Monday, July 28, 2014

Beautiful Me

My beloved Christine Cummings can currently be seen in
"Don't Dress for Dinner" at STAGEStheater in Fullerton, CA
Click here for tickets.
You've seen it - the post going around FB wherein the person posts a collage of five photos that make them feel beautiful and then tag others to do the same. I thought I had successfully avoided it (not because of the beauty issue, but because I'm generally not a fan of those chain letter type posts) until I was recently tagged by a childhood friend. Her collage was a stunner. She is an aunt to three wonderful boys and, as an aunt to three wonderful boys of my own, I can completely relate to her thoughts that she never feels more beautiful than when she is with them. I'd say that's the time I feel second-most beautiful. I feel most beautiful now that I've become my son's mama.

Before becoming a mom, I was toned and taut, I always straightened my hair, I always wore enough makeup to "enhance" my natural beauty, but not overwhelm it. Before becoming a mom, I wore flattering clothes and shoes to match, I always showered, and I brushed, flossed, and rinsed day and night. Before becoming a mom, I wore fresh-scented perfume, strutted when I walked, and always had earrings in my ears.

Now, I have a flabby belly with stretch marks from stem to stern, my hair is currently up in a half-assed ponytail after having fallen asleep with it wet last night (oh, and it's curly...if you have curly hair, you know the horrors of falling asleep with wet hair), and I wear no makeup at all (on the handful of occasions I've worn makeup since my son was born, he gets peeved and spends the day trying to convince me to remove it). Now, I wear clothes that are relatively clean and hole-less and flip-flops, that is, if I wear clothes or shoes at all (on the rare occasion I get dressed, my son immediately asks where we're going), I feel fortunate to get a shower every other day, and feel super on my game when I brush once a day. Now, I wear the scent of peanut butter on my boobs (which my son's peanut butter cheeks transfer to said breasts), I have a child either on my hip or holding my hand as we hop, skip, or jump across a parking lot, and I am fairly certain that's some kind of cereal hanging from my lobe.

And, again, I have never felt more beautiful than I do now. Knowing that my body grew a human being and has successfully nourished and strengthened his body for going on four years now makes me feel beautiful. Knowing that I am available to him for hugs, laughs, and encouragement at all times makes me feel beautiful. Knowing that my muscles, brain, and heart are powerful enough to protect him from all harm whether real or perceived makes me feel beautiful. Knowing that I truly love him without condition and that he knows that makes me feel beautiful. Laughing with him, loving him, learning with him - they all make me feel beautiful. Then, of course, there are the times when he tells me, "Mama, you're a beautiful woman." Ya, that makes me feel beautiful, too.

So, I may not be People magazine's version of beautiful. I may not be in an ad for diet pills anytime soon. I'm not likely to be asked for my phone number by some burly 20 year old. No matter. I am beautiful. I am my son's mama.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Vulnerability and Fear

Last night, I went to orientation for the Arizona Roller Derby league (AZRD). I've been wanting to join roller derby for years, but always feared the pain or having my bones crushed or septum pushed through the back of my know...the usual. I finally got the guts up to go. I was so nervous I could've easily puked. It is exceedingly rare that I get nervous or anxious about anything. I wasn't even concerned about giving birth, for Pete's sake! I was nervous about this...and it was just a silly meeting, not even try-outs!

Turns out, the meeting was great, I want to do it, but finances won't allow for it at the moment. I posted as such on my personal FB page and was immediately met with fundraising ideas. I was at once grateful and uncomfortable. Here's the deep, dark truth of it - when the fundraiser doesn't work, I'm going to feel rejected, unworthy, unimportant.

This is a fear of mine from way back. I tell myself (and others) that when I'm at the store in my hometown and I run into someone I know, I avoid them because I don't care. The honest truth is that I don't want to put myself out there only to discover that the person knows not who I am, that I've been forgotten, that I'm not memorable. (The amount of loathe I hold for this truth is off the charts, but my goal in this blog has always been stark truth, especially when it's uncomfortable, so here I am laying myself bare.) When my blog posts don't get shared (or even read) and my fifteen-thousandth 30 day block goes unnoticed, which the members of the blogging in-crowd get even the most banal posts shared hundreds of times and their first 30 day block gets a petition started and national news coverage due to the outrage and outcry, I feel forgotten, not memorable, not worthy.

So, when a friend says to me, "Amy, if the potato salad guy can get THOUSANDS on his GoFundMe, you can certainly get your derby equipment" and another friend says, "Amy, your karma is good and you deserve this," my only thoughts are, "Ya, but the potato salad guy had a gimmick to make him memorable and I'm not usually the one whose karma comes back to them...ever."

I'm ever-so grateful that my friends care enough about me, heck, that a couple strangers care enough about me, to spend their time, energy, and hard-earned cash on me. I am. On the flip side, I'm waiting for the inevitable. I'm waiting for their plan to fail, not for lack of effort or heart on their part, but because it's me. And I'm not throwing myself a pity party. I'm simply laying out my feelings, fears, and vulnerabilities.

I'm also not writing this in effort to subversively and manipulatively ask for donations. I'm not linking anything or giving away any identifying information. It's not about that.

It's just about feelings. I am going to be humiliated when this doesn't work. Potato-salad-guy can raise thousands and I won't even be able to meet a goal of a few hundred. So, truth is, that's why I didn't want to try. Yes, I have a ridiculous level of pride that won't allow me to ask for loans when I need financial assistance. That's certainly part of my discomfort. The larger part, though, is that if I tried to raise funds and couldn't, I would feel humiliated, rejected, unworthy, unimportant, unmemorable, and humiliated (Did I mention that twice? By design...).

Here I am writing mostly to my friends, saying, first and foremost, "Thank you." Thank you from the depths of my heart. I have lovely friends and for you all I am truly grateful. Here I am writing also to the few strangers who have already donated, saying, "Thank you." You are the ones building up your good karma. That you'd do that for me amazes me. Here I am writing to those who avoid me in the store, who don't miss me at reunions (family, school, or otherwise), who have forgotten me, saying, "I see you. I see you and I'm simply rejecting you before you can reject me." Here I am writing to those who feel as I do, saying, "You are not alone. I certainly don't think we're in the healthiest head space in this regard, but you're not alone and I hope that is comforting to at least one of you."

This whole vulnerability thing really sucks sometimes.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Beat the Heat with a Kid Wash

I posted this original link (here) to my personal FB feed, saying I was going to make it for my son. A friend of mind said she wanted to do something like it, but didn't think she was as handy as I am. I'm here to tell you (and her), this requires very little handiness. You, too, can make this radness!

Even if you mess up, like I did, it's easily fixed with a little vision (and, perhaps, another trip...or the hardware store). That I messed up and had to modify, along with making some improvements for the sake of sturdiness, is the reason for me writing this post and making new instructions, as opposed to just linking to the original post (though, that one's awesome, obviously).

Let's get crackin'!

First, you'll need to hit the hardware store and your garage to gather the following supplies:
12 10' pieces of 3/4" PVC
15 3/4" PVC slip T-joints
7 3/4" PVC slip elbow joints
4 3/4" PVC slip cross joints
4 3/4" PVC slip caps
1 3/4" PVC slip hose connector
PVC primer
PVC glue
1/16" drill bit
tape measure
hacksaw or PVC cutter
decoration (pool noodles, nylon rope, sponges, plastic table cloth cut into strips...go crazy)

Now, for the tedious part - the cutting. Measure out your pieces and cut them up. Make sure to mark them as you go, because you are going to have a LOT of pieces at the end and they're all going to run together at some point. This is not a fun part of the project, but, daunting though it may seem, it goes fairly quickly and will only make you swear a couple of times.

The fun part is here - assembly. Ok, well, I think this is the fun part anyway. Use this picture as a map.
These are slip joints, so they'll easily slide right onto one another. The original link calls for PVC glue just at the junction where the hose adapter meets one of the T-joints. However, the original link also says that the first try with water caused it to blow apart everywhere due to water pressure. There was no way I was going to spend all that time sawing and fitting to just have it break apart. As such, I took the time to prime and glue each piece. Now, this also means I won't be able to take it apart and store it when not in use. For me, this isn't an issue, as we are in central Arizona and, even if we want it moved, it's light enough to shift to the side of the house out of sight. I'd rather have the sturdiness than have to take it apart and put back together every season. It's just a matter of personal preference. Do not use the primer and glue anywhere you want to keep pretty, because you will spill, drip, and slop.

Once you've glued, fitted, and assembled, you get to drill the water holes. There's no right or wrong here. Just have at it. I put some so that the water would squirt down from the 3' pieces, some that would squirt inward from the vertical pieces, some that would squirt inward from the horizontal pieces, and even a couple on the tops of the caps in the middle of the wash. Those holes will seem teeny, but, believe you me, they'll kick out the water, so go crazy and have fun!

The final part is the decoration. The only rule is to not cover the holes you made. Other than that, decorate away! You can see I hung some noodles, wrapped some noodles, hung sponges, and tied strips of tablecloth. I just wanted it to look and feel fun as my son ran through it. Your doesn't have to look like mine. I'd sure love to see what yours DOES look like, though, so, by all means, leave me a comment with a picture of your finished product. Most importantly, enjoy it. We sure do!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tail Docking, Ear Cropping, and Circumcision - A Comparison

What is ...?

"... is the intentional removal of a portion of a ...."

"One method involves putting a ligature around the ..., which cuts off the blood supply and causes the ... to fall off in a matter of days. This is the method used by many ...

The other method is amputation with either surgical scissors or a scalpel."

"... is generally done on two- to 10-day-old ..., without anesthesia. The cut goes through skin [and] nerve endings."

Arguments FOR...

"Today, arguments in favor of ... generally fall into two categories:

To prevent injury and infection ...
To maintain ... standards"

"Proponents believe very young ... do not feel pain during .... They believe ... are less developed than other ... at birth, with less sensitive nervous systems."

"Proponents also cite hygiene problems in ... as a reason for ..."

"The argument for ... is a reduction in ... infections..."

"Mislabeling these procedures as 'cosmetic' is a severe mischaracterization that connotes a lack of respect and knowledge of history..."

"..., as prescribed in certain ... standards, are acceptable practices integral to defining and preserving ... character, enhancing good health, and preventing injuries..."

Arguments AGAINST...

"The practice of ... has come under much closer scrutiny in the U.S. recently. We’re late to the game, as these procedures have been restricted or banned entirely in many European countries for years."

"Opponents question the necessity for these cosmetic alterations and voice concern for the pain and suffering of the ... that undergo the procedures."

"A ... have lots of nerve endings, and the pain this surgery would cause without anesthesia is extreme."

"... involves the surgical removal of around two-thirds of the .... Pain medication is not routinely given after a ..."

"... can also disfigure the ..., leaving them scarred."

"... for cosmetic reasons is neither medically advisable nor beneficial to ..."

"Just as there is a use and purpose for every organ and appendage you were born with, so it is with your ..."

"If ... weren’t important to ..., they would have been born without them."

"There is also a risk of formation of painful neuroma (nerve tissue scarring) in the stump of a ..."

"... for cosmetic reasons are not medically indicated nor of benefit to the patient. These procedures cause pain and distress, and, as with all surgical procedures, are accompanied by inherent risks of anesthesia, blood loss and infection..."

So, which one is which? Trick question. They all, every one of them, refer to ALL THREE procedures. These quotes are from an article on tail docking and ear cropping (linked below), BUT you'll find ALL the same numbers and arguments regarding circumcision of infants (also linked below). Yes, really.

I'd say that by circumcising your son, you're treating him no better than a common animal, but there's nothing OK about treating animals this way either. Stop it. Not your body (human or otherwise), not your choice.

Now, go the step further. Don't just "like" this article in your news or Twitter feed. Don't just comment anonymously on the blog. Share. Share with everyone you know. They don't have to be pet owners or pregnant women. Share in the hopes that they'll share and they'll share and and and... Share to do your part to change the world and protect those who cannot protect themselves.

Several articles on infant circumcision can be found here.

Full article on ear cropping and tail docking can be found here.

Monday, July 14, 2014


We all remember things based on a bevy of factors such as our pasts, feelings, presence in the moment, even our physical senses. You and I can be side by side in the exact same situation and have starkly contrasting memories when we reminisce years down the road. Further, our memories of childhood, for example, are memories of a child, of course, that we may see differently as adults, but that are still our memories nevertheless. That doesn't mean one of us is right or wrong, just that we recall differently. This also doesn't mean one person's recollection should be discounted because it differs from the other's.

Let me offer an example of that which I am writing, if I may. A friend of mine from high school recounted a story to me a few years ago. According to her, she, I, and another of our friends went to a restaurant together, but the other friend and I jokingly left her out of the car and alone in the parking lot as we left. Honestly, I have tried and tried, but have no conscious memory of this at all. She does. Why? A man approached her int he parking lot and scared the snot out of her. She remembers, because it was stamped into her brain with the indelible black ink of fear. I don't, if I were to guess, for two reasons: one, because I saw it as a harmless joke when we did it and two, because afterward, when she got into the car crying, I felt incredible guilt at having hurt and frightened a good friend. Here is the important part: I do not doubt the veracity of her story whatsoever. Nor do I dismiss her feelings. I have apologized since hearing it and will continue to express my regret regardless of whether or not I recall the action for which I am remorseful. She says I hurt her, so I did. I care about her, so I care about her feelings.

She doesn't have a revisionist memory, because it differs from mine. She has HER memory. I do not have a revisionist memory, because I recall things from my childhood that others found less important or would rather forget. I have MY memory. I anticipate my son having memories from this time and beyond in his childhood that I may not remember in the future. What seems negligible to me right now, may be of the utmost importance to him. I try to take everything important to him now as important to me, because HE is important to me, but I know that there have been and will continue to be times that I fail, simply by nature of my fallible humanness. When he brings to me memories of his past, of our pasts together, I will listen, I will validate, I will empathize, and, if necessary and possible, I will apologize and rectify. What is important to my son is important to me. What is important to me is to not dismiss or negate him simply because I failed in some way, big or small. Finally, what I vow is to never tell him that his experiences did not happen, it's just his "revisionist memory," and that he needs to simply get over it and move on. Never. I know that that feels like. I vow to learn from that mistake others have made.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Let Me Count the Ways

(I love thee enough to post a photo with bedhead and puffy sleep eyes)
Mama's Sonnet #36

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee more than getting rid of Dada's old clothes
More than drinking from a (lead- free) hose
More than nunus*, toast, burritos, and cheese
I love thee more than laughing so hard I have to pee(s)
More than sewing in a straight line without tension issues
Even more than a fruitful nose blow into a handful of tissues
I love thee more than Atticus,   George, and Lenny from my books
I love thee more than a room full of award-winning pastry cooks
More than a bubble bath and bed by eight
I love thee more than autumn here in the Grand Canyon state
More than the smell of orange blossoms in my hometown
More than the red curly hairs abundant on your crown
I shall but love thee sleeping, sitting, or jumping up and down.

*nunus = how my son says noodles, how we, consequently, say noodles, and how I imagine we shall forevermore say noodles

Sunday, July 6, 2014

"Dada is a Schmuck", kinda

Zen Son cannot say 'sh' sounds at the beginning of words - they end up as 'f' sounds. No big. Today, Zen Husband and I were moving some furniture and I called him a "schmuck," which Zen Son promptly picked up on and has been his own special way...all day. It. Is. Awesome.