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 fiancĂ© 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 fiancĂ© 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...