Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Gay Marriage.

I'm so sick of hearing about "gay marriage."

Traditional marriage is a man agreeing with another man that their families are of similar social standing and could benefit from combining their land and wealth. These two men would then arrange for a marriage between their very young children who may have never even met. They draw up a contract, and essentially "sell" their children to each other. The people - whether they ever love each other or not - are then married. Tada. The families go on, the wealth grows. The end.

This romantic idea that marriage is all about "love" is adorable, and shows how awesome our culture has become as far as honoring individual wishes. It's still a civil, legal arrangement though, which makes it a government matter, not a church matter.

I challenge every person who believes that marriage is a religious and Godly matter to get married in their churches, but never make it legal. I challenge them to give up every legal benefit they receive from the government and live their own lives according to their religious traditions, to give up all the benefits they wish to deny to others, all the benefits that have nothing to do with whether or not the church was involved in their wedding.

Until people are willing to do that, we have to admit that marriage is more than just a solemn religious ceremony. It is a social construct supported by the government that cannot be limited to any one religious interpretation because that's grossly unconstitutional.

Whether or not gay people gross you out, whether you think it's wrong, whether you're suppressing others because you're trying to suppress these urges in yourself that you despise, none of that matters. What matters is how we treat people, how we treat the people we disagree with especially, and to what lengths we go to support each other so that we're all standing on two feet on equal ground.

If you don't think that two men can get married according to your tradition, keep your mouth shut.  You aren't even married according to just your tradition the second you let the government step in and give you benefits.  Time to move on to bigger battles, people, and stop finding fancy ways to say, "Neighbor, I hate you."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Fears Faded

Evelyn was sitting quietly on the kitchen floor while I prepared her lunch.  She had found some old slow nipples in a drawer that we no longer use and was playing with them, sticking her skinny finger into the tip and bending it, then pointing it at me with a goofy grin spread across her face.  A small cry from the living room got our attention - August, who had been napping in the swing, was waking up.

Evelyn stood up, nipple in hand, and walked into the dining room.  She stood facing the living room and pointed at Gus, whose small whining cry was escalating into something more.  "Bubba," she said in a very matter-of-fact tone.  It was one of the few baby words we ever used with her, a word much easier for her to learn and say than "bottle" would have been.  She proceeded to walk purposefully to the swing, holding the nipple as if a bottle were attached and she was ready to offer it to soothe his cries.  Mama, after all, does it all the time and it seems to work.

All the fears I faced during my pregnancy with my son, now three months old, have faded, bleached by the sun of our loving and carefree lives together.  Our days are full of love and play - the jealousy I feared Evelyn would harbor never materialized, the slight neglect of her physical needs while I took care of her infant brother was never a credible threat.  The truth to the question every child with a sibling eventually ponders, one I didn't quite think I was ready to face, that question as to whether or not parents did in fact have a favorite or preferred child, proved itself negative.  My confidence, the size of a small seed, grew into a fruit tree that cast a fragrant shade on the otherwise hot summer days of motherhood.

I live in an almost constant state of awe.  I watch my children interact with one another and the world around them free of the bonds of what we mistake for knowledge - prejudice, fear, stereotypes, disgust.  Living without a concrete sense of the concepts of "right" and "wrong," children invariably default to what is right - love, plentiful and eternal.  If only we all could live with such innocence and optimism.

August sits in his bouncy chair at times, watching his sister as she goes about her daily business of dancing, playing, drawing, and talking.  At random intervals, he is the recipient of her attention - she runs in tiny steps from across the room, arms thrown out ahead of her as she yells "Hug!" and stops short so that she can gently place her arms around his shoulders and lower her head to his chest.  He often finds himself with a toy between his feet, or a bottle of lightly scented lotion beneath his nose, things that Evelyn finds enjoyable and wants to share with him so that he, too, might find enjoyment in her simple pleasures.  His hair is often gently stroked, his eyes kissed, his hands held.  When he cries, he might find a pacifier thrust in his face by well-meaning little hands, or maybe an empty nipple.

I don't expect it to always be so peaceful.  I'm realistic, and I know that the docility between siblings is a temporary thing that seems to harden into something a little more competitive, a little more frustrated with age.  However, every small interaction, every loving connection humbles me and I want to learn from them, the masters of humanity, what it is to be so unmarred by this cruel world.  I want to encourage it to last as long as possible, though.

Today, I was holding Gus and couldn't bend down.  Struggling with my feet, I tried to kick the remote onto the couch or somehow balance it on the to of a foot so I could reach it and change the channel from droning political updates on a news channel to something more uplifting.  Evelyn put down her crayon and walked over, picked up the remote and handed it to me.  She then went back to drawing lines on her blank sheet of paper and all I could do was stand there and contemplate her gesture.  I have so much to learn.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Jaded Society

Like many children in my generation, I grew up with violence that poured forth from the box of light in the living room.  It was disguised in colorful cartoons with talking animals who could be victimized in one scene yet live and breathe in the next; it was invited in when movies with titles like "Hellraiser" and "Nightmare on Elm Street" were rented and popped into VCRs at sleepovers where parents kept out of the way.    

Who knows how many dramatized murders I, or anyone else, have seen.

I've always had a gross fascination with gore.  I grew up on a steady diet of horror movies in dark rooms, eyes wide with excitement and fear.  I was reading yellowed, well-worn Stephen King novels when other kids my age were just discovering RL Stein.  I couldn't read enough about real-life serial killers - especially if the books had pictures.

There's a dark side to humanity that exists beneath the relatively still surface of average life, a curling, fetid reality that many of us will never experience, though we may gaze into it briefly when we read the news.  I was enthralled by it - an innocent fascination that wanted to peel back the pretty wool over our eyes and see the grit we spend so much time denying.

It was a morbid curiosity that brought me to the dark corners of the internet where you can see anything you want to see, and don't want to see.  I still can't shake those cobwebs loose.

Let's just get it out there:  I've seen a snuff film.  I've seen a few, actually.  Quite a few.  They come with little stories attached to make you feel better about what you're watching, like being told that the man being burnt alive by his neighbors was a rapist so he deserved it; it's okay to watch.  The men being beheaded in the Middle East were part of a war, something we accept every day; it's okay to watch.  The man cutting himself open and pulling out his intestines was on drugs, and he did it to himself; it's okay to watch.

We've seen all of this before anyway, haven't we?  We just call it something else.  We call it "Rambo."  We call it "The Shining."  We call it "Saw," we call it "Cannibal Holocaust," we call it "Natural Born Killers."  

But we haven't seen it before, really seen it.  No one reading this, I'm sure, has ever murdered anyone.

The Dnepropetrovsk Maniacs

In Ukraine, in the months of June and July of 2007, two 19-year-old men went on a killing spree.  They killed two people the first night, and wouldn't stop until 21 people were dead.  One of those people was Sergei Yatzenko, and I watched him die.

His death wasn't scripted; he was not an actor.  Sergei Yatzenko was just a man living his life - he was a father who had survived recurring bouts with cancer enjoying a beautiful summer day on his motorcycle, not knowing that his innocent life would come to an end that very afternoon at the hand of two thrill-killers who would record the gruesome scene, their laughter serving as a soundtrack.

The video shown in court as evidence was brutal.  For four agonizing minutes, Yatzenko is beat in the head repeatedly with a hammer, his face broken and puckered like cracked glass.  He would lapse in and out of consciousness, gasping and sputtering through the blood that pooled in the grooves of his collapsed skull.  The boy who recorded it would laugh; the attacker would remark that he could see the man's brain, which he proceeded to stab with a screwdriver.  

For how hardened I thought I had become, for how thick I would have sworn my skin was, I couldn't watch much of it.  My blood pressure dropped, my vision blurred, my skin grew cold.  I was shaking, despite the hot summer air hanging thick in my eleventh-floor apartment.  My throat pinched shut, and I almost vomited.

That day, as I lay on the floor cradling my face in my hands trying to do the impossible - to un-see what I had just seen - was the last day that I ever looked at anything like that again.  My "fascination" and "morbid curiosity" had left forever.

Luka Rocco Magnotta

Fast-forward to ten days ago when dismembered body parts started their journey through the Canadian mail system, sent by a narcissist who would do anything for notoriety.  He recorded himself killing, dismembering and violating his boyfriend, a 33-yr-old student from China named Lin Jun.  He posted it to the internet, and it has been viewed almost one million times, an innocent man being murdered again and again with every person who clicked the link.

People treated it like entertainment.  They recorded themselves watching the video and posted their reactions on YouTube.  Go ahead and search for "One Lunatic, One Ice Pick Reactions" and you will see an assortment of faces:  Some mortified, terrified; others, apathetic; some people laughed or joked.

I was innocent and curious once, but now what I see disgusts me.  I see otherwise good people crawling into the shadows of the internet where lurk all manner of perversions, a place that used to only exist in filthy dark alleys, a place where only the depraved were brave enough to go - now available to all at the simple touch of a button.  I see souls leaving bodies piece by piece, but leaving behind a living shell this time.  I see people laughing at brutalities none should ever witness.  I see a society becoming jaded to these horrors, and it terrifies me.


I had to stop writing this blog halfway through as the memory of what I had seen had given me a panic attack.  I urge you all not to seek out the Magnotta film.  You will never be the same.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

On Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday is the quintessential Christian holiday that summarizes our faith quite succinctly:  Jesus lives.  It is the day that he rose from the dead after suffering and dying for our sins.  The Son of God, the Son of Man who preached acceptance over persecution and, through love, brought countless sinners to redemption met his end nailed to a cross after a humiliating trial and a series of dehumanizing punishments that broke his body, but not his spirit nor his conviction.  When he rose from the dead on that holy day, his divinity was validated and his power over death and sin fixed in the world forever.

His resurrection was not lost on me as I labored in pain that quiet morning.  It feels significant that my son should enter the world on the anniversary of the day that Christ shook it to the core.

That was nearly two months ago, when he made that passage through a tunnel of darkness into a world of light, when he first breathed into his eager lungs the cool air of an early April morning.  The first time that we stared into each other's eyes, both of us so new in the moment - a moment shared by many families every day but still unique in each experience.  The first time he lay upon my chest, wrapped in my arms in an embrace symbolic of the nurture, of the protection I would fight to offer him for the rest of his life.

We fell into a love more pure, more expressive, more meaningful than any other relationship in the world could offer - the love of a mother, started nine months prior, for the child that God in his wisdom had given her, the whole and perfect human that sought refuge in her womb and would someday seek refuge in her wisdom.  Our allowance as participants in the divine act of creation is among the greatest blessings the Lord could ever give us.

It is said that as the family grows, the love multiplies.  It does not divide itself, taken away from one to share with another.  Emotionally and spiritually it is a concept that seems easy enough to understand, but until it is experienced, it is a foreign word whispered into deaf ears.  The birth of a first child is momentous, an occasion in which your heart swells until it is unrecognizable, until it fills every thought and dream and consumes you.  The birth of a second child is experiencing this expansion one more time, the growing of something already so big that you can't imagine it could ever stop or ever be contained.  It defies all we know of reality:  Inside, we are bigger than we are outside.  Inside, we overflow.

I look into my son's dark eyes, contemplative, thoughtful, ever-searching, and I see a soul so beautiful and tender beginning to break the chrysalis of a lifetime, ready to slowly emerge and dry its wings in each second that passes.  I see the future in the curves of his face, the angles of his features, as I am called to watch carefully each slow frame of his emergence - pupae to butterfly, new moon to full, acorn to mighty oak.  Infant to adult.  Human becoming, and human being.

On Easter Sunday, the Son rose from the dead, my son emerged into the world, and for the third time, I was born again.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

With Love, Worry

We were sitting in the pediatrician's office after my daughter's one-year well baby check.  She was in her diaper sitting in her daddy's lap, playing with a magazine, completely oblivious to what was about to happen.  I sat across from them, biting my lip and tapping my feet as the familiar pool of anxiety started to bubble in my stomach.

She has no idea, I thought to myself, looking at my beautiful daughter with her big, innocent grin.  She has no idea that the worst has yet to come.  

A light tapping on the door preceded the entrance of the resident who was going to give our daughter her vaccinations, followed closely by a flamboyant and talkative nurse who was there to guide him through it.  We agreed to let the young man give our daughter the injections as part of his training, though we shouldn't have.  The nurses who normally give the vaccinations get it over with within seconds:  Stab, stab, stab done.  The young man in the clean white coat took his time, and it seemed that just when the shock of one needle wore off and her crying wavered for even a second, another needle poked through her tender skin and the whole painful, scary process was repeated.  

Seeing the tears streaming down her cheeks as she sniffled and choked on her own misery was too much to bear, and I broke down with her.  We looked into each other's eyes, a baby in pain and her empathetic mother.  I held her close, apologizing and covering her in kisses, wet tears salty on my lips.  She eventually regained her composure but it took me a little more time.    

Then I wondered to myself, How can I go through this kind of stuff all over again? as I rubbed my belly, bulging with a son ready to be born within the next three weeks.  We packed ourselves up and took our daughter, now giggling and waving at strangers, to the lab to have her blood drawn as the bitter cherry on top of a horrible day.  How?

The Love, and the Worry, Grow On

We're curled up in bed together, happy to bid good-night to a long day.  The fan blowing gently, my fingers tapping on the keys, the occasional car driving by are the only sounds that permeate the silence as we lay here, Evie's back pressed against my stomach, both of my children sleeping motionless.  I know that these nights of perfect peace are soon coming to a close as my son's entrance into this world draws nearer, and I want to breathe in every second that I can, as if I could store them in my lungs so that with every frustrated sigh that will soon come with sleeplessness, I can release these memories and know that peace will be restored with time.

I never doubt that I am blessed; I never doubt that these people created brand-new in the dark stillness of my womb have been gifted to me for a reason.  With each child that I carry, I learn that love isn't a commodity of which we have only a set amount to mete out into the world, that it isn't decimated by each additional object of affection.  It is a living thing, like a tree that continuously grows and bears more fruit to feed those who hunger.  I never doubt that I will have enough love to nurture my children.

Still, I get scared.  If love is a tree, its bitter cousin, worry, is a locust.  One hungry insect can't take down something mighty and strong, but it can feast and grow and reproduce and flourish right alongside its food source.  I'm learning this, too, that worry is a parasite that grows in the shadow of love.  We worry the most for those we love.

Pain Like None Other

When Evelyn is scared, when she's hurting, when she's confused, it is a pain like none I have ever experienced in my life.  It isn't my personal pain, shallow and fleeting, not a pain that I understand and can calm on my own.  It is a pain that eats through my heart, a primal emotion that doesn't thrive in a place that my reason can access - I can't think my way through it, I can't remove the sting.  I am powerless against it, and in its face I crumble.

I know that I'll be weaponless in the battle with my son's fear, too.  I know that I'll feel his misery and helpless watch him suffer through eyes clouded with tears like I did with Evie today; that somewhere inside, I'll be crushed.  I'll never know from where parents hemorrhage, and I'll never know where to apply the pressure to stop it, but I think if you don't bleed with your children, figuratively if not literally, then you live with a barren plot where otherwise empathy would grow.  

I don't know if I'm completely ready to face this.  I don't know what the future holds:  If I'll suffer through postpartum depression again despite my preemptive attack with medication; if my son will keep me up all night as he cries with colick; if my daughter will feel anything negative as my attention is diverted to care for her brother; if, if, if.

All I know is that I have a love whose roots run deep and wide, and though there may be some holes chewed into the leaves of that tree, it will feed us for a long time.  

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

We Don't Have a Problem

Warning:  I have more testosterone in my body than I've ever had before, and it makes me angrier than usual.  Which is a tough accomplishment, given my propensity toward anger.  If you have no sense of humor, if you can't detect sarcasm, and if you take yourself way too seriously and are guilty of having said anything to me that you might find in this blog, you may want to skip this one.

I feel sorry for the next person who tries to give me unsolicited parenting advice.

I've been doing this for a year now, and through most of that year, I've been pregnant on top of it.  I'm getting a pretty good idea of what works for my family and what doesn't.  I'm beginning to resent the random implications that I can't possibly know what's good for us simply because it doesn't fit the blueprint of someone else's life.

Most of the judgment I receive falls into the sleep category.  Because we co-sleep, some people automatically see it as a "problem."  It might surprise them to know that we, in fact, don't have a problem, despite everyone trying to convince me we do.

"She needs a space of her own."  She has one.  She doesn't like it.  Most kids don't actually like sleeping alone; just because they learned to shut up and deal with their discomfort alone in the dark doesn't mean that they enjoy it.  Why do you think they call the cry-it-out method "sleep training"?  If sleeping alone was something that came naturally to children, you wouldn't have to "train" them to do it.

"Don't you want space to yourself?"  Nope, not really.  I don't move at all in my sleep, so I don't need a lot of room, and since I'm unconscious, I'm completely unaware of "all that space to myself" that I'm not using, and not missing, anyway.  I gave birth to my daughter; she's more important to me than my "self" anyway.  I don't consider her as taking up valuable real estate on my bed.

"What about when your son is born?"  We have a co-sleeper that attaches to the bed and he'll sleep in that just like his sister did til she was big enough to sit up on her own.  From that point on, he'll be treated the same as his sister:  He'll be given opportunities to sleep in his crib, and if it doesn't work, we'll make room for him.  If there's anyone who knows how to deal with sudden changes and come up with solutions on the fly, it's a Gemini woman.  We're adaptable - where other people apparently see these huge brick walls blocking their way, we see an opportunity to practice our ladder-building skills.  Set them up around me, and I will tear them down every time.

"What about your husband?"  Well, let's see.  He has a queen-size bed to himself on which he can sprawl, watch TV til all hours of the night while staying up late to work on some computer program, and he gets sleep without being interrupted by a crying baby who hates being in her crib.  I'm not going into detail about anything else.  Trust me, he's fine with it.

"You're going to be sorry you didn't get her into a crib sooner."  What is there to be sorry for?  That what we do works for us?  That we both sleep soundly through the night?  That I didn't put my needs before hers, that I didn't let her cry herself to sleep in a dark lonely room in what essentially amounts to a wooden cage?  I'm supposed to be sorry that you're uncomfortable with our nighttime routine?  Nope, not going to happen.

That's just the tip of the iceberg.

What gets me is that people act like we have some kind of problem.  Sleep experts would say that we have the opposite of a problem:  My daughter gets a full night's sleep completely uninterrupted (except on those gassier nights where she has to wake me up before she farts herself back to sleep) - 11.5 hours of healthy sleep cycling that leads to better physical, intellectual and emotional development during the day, as well as a healthier appetite and a more even temperament.  That's the only important part:  The quality of sleep.  Not how you get there.

If your kid falls asleep at midnight and gets up at noon, and you're both sleeping on the couch, you don't have a problem.  If your kid falls asleep in his crib at 7:00 p.m. and doesn't get up until 6:30 a.m., you don't have a problem.  If my kid falls asleep in bed with me and we both get a full night's sleep (except me, but that's my own fault for staying up way too late sometimes), we don't have a problem.

The other thing I'm incredibly sick of hearing is about how close my children will be in age.  Here's every single thing anyone has ever said to me on the subject summed up in one sentence:

That's awesome they'll be so close, but that's going to be so hard!

Yeah, it is pretty awesome that they'll be so close in age.  Thanks for finally saying something positive to me about it.  That makes you a bigger person than the socially-awkward pediatrician with the open schedule that my daughter has to see when her normal doctor is too booked up.

Do you think if Evelyn was five, you'd be saying, "That's awesome she'll have a little brother!  This is going to be so easy!"  No, you wouldn't.  Being the parent of a young child is never easy, and I don't expect it to be.  Yes, I know it's going to be a challenge and I knew that before you told me.  I mean, I'm having a newborn all over again - it wasn't easy the first time, and it certainly won't be easy the second time.  I'm armed with knowledge that I didn't have before (acquired by actually parenting, not listening to people's crappy advice - imagine that) but I also have a small daughter to chase.  I expect a challenge, and since I love my family and my babies, I'm looking forward to it.

I appreciate and respect my friends, I really do.  But that can only go so far when the same basic courtesies aren't extended to me.  In short, don't talk to me about how co-sleeping must be some kind of horrible hassle, and don't tell me that my children are going to make my life miserable.  I'm at the end of my already-short patience with people acting like assholes.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Random Thoughts, My Favorite Kind.


I'm resurrecting my blog.  Me writing this now is the equivalent of Dr. Frankenstein exposing his monster to the lightning and shouting "Live!" in an overly-dramatic tone.  Let's hope I'm more successful with reanimation than the good doc.


Quite possibly the most hilarious parenting decision a person can make.

Actually, it was less of a "Decision" than it was a "Result".  Evelyn didn't want to sleep in her crib, and I didn't want to lose a week's worth of sleep trying to get her to sleep in her crib, so naturally she ended up in bed with me.  Hence, the result of my exhaustion and laziness.  

It started off cute enough - we would go to bed and lay in the dark until she fell asleep, which facilitated some of the best moments of my motherhood thus far, like the time when she turned toward me, pressed her little nose up against mine and started stroking my cheek.  (Actually, looking back on it now, that might have been some kind of plot to get me to sleep fast so she could go shopping online or something.)

Then, the farts began.

They started out quite innocent.  Sometimes, I would question whether I actually heard anything or not as a tiny toot squeaked by.  Gradually, though, they became these big productions complete with their own dance numbers that would involve intricate twists and turns.  Caution:  Audience members in the first three rows might get punched.  The show would always end with a gaseous eruption the likes of which would make a drunk frat boy blush.  Encore?  Sure, why not!

Log-rolling is one of her favorite things now.  She has limited space on the bed between the wall and my pregnant belly, so she maximizes it by rolling into a rock or a hard place and then manages to somehow continue rotating her body.  Sometimes, she ends up on her stomach with her butt in the air (Act II of the fart show, perhaps), sometimes she ends up on her back in a funny super-hero pose.  Rarely, she ends up on her side curled up to me like I remember from our nights of sleep when she was much less mobile.

This of course leads to a lot of interesting ways for me to wake up:  Suffocating in pee-smelling diaper butt is just one of the ways I've been woken up before.  Far less hilarious and much more adorable is when she's sitting next to my face, patting my arm and saying "Mama?" with a huge grin.

Some people think co-sleeping is dangerous (mostly the crib industry), some people think it's weird (because putting your baby in a box in a dark, lonely room to sleep is completely natural), and some people just plain don't get it.  Clearly, none of these people have ever woken up to a baby's forehead pressed against theirs, eyes shining with anticipation for them to wake up and provide copious amounts of morning kisses without ever having to leave the bed first.

My son has no name.

I'm 33 weeks pregnant with a little boy who mercilessly beats upon my bladder and treats my diaphragm as his own personal trampoline while I'm trying to sleep.  Tums have become their own food group to counteract the burning sting of near-constant heartburn.  I'm collecting stretch marks like they'll be auctioned off at Christie's for millions of dollars someday.  My belly button pops through my shirt like a turkey timer and braless, my breasts dangle to my knees.  I gained nearly a third of my body weight in six months, I have no center of gravity anymore, I can't sleep and I still have to chase a nearly 1-yr-old child around all day regardless of whether I'm getting light-headed from random drops in blood pressure or if I'm suffering a hot flash.  I pee every hour but I can't poop; I'm hungry but my stomach is too smashed up inside me to allow me to eat enough to satisfy myself.  My hormones are out of control and I'm starting to get extremely uncomfortable Braxton-Hicks contractions that make standing up and breathing at the same time seem like some kind of magic trick.

And my husband still won't give me the final say on my son's name.

In Erie.

I'm in Erie right now visiting family.  My mom can't sleep in the same room as my dad because he snores so loudly, so she's in the other guest room across from the one the baby and I are staying in.  I can hear her doing that "I'm going to sigh just loud enough to let you know that I'm still awake and I disapprove of you being up this late despite the fact that you're nearly 28 years old and can make the decision for yourself of when to go to bed" kind of sighing, so I guess I'm done updating.  

...for now.  Live, little blog!  LIVE!