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.)

25

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

 

27

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

 

 

28

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.

prayer-hands-emoji

I almost forgot…have a blessed day.

24

Be Still and Know

be-still-and-know

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.

i-voted

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.”

29

Of Monsters and Kids

My daughter couldn’t sleep last night. We had kind of a rough evening. After a strenuous two hour math homework marathon with my son,  I ordered a pizza, and the kids and I sat around the table discussing our highs and our lows of the day as we do every night at dinner, but I wasn’t engaged. I was irritable, the weight of the world heavy on my shoulders. I was short with both kids, not at my parenting best.

Rushed showers and stories and prayers, and the kids were off to bed. I poured a glass of wine and sat on the couch to lose myself in the lives of the Orange County housewives, watched the news, and then went to bed. Pretty uneventful.

Around eleven, my daughter came into my room half in a sleep walk haze and said she was scared. After the normal “Everything is okay. You’re safe here,” she fell back asleep.

This happened two more times in the night. I know it’s normal. I know kids go through times when they can’t sleep, and I know it will pass. I’ve been through all of this before, but I woke up tired and cranky, and when I went into her room to help her start getting ready for school, I forced myself not to show the irritation I felt.

I sat on the end of her bed helping her pick out a hat for “hats off” day, when she said it.

“Mom, I’m scared to go to school.”

I furrowed my brow at her. “Why, baby?” I asked with confusion thinking she was going to tell me about some kid being a bully and preparing myself to go all Debbie from This is Forty on him and hope that he too looked like Tom Petty. (Movie reference)

“I’m scared of the lock down drill.” Flashbacks to dinner last night when my head was far away from the conversation, and she mentioned something about it. Shame on me for not addressing it then.

My baby who is five years old, in her first year of school, a kindergartner, is scared to go to school because of a drill where fake bad guys come in and try to get into her classroom.

This is the world in which we live, friends, and it scares the hell out of me.

We spent the rest of the morning discussing the details and what she knew about the drill so far. Thankfully, my fourth grade son was around to help calm her nerves and told her it’s his favorite drill of all the drills (fire, tornado, BAD GUYS COMING INTO YOUR SCHOOL TO HARM YOU!)

She told me that if she’s in the bathroom and hears the alarm, she’s supposed to stop what she’s doing and stand on the toilet but keep her head down so nobody can see her over the top of the stall. “We can’t even flush, Mom. Do you think it’s okay to wipe?,” she asked, big blue eyes wide with worry. I shrugged my shoulders. How would I know? I never had lock down drills.

If someone tries to come into her classroom, the teacher will lock the door, and the students are supposed to find their hiding places.Kids are being taught to hide from bad guys in school.

As we walked to school, I told her that she need not worry, that we live in a safe place and that her focus today should be learning and enjoying time with her friends, and then I promised her a fun weekend. I walked away after kissing her goodbye knowing that I hadn’t been truthful.

Sure, we live in a safe place. We are in the heart of the suburbs where our biggest fear is a bobcat that likes to roam around our neighborhood.

But Columbine High School was safe. Sandy Hook Elementary was safe. Virginia Tech was safe.

Until they weren’t.

My daughter couldn’t sleep last night because this world simply isn’t safe anymore. Not even for a sweet little girl with a heart of gold in kindergarten.

school-blog-pic

Be brave. Stay safe. It’s only school after all.

20

Rape and Math – Numbers Don’t Lie

I’m mad. Infuriated, actually. A rapist is getting set free, possibly right now. Today, after only serving three months in jail. Upon hearing this news, my immediate reaction was  to pull out my laptop and shove my two cents down your throat. I wanted to write about the injustice of Brock Turner’s short sentence.

Armed with a handful of hot tamales and an ice water, I grabbed my laptop and began my research, ready to write about statistics and logic and speak to the rational world about how this Stanford student’s sentence was a travesty and a joke to our judicial system and a complete and utterly repulsive slap in the face of his victim because it was. It is. It is the definition of injustice.

But sadly, with rape (or in this boy’s privileged world) sexual assault or according to his dad, “twenty minutes of action,” it’s not uncommon. Like I said, I wanted to write a logical article about how illogical his sentence was and how even more illogical his time served was, so I did some research.

Here’s what I found:

Brock Turner was not convicted of rape. He was convicted of sexual assault. Three counts of felony sexual assault: Assault with intent to rape, sexual penetration of an intoxicated person and sexual penetration of an unconscious person.  Here’s the difference in rape and sexual assault according to The Bureau of Justice Statistics. Rape is: “Forced sexual intercourse including both psychological coercion as well as physical force. Forced sexual intercourse means penetration by the offender(s). Includes attempted rapes, male as well as female victims, and both heterosexual and same sex rape. Attempted rape includes verbal threats of rape.” Sexual assault is: “A wide range of victimizations, separate from rape or attempted rape.  These crimes include attacks or attempted attacks generally involving unwanted sexual contact between victim and offender.  Sexual assaults may or may not involve force and include such things as grabbing or fondling.  It also includes verbal threats.”

In California, the minimum sentence for assault with intent to rape is two years. It’s less for the other two felonies.  Upon his release today, he will have served three months. According to basic math, that’s only 1/8 of the minimum sentence.

Enraged, I googled the average time served for assault with intent to rape.

As much as I wanted to be angry about Brock Turner and the giant middle finger he waved to the judicial system and his victim, I couldn’t be. Do you know why?

This is normal.

I’ll let that sink in for a minute.

I was as shocked as you are to read that the average rapist only serves a few months in jail, rarely prison.

Let’s look at some more numbers on this so you can get as boiling mad as I am.

I got on RAINN.org and read these alarming statistics:

  • Every 109 seconds, someone is a victim of sexual assault. That’s less time than the recommended time to brush your teeth.
  • 90% of victims (in reported cases) are female, but get this, only 3% of sexual assaults are even reported. 97%of sexual assaults do not get reported to police. 97% of victims do not report the crime.
  • One out of every six American women will be a victim of sexual assault (attempted and completed.)
  • Only 1% of perpetrators spend any time in jail. 99% go free. 99% of these guys/gals are still walking around like nothing ever happened. Wonder what’s going on with his/her victim? Pretty sure life isn’t business as usual for the victim. Ever. For the rest of the victim’s life, nothing will ever be business as usual.

Numbers don’t lie.

Rape is a problem, and cases like Brock Turner’s can only shed light on this epidemic that so many people are afraid to discuss.

But I’m not.

There are a lot reasons why little privileged boys get away with rape, but one is that victims do not speak up. Why?

  • She was asking for it. Because girls who get raped often shout out to potential rapists, “Hey, please rape me and ruin my life.”
  • She shouldn’t have gotten so drunk. That’s right, rapists. As long as she’s drunk, it’s basically an invitation for you to enter her vagina because she drank too much. Bad girl.
  • She shouldn’t have worn that. I never realized mini-skirts were welcome mats for unwanted penises, but girls, remember, your skirt should touch your knees unless you want to be held down and assaulted.
  • She’s the kind of girl who puts out that vibe. I’ve met a lot of women. I’ve talked to women of different walks of life. Strangely, I never caught the vibe that any of them wanted to be sexually assaulted, but maybe I’m dense.

When my friend Darla wrote about rape on her blog, this happened to her:

And we wonder why sexual assaults go unreported. How many victims blame themselves? And if they don’t, there are plenty of people out there ready to point the fingers at the wrong person.

There is only ever one person who is at fault in any sexual assault. The rapist.

We must stand up for ourselves. We must report these crimes. We must demand longer sentences, and we must break the chain in rape culture, shattering the ridiculous notion that the blame is ever on the victim.

P.S. Nobody deserves to be raped. Ever.

rape numbers

 

 

 

15

There’s Not Enough Vodka on this Plane

It’s a Friday afternoon. I board a plane with my two children. Final destination: Disney World. 

Because I forget things and didn’t check us in on time, we got stuck with a crappy boarding assignment, but alas, my child is under 6, so we file in with family boarding. 

I see a family of four: mom, dad, child, and toddler. It’s clear the toddler rules this family at first sight. Dad is struggling with a million dollar stroller that doesn’t seem to collapse as easily as the two year old who is lying on the floor screaming about having to exit said stroller. Meanwhile, mom stands  above dad wrestling thrashing toddler dictating authoritative directions to dad who can’t figure out the difference in pull and push. 

They board before us. Thank god so we don’t have to sit by them, but as we walk single file down the tiny aisle, I hear them before I see them. 

“I want the window seat.” Toddler screams and snorts. 

Mom says, “now we already talked about this. Your sister gets the window seat now, and you can have it when we come home.” 

“I WANT THE WINDOW SEAT,” toddler refuses to relent. 

Dad says to older daughter who is looking out the window ignoring her obnoxious brother, “let him sit there. Just for a minute.”

Daughter folds arms, “no. I’m not moving.”

Dad, “come on.”

Daughter, “no!” I mentally high five her and also mentally punch dad in the balls. 

Mom takes a noticeable deep breath and says through gritted teeth, “no, Todd,” and makes crazy eyes at dad, “he sits here.” Kid screams. Traffic moves. I trudge forward. 

My children and husband take a row of seats. I ask the man in the row adjacent (who isn’t seated but is standing) if I can have the aisle seat. He informs me he’s saving the aisle and the window seat. As if I’ll take the middle when there are several other seats available. Southwest Airlines at its best. 

I choose the window seat behind my son, noticing the family already seated with a daughter about the same age as mine (5) sitting directly behind me. I can handle this. 

Until I sit down. 

Kid kicks my seat no less than 42 times before I have my seatbelt buckled, but I optimistically conclude she’s just getting comfortable. 

No. 

(Kick count 8,488,911 times, and I’m one hour in flight.)

As we taxi the runway, I determine that she is playing one on one with Steph Curry on her tray table (which should be raised.) I try to internally convince myself that she calm down once the plane begins to move. 

No. 

She screams, “weeeee,” which even in my annoyed state I find cute because I’m a mom and not an asshole, but then she just screams. Over and over again while still pounding on her tray table. It will get better. Surely. 

No.

Screaming, kicking, and reconstruction of the back of my seat ensue as I pray that the flight attendants will eventually come by and though I wasn’t planning to have an adult beverage, my temperment demands a vodka, and blessed sweet baby Jesus, they bring me one. I glimpse behind me and see her mother, sleeping peacefully in the seat next to her. 

And then she turns on music. Justin Bieber. And she isn’t wearing headphones. 

Meanwhile, the a-hole who was saving the aisle/window seats opens a plastic container of what is obviously a shite sandwich and begins to eat, filling the airplane with the aroma of an over used porta potty. 

My daughter looks through the crack in her seat and pinches her nose at me. 

“I know,” I mouth. 

My drink arrives, and as I sip and read the contents of my newest book (Revenge of the Chupacabra by Kyle Abernathie), I try to block out the noise, the smell, the chair assault, and my overwhelming need to pee, and I pull out my phone to write this. 

It is not edited. I am sorry. But a girl has to vent. 

Kick count: 9,100,875,209,299,100 multiplied by pi squared. 

There is not enough vodka on this plane.