Run on.

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Yesterday I woke up and stumbled into the kitchen to make coffee. Three boys swirled around me like a tornado of needs and wants – some welcome (hugs and snuggles) and some less welcome (a TV show I’m not nearly awake enough to deal with). My husband strolls into the kitchen, brushing his teeth, and hands me his phone. His finger taps on a headline as if to say “Can you believe this shit?”

50+ dead (revised to 59 later). 400+ injured (revised to 500+ later). A gunman has opened fire on an enormous country music festival crowd right on the Las Vegas strip.

My mind immediately goes to who I know in that area, who has traveled there recently, who might be there. I run to Facebook and begin to check. Ashley? Check. Geoff? No, he’s been in Chicago. Phew. Who else? I scroll and my empathic side begins that subtle buzz it always develops on days like these.

Back in 1999, when I got in my mom’s car after school (freshman year…what a doozy) and found her in tears, she explained what had just happened at Columbine High School and I handed her a poem I’d written in the library at lunch that day. I don’t have the poem anymore, and even if I did, I’d probably hate it (as most writers cringe at a lot of their past work). It was later that week as headlines flowed in from the early days of saturation coverage, pre-social media, pre-smartphone, that I discovered the worst carnage of Columbine had occurred right there in the school library.

Empathy is different than compassion. Compassion can be faked. Compassion can be canned and posted as a meme. Empathy cannot. It is an extremely misunderstood emotion by those who lack it, and an almost impossible to explain feeling for those who have it. It is to mentally and emotionally remove the victim from a situation and put yourself there – to consume the enormity of what happened not out of a choice, but out of an inability not to. Horror films and disturbing story lines are always difficult for me because I find myself emerging from a dark theater, silently thanking God for the daylight and reality I find is still intact. As if I am surprised. As if everything passed away in that moment when I couldn’t escape what was happening onscreen.

Columbine was small by comparison to the absolute massacre that took place in Las Vegas Sunday evening. But it feels now, 18 years later, like a beginning. A horrible, ugly beginning. Punctuated regularly by other horrible, disgusting, heart-wrenching events that only seem to serve as semicolons. This run-on sentence is never done. The story, never ending.

It is 7:30 am when Jonathan takes his phone back, shaking his head as he puts on his shoes. My mouth is still agape. I am now on my phone, trying to watch a live broadcast on NPR while my sons climb all over me thinking it’s a video for them to watch. I give up and put it down because I don’t want any of them to witness that. It’s time to say goodbye.

I cradle Russell’s precious face in my hands and look at his eyes. He is seven years old. He is in the first grade. He is the same age that many of the victims at Sandy Hook Elementary school were when that horrible thing happened in 2012. He is old enough that I can clearly see my baby boy has evaporated before my eyes into someone who is a small child. Not a baby, not a toddler, and only a few brief, precious years before he morphs yet again into a pre-teen. But the cheeks and pursed smile are still quite baby-ish. He is the age where I get glimpses of his babyhood, the present day, and the future all at once.

Do I tell him that there are awful, evil people in the world? I think he knows, but does he really understand? CAN he really understand, or will I just be wasting my ragged breath again? Do I tell him that if he ever hears what sounds like fireworks that he should run? Do I tell him when he is supposed to hide, when he is to run, and when he is to be completely silent (almost an impossibility at his age)? My husband and I joke while watching “The Walking Dead” sometimes that we’d be toast in the event of an actual zombie apocalpyse because we have three loud, crazy kids and the zombie would hear and see us from a mile away. But really…what the hell do I tell my seven year old? Do I tell him nothing at all?

“Hide behind a metal desk if you can?”
“Don’t make a single sound. Don’t even breath loud?”
“Run until you cannot hear the sound of gunfire anymore?”

I do not know what I can tell him, what I should tell him.

These are not actual questions for you, by the way. You don’t have the answer to them anymore than I do. You don’t hold anymore wisdom than I do about what the hell to tell a seven year old about how to survive and escape an active shooter in their school, in a store, at a music event. I know, because I’m his mother and I would bleed everywhere and die a horrific death for him, and believe me if there was a fail-safe answer I’d fucking have it right now. And so would every mother who lost a child yesterday. But that answer doesn’t exist. So do not come at me with your sage “wisdom.”

I have no patience for people so arrogant that they believe they can outsmart death; I have no understanding for people who believe they actually can control everything around them.

And so I say nothing except “I love you so much, buddy.” I do nothing, except to stare at my sweet eldest boy for a little longer than I normally would, hold his face a little longer, kiss him extra, and then send him off to school.

I am no gun expert. I did not serve in the military. I do not truck around with a sticker that proudly declares “Moaone Aabe.” But I have been around guns most all my life.

Growing up, I walked by the same four rifles on my way out the sliding glass door just about every single morning. I didn’t really know how to load or shoot them at the time, but I knew that they weren’t for me to touch – and so for whatever reason, I just never did. I knew the bullets were in the cabinet right below the guns. It never even occurred to me that the guns might or might not be loaded. I legitimately have no idea, to this day, if they were.

Watching video of what happened in Las Vegas, how it all unfolded, I heard a familiar sound. I remember that beating drum in my chest. In my life, there have been several instances where I have been in the midst of gunfire. I don’t really know how much danger I was *technically* in, but then again I guess it’s hard to tell when you can’t see the shooter and you don’t get shot. I’m sure there’s some asshole “expert” who could go back and systematically designate for me how much danger I was in. Oh, you experts…I’m thankful for you in a way, but also intensely irritated. I find everyone is an expert these days. I’m fine saying I am not.

One instance occurred practically in my front yard when I was maybe 7 or 8 years old. Some sort of beef taking place between two parties out on the street in front of our house – maybe drugs or something, I never found out. I just remember getting down behind furniture, shots ringing out. The second instance occurred when I was 17 years old in Pawley’s Island at the site of Alice Flagg’s grave. Probably a cantankerous neighbor who didn’t like teenagers regularly showing up in the graveyard next door to spin around the burial site of a local legend. He may have been firing in the air, for all I know. He may have been a she, for all I know. It was a really shitty time to not have keyless entry, I do know that. Unlocking a car manually while being maybe-possibly shot at is challenging to say the least. The third instance occurred when I lived with my friend in college. We had a third-floor apartment in a complex near the college. Probably just another beef between two parties, several shots fired, not a huge thing. I don’t even think anyone was injured. I army-crawled over to the window to look out (like an idiot, obviously) and see what was going on and it was already over. Cars peeling out and away, no explanation.

I was unscathed mentally, emotionally, and physically. These were all pretty forgettable circumstances.

Mostly, I remember the first and only time in my life that I’ve heard an actual automatic rifle. Not a semi-automatic. An actual, fully automatic something-or-other (I don’t the name because I don’t effing care). I was at a gun range here in town that has them for people who want to “experience” what it’s like to shoot them. I guess that’s on some peoples’ bucket lists, which is their business.

What I will never forget is the excitement everyone seemed to have about it. The air in the room grew heavier. I felt perplexed in a way. Everyone seemed to stand back. We knew it would be loud. I’ll never forget that thumping in my chest. Like a drum, beating over and over. Why was this such a big thing? Was it because it was taboo, the subject of contentious debate? Were we supposed to feel more American now? Was it because it was inherently thrilling in a way to be that close to something so instantly lethal? I do not have the answer to that, either.

But the sound stays with you. It will stay with every person who witnessed what happened in Las Vegas. It will ring in my ears the next time I go to a large concert venue and look around for the closest exits and escape routes, the closest barricade that I can run behind if I ever need to. The sound will erupt in the background of Eagles of Death Metal’s cover of “Save a Prayer” everytime it pops up on my Spotify playlist. Jason Aldean will never be able to sing that particular line of that particular song again and not hear that sound.

And we will fight. Oh, the battle that will rage on. The quotations and conveniences that will be pulled out of our collective pockets in the moment and then shoved away for the next semicolon.

And so I wait. For the videos to stop playing. for the next semi-colon in this run on sentence, as we all do. And it will come. And we will not be any closer to having the answers than we are now.

Use your words.

I found myself pleading with my whiny two year old the other day, “Henry, use your words.” It didn’t help that he was whining through a combination of spit, phlegm, and half-chewed Cheerios. Sorry, world, I’m just not one of those moms who can magically decipher the AI-level alternate language that is “Toddler Tantrum.” Yes, I’m aware some people can decode “Blahbarrrakaaaawwwahhhh” as “I want a fruit bar,” and that’s awesome.
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I just can’t do it. But I’ll say this for Henry, he’s at least cute when he’s blubbering about his sock being hiked up just a little too high on his leg, or screaming because his toy bear looked at him the wrong way, or whatever it is that has set him off. He’s at least cute. Unlike the tongue-clucking, Judgey McJudgerson grandma I had to deal with earlier at Chick-Fil-A on Pelham.

And I’m pretty pissed about this, and I’ll tell ya why: She didn’t use her words.

I say “Judgey McJudgerson” to illustrate that she was so busy huffing to herself about my perceived ineffectiveness as a parent that she forgot to use basic communication.

Hint: most parenting is not immediately effective. It’s like throwing a penny in a piggy bank and expecting to pay for college tomorrow. You gotta let that ish build up for awhile, ya dig? Parenting isn’t a lump sum deposit, it’s a lot of small payments that hopefully effect a fully formed adult in 18-25 years. I have a friend who told his kid not to leave greasy fingerprints on the wall by the kitchen table for literally years until one day, the kid realized why the greasy fingerprints were there. And he stopped. So it takes time. The fact that this didn’t IMMEDIATELY occur to Granny In The Pink Jorts (hereafter known as GITPJ – y’all seriously, these shorts were EXTRA extra) tells me she either a) doesn’t get it and thinks she did a perfect job on the daily or b) is too old to fully recollect. The pink jorts were involved in the carbon dating on Assumption B, I confess.

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Might’ve been a little longer inseam than this.

I first noticed her the moment she walked in, as I notice everyone and everything, because I never sit with my back to an entrance, note folks as they enter and exit, and also because the traffic situation in the CFA parking lot gives me hives. I cannot handle that many cars swerving past that many children. So yeah, GITPJ sits down in the booth right next to me as I’m talking to another mom while our boys play together in the Pee Palace Plastic Play Place. Other Mom and I both know that there’s more pee in that play place than in most construction site porta-potties, and it’s whatever. There’s hand sanitizer here. The world ain’t burning today.

Pink Jorts’ has three grandkids and her own adult daughter with her, and adult daughter is visibly OVER this day at exactly 11:25 am. She is in on it, the fact that we all brought our kids here to the Plastic Pee Palace so they could kick their shoes off in a glass-enclosed room with poor air circulation and play AWAY FROM US. Adult daughter gets it, but GITPJ does not get it. She’s what I call a Hoveround. Please tell me you remember the commercials.

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Seriously the best commercial. One lady is straight-faced. Other one is yelling “Hoveround!” I can’t get over the genius.

She was a hoverer, a leg-humper, a freaker-outer. There was just really no need for it. GITPJ is not leaving the side of her grandkids out of fear of all the horrors that lurk in the Pee Palace, my son included. I get it, he’s loud, he’s intense, he’s easily 8 inches taller than anyone his age. I get it. But there’s a glass wall, and we’re all watching our kids. Easy enough. Over the half hour or so that we were all there, I noticed GITPJ eyeing me at first. Then a few minutes later after her 1,738th trip into the Pee Palace, she was eyeing me and clucking her tongue. Then she added another layer with the judgey head shaking. I wanted to ask her if she was feeling alright. I wanted to ask her if she needed to vocalize something. I wanted to ask her “What in the hell is your problem?”

Because I spend enough of my day trying to decode what little people want. I spend enough of my day trying to guess what’s gonna make other people happiest. I do not need to spend time doing that for a grown. ass. woman. But nevertheless, she persisted. And I realized pretty quickly that Russ was the problem. I gathered him up pretty quickly and got him out of there (no small feat, because of the aforementioned CFA parking lot status, which is SNAFU). GITPJ was still pacing back and forth between the booth and the Pee Palace, head shaking so hard back and forth that her earrings were about to fall off, but not a word out of her.

I kept looking at her quizzically. At one point, I noticed her bump INTO Russ and walk past, huffing the whole way, even though it was kind of her genius idea to go traipsing around the Pee Palace. I could have made a thing of it, but I didn’t. I made eye contact a few times and softened my RBF just slightly, as if to say “Please tell me if my kid is the one who’s being a jerk.” But she was so much more interested in her own righteous indignation than she was in communicating.

So I had to go all FBI examiner on Russ in the car. That’s right, folks. For an entire six miles, WHICH I WILL NEVER GET BACK, I had to interrogate my child until I finally got the truth out of him (he’s a breaker). The truth was: Somewhere in the dark, tube-shaped recesses of the Pee Palace, GITPJ’s grandson had called Russ stupid, and so Russ hit him. Then the younger granddaughter defended her brother by spitting on Russ – took a little chutzpah on her part, if not a little icky. But it’s the Pee Palace, so again…whatever.

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Six year old boys acting like idiots. Clearly this is only one kids’ fault, and clearly I’m totally fine with my kid being a jerk. Cause that totally makes sense

This all happened out of view of any of us. So OBVIOUSLY, couple things:

1) I don’t tolerate bullying, but I also feel like some random kid in a play area calling you stupid is most definitely not cause to hit someone, so Russ is being punished for that. I make zero excuses for him.

2) Kids fight. I  mean…ring the friggin’ presses, but KIDS FIGHT.

3) Adults need to grow the cajones to be the adults. And parents need to be open to being told when their kid is doing something wrong.

If my kid does something wrong, I expect someone to come up to me and tell me. There are ways to do that – and the fact that we need to have a conversation about this is pretty sad. GITPJ could have done this easily by just saying “Hey, I think your son and my grandkids are having a little trouble getting along, can we figure this out?” Say no more, Pink Jorts! I’m on it! I would have grabbed Russell outta there so fast and gotten straight to the bottom of things, and what’s more, Russell would have had the valuable opportunity to apologize to the boy and try to move on peacefully. Would it have worked? Who knows. But the lesson there was important, and Pink Jorts should have stepped off her high horse long enough to communicate that to me.

But it was more important for her to enjoy her own superiority. It was more important to pass me and my kid off as being somehow worse than her and her grandkids. It was more important to be offended than it was to be up front.

Listen. I can’t help dismantle the patriarchy if I’m sitting here trying to Guantanamo the truth out of a six year old. Next time, I sincerely hope Granny In The Pink Jorts will come down to earth with the rest of us imperfect plebs and use her words. The truth is, I’m used to being judged. If only Pink Jorts knew just how much more there is that she could judge me on, I mean, I have SO MUCH AMMUNITION for her to use, she really sold herself short on this one. Tip of the iceberg, my lady. But my goal is to raise good men. Men who apologize when they are wrong. Men who value the feelings of other people. Men who stand up for themselves when it matters, but who don’t need to engage in every fight they come across.

She didn’t use her words. And had she done so, she might have seen that Russ is a good kid who got his feelings hurt and did the wrong thing. Not a big deal, right?

If you’re on a high horse today, I hope you’ll come down to earth with the rest of us imperfect parents and enjoy the view. We’re all mad here anyway.

Do Not Embrace The Suck

Living with Postpartum Depression | Baby Chick:

So I want to tell you about this lying biatch I know. I told Her to get lost years ago, but She keeps coming back. Truth be told, I’m not even sure She’s a “she,” because she tends to come in and ransack my life and home the way only a dude can – but for argument’s sake, let’s just call Her a “she.” You might know Her – or maybe you’ve only heard of Her.

Her name is Postpartum Depression.

It’s probably a little weird that I am referring to Her as some sort of being, but it actually makes sense if you’ve been through it. Because Postpartum Depression becomes whoever you are and morphs into everything about yourself that you’ve ever been insecure about. She is an expert manipulator, and oh so very sneaky – she can take the form of your deepest, darkest feelings of not being good enough, and then she can mirror those feelings back to you at 10x magnification. Suddenly you’re being held up the reflection of everything you’ve been afraid of.

In 2010 and 2011 after Russ was born, I lied to everyone and pretended that if I just didn’t call PPD what She was, then it wasn’t real. That didn’t work out well. Then in 2014 with Henry, I busied myself to exhaustion so that I didn’t have to acknowledge PPD. I made her sit in the corner while I tried to act like I could manage all of the crap going on. But just because you put PPD in a corner, doesn’t mean She is going away.

Eventually, She quiets down.

Eventually, She lies in wait.

And then, another baby.

I’ve struggled in the months since I gave birth to baby William Odin to deal with some of the things that have not gone as planned. Bear with me, cause this might jump topics a bit.

The importance of self-care is something that is now emphasized as a well intentioned path to avoid PPD. But the truth is, sometimes PPD is coming for you whether you get regular pedicures or not. PPD doesn’t give a shit that you took 3 hours to go get your hair highlighted and cut. Don’t get me wrong – it’s good to do those things, it is HEALTHY to do those things, but can we please stop selling women this BS lie that if you will just take time to “self-care,” then you, too, can avoid the raging bitch that is Postpartum Depression. (Which, by the way, “self-care” stops being a verb after baby #3. Kind of like “adulting.” Neither of these things should be verbs, but they are, because in the last 10-20 years we stopped teaching people how to do either of them – just an observation.)

I’ve struggled with guilt, for one thing. A lot of different kinds of guilt. Guilt that my marriage hasn’t always been as happy and healthy as it is now. I know that sounds strange, but when you walk through a fire that you yourself set (long story, one that I only discuss one on one, but am completely honest about), you carry that for awhile. Then there’s guilt because I have a lot of friends – an inordinate amount of friends, if you ask me – who have experienced baby or infant loss. And who the hell am I to whine, right? At least my baby is alive. Seriously…these are things that fly though my head every night when I go on another 2-3 hours of sleep. Then there’s guilt because my older kids are definitely missing out on the full benefit of their mom. This is why we’re pretty sure we’re done having babies. Then I feel guilt because – being super vulnerable here – I always wanted four kids. Not three, not five, but four. Is it because I love the insanity of small kids? Perhaps. Or maybe I would love to have a girl? Possibly…though the thought is both exciting and absolutely terrifying to me (I believe girl moms in this world have a harder job than I do). Is it because my mom has four kids and I think she’s just The Ultimate Bomb Diggity? Well, no shit, of course that’s part of it. I’m friggin’ lucky to have a mom who I actually want to turn into as I get older. But nobody has ever said that I needed to do that – that’s just some stupid princess ideal I cooked up in my head when I was younger, and old habits die hard, y’all. I’m processing letting go of that “ideal,” because I realize it may not be right for me specifically. And that is okay.

I get all of that. I really do.

And I refuse to sell Postpartum Depression as something that relates to the child. I’m not a friggin’ martyr here…I’m a nobody, an every woman, a OG Basic White Woman who loves Starbucks and suburban life and babies, and yes, I chose this. Absolutely none of this is my kids’ faults. One day, I hope these boys of mine might read some of this and rather than feel like it was ever their fault, be fortified with some sort of knowledge so that they can be the kind of dads their own dad is. Because seriously, ya’ll, that man is LIFE right now. I do not deserve him.

But his hands have been very tied at times with the addition of our sweet William. I chose to have a natural birth, outside of a hospital setting, but never imagined we’d end up in the NICU with him. The thing is, the birth center discharges you 4-6 hours after you have your baby (as they should – most moms, that works out pretty well and you have lots of preparation beforehand). I never imagined I’d immediately head off to the hospital NICU with my brand-new baby and have to sit down in a chair. I SAID SIT IN A CHAIR…10 HOURS POST BIRTH…TELL ME IF THAT SOUNDS COMFORTABLE (Also, this is the point where jokes about “the old days” where they’d “pop out a baby and go back out in the field” are both ill-placed and just flat historically inaccurate. So let’s…not.).

I was so thankful to have my parents, my inlaws, and my husband to help me and handle the older two boys in the midst of this. By the way, the NICU stay had nothing to do with the birth center. A few folks have asked me if it was related to the water birth, and it was not – William had ABO incompatability, a blood disease. Water birth is completely safe.

I compartmentalized like a friggin’ boss that week. I didn’t know what had come over me. I was so happy and thankful, and it was nothing like I planned, but I kept my chin up and eyes focused. I was so proud of myself – I was beating Her! Postpartum Depression, suck it! I felt so hopeful that She was on a permanent vacation this time! Between sleeping in a chair, nursing 24/7 and pumping after each session to get my milk to come in faster (neonatalogists are “numbers guys,” as one of them told me – so I hearkened back to my sales days and sandbagged like a mother), I was beating myself into a bloody pulp inside, but I thought I was fine.

I really thought I was fine. And that’s kind of how it always starts for me.

There was no recovery for me. I gave birth to a little boy and then became completely secondary. I’m still dealing with that. Did I expect the world to stop and baby me? Absolutely not…in fact, there was very little I really needed. But sleeping in a chair for the first six nights postbaby, changing my gigantic postpartum maxi pads in a public bathroom that had man-piss all over it, and getting checked out by a few grown men as I hobbled across the hospital parking garage deck to my 3 day old baby all lent a feeling of becoming invisible. I was disappearing.

Then I came home with my baby and my husband went back to work the very next day. There was nothing for me to share with him – we spent the first 6 days jockeying in between the hospital and our two confused boys at home – the same 2 who were excitedly expecting mommy to bring a new baby home just a few hours after I left them, because that’s what we had prepared for. That first dreamy week of new baby bliss that Jonathan and I had with both Russ and Henry evaporated right in front of my eyes, and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. And don’t even get me started on the fact that new dads in the US get less paternal leave for new babies than just about any other developed country in the world.

With each passing week, I felt like I disappeared just a little bit more. I tried. I told myself She wasn’t back. I swore to myself we’d get ahead of Her. I started seeing my therapist “early,” trying to beat PPD to the punch. And when the sleeplessness hit, I tried to make smart decisions – hiring daytime help to watch the baby so I could get work done. After all, that was another thing that was different this time – I took three weeks off after the baby and then I began working again. Was it for the best? Financially, yes. But for my health? Maybe not. But again – it wasn’t anyone’s fault, not even my own, it was just the choice that I had to make. I was lucky that my “work” was from my couch and computer – when a lot of women in the US are forced to return to work 2 weeks after giving birth or they could lose their job. At least my clients worked with me and understood what was going on.

None of this is meant to be a complaint so much as an explanation of how She crept in.

But the bitch is back. Postpartum Depression has gobbled me up in the last few weeks, and there’s just no use in calling her by any other name. Is She here forever? No. Absolutely not. Just by calling Her out, I take away more and more of Her power. Just by talking honestly about how She broke into my head and home again, I render her a bit less relevant.

But the nerve of this bitch, y’all. She keeps me awake even after my baby has gone to sleep. And lately, that’s not a lot of hours. Over the last few weeks, the nights have gotten longer and longer. We have been walloped with a combination of overly attached, teething, four-month-sleep-regressing infant. It’s unlike anything I’ve experienced with my previous two. THIS is why I say there are NO EXPERTS in parenting. Anyone who tells you to “Just do ____” is selling you something, or they’re just scared by the idea that their magic fix was just dumb luck or happenstance.

“Just buy this book.”
“Just let him cry.”
“Just do attachment parenting.”
“Just give him this food.”
“Just breastfeed.”
“Just stop breastfeeding.”

The reality is, none of us know what the heck we’re doing. We are all feeling through the dark here. Yes, we have resources and Google and parents and friends, but in a world of billions of people, there’s a good chance that we’re all just a little different. Nothing is a “sure fix.” Every parent is different, every baby is different. And this sleeplessness, the depth of it – the all-out, catatonic-state-inducing, chronically exhausting depths of this tiredness…I don’t have words for it. What we’ve been dealing with this time around has not been normal baby sleeplessness. Normal baby sleeplessness is awful and difficult enough – but this has been something really wild. We’re riding waves of exhaustion that we can’t really anticipate or control at this point, and just hoping for a resolution soon.

I’m not sure how I want to wrap up this piece, except to say I will not embrace the friggin’ suck. Nope. I will not embrace it. I will learn from it and I will embrace my baby, my boys, my husband, my family and friends, but I will not accept PPD, worthless, lying bitch that she is. I will not sit here and believe that my baby is just a non-sleeping banshee (though he does a good job of putting on the act sometimes). I will not wallow in self pity…for more than like maybe 15-20 minutes, emmmkay? I’m human here.

I will lean on the strong people I have cultivated in my life, and I will have honest conversations with God while I drink ALL the coffee and drive my boys to school in the morning. I will remember that these days are fuzzy and hard to remember, but they will pass.

And I know one day my memory will romanticize and white wash all the difficult of this time, and I will miss this. But right now, I’m just trying to clean up after an unwanted house guest named Postpartum Depression. And she’s kinda messy.

A Prayer For The Partyless

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Lord, I am not qualified to write this. I am so very deeply flawed, so very unqualified.

It’s just this world, Lord. Lord, this world is so divided, so bitter, and when everyone is right, everyone is wrong. We are uncaring and unyielding, unable to have civil discussion. Lord, even now as someone – I can think of more than a couple I know – reads these words, they will scoff. They will pass off this message as trash, they will discard my plea, they will label me.

“Too liberal.” “Too conservative.”

Lord, we have lost the ability to relate to one another in any meaningful way. With just one meme or emoji, we can fool ourselves into believing we have negated an entire movement, an entire party, or an entire perspective. We have lost all comprehension and compassion, Lord. We have lost historical reference. We have lost the ability to hold our leaders up to any kind of moral standard. We have lost the clarity to call a spade a spade if they bear our chosen party affiliation. We have lost the ability to see the good in someone if they bear the opposing party’s affiliation.

There is right on both sides. There is wrong on both sides. There is an endless supply of hubris propelling both sides. Any appearance of moral high ground is a mirage.

We are both jailer and prisoner. We sling sweeping generalizations like mud at one another with such flagrant disregard, and we rebel against the padded walls of the stereotypes and assumptions that have been placed around us by others.

We don’t generate many thoughts that aren’t led by knee-jerk reactions, scare tactics, click-bait-politics, conspiracy theories, and FEAR.

Oh, dear Lord, the fear we feel. We want to say we’ve got it under control. We want to believe that we have the power to make it all better. But Lord, we are terrified. On both sides.

It did not happen overnight. It was not a thief breaking in, no. It was a door left open, and then a window, and then a careless forgetfulness of our founding principles, a forgetfulness that stole so much of what we wanted to be. It was a stubborn adherence to a long-held prejudice. It was a bilateral breach of identity and character, a bipartisan failing, an expulsion of everything that is good and just and righteous.

Ideas are good and can be for good, but they are never OF you if they are not spoken in love, God, and so many of YOUR people have forgotten this. That’s US, God, the collective followers, that’s US arguing amongst one another on social media, posting hate-riddled jokes about some man’s wife or some woman’s child or somebody’s life.

I am not exempt. I am a sinner. That is what I am.
But what I am not: a joke, or a snowflake, or a hard ass, or a neo-fem-nazi, or a passive, sniveling princess.

I am not writing this asking for a rescue.

I am asking for your resolve, God.

I have purpose and so, so much strength, Lord, and I know it comes from you and everything good in me comes from you, and God, I cry out to you today to bring us back to the collective mirror. Show me my failings. Mute my mouth when it stops serving you – a practice which I’m sure will leave me more silent than I used to be. We have to see ourselves and see the ugliness we bear more clearly, if we are ever to have any hope of leaving this world in a better state for our children.

Lord, we have GOT to look at ourselves and look at you and find moral truth somewhere in the midst of all this hurt and hate. Lord, we are so lost.

The last thing I will ever be qualified to do is talk about the morals of others, but I want so badly to move towards you and yet this world pulls so hard in the other direction. And Lord, I know you see your own followers doing it just as much as those who don’t believe in you at all – probably more so, in some cases!

We’re phonies, Lord. I know you see it. I know you shake your head at us sometimes. When fear and anger drive actions, I know it creates a current that just pulls us deeper and deeper into the waters. I know it creates the heaviness in my chest, the shaking my head because I don’t fit in any specific interest group or party.

Lord, when I feel this weight sitting on my chest, I need you to remind me, remind US, that we were never made to fit into a party, to fit into any one movement, to be nailed down to one single phrase or slogan. We were never meant to put our trust in something so fickle, so superficial.

We are more than this. We have forgotten how to love, how to listen, how to serve, and how to support one another. We seem to only know how to admonish and taunt one another. We have got to me something more than this. Please show us what that is.

Amen.

Someone else might’ve.

“Please stop debating whether or not I’ve aged well. Unfortunately, it hurts all 3 of my feelings. Youth and beauty are not accomplishments. They’re temporary, happy by-products of time and/or DNA. Don’t hold your breath for either. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, someone else might’ve given a f—.” – Carrie Fisher

I feel the same about *most* celebrities as I do about politicians. At best, I’m lukewarm-to-apathetic. But nevertheless, I’m going to quote a celebrity. A few weeks ago, Carrie Fisher passed away, and sadly it was only after she died that I had the opportunity to read some of her finer, saltier quote-worthy statements. This one really stuck with me. And while I am starting to deplore the mindless modern practice of using the term “badass” as a catch-all for any time a woman does something beyond standing still and looking pretty, I think Fisher’s message here was in the upper echelon of certified badassery. Not “female badassery,” like it’s somehow different…just…badassery. And I wish more people understood what she was truly getting at.

Before I dive in here, I want to acknowledge the sadly symbiotic relationship here, that in order for me to write a post about why looks don’t portray inner qualities or a lack thereof most of the time, I kind of have to validate people making really stupid comments about peoples’ looks. Cause I feel like if I don’t acknowledge it, nitwit assholes will point that out, and I make it a sport of beating them to the punch.

As we approach the exit of President Obama and the inauguration of President-Elect Trump, I have noticed it becoming curiously popular for people to bring up Michelle Obama’s looks as some sort of back-door indictment of her husband and/or their shared politics. Because those two things are obviously so connected? This confuses me and also troubles me. The most common cut-down I’ve heard? Well, I’ve heard varying phrasings, some more creative than others, but it typically amounts to a comparison of our First Lady to a dude.

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A man? A man. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiight. Right. Sure.

In other words, some folks are saying Mrs. Obama “looks like a dude.” Somehow, this is the pinnacle of what many people can come up with to express their dislike of her politics. That she allegedly “looks like a man.” Says who? Who decides that? And which man does she look like? Folks can’t seem to produce her supposed male doppelganger. But that’s what they keep saying. And THIS is the thing that they zero in on. They could go with “I disagree with her stance on ____.” But no…they go with “looks like a dude.”

Now, if I sat here and told you I was a card-carrying liberal, I’d be lying. I am not. Nor am I a full-on conservative. And I don’t apologize for either of those stances. Plus…well, it wouldn’t be any of your damn business anyway, now would it? But this business of hurling insults about how this beautiful woman LOOKS? Come on, people. If you have a complaint about someone’s politics, have the chutzpah to present a cogent explanation of what you disagree with and leave it at that. Let your stance speak for itself. That’s how adults behave.

And it’s not just your everyday people doing this! It’s “the media.” Though the term “the media” doesn’t actually mean anything. “Media” is merely a qualifier for what may be a magazine, newspaper, radio station, etc. – media literally means the communication outlet. Not Anderson Cooper. He’s a journalist. That’s not a question. Anyways, just take a look at this headline and tell me it isn’t total crap:

“How clothes defined Michelle Obama?” I’m sorry, did the copywriters at The New York Times think that was going to charm intelligent women, when they wrote THAT headline about a woman who graduated from Princeton? “The media” is just as much to blame for this. It’s far too popular to tear down someone – especially women – for their appearance if you dislike their stance, their songs, their book, their words, their beliefs, their ____. It’s so, so easy. And if it’s not easy, then the next best thing is to say that they themselves are easy.

And I want to be inclusive here. In just as much as I’ve read hatefully vapid comments on Mrs. Obama’s looks from the one side of the aisle, I’ve heard just as many “slut-shaming” (hatehatehate that term) comments about Melania Trump. Yeah, I’m lookin’ at you, “women’s rights” people. Y’all came out in DROVES with those naked pics of Melania, and I’m taking you to task for it. Cause it’s really easy to defend the past salacious modeling shoots of someone whom you agree with. It’s very do-able to defend someone whose politics you agree with from the masses of “haters” who are “hatin.” But it’s a whole other thing to have to try to practice what you preach when you really, really don’t want that person’s husband to be the President of the United States of America.
Funny how that works, ain’t it?

Anyways…Ya know, in my lifetime, I’ve been called a lot of things based upon my looks. You name it, I’ve probably been called that.

Boyish. (Sounds fun)
Weird. (My personal favorite)
Chubby. (Certainly at times)
Fat. (And?)
Wide Load. (My high school nickname, kid you not, and I definitely, definitely had the last laugh, I’m happy to report)
Too skinny. (Heh)
Too muscular. (Thank you)
Big jaw. (Team Underbite! You should see my kids!)
Man face. (…I feel like I should quote Austin Powers here?)
Angel face. (Eww)
Bitch face. (That one might be fairly true)
Slut. (At points, sure.”
Hot mess. (Abso-friggin-lutely)

Did that stuff hurt? At the time, sure. Not so much now, but anyone who tells you they enjoy being called those things is either lying or lying. Though personally, if Donald Trump ever called me ugly, my first response would probably be “Oh, thank God.”

My dad wasn’t perfect, but he and my mom were and still are substance people. I don’t agree with them on everything (some politics included), and that’s okay. Because they had this crazy idea that maybe I’d go on to do pretty cool things that had nothing to do with my looks. They had this wild, hair-brained idea that they might ought to help me learn to form arguments and inform opinions, rather than teach me that my main source of worth was my looks.

Strength, an attractive body, and good looks all fade. We are dust. If you don’t like someone’s opinions, their character, their politics, whatever…dig a little deeper than “She looks like a man.” Find something concrete to take issue with. Make it count with a real indictment of whatever it is you disagree with. Don’t waste our time with a sad attempt at an insult. Because there will come a day that those who are currently busy kicking ass and taking names will be living a life they are pleased with, living out the purpose God instilled in them, removing the mirrors from their walls because they no longer bear as much value as an extra family photograph would.

You’ll wonder where is the relevance of your opinions? Suddenly all our bodies will be old and our (man) faces wrinkly, and it’ll be 6 of one, half dozen of another. Will it matter anymore? Nope. And it’ll be too late to make it matter. Cause a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, someone else might’ve given a f—.

But by then, they won’t.

 

 

No Sleep ’til…

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Okay, remember all that stuff I said the other day about joy? Let’s hit pause on that for a moment, cause I’m gonna hit you with another honest one:

Sometime around 1 o’clock this morning, The Struggle Bus ran off the road, overcorrected, and smashed me flat.

One thing that new parents almost always get is some moron telling them to “say goodbye to sleep.” It’s not that this isn’t completely true. It’s NOT that…believe me, I look back on pictures of me from before kids, heck even when I had just one kid, and I am so much better looking in the face. Specifically, the undereye area. So no, I’m not getting a lot of sleep. Most days, I do fine with that.

No, what absolutely just grinds my gears all to bits is the attitude with which that phrase is said. I’m sorry, but could experienced parents maybe be less asshole, more encouraging? You guys know the reason that people without kids are often irritated by us is because of that patronizing, intentionally antagonistic crap, right? No? Well aren’t we just so self-aware. One thing about me: I cannot stand an antagonistic personality. My mom and dad chalk this up to the fact that when my brother and I would fight and pick at each other, as punishment they would make us sit in the middle of the kitchen floor while holding hands. You learn real quick to just make it a bit easier on one another, stop causing unnecessary annoyance.

And yet, here we are in a world full of 30 year olds who really enjoy talking to other 30 yr. olds as if they are clueless about the obvious fact that babies don’t sleep so well sometimes.

Everyone has their version of a solution for a problem that, in all honesty, is often unavoidable and really just related to babies dealing with the overwhelming nature of the new world they’re living in.

“Is it something you’re eating?”
“Have you tried the Ferber method?”
“You need to read THIS book!” Seriously…you know who you are, and you need to stop this. Just stop.
“Well what did you think, that having a baby was easy?” YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE AND I WISH YOU A THOUSAND STUBBED TOENAILS. Jerk.

It’s hard for me to be loving to people when they do this. It’s really, really hard. Because for one thing, I make it a standard practice to just try to be there for my friends who are becoming first time parents. I’m not perfect of course, but let’s just say I don’t get my rocks off by being a self-righteous, belittling asshole just cause I’ve magically popped a few kids out. It doesn’t help parents complete the mission we’re all supposed to be on (to raise happy, healthy, well-adjusted kids) when an older, more experienced parent (or even just a less experienced but more arrogant parent) talks down to someone who is currently adjusting to one of the hardest jobs they’ll ever have.

It’s really hard for me to not put down my kindness and pick up the big ol’ verbal bat I’ve been hauling around since I was about six years old and just start beating people senseless. I don’t get why people need to do that. Maybe it’s an overcompensation thing. Maybe it’s an underdeveloped or immature sense of humor. Maybe it’s just that they’re gigantic jerks who can’t read a situation to save their life.

Whatever the case is, this is my warning. I will give you the shirt off my back. I will bake you fresh bread and a homemade meal. I will sit and listen to your problems just to hear them and say I’m there – even if I can’t offer advice (which often times, I honestly can’t). But if I catch you being a dick to a new parent who is running on minimal sleep and coffee, you will find your way to my shit list so fast. So. Fast.

Just stop being assholes to tired parents, world. They’re busy raising the kids who will one day fight your wars, manage your financial portfolios, and change the sheets in your assisted living centers. So you might wanna spend a little more time on encouragement and a little less time being uber-douche bags about sleep, feeding, and other things.

Just a pro tip.

On 2016: Joy was worth the battle.

All too often, social media is an edited picture with a pretty filter over it. I’m not gonna do that today.

At this point a year ago, I was fairly certain 2016 would be at best a slog of drudgery, at worst a horrible year.

In Glennon Melton’s book “Love Warrior” (which I’m currently reading), she talks about sending her “representative” (that edited/filtered version of her) in her place, because the REAL her couldn’t possibly be good enough. That was how I felt so many days. I’m sure a lot of you saw it and just couldn’t say it, or maybe you knew something wasn’t right, but you didn’t know how to address it.

Rock bottom looks like a lot of things to a lot of different people. For me, rock bottom was envisioning my life going on the way it was – doing things I didn’t want to do, for reasons that weren’t healthy or beneficial for me, with my eyes and heart nowhere near focused on the things that truly mattered most to me. Outwardly, I had everything I’d ever wanted…why couldn’t I just get it together?

Jonathan and I decided something had to give, for both of us. In a leap of faith, we signed up for a class at our church – the church I didn’t want to fully commit to, because I was terrified they’d find out I wasn’t “one of them.” That I was far, far from perfect. This class was all about identifying things you need to change and taking the steps to change them. Could be little things, could be big things. It was a weekly exercise in transparency, and NOT an easy one. I had to divulge secrets I hated more than anything, and I had to face truths that shook my entire identity. More than that, I had to hear stories from people that you would never imagine coming out of them if you just passed them on the street, and THAT was when it clicked…that maybe I wasn’t the only one with some hurts, some wounds. Some really big mistakes. I also began seeing a therapist, something which completely changed my life. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to go back to square one and look at who you are, who you always have been, the little traits and bits of your personal history that shape who you are today. I don’t care what anyone thinks of me seeing a therapist. She is amazing and I am beyond thankful for the extra push she gives me to work on myself, and clarity she’s helped me find. You think things that happened when you were 10 or 11 don’t make a difference? Well then you’re kidding yourself. They make all the difference.

I left sales and left the full-time work force. I established my own business and began taking on clients. I landed an amazing part-time work from home gig with fabulous people who didn’t flinch when I told them I’d be taking a 3 week (LOL) maternity leave in October and hired me anyways, asking instead that I take as long as needed. Serious blessings, folks.

We also jumped from a family of 4 to a family of 5 this year. Everyone told us to brace ourselves. To be honest, people jump out of perfectly good airplanes all the time and I’ve never once heard someone regard that with the same level of foreboding that people often gave us when they realized we were expecting a 3rd child…didn’t that used to be fairly normal? Then we decided to change our typical path and use a birth center, forgo meds, and see what that was like (verdict: it’s hard work, but so is every form of birth, and I think C-section mamas are still the toughest of all). Everyone said “Y’all are crazy.” With our family’s growth this year, so many patronizing people would look at me woefully and say “That girl is gonna have her hands full.” But what they didn’t realize was that for the first time in my life, I didn’t feel like a “girl” with her hands full. I felt like a woman with her heart full and her eyes focused. I felt qualified and called by the confidence and capability my midwives, husband, and my amazing mother gave me. I felt humbled by the blessing of my headstrong, wild children. They are forces of nature entrusted to me by a God who knows my heart and is shaping me every day through them. I can promise you I learn more from them in any given day than they do from me. As I sit here on this last day of a year that I began in such a dreadful state of mind, I am so very thankful.

Not everything is perfect. But everything is beautiful in its imperfection. The messy house. The thicker waistline. The gargantuan pile of laundry that needs my attention…eventually. Absolutely nothing about this year was the version of “perfect” that your family, your friends, your church, or your Instagram feed might lead you to want to chase. But it was perfect for us. It was perfect in its challenge (paying off debt, getting very real about our goals as a couple, embracing the boundless energy of our kids, building walls where there need to be walls and making clearings where there need to be clearings). It was perfect in its revelations. In its pain, its tears, its trials, and its blessings, it was perfect.

My hope is that in 2017, if you’re throwing back a glass of champagne tonight because you just want to run away from something in your life, that you don’t run. DON’T RUN. Fight. Stay and fight. Joy is worth the battle, every time, every trial. Joy is worth the fight.

The Birth of William Odin Wilhoit

You spoke to me and I had no choice but to listen.

You quieted me in a way that not many things ever have, sweet William Odin. While I carried you inside me, so many things about me began to change, and while I know many factors played into that, I have to give you some credit. A gladness and freedom blossomed in my soul, and somewhere in that time nurturing and nourishing you, preparing you to be born, I was born a little bit, too. You and your brothers are all special and perfect in your own way, but that is how I will always look at you – a sneaky poet who personified God’s sweet grace in a year that began without much promise.

You are named Odin because, well, isn’t that just such a cool name? That was really all the reasoning I had prior to your birthday. It was only after your arrived that your granddad told me he had chanted your name many times before parades at West Point, an appeal to the Norse God for rain. And alongside him, he’d heard an army of cadets singing out the name you now wear, thousands of men and women projecting one single, deep bellow, stretching across the Hudson River. He smiled at the memory, and for that smile alone, I knew the name was perfect. It is also the smile you bear when you have funny dreams – a genetic heirloom, passed down across the generations, and relatively untouched across more than a hundred years of dilution.

But William. You are William because I wanted to pay tribute to one of the sweetest souls I’ve ever known. William grew up at my house, best friend to my baby brother, and often fell naturally into the role of bonus baby brother. A blonde-brunette pair of twin tornadoes: Will and Jake. These were the annoying punks trying to steal my diary, the kids I’d play-fight or sometimes literal-fight on the backyard trampoline. We used acorns as currency in back yard imaginary games of “village,” we had at least one minor fender bender (thanks, Dad) under our belt, along with countless summer storms hiding in a beach towel “fort.” Of course, I assumed the world would never be without either of these two. But we couldn’t keep William. Just a little more than three years before you were born, I whispered goodbye to him through a cell phone that Jake held up to his ear as he sat at his hospital bedside in Charleston. Months ago, I knew this just had to be your name.

And I knew your song months ago, a little ditty by the name of “Fever to the Form,” by Nick Mulvey, and on Monday, October 24th, 2016 I listened to it – crouching by the foot of my bed, swaying and praying through the waves that told me you were on your way.

“Go on…fill your heart up with gladness, not a moment too soon,” Nick sang to me as the pressure built up inside me. I had been at it for four hours or so by then. Tears were forming, but not because I hurt – I just was so thankful to know this was the day I’d see your face, that I was here. I was so thankful for everything that had evolved in this year as my belly grew and my body tired. And not a moment too soon, the day had come. The labor to bring you earthside began at lunchtime and took hold of me quickly – I knew I wouldn’t have to wait long.

“Cause the very thing you’re afraid, it keeps you clean but unclear, is the dirt that you’re made of, and that’s nothing to fear,” Nick whispered through my earbuds. The tip top of the contractions had an extra little punch to them and I knew it was time to go. I knew there was nothing to be afraid of, that the joy on the other side of this would be worth every bit of the work I had to do now. I kissed your brothers goodbye and off we went, my mother following closely behind. Your daddy was worried we’d lose her on the way, but I told him there was no way your granny would let that happen, and I was right.

In rush hour Monday traffic, we made our way to the birth center to meet Sharon, one of the midwives. During the drive, I felt you move and my back seized up almost immediately. It’s quite possible you turned upward to face us at this point, and I can’t tell you it didn’t throw me off kilter a bit – but I stayed the course and knew that if I kept moving around, you’d figure it out on your own. I was talking nonsense on the car ride. At one point, your daddy said I looked up at the Bon Secours Arena and said, exhausted already, “Oh, I’d love to see Garth.” This was news to him ten years into our marriage, this business of me being a huge Garth Brooks fan. We parked in front of the midwife office and Sharon looked at me like she could see how challenging this already was for me. Your brothers’ births were beautiful in their own ways, too. But they were certainly less challenging. I was prepared for this, but it’s just you can imagine how something feels all day and it still won’t be the same as actually feeling it. In that reality and in the symbolism behind your name, I felt like your birth was just one big analogy. And the English major in me liked that.

“Still only 4 cm,” Sharon said, knowing how disappointed I was going to be at the lack of progress since an earlier check that morning had yielded the same results. I decided the work just wasn’t done yet.

“Let’s walk.” It wasn’t that I really felt up to the stroll, it’s just I knew the “only way out was through,” so I welcomed the chance to move things along. It was a beautiful evening outside, just cool enough to keep me comfortable when the waves of nausea began to hit me. We ambled between empty medical offices and the birth center parking lot, stopping as necessary so your daddy could squat down in front of me and I could use him as a place to rest during the peak of each wave. Your daddy, you should know, is what I hope you and your brothers will be one day – A towering redwood in a forest so often overrun by flimsy pine. There inside the hurricane of birthing a child, amidst what was happening, your daddy was unfazed. Unwavering. Constant. A hand on my shoulder telling me to “Relax,” without an ounce of patronization.

In the garden outside the birth center, I planted myself stubbornly by the little waterfall. I could feel you pushing downward with more force now, and it was all I could do to stay above the surface with each wave. I focused my eyes downward on one of the stepping stones beneath my feet, with the word “Strength” etched into it. I drew deeper and deeper within myself to clear out every noise and focus on what I was doing, which worked most of the time, even if that sometimes meant that I was going to get sick (which I did, several times).

“We should probably go upstairs and check you again,” Sharon mused slyly over my shoulder, though I didn’t hear her words – your daddy had to repeat them to me before I realized what was going on. She could see that I was moving closer to the time I’d been waiting on. I was in my own world, but I was so hopeful that you were ready, and you were. 6 cm dilated. I was so thankful for just that little 2 cm of progress, because I knew I was going to be able to get in the water pretty soon and I hoped that would make things calm down a bit. As we entered the birthing suite downstairs, my other midwife Jill arrived and cradled me against her in a soothing hug for a moment before I had to climb another wall.

The next half hour or so was a blur. To call these things “waves” really doesn’t capture how they evolve over the course of bringing a baby into the world. Because while the earlier wave may lap at your ankles and tickle your toes, the tide builds. Later, the waves crash into you, suck you under, and leave you humbly waiting for its power to subside. That was the point I was at. Holding onto your granny’s legs while your daddy was putting pressure on my lower back, I remember one thing clearly. I distinctly recall uttering the word “Mama,” while I perched the peak of a wave. It’s a phrase I don’t think I’ve said quite that way since I was 6 or 7. She was “Mom” up until that moment, and then for a few minutes, she became “Mama.”

And then a shift.

“I think you need to check me again,” I told the midwives. They said I was ready to get in the tub to start pushing to bring you into the world. My mind went blank and I looked at your daddy and exasperatedly said “What does that mean?” I wasn’t making a lot of sense at that point, but I remember saying “Let’s do this” in between two building, cavernous waves – the kind that suck you under the water and then whip you around just before you find a way to break the surface.

It took everything in me. Something about becoming your mother brought me back to where I began. Gone from my mind was every failing, every lacking, every unanswered question hanging in my mind from my life, particularly the last few years of mom guilt, marital trials, and professional self-questioning. You took me back to my center, my core, sweet William Odin. Funny how a bit of physical hurt can be healing sometimes. And all the while, that song, your song strumming in my head, somehow louder than the actual meditation tracks I had playing to try to calm myself.

“How did i know what you’re thinking
Maybe i thought it before
Maybe that’s why I’m at your window
Hear me…”

And I did hear you, just as I heard my own sounds change and I knew you were going to be meeting us. In the tub, body floating just enough to take the weight of gravity off my exhausted bones, I leaned back against your daddy’s strong legs and tried to hear what the midwives were telling me. I never thought about giving up, just about how to work more efficiently to bring you to us faster. My husband’s focus and the tears welling up in my mother’s eyes told me you were close, but I was beyond ready to meet you, to be done with the work.

Curled up into myself for one last push, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the tattoo on my right ankle, the one I had done in my father’s boxy handwriting using a sample scrawled on the back of a business card, saying “March Forth.” A voice broke through from Jill.

“Relax. Look down.” I didn’t have to look down, because I knew you were already there. Up you came, out of the water, Jill and Sharon’s loving hands guiding you up into mine. You were soft, quiet, and absolutely perfect in that beautiful moment I had always wanted. All the pain was gone, and the room was filled with complete joy.

There holding you on October 24th, 2016, I thought about what a beautiful, crazy life this is and how much I treasured the gift you had just given me. I understand now, William Odin. I heard you loud and clear. This is your story, the story of how you first spoke to me.

Love Letter To My Generation

Not that I enjoyed even a moment of it, but trending this week on Twitter is the ironically gone-wrong hashtag #HowToConfuseAMillenial.

I almost don’t know where to start.

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This is gonna be painful.

I said almost. And while I’m certainly no economics or sociology expert, I do read and pay attention to the world around me, and I’d like to think I can see both sides of this one. And it would make sense why – because I’m not really “of” any one generation in the immature pissing match great war between these equally irritating groundbreaking generations. This may be why I’m tempted to vote third party, actually – because blindly adhering to one side of an argument for the sake of one’s own hubristic self-satisfaction has never really been my jam.

As I stated – I’m one of the “Nones,” the Orwellian core of the (happily) forgotten “Generation Catalano,” not-quite-Generation-X-or-Y, and certainly not a true Millenial. Hell, I’m not even one of the lucky “TBDs,” the undesignated youngsters like the ones I’m currently raising in a Boomer-crafted professional environment that adheres to Nuclear Family archetypes whilst expecting Millenial-level ingenuity and a dogged, profoundly Gen-X type of workaholic-ism. This is why I work from home (and love it…love. it.). Since the start of middle school, I’ve known I didn’t 100% “fit” in any one club, clique, or designation, and I proudly wear my Born-In-84 status like a badge of honor…I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because it makes it so that I can sit back and watch two equally preachy and self-righteous generations bloviate at one another as if either of them have it all figured out.

And this is not the blog where I try to help either “side” of the bitter quarrel “see the light.” Nah. Y’all, I have two, soon to be three kids under the age of 6…homie ain’t got time for that.

Instead, I’m going to tell you what I LOVE about my generation. Because seriously…you guys rock my world. You shaped my world. You shaped my kids’ world. And you deserve a pat on the back.

But not an inflated and overpriced college education or a participation trophy, because no. Where we’re from…we just didn’t do that. And that’s ok.

A Love Letter To My Generation:

Fifteen years. Fifteen years ago today, we were different kids, guys. Fifteen years ago right now, it was Monday, September 10th, 2001 and we were high school kids and early college students. A lot of us still had tape decks in our car, but we wanted to utilize newer, higher quality sound technology – so we plugged portable CD players in on our dash and affixed them with velcro and loaded in Incubus “Morning View” album on the way to school. We didn’t stop at Starbucks on the way to school, but we’ll go for that now, sure – so our morning caffeine shot of choice was a Pepsi or something like it. We wore seatbelts most of the time, too, because our Boomer-age parents drilled it into our heads and we knew even though we didn’t want to admit it, they might be right. 

We were the children of Vietnam vets, Boomers, and flower children – all of which tended to hug us a bit more than their parents did them. And it was nice. We were, for the most part, loved. We didn’t have all the money in the world, and racial tensions still existed, but something felt different then. We shared more on a personal level, and less on social media (it didn’t even exist, actually). We duked it out when we were angry, one-on-one, and then we moved past it. We were looking forward to being able to vote. Freddie Mercury had been dead nearly a decade, but we still knew every word to every Queen song. It was a weird time to be a kid.

The grandchildren of World War II veterans and their wives, a stoic generation, the Greatest Generation, we LOVED hearing their stories. Something about their stories made us so thankful that things were “better” now, and though there were minor things to complain about here and there, standard adolescent quibbles, we knew we had it pretty good. Life stretched out before us. Tons of possibilities. IT anything was a field in its infancy. College was still fairly affordable, and most of us were planning on going to at least a nearby technical college or four year institution. Four years later, most of us had semi-decent jobs, and we thought starting at $25,000 or $30,000 a year was decent given that cost of living hadn’t exploded just yet. 

We were happy kids at best. At worst, we were kids on the precipice of drug addiction or alcoholism, dealing with an abusive home life, or some other real hardship. But we stuck together in a lot of ways. I thought we were cliquish then, but now I realize we weren’t that bad at all. 

We had flip phones at best, Nokia bricks as a midpoint, and some of us, no phone at all – and yet, we managed to make it. But we love our iPhones now and don’t look at them as a reason to make fun of younger folks because hey – convenience rocks, right? Then again, we came of age in the middle of a change. Our parents weren’t staring at their phones while talking to us (or worse…not talking to us), so as parents today, I guess we do kind of throw back to our childhood and try to zero in on our kids. Too much screentime, like too much of anything, is never good – right? We carry an awareness with us. Let’s just say that – we are aware of things.

Anyways, do you guys remember that Tuesday morning? I don’t know where you were, but wasn’t it breathtaking? Crystal clear, blue skies, and unseasonably cool that morning on the way to school. I remember that drive, for whatever reason, yellow-green fields rolling out before my little green Chevy sedan as I zipped down Hwy. 319 between the small towns of Conway and Aynor, South Carolina. And y’all, beautiful Generation of Mine, slogging in the doors by the senior parking lot – you guys looked like hope! Though…I didn’t know it then. I just thought we were idiot teenagers, like every other generation before us probably thought. What were WE gonna do to make the world better? What were WE gonna do different?

Libraries had become a loaded place for a lot of us, because of events like school shootings in Jonesboro, Arkansas and Littleton, Colorado right at the onset of our high school years. The landscape of a school changed when we were kids – it wasn’t just a school anymore. Could you fit in the locker if someone stormed in with a gun? How close were the exits? Who was the most likely shooter in your class? Did they wear a trenchcoat? Granted, most of us grew up hunting and using guns ourselves – but these were questions we all had to ponder in our schools, and I know you guys get that. So it never escaped me fully, the importance of the school library as refuge, as I sat there that Tuesday morning editing tape for the school broadcast class I was in. Aynor Grads circa 2002 were in it for the backing tracks – Saliva, Foo Fighters, Nelly, Jay-Z (not “Black Album,” we’re talking “Blueprint”). They definitely weren’t watching for my sports reporting chops – thank God for Charles Ham and Jonathan Shannon or I never would’ve put together a coherent sentence on anything besides football (and even that was a struggle). 

Everything changed when I turned around to look at the wall of small TVs in the media center (which was a separate part of the library at that time – this is back when libraries were still mostly about the books, the actual paper, smelly, used books). The first tower was sitting there on CNN, on fire. Teachers and other students in the class rushed in and we gathered there in first period, all of us standing there together when the second plane entered the frame. Up until that point, we thought it was a horrible accident. Maybe that moment of the second plane was actually when everything changed, because that’s when it stopped being an accident. That’s when it became a terrorist attack, in our minds. 

Some of us screamed or yelped. Some of us looked away and exhaled the last little bit of breath being pushed out of our lungs at the sight of a jumbo jet crashing into buildings we’d seen the previous summer on school trips or vacations. We squeezed the desk as we realized that paper doesn’t fall as fast as a human body and suddenly we could tell the difference.

Then the bell. Then the door. Then my white-as-a-sheet face as I explained to everyone else what we saw, what was going on. Then second period, the TV back on, no class, no words, just the first instance of saturation coverage that shaped our entire generation. We soaked in that Tuesday and dripped it in puddles under our feet for years afterwards. It was a weight we carried. Yes, it affected the entire country, the entire world, in horrific ways – but we were 17 and it hit us in our own way.

I remember the lunch table and the cursing declarations that if there was a war, you were gonna enlist – Chris, Beau, Michael. The zombie-like drive home from school, just to sit in front of the TV again and be incredulous at what happened. The complete sense of loss and confusion.

Boys and girls who sat at lunch tables in every high school or college cafeteria that Tuesday went on to fight – and in some cases, lose their lives – for this country. The girls who were part of my generation went on to become some of the most badass, skilled, excellent mothers and professional women I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. The guys? Kick ass dads, so many of them – they’re involved, interested, and invested in their children. You guys created so much for this world, and for once I don’t wanna mediate between an idiotic pissing match between two generations with their own positive and negative points.

To the forgotten generation: The 9/11 kids, the 1983 and 1984 babies, Generation Catalano, the girls who bought every Bush album because Gavin was everything, to every signature on the inside cover of my math textbooks, the first boys to never call me back and the last boy to have the keys to my heart, to the only kids I know who still know every word to S&P’s “Shoop” and will jam out to some Whitney Houston without apology or irony, to the kids at the roller-skating rink and playing pool in a bar we weren’t old enough to drink at, to the mothers and fathers and dreamers, to the Boulevard-Cruising, stick-driving, Britney-Spears-Loving, chunky-shoe-wearing, gum-chewing idiots we were and maybe still kind of are.

I love you guys and sharing these years with you has been everything. Thank you.

 

Living in America

On Friday, American rapist Brock Turner will be released from prison after serving 3 months of his 6-month (piss poor) sentence for raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster back in January of 2014. You can read more about it, if you’ve been living under a rock, here. Turner was caught red-handed, mid-thrust, by two passersby who chased him down when he tried to run away. One of them was so distraught by what he saw that he had trouble giving his statement to police.

Turner was charged with five felony counts, including rape of an intoxicated person, rape of an unconscious person, sexual penetration by a foreign object of an intoxicated woman, sexual penetration by a foreign object of an unconscious woman, and assault with intent to commit rape. Notice that absolutely none of those charges ever just calls what he did what it is: rape. Just. Effing. Rape.

But we live in a country that doesn’t like to call rape what it is. And in fact, Turner was found guilty of only three counts: assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated/unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person, and penetration of an unconscious person. Because somehow, penetration sounds like an accident, and “intent to commit rape” sounds like “Oh, but he only partially meant to do it.”

brock-turner

I shared this earlier with a very angry post (spoiler: I’m still angry), and decided within minutes to delete it and retype something when I a) wasn’t at Walmart with no make-up on at 8:30 am, and b) had a moment to collect my thoughts.

I KNOW that a lot of you will read this and, though you will find it unfortunate, you won’t experience seething, deep-seated rage. You’ll shake your head, and you’ll go back to your normal life.

Let me explain something. I live every day believing that there is a reckoning coming for women in this country. That it HAS to be near. That there HAS to be a point where it gets better. Because the idea of “empowerment” that we’ve been fed is a complete lie, and is designed for the convenience of the oppressors, NOT for the empowerment of girls and women. This is the same lie that tells women “You can and SHOULD have it all – looks, money, career, family, time for yourself,” – as if any of us have the ability to really have it all. As if there’s something wrong when we don’t have it all. The truth: something you are juggling will always fall. Having it ALL is not empowerment, and neither are so many things women today are told to seek out.

Empowerment is NOT posting nude selfies. It is NOT throwing yourself into the machine of American Consumption so that you can become one more pretty cog amongst the many. We are not chess pieces. American society and politics do not have the right to move ME around in order to fit some agenda, whether that agenda is abortion, healthcare, freedom of speech, whatever. And I’m tired of women settling for this message – that if the media or our friends tell us “how empowering,” we are somehow inherently better off. No. That’s BS. That’s feminism gone wrong. That’s a lie. It’s a DAMN lie.

I have to demand more, and yes, I guess that’s me being “a difficult woman.” But the reality is, America does not value women – and this here? Brock Turner, in all his violating, putrid, unapologetic, sociopathic glory – this is proof. Proof positive. I want to state that again, just in case you think I misphrased it: AMERICA DOES NOT VALUE WOMEN. I don’t care if you put a (criminal) woman in the White House. I don’t care if you tell Kim Kardashian that constantly posing naked is supposed to make me feel more free. Because sure, I could be President or I could post naked selfies all day…but a man could rape me and never serve more than a few weeks of prison time, if any time at all. And during such a hypothetical trial, I would undoubtedly be dressed down by attorneys and blamed for my own assault. This is a fact, one which crosses party lines and points to the decay of American identity and furthermore, American dignity.

I cannot change this. And as amusing as it sounds when I find myself deeply angered and hurt by this kind of thing, I don’t think women should have to resort to shooting their abusers/assaulters in the face in self-defense. It wouldn’t bother me, and it’d be interesting to see what would happen if that became common place, sure, but I don’t want women to have to resort to that. I just think our world is messed up. I don’t see why it’s asking so much for America to insist on something better for women who are victimized in this way. I don’t see why it’s asking so much that a man’s life be ruined the same way his victim’s life is ruined – that is, unless his life somehow has more value in this country.

But wait.

That’s the problem. And that’s the message. That’s the message I’ve been hearing for 32 years. Thank God I know different, and have the opportunity to raise my boys differently. But I cannot sit here and tell you that it softens the blow, to watch this man walk free.