Wednesday, June 8, 2016

PLEASE teach our boys.



The news surrounding the Stanford sexual assault case has had me in knots the last several days. I know this hit the news so hard because of the letter the victim released (that is absolutely gut-wrenching, but brilliant and powerful) and the fact that the judge gave him basically a slap on the hand for such evil behavior. However, I really can’t get past the fact that this assault happened at all. It’s so incredibly common, and happens on every college campus. It’s almost expected.  Think of the lovely SAE boys a couple years ago who were caught on campus using the N-word with glee…the girls on that campus referred to that fraternity SAE as standing for Sexual Assault Expected.  Think of the prep school in New Hampshire where a kid was recently convicted of raping a 15 year old freshman (high school, mind you). It was a tradition at that school for seniors to find a freshman to bang, and there was even a location where it commonly took place. They even had a cute little name for it that I can’t remember, but it was basically a shed. This kind of thing happens ALL THE TIME, but the Stanford one has certainly stuck with me.

WHO IS RAISING THESE BOYS??

I drank a crapload in college. And high school. And after college until I quit entirely. I was in stupid, dangerous situations all the time. I never blacked out, but I have definitely been drunk enough to be totally incapacitated, unable to walk on my own, dizzy, sick, and ridiculously foolish. I had a pair of jeans in college that we named the “vomit jeans”. I’d imagine I don’t need to explain the reason for this in detail, but said jeans earned their moniker over and over and over again. I had jeans that were ripped at the knee, not because it was cool like it is now. I had ripped jeans in 1989 because I fell quite often. I was in so many situations that were insane, and not just at my own college. Marymount, UCSB, Cal, SFSU, UOP. Dozens of bad decisions, and dangerous settings. And as far as sexual assault goes, nothing ever happened to me. This isn’t due to the fact that I was careful and mindful of my surroundings. It isn’t due to the fact that I was a good, self-respecting girl. Nothing bad happened to me because I was lucky as hell. Nothing bad happened to me because I happened to be with boys who understood the words “no” and “stop”. I want to find the parents of all the dumb boys I kissed drunk at parties, and thank them because I was a complete idiot. But no amount of drunkenness and bad judgment ever means that a girl deserves to be violated. EVER.  Alcohol clouds judgment, absolutely. But it doesn’t make you rape people.

There seems to be a culture that encourages seeing females as bodies only. Apparently that’s all we have that is of any value. Women are to be used at will, and that mindset is accepted by so many. When Maddie was in 6th grade, she had twin boy classmates. They’d gone to school together since Kindergarten. The dad was very invested in the notion that these boys were super athletic and would get full scholarships and eventually play pro ball. In the 6th grade, at some school gathering, I overheard the dad talking to him. He told his 12 year old sons to be careful around girls. This was the reason why:  “You have to be careful, because these girls can talk you into anything. Next thing you know, one of them gets knocked up and your chances for a scholarship are ruined.”  THAT was his concern, these evil sirens who suddenly “become” knocked up and could potentially trap his darling boys. It made me absolutely ill. This is also the dad who got his sons a stretch limo for 6th grade promotion. SIXTH GRADE.  It was so completely absurd I still can’t quite get over it. But that was the mindset, they deserved it ALL, limos for accomplishing absolutely nothing, and cautionary tales about potential sluts. This is a mild example, I realize, but it’s a real one. What about maybe not engaging in sexual activity before college, or if they do, taking some goddamn responsibility for it? What about them not hearing that the sun shines out of their ass every day? That they’re sooo special and amazing? How about letting them fail sometimes?

This entitlement parenting has got to stop, you guys. We are raising monsters. They have GOT to understand and accept that they aren't always going to get what they want.

Dads have a very important role to play here. Moms do too, of course, but it’s different when boys hear a message from their father. Males possess a sex drive that we don’t have, and it’s not their fault, God made them that way for a reason. Maddie complains about it all the time, the things she hears from her male peers. “Mom, it’s all they think about! What’s wrong with them?”  Yes, it is all they think about, and there’s nothing wrong with them. They’re teenage boys. But dads are the ones to teach them restraint, and honor, and respect. They are the ones to explain that while it’s natural to be terminally and insanely attracted to girls, they are people too, worthy of human decency. They are the ones who need to be super explicit in explaining exactly what consent is, and what it is NOT. Teach them that humping a unconscious person isn’t “20 minutes of action”.  I’m upset at the leniency of the sentence, but I’m thrilled he was convicted. I only wish the dad had to go too, since he thinks the tragedy here is that his son no longer enjoys his rib eyes.

Our son is only 11, but he has always been good at standing up for other people and shutting down bullying when he sees it happening. He is small for his age, and I worry about him sometimes, but his bravery in this astounds me. Today I talked to him about what happened in an age appropriate way, making sure he understood exactly what rape is. I talked to him about respect, and about protecting the girls he knows. I talked to him about consent, and always making sure that if he ever wants to hug and kiss someone, that's it's okay with them. It was a strange and awkward conversation, and I'm sure Mike will need to follow up. But I wanted to emphasize the heroes, and that THEY are the ones I want him to emulate as a young man. 

The heroes in this story, those two young men who chased down that asshole and held him until the cops came? Just, thank GOD for them! If they hadn’t come along, that kid would have left her there with the trash cans. Passed out and naked in the dark, by herself. Someone else would have found her, or she would have eventually regained consciousness herself, torn apart and totally confused and terrified. And they never would have caught that kid. He would have gotten away with this total atrocity, and he would have done it again. Thank GOD for those guys.  I’ll tell you what, I know a LOT of good guys like them. I can think of kids in high school I’ve worked with who absolutely would have done the same thing. I think of the young men in our youth group at church, and the amazing, upstanding people they are becoming. None of these kids are perfect, that’s what adolescence is for, to make a lot of mistakes under the wings of your family and teachers so they can help you figure it all out. But there is not a single young man I can think of who would ever do such a thing to a girl. In fact, every single one of them would have chased down any evil bastard who did. Some of the kids I know probably would have beat the living crap out of them too, and while I hate violence, that would be okay with me. It’s not enough to teach our boys what not to do. We have to teach them to be the heroes, to stand up for people who can’t do it for themselves (like naked unconscious women laying on the ground by dumpsters). We have to teach them to speak up when the chatter in the locker room becomes out of control and disrespectful. Guys listen to their peers, they need to lead the pack.

When I was 19, I was home from college for the weekend. My best friend Renee and I decided to do our standard "driving around route". Over by our old high school, down by the Rose Bowl, and over to La Canada, a more affluent suburb next to Altadena where we lived. That night, La Canada High was getting ready for their homecoming game, so there were a ton of kids out and about. We were driving behind a kid with a passenger, and we saw him go out of his way to swerve and hit a yellow lab that was in the street. It was truly horrible and I was driving. Renee yelled, "Follow him!" and I did. We followed these kids down where there was a dead end, and I will never forget this:  The driver was laughing. The passenger looked like he had just been kicked in the gut. We yelled, "You just hit that dog!"  We managed to get the license plate, and since there were so many kids around, they knew who the driver was. We called the number on the dog's tag (he lived), and we waited until the police came. This case actually went to court and we testified against the kid. The poor owner of the dog had left the gate open in a rush because she was heading to the hospital because her husband had just had a stroke. The passenger also testified against his friend, saying he made it clear he wanted to hit the dog. The defendant was never in the same room we were, we never got to see him. What we did get to do is hear the mother HOWLING in the next room when they found him guilty. Screaming and crying that he'd never get into law school now, his future was ruined. I remember saying to Renee, "Shouldn't she be more concerned that her son is so twisted that he wanted to hurt an animal for fun?"  La Canada is a wealthy community, and that kid thought he could do anything he wanted to. But guess what? Because WE were watching and chased him, and because his friend was brave enough to testify against him, that little punk-ass learned (I hope) that he can't do whatever he wanted with no repercussions.  We stood up and called him out when we saw someone doing something wrong. I am proud we did that. We were trying to look out for a living creature that was unable to protect itself under the circumstances. 

But that was just a DOG. This young lady who was at Stanford that night is a human person, whose life has been wrecked far beyond three months in county and the inability to enjoy her favorite foods. We can't change what happened, and we can't fix our jacked up justice system overnight. But we CAN make a focused and concerted effort to bring up our boys better than this.

They deserve this from us.




Friday, March 25, 2016

The "Housemate" Years

Disclaimer:

This post may hurt some feelings. I hope it doesn't but this was my experience during this time, and my recollection of it. Nothing bad ever happened to me during this time due to having these folks in my house. I was never abused or mistreated. It was just weird.


A whole lot of shit went down when I was ten years old. I wrote another blog post about 1980 about 6 years ago, but this one is about the living situation that unfolded for me at this time. My parents had been divorced for a number of years, my older sister had been hospitalized at the age of 18, and my brother had gone to live with my father at age 15.  I was 10, and this left my mother and I alone in a beautiful Craftsman house in Pasadena, with three extra rooms. Two actual bedrooms and a closed in sun porch which was almost all windows, the room that had been used as a play room when we were younger.  My mother made the decision to have people come and rent out the vacant rooms. From the age of 10 to 17, at least 11 different people lived in my home with me. These were people my mom knew, or at least had vetted through other people she knew. It wasn't like she put an ad on Craigslist or posted "room for rent" ads on telephone poles. But to me, they were strangers. 

Mom had some practical reasons for this decision. Obviously it would help us financially. She was also gone quite a bit in the evenings with her political interests and organizations, and having other adults in the home means she had de facto babysitters. Years later, I asked her about this decision, and she gave this additional reason: "You and I weren't getting along well during those years and I knew you wouldn't yell at me in front of other people." Wow. Teenage girls are, by definition, wretched creatures. I have one and she yells at me too, on occasion.  My mom wasn't wrong, we weren't getting along and I didn't yell at her in front of them. But hearing this made me feel like I was not a priority, I was just an issue that had to be dealt with. It was an unpleasant variable, that possibility she could come home after a long day and have to deal with a heinous beast for a daughter, so she found a way to make that variable less likely to occur. This part will never make sense to me, the preference to bury it and not deal with the issues head on. She has never been one to relish hashing out emotional stuff, it just isn't her gig. I think that strong expressions of emotion make her uncomfortable, but I often wonder how things may have been different if it had just been us, and if she had tried harder to understand me. I remember how I treated her at times, and it wasn't pretty. I probably could have tried harder to understand her too. That said, I had a lot of legitimate reasons to be upset and confused, and I needed her during this time. This has come to light recently, as I am realizing how much my own daughter needs me. Teenagers need as much, if not more attention as toddlers do. I was very close to my father, and he wasn't without his faults. He made mistakes and we got it all out in the open before he died. As close as I was to my dad, at the end of the day I think teenage girls really need their moms. There were some awesome moments between my mom and I, memories that are very special to me. But on a day to day basis, there was a wedge there, or eleven wedges. 

It wasn't cultish, I didn't have to drink weird Kool-Aid (Jonestown) or worship a head of lettuce (What's Happening). There was a loss of privacy and the relaxation and comfort that comes from being in one's own home. I felt like I was a visitor, or someone else who had simply rented a room in a house. I couldn't always use the kitchen or the washer and dryer when I wanted to because they were using them. I didn't have friends over that often, it just felt odd having to explain who all these people were. As I got older, I would usually just go straight to my room and only come out for food. My dad hated this arrangement, he called it a commune, but my mom called it "living in community." I still don't entirely understand the difference between the two.  I don't think my parents were full hippies, but they were definitely hippy adjacent, so sharing things was a big deal.  We didn't share everything like they do in true communes, but there was a red silk coin purse with communal money for food. I stole from it frequently to ditch school and go to Numero Uno Pizza on Lake Avenue with my best friend Renee. I don't think my mom ever knew we did that, but I suppose she does now! We DID spend it on food...

The Cast of Characters...I have splintered memories of these people, and I wonder if I even remembered them all. I will do my best:

  • Judith was a very kind woman who always listened. She had a daughter Jan who had a child at a very young age, Joey. They all lived with us for a spell, although Judith was the main housemate. I looked up to Jan because she was blonde and pretty. 
  • Sylvia was also very kind to me. She had wild curly hair and big boobs. The only reason I remember about her boobs is that one day she told me that she had always wanted to become ballerina but her boobs were too big.  She helped me name my dog Jasmine. She said that she loved a Carole King song called Jasmine. I loved the song too, but it turns out it was "Jazzman."  Whoops. Jasmine was a better name for my dog.
  • Jerome was a guy with red hair, a bushy red beard, and a collie named Ollie who looked like the dog version of himself. He had a motorcycle and took me out for a ride one day, much to the horror of my mom who didn't exactly give permission for this. I did have a helmet. 
  • Anya wasn't there very long, she was from Poland and told me the meaning of Solidarity, which was the Polish trade union. I didn't fully understand it, but I liked that she told me. She also lent me a dress to wear when my friend Matt's dad died because I wasn't really a dress girl and I had nothing to wear to his funeral.
  • Jim was a really nice person who continually got on my nerves. I'm not sure why, I think he lectured me a lot about healthy food. One year for my birthday, he made me a dinner of which every dish was made from garbanzo beans. Every. Dish.  It was such a nice gesture, and I ate as much as I could manage, but I hated garbanzo beans with a fiery passion. Still do. 
  • Todd! Dang, Todd was so young. Todd is now my brother in law, married to my sister. At the time, he was a bohemian in his early 20's that cared a lot about social justice. Now he's a bohemian in his mid-50's who cares a lot about the environment and climate change. He's a great guy...the main thing he did back then that bugged me is mumbling jazz. Imagine someone singing to themselves. Now imagine the tune having no melody or structure. Mumbling Jazz...he still does it.
  • Raoul was a heavy set Hispanic dude. Once he took me to the mall in Arcadia where there was a pet store. I didn't like the small compartments the puppies were being kept in and I wanted to talk to the pet store person about it. This embarrassed him and he seemed to subscribe to the "children are to be seen and not heard" belief. He wanted me to be quiet and not say anything. Yeah, that didn't work. Clearly he wasn't aware of the type of child he was dealing with, you can't shut me up now either.
  • Brooke was a young aspiring actress who wore loads of eyeliner. We had a doberman mix dog at the time named Charlotte whose markings on her face were not dissimilar to Brooke's eye makeup. I remember seeing her on television one time, she was an extra on Moonlighting. Brooke was sad. She was a pretty girl but she had no self-esteem whatsoever. She once told my mom of all the men she slept with to get acting parts, I'm assuming. She told my mom, "Sometimes they don't even want me to talk."
  • Jeri was maybe in her early 30's?  She was there for awhile and we got along pretty well. She lived in the room closest to mine and once she made a joke about me singing along with my Supertramp record in my room. That embarrassed me and I never sang in my room again while other people were home. Jeri was one of the last housemates we had, and I remember she and my mom had a big falling out. I have no idea what it was about, but she moved out and we stopped renting rooms. I was 17.

Some weirdish stuff happened over the years, but nothing happened TO me. The upstairs of my house had two tiny bedrooms and one bathroom. The bedrooms probably had about 7 feet between them, and Jerome lived in one and I lived in the other one. I shared a bathroom with a grown-ass man who was not related to me when I was around 13-14. At one point, Jeri told me that Jerome thought I was attractive. What the HELL?  Not cool. Not a good decision. It put the idea into my head that something bad COULD happen to me and it could have transpired very easily. But it never did, despite the fact that the stage was practically set for it. I was alone with them frequently.They were all good men, but can you ever know for sure? 

So what good things came out of this very unusual scenario during my formative years? I'm pretty flexible overall, and college really wasn't that much of a shock because I already knew how to live with strangers. I was cooking for myself and doing my own laundry at ten years old. I was super independent as a result of all this.  I can get along with quite a wide variety of people. Not that much throws me.

The more negative things about me that could be attributed in part to this element of my childhood?  I'm pretty damn slow to trust people. I have like 6 people I totally trust, and most of them have known me for over 20 years. It's hard for me to let my guard down. I rely on humor and sarcasm a LOT. It's definitely my defense mechanism, and I remember referring to my childhood back in high school by saying, "Oh well, more material for my book!" 

I think my siblings and my mom's family sometimes don't understand why I don't make getting together as a family more of a priority. Both my brother and sister experienced our nuclear family as a unit. I really didn't, so trying to recreate it feels foreign to me.  My parents were divorced by the time I was four, I have zero recollection of them being together. And by the time I was ten, both my siblings were gone. I love them both very much, but I don't look at our experiences as kids as "growing up together" like most siblings experience.  When it comes to the way I grew up,  I didn't have my siblings with me to experience all of this together. It was just me.  I did have more of a family unit at my dad's house, which is where my brother lived. When we were all home at his house during these years, it did feel like home.

As a parent, it's still hard to reflect on these years. My children are 15 and 11 now and when I think about the possibility of being a divorcee and renting out vacant rooms in my house and allowing people to live here with them? And allowing them to be alone with my children when I was often out and about, doing my thing? HELL. NO. In fact, I am extremely hypersensitive about being away from them, other than times I'm at work. Opportunities pop up, like perhaps being an adjunct professor at Sac State, which is something I would adore doing. However, it would require me being gone in the evenings, and even though Mike would be home with them, I won't do it. Even evening church activities, study groups, and youth group...it's all important and I get a lot out of these things, but I won't take chunks of evening away from my kids on a regular basis, I just can't. Friends ask me to do things after work, and I do sometimes, but I usually feel ridiculously guilty about it. Even though they can totally take care of themselves now and they don't need me to bathe them and put them to bed, I still want to be here. This is probably something I should learn to deal with sooner or later, because the unintended side effect of this is that I often end up feeling pretty isolated. No matter what, I don't want my kids to ever feel like they take a backseat to other things.  
I did feel that way growing up

So to my friends and coworkers who may not have known all of this, there are approximately 93 reasons I ended up being an educational psychologist. This is one of them, yes indeedy. But I don't need a pity party, all of these things transpired and made me who I am and on most days I think I'm a fairly productive and decent human being. I also love my mother very much and if she could go back, maybe there are some things she would have done differently, I don't know.  

What I do know is this:  Children have to feel like they are incredibly important. I'm not a perfect parent and I screw up all the time. I spend a decent amount of time wondering which horrible things they'll remember and what they'll write in their blogs in 20 years from now. I have great memories of both of my parents, and we did incredible things together. But when I think about feeling warm and comfortable with my parents, I think of these things:  Being at my dad's house as he was making dinner, watching MTV with my brother when it first came out. And after the Housemate Years ended, being in my mom's house with a fire burning, bread baking and classical music playing as we both studied; she for seminary and me for my AP classes.  Security. Familiarity. HOME. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Please don't let Ugly win.





Oh my LORD, the election. I spend most of my time flabbergasted with my jaw hanging open. I finally got a few of my thoughts together and here they are:

I believe that Trump knows exactly what he’s doing. While he doesn’t have experience in the political realm, I do think that he is aware of the fact that he can’t lead our country based upon insults and bullying. He’s doing it because he knows it gets attention, in the exact same way that a naughty third grader does. It’s very effective. We are all just the suckers that have tuned in to watch. I watched intently at the beginning because I thought it was hilarious, a bad joke, more reality television to pickle my brain. Bad behavior gets headlines, and press, and airtime. He may actually have ideas about policies and how to get things done, who knows? Make no mistake, I am not a fan of his in any way, shape or form.  However, I’m not nearly as afraid of Trump as I am afraid of some of the people who follow him and appear to believe that his shenanigans are totally acceptable. He may act totally normal once he gets into office, but his followers don't know this. 

This really isn’t a political post. It’s about the nasty part in all of us, and whether or not we decide to let it come out.

I am well acquainted with my bitter, ugly side. Most people who know me would be appalled if they could get inside of my head. I call people names, tell them to grow the f up, criticize their parenting, tell them they’re horrible people, tell them they’re lazy and life will never hand them anything. This all occurs IN MY HEAD. There are times when I feel like a badass and I think to myself, “I’m going to tell that person off today, I’m tired of their crap and they need to hear it.” But I never actually do it, because not only is it unprofessional and ineffective overall, it’s not kind. Negativity just breeds more negativity.  I try really hard to be kind, even when I’m being wildly unkind in my own mind. I try hard because it’s how I was raised, it’s how I am trying to raise our children, and because I know that kindness is what works in the world. I know that kindness is what God wants from me, regardless of how frustrated I become. I have a filter. I believe that most people do.

The dangerous thing about giving that nasty side of Trump center stage is it gives some people license to let that demon in themselves out of the cage and into the light of day. This is a man who has said disparaging things and mocked the following groups: women and their bodies, immigrants, Mexicans, refugees, gay folks, disabled people, black people…Lord, who is left?  He has advocated for killing terrorist's families, which is a war crime. He repeated, into a microphone, when a person at one of his rallies called our current president a pussy. He’s said he would “bomb the shit out of ISIS.” Does he truly think he can do these things? Does he not understand that he has to get Congressional approval on nearly everything? He’s got to know this, he’s got to be saying this for shock value. But he also knows that there is a very specific demographic in America that would drink every drop of this up. These are the people at his rallies who when seeing protesters removed are yelling, “Kick his ass! Light that m’fer on fire!”  These people believe he means it, and these people believe that this kind of leader would make this behavior not only okay, but revered and respected.  This terrifies me.

He apparently has huge support from the evangelicals. As a Christian, this hurts my soul. Most of the things that come out of his mouth prove how much of a Christian he is not. And I can’t just heckle his sorry attempt to quote scripture by saying “It says in TWO Corinthians...”  Yep, I found that super amusing, but a lot of faithful people don’t know the Bible well and I am one of those people! For the people watching who don’t really know anything about Christianity and what it really represents, this becomes who they think American Christians ARE. This is tragic, folks! Cruel, unkind, judgmental, greedy, hateful…these traits are the polar opposite of what true Christianity is supposed to be. I am positive that there are people in our country, searching for faith and contemplating whether or not they want to investigate church and Christianity. And I’d imagine there are some who see this joker out there, claiming to be a Christian and think, ummmm, no thank you. I want no part in this madness. And if that’s what I thought it was, I wouldn’t have anything to do with it either! The crazy Christians get the most press, like the Westboro folks. This has always bothered me, and made me feel like I have to defend my beliefs to some. What if one of these people becomes the leader of the free world?  Do I think Trump is a practicing Christian? Probably not, but that’s not my business and not what I base my vote on. But other people think he is, other people think this kind of “faith” is something to aspire to. So what do we do with this realization?

What’s going on right now is so much bigger than this election. I think there is a chance that this person could win. I believe we will become an international joke and America will gain a more negative reputation than it currently has. But it has a larger implication for us as human beings. If we begin to feel justified in letting that vitriolic, evil, nasty element that lives in all of us out in the open on a regular basis, what will the world look like?  HELL. It will look like hell.

We're better than this. I pray it doesn’t happen.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Fear sucks...and children are CHILDREN.





Could the news of the world get any worse? Everything that is happening lately seems so incredibly hopeless and scary. No matter what happens in the world, I always think about the kids involved.  Kids GET to me. 

When horrible things happen, I experience a peripheral trauma of sorts. When Columbine happened I was new to my career and I didn't have children yet. It upset me for sure, and I was a school employee, so it hit home. But when 9-11 happened I had an 8 month old baby. That whole thing was so surreal, but I clearly remember thinking that maybe we shouldn't have brought her into a world like this, and I was terrified to leave her and go to work. I had nightmares for days, the most vivid being one where my baby was on one side of a massive wall of fire crying for me and I couldn't get to her. It's been 14 years and I still remember that dream. I've written about Sandy Hook before, and it still really messes me up when I think about it, so I try not to. But man, that was about as close to home as it gets, with me working in elementary schools every day, having two elementary aged children myself, and discovering that the school psychologist was one of the people who was killed. I probably had nightmares then too, but I don't remember them. What I do remember is crying a lot, mostly in the shower or my car and praying like it was going out of style. So now we are all hearing about and seeing the horrors that are coming from the recent terrorist attacks and I'm so incredibly sad. I'm so sad and discouraged that I have a hard time finding words, but I have had my first nightmare. In my dream on Sunday night, I was driving in my car when everything stopped. It was night, and all the lights went out, my car died, and nothing worked. It was like everything died at once and in my dream I knew that everything was ending. End of the world, boom, we're done. I did manage to use the "wait, this isn't happening, wake up!" strategy, and I did wake up but I had a very hard time going back to sleep. I wish things didn't affect me so much, I wish I wasn't so sensitive. However it's unlikely that this will change now, halfway through my life.

I think that fear is probably the human emotion that brings out the absolute worst in people. Everyone reacts to it so differently, some with anger and hatred, some just retreat and hide, and some just start spouting ridiculous nonsense. I've come very close in the last couple of days to signing off social media altogether. I will not slide down the rabbit hole of engaging in all of the religious and political arguments regarding terrorism and the refugees because it makes me want to plunge needles in my eyes while jumping off a cliff. It makes me insane, and I really need what remains of my sanity. What I can't keep myself from doing is thinking about the kids, ALL THE KIDS who are being affected by all of this. I think about the kids who have lost parents in the attacks. I think about this sweet angel in the video above who is so scared and confused, and the blessing that his father is, and the relief on his face when he believes the flowers and candles will protect him. And I think about the refugee kids, a ton. There are a lot of personal stories about the kids online, Humans of New York did an incredible series about the refugees.

Trauma is a very tricky thing. I have never worked with children who have gone through the trauma that the refugees have. But there have been plenty who have been through gut-wrenching stuff. Loss of parents, exposure to domestic violence, homelessness, gang violence, guns and drugs, parents in prison, and horrible, horrible abuse. There is some trauma that my kiddos have endured that I won't even talk about unless I absolutely have to. Mike had to tell me recently to stop telling him details, and he's right. No one should hear the details I hear unless they have to. Here's what I know for sure, trauma runs DEEP. It lasts for a long time and rears its head when they think it's over. It's insidious. Those babies who have seen the horrors that ISIS has inflicted, it just scrambles my head. It's been like continual terrorist attacks for some of them, and then constant fear when they run. Dangerous situations, no food, nowhere to sleep, watching the panic their parents must be experiencing. Will any of these little ones ever be okay or will they all become bitter and unable to trust anyone? Children all deserve to feel safe, and when I see that taken from them it makes me want to curl up in a ball in the corner and stay there forever. That's not going to help a damn thing, so I keep going and trying and praying. 

I won't live in fear. Fear sucks. Of course I'm afraid, it's overwhelming to think that there is such tangible evil in the world, and that people feel justified in doing such disgusting, heartless things. Yes, it makes me never want to leave my couch, but I refuse to be afraid of other human beings in general. Evil isn't the norm, or the majority. It's a really ugly, oozing wound on an otherwise perfectly normal body. Those who know me well know how much I adore going to concerts. It's a huge part of who I am, I have always loved it and there is a joy I get from live music that's hard for me to explain. There's usually such amazing positive energy with so many people loving the same thing, it's my happy place and something I always look forward to. Sometimes I get show hangovers...joy letdown. So for those monsters to mess THAT up too?  It upsets me, but I'm sure as hell not going to stop going. I will be more aware, and it will cross my mind as a possibility that someone could come in with a machine gun, as sick of an image as that is, but I won't stop going. I won't stop my daughter from going either, she inherited my music issues. I'm a cautious mother, but I have never wanted them to think the world is a scary place. They can ride their bikes and skateboards in our neighborhood, Maddie can go to an all ages punk show. I can't protect them from everything, and now the world looks a little uglier, sadly.

So when I think about how ugly the world has gotten over this past week and way beforehand, I will think about this precious father and the moment his son's sweet face registers relief and comfort because he believes his daddy. We all should.

Friday, August 28, 2015

God gets it...

And of course right now I am thinking of all the other bloggers that have written the same kind of thing, that I'm not as good as Jen Hatmaker, that this is all going to sound really contrived, yada yada yada. We haven't been to church in weeks and I'm going to post about faith? Well, yes. I am, actually. And all of this is only my opinion because you know, this is just a BLOG.
He Gets Me

Over the years, I've felt like I didn't totally belong at church, or fit into the ideal of Christianity. There are so many things I don't DO. Aren't Christians supposed to DO stuff? Like every day without fail? Dang...I don't pray every day, I don't do any kind of daily devotionals, and my Bible probably has dust on it. Sometimes when I'm in large groups of Christian women, I don't know what to say or how to behave. This is due to the fact that who I am, truly, is a person with a bit of an edge who is heavily dosed with sarcasm, has majorly twisted humor, and often a filthy mouth. I love music and going to shows, and I know sometimes people probably think "isn't she getting a little old for that?" I'm not a typical wife either, my husband cooks every night, we share bills and have separate bank accounts. I clean, but not nearly enough. He totally and completely shares in the parenting. I let my 14 year old watch things I didn't think I would, because she's really mature. These hangups, like I don't fit the "mold", is 100% my problem. Am I getting judged by others for not being Christian-y enough?  It might happen here and there, but it's probably not happening in the way I think it is. 

And it's all crap. God sees me come to church in flip flops and be completely over it and uninterested sometimes. He sees me stay in bed on Sundays sometimes too, He sees me yell at my kids. He knows my road rage is off the chain and how badly I want to go see Straight Outta Compton. He hears me laugh at inappropriate things at work, and He knows that there are days when I feel like maybe I could scrap this whole career/family thing and just travel for the rest of my life...by myself.  And He definitely hears me when I curse like a sailor, and while I am trying to rein it in just a tad, I am totally convinced that He has accepted that it's an integral part of my personality. So f'ing there!

You DON'T Have To Be Someone Else!!

I didn't grow up really believing in God, at least in not a direct way. I didn't go to church when I was young, I was never in a youth group. From the outside, I know what it looks like. It looks like you have to fall in line, pray daily, read daily, vote Republican, hate gay folks, do only churchy things, only hang out with churchy people and NEVER listen to secular music. That said, there are things that help you grow in faith for sure. Praying and reading the Bible help. Any opportunity to help others who have less than you do, and to demonstrate that God is only about love are essential elements in my opinion. I'm even going to list a VERSE! 

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love- 1 John 4:8

So basically, you do NOT have to change who you are to have faith. You really, really, really don't. I guarantee that God doesn't want sheep...well, there are all those Shepard stories. Different allegory! God doesn't want us to be lemmings...there's nothing particularly redeeming about lemmings and they can't be guided, they just plummet right off that cliff. I promise you that in your church (if you go), there are at least a dozen people who are super concerned about how they appear. Should they raise their hands during worship? Are people watching them to see if they tithe? Did they wear the right clothes? Is it awful that everyone else seems so enthralled and they're feeling nothing?  All of those laments have been mine at different times in my life and it took a long time to realize that none of that matters to God. He meets you where you are, and it's good. I am not a hands-in-the-air girl and I will never be because it just doesn't feel right to me.

So Why Bother?

I feel like it's possible for me to be a decent human without faith and I know quite a few people who don't believe at all and it doesn't affect how I feel about them. I'm not the kind of person to tell folks they MUST go this route in order to be validated and respected. So all I can speak to is what this is like for ME and how it feels.

  • It brings me peace. I never sleep better than after I've been grappling with horrible thoughts before I finally give it over to Him. Calm. Peace. There was a day recently when I was in a completely vile mood and I was driving. A song from church came on my Ipod and the words made me feel SO much better. It sounds so contrived, but it did happen. Then the next song was NWA. 
  • It keeps me focused on what I should strive to be. Perfect? Absolutely no way. But I do need to strive to be kind and love my neighbor, even when she calls the homeowner's association on us for not properly landscaping our front yard...in a drought.
  • It's an amazing thing for me to know that regardless of how jacked up I am or the next horrible mistake I'm about to make, He loves me and forgives me. This is not the same as having a license to screw up. It's not insurance, it's acceptance. One of my favorite scenes in The Sopranos was when Pauly Walnuts went to church to ask for all of his tithes back because the ghosts of all the people he murdered were haunting him. It doesn't quite work that way!
I don't think I was meant to believe any earlier than I did, I think I had to live my first 24 years without Him. I do think he has a plan for all of us, and we can't make it happen the way we want to all the time. The bottom line is that He truly understands who I am, who we all are, and despite this fact?  He loves us anyway.

And He needs more people brave enough to just be themselves.


Friday, June 26, 2015

I AM AN ALLY...wanna know why?



*I have vacillated about writing this post for weeks now, for a variety of reasons. Fear, mostly. Privacy. The possibility that sharing something personal could be seen as exploitation of some sort. But in light of today's supreme court decision, the time seems right to me. This decision has been discussed and approved by all important parties involved. 

People have always thought that my feelings about LGBT rights had to do with my dad and the fact that he was gay. But the truth is that I felt the same way long before he came out to me when I was 21 years old. I was raised to be accepting of everyone. I had gay friends and co-workers in high school. It's never mattered to me. Of course, when I discovered that my father was gay, the parent I was closest to in my youth, it became deeply personal. I honestly thought that outside of being gay myself (I'm not), nothing could be more personal than having been raised by a gay parent.

I was mistaken.


Guess What, Mom?

I wonder what the stats are, or if any longitudinal studies have been done about families...what are the odds of having a gay parent and a gay child? But here we are. My beautiful daughter has always marched to the beat of her own drummer, and I have always loved that about her.  She has always been an old soul and wiser than her years. She was 4 going on 7, 8 going on 12, and now 14 going on about 23. She knows who she is. We stopped being able to dress her in girlie Halloween costumes when she was 3. Starting at 4, she chose to be a pirate, a skeleton, a Ninja. To be clear, she does NOT want to be a boy, and that is well covered territory. She has friends who identify in different ways and I don't pretend to understand all of it, but I try. But she is solid in that she loves being female, except for the week or two every month when we all hate it. She first mentioned to me that she thought she might be attracted to girls near the end of 6th grade. It didn't rattle me at all, I think kids go through a lot of phases in puberty. But as time went on and she talked more and more about it, I began to realize it wasn't a phase. She knew our feelings about the issue as a whole, but was still a little skittish when it came to telling us. Her dad's response was priceless...he said, "There is nothing you could do to make me love you less, you're my daughter. And now I don't have to worry about you getting pregnant."  

She IS young, but she is rock solid in who she is. Is it possible that she will grow up and fall in love with a young man? Sure, that could happen. However, I am not willing to brush off her acknowledgment of herself and just say she's too young to know. The gay people in my life that I love and respect all say that they knew when they were young. Most of them fought against it for years and years and tried to deny that part of themselves before they fully came out, but they still say they knew. She's young. She knows.

Now, I have to be honest. I always thought that if one or both of our children ended up being gay, it would be a piece of cake, no sweat. Again...WRONG. It's been waaaaay harder than I would have imagined it to be. On any given day, I have a gazillion conflicting thoughts flying around in my head about this issue. Here are some of them:

Killing People is Illegal

Any parent on earth who is honest with themselves is familiar with the murderous rage that bubbles up inside when someone hurts their baby. I love kids, I have always worked with kids, but I have honestly been able to visualize knocking a few of them out lately. This feeling always shocks me a bit, that irrational split second when I feel like I could totally run someone over with my car and be fine with it. So for those of you who are reading this who have seen the hurt on your child's face when they were left out, not invited to the party, not chosen for the team, imagine this scenario:  A peer tells your child that she will burn in the pits of hell. That their existence is against God's plan. That they're disgusting. Imagine having your child in middle school and having to tolerate girls saying nasty things to her in the locker room, constantly accusing her of "checking them out." Imagine what it feels like to have your daughter crying in your arms, saying she just wants to be "normal".  I could cut someone. But I won't.

And then there are the boys....It's very interesting to me to observe how boys have responded to this fact about her. I honestly never gave it a lot of thought, but over the past year I have observed two trends: Some boys seem to believe that with their overwhelming, undeniable 14 year old masculinity, that they can "turn" her straight.  The second trend seems to happen after the first one has been attempted, all for naught...faced with the idea that she truly won't be interested in them in that way, they then ask if they can "watch" her with another girl. LORD.  I shake my head, man. It is somewhat refreshing to realize that boys this age have not changed at ALL. Boys this age are sex-driven beasts, and it's not their fault. It's predictable...and not a bad litmus test, actually. She does have a few male friends who have not given in to either trend, so maybe there's hope. Or they just know not to say it out loud! I don't want to kill these boys, actually...I just keep shaking my head.

Would You Like To See a Menu?

There are too many options now. There, I said it. When I was younger, you were straight or gay, sometimes a bisexual person would get in there. Now there are like 62 possibilities. I find this absurd, and it puts our kids in such a tough spot. There is so much damn pressure for kids to absolutely identify "what" they are at such a young age. I have equated it to having to declare a major in college. Nowadays, when you enter middle school, it's like you are issued a card that identifies who and what you are. I hate this, it pisses me off. It may not be the case in my child's life, but as a whole I believe that this causes mass confusion for a lot of kids. I've seen it firsthand, these poor young ones change "what" they are weekly. Whyyyyyyyyy????  In middle school, most kids don't even know WHO they are, let alone "what". CHILL OUT. It's not that serious, and at the end of the day, it's no one's business one way or the other. 

You Are a NOUN, Not An Adjective

This is one that makes me crazy. It is so much more important for my daughter to be solid in WHO she is, not what. I have told her to answer the inane question "what are you?" with a hearty "I'm Maddie." or "None of your business."  On some days, she totally agrees with me, and on some days she feels that this advice is tantamount to me telling her to hide who she is. Aye, carumba. This part is soooooo hard. She is such a tremendous individual, I want people to spend time getting to know her without having to know who she might want to eventually date. Sexuality is a part of who people are, but it's just one part, a small part. She is Maddie, not That Lesbian, The Gay Girl, or (my favorite), IT. Uggggg....this is when I have to remember that killing people is illegal. 

The only person I am concerned about my daughter loving right now is herself. Learning how to do that, for all of us, can be a lifelong endeavor. Who she falls in love with in the future is really of no consequence at the moment. The only people I want her to think about when it comes to who loves HER is God and her family. All of the rest of it can come later, there is so much time for all that madness. I've told her more than one time, "You are not allowed to date now. Nope, no way. You have the rest of your life to feel confused and rejected, focus on yourself and who you want to become."  

Christians Aren't Hateful

I have friends who will disagree with me on this notion, but I will fight till the death over this one. People who truly get it, real Christians, will NOT condemn people to hell for being gay. Sadly, the ones who get the most press are the whack jobs. It makes my heart hurt. That lovely young lady who told my daughter she'd burn there? Oh yeah, of course she's Christian, of course she's active in her youth group here in town, and it makes my blood boil. She has a public Instagram that is Christian and mostly positive, but she has used it to spew a lot of hateful crap towards gay folk. I thought about contacting the youth pastor at that church about it until I heard from a kid who had attended that youth group and heard the pastor say dreadful things about gay people. SIGH.  It saddens me so much that someone in a position of power who has access to impressionable teens would teach such a thing. Interestingly, once when this young lady confronted my daughter, Maddie said, "But Jesus hung out with all kinds of people, prostitutes, criminals...how can you say he would hate me?" I was beyond proud about that one, even though she had no intention of evangelizing, she did an excellent job of it! 

So to all of the Christians who focus on this one issue, and project all of their angst and anger onto it, PLEASE find something more productive to do with your time. Feed the hungry, house the homeless, love the unloved, give to the poor...there is a lot to do and limited time to accomplish it. Save your energy for the things that are truly important. 

Not Everyone Will Like This

I'd love to be able to say that I don't give a rip what anyone thinks, but I would be lying. Of course I care. I'm scared of being open about this, and I'm worried about how people will treat my family because of it. Not everyone in our family has been explicitly told, but they've probably already figured it out. I asked Maddie about this, about me stating it like this and posting it, and she said that it would actually be somewhat of a relief, not having to say it herself. This may be a bumpy realization for some, but I truly pray that they will take the time to think about it and continue to show our child unconditional love anyway. That is what families do. 

I go to church with some exceptional people, many of whom I know do not share my outlook on this issue. I don't only respect or tolerate these people, I love them. That is one thing that I have learned as an adult that is really important to me...I can love and be friends with people with whom I disagree on fundamental issues, but it requires mutual respect. Will everyone at my church welcome this news with open hearts? Probably not, and that has to be okay. Everyone is absolutely entitled to their opinion on this. Will some of the parents of the youth group I work with be upset? Jeez, I hope not, I have no idea. Some of the youth themselves may be upset, but I love them too. We can all be people of God and disagree...except for when it comes to how we treat one another. That is non-negotiable, Love Thy Neighbor is not up for interpretation. 

My Child Will Never Have to Hide

Our daughter does not have an affliction, there is nothing wrong with her. This is not a hardship she will have to toil and work to overcome. She doesn't have to wish to be normal, she IS normal. While I truly pray that she focuses more on herself as an individual and not just on who she may be attracted to, she will not have to hide who she is. She will never have to worry about her parents being ashamed of her. She is so many things! She is my incredibly smart, insightful, mature, wise, artistic, talented, loyal, hilarious, creative, beautiful, original, musical, joyful daughter. She is also stubborn, argumentative, difficult, forgetful, irresponsible, and maddening. I love her ferociously, and nothing will ever change that. Who she chooses to spend her life with is her business, and all I pray for is that it is someone who will love and respect her for exactly who she is.  Knowing that if she chooses to get married later in life, that it will now be legally recognized and respected anywhere in this country fills me with joy and pride. 

And I know my dad is smiling.















Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Recluse...Freak or Genius?

I have always felt that the reclusive folks in our society are kind of scary. I think about Ted Kaczynski and the weird militia types in Wyoming and Montana. I think about people who spend so much time alone that they lose perspective on how to relate to other human beings.  These days though?

I GET IT.

It's not just that I am dead exhausted, with this being the busiest time in my profession. It's more about the horrible swill that we are bombarded with on a daily basis, from the Kylie Jenner challenge to Dr. Oz (hate him) to the nightly local news that invariably has several shootings every day, all in Stockton. It's bad news or stupid news. In regard to politics, I'm done believing anyone. The mudslinging starts sooner and sooner every election season, and it's so nasty, immature, small, petty, and disappointing. I may vanish altogether when the elections REALLY begin. Unless the information is delivered through a comedic lens, I can't stomach it at all. And with Colbert and Jon Stewart stepping down, that may not happen anymore. I don't want to be bitter and disgusted with the information that is shared in our world, I want to not KNOW. Head in the clouds, or the sand, or switched off entirely. Yes, please. Oblivion sounds amazing right now.

Lately I have been fantasizing of running away to Calistoga and holing up in some rustic Inn with nothing but my books, Ipod, and my computer (for writing only). I will eat. And sleep. And read. I will talk to strangers, and only if I feel like it. I will browse awesome bookstores alone. I'll walk around a lot, outside, at sunset. Right now that sounds like the most amazing thing ever. Of course, this is unlikely to happen, at least in the near future. I adore my family, and my 10 and 14 year old children are not known for their silence. I am willing to adapt my fantasy so it fits my reality. Maybe I could run off for a DAY. I crave just being in nature alone with minimal distractions. Maybe I should play hooky once every school year and just run away from home. I'll be home in time for dinner at least!

In the meantime, when I can, I want to DETOX from all the dross that is thrown at our senses daily. No television, no internet, and no NEWS. The news blows. Seriously, there is so little news in our news. BBC America is the only decent, somewhat impartial news out there that covers more than our egocentric, America-obsessed culture. Remember actual news? Remember when it really was reported fairly by trustworthy folks? I am still astounded that journalists are now getting their news from Twitter. TWITTER.  I am fascinated by CNN's tendency to cover a story for 24 hours when there is nothing happening whatsoever. They air footage of correspondents just standing there. Just standing...nothing is happening. Is this where our collective intellect has gone?

When did I turn into this weird old lady? Seriously, I feel that two days away from turning 45, I have officially entered the middlest of all middle age, and that I am justified in saying crap like, "Back in MY day..."  To hell with it.  BACK IN MY DAY.....

  • We spoke to each other face to face, or at least on the phone.
  • No one could photograph and monitor our every move.
  • We went outside to play and got dirty and came home when it got dark.
  • We weren't afraid of freaking everything in life! Not everything caused cancer, or blindness, or autism. 
  • We ate food. Just food.
  • We paid attention to pop culture, but it was not revered like a religion.
  • We got to play in school, and take art and music as part of our normal day.
  • We bought records and tapes at the record store. 
  • We bought concert tickets by standing in line at the record store. It was FAIR. The tickets cost the same amount and people didn't snap them up online and then resell them for five times their worth.
  • If we screwed up in school, it was OUR fault. Not the teacher's fault, or the curriculum's fault, or that "other kid's" fault. 
SIGH......

So I don't believe that I will be moving up to Alaska to live in the bush, or build a cabin in Montana. I won't set up a tent on the beach in Costa Rica. But here is what I will do.  I will read. I will pay less attention to that stupid crap and more attention to my surroundings. My surroundings include:
  • My husband
  • My lovely home
  • My beautiful children
  • Birds
  • Flowers
  • Trees
  • Wind
  • My comfy bed
  • Awesome food
  • ALL THE BOOKS
We don't HAVE to pay attention to all the crap, we can choose to become more reclusive in our minds. Or at the very least, a whole hell of a lot more discerning!!  I think I may be turning into my mother. Luckily for me, she's pretty cool. Love you, Mom!