9

This is Us (We Might Be Confused)

I have four older brothers. Some would say this makes me tough (which is true), but most would say this has affected my intellect (also true). The youngest is ten years older than I am, so my education growing up  was, to say the least, clouded with fibs my brothers told me that I believed the same way people believe everything they read on the internet.

We went camping as a family once (only once). I was very young, maybe four years old. Once we arrived to the camp ground, my mom explained to me that she and I would have to use the restroom outside, or we could use the porta-potties at the campsite, unlike my brothers who could  and did have pissing contests pretty much anywhere they wanted. After she walked away, my youngest brother pulled me to the side and whispered, “If you squat to pee on the ground, there are little tiny snakes that will jump up into your butthole and live in your body, and eat you from the inside out.” His dark eyes widened in a very convincing warning.  I quickly determined the porta-potty would be my best bet and spent the night in the camper dreaming about internal bodily snake infestation.

I have an extremely sensitive sense of smell, so my first experience in a campsite porta-potty resulted in not peeing and lots of gagging. When I came out, my brothers were laughing. The youngest (again)  told me that snakes lived in there too and that I should be very careful because they like to bite little girls’ butts. I decided that relieving myself  was highly overrated.

My mom still tells the story about the time we went camping and I didn’t use the bathroom the entire time. To this day, I don’t enjoy camping, and I have a very healthy fear of snakes, but apparently, I would still fight one because I’m bigger.

As a child though, I looked up to my brothers. I believed them when they told me things, which is why I think carrots are green. That’s weird right? Carrots are orange. I literally almost typed green. Let me explain. I see green as green and orange as orange, but I get the color wrong every time. I say green is orange and orange is green. Why you may ask? I’ve thought about this a lot. You see, three of my four brothers are color blind, two very severely, and I’m pretty sure they taught me my colors. Shout out to mom and dad for letting this one slide.

When my dad and my oldest brother were buying his first car, my dad told him the car was red. He didn’t know it was green until they were signing the final paperwork. When I bought a car in college, my brother told me it was gray. Another said it was silver. It was a gold T-bird and a total POS.

This is us.

My parents have lived in the same house for 35 years. There was a house across the street from us. My friend Jesse lived there. He lived in the green house. The green house across the street. All my life, I called his house the green house across the street. Nope.  Jesse’s house was orange. And nobody corrected me. How did I make it through elementary school with this backassward knowledge?  Thankfully, Jesse’s house is not green or orange anymore because someone realized orange was a terrible choice for exterior paint color.

And this stuff still affects my life.

I told my son this morning to put on his green shirt. He went into his room, closed the door and put on his clothes. He came downstairs wearing a -gasp- green shirt. I said, “Why are you wearing that? That’s not what I told you to wear.” He wrinkled his freckled forehead at me and said, “Mom, this is the only green shirt I have.”

I am thirty-eight years old, and I don’t know my colors.

And it’s all their fault. Brothers.

I won’t even tell you about the time my brother told me my other brother got a tramp stamp. Because I believed him.

What did your siblings tell you that wasn’t true? Do you see orange or green or green or orange?

green

Orange

2

Coitus Interruptus

The best thing about not having anything to write is when one of my fellow writers does have something to write. Please enjoy the following guest post by my friend, Nikki Mathis Thompson.

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The material of the shirt in her hands is soft. Humming a quiet tune, she inhales the floral fragrance, then folds the tiny shirt with care. Strong hands grip her hips, startling her out of her fabric softener revelry. The warm breath at her neck draws a shuddered sigh from her throat. She finds herself moving towards the dark closet a few feet away. The space is confined and stuffy, but when his hand reaches the waist band if her yoga pants nothing else matters. His fingers dip passed th…

“MOM…MOMMY! I need a snack!”

What the what?!?

Aaaand just like that, the John Legend song playing in her head morphs into the shower scene music from Psycho. She shakes herself out of the horny haze, as her husband thrusts behind her still fully clothed. Awe…he hasn’t given up hope that this impromptu session is going to play out the way he wanted. 

So naive.

“I can be quick,” he whispers.

 Good thing it’s dark because the eye roll she gives him is of epic proportions.

“Yah, I know, babe. But, it’s not happening,” she admits, with a defeated huff.

She opens the door to find the light of her life, the fruit of her loom, staring up at her with grateful eyes. The little angel must be starving—he hasn’t eaten since the five graham crackers he devoured ten minutes ago.

Her voice is soft and sweet. “Okay, sweetie. Mommy will get you a snack.”

But in her head…“Enjoy your cheddar bunnies, you little co$& blocker.”

-And end scene.

Sound familiar? We’ve all found ourselves the victim of failed attempts to have an intimate moment only to be foiled by the tiny people inhabiting our houses—leaving both parties frustrated, propagating the whole, “it was your idea to have children,” convo.

Hey, some people might be able to shut out the high pitched whining of a needy child, their sticky fingers scraping on the door like Freddy Krueger.  But for most, finishing while one of our kids hovers a few feet away is about as sexy as Hitler in a thong.

Where does this leave those who still enjoy the recurring dalliance with their significant others? Does this relegate us to scheduled encounters?

“Okay, if we start foreplay at 2:30. If we have insertion by 2:45 and completion by 2:50, we should be in the clear. Timmy doesn’t wake up until 3:00.”

We all know this can be a gamble because, low and behold, that will be the afternoon little Timmy doesn’t go down when he’s supposed to, and when he finally does, he wets the bed right between insertion and completion. You’ve heard the old adage, best laid plans…(no pun intended.)

Where does that leave our sex lives? Silent movie reenactment as you finish like a fish gulping for oxygen—can’t wake up the snoozing offspring down the hall. The occasional romp in the back seat of the Suburban—cheerios lodged in your nether regions, while your husband does his best Cirque du Soleil impression, balancing between two car seats?  Or the saddest scenario of all…Dun dun duuun…no sex at all.

As parents, we know how much energy it takes to raise kids. Some days it feels like our life force has been sucked out of us like a dementor from the Harry Potter books. Seldom will there be a “perfect” time, where empty house and libido align in one majestic event. Kids aren’t the only things that keep us too busy to get busy. There’s a laundry list of things that drain us of that loving feeling. It’s a wonder parents might not be in the “mood,” what with the tantrums, the whining, the cleaning, the conference calls, the lost deals, and the traffic. But daily trials and tribulations aside, physical intimacy is a true gauge for a healthy relationship, as much as respect and communication.

A big mistake we make as parents is expending all energy on kids and work—leaving not even a sliver for our partner in crime, the lover and best friend. How could we treat the person we chose to spend our life with so shabbily? Why is it so easy to give the people who mean the most to us the scraps?

Well, it happens. To all of us. But, it doesn’t have to. It’s like anything else in life. It’s not about having the time, it’s about making the time. Some days it’s easier said than done, but doesn’t it stand to reason that the person we lean on the most deserves a little effort? Yes, when you have kids, sometimes it’s hard to find a moment alone. Even going to the bathroom without an audience seems like a Herculean feat. But, with a little effort and a little creativity, there’s time for quality time.

It seems to be common sense that emotional intimacy leads to physical intimacy, right? And we can rationalize all day long about how one can be had without the other, but the truth is we need both. Not just the wife, not just the husband. Not just me, not just the other guy. WE. We all need it to feel connected. Relevant. And if we’re honest it doesn’t happen spontaneously as often as we would like after kids, if ever. So, that leaves effort, and yeah, maybe a little scheduling. Making the time. Kids…life…obligations…we have to stop using them as excuses. We need to take an active role in the trajectory of our relationships. Without intimacy, we’re relegated to co-parents, or even worse, roommates. I’m not putting up with my man child if I’m not getting an orgasm out of the deal. Am I right?

 

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Nikki Mathis Thompson spent her formative years singing, dancing and creating her own world of make-believe. From an early age she developed a love of reading that has grown exponentially to near addiction. She has a business degree from the University of Texas at Dallas. Her degree looks great in the frame, but hasn’t been utilized in years. She gladly left the cubicle life behind to raise her daughter and a son was added to the mix some years later. You can find her devouring a book while drinking a glass of wine, doing her part to save the planet or lip-synching to her favorite songs while running through her suburb. She lives outside of Dallas with her family. Rebound is her first novel.

To connect more with Nikki, please find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

nikki

12

Beware of Peppa Pig on YouTube

Parents, if you listen to nothing else today, please heed this warning. Peppa Pig can lead to very questionable content on the internet.

Like most parents, my children enjoy watching videos on YouTube. My daughter has been a huge fan of Peppa Pig for years, and aside from the annoying random snorting, I’ve never had a problem with the pig herself or her sweet British family. I often hear her snorting from across the room and typically think nothing of it.

I frequently double check to make sure my children aren’t stumbling upon inappropriate videos their little eyes shouldn’t see. The other night, I was going through my daughter’s browser history on her tablet when I came across a series of very disturbing videos.

Multiple random videos featuring fecal matter and defecation loaded onto the screen. I clicked on not one, not two, but several videos about poop. Literally a load of shit appeared before my eyes.

Disgusted and aghast, I immediately called my daughter into my office and questioned the content.

“I wasn’t watching poop videos, Mom. I swear I didn’t mean to.”

“Well, what is this then? It most certainly looks like you were watching videos about poop.”

“I was trying to watch Peppa Pig. I promise mom. That’s gross. I don’t want to watch anyone pooping.” Who would really? (5.9 million people. That’s who.)

“Well, you cannot watch YouTube anymore, and frankly, if Peppa Pig leads you to these videos, then I don’t even want you watching Peppa Pig at all. Ever.” I ushered her out of my office holding onto the tablet for safe keeping.

Later, I decided to investigate further and asked my daughter to tell me how she managed to watch so many poop videos.

“I was typing Peppa in the search, Mom.”

“You were typing Peppa?”

“Yeah.”

I sat looking at the videos clearly not featuring an animated pink pig wondering how she could have stumbled upon the videos.

“Did they start off as Peppa videos?”

“No, they were poop.” She wasn’t even being funny.

I thought for a little bit trying to make sense of this.

“How did you spell Peppa, sweetheart?”

She wiped the tears off of her face and looked up at me with her bright blue child eyes, and with 100% certainty spelled out, “P-O-O-P.”

“Mmm hmmmm. What makes you think that’s how you spell it?”

“I asked Kell (big brother).”

“I see.”

And then I promptly grounded big brother from his tablet for a week.

You see, Peppa Pig videos can lead your child to inappropriate content. Particularly if her brother thinks he’s funny.

Consider yourself warned.

peppa

5

Why Moms Yell

I’ve often said that every day is Groundhog day when you’re a mom. One thing, in particular, that remains an ever present constant in my house is the struggle for my son to put on his shoes. Every single morning, we do the same thing. Wake up, get dressed, comb hair, eat breakfast, brush teeth, and the last thing is to put shoes on before we leave the house. Yet, EVERY.SINGLE.DAY, it goes something like this….

 

 

The fabulous Deva from MyLifeSuckers let me collaborate on this one which was inspired by this meme:

Apparently, it’s not just my kids. Do your kids do the same thing? Are we being punked? Is it Groundhog day? (Of course it is. We’re parents.)

26

The Explanation of a Queef

It was a typical evening dinner at my parents’ house. My brother and I both were both in town visiting, so my mother did what she does and cooked a huge, tremendous meal. Really, it was full of love.

At my mother’s table, any topic of conversation can come into play. Having four brothers and too many nephews to keep count, the topics tend to lean in one direction. In typical Castle fashion on this particular evening, the conversation turned that corner.

It doesn’t really matter how the word queef was brought up. Actually it does, but some might take offense to it, so I’m going to leave that little detail out so as to not upset anyone.

But it happened. Someone said queef. It was my mom, and the boys in the house lost their minds. Multiple mouths spat tea across the table, plates upturned and a roar of laughter echoed across the golden plains of West Texas.

I looked down at my plate avoiding any kind of eye contact with anyone in my family. Anyone.

“What’s so funny?” My sweet mom asked.

My thirteen year old nephew whispered, “Nana said queef.”

I squelched the laughter I was keeping at bay.

Another nephew choked on his fried okra. I watched my brother beat him on the back while focusing intently on his corn on the cob.

“What is so funny?” Mom asked again, laughing along with the rest of us who had now lost any resemblance of control.

Tears poured out of my brother’s eyes onto his red cheeks.

My dad laughed his one-of-a-kind laugh. We were a mess. All of us.

“Is queef a bad word?” Mom said again

“Oh my god, Nana said queef again,” my older nephew said.

“Stop saying queef, Mom,” I managed to get out through bursts of laughter.

“Why? What’s  queef?” My mom asked.

The sound of laughter and silverware scratching plates ceased.

Everyone looked at me. The only girl.

Like it was my job to explain female bodily functions to MY MOM!

“I’m not telling her,” I said to my brother.

“You have to. I can’t,” he said, shaking his head.

“I CAN’T EITHER.”

“You have to, Mandi.”

“Tell me,” my mom said.

“No!”

“Tell her,” my dad chimed in.

“No, you tell her, Dad.” I said to him. He shook his head at me.

We were all still sporadically laughing at this point, but the mood in the room had gotten a little more…tense.

I took a big drink of my sweet tea (the strongest liquid courage you’ll find in my mom’s house) and walked over to where my mom sat at the table.

I leaned in and whispered, “a vaginal fart.”

“What?”

A little louder this time, “a vaginal fart.”

“Mandi, you’re gonna have to talk louder and quit laughin’. I can’t understand you.”

I cupped my hands around my mouth and said quietly into my mother’s 74 year old ear, “A queef is a fart that comes out of your vagina, Mom.”

Her blue eyes widened, and immediately, she filled the room with the best sound on Earth, her laugh.

I returned to my seat and started to put a bite of mashed potatoes into my mouth when my dad said, “So, what is it?”

 

head-in-hands

 

28

Not Less

“Damn, girl! Your pockets are full!” Someone shouted at me. I was walking into the mall with my brother. I was thirteen, maybe fourteen. My brother laughed.  Then he yelled something to him in my defense.

“What did he mean, my pockets are full?” I asked.

“He’s talking about your butt.” I lowered my head, ashamed. I weighed less than 100 pounds. I wasn’t embarrassed about my weight. I was mortified because a man had just rolled his window down and commented on my butt. And then he kept driving. It was nothing to him. I was nothing to him. He could say whatever he wanted to me, a girl. A child.

In college, I worked at bars. It didn’t matter what sort of uniform I wore, my body was fair game for unwanted comments, lewd stares, and unintentional intentional slips of the hand.

I remember one table in particular, a table full of men, ten or twelve, a baseball team. I was friendly and funny, and could come off as flirty sometimes. I was being myself: laughing, joking with my table, probably flirting, but also giving them good service because that was what I did, when one called me over.

“Hey, hun.  Come here for a minute.” I was always hun, or sweetie, or sugar, or darling. Never Mandi, which was clearly printed on my name tag.

I walked over to him. He started talking to me and eventually put his hand around my waist and pulled me closer, then a little closer. And then his hand went from my waist to my hip, from my hip to my butt, and then he cupped it. Like he was allowed. Like he didn’t have to ask. I grabbed his hand and put it on the table.

“No,” I said. He tried to laugh me off.

I looked him in the eye again and said, “No.”

He didn’t like that. Emasculated in front of his boys, he tried to rally his table to get angry with me, but they bowed their heads and pretended not to notice. Cowards. I didn’t go back to the table. The bartender served them their check. Twelve men, several beers, several appetizers, taking up most of my section for most of my shift and no tip. That didn’t matter, but I noticed.

An hour or so later when I left to go to my car, the bartender insisted on walking me out.

“You never know,” he said.

“I shouldn’t have flirted with them,” I said, blaming myself because that’s what we (women) do. Then I noticed the man was sitting in his pickup truck at the back of the parking lot where the staff parked, assumingly waiting for me. We made eye contact, and my body went straight into fight or flight mode.

I didn’t drive to my apartment that night. Instead, I hitched a ride with the bartender and slept on his couch. I never saw the man again, but I looked. Every single night, and I never walked to my car alone again. I also never wore shorts to work again even when it was 113 degrees outside.

Early this school year, I was walking home from dropping my kids off at their elementary school down the street from my house. I noticed a truck driving past me, slowly. I looked over thinking it was a parent that I knew, and then the man rolled down his window. “Nice…pants,” he said and smiled. I was wearing workout leggings.

I looked away. He more than likely had just dropped off his child(ren) at school and before 8 am thought it was appropriate to comment on my “pants.”  I immediately heard voices in my head saying, “Women really shouldn’t wear leggings. It’s only asking for attention.”

I’m not writing this because I have a high opinion of myself or of my pants. I’m writing this because I am a thirty-eight year old woman who still struggles with male privilege and the fact that men think it’s okay to comment on my body, on anyone’s body.

I’ve had a stalker and a handful of creepy encounters. I’ve, on more than one occasion, driven my car around town rather than home for fear of being followed. I have had unwanted hands touch my body in more places than I care to name. Fortunately, I have never been raped. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still scare the hell out of me, that I don’t walk with my keys between my fingers to my car. That I don’t notice every single person I pass, that I actually think about what I wear (leggings included) because I don’t want to provoke that kind of attention.

I argue with my family members who think I’m just some twisted liberal because I don’t think dress codes are fair. I talk to my conservative female friends about how locker-room talk and what so and so said are two completely different things. I write about rapists going home when they should stay in jail. I tell my daughter that she’s strong and brave and that she can do anything. And yet, I still look over my shoulder, and blame myself every single time I get some unwanted attention.

And this is the problem with everything that we are talking about today.

Because it’s not about men vs. women. It’s not about all men being dirty perverts or all women asking for it. It’s about a choice few who think this kind of stuff is okay, and the cowards at the table who aren’t sticking up for what is right, the same ones who are questioning that a problem even exists.

This election season was ugly. On both sides, people continue to say things that are unfair and unjust and untrue. Just yesterday someone said to me that if a man grabbed me by the pussy, I would probably giggle, maybe even like it. This was in response to my defending the women who marched, and this is (only a tiny reason) why women who marched continue to have to defend why they marched.

They marched because some (Not all. Calm down.) think they are less. That we, women, are less, and therefore, they (some, still not all) can treat us as such. Less.

They marched because we are not less. (In the home, at the workplace, at the doctor’s office, on the street, in the bar, at the store, on Capitol Hill…anywhere.)

They marched because I have had this post in my drafts for over a year but have been too scared to post it. They marched for people like me, who were too afraid to march, and I thank them for it.

 

photo credit: The Boston Globe

photo credit: The Boston Globe

 

 

29

The Darkest Night

You see, I wanted you long before I had you. On nights when I couldn’t sleep, I would lie awake in my bed and dream about holding your hand, how it would fit into mine, the softness of your skin. I saw your face in my mind looking back at me, the two of us walking in a field toward the sunset. You were mine. I was yours and nothing else existed. But us.

I planned for you. I thought of every possible scenario for us to explore, every adventure to conquer. I saw us riding bikes and hiking and swimming and laughing. I knew that you would fill the hole in my soul that was waiting for you, for only you.

And then it happened. I met you for the first time. My doctor announced, “It’s a boy!” I reached out my hands, and she placed you in my arms. And there it was, that giant empty space in my soul filled with seven pounds ten ounces of perfection. You cried. I cried, and thus began our journey of mother and son.

The first few hours were filled with oohs and awes and squeals and cries of all of the family coming to meet you. Everyone was excited but not surprised when they found out you were a boy. Constant traffic from friends and family distracted me from a sinking feeling deep inside myself. I held you and nursed you and kissed the soft fuzz on the top of your head, and I tried. I tried so hard to push the feelings away, to quiet the voices in my head, to ignore their screams.

That first night was exhausting. After a sleepless night before (labor and all), my body and my mind needed rest, but you had other plans. You wanted held and cuddled and nursed and mom, and you got it.

The sun was up before I realized it had set, and you were officially one day old. You slept most of the day, through more visitors and doctors and nurses, but I didn’t sleep. When I wasn’t entertaining friends and family, I was trying to control the hurricane building within me.

It started as pressure in my chest, that kind of pressure you feel when you’re about to write a really big check or when you’re about to give a speech to a large group of people. Your heart beats erratic, faster, and faster until you feel like it’s pounding so hard it might bounce right out of your chest. I recognized it, that sinking anxiety you feel before something bad happens.

I took deep breaths. I closed my eyes and pretended to sleep, but when my eyes were shut, the images came. Nothing worked.

I told your dad to go home that night, that I would sleep better without him there. He agreed, and then he was gone, and it was dark, and I was alone in my room.

The nurses convinced me earlier in the evening that it would be best for you to spend some time in the nursery. Looking back, I wonder if they could see it in my eyes, if they were trained to know that I was on the verge of breaking, or if they simply thought I looked tired. Either way, you left to the nursery. Dad left to go home, and I sat there in my hospital bed alone in the dark trying to block out the constant stream of images flashing in my head.

I hear you crying in the other room. I sit on the edge of my bed and bury my face in a pillow. I don’t want to hear you cry. I don’t want to hear you do anything. I want to run and leave you in your crib.

I stand over you in your baby bath. Your shiny chubby legs kick and splash the water. I sing “rubber ducky, you’re the one,” to you while I lift your body out and place you face down in the water.

You’re crawling around in the bar area of our home. Lucy barks to go outside. I open the sliding glass door. You start to crawl out, and I slam the door on your head and walk away.

I’m holding you in my arms, cradling you against my chest. I wear a bathrobe, and you are wrapped in the blanket my best friend gave me before you were born. You coo and smile up at me, and I smile back at you wrapping my free hand around the stainless steel butcher knife that I hold. I bring the knife up and….

I immediately hit the call button to the nurse’s station.

“Can I help you,” she said over the speaker.

“I need my baby. I need my baby now.”

“Okay ma’am. Do you need to nurse?”

“No. I need my baby right now.”

“Yes ma’am. We’ll page the nursery.”

I got out of my bed and walked around the room. I prayed over and over. “Please don’t let me hurt my baby. Please don’t let me hurt my baby.” I said to the empty space, “I love him. I love him more than anything. Please don’t let me hurt my baby.”

I shook my head back and forth convincing myself that I was wrong, that I wasn’t seeing what I knew I was seeing. My hands tensed at my side as I paced the cold tile floor barefoot. I could feel the crazed look in my eye without even seeing myself. Finally, a knock on my door.

“Come in,” I barked.

And there you were in your clear bassinet. Swaddled in a white blanket with a pastel striped beanie on your head, your mouth the perfect shape of a heart. The nurse looked at me concerned.

“Are you okay, ma’am?” she asked. I noticed she still had her hand on the bassinet where you lay.

“I’m fine,” I lied. “I just need my baby.”

“I can stay if you like?” she said in a question.

I shook my head and eyed her protective stance over my baby. My baby.

“No. I’d like to be alone with him.”

We stood there, she and I, neither willing to break the staring game.

I reached in and picked you up and pulled you into my chest. I glanced distrustful at the nurse. She nodded toward the bed.

“Why don’t you pull down your gown and put him under it. Let’s take off his shirt and let him be in his diaper. Sometimes it’s good for both mom and baby to have skin to skin contact.”

I swallowed the lump in my throat and carried you toward the bed. I laid you down and unwrapped you from your swaddle and pulled the little  white t-shirt over your head. You reached your tiny hand up and wrapped it around my finger. I let you hold my finger as I used my free hand to unsnap my gown and pull you to my chest. You curled into me and started rooting at my collar bone, still holding my finger.

The nurse backed out of the room. When she reached the door, she whispered, “Honey, I am just outside if you need anything.”

Tears spilled down my cheeks. I buckled into a tsunami of emotions, love mixed with fear, mixed with joy, mixed with terror. I pulled the blanket up and tucked it behind my shoulder and held you there for the rest of the night, only breaking to nurse you when you were hungry or to change your diaper.

Each time we got back to our spot, I reached my finger out to let you wrap your hand around it, and we held on to one other, quietly promising each other not to let go, until we made it past that dark and terrifying night.

Yesterday we celebrated the day you were born. Every day you grow into an even more amazing person. You have a passion for life and a wonderful sense of humor, and the way you smile with your whole head is contagious. I love you more every single day.

Today, for the first time I can admit that ten years ago, in a quiet room in Dallas, Texas, I saw myself in clear HD vision doing horrible things to you. I recognized that night what those images were. I convinced myself that they were in fact a symptom of postpartum depression and that they would pass. I knew enough to know that my rational brain wasn’t functioning right and that the hormones and exhaustion coupled with my current fragile mental health were all working against me, fighting a war with my erratically firing neurotransmitters in my head.

While you slept on my bare chest, I reimagined every bad vision I had, and I mentally replaced the original actions with nurturing actions. I convinced myself that I was seeing those things to prepare me. That if you were crawling in the bar area of our house, I would need to be extra careful to not let the dog out while you were near the door, that all knives were to be kept out of your reach (and mine temporarily) and that I would never give you a bath if I was exhausted or stressed. I reminded myself over and over how much I wanted you and all of the plans I had for us.

I can’t tell you why I was able to rationalize everything I saw or that it was even the right thing to do, but, for me, it helped. I never admitted it to a doctor for fear they would take you away. I confided only in my sister-in-law that I was afraid to be alone with you but never shared the details of what I went through that night. Only a few people even know today what happened that night. I was ashamed to tell anyone. Who thinks those things about her own baby? A baby she wanted so badly?

It took me a while to trust myself with you. To know that I wouldn’t hurt you. To believe that I could be what you deserved me to be as a mom. Even today, I struggle to feel capable of being what you need, but I do it, and I treasure it, and I thank you for holding onto my finger and promising that together, we could conquer the night.

Thank you for giving me the most important role of my life and for continually reminding me that it’s good to be your mom.

mom-and-kell

 

 

14

Dear Good Christian Bitch

Dear GCB,

I wonder how cold it is way up there on your high horse where you sit ready to look down at anyone who crosses your holier than thou path. Does it make you feel closer to Jesus (because I don’t really think He lives in the sky)? Do you think you look good up there, pompous and arrogant, a knower of all of the things and a judge to us all? I see you. I’ve watched you for a while.

I see the way you whisper in church with your girlfriends, how you look down your nose at the single mom who comes to church in her beat up jeans with her four kids. I see the way you roll your eyes when the preacher’s wife, a tall pretty blonde, walks up to the pulpit to speak to the children. You see, I’ve been around you my entire life. I grew up with you. I know you well.

You were part of the group of girls who made fun of me at church. You announced in front of everyone that I had a (gasp) run in my stockings. You pointed to my teeth and asked loud enough so everyone could hear why they were so yellow.

In Sunday school.

You made me cry and didn’t apologize. You laughed at me when I forgot the bible verse that I knew but was too nervous to remember when I had to stand at the front of the class.

You were the girl who told the only boy who gave me any attention at church that I was a slut who slept around and that I would give him AIDS. Then you called him gay for liking me.

In junior high. At youth group.

You told the other girls that I was poor. (Perhaps compared to you, I was, but I was rich in something else. Kindness. Love. Compassion.)

I hated church because of you. I laid in my bed on Sunday mornings sick with anxiety waiting for my dad to come in and tell me to get ready. I obsessed about what to wear, how to fix my hair, shoes, fingernails, jewelry, purses, and all because I wanted to impress you, and every time you pulled me into your group and made me feel like I might belong, you dropped another mean bomb on me and exploded any hope that I had of ever fitting in.

At church. In God’s house.

And now, we’re all grown up, and I hear you on your phone with your girlfriend in the grocery store talking about what Joel Osteen says is right and true and good and just, and then after we’ve checked out and loaded our groceries, I see you behind me at the light. You’re annoyed because I’ve rolled down my window to give the man on the corner with the sign a couple of dollars. You think he’s a nuisance to society, that he’s mucking up the scenery of your cute suburban town, and God forbid, you be delayed. You might be a few minutes late to prayer group because I looked him in the eye and told him that he mattered.

You can’t wait to jump online and shame other moms about their parenting. You love to post hateful sanctimonious comments to mothers who are just like you, struggling every day to make it. You look down your haughty nose at other parents who aren’t raising their children the way you are. I hear you. And I see you. You’re quick to judge and point out other people’s faults, and often you do it publicly. I don’t know a lot of things, but I’m fairly certain this is the exact opposite of WWJD.

You use Facebook as a platform to preach God’s love. Your feed shows constant daily devotionals and scriptures to make sure the world knows what a great person you are. Yet, when you’re the center of a group of women, you’re the first to bring up what so and so wore or said or did and get the rest of the girls to join your personal tirade. Then when that same so and so posts that she’s having a hard time on Facebook, you’re quick with the prayer hands emoji and always say “praying for you, my friend,” right before you call your other friend to gossip about her problem behind her back.

You’re the reason I don’t go to church. You’re the reason Christians get a bad name. You’re the very reason I question my own faith. Because how can I be part of a group with so much judgement for people who they don’t understand? I know you’re the minority, that most Christians are inherently good and kind, but you’re louder than everyone else, so you have become the figurehead for me and for a lot of other people.

And that figurehead is the face of a hypocrite. You bathe in the glory of God’s love and forgiveness when everyone can see, but when you think nobody is looking, you’re doing the exact opposite of what you preach. You show your little girl that it’s okay to talk bad about other people. She heard you talking about how Sally is having marital problems and will probably get a divorce and that you can’t possibly be friends with Sally anymore if she’s divorced, and then your daughter hears you and your friend plot out how you’re going to snuff Sally out of your life, and then that sweet little girl goes to school the next day and creates a club and doesn’t allow a little girl to play with the other girls,  and poor little Paisley goes home to her mom and tells her that she no longer has any friends because she wore purple today and everyone else wore pink, and so nobody would play with her. And she’s in kindergarten. Do you hear this?

Let me say it louder.

Your daughter is listening.

Do you want her to see the same woman I see? The Good Christian Bitch who thinks she’s better than everyone else?

I didn’t think so. Get off of your high horse. Put down your prayer hands, and be the person you pretend to be on Facebook, at church, when everybody is looking. Because you know what? I’m always looking. Your daughter is always looking. And all of those sinner/non-Christian heathens whom you’ve spent a lifetime looking down your nose at, they’re looking too, and they’re staying as far away from you and your church as possible. Oh you think they don’t know where you go to church?

You have a sticker on the back window of your Cadillac Escalade, right next to the one with the stick figure family with a mom, a dad, two boys and a girl.  I noticed you because you just flipped me off in traffic. Must be running late for bible study.

Sincerely,

Everyone

PS: If you’re sitting there wondering if this post is about you, it isn’t, but it also probably is.

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I almost forgot…have a blessed day.

24

Be Still and Know

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I talked to my mom today. I’m sure a lot of you talked to your moms today. It’s probably something as routine as putting on deodorant or brushing your hair.

But I haven’t had a normal conversation with my mom in a while.

She didn’t beat around the bush. I said hello, and she said she might not know who I am tomorrow, and as I heard those words, I sunk down onto the floor of my kitchen. I clutched the phone to my ear while squeezing back my tears, and I sat on my cold kitchen floor and reassured her that she would. That she will always know me, that she is the strongest person I know, and that she’s fought harder battles in her life.

She said she loved me at least three times, like she might never say it again. And I said it back, like she might not hear it again.

The following article has been edited but was previously published on Sisterwivesspeak.com. (No longer available.) I wrote this a year or so ago, maybe longer, and when I reluctantly hung up the phone with my mom, I remembered the words I wrote as they echoed in my head.

******

I save all of her voicemails. All of them. Friends call and say, “Your voicemail is full. I couldn’t leave a message,” and I lie and say that I’m too lazy to delete my messages, but it’s not true. I can’t delete them because one day they may be all I have of her.

I fear losing her. It haunts me.

Losing the mother who I know today, who’s really not the mother I knew three years ago, who keeps changing every year, whose mind might never be “normal” again, who one day might not even recognize my face.

Death would be easier. Death is final and sometimes even fair. But my mother has dementia, and her mind goes through cycles. Sometimes she’s (almost) normal. She’s our now normal, but then there are times when she isn’t. And one day those times will be all that I know.

Glenn Campbell wrote a song called “I’m Not Gonna Miss you,” a song he recorded shortly after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He wrote the heartbreaking lyrics “I’m still here but yet I’m gone…” to help his family understand that the grief would be one sided, that he wouldn’t “miss” them.

I picture a day when I visit with my mother, when she doesn’t know my name, who I am, and it breaks my heart.

Shatters it.

But what’s even more difficult for me to wrap my brain around is that one day, she isn’t going to know who she is. She won’t remember having five kids and keeping an immaculate house. She may not remember how she never met a stranger, how no matter where she was, she could make a friend. She won’t remember that she had the best sense of humor, and her West Texas accent only accentuated her wit. She won’t remember that she could make a room burst into laughter with one of her lines like “madder than a piss ant in a pepper jar.” She won’t remember being a daring child who wasn’t afraid to ride a bull or a horse that hadn’t been broken.

She won’t remember her first kiss.

She won’t remember giving birth to her first child.

She won’t remember all of the funny stories from her childhood.

She won’t remember dancing with my dad.

She won’t remember when she kissed me goodnight.

She won’t remember when she walked me into kindergarten and told me to be brave.

She won’t remember when she whispered in my ear just before I got married that no matter what ever happened in my life I should put myself first. Always.

She won’t remember.

She won’t remember.

She won’t remember.

And what terrifies me more than anything is that she might be scared, and who will be there to comfort her if she doesn’t know who anyone is, if she doesn’t even know who she is?

There’s a song that a friend introduced me to a while back. It often randomly plays from my music library, and every time, it gives me this strange sense of comfort.

I want to comfort her. I want her to know I am always here.

I hope that when she is in that dark and scary place, she can just “be still and know.”

22

Just a Girl For a Girl

I grew up censored. I was taught to behave a certain way. I obeyed the rules  to sit still and be quiet and that (and this is a big one) women do not have the right to assert authority over men. It was in the Bible, so it was true. My father, a Christian fundamentalist, taught me from a very young age that women were inferior. I don’t fault him. He no longer believes this way, and he supports women and is coming around to feminism.  If you know anything about me at all, you know that my dad is one of my favorite people on the planet, and nobody has ever or will ever love me as much as he does, but I grew up “just a girl” who could do things well “for a girl” who was smart “for a girl.”

I had a great childhood and was loved and cared for, but along the way, I started to realize that I didn’t buy into the “for a girl” bullshit I was being spoon fed. I watched my mother, a traditional stay at home mom, submit to my father on most decisions that were made in our home. He was the head of the house, and when I began to voice my opinion on the subject, I was squelched and quieted and told that I didn’t know anything by most of the people in my family.

When Geraldine Ferraro was announced as the vice presidential candidate in 1984, I heard a lot of talk about how a woman couldn’t possibly be president. She would be too emotional to hold such a title. I was six years old.

The older I got, the more I rebelled against that conventional mindset, but I continued to hear things like “women shouldn’t” or worse, “women can’t.” Last week, I defended a candidate that a family member interviewed for a job because he was worried if he hired her, she would be high maintenance. Because she’s female.

I try not to teach my children stereotypes. Anytime my son gets emotional, I don’t tell him to “stop crying like a girl.” I tell my daughter she can do anything.

Just this morning, she said to me, “Mom, I know I’m not supposed to play football because I’m a girl, but I like it.”

I responded, “Because you’re a girl? Pfft. Girls can do anything. Today, for the first time in history, I can vote for a woman to be president of the United States. We can be astro-physicists, epidemiologists, fork lift drivers, police officers, baseball players. Anything. And if you love football, you play without apology. Don’t let anyone tell you because you’re a girl, you can’t do something. Because you are a person, and you can do anything.”

She woke up with a stomachache this morning and stayed home from school, so when I went to the polls today to vote, I took her with me. I felt an immense sense of pride, a lump heavy in my throat as we walked side by side into the polling station.

The woman at the desk offered her an “I voted” sticker, and she graciously took it. We went to the booth. I showed her Hillary Clinton’s name on the ballot and said, “Let’s make history.” Tears welled in my eyes as 1we pressed the screen and put an X next to her name. This is a moment she and I will remember for the rest of our lives.

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We’re With Her

I sometimes rock the boat on social media and get into discussions about things like gun control because I’m passionate about it, but I have stayed pretty quiet about this election. The times I’ve spoken any opinions, I’ve been put in my place and quieted. I’ve received lots of hateful private messages that I tried to simply brush off. To me, it’s not worth it to lose friends over an election, so I’ve kept my mouth shut. Until today.

Women didn’t earn the right to vote in this country until 1920, and it took another 96 years for a woman’s name to be on the ballot for President. It doesn’t matter what side of the fence you lean. This is a big deal. For my daughter, for me, for women, for America.  And because of this monumental moment in history, for the first time in my life I feel brave enough to let everyone I know hear me say, “I’m with her.”