Monday, November 21, 2016

Some Pre-Turkey Day Thoughts, and a Reflection on the Year

A lot has happened this year.

And as a result, there's a LOT that I've been thinking of writing about.  

But I haven't put anything down on paper yet just because. . .

I guess because it's just been too much.

I didn't know where to start.

. . . .

I turned 40 a couple of months ago.  Came as a complete surprise to me, as I never anticipated making it past the age of 16.  And yet here I am.

A mother.  A home owner.  A Room Mommy for my son's kindergarten class.  

A woman.  With all these warring ideas in me, swirling non-stop, as I try to rope them down into some semblance of a cohesive thought.

Honestly. . . I don't know if that's gonna happen.  But instead of waiting for the perfect words to come, I'm just gonna plow ahead.

I'm gonna get it down, and let it all fall out.  (As is my way.)

I find that I am (quite happily) becoming a loud, and colorful, shiny MESS.  And maybe some day in the future, some gifted and patient editor will find a way to make sense of this jumble of tangled thoughts.

2016 has been a big year.

Let's be honest:  some years don't make that big of an impression. There are highs and lows, but at the end. . . we aren't really left with much more than fuzzy recollections.

Not so with 2016.

This year has broken my heart.

Time, and time, and time again.

Oh, I'll remember you, 2016.  You took a LOT from us.

We lost a lot this year.

We lost everything from our international, and world-known musical heroes and saints, to our personal friends/musical heroes and saints.

Just so you know. . . I'm gonna be mourning Prince, Bowie, Cohen, and Haggard for a LONG time.  They were not just ordinary people.  They reached out to us, and they spoke to us. . . spoke to ME, directly to ME.  They told us we weren't alone.  They gave a voice to both our hope, and our sorrow.  They CHANGED US. They made us BETTER.  And they left a hole, where something beautiful and lovely and true once held space.

But it wasn't just famous people we lost.  The whole world will mourn them.  No. . . we also lost beautiful, lovely and true voices that we KNEW.  People we had drinks with, and meals with, and talks with.  Beautifully creative and daring artists that CONTINUE to hold real estate in my heart.

Chris Porter?  I can hardly think of you without crying.  
You were one of the GOOD ONES.  One of the BEST.  And I still can't believe you're gone.  

. . . Did I ever tell you that your music didn't just speak to me?  Did I ever tell you that it moved me?  Those days in Downtown Birmingham, back at the Metro bar when I was just meeting and getting to know the man that would become my husband.

I don't even know how many hours the two of us spent at that bar, waiting on you to play.  And I'm not even a big drinker.  . . .but it was worth it.  It was SO WORTH IT.  

I would've sat there for days on end, just to hear you sing and play. Just to see you get DOWN, and LOUD.  Just to wait for that moment in the song where your voice broke, and it was so filled with emotion that you weren't even really singing any more. . . you were screaming.  Screaming down the heavens.

You raised your voice, and we all heard it.

Did I ever tell you that you healed me??  

I'm not waxing poetic.

Somehow you always seemed to find the "secret chord," and JUST the right combination of notes and soul and emotion, that just. . . 

Healed me.

And I don't think I ever even told you.

And I'm so damned sorry for that.

But he wasn't the only flesh-and-blood-from-my-back-yard that we lost.

This year (so far) two people that I knew, personally, and cared for lost their lives to gun violence.

The young man across the street from us.  The one that was torn to pieces when his dog died, but was still trying to put on a brave face. The "kid" that I hugged in the middle of our street, because I couldn't think of a better way to express what was in my heart.

And all I can think of now is. . . I'm glad.  I'm really GLAD that I hugged you that day.  You're gone too soon.  And the tragedy and violence and SENSELESSNESS of it all is some days too much for me to take.  But I got that hug in.  I did.  And I'm grateful for it.  

More than I even know how to say.

And we lost James this year.  A homeless man, by choice, that I met in the streets of Birmingham when Mr. and I had just started dating.

For a few months there, I saw him almost every day.  And he ALWAYS had a joke, a smile, a kind word, and a request for a sandwich (if I would be so kind).  And so I made sandwiches. Every time he asked.  Fried bologna sandwiches with lots of mayo and a pile of chips.

We shared sandwiches together, sitting on the stoop.  And, I'm happy to say right now (looking back on those days), that I got to share a hug with you EVERY TIME I saw you.

James wasn't just a "homeless man". . . he was a MAN.  And a damned good one, at that.  

Never a violent man, ever.  He didn't live by the gun.  But he died by it.

. . . And I just don't KNOW how to put these facts neatly into a box, and Sharpie '2016' on the outside.

But I'm working on it.

. . .  And, as I mentioned before. . . I turned 40 this year.

I honestly don't know if it's the advancing age, or the recent election, or the being a mom. . . or WHAT it is. . . 

But I'm sitting here. . . trying to fit all these pieces from a whirlwind year together into some kind of kitten or windmill puzzle.  And the pieces just aren't fitting together. . .

So I'm not gonna force them.

But I am going to say this:
I FOUND my voice this year.

And then I used it.

I sang.  At home in my kitchen, while baking, I sang.  In a video to my husband on Christmas day (while he was at work), I sang.  To my son, before bedtime, and when he was feeling sad. . . 


Forget that my voice isn't the greatest.  Who cares??

I'm here, I have a voice, and I used it.

Am I embarrassed?  (Particularly by the video of me singing that my husband then shared on facebook?)

. . . In the past?  Yeah.  I would've been mortified.

But something has happened to me.  Some. . . change is, and has been, taking place.

I think maybe I grew up a little bit.

Because I realized that I DO have something to say.  

Forget shyness.  And screw feeling embarrassed.  

I am NOT embarrassed.  I am NOT the shy violet of the past.

I am a freaking force of nature, and I give NO ONE the power to silence me.

. . . . 

I raised my voice about issues.

I spoke my mind about violence, and inequality, and racism, and yes, even the election.

I tried to keep it respectful, even in disagreement.  I tried very hard, and I will continue to do so.

But NEVER again will I remain silent.


. . . 

Did I lose some 'friends'?  

Yes.  Yes I did.

(If you count a profile pic on facebook from someone that you haven't seen in decades as a friend.)

Am I sorry?

I am not.

I spoke my truth, THE truth.  And I would, and WILL, do it again.

Do I miss the 'friends' that are now gone?

Honestly, I have barely even noted their absence.

Do I wish these people ill?  Do I harbor resentment toward them?

I do NOT.

Happy trails, peeps.  =)

If you can't handle me speaking up when I believe something is WRONG. . . then I wish you the best.  You do you.

Because I fully intend to keep on doing ME.

I sat here this year, and sometimes I was actually AFRAID to turn on the news.

. . . Another innocent black man has been killed by the people that had sworn to protect him.

. . . Another innocent Law Enforcement officer has been killed due to backlash.

Hate, and hate, and hate, and hate. . . swirling around this place like the snow flurries we get in Alabama, when the weather everywhere else is calling for a blizzard.

And after months, and months, and months of watching all the carnage, and all the hate, and all the misunderstanding on tv and in the news, I finally realized:

I do not have the luxury of being afraid, and I do not have the luxury of turning away.

This is MY world.  Mine, and yours.

And I, for one, will be DAMNED if I will just sit here and wring my hands as I watch it burn.

So yeah.

This year did something to me.

And I think it did something to all of us.


Now, there are a lot of really inspirational quotes floating around on the internet, on pinterest, etc., but I think this one is one of my favorites:

I love it because I have lived it, and found it to be the TRUTH.

This year has changed me.

I am louder now.

This year has hurt me.

I am stronger now.

This year has shocked and saddened and amazed me.

I am more resolute now.

I will not ask for you to get on your knees and fold your hands in prayer for me.

I will ask you to get OFF your knees, and put your hands to WORK.

Because WE created this.  Us.

And we're the ones who are gonna FIX it.

I WILL make meals to feed the homeless.

I WILL give every dime I can spare to charity.

I WILL speak up for women's rights, and minorities rights, and LGBT rights.

I WILL speak UP and speak OUT.

I WILL make MORE ROOM in my heart.

And I will vow, to myself, and to the world at large, to be tireless in these efforts.


I'd like to close this piece with something positive, that I've been turning over in my mind for a while now.

A few months ago, one of my family member's homes was broken into.  Several things were stolen, sadly some of which were purely of sentimental value, but thankfully -- no one was hurt.

And so the idea of beefing up the alarm security for our home began to circulate.

And we did it.  We beefed up.  Purely for protection from those that may wish folks harm.

But I realized something.

Something WONDERFUL.

. . . There is nothing I OWN, that can be taken from me.

Let me say again:

There is NO THING THAT I POSSESS that could be stolen from me and break my heart.

My family photo albums?  A treasure to me.  But not really on any thief's To Do list.  (And also:  they're all online.)

Family scrapbooks?  Same.

My children?  My husband?  My cats?

I doubt anyone is going to come into my home to try and take them.
And if they did. . . well, they'd have to kill me first.

There is no possession on this good green earth that I cannot live without.

Not.  ONE.

MY sacred treasures are scraps of memories, bits and pieces of songs, lyrics and memories and shared laughter.  



There is nothing you can take from me.

And I still have a LOT to say.

And work that must be done.

And miles to go before I sleep.

Yes.  This year broke parts of me.

And that is how the light will get in.


Monday, October 31, 2016

For My Grey: Mean Kids, and 5 Thoughts to Get You Through

First off, if you're reading this:



In our house, it truly IS the most wonderful time of the year.

My Halloween decorations (some of which just stay up year-round, because I like it that way) are just as cherished as some of our Christmas decorations, and share the ability to just-make-me-oh-so-HAPPY when I take them out every year.

Anyway, between a trip to the ER with Took a couple of weeks ago (who is now FINE, we are pleased to say), his 50's day Sock Hop at school, my birthday (and subsequent amazing birthday party!!), and two trick-or-treating events, plus a party, this Halloween. . . wow.  We've been a lot busier than usual.

But some things remain constant (albeit occasionally slightly rushed):  like bedtime stories and strawberry milk before bed, Monday trips for After-School Icee's when Took gets off the bus, and my faithfully asking my boy (every day, even when he complains about it) how his day was when he gets home from school.

And something has come up in these conversations lately that has really resonated with me.

It occurred to me that, in many ways, my 5 year-old is going through some of the same struggles that my husband and I are.

The issue of the moment, unfortunately, is Mean Kids.

Now, right from the jump, I'd like to state that I am NOT talking about bullying.  Nothing that severe or extreme.  . . . because seriously, I would just shut that shit down in a heartbeat.  We won't stand for it, as both our boys have been told.  It is not okay for it to happen to them, and if it ever does, we want to know about it immediately.  . . . And if they should EVER be quite so stupid as to perpetrate an act of bullying. . . WOE be unto that child.  Because they won't be socializing again until they're out of college.

Thankfully, what my Grey Took is currently dealing with is nothing quite so bad as all that.

*** I would like to say that this instance alone is reason enough for my continuous refrain of 'How was your day?', and bedtime stories every night.   Because it is ALWAYS at one of these two times that I get a REAL conversation with my son.  Not just "fine," or the brush-off, but ACTUAL conversation about his thoughts and feelings.   I intend to do everything I can to keep these lines of communication open NOW, in hopes that that will make it easier to keep the door ajar during his teen years.  ***

And during the last week or so, I've learned several things that have happened at school:

1.)  Some little kid in the bathroom spit on GB (Grey Bear).

I asked him if it was accidental, and he said there was no way.
It got on his shoes, so no skin contact, thankfully.

2.)  While he was getting on the bus one day, some kid shoved him from behind.  He fell down, and his face hit the floor of the bus.  Again, I asked if it was an accident.  He said no, and that the kid laughed.

3.)  A child in his class has told him he was 'a girl,' and told other kids not to play with him because he was 'sick,' and that she wasn't his friend.  I asked him if he had done anything ugly to her, or been rude in some way.  He assured me that he had not, and I believe him.

(He has his faults, like all kids.  But he is excessively polite, and very sweet-natured to other kids.)

So all of this information came out over the course of a few days, during our conversations together.

. . . And here's this sweet, sweet, sweetest little face, telling me of his troubles, and looking at me, waiting for me to tell him how to proceed.

. . . . .

My god.

I'm 40 years old, and I'm still trying to get my head around social interaction and human socialization.

And he's 5, and he's only just started the game.

With a bunch of OTHER 5 and 6 year-olds, who have ALSO only just started the game.

. . . . Whew.

I remember when I was 5.  I really do.  Not a lot or anything. . . favorite toys, favorite shows, favorite people, etc.  But I do remember thinking to myself that it was a lot harder to be 5 than any of the grown-ups around me seemed to understand.

I hope I don't forget that.

So I sat there with my boy, and I took a deep breath. . . and we started talking about this together.  And here's the gist of what I told him:

1.)  Sometimes. . .  people suck.

I know that's not a stellar answer, but it is the truth.
Some people don't have parents that TEACH them what is kind, and how to treat people.  They're still learning.

Some people have events in their lives that make them act out in certain ways.  They might be going through a lot that you don't know about.
Some people just haven't LEARNED enough about how to interact with people, that sometimes they do it very badly.
. . . And then there are just the people that flat-out SUCK.
You've never been rude to them.  You've never done anything to them.  And they just hate you.
Grown-ups have to deal with it, too.
And it stinks sometimes.  It really does.
But the fact of the matter is that not everyone is going to have the same heart that you do, or your sense of compassion.
That is their deep loss, not yours.
Your tender heart is going to make you caring, and nurturing, and kind.  And a person like that is never going to have trouble making friends.

2.)  You don't have to take crap off of ANYbody.

We've discussed this one at LENGTH.
(Because I didn't want him to get the wrong idea about this one. . .  It doesn't mean I'm telling him he's a special little snowflake that can't do any wrong and should be treated with special, tender care.  NO.  It simply means that if someone is being hateful, crude, treating him unkindly, or doing something wrong -- he DOES NOT, and SHOULD NOT, take it.)
We've talked about how we're always respectful, etc., etc.
The bases have been covered.
But when it comes down to it, he needs to KNOW:
He doesn't have to take crap off of ANYBODY.
If a fellow student is rude to him:  walk away.
But if someone is treating him WRONG?
Tell a teacher, tell me, tell an adult.
It doesn't matter if it's an adult that's doing it, or another kid, or a stranger, or a family member.
We will NOT stand for someone treating him (or anyone else) wrong, and he does NOT have to take it.

3.)  As much as you can?  Brush it OFF.

This is much easier said than done.  And it is more of a mantra/reminder than anything.
Let their words fall off of you.
Don't let it get to you.
. . . And the best way to do THAT, is to realize:

4.)  YOU get to pick whose opinions matter to you.

. . . I will never forget an incident in my own life, when I was in 6th grade.  There was a girl in my class that had just gotten glasses.  She came to school that day, and you could tell she felt really self-conscious about them.  She was really worried about how she looked, and how her friends were going to react.
One of her friends did not react kindly, and said something that made her cry.  And I just happened to walk into the bathroom while she was standing there crying.  I asked her what happened, and she told me.
And she said:  "And now So-and-so thinks I look dorky, and I don't know if she's gonna want to be my friend any more!"
And I responded to her:  ". . . So?  ?  Who CARES what she thinks??  She's MEAN."
. . . . .
ONLY YOU get to decide whose opinions you are going to LET matter in your life.  YOU.
In my life, I highly value the opinions of:  my husband, my children, my parents, and a few close friends.
That's it.
If any of those people are upset with me, or anything I am doing, I stop and listen.
If anyone ELSE has an opinion?  . . . I mean, they're entitled to it.  But I'm really not interested in what it is.
If they like me?  That's great.  If they don't? . . . Also great.
They get to have their own opinion, and it's not gonna make or break my life.
I'm happy that I can honestly say I don't care.  I managed to set myself free from that a long time ago.
Life's too short to waste time caring what every person in the world thinks of you.
Let them think what they think.
Meanwhile, while they're busy figuring out what they think of you, or your outfit, or your hair, or how you're living your life. . . well baby --  You just go on and LIVE yours.  =)
Let people think what they think, and don't worry about it.
As long as you're happy, and you're treating people right. . . honestly.  Who cares?

5.)  Always remember:  You get to come home.

You are going to have bad days from time to time.  Everyone does.
There are going to be days when it seems like literally nothing is going your way, and you just want to cry.
And at the end of those days?
You get to come HOME.
EVERYbody needs their Safe Space.
Batman has the Bat Cave. . .
Superman has his Fortress of Solitude. . .
Bilbo has Bag End. . .
Everyone needs it.
And right now your safe space is home.
You will always be loved here.
You will always be accepted here.
You will always be listened to here.
Your thoughts and your opinions will always be respected here.
You always get to come home, and you will always get to end your day with people that love and adore you.
(And give huge, warm hugs.)

And that's nothing to sneeze at.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

What AM I Gonna Tell My Kids?

Another day waking up with coffee and cats and internets. . .

Another black man shot and killed by police.

On camera.

Y'all. . . . my soul is sick, and I don't know how much more it can take.

There was a time in my life when I would have willfully tried to ignore all the tragic loss of life in our country.  All the killing.  There was a time when I was so consumed with what was going on with ME (me me me me MEEEEEE) that I would've put the problems and injustice of the world on the backburner, while I instead focused on what was in my own head and my own back yard.

No more.

I no longer have the luxury of doing that.

Because I have children now.

And I'm supposed to be teaching them.

Not just their numbers and alphabet, and how we hang our towels up when we get out of the bath, but also about how this world works, and how to safely traverse it.

Only problem is just. . . how in the hell am I supposed to do THAT?  . . .

A couple of weeks ago, we were returning home from a much-needed family vacation at the beach.  About halfway through the drive home and we stopped at a gas station for a restroom break.  And while I was standing there, holding my young son's hand as we waited on a stall to open up (because I still refuse to let him go in a restroom alone), a lady that worked there began proclaiming her anti-transgender opinions loudly, and to the room at large.

Again. . . there was a time when I would've simply ignored her.  I can see it now. . .  I might've rolled my eyes, or felt quietly enraged, but ultimately would've shrugged it off.  My reasoning being that she clearly felt pretty strongly about her opinions, and odds were low that I was going to change her mind that day.

I will say again:  NO.  MORE.

So on THAT day. . . I contradicted her.  Me.

I LOUDLY and angrily disagreed.  (Which, as a lifelong introvert and all around "shy" person, was not an easy, or comfortable, thing for me to do.)  She had shared her opinion with me (though I didn't ask for it), and ended her rant with something like: "Can you believe that??"

And so I proceeded to share MY opinion with HER.  To summarize:

Yes.  Yes, I CAN believe that.  Trans people have been using the restroom beside you for your entire life, and you've never known it.  They're not pedophiles.  They're just trans.  And unfortunately for all of us, that little stick sign on the restroom door does not now, and has not ever, had the power to keep sickos and perverts OUT of that area.  Your children are not going to be in any more danger than they ever were, so please spare me the "WHAT OF THE CHILDREN???!??" tirade.  . . . And actually, if you want to get more to the POINT of the safety of your children. . . let's talk statistics:  Your children are statistically more likely to be harmed, abused, or molested by someone they know.  Someone in your family; someone in your church.

So I told her:  "Ma'am, I'd rather my son use the bathroom with a room full of trans women than use the restroom at your church."

And speaking of churches. . . and I only bring this up because DURING this incident at the gas station restroom, there was another woman standing in line who heard the entire exchange.  She could tell I was getting pissed, as I made absolutely no secret about it.  And THIS woman made a point of telling the first lady that SHEEEEE was a Christian.  And SHEEEEE agreed.  And SHEEEEE wishes they'd just make a separate bathroom altogether for all these "weirdos" to use.

You know. . . so all the "normal" people could feel safe.

And SHEEEEEE almost stunned me into silence.

. . . almost.

But not quite.  =)

To her, I had a few words as well.  Words like:  "Where the hell is your compassion?!?"  
Where is your empathy?!?

No, you're clearly not trans.  But you're a human, right?  I mean, not to make presumptions, you're not acting like one, but . . . you certainly LOOK like one.

Can you even imagine?!  How incredibly, unbelievably DIFFICULT IT MUST BE to feel as though you WERE BORN "WRONG"???!!  To have people TELLING YOU THAT??

Can your shriveled little heart imagine that??
How awful and heart-wrenching it must feel?  And then, once you've figured out what the problem is, how horrible it must feel AGAIN, because you know that, unless you completely hide who you ARE, and make your life a complete charade, to KNOW that you are not going to be accepted??


. . . Can you imagine if it was your CHILD that was going through that??

. . . And can you then imagine your child innocently walking into a restroom, only to hear this kind of intolerance being spewed at him by a complete stranger?

I can.

My child is not trans, and that makes absolutely NO difference whatsoever.  

Because now, whether it is because I am now a mother, or perhaps just because of the way my heart is set. . . I CAN imagine.  

I imagine every trans person nervously walking into a bathroom as my CHILD.

I imagine every LGBT kid that's been kicked out of their home for coming out as who they ARE as my child.

. . . I imagine every victim in Orlando as my child.

. . . 

And it HURTS.  

It continues to hurt, and hurt, and hurt some more.

And I hope it never STOPS hurting.  

I'll take the hurt.  I'll take the tears shed for people I've never known and will never know.  I'll take every bit of the confusion and anger and despair.

I'll take it all, if it means that my heart never hardens to the point that I've lost all shadow of empathy for my fellow man.

I'll take it, and I'll shoulder it without complaint, if it means that I don't have to literally walk in someone else's shoes before I have compassion for the difficulty of their journey.

And still I hear that Restroom Lady's refrain in my mind:
"What about the CHILDREN?  What are we gonna tell our CHILDREN??!"

Welp.  Gotta say, that one stops me in my tracks.

. . . What AM I gonna tell my children?

I'm gonna tell them everything I can.

And odds are, I'm gonna cry when I say it.

I've already told them about a certain rape case where the rapist basically got off scott-free.  Though I did NOT mention the word "rape."  And yeah.  I cried when I told them.

I said: "There was a girl on a college campus, and she was drunk.  That is not unusual on college campuses.  But there was a boy, about your older brother's age. . . and he was hurting her.  And two more boys drove by on their bicycles, and saw it.  And they STOPPED him.  They held him down until the police got there.  And if they HADN'T. . . he would've gotten away with it.  They were just normal boys.  And they saw something bad happening, and they STOPPED it.  They stopped it, boys.  . . . And that is who I want you to be.  I want you to be the boys that are brave enough to stand up and STOP IT."

Now. . . I'm sure, someone will have a problem with me saying this to my kids.

I would like to loudly state that I DO NOT CARE.

No, I don't share every horrible thing that happens in the news with them, and I am diligent in protecting them as best I can, for as long as I can.  But when they ASK me why I'm crying. . . as delicately as possible, I'm gonna TELL them.

I'm gonna tell them because they cannot FIGHT the darkness if they don't know it EXISTS.

I'm gonna tell them because I DO want them to be the boys who stop it.  I DO want them to be brave.  I want them to know that that is what is RIGHT, and it is not easy.

But it is EXPECTED.

But back to the idea of WHAT AM I GONNA TELL MY CHILDREN???

Honestly, in light of what is happening in this country, and most recently and tragically in Baton Rouge. . . I'm asking myself that very question.

What am I gonna tell my kids??

When they're old enough to be going out, and driving, and hanging out (like kids do) . . . What am I gonna tell them about the police?

. . . .

And this is where I start crying again.

I saw something posted on a friend's timeline this morning, and as soon as I saw it, I literally felt physically sick.  It was a picture of that white rapist (I refuse to even utter the name), alongside pictures of two black men that have been killed by police officers.  With the caption: "It's safer in this country to be a white rapist than to be a black man selling cigarettes or cd's."

So while all these people are worried about having a not-originally-a-woman peeing in the closed stall next to them, I'm wondering how in the hell I'm gonna explain how THIS statement came to be the truth in this country.

????  . . . Any ideas?  Anyone??

(And I'm gonna stop anyone before they start:  I have former police officers in my family.  They are GOOD people.  . . . That does not mean that there aren't BAD cops out there.)

How about this:

I have two small(ish) children.

One of them has blonde hair and blue eyes.

And honestly. . . I'm not as worried about him.  Because racism exists.  It is real.  And he lucked out in the genetic lottery and, fortunately for my heart, probably doesn't look like what a cop is going to think of as a "potential threat."  He looks like your basic pasty-skinned white kid.

And then there's my other child.

He has beautiful brown skin, and dark hair.

And I'm just gonna say it:  I worry about him.  I worry more about him than I do my other son.  I worry about his safety.  Because he looks a certain way.

And he's not even black.  Just mildly brown.  And it is enough that I worry for him.  

. . . And I weep for every mother whose child is a certain-shade-of-skin, or darker.

Because their children are in danger.


. . . How am I supposed to HOLD that?!?!

. . . ???

. . . How am I supposed to explain THAT to my children??

. . . How am I supposed to explain this very real fear?

. . . .

But back to the woman in the restroom.
And to the family of the victim in Baton Rouge.
And to every mother OUT THERE that has REASON to worry for the safety of her children.

You can factor in my long history of shyness, and the deeply-ingrained Southern part of me that says: "Respect your elders.  Don't you contradict them.  Just let it go."

So. . . . why didn't I just let it go that day?

Why didn't I just let it slide?
----Our children are being taken from us.

This Restroom Lady was a stranger to me.  And my comments to her that day are almost certainly NOT going to change her mind, or her views.  About anything.

So. . . why did I do it?

. . . .

Because there is simply not ONE MORE THING that I can let slide.
I did it because we've all gotta start somewhere.

I did it because my son was watching.

I did it because I'm a mother.

I did it because I DO have a tender heart.

I did it because kids -- kids in OUR COUNTRY -- are feeling so unaccepted, and so scorned, that they are LITERALLY KILLING THEMSELVES.

I'll say again, just in case you think this is not that big a deal:

I did it because our citizens are being killed on the street by our law enforcement.  Men. . . women. . . kids.

And because I realized that I can't listen to any more bullshit.  As in:  this white girl LITERALLY CAN'T EVEN with one more ounce.

I did it because silence can easily be confused with agreement.

I did it because I want her, and anyone like her, to KNOW just HOW MANY PEOPLE DISAGREE WITH HER.  I want her to KNOW that her opinions ARE NOT MINE.

I didn't do it because I thought I was going to change that one woman.
I did it because I am out for nothing less than to change the entire freaking world.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Balloon Incident, Or: Why I'm A Bad Mom (and possibly a bad neighbor, too)

About four years ago, my husband and I were expecting our first child together.  We had made the decision to leave our lovely (and tiny) little loft in Birmingham, and move out to McCalla.

We found a nice little house, not-too-big, not-too-small, in a nice neighborhood, and were settling into a sweet little suburban life. We loved the area, we loved our new home, and we loved our new neighbors.

Fast-forward to my son's first birthday party.

As a new mom, I felt like I had been inundated by others (what I considered "Overachiever Moms") to have THE PERFECT BIRTHDAY PARTY for my son.  You know. . . little signs and place cards for every single finger-food on display, perfect centerpieces, fancy straws, a free puppy for every attendee. . . it was making me crazy.

So very early on, I decided:  Screw it.

We're NOT perfect.  We're not a perfect family, we don't have a perfect life, and we certainly don't have perfect THINGS.

**I feel that it is only fair to note that I do NOT hate those moms.  At all.  You do you, baby.  It's just that I was a crazy new mom.  And I was sick of it.  ALL of it.  And I was entering what I think of as a Minimalist Period in my life.  I was in the process of trying to strip away everything in my life that wasn't necessary.  To get to the meat of actually living, if you will.  Anyway. . .

So I decided that my son would NOT have a pinterest-perfect first birthday party.  No.

We were just going to have a party in our back yard.  With friends and family, streamers and balloons, and food from the grill.

We set up his high chair, with a cute little Winnie the Pooh banner behind it, put up our EZ-Up for shade, set up the kiddie pools for the littles, and I spent half the morning blowing up balloons for the kids to play with.

Party time comes.  All our friends and family show up, along with a handful of neighbors that had younger kids.

It was great.  =)

My brand new one year-old got to smish around with his smash cake, we took TONS of photos, and the grown-ups enjoyed cold beer and hot dogs.

And I was JUST in the process of mentally patting myself on the back for all this wizard-level adulting when I walked inside the house to get something.

. . . And that's when I see one of our neighbor's kids (maybe 6 or 7 years old) jumping on our white couch WITH his dirty shoes on.


To my credit here, I did NOT freak out.

My first thought was:  Oh shit.  He's gonna ruin our couch.

My second thought was:  I need to get him back into the back yard, because if his parents see this, he's gonna get in trouble.

So I walked up to the kid, and politely told him that he needed to get off the couch, and back into the back yard.

He stared at me.  Said:  "No."  And continued to bounce.


Right about that time was when I noticed that he had one of the balloons inside.

Which I simply could not have.

Not for any reasons regarding propriety, but simply because we had two cats in the house.  And they LOVED chewing on the remains of popped balloons.  That was a vet bill that I did not want.

So I reclaimed my calm, and told the child that he was going to have to take the balloon into the back yard.

"See buddy, our kitty cats like chewing on balloon pieces, and that's not good for them.  So I'm gonna need you to be a pal and take that outside."

Again, the response was:  "No."

*Bounce, bounce, bounce.*

Ohhhhhhh hell no.

I had had enough.

I grabbed the balloon and popped it.  Right in his little 6 year-old face.

"There are more balloons outside, and that is where you're going.  NOW."

And that was the end of it.  . . . or so I thought.


A couple of days later, I shared a retelling of the incident on facebook, as a mildly amusing anecdote. I didn't name any names, I didn't cast any shade, and honestly, I thought the whole incident was pretty funny.

Ohhhh, to be that young and naive again.

A few minutes after sharing the story, I had several messages from moms that were at the party.  "Was that my kid?  I'm so sorry!"

. . . from pretty much every mom EXCEPT the mom of the child in question.

From her. . . I got a STRONGLY WORDED MESSAGE.

She was infuriated.  She had asked her angel if I had popped his balloon, and he told her that I had.



Ummmm. . . yes?  He is just a child.  Just like OUR kids are just children.  And yet, inexplicably, they are STILL expected to behave when they go over to someone's home.



Well, for one: because I am an adult.  I am perfectly capable of handling a misbehaving child.  Secondly, I assumed that if I came and got you, then the kid would be in trouble.  (This was, of course, before I learned that you do not actually discipline your child, and that whatever he wants to do at any given time is fine with you.)

Long story short, the woman called for a public apology from me on facebook.  (Which I declined.)

And then there was some debate (and I am completely serious here) about whether or not she and her friends were ever going to feel comfortable having balloons at a birthday party again, because apparently this had been a scarring incident.

This was my gentle introduction into the different types of moms that are out there.  =>

P.S.  It was also moms of this ilk that shamed me for sharing a story of when my son was little, and liked to pull my hair.  And eventually I got sick of it, and pulled his hair, too.  I called it a lesson in cause and effect, but I'm pretty sure they think I'm a psychopath.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

On Writing: Battles, Bill Murray, and BOC

Some people prefer lives of peace and solitude, and I am content to be counted as one of those.  I am, for lack of a better word, a home-body.  I like my peace and quiet (treasure it!!!!), and I don't get out and socialize with brand-spanking-new people that often, due to personal preference and some legit nerves.

Occasionally, however, I do venture out for social events and happenings, and do stumble across Brand New People (henceforth to be known as BNP).  And there invariably comes the part of the conversation where they say:  "So. . . what do you do?"

**The question of what I DO always seems to make me feel antsy for some reason. . .   I'm a mom, and a wife.  I'm a cat-herder, and a homework-helper, and even, (on rare occasions) a gym-person.  I take care of kids, and the house, and I think I do it fairly well.  . . . I'm not going to win any "Cleanest and/or Most Presentable" awards for either one. . .  but I think I might just almost be okay with that.  =)

(Learning to own your imperfections is a brand of nirvana I find myself reaching for constantly.)

After that. . . what DO I do??

I paint. . . and I bake. . . and sometimes I write.  And nobody is currently paying me to do any of these things, which has, unfortunately, made it veeeeery easy for me to question the validity of the things I do.

WHY do I do it?!?

I've been thinking about it a lot.  And the answer I've come up with is:  I do it for the same reason that anybody writes.

*And I have compiled a brief list, as follows:


(Sidenote:  Go on and prepare to be SUPER impressed, because these are all just stupidly noble reasons.)

#1.  To make their voices heard.

I'm going to die one day.

We all are.

(I promised you 'noble', not uplifting.)

Some people deal with this knowledge in a very stoic manner, while in others it inspires a sense of quiet desperation.  A sense of:

I was here.  I mattered, dammit!!  I NEED TO BE HEARD.

I had these experiences, and though they might not seem like much, they were important to me at the time.

And so writing is, in a way, a means of scrawling: 


in dark Sharpie, on the bathroom wall of Life.

And people get to see it, and acknowledge it:

Hey.  Look at that.  Somebody else was here.

. . .every time they go pee.

Hmmm. . .  I'm now looking back at this last section, and rethinking the whole thing. . .

But I'm in a mood where I refuse to second-guess myself. ONWARD AND UPWARD!!

*I* think it's noble, and I'm sticking with that.

Deal.  With.  It.

#2:  To keep a log of events.

You know.  As in, "for FUTURE PEOPLES!!!"

People have done this for as long as writing has been around.  As a way of communicating with those that come later.  As in:

"So hey, we've noticed that the banks of the Nile overflow at pretty much the same time every year.  You might wanna watch out for that."


"My neighbor figured out that if you chew the bark from this tree, it makes your fever go away.  I know--sounds crazy, right?  But all 10 of my kids are alive because of it.  Just FYI."

Or even:

"Notice:  If you're nice to dogs, and feed them and give them a place to live?  They will HELP YOU herd your sheep and stuff.  NO LIE."

(. . .I'm fairly certain that there are far better examples out there. . . but I'm working on my second Big Gulp of coffee right now, the caffeine is kicking IN, the toddler is squealing, and I find that I'm a tad scattered upstairs at the moment.  All apologies.

Besides, I feel that these examples adequately illustrate my point, so I'm just going to move on now.

While I am NOT writing to warn future generations of flood-times, natural remedies, etc., I am still essentially doing the same thing.

I write this blog for me.  And for my son.  And for my family and friends.

Just as a way of saying:  This is what happened.

This is what we did, and how we did it.

This is what your childhood was like, Took!  This is how we spent our days.  =)

And, on rare occasions:  This is what I learned.

(I DO actually learn lessons occasionally.  Not ALL the time. . . but sometimes.  But I prefer not thinking on the "lesson" part of my life too hard.  Puts too much pressure on me.  I'd much rather just go through my days, experiencing my life, and then every once in a while I'm all:  

"OOOH!!!  Look!  There, on the ground!  A lesson!!  . . .I'm growing as a person!!!"

And then I pick the lesson up, and put it in my pocket.

. . .And then I usually have a snack.)

Because 'growing as a person' is freaking exhausting.**  

**Pretty sure it was Ghandi that said that.  But you don't have to look it up.  . . . I'm pretty sure.

#3:  As an attempt to be understood.

This is my effort
To be heard through the howling.
Adored, though imperfect.
Understood, though unclear.

As a way of relating to people, nothing beats writing.

. . . I still remember, quite clearly, the day when I was in 4th grade, and our teacher introduced us to Shel Silverstein.

We followed along in our books, as we sat there as a class and listened to Where The Sidewalk Ends on cassette.

And I still remember hearing the first poem, Invitation,

---and thinking:  


THIS guy.


Wait . . . this was written by a grown man??!

. . . I'm pretty sure this guy is a sorcerer.


Nothing had ever spoken to me like those poems did that day.

And I spent the next several years searching for Shel Silverstein books in every bookstore and library I was lucky enough to visit.

. . . those same books are stacked on my son's dresser at this very moment, patiently waiting for the day when he is old enough to discover them.

Which brings me to:

#4:  To inspire.  To lift up.

I make very few, if any, promises to the readers of this blog.

But I do strive to maintain it with a couple of rules in mind:

First off---don't bitch.

I might've broken this one occasionally, but I really do try not to complain.  I don't like complainers.

Of all the lessons of my childhood, one of the ones that has stuck with me the most is something that both my mother and my grandmother taught me from the time I was just a wee-one:

No matter how bad you have it, there's always someone out there that has it worse.  There's always someone out there that would get down on their knees and be grateful to only have to deal with your problems.  So suck it up, and try to help.  (I'm paraphrasing.)

So that lesson has stayed with me to this day, and I try to keep it in mind when I'm writing.  I feel that writing, just to complain, is kind of. . . pointless.  Everybody has problems.  Why waste the time and effort just to complain about yours?


That brings me to the second rule I try to uphold with this blog:

Be sincere.  Be honest.  Be genuine.

And honestly?  Yeah, I've got problems, just like everybody else.

And I do write about them.  In a way that (I hope), comes across as genuine and sincere.

And I also pretty much refuse to write about troubling things in my day-to-day, UNTIL I have found a positive way to look at them, or a productive way to deal with them.

And while I will readily admit that it is probably not exactly prudent to be so open with my own shortcomings and demon-dances. . . I do it anyway.

Because I know that if I'M going through something. . . chances are pretty good that someone else might be, too.  And maybe they'll read what I write.  And maybe they'll relate.

And maybe. . . maybe they won't feel so alone any more.

So if I learn something. . . I'm gonna share it.  Even if it makes me look like a dumb ass in the process.

It's Shake N' Bake, and I helped.


#5:  For shits and giggles.  (aka: Humor)

I think a lot about humor.



I mean, seriously.  I really think about it a lot.

You know the line "My heroes have always been cowboys"?

Well, my heroes have always been comedians.

As in. . . ALWAYS.

People that make me laugh just kind of instantly own my heart.

It takes. . . it takes a special awareness of the world around you to be funny, I think.  I don't believe it's possible to be funny if you're walking around wearing your rose-colored glasses, willfully blind to painful truths.

I think it takes a recognition of the darkness, of the insanity, and of the helplessness that is synonymous with the human condition. . . to be funny.

Let me rephrase that:

I think it requires a recognition of the darkness, and then a shrug of the shoulders, and then a cosmic thumbing-of-the-nose.


To me, comedy is seeing all that can be bad in the world, seeing it as it REALLY is, and then choosing to say:

"You know what?  SCREW YOU, Darkness!!  SCREW YOU RIGHT IN YOUR BIG STUPID EAR!!!"

This is the only life I've got.  

It's the only one you've got, too.

Why not laugh?

. . . And if I could pass on words of wisdom, to my children perhaps, about the nature of comedy?

You have to look for it.

You have to always be looking for it.

But this life is inherently absurd.

Just keep your eyes open.  You'll find it.


To my way of thinking, humor is a weapon, and a shield, and a freaking LIFE PRESERVER.

It is laughing in the face of our own mortality.

It is fighting back the Reapers.

It is nothing short of bravery, defined.


So I write.

I don't get paid for it, and it is possible (even likely) that I never will.



I'll still do it.

Because I'm an earthworm out of dirt, squirming around, trying to find meaning.

And in order to DO that, I have to walk my own path.  Kick the stones, smell the rain, get my feet dirty.

And what do I want in return?

Hmmmm. . . 

Just to grow.

Maybe leave something shiny behind when I'm gone.

Create a smile, or a laugh, or a sense of belonging. . . that maybe wasn't there before.

To connect with other weirdos.

To say:  "Hey.  Check it out.  I learned something."

To leave love.

. . . So that's it.

That's my list.

And honestly?  . . .I think I feel better just having written this.


No matter how bad, how good, how grammatically satisfying, or how much money I'm not making for doing it --- I will write.

Because I no longer have any fear of being anything other than my flawed, but seeking, self.

And because this is MY blog, my record, my work.

The value is whatever *I* say it is.

These are my demons I'm beating back; my own battles, my own lessons.

My wins, and my losses.

The worth, and the value . . . they're found in the fight.