Monday, November 17, 2014

Journal Post: A Dark Realization

I am going to step off of my soapbox for a few minutes and focus on me.  This past weekend, with the help of my fiancé, my best friend, and my therapist, I came to a very dark realization; my views on death are horrific at best.  It's no wonder I struggle with the deaths of those I love.  It's no wonder I mourn for so long and so deeply.  With what I finally was able to admit to myself and others this weekend, it's no wonder that I fear death so much and view death as the enemy.

I know I have talked about death on here before on this post.  But at that time I could only vocalize my fear and hatred for death; I couldn't, or wouldn't vocalize why.  I struggled with not understanding or knowing what happens when we die, or at least I thought I did, and my analytical brain couldn't accept on faith that we just go to "a better place" and that everything magically turns out sunshine and roses.

I brought up this struggle to my therapist and he, being the fabulously sneaky psychologist that he is that I am so grateful I have found, asked a series of questions that led me to finally voice what I had been hiding for so long.  What I really think happens when someone dies. 

You see I view death as this horrific act, something that isn't peaceful or pleasant.  I think when someone dies the pain continues, the physical and emotional.  I think that person is then forced to watch as their loved ones suffer the loss of them, and they also feel the loss of their loved ones.  I think the pain is like a ripping force unlike any other we could ever imagine, and I think the sense of loss of life is unimaginable.  I don't find any comfort in death.

This, of course, explains a whole lot about why death affects me so much and why I grieve so deeply.  It also is not very healthy, and I get that.  My therapist says I am stuck in a sort of purgatory, especially after having lost so many people in my life.  He says that with each loss my theory on what happens we die gets stronger, and as my theory gets stronger my grief gets worse.  So basically I am in a vicious cycle and I can't get out on my own.  Basically I am living in my own personal hell that my mind created based on my experiences with death, that and my extremely over active imagination despite the lack of horror movies, books, or any other overly graphic input.

All of this also explains a lot of my nightmares about separation and loss.  It explains all of the horrendous things that happen to my friends and family when I close my eyes, whether I am awake or asleep.  It may also explain my severe separation anxiety.  So basically, if I could find a way to work through could break down a lot of the barriers that are holding me back in life. 

I know it won't be easy.  I know it's going to mean challenging myself and confronting a lot of fears head on.  I also know I have people by my side who love me and will be there for me through it all no matter what.  And I love them for it.

Friday, November 7, 2014

It's Your Right and Responsibility

I know election day has come and gone, so this post is a bit too late for this go around, but I prefer to look at it as getting a head start for the next election.  I am very discouraged by my friends and even some family as of late.  I am finding fewer and fewer of them are interested in politics at all, and nobody seems to know anything about the issues at hand let alone want to vote on them.  I just don't understand how so many people can have such a blasé attitude towards what is going on in their city, state, country, heck even the world.  This is important people, the decisions made now are going to affect not only you, but also your children, and their children, and so on. 

I guess I don't understand it because when I was growing up it was instilled in me that this was important.  During the election season we watched the debates.  Discussions were had at the dinner table about what the issues were and what the candidate's platforms were based on.  And even though my parents are divorced this was one thing they could both agree on, politics were important, knowing what was going on in the world was important, and above all else exercising your right to vote was important.  I can remember being a kid and going with my parents to vote.  I can remember both of my parents taking the time to explain the process and how it works and why it is so important that every person who can vote does so that they speak up and their voice is heard.

It makes me sad that so many of my peers aren't having their voices heard.  I know you have them, and I know you have great opinions.  I see you voicing them on Facebook.  I hear you talking about them in Starbucks.  But when the vote tallies come in they just don't support the number of people in our age range that can vote.  We aren't showing up at the polls, we aren't mailing back in our ballots, heck in most cases we aren't even bothering to register.  It's easy to register; in most states you can do it at your DMV, post office, county election office, or even online.  It's free too. 

Some people say they don't want to register because it means they will get pulled into the jury duty pool.  Well I got news for you, at least in Oregon, the rules have changed and now the pool is anyone that has a diver's license or state ID.  They aren't even using the voter registration pool anymore so chances are you are already in the pool.  And even if does put you in the jury duty pool in your state, so what.  Jury duty is one of those necessary evils in life much like taxes.  Most of the time when you get summoned for duty you get released anyway.  It's not that great of an excuse.

I've also heard the excuse of, "I don't know who anybody is or who to vote for so I don't want to vote for anyone."  That's just sheer laziness.  In this age of instant information at our fingertips there is no reason why you can't do the research.  You need to make it your responsibility and your business to know who the candidates are, what they stand for, and what kind of history they have.  And it's not just about the people here either.

During elections we are also voting on new laws, laws that for better or worse will impact your life.  These could be laws that increase or decrease taxes.  Laws that protect a certain class of citizen, or laws that take away certain rights if we aren't careful.  Don't think for a moment that the people who want these laws to pass aren't campaigning hard to have people vote the way they want them to.  But what if you don't agree with the law, what if you don't like it?  Well did you vote?  Did you stand up and say I don't think this is right?  If not then you are part of the problem and not the solution.

Now, I'm not telling anyone that they have to vote a certain way, and I never will.  I may give you the pros and cons I see if you ask, and sometimes even if you don't just because I feel passionate about the topic.  But I am begging, pleading, strongly suggesting, and ok downright harassing you to please, please, please vote.  It's one of the simplest yet most powerful things you can do.  It's your right, and it's your responsibility.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Roles Reversed

We all know rape is wrong.  We all know that when an adult has sex with a minor it's wrong.  But do we think of it the same way regardless of which gender is perpetrating the crime on which gender?  I've begun to realize that in general, we don't.  But we should.  What got me started on this path was this story on ABC News

It's a story about a former NFL cheerleader accused of having sex with a 15 year old boy.  The article itself is decently written and gives the facts.  That's not the part that bothered me, it was the comments.  People posting about how the kid screwed up a good thing by telling, and how if they had been getting action from her they wouldn't have said anything.  Even comments such as "poor...lucky kid".  I was simply appalled by them all.  When I tried to post something reasonable about it I was called a turd and a prude.

Here's the thing though, if the roles were reversed...if it was a 47 year old man, even if he was a good looking former GQ model, and it was a 15 year old girl...these same people would be calling for him to be hung up by his testicles.  They would want him beat and castrated.  They would want him beat maliciously, if they even wanted him living at all.  There wouldn't even need to be a trial he would be found guilty in the court of public opinion just from an article being ran and his life would be over.

Women sexual predators historically are handed weaker sentences in the courts, they are given more excuses from their families and friends that are then accepted by the public.  They were lonely, they were depressed and unhappy, they needed help and this was their cry for it.  But male offenders often are given the maximum sentence, excuses are never acceptable and even if it truly was a misunderstanding they are labeled an offender for life with no chance to redeem themselves in the eyes of the public.  They have forever lost our trust.

Now I'm not saying we should trust sex offenders, but I am saying we should treat them equally and look at the circumstances of all cases both of male and female perpetrators.  There are some scary psychopathic women out there too that I wouldn't want my kids around.  We need to start realizing that women are capable of horrific things too.  And we need to hold them accountable.

The current sexual offender registration system is flawed, and needs to desperately be reexamined.  It needs to come with some sort of grading or category system that is easy to understand so the general public will know exactly what type of offender they are looking at.  Is this some dumb kid who at 18 slept with his 16 year old girlfriend and her parents pressed charges, or is this some sicko that molested dozens of kids and got out on good behavior?

The important thing to remember most of all is that not only can men and women be the bad guys here, but that both men and women, and boys and girls, can be the victims.  And males may need even more support than females when they are the victims of a sexual crime than females because of the way our society does view sexual crimes and that we don't typically think of males as the victims.  So before you post something stupid about a male victim, stop and think, what would you say if the roles were reversed.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Fear of What Should be Safety

Everyday my three beautiful girls go off to public schools.  These institutions have always been a place where kids are supposed to be safe from the dangers of the world.  I mean besides bullying, which I know from personal experience can get pretty darn ugly, in general schools are supposed to be safe havens from the general nastiness of the world.  But more and more lately I have questioned that, and even begun to actively fear sending my girls to school.  It really feels like every time I turn around there is another school shooting, or another one that is planned and the police happen to stop because someone tips them off.  It's getting so out of control.  I don't ever remember this many major acts of senseless violence in schools when I was growing up.  In fact the Columbine school shooting happened after I graduated high school, and it seems like we have gone seriously downhill from there.

Today, another one.  This one in Marysville, WA, not all that far from my area.  Not much is known right now other than two people have had to be flown out by helicopter and the shooter is dead.  Last year there was another one even closer to us in Gresham, OR where both the shooter and another young man lost their lives.  Both of these and all the others are senseless tragedies that never needed to happen.  In the end all we are left with is the question of why?  We can all guess at the answers.  Maybe the shooter left a note or clues, and maybe they didn't.  Maybe there was a history of bullying or mental illness, and then again maybe not.  But if we can't answer why then how can we prevent them?

I have been saying for a long time the answer lies in early detection and prevention of mental illness and bullying prevention.  Now granted I just said above maybe we wouldn't have known, and I think the reason for that is the people that are interacting most with these kids are not trained to look for the subtle signs that things are not going so well for them.  Everyone keeps jumping up and down screaming about gun control or arming the teachers or more police in the schools or more security measures like metal detectors.  Then again, maybe not.  These things aren't going to prevent an incident they are made to react to an incident.

Instead I think we need to create programs in our schools where teachers are trained to look for signs of mental illness, signs of behavior change.  They need to look for the subtle signs of bullying and learn to address them appropriately.  There needs to be a referral system so potentially at risk students can be screened further and put into a program with specialists to help them work through their issues.  Parent involvement in these programs would be crucial and additional training and literature would need to be made available to them as well.  Would this program be costly?  Sure it's not going to come cheap, but can we really put a price on the health and well being of our children let alone their lives? 

It's obvious more force is not working.  Meeting fire with fire is not the answer.  Let's try meeting fire with water and try putting the flame out before it turns into a raging inferno and we are left to deal with the aftermath.  I for one am terrified of being the parent that gets the call that my child's school has had an active shooting.  I am terrified of one of my girls getting hurt in an incident like this.  I want my children, and all children to be safe at school and everywhere in society.  I also want the children to get the help they need earlier in life because early intervention in mental illnesses means you are less likely to have someone with serious psychological issues down the road.  You have a better chance of having a contributing member of society when they become an adult.  Our prisons are full of people with mental illness.  If we can get to them before it fully manifests and becomes an issue and help them get early treatment maybe we can even keep them out of prison and lower our crime rate.  Now wouldn't that be something?

I'm not saying this is the key to solving all our societal problems.  What I am saying is it's time to reform the way we look at mental illness and start using opportunities we have in interacting with young people as early intervention.  Will we catch them all?  Probably not.  Will it solve everything?  No.  Will there still be acts of violence?  I'm sure.  But if we can save even one life wouldn't it be worth it?  What's the price of one child's life?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Waking into a Nightmare

Nearly everyone's had a nightmare or two I would imagine.  Some, like me, are so plagued with them that we have to take prescription medication just to keep from waking up screaming every night.  But what happens when your nightmares no longer happen when you're sleeping?  What happens when you wake up when you should be dreaming?  This is the phenomenon called sleep paralysis, and for those that experience this it is a truly frightening ordeal each and every time.

Nearly everyone knows about the REM, or rapid eye movement, sleep cycle.  This is the part of your sleep cycle where dreams happen.  During this time also, in a normal sleep cycle, your body is paralyzed.  This is to help keep you from acting out your dreams.  In cases of sleep paralysis physically what happens is your conscious mind becomes awake, but your body stays paralyzed.  Completely paralyzed.  You can't move any part of your body, you can't talk, you can't scream, you are frozen in place.  That in itself is terrifying, but what happens in your mind makes it so much worse.

Even though you are consciously awake and aware of your surroundings, for example if you are in your bedroom you know you are in your bedroom and can see your room from the direction you are facing, but you are still in this dream like state and will experience hallucinations.  One thing that is commonly reported by people who have experienced sleep paralysis is an overwhelming sense of dread or fear and a feeling that they are not alone and that there is an ominous presence in the room with them that means to do them harm.  I can tell you from experience this feeling is very real and very frightening.  Even after experiencing this many times it's impossible to rationalize with yourself in this state and remember that what you are experiencing will pass.  Each time feels like you are experiencing it for the first time.

Another thing that can be experienced, and I have experienced, is visual and auditory hallucinations.  In some there are creatures that are trying to get me, in others there are people talking to me and telling me strange things.  Sometimes the walls are melting or swirling, and sometimes I just hear loud buzzing noises or ear piercing sirens.  I've never had one that I would say is pleasant.  I would describe all of them as disturbing at minimum and downright frightening at worst.  For me there is almost always some sort of hallucination, and even after the actual physical paralysis is gone it can take a second or two for all the hallucinations to stop as well.

It seems like the episodes last for hours, though I know that's not true.  In some cases I've been facing a clock and have seen one go on for about 15 minutes.  Others I think only last a few minutes, but it's really hard to grasp a concept of time when you are experiencing all of this.  I am usually screaming for help in my head, and I think it's coming out of my mouth but it's not.  I usually gain the use of my vocal chords first, though not my tongue, and am able to make moaning sounds that then alert whoever is around that I am in distress. 

Those that know me have learned that those noises mean I need to be "woken up" so to speak the rest of the way.  Usually that means talking to me or even touching me to help pull me out of it.  This itself can take a few tries and is frustrating to both me and them.  A lot of times if they are talking to me I am answering them, but it's only in my head that sound is coming out.  That results in both of us getting frustrated.  Once I finally do start coming out it's important that I sit up or move otherwise it's easy for me to slip back in to that state again.

After I've had an episode I am usually pretty shaken up.  It's hard for me to describe what it feels like to someone who has never gone through one.  People don't understand the fear behind losing all ability to move but still being awake, but not really being awake because you are hallucinating.  I think that it's also hard to understand why it's still so frightening after I have experienced it so many times.  One might think that by now I would be able to say "Oh, hey I know what's going on here.  I'll be just fine in a minute or two."  But the reality is when you are in that moment it's like you have never experienced that before.  Your brain can't remember the other times.  All you can think about is how scared you are right now because the fear is so overwhelming.  Sometimes when I finally get out of one I just want to cry, but then I feel so foolish and weak for falling for that stupid mind trick one more time.

The medication I'm on for my nightmares also helps with the sleep paralysis, but I can only take it at night.  With my chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia I sometimes need a nap during the day.  Anytime I nap during the day there is a pretty good chance I am going to have an episode of sleep paralysis, it's just the price I pay for trying to get some sleep.  I hope one day they find another way to stop this from happening, but until the I live in fear every time I close my eyes that I will be waking into a nightmare.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Walk My Walk

You think you know me.  You see me day in and day out.  You think you have my number and have me all figured out.  You think that you can push my buttons and I won't say a word because you think I'm a push over, you think I'm weak.  But you don't know me.  You know nothing.  You haven't walked my walk.  You don't know how strong I really am.  All you see are the times I've broken down, but you don't know the strength it takes to carry what I carry every day.  So come walk my walk.  I bet you can't hack it, I bet we find out who the weakling really is.

You see I already know about your perfect life and your perfect childhood because you can't stop telling everyone about it.  How you were raised by loving parents and had such a fun childhood full of wonder and adventure.  Where nothing ever went wrong, at least nothing really major.  How you grew up with your siblings and had normal sibling rivalries.  How perfectly wonderful and normal for you.  I also love how you are such a drama queen and complain about every little tiny thing that goes wrong in your life, oh how I would love to have your problems.

So now let's walk my walk for a bit.  You see I grew up with divorced parent, which I know isn't all that uncommon.  I also had the lovely experience of being physically beat relentlessly by one of my mother's first boyfriend's after the divorce.  After that my childhood was a blur of moving from school to school while my mom tried her best to put food on the table.  There was also years of emotional abuse and trauma that I can't even begin to describe to you.  Plus sexual abuse when I was a child.  These abuses carried into my adult years. 

Besides a beyond miserable home life because I was always the "new kid", and an emotional wreck, I was tormented at school.  I would use the word bullied here, but that doesn't even begin to describe what I went through.  At one point I was beaten black and blue by a group of kids using their textbooks, I was in the 4th grade.  I was physically and verbally tormented on a daily basis from 2nd grade through my Sophomore year of high school.  That kind of abuse leaves a lasting mark.  By the time I was a Freshman I had enough.  I wanted out and for good.  I attempted suicide, and at the time I wished I had succeeded.  I spent the night in Critical Care and then about 2 weeks in a psych ward.  I turned to self injury after that to ease my pain.  I would burn myself on purpose to make myself feel something.  I was so numb from all of it.

We are now into adulthood, and where I stand now.  Even with medication and intensive therapy every day is a struggle to get out of bed.  Every day is a battle on making myself feel worthwhile to those around me.  Every day I question my own sanity.  And yet, every day I pick myself up and I try.  I try my best to make it through another day.  Even with the weight of all that I have been through riding on my shoulders.  Even when all that pain comes crushing down around me and all I can do is curl in a bawl and cry so hard the sobs make me shake uncontrollably.  Even when all I want to do is hide from the world for the rest of my life because I am so scared of getting hurt ever again, I try.  I get out of bed most days and I try.  Are there some days when I just can't?  Yes, and on those days I feel miserable and I loathe myself for existing.  I can't function, and I can't breathe.  All I want to do is hide.

And this isn't even dealing with all the things that can trigger me into a panic attack.  The smell of certain men's colognes, a certain phrase or tone of voice, even certain movies or songs.  These types of things can all send me into a total panic and make me relive the abuse all over again. Sometimes I don't even realize something is a trigger until it happens.  Go ahead, live in fear of not knowing when something is going to make you relive your worst nightmares.

Speaking of nightmares.  Do you think I get many good night's sleep with this history?  How often do you think my subconscious decides to replay these events in my head?  Do you know how many times I've had the same dream of standing outside the house we lived in when my mom was dating the guy who beat me and listening to myself scream but I couldn't get inside to rescue myself?  Do you know what it's like to wake up in a cold sweat with your throat hoarse from screaming at the top of your lungs?  I do.

So, the next time you want to play your stupid little games to make ME feel weak.  Just don't.  Because I am not the weak one here.  I am strong.  I have been through the hottest fires and the toughest shit.  I have been through more in this lifetime than many will go through in several.  So just stuff it.  I am tired of your crap, and I am tired of being the butt of your jokes.  Your time is coming because I am standing up for myself starting now.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Do Not Pass GO...or 20 MPH

So school is now back in full swing across the country, and that means the 20 MPH school zones are back in effect too.  I get it, I really do, you're running late for work it sucks to have to slow down to a crawl, especially if you don't even see any kids.  But reality is, you have to do it, and nothing irks me more than those who don't think the rules apply to them.  Let's break this down a little shall we?

Why do we even have 20 MPH zones in the first place?  Well this one should be a no brainer, but since I have learned that some people are no brainers we will actually cover this topic.  There are basically two reasons for this one has to do with you as the driver, and one has to do with the kids themselves.  You as the driver have to pay attention to many things while navigating a car, or at least you should be and your phone should not be one of them, things like other cars, traffic signals and signs, normal adult pedestrian and bike traffic.  Generally speaking the slower you are travelling the more time you will have to react to any one of these normal things let alone the next part of the equation here.  The other thing we have to consider is the kids.  Kids by nature are usually short, unless you get to the high school age which we will address in a minute, and they are fast and slippery.  Think of them like those water snake toys you may have played with as a kid, you know these things.  Even with parental/ adult supervision you never know if or when they are going to slip away to run off to be with that one friend they haven't seen all weekend!  Seriously, these little buggers are slippery.  Ok, so you're thinking that explains elementary students and maybe some middle school students, but what about the older ones.  Well, to put it in simple terms, they're brain damaged.  Any parent of a teenager or who has survived raising a teenager will tell you this.  They are absolutely brain damaged, especially when left to their own devices and in groups.  They think they are invincible and think nothing of putting their own lives and the lives of their friends in danger.  For you as the driver this can translate to them darting into traffic to avoid having to walk the extra ten feet to the crosswalk, or pushing each other into the road because it's fun. Even worse are the teen driver's because now you have brain damaged teenagers who think they are invincible behind the wheel.  Trust me, you want that extra time to react.

So, when we are in a 20 MPH zone and the zone is in effect I am going to go 20 MPH.  If you are behind me do NOT feel the need to crawl into my trunk space to save on gas by hitching a ride.  If you do this I will then feel the need to go 18-19 MPH  just because.  Also, if you are going over the 20 MPH and you then turn into the school parking lot I feel a special kind of loathing for you.  This means you either work at the school or are a parent.  You should know better and should be setting the example, shame on you.  For those of you who think you are special and don't feel the speed limit applies to you and then you are busted and get a hefty ticket, I feel no mercy for you don't complain to me.  If you are afraid slowing down for what usually amounts to about 1 mile is going to make you late for work then you need get your lazy butt up earlier or find a new route to work that doesn't involve a school zone.

The moral of the story is slow down for the kids.  It really is worth it, how horrible would you feel if you knew you weren't adhering to the speed limit and that one tragedy took place because you couldn't react fast enough?  Take the time to slow down.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I Cry

My tears may flow freely at times, yet I do not give them away for free.  You must earn them from me.  You must touch me deeply in order for my tears to stream down my face for you.  There are many types of touch both physical and emotional, both good and bad.  Just as there are many types of tears.

I have cried tears of joy through smiles and bright shining eyes, and I have cried tears of anguish through gut wrenching sobs.  Some who have known me have said that I cry too much, or that I cry for no reason at all, but I have come to believe that is not true.  I have come to believe that those people just found my tears to be disconcerting and uncomfortable and just because they couldn't explain my tears, or even that I couldn't at the time, doesn't mean they were without reason.

I have cried tears on some the happiest days of my life and that of my friends and family just as I have cried tears on some of the darkest days.  I cry tears of sympathy for those who can't, for even they touch me in ways you may never understand.  In fact, I am crying right now just thinking about them.

I cry for children I don't know who are abused and murdered, and I cry for helpless animals who meet the same fate.  You see, I feel their pain too and yes they touch me as well.  I cry when I read a sad story, and I cry when I read a story that is uplifting and full of triumph because they have found a place in me that connects and touches me.

I also cry for the pain I have endured over the years, both physical and emotional.  I cry for all the ways people have touched me in ways I never deserved.  I cry because sometimes that pain wells up so much inside me I have no choice but to release it and the tears run down my face and the sobbing wracks my body as I shake uncontrollably.  I cry because they touched me.

I cry.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Thoughts on Discipline

I know I am probably going to raise a lot of eyebrows here, but I think it's something that needs to be addressed, disciplining children.  Every parent has their own philosophies and ways that they feel is the best way for their child, and as long as they aren't raising some tyrant that won't listen or flat out beating the kid I am all for different parenting techniques.  The problem becomes everybody thinks their way is the best and the only way, and if you aren't doing it their way then you must be a "bad parent".  The truth is parenting styles have to be different because kids are all different and parents are different.

Not every kid/parent combo is going to make every parenting style work for them.  Sometimes time outs work well, and sometimes you have a slippery little bugger who's just not going to sit still in that chair for five minutes.  You've got to figure out what works for you, and it doesn't have to be set in stone.  In fact I think it works best if both the parent and the child are willing to adapt and try new things, especially as the child grows and reaches new boundaries.  Sticking their nose against the wall tends to lose something when they hit the teen years after all.  Then again, the threat of it in a public place is just enough humility to straighten up a nasty attitude ;).

This brings us to the dreaded topic of corporal punishment, and the whole reason I started this post.  Lately in the news certain professional football players have been making headlines and not for their abilities on the field.  The one player has been accused of using a switch to punish his 4-year old and drawing blood.  I think we can all agree that is going way too far.  Another one has now admitted to using "harsh" punishment on his 1-year old.  Again this is a bit much.  But what about other forms of physical discipline?  Do they have a place in your parenting style?  There seems to be a lot of heated debate over this with a very firm line drawn in the sand.  Personally, with younger children and as a last resort, I see no issue with a few quick pops on the behind.  Always with an open hand only.  It should never be done with any implement and it should never be done out of anger.  There should always be a warning to the child so that they know if the behavior is done again this is what is coming and there is a set number of spankings coming.  They should never be full force, but just enough to get their attention.  I rarely had to use these with my girls, and they were effective.

As for the argument that it only teaches kids to hit, I can promise you kids learn to hit anyway.  My girls were never excessively violent with each other or anyone else.  And now they know that you should use words to solve conflicts with your peers and adults.  They understand spankings happen from parent to child only.  Kids are amazingly intelligent that way.  I respect those parents that choose not to spank for their personal reasons, just as I respect their different parenting styles.  I think as long as the child is not being abused, and yes there is a big difference.  We all need to respect each other as parents and realize we are all trying to do the what we think is best for our children.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Death Does Not Become Me

Death is my nemesis.  I despise death, I loathe death.  And yes, I fear death.  I get it, it's part of the circle of life, we all have to die sometime, we can't live forever, it's part of the natural progression of things, blah blah blahtity fucking blah.  I don't care.  Death and I are not friends.  We never really have been.

I remember my first real experience with death, I was 5.  My mom and I flew from our home in Southern Illinois to San Diego, CA.  It was exciting for me as a kid.  My first airplane ride, the first real big trip, that I remember.  But the reason sucked.  My great-great grandmother had passed away and we were going to her funeral.  I was going to see family that hadn't seen me since I was really little, so for me it was like meeting them for the first time, and for some they were meeting me for the first time.  I kind of remember mom trying to explain death to me, and I kind of remember sort of understanding it, but not really.  Then we went to the actual funeral.  Everyone was dressed in really nice clothes, but they were almost all in black.  And everyone looked so sad.  I remember a lot of talking, and music, and crying.  And then everyone got in a line to walk by this big fancy box at the front.  Being so small I couldn't really see into it from where I was.  I remember mom saying I didn't have to go up to see her if I didn't want to, but again me not totally understanding what was going on thought I was going to be meeting another relative.  So I went up.  That's when I saw her, laying there, dead.  I started crying inconsolably.  That's when I first comprehended what death really was.  The body was still there, but the person was gone.  It was a terrifying experience.  I remember having dreams about great-great grandma's face for a long while after that.

It was only a couple of years later that I experienced my next loss, this time it was my beloved dog, Andy, quickly followed by our pet snake, Thora.  Both animals had been in my life since birth, and both were a big blow to me.  And while I never saw the bodies of my cherished friends the mention of their deaths brought back the image of great-great grandma lying lifeless in her casket.  Since then through the years I have experienced losses of varying degrees, from a classmate who was struck by a car in the 5th grade to my aunt on my dad's side who died on cancer and then was closely followed by my granddad.  My mom's brother also died, and that one was rough too.  And to be honest I've never really recovered from one death before another one strikes.  That rang true more than ever a few years ago.

In the course of a year my family lost 4 people that were very close to us, including my step dad, Ron, who I lovingly call Pops.  Pops has been the hardest death of them all.  Because I was there.  I was there in the cold sterile hospital when he took his last breath and his heart stopped beating.  Granted, he was surrounded by family and friends, but it was a horrible experience.  The doctors said he was medicated enough that he was comfortable and felt no pain, but watching him struggle to breathe those last few breaths was so painful for me.  I felt helpless to do anything but stand there and hold his hand and cry.  And to this day all I can do is cry.  I almost wish I hadn't been there because I hate that I remember him like that.  I don't want those images in my head.  I want to remember him smiling and laughing, but I can't.  I can't make those images of him gasping for air go away.  I can't make the images of us watching the monitors as his heart stopped beating go away.  And I hate it, I hate death for taking him away like that.  I hate people who say death is peaceful.  It's not, I have seen it.  There was nothing peaceful about it. 

And I despise it when people tell me I am weak for not being able to grieve faster.  I will grieve at my own damn pace thank you very much and you can just live with it or go away.  There is nothing wrong with me, I am who I am.  Just because I process death differently doesn't make me wrong or weak or broken.  Everyone is different, and everyone grieves differently.  How would you like it if I said that you grieve too fast so you must be a cold hearted bastard with no feelings at all?  Sorry, slight off topic rant.

So, with all of that being said one would think I would stay as far away from death as I could right?  You want to take a wild guess at what I do for a living?  Just one little guess?  I work in death fucking benefits!  Yep that's right I work in death benefits for a pension program.  I deal with families every day that have just lost a loved one.  I talk to their spouses, their kids, their parents.  I listen to them cry and yes, even scream.  And then people wonder why I am always so close to a freaking mental breakdown.  Yeah...

Monday, August 25, 2014

Ignorance is not Bliss

I will admit that I am sort of a reality TV junky.  I love almost all of the talent shows, yes I watched the Rising Star finale last night and was pissed off that the West Coast didn't get to vote, and sometimes I even get into the human interest type shows.  I am not a fan of the dating shows like Bachelor or Bachelorette.  One of the shows I have liked for years has been 19 Kids and Counting, or however many kids they had at the time.  I have liked this family since they had just a single show special about having a large family.

Those of you who know me know that I am as far from like this family as you can probably get.  I am a practicing Witch, very granola, have lived an alternative lifestyle, have questionable tastes in just about everything, and most of all am a huge supporter of the LGBTQ community.  Yet I still love this family.  I love them because even though we don't share the same beliefs, and they would probably damn me to their hell, they have a very strong conviction in their beliefs and they don't waiver from them.  I love them because they teach their children good and honest values.  I love them because even though they have this mammoth family they aren't living off the government, in fact they pay taxes for other kids to use the public schools while home schooling their own kids.  And up until now I have actually defended them to others.

But now we have a problem.  You see Michelle Duggar made a crucial mistake in my book.  She opened her mouth without doing her research, and in doing so she not only labeled an entire community but she also insulted them.  Her town of Fayetteville, AK was voting on an ordinance that would prevent discrimination of transgender people in their town.  It would allow them to file complaints if they felt they had been discriminated against during housing transactions, employment decisions, and other public accommodations.  This would include using the public restroom and changing facilities that the person identifies with and not necessarily the gender they are born with.

This is where Michelle decided she had issues.  According to a pre-recorded message that was dialed out to residents of Fayetteville Michelle said in part "males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas that are reserved for women and girls." Oh Michelle, really?  Is this really what you think of the trans community?  If so you really need to educate yourself before you open your mouth on the subject again.

The truth is trans people are just like any other people in that there are all types, and the majority of them just want the chance to live their lives as the gender they feel they should have been born with.  What about all the little boys that should have been little girls?  Or vice versa?  What about all the women who should have been men?  Do you think this is easy for them?  Because I can guarantee this sure isn't a choice.  Nobody chooses to take this hard road.  Trans people are some of the strongest and bravest people I know.  They have the courage to live life as their true selves.  How many of the rest of us can say the same thing?

Are there creep child predators out there?  Sure there are.  Do they go around masquerading as women to get to your kids?  Probably not.  There are much easier and more effective ways to get to your kids than acting like a woman.  It's not the transgendered people you have to watch out for.  It's the quiet next door neighbors you'd never suspect, or the coaches who spend just a little extra time with your child.  You want to protect your kids then talk to them about the signs of being groomed for abuse.  Talk to them about how to get away and how to talk to someone if something does happen.  Talk to the little ones about who can touch and when and why and where.  But for goodness sake don't instill a fear of somebody just because they are different than you.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Age of Innocence

I've always loved children.  In fact so much so that even when I was a child myself I can remember thinking that when I grew up I was going to have a big family and that I would have at least two daughters and one would be named Isabella and the other Annabel, both old family names.  But, as fate would have it I can't have my own biological children, and thus far have not been in a position to adopt.  Though I have, through a strange set of circumstances that we will save for another day, become mommy #2 to three beautiful girls (none of whom are named Isabella or Annabel but that's okay because I still love them with all my heart).  But even before becoming a parent I was highly involved with children in anyway I could be.  I worked in childcare for a long time, and after that I was part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.  On top of that I had friends who had kids that I doted on like they were my nieces and nephews.  I just plain love kids.  And as such I am huge advocate and protector of kids.  I can't stand to see a child abused, exploited, or hurt in any way.  It makes my blood boil and my heart break.

I'm also an artist.  I see the beauty in the world around me.  I look at everyday things and see them in a different light than what the average person may see.  I see the colors, the lines, the shapes, the light, the shadows, and how they all converge to create a picture.  I see concepts and how to tell a story without using words or sounds.  I especially love photography.  I like looking through the lens of my camera and finding that perfect shot to capture that one fleeting moment in time where everything lined up perfectly.  And I love photographing people and capturing that look on their face, the glint in their eye, the way they carry their body.

So what do these two things have to do with each other?  Well there is a photographer out there who has created quite a bit of controversy over a series of photos he did involving his two year old daughter.  His name is Wyatt Neumann, and you can see his work here.  These photos, to me, clearly depict the innocence of a young child.  She can be seen in her princess dress in some, and in some with nothing on at all, and there are various stages in between.  But let's be honest parents, what two year old keeps their clothes on all the time?  None of the photos depict poses that could be construed as sexual in nature.  They are all carefree and very child like.  From an artistic standpoint they are amazing! 

That being said, the parent and child advocate in me has some concerns.  While I find no sexual interest in these photos I know there are some seriously disturbed individuals out there who will.  By releasing these photos on into the wilds of the internet so to speak Mr. Neumann is potentially setting his daughter up for victimization even if they never realize it.  As parents we probably all have pictures of our kids in the bathtub or some other such adorable naked pictures reserved for blackmail and embarrassment on first dates, but are those really the pictures we want to make public?  I know I have a fabulous shot of my youngest standing at a railing looking at a mountain and a gust of wind had blown up her dress revealing that her underwear had given her a wedgie when she was about 3.  It is probably one of my favorite pictures because it is just too darn precious, but it will never leave the confines of the family. 

I get that he is an artist, and this is his craft.  I also get that the intention behind these photos are pure innocence, and I can see the innocence there.  I'm just not sure that these pictures are appropriate to be posting online.  Perhaps in an art gallery or something of that nature where they are less accessible to the world.  I'm not saying what he did is 100% wrong, but I'm not saying it's 100% right either.  I'm thinking that his intentions were really good, and perhaps it could have been handled better.  But I will say this, after his original posting of the photos the amount of hate mail this man received was phenomenal, and I think totally undeserved.  The things people said to him and about him were horrible, rude, and nasty.  And honestly, if your first thought when you look at those images of that little girl is pornography then you are the one with the sick mind.  And I think he handled the feedback brilliantly.

If you are interested in seeing it all please check out the link above.  Also, the Huffington Post did an article about the whole fiasco which is here.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

I Have Spots

I have spots.  There I said it.  But not just any spots, no these aren't like chicken pox, or mumps, or the measles.  They are caused by illness yes, but they aren't going to go away with chicken noodle soup and an oatmeal bath.  I have big spots and little spots.  Some look like craters on my body, while others are simply little scabs.  I also have scars.  Scars where previous spots have been.  Not because I let them heal, but because my body finally said enough is enough and healed them for me.  Sometimes it's weeks, and sometimes it's months.

I have spots.  They are all over my body.  Some in places everyone can see every day like my face and my arms.  And some in places nobody sees except my fiancé, and even those I don't like him to see.  And even though I am ashamed of my spots it isn't enough to deter me from making more and keeping the old ones alive.  Sometimes people ask me questions about my spots.  It makes me uncomfortable because I never really know what to say.  Sometimes I say it's from stress.  Sometimes I say it's bug bites or acne.  But I know it's not, at least not really.  Sometimes people say mean things about my spots.  Things like, "You look like a meth addict" or "You would be so pretty without all those sores".  That makes me sad.

I have spots.  And as much as I wish I didn't I can't seem to stop myself.  You see I make these spots.  When I am stressed, or angry, or anxious, or sad, or any other strong emotion that makes me feel bad I pick at my spots without even thinking.  It's a compulsion that I try hard to stop, but most of the time I just can't.  Sometimes, I even pick at my spots in my sleep.  Usually after I do it I feel really bad about myself, especially if I make myself bleed.  And even more especially if someone else notices I am bleeding.  I really dislike it if someone sees me picking at my spots and commands that I stop or treats me like a child who was caught picking their nose.  I am not a child, and it's not the same thing.

I have spots.  The mental health community calls my spots dermatillomania, and it is a form of OCD.  I am seeking treatment for my spots because I don't want to be like this.  But treatment takes time.  Part of it requires getting to the root of all those pent up feelings, and then working on what triggers my behaviors.  Then I need to work on redirecting myself.  Right now silly putty is my friend at work.  I try to play with that instead of picking at my skin, but it is hard to always remember.  And for some reason playing with silly putty isn't always as satisfying as pulling off a scab.  I know that may sound weird and gross to those who don't have this disorder, but for those who do you will know what I mean.  Part of the disorder is an obsession with "fixing" the skin and while it may not make sense to anyone else in my head when I am picking off a scab I am making it better.  I know logically a new scab is going to came back, but in that moment it is better.

I have spots.  Don't judge me on my spots.  You don't know my journey, and you haven't walked in my shoes.  You don't know the courage it takes to open up and tell you all of this here today.  And if you see someone with spots please don't assume the worst.  Be kind to them because you never know, it may be me.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Boob Juice

Breastfeeding is one of the most natural and wonderful things a mother can do for her child.  Lately,  it has become a huge topic of conversation and debate.  The rights of the breastfeeding mother and baby vs the rights of everyone else.  Ah yes, "rights", we throw that word around a lot in this country.  I have a "right" to this, you have a "right" to that, we have a "rights", you have no "right".  But what are we really saying here?
The dictionary defines rights in this context as "a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way".  So let's look at this piece by piece shall we? 
Morally, a mother has the right and the responsibility to feed her child.  Now whether she chooses to bottle or breast feed her child is a personal choice based on many factors that can only be made by that woman and should NEVER be dictated by someone else.  Morally, a breast was evolved for feeding a child.  That's it.  It's society, and men in particular, that have sexualized the female breast and made it a taboo part of the female anatomy.  You enjoy seeing scantily clad lingerie ads, and women in skimpy bikinis on the beach, but if a woman exposes the same amount of flesh while using her breast for what it was intended suddenly you become uncomfortable and offended.  For some reason this puzzles me.  Also, American society in particular is one of the most sexually repressed and hypocritical societies out there.  We are such prudes yet we are one of the largest consumers of pornographic materials.  And we have issues with a woman's breast tissue as she feeds her baby?
Ok now legally, 29 states (plus the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands) have laws that exempt breastfeeding mothers from public indecency laws.  46 states (plus the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands) have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location.  I know, I know the rest of you are jumping up and down screaming what about your rights not to see it!  Well you fine people have the right to look away.  Really, it's that simple.  I have seen when a mother is getting ready to breastfeed, there are tell tale signs, and you too can watch for them.  If you see them then simply look the other way.  If a mother has a fussy baby and starts to shift her clothing, look away.  If a mother starts to hold the baby close to her breast and lifting her shirt or unbuttoning her blouse, look away.  It's that easy.  If you have kids with you who are curious don't make a big deal out of it.  Simply say something like the baby is hungry and that's how they eat and change the conversation.  Kids are easily distracted like that.  Because legally, in most states and places, the mother's legal right trumps your moral one.
So now you want to whine about why can't the mom just throw a blanket over the baby so they are all covered up and you can feel better about the whole thing?  I tell you what, just for fun how about we play a little game.  I am going to give you a glass of warm milk and then I am going to cover you with a warm blanket and put you up against a heating pad and leave you there for about fifteen minutes while you slowly sip your warm milk and see how comfortable you are.  Because if you think about it that's what you are doing to that baby.  Sure, some can tolerate it, but not all can.  You have to remember there is body heat generated between the mother and the baby and then you trap that heat by a blanket, and then you add in the body temperature breast milk.  Right there you have a recipe for a baby who won't eat at best, and an upset tummy at worst.
So let's leave the mom's alone.  Let them do their job of raising strong, healthy babies.  They have enough on their plates without strangers giving them a hard time for doing what comes naturally.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

All for Laughs

This article was on my Facebook feed today, and I was outraged.  The family thought it was funny to duct tape,  yes I said duct tape, a baby's pacifier into her mouth.  They said the baby was never in danger and the tape was removed right after the picture.

First off, why? Why do you feel the need to do something so stupid and then document it for all your friends and family to see?  Are "normal" baby pictures not good enough anymore and you now feel the need to up the ante?  What is this child going to think of you when she is 25?

Secondly,  did you really think this through?  You used duct tape which is an industrial strength product with a super strong adhesive.   Men use this stuff to fix EVERYTHING!  Even if you didn't press it down onto the baby's skin it obviously made contact.   Now,  I am an adult with sensitive skin and even the adhesive in bandages and first aid tape hurt to pull off and can cause contact dermatitis which can cause red bumps and painful blisters.  I can't imagine pulling duct tape off the thin sensitive skin of a baby had to feel very good.

Let's also talk about safety.   Sure the nose wasn't 100% blocked, but it doesn't look like it's exactly 100% clear either.  And we all know babies are little booger factories.   If her little nose was the least bit congested that could have made for some difficult breathing.  Also, babies are notorious for upchucking at the most inopportune times.   What would have happened if this little darling all of a sudden decided to reject her last meal and it had no where to go?  It could have easily gotten into her lungs causing serious illness or even death.

So while we all want adorable photos of our kids.   Maybe sometimes it's best to just keep the camera ready and let the kids produce the cute all on their own.   I fear our societal turn towards documenting and sharing every bit of our children's lives and having so many of the really cute ones going "viral" has led us to feel like we need to manufacture cute.  Let the kids be kids and leave the duct tape in the tool box.

Laughter Does Not Equal Happiness

This week the entertainment community, and dare I say it the world, was shocked when the comedic genius Robin Williams committed suicide.  I've read the news reports, and I've seen the comments.  So many of them are so misguided and so harsh.

People are saying they don't understand because he was always so funny, or that suicide is so selfish or cowardly.  I am here to tell you that no, you don't understand.  As someone who has been so low and in such a dark place as to feel there is no way out but to commit suicide, I can tell you it is not a cowardly act and it is not selfish.

When you are in that place your mind is so twisted that you truly believe you are doing the world a favor and that those you love will be better off without you.  You believe you are doing the right thing.  And it takes more courage than you can ever imagine to take the actual steps and make the commitment to take your own life.  I was lucky, I didn't succeed and I got help.

Another thing people are saying is that how can someone be so sad who was always laughing?  On the day I tried to die I went to school, and I laughed with my friends like there was nothing was wrong.  Nobody suspected a thing.

One thing those of us who suffer from depression are good at is putting on a mask and faking it for the world.  What we need is for those who are closest to us to look for those small clues that things really aren't okay.  Have are sleeping habits changed?  Are we acting a little more withdrawn?  Have we stopped doing some of our favorite activities?  Have we stopped having sex (for those of us that were having it regularly)?  If we were on antidepressants have we stopped taking them without talking to a doctor?

These are all reasons to be concerned.  Don't confront us though.  Ask if we need help.  Ask how you can help.  Let us know you are there for us.  Let us know we are loved and needed.  If we push away don't give up.  Keep offering.  If you are really worried for us, and we say or do anything that makes you think we will harm ourselves or others please take action.  It's better to have us alive and angry at you for a little while than not.

With that said I only hope that Mr. Williams has found the peace he was looking for.

Why am I here?

I tried this blogging thing once before, and I didn't really keep up with it.  So why try again?  Because this time I have soap boxes, as my lovely fiancé likes to put it.  There are things in this world that I feel very strongly about, and when they come up in the media, in conversation, in situations at work, or just about anywhere I get very passionate about them.  My fiancé sort of teases me and says I have a built in soapbox that springs to life whenever these things come up and he even makes these mechanical Transformer type noises to emulate it appearing below my feet.  It's sort of cute, and sort of true.

But I can't help myself.  There are just some things that I feel so passionate about, and so opinionated about that I can't help but to weigh in on them.  Besides that, I love to write.  So a blog seemed to be a good opportunity for me to not only address these topics, but also to get back into doing some of the writing I love to do.

So what are some of these topics I feel so very passionate about?  Well here's a small list to get started with.  Please note that this list is not meant to encompass everything and is no particular order, and other things may be added as they are brought up in society.  These are just my current hot buttons where you are guaranteed to get an earful if you press them.

Combating Bullying
Mental Illness Awareness and Acceptance
Same Sex Marriage - I am for it
LGBTQ Rights - I am for it
Body Image in Media and Advertising
Children's Rights and Child Abuse
Legalize Marijuana - I am for it
HPV Vaccine - Needs more research

On top of addressing these issues I hope to use this space to share my experiences and to open my mind and thoughts to the world.  Sometimes it may be funny, sometimes it may be sad.  Sometimes it may be uncomfortable to read.  I welcome any and all feedback as long as it's constructive.

So ready or not here we go...