmas jammies for all three of us, hot cocoa, a holiday movie or two, some popcorn, and a board game) on the 23rd (obviously), the stockings on Christmas Eve, and presents on Christmas morning. Decorations go up right after Thanksgiving, so we get to celebrate for a good, long while and it thrills me to see it thrill you. You, of course, are part of that decorating process. I love a beautiful tree, but it's never been as beautiful as it has since you started participating in buying new ornaments and placing them just right according to your discerning eye. I'm not sure which one of us gets more excited when seeing the goods go up in the stores.

Yes, Christmas has morphed into my favorite holiday. Turns out, though, it's for the same reason that Thanksgiving always was - family. It's just that the family has changed a bit and I wouldn't have it any other way. Here's to many years of merry Christmases with you, sweet, wonderful boy.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

30 Things Series #22: Where Do I See Myself in 5, 10, 15 Years?

I've put this post off in my 30 Things My Son Should Know About Me series. Honestly, I hadn't thought much about it before this came up. Not that I don't have goals, but that my goals aren't really on a timeline as much as they are in the grand scheme of things. I still prefer to think about things this way, but for purposes of this post, I'll put them in chronological order.

In five years, you'll be almost 9 years old. By then, you'll no longer be breastfeeding (what that will be like, I cannot even imagine right now, as you are lying asleep on my breast), you'll no longer need me to walk you to the park when you want to go, you'll no longer need me for a great many things. You'll still need me to love you, listen to you, laugh with you, and guide you by example, though, so in five years' time, I'll still be here with you to do all those things. We'll be gleefully unschooling, learning with and from each other, maintaining our bond and making it stronger day by day. Where will I be in five years? Wherever you are, my sweet.

In ten years, you'll be almost 14 years old. Some days, I cannot imagine you ever being a teenager. Some days, I think you might already be one. We'll still be unschooling. Learning about life and all in includes is no easy feat, so we'll have many years together before you head off into the world and unschool by yourself for the rest of your life. By this point, I would like to have renewed my teaching license and perhaps adjunct at an online high school (for which I can work from home) and/or teach a class at the local community college. Of course, I will need to finish my masters degree(s) before then, so somewhere between the next 5 and 10 years, that'll need to get accomplished, but I'm in no rush. You'll be doing your thing and I'll be doing mine, BUT I'll always be here when you come home and need to talk, ask questions, vent, or test out your budding views on the world. Where will I be in ten years? Here for you, my love.

In fifteen years, you'll be almost 19 years old. By then, you could be doing any number of things - college, work, both, to name but a few options. If I've done my job properly, you'll not need me for most things by that point. I'm guessing you'll think you need me for less than you actually do, but that's yet to be determined and probably quite subjective. I'll be in my mid-50s by then. That seems so far away! What I'd like to do is follow you wherever you go. I'll sleep in a trundle bed pulled out from under your dorm room bed. I'll camp out in a tent in your backyard. I don't care what I have to do, I just want to be by you, because I love you and I like you. Because I respect you, I won't, of course, do any of those things. We'll be spending significantly less time together in fifteen years. Your dad will still be working full-time. I don't particularly want to start a new career just to retire in 10 years' time, so I'll do something part-time. I'll continue as an adjunct faculty member, I'll work at the bookstore (and spend my paycheck on the merchandise), or maybe I'll open that little bookstore/coffee shop of my own that I've always wanted only to sell it off when your dad and I are ready to retire and travel the world. I haven't decided on this one yet. I like having options. I'm excited for that freedom. I'm afraid of that freedom, too, though, because I know that freedom will come with a price - missing you desperately. I don't know what I'll be doing, but I know where I'll be in 15 years: a phone call away, my baby.

Whatever the time frame, wherever we are, I will always be right here for you without question, condition, or second-thought. I'm your mama always.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The R-Word and All Its Variations - Stop It

Retard, retarded, tard, libtard, femtard, gotard, meatard, douchetard, fucktard, climatard, celebutard, and more I'm sure you could add, because we've all heard them.

Let's go further and add the words that mean the same as those above: window licker, helmet wearer, short bus, sped, spaz, molasses, and another endless list that pains me to consider.

Stop saying these words. All of them. Have the compassion that mother nature gave a stone and stop it.

Question others when they say these words. Get uncomfortable. Stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. It's worth it. They're worth it.

Why? Well, I know from my countless personal experiences of going round and round with friends, family, and strangers who have repeatedly said these that I'm not the right one to answer this question. I'm clearly not taken seriously. I'm simply the oversensitive, too PC, hippie freak who has to get worked up about something. I'll let these folks tell you why instead.

Let's make the new R-word one we can all use and about which we can all feel good: RESPECT.

Now, go a step even beyond this. I call on you to get involved with Best Buddies International. School aged, adult, in the workforce, online only - whatever your circumstances, YOU can get involved.

If you can rationalize STILL using these words or any like it after seeing all of this, following these links, then best of luck with the karma coming your way. I can't see how that could be the case, though. Don't let me down. Pledge with me to spread the word to end the word. Click HERE to learn more.

Stop. Question others. Share widely.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The 'M' Word: My Miscarriage and Me

Guest Post by Crystal M. Hernandez

Disbelief. Despair. Guilt. These are just a few words to describe what I felt when my doctor said the "M" word: miscarriage.

My husband and I were elated when our pregnancy test came out positive. Our minds and hearts raced with excitement; we're going to have a baby! Immediately, we dutifully started discussing names and researched everything that had to do with pregnancy.

Now the hard part - telling the family. You see, I'm 21 and have been married to my high school sweetheart for two years. Some family members were supportive; my mom took me out to a store and we bought my baby's first blanket. Others, on the other hand, were not so thrilled. I was told my life would be over, no more fun, no parties, only work from here on out. One went so far as to feed me the ol' "babies shouldn't have babies" line. In a way I was scared too, but deep inside my heart had already grown attached to this little miracle. There seemed to be a permanent smile plastered on my face that even their negativity couldn't wipe off.

After verifying the pregnancy with a uterine test at the doctor's, I set up an appointment with an OB/GYN. Two days before the appointment, something went horribly wrong. At 13 weeks, the bleeding was light at first and I didn't worry initially, but it progressively got heavier. I called my OB/GYN (who I haven't even met yet) and he recommended the ER just to be safe. Test after test was showing I was pregnant, but nobody could see the baby. When the ultrasound came in blank, I knew there was trouble. When a very stoic doctor entered the room with not so much as a smile, my heart sank. I was ready, I prepared myself for the worst, and the worst was about to come - she said the "M" word. My entire life shattered before my eyes. It was all I could do to stay standing, my body was cold as ice, my insides boiled with rage. How could this happen to me? My baby...gone. Forever. I would never meet my baby face to face or hear a precious laugh. I would never get the chance to hold, comfort or nurture him/her. Even the words "I'm sorry" pierced through my heart.

(source unknown, please advise if you know)
I felt guilty. In my mind, it was all my fault; my body didn't do its job. My body rejected a miracle, my body is not good enough. All these thoughts of "why?" and "what's wrong with me?" plagued me. When I saw the tiny little body parts that were part of what my body rejected, that little head, body, arms, and legs, along with all the blood, I thought it looked like a murder scene. Then, that's how I felt, that my body had murdered my baby. I was wracked with guilt.

(Pregnancy Loss Statistic Shirt by BornToHeaven on Etsy)

I have now experienced two miscarriages (a second at 10 weeks). Let me tell you, it does not get any easier. Unfortunately talking about miscarriage is taboo in our society. Why should we keep quiet? Why suffer in the dark pit of silence rather than speak up? I'll tell you why: because it's easier. It's easier than reliving the pain each time you tell the story. And it's easier on everyone else, because they don't know what to say or feel they're saying the wrong thing (and sometimes they are). But, I've learned that only by releasing all emotions that go with a miscarriage can you truly be free. Let's not suffer in silence, let's release ourselves from the shackles of despair.

Crystal is a former student of mine, so she has a special place in my heart.
She says about herself, "I was born and raised in Arizona. My parents divorced when I was just six years old, but were always a great support for me. I quickly learned independence, and what it looks like to struggle. That, I believe, is what helped me overcome the struggle with miscarriage. Along with my wonderfully understanding and compassionate husband, I am currently living a fast-paced, on-the-go kind of life without the constant pit in my stomach, hazy mind, and the little voice of despair occupying my every thought. I feel happy and have accepted these events for what they are. No, I can't control what happened, but I CAN control MY life."

Monday, August 11, 2014

First Visit to the Dentist

Zen Son is going to be four in October. He has not yet been to the dentist. Yes, I am aware that the "rule" is to take your child to the dentist every 6 months starting at age 1, but there is NO way on earth that would've been a positive experience for my son at that age. Brushing teeth is not his favorite thing and I have to get VERY creative each day to get it done. I have gotten quite good at doing impressions of his favorite characters, animals, or made-up monsters while describing my teeth brushing. His dada isn't even allowed to brush his teeth. Given that our son is extremely wary of strangers, there was just no way that he was going to sit around in a scary chair with a bunch of pointy tools nearby while some stranger in a mask came at his mouth. Understandable, I think.

I don't have anxiety when I go to the dentist. Now, I've had a few traumatic experiences there, but generally, I'm good. I do know those who have severe anxiety, though, and I don't want to create that in my son. Forcing him there before he's ready was, I figured, a good way to make sure he has a lifetime hatred of these visits. So, I chose to wait. We brush, we breastfeed, we keep an eye on things. I feel good about what we've been doing. Now, though, I feel it's time.

So, I set out to find the coolest pediatric dentist I could find in my area who also took our insurance. Thank goodness for Palm Valley Pediatric Dentistry and for my friend who "liked" them on Facebook, thus making it show up in my newsfeed (never thought I'd be grateful for what I normally see as an annoyance). I want to be their patient! I want to sit in their rad dinosaur chairs!
Alas, only my son gets to. Yes, I said "gets to," because after watching a few YouTube videos (as suggested by the Pregnancy and Parenthood: A Natural Perspective community), involving our son in the search for the dentist he liked best, and hyping the rad dino chairs (seriously...I'm going to talk to my dentist about getting those for his office), we are now at the point where my son feels sorry for me that I don't get to go to his dentist. "Aw, I'm sorry, Mama. That stinks. What a bummer for you. Don't worry, you can stand by me and hold my hand." Success!

Below are a couple videos he liked the best:


Now, we just have to keep up the positive hype and methinks we shall have a positive first visit to the dentist. Stay tuned after September 3rd for an update as to how it goes. I'll let you know. I'm hopeful!