Re: A Lost World

There is a better way and we’ve got to find it.

Yes, I’m talking about what you think I’m talking about. I’m going there. I have put off this post. I haven’t know where to start. I still don’t.

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. (Ezekiel 16:49)

You see, I’m not one of those people who has all the answers. I do not have all the plans laid out before me. I am not an expert. And frankly…neither are you. Maybe that scares you? I’m okay with it. God did not grant me all the answers. What God has given me is an understanding of right versus wrong. And the grace to change course.

This is not even to say that I have always chosen “right.” I have chosen wrong – willingly, complicitly, like the spiritual weakling, the lost soul, the ugly human being that I inherently am. Sin permeates our every vessel, and we have only the choice to reject it, to reject the lies of whatever Devil or political party or addiction we might be stuck to.

“But whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me–it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea!” (Matthew 18:6)

If your morality is tied to a political party, you my friend, are lost. Absolutely and completely. Because this world is fading and going darker by the second.

Were we born this sick, or are we born sick and simply ingesting more poison by the day?

These are questions we need to be asking ourselves as we look around this hideous mess. Will we lay down and give up in the face of unfathomable evil, or will we put a foot down somewhere, draw some line in the sand on what we will accept?

My mother told me as a little girl that two wrongs do not make a right.

The twisting of truth to meet political goals. The twisting of facts to suit our whims.

The victimization of thousands of children – innocents in a mess of policy, red tape, bureaucratic bumbling, and parental desperation – is unacceptable and wrong.

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10)

We must challenge the lies about when and where this started. We must stop perpetuating unverified tales spun for political gain.

We must do whatever we can to protect children. From emotional and mental trauma. From vulnerability to physical or sexual abuse. From gang violence in their own country. From separation from their mother’s when they are still nursing infants (4 months old – let that sink in).

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. (Leviticus 19:33-34)

We are lost. And if you don’t see that, see THIS clearly, then you are lost, too.

 

 

 

Re: Meme-tivism

Three years ago and some change, I stood by as an inconsolable friend and I waited outside an apartment to see if police would find our friend (a veteran) alive. He had left his front door wide open, turned off his phone, and taken one thing, and one thing only – his handgun. I came home with my friend’s snot and tears all over my shirt, which didn’t really matter because I had also leaked breastmilk everywhere, because when you’re waiting to find out if someone is alive or dead, you don’t pay as much attention to engorgement. All in all, it was a horrifying experience and I spent the better part of two hours preparing myself for awful news. This was after we were with him for multiple breakdowns, flash backs, you name it…some of the wildest stuff I’ve ever been witness to.

He came back alive. We felt so lucky.

Last Friday, one of my chef-heroes killed himself by hanging himself with the belt from a freaking bathroom. Whatever darkness he was in is probably pretty familiar to me. I’ve been there. Rock bottom can be a good starting point, and I realize how privileged I am to say that…because it’s not a starting point at all for some people. Sometimes rock bottom smells and tastes and sounds like the last day.

Depression is a monster and mental illness is a cancer among countless cancers in life. Life is beautiful. It is heartbreaking.

Unnecessary loss is always sad. Preventable loss is always sad. It’s always infuriating. We don’t like feeling helpless, just as a species in general, and so we fool ourselves into thinking our righteous indignation will save us.

But it won’t.

So if in your social media “personality,” you find yourself tempted to whine about how acknowledging one brand of sadness means you don’t care about another tragedy, maybe just stop. If you are co-opting tragedy to twist a narrative for yourself, just stop.

It all matters. It always did. It always will. Get over yourself and start loving people. It’s really and truly the only way to make an impact.

Re: Kate Spade – the woman, not the bag

Kate Spade is dead and I can’t stop seeing quotes.

They are laid out beautifully, worded gracefully, decorated with whimsy and sophistication, just as the woman, her goods, her creations, and – by all accounts – her life was. And yet, none of it mattered.

The tone deaf nature of the predominant response to such an untimely and wholly unnecessary death belies all the American platitudes of “caring about mental health”. We care. But don’t ask us to think about it, examine it, or question our own responses to the epidemic of suicide. We could all be sick, and we still wouldn’t get it. In fact, *maybe* (just maybe) we ARE all sick.

I will say this isn’t nearly as bad as that time a few years ago, when Robin Williams killed himself and some asshole on my Facebook ranted apathetically, sociopathically about how selfish he was, how there was simply no way Williams’ life had been as bad as theirs had as a child, and they had never committed suicide, so why would he? Thank goodness…I have cleaned out my life and social media enough to the point that I’m mostly left with people who have a pulse and/or common decency. I’ll say that.

But still, all the sorrow of how much we loved “her bags” makes me think we need to dive deeper here.

Now, listen, I don’t want to upset anyone here: There is NOTHING wrong with loving a fashion brand. Joanna Gaines could spray paint plastic mannequins to look like tacky trailer park mermaids and I’d probably love it. It’s okay to just dig something frivolous – so no judgment there. That’s not what this post is about. I like Kate Spade bags and what-have-yous as much as the next person. I will be honest to say I’ve personally never owned one, and it’s not just because I’m cheap AF. Being fully honest: I’ve never felt like the Kate Spade brand was really “for” my lifestyle or personality. Allow me to explain.

The Kate Spade brand was established on the idea of this fanciful, impulsive, lovable, charming girl. She embodies grace, fun, magic, and basically everything that makes us still hang pictures of Audrey Hepburn in busy salons. There’s a striving that happens here.

 

 

And the truth is? I don’t make sense in this ideal. If Audrey Hepburn was a Kate Spade bag, then I am a Target clearance special – beat up, utilitarian, practical, and keenly aware that I’m not “something better.” And I’m not saying that I don’t like myself – I do! It’s just…I’m not a Kate Spade girl. I’m a Target bag. Or maybe one of those canvas totes from L.L. Bean, I don’t know. In any case, the point is, the brand – the Kate Spade ideal – was prefaced upon something we need to think harder about:

A crushing, lonely, and depressing striving for perfection. And not just any perfection – a fluid, individualistic perfection that is almost lethally unattanable.

Think about that for a moment, and don’t get pissy (that would be too predictable, darling, and a Kate Spade girl is anything but predictable). Why did THIS woman, this successful, adored, well-to-do mother and wife with a 13 year old daughter to love and finish raising, a still newer and growing brand, and millions of adoring fans decide to hang herself in the middle of her luxury apartment? None of us can answer that, of course. But we need to look at everything she had, and everything we have, and realize that there’s something darker in all of us that begs to be let out of its cage. There’s an emptiness, a longing, an insecurity, a loss, a wound still gaping, or a God-shaped hole that could be filled – but may never even be so much as acknowledged.

Whatever the case, I can tell you this: If your value can be replicated in a sweat shop and sold on a street corner in New York City as a knock-off for a cut rate, you really need a bigger identity. Rooted in something more valuable. I could suggest God as a starting point, but people get pissed off when I do that, so I would just say: Start somewhere that can’t be set on fire. If it’s flammable, if it washes away with the tide, and if it can be picked up and hauled away by a garbage collector or a Category 2 hurricane, you need a bigger identity. Edit: I am not a healthcare professional and if in the process of finding your true identity you realize that you may also need a mental health provider, professional counselor, or prescription medication in order to manage your challenges, PLEASE DO THAT.

It’s worth mentioning that Kate Spade actually legally changed her name – CHANGED HER NAME – to match her new and growing brand, Frances Valentine. Doesn’t anyone else find that heart-stoppingly odd, and maybe even a little bit sad?

We need to think more about how we talk about mental health in the wake of a suicide, no matter how famous the person was or how much of a nobody they were. We need to look at one another and acknowledge the darkness, what Glennon Doyle Melton calls the “hot loneliness,” that thing that burns you alive but leaves you cold as ice. Whatever it is, you need to find someone to talk about it with, and you need to pour your heart out and leave nothing in the reserves. And if you’ve already acknowledged your hot loneliness (I have – there are people in this town who will tell you I’m a pile of ashes, and there’s truth to that), you need to start pouring water on your friends. You may not be able to stop a downward spiral. You may have to watch from the sidelines and feel utterly helpless. It happens every day. But you have to be ready to help those around you.

Because if you cannot do that, it eats you alive. The darkness. It devours you.

Right now, I have not one but two Kate Spades in my life. They are sunshine, hugs, smiles, and lies.

Maybe they are reading this. Hello, friends – oh, how I love you. Dancing as fast as you can, thinking I don’t see what a mess lies underneath. But oh, I see you. And I’m not giving up. I love your mess! I love your ugly! I’m not accepting the lipstick and champagne you’re giving me. I don’t believe your pretty things or your witty words. I want to see your Target bag. Show it to me.

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Ponder for a moment that the person who sprinkles their glitter on your day may actually be drowning in a black hole of shit that they do not know how to crawl out of. Consider, if you will, that nothing is as it seems, and the more quick-witted, ruffle-hemmed, stiletto-heeled, and colorful the character, the higher the propensity to completely hide their darkness.

You will never know they are on fire. Unless you get to know them, be real, and open the door for honesty in return.

Do not let this woman die and the only thing we do be posting charming quotes.

Let’s start having real conversations about who we are and where our heads are at. Do it with your mothers, sisters, and friends.

Do it today.

 

Re: Senator John McCain

I’m going to tell you all a secret: It doesn’t actually matter if you agree with what Senator John McCain has to say.

This is the mistake we make, as arrogant, self-serving Americans who still cling to the idea that there’s something about us that makes this country special. We look at our political parties, root our identities in them, whisper the lies to ourselves that say “If you side with ______, you’re better than ____.” It’s on BOTH sides of the aisle, and it’s heresy not just from a spiritual standpoint, but from the standpoint of what this country is ACTUALLY built upon. But I won’t lecture you on that, because my college education on the matter has proven useless in the face of Fox News, MSNBC, and every other news outlet that fills in the blanks with what you might want to believe.

But our downfall as a country can be seen so painfully clearly in our treatment of a man like Senator John McCain. He may be far from perfect – and not all of us may agree with everything he has to say – but that doesn’t matter. This man has become a symbol for what our country always does. Our new National identity:

We are the bully.

We always want someone to blame. Someone to punish. Someone to beat up.

We are cowards. Using the only brave among us as a ploy for what we want, when we want it, and then casting them aside and calling them “irrelevant” when they no longer serve our purposes.

We are incredibly slow to condemn sexual assault…lies…rape…racism…white nationalism.

And incredibly QUICK to condemn someone who does not agree with us.

“He’s confused,” I heard a conservative say of Sen. McCain, as if the man’s life of service – literally taking a beating for years in the custody of an enemy – says nothing because he doesn’t agree with them, the clear expert here.

What??

If you found yourself crying foul over “Take a Knee” and you’re not enraged by our treatment of Senator McCain today, then you my friend, are a hypocrite.

I hope God will have mercy on this country for so many reasons, but if we don’t change our ways, it’ll be wasted mercy for sure.

Breathing it in

So, lately I’ve been doing a lot of Barre3 and yoga, and it has gotten me thinking about all the craziness since my last post. One core tenet of B3 is learning to “Breathe through chaos,” i.e. learning to not to lose your s*** when your quads and hamstrings feel like they are bursting into flames. I have found over the last few months that this can be applied to a LOT of things in life. The last time I posted – at the beginning of October – I remember going into that month thinking “Whew, this one is going to be crazy…can’t wait for November’s calm.”

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Post-yoga, glowy, happy, relaxed…and yet totally not representative of the last 3 months of my life.

Wrong. So very wrong. Something about this past Holiday and post-Holiday season has had this unstoppable inertia, and all we’ve been able to do is cling for dear life. I mean, we’re finding ways to thrive in the midst of the chaos, but it really has been a wild one, in ways both wonderful and heartbreaking.

October swept in with wedding dress shopping trip with my niece (spoiler: We had success AND I picked out the winning dress! Huzzah! I may never stop crowing about that…). Every week was filled with kid-shuffling and work-hustling. Still no daycare for Odin (shooting out to March for a spot) and I was still handling quarter end stuff as well as going into Q4, and just in general it was a lot going on. Every weekend we had some sort of commitment, coupled with birthday party planning for Odin’s 1st and Henry’s 3rd birthdays. Having two kids with birthdays exactly two years apart (almost to the day) is a really great thing in some ways. At least right now, while they’re little, it makes everything a little simpler. But I anticipate it will actually make everything far more complicated when they are older. As it is, the proximity of all three boys’ birthdays to Christmas is a real financial bear for us. But somehow we make it all work – for now, anyways. I have resolved once again to start my Christmas purchases in July so that we don’t get hit with a whammy right around November, but we’ll see if I actually make good on that resolution.

November had about two weeks of relative quiet before it was time for Thanksgiving and then our first kid-free getaway in nearly four years. Adding two babies exactly two years apart is not only physically insane, it’s just logistically wacky. We haven’t really had a chance to come up for air since about 2014, but we finally got a few days to relax and just be us again the weekend after Thanksgiving. We stayed at the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Asheville, easily one of my favorite cities in the country (not that I’m an “avid” traveler, but I would do more of it if I could). We drank pistachio-rose almond lattes (ok…I DRANK those and he made fun of me, and I don’t care). We ate AMAZING FOOD (so. much. food. yum.). We walked around a ton and enjoyed all the Bohemian weirdness of Asheville. We slept, I took three baths in the ridiculously deep tub in our room, and I took my very first trip to a Lululemon store (where I bought nothing, because #CommitmentPhobe).

All in all, it was incredible, and we had no idea then how much we’d need that with what December and January held in store for us.

In December, Jonathan’s dad took a turn for the worst and it dawned on us that we could very well lose him in 2018. He wound up in the hospital the week we went on our family Disney World trip, and it was a nail biter the whole time. We had a group of 20, so logistics were complex to say the least, and by the end of the whole wonderful thing, we were all overdosed on magic and deliciously exhausted. For about 3 hours…and then I got the stomach bug on the way home. We spent the second leg of our trip back from Orlando stopping on the interstate so I could lose my lunch. I mean, when you’re hearkening back to labor breathing to get you through a basic road trip, you know it’s bad. I don’t remember being that sick in a long time, but I knew it would pass in 18-24 hours like most stomach bugs. Around the time I started getting better, 13 of our group of 20 had all come down with the very same bug. To top it off, I had also developed an upper respiratory “thing” while at Disney, so I had lost my voice on day 3 of our trip, and was super sick over the week leading up to Christmas. You can’t imagine how convenient it is for your small children (and inconvenient for you) to lose your voice at Disney World of all places. Because of this, Jonathan was the only person in our family who could really safely visit his dad, and even then he kind of had to keep his distance. Right around the time we returned from Disney, we got word that his doctors had told them it was time to bring on an in-home hospice care.

You think you’re prepared for loss because you’ve been dealing with something for a while. Cancer is like that a lot of times…it sucks, you’re sad – heartbroken – but you have known this day was coming. Right? That’s what we thought. Jonathan and I would have late night conversations when he returned from helping his mom and dad, that last week of December, and he’d tell me about how bad his dad was doing. Still cracking jokes, but unable to get a full breath. Eating less each day. Sleeping more. Groggier by the day. The tumors in his right lung had taken over the entire show and he was just along for the ride. By the last few days, my mother in law had maybe had a few hours of sleep each day, spread out into 15 minute increments.

We said “Well, we may only have a few months.” That was December 25th. That was the last day I saw Ken. He grabbed my hand before we left from Christmas morning brunch and said he enjoyed the french toast casserole. Then he squeezed my hand and said “Don’t give up on my, girl. I’m still fighting.” Those are the last words he said to me, and I didn’t know why it made me cry, but I think that was goodbye for him.

Then by New Year’s Eve, we said “Well, we may only have a few weeks.” Jonathan went to the house that night to help his mom and he rang in 2018 at his dad’s side. They talked, joked, and they kept Ken company and made him comfortable. He was in and out of sleep.

By New Year’s Day, we said “…Maybe only days.” It got worse. Jonathan was there in the evening on New Year’s Day, watching bowl games with his dad and helping his mom with Ken’s care. He got home around 11:30 pm and was completely shocked at how fast this was happening, how severe the changes were. And still we said “Maybe only days,” because that’s what you say when all you hope for is tomorrow. Just tomorrow.

At 2 am on January 2nd, we got a call from Jonathan’s mom and I could hear the panic in her voice. It was happening. Jonathan was out the door in probably 30 seconds and I stayed awake staring at the ceiling for a long time. What was happening over there? What kind of chaos? Or was it an eerie calm? I’ve never seen someone die before, and up until that point, neither had Jonathan. I tried to stay awake, pray, wait for a call, but I ended up falling asleep about 20 minutes after he left. Then the phone range around 4 am and I knew before I picked up why he was calling. Jonathan’s dad had passed from this world into the next around 3:45 am.

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A one of a kind man.

The acceleration of his deterioration at the end was humbling. Life is FRAGILE. Our minds are strong for a time. Our bodies are strong for a time. But everything about us is so damn fragile, and we don’t get it. We can’t do anything but just lean into that and take care of one another. All the Instagram-level bullshit of “training like a badass,” or “fighting through it,” or “Being unstoppable” is so tired, for me, at this point. We are not badass. I am not a badass because I have three kids. I am not a badass because I find a way to be reasonably healthy. We can only fight for so long. We ARE, by our very nature, quite stoppable. We are finite.

We are strong, but our lives are fragile.

Accept it. Breathe it in. This air is temporary. This is all a mirage on the way to something much more beautiful. Today is today, but it is not tomorrow, and nothing is promised. Enjoy this temporary mirage. It is brimming with struggle and beauty.

Doing yoga the day after he died, I was crying basically the whole time, because I was literally sitting there, soaking up the fact that I could breathe air deep into my belly and my father in law hadn’t been able to do that in such a long time. The burden that must’ve been on him overwhelmed me. I miss him laugh and I miss his gnarly and sometimes inappropriate sense of humor. Russ has had a pretty tough time with it, but we’re going to do some family counseling to try to help him find ways to cope. Jonathan and I spend a lot of time talking about his dad, and about the fact that something changes when you lose a parent. I’m TERRIFIED of losing my parents, y’all. For so many reasons. My dad is such a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of guy that I worry sometimes he’ll just be kicking ass one day and flying away the next. Especially now, I fear that day.

When you lose your parents, you see, you’re not someone’s kid anymore. As long as they walk the Earth, there is someone who can still see the child you once were. Once they are gone, there’s this sense that you’re just a little more grown up than you were before they left. At least, that’s how Jonathan and I pin-pointed it. We’re not jaded enough just yet to think we’re “total grown ups.” Where my mom and dad are concerned, they will always remember “little” Becky. There’s a comfort and a sweetness in that fact that nobody else can really quite replicate.

I’ll tell you what, though. After losing Ken, it has been such a blessing to have Jonathan’s mom over here at our house more. I think it helps both of them with their grieving, and the boys and I love having her around. The exhaustion she was carting around was immense. If you remember that scene in “Forrest Gump” where Jenny comes home and sleeps for days, that’s how it was – she just slept so much, she was so thoroughly exhausted. And then she got up and got her hair done, went to lunch with a few friends, and things like that. And we were SO FREAKIN’ PROUD. That’s toughness. We talk about being a “badass” in our society like being able to squat a certain amount equates to that, but that’s stupid. Being able to lose your soul mate and keep going is badass.

Did I mention I hate the term “badass?” More every day. I think sometimes we say it because we don’t know what else to say (I’ve been guilty of this before, I’m sure, but I’m really working on removing it from my vernacular because it’s just really empty and vapid). Let’s start calling it what we think it is. Perseverance. Strength. Gumption. Ingenuity. Challenge your vocabulary a bit.

This is the kind of photo you use to guilt pharmacy staff into due diligence.

So that was how 2018 kicked off. Since all of that happened, we’ve again been hit by a round of flu (Flu A – two positives so far) and so we’re muddling through that along with about a bazillion other people. This means tracking down Tamiflu in a town where everybody and their cat have flu at the moment. Yesterday was a wild goose chase after getting a prescription from our pediatrician for a round each for Odin and Henry. When I finally got the prescription transferred to a pharmacy I’d heard had stock, it was all I could do to maintain my composure over an hour-long debacle at the pharmacy for pick up. They only had enough children’s suspension liquid for Odin – not Henry. They told me “Sorry, try again tomorrow.” Considering Henry was on day 1 of being sick with it, I knew it would probably be too late by tomorrow. I also knew, after interviewing the pharmacy unit at Children’s Hospital a few months back, that there are ways to get creative with adult dosage for kids. In this case, Tamiflu capsules can be broken open – in the right dosage – and stirred into applesauce or baby food for a child who may not want to take a capsule. My pediatrician had instructed me to ask for this if they were out of children’s suspension. This is how that went down.

“We only have the one scrip for Odin, there’s not enough for Henry in the children’s.”

“Can you look at doing the adult version capsules instead?”

“Sorry, ‘mam, we’re out of the children’s and you’ll just have to try again tomorrow.”

“Let me ask, when your truck came in today with this Tamiflu shipment, did you only have enough for one child, or was there a waiting list and a lottery, like Packers season tickets? I’m curious.” (Pharm tech looks at me like I’m asking for the location of the lost Ark)

“What do you mean, ‘mam?”

“What I mean is…I’m just trying to understand if it’s a supply issue, an overdemand issue…you know. How much did you get in, and where’d it all go? And why can’t we look into subbing the adult formula capsules in the equivalent dosage? Help me understand.”

“Uhhhh…hey guys, how much children’s Tamiflu did we get in today?”

(WHOLE FREAKING STAFF:) “Uh…hmm…I dunno…”

“NO. We’re not doing this.” I pulled out my phone and grabbed the picture I took of Henry lying sick on the couch today. “THIS person needs you guys to put on your critical thinking caps so that he can get better sooner. There’s just no reason you can’t call the pediatrician who prescribed it.”

“Well, ‘mam, you could call them and ask them to send a different script…”

“Again. NO. I’ve done my part. I’m here to pick up a prescription for Tamiflu for my kid. You are professionals. Please call _________ (called out the number…twice) and get this straightened out. I have an English degree…I am not qualified to tell you and a doctor how to communicate. I’ll wait.”

Ten minutes later, I walked out with meds for both my kids and quite a few dirty looks.

But you know what? I don’t care. I’m doing the best I can. Mama Grizzly sounds real funny to folks until they meet her in person, and that’s okay. Maybe I’m a bitch. Maybe I’m a “badass,” whatever the hell that means. Maybe I’m just breathing through the chaos.

…you know, trying to hold back from kicking over a display of cough drops next to the pharmacy counter. Normal stuff like that.

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.

michelle-obama-portrait-art-streiber-variety

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.