This Bird Does It

Librarian ramblings


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Midsummer pause

There’s no real break in the action, and technically, it’s nowhere close to “mid” summer. Actually, we don’t even hit REAL summer for another week or so. But it feels like school has been out forever and this is the first moment there has been to sit down and reflect.

I still can’t give you much about my job. With 10 days to go, I’ve been invited to apply for the job I already hold (though on a part time basis now), with a description I practically wrote, and that literally NOBODY else given the posting will be interested in. I’m rather hopeful about my chances.

Besides the insanely long and drawn out process of figuring out what will happen with Hamma Library and my job, other things are going on in the world. So many other things. My little corner of chaos is so insignificant. I am so saddened by the continued deep divisions in our world. Our country continues to dig deeper into our polarized habits. We constantly discount the experiences and opinions of anyone we disagree with, often without even thinking about what the person is actually saying. You voted for Trump? You must be a racist, rich, conservative with no empathy for your fellow man. What? You’re upset by what Trump’s tweets? You have GOT to be some kind of bleeding heart liberal snowflake. End of conversation.

Like, really, END OF CONVERSATION. Anything said afterwards is just platitudes if we’re lucky, and more likely vitriol. We are so ruled by social media. I heard someone describe how we get information today as “through a fire hose.” So very true. It’s so much faster and with way more force than we could ever actually absorb. Then, because we cannot accept the input in that form, we pick and choose what to accept according to the dreaded “confirmation bias.” It’s a real thing. A real, really powerful thing. Anyone who tells you they have NO bias should terrify you.

I don’t know what the answer is. I keep researching more about how our brains work, how we are unable to avoid bias etc. I’m unable to find a way to gather news myself that doesn’t leave me even more terrified about our future. Yeah, there’s no doubt that I land on the liberal side of the spectrum, but I’m nowhere near the most liberal person you know. I know some folks who are about as far from center on the conservative side and they seem so very rational. So ready to get things done. Why is it then, that the only thing we hear from politicians is the extreme? Nothing is ever going to get done this way. EVER. If you listen to the Republicans, then the Democrats are just blocking progress. If you listen to the Democrats, than the Republicans are turning back the clock. In the meanwhile the “forgotten folks” is becoming a larger and larger class. I’m feeling pretty damn forgotten today. I hope we can rally the troops like those “forgotten folks” of 2016.

Nothing I’ve said can’t be found on the Internet in a million other places. There are hundreds of thousands of other Americans who feel this way. Why are we only whispering on the Internet? Probably because we’re the folks who don’t want to argue with our neighbors on Facebook. We aren’t willing to be labeled in anyway for our social media usage. (Okay, if you actually follow me, you probably would label me, and I can live with that.) We’re going to have to speak up, or the polarization is going to get worse, not better.

My children know. They know that there are these incredibly split sides. They obviously parrot a lot of what they hear their dad and I say, but they do think on their own. They ask questions that make me proud. I pray every single night that they never lose that! When did the rest of us lose that? When did we pick a side and just go with it? These aren’t sports teams, folks. Undying loyalty is extremely dangerous.

So, that’s what I’ve been thinking about. Not exactly earth shattering, as I’m sure there are thousands of us thinking the same things these days. We are all dealing with it in different ways. Some have become unexpected activists, making phone calls and rallying their friends. Some have completely tuned out, just ignoring the news and avoiding any Facebook post with a political bent. But there are some of us who are listening, but doing very little. I feel a bit like a watched pot. I’ll still boil, and the boil IS coming, but it’s just gonna seem like forever before the bubbles roll.

PhotoGrid_1497659563228Meanwhile, summer rolls on. I take a child to work most days, the other two stay home and do chores and watch many hours of TV. I sit outside until dusk, then hurry everyone to bed before it’s obscenely late. I worry about school supply lists and summer bridge homework. We grill. Man, I love to grill. I’m a privileged member of a privileged society. So, there’s that, too. It’s a good life full of blessings, but I want to find more, not less, ways to spread those blessings around.

And any free time I find, I read about Lutheran theologians. You know, because who isn’t fascinated by these old, dead, white guys?¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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And lastly, I don’t want to close without acknowledging my friends in the LGBTQ+ community. I stand with you, friends. It’s Pride Week and I hope you feel celebrated! I’m still sad that such a celebration is even necessary and I look forward when being LGBTQ+ is just shrugged off like being a redhead, or a left hander. Different, but not so much. Just a different spot on the spectrum of human, of Child of God! My siblings in Christ, I love you, I see you, and I’m proud to be your ally.

 


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After the stress

I’m all done. If you follow me on Facebook, or just know me in real life, you have heard this already. I’m sort of shouting it from the rooftops these days. ALL DONE! No more homework, no more assignments, no more papers, projects, or discussions. Tomorrow is graduation, and though I have elected not to attend, I’ll be officially a Master of Library and Information Science. A librarian. For real.

20151215_121607It’s not like I’m not busy anymore. It’s Christmas, after all. That’s the main reason I chose not to attend the graduation ceremonies tomorrow. The thought of dragging everyone up there for a 6pm ceremony, then bringing everyone home overtired and late, just didn’t appeal. Plus there are several other things on the calendar for Saturday, including a piano recital for the two big kids.

But somehow my brain is still processing this lack of school thing. For almost four years I’ve been in the thick of studying, or preparing for the next wave of classes. I’m having trouble just accepting that there is no next wave. Sure, I have to get a job now, and who knows what challenges I’ll find next, but this challenge has been met. And conquered. I’ve reached the shore and climbed out of the water. There are mountains to climb, and jungles to explore, but I think I’ll just sit here on the beach for a bit and enjoy my cocoa and cookies. Okay, maybe that’s not the best image.

Christmas is shaping up to be as lovely as anyone could want here. Except the weather. Not that I want to complain about something nobody can change, but I could use a few flurries. Or at least weather cool enough to force me to close my window at night! It’s like being back in Georgia. We may have to turn on the AC to run the gas fireplace on Christmas Eve this year. That’s just wrong.

Still, we’re rolling in blessings and I’m determined to remember each of them when I say my prayers at night. Enough blessings to induce guilt sometimes. I pray every day for ways to show my children how blessed we are. May they never, ever be unaware of how fortunate they are. I can’t stand to spend any more effort participating in the social media drama of the political discussions this month. I also can’t imagine remaining silent forever on some of these topics. But for the rest of 2015, I will enjoy these blessings with my family. I’ll keep teaching my children how blessed they are and encourage their compassionate natures. We’ll focus on the lessons of a tiny baby born in poverty who brought divinity to mankind. There’s no greater blessing than that one!


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#FightTheNegative, a campaign of positive

I’m still fighting the urge to rant. Here’s my non-rant for today:

I fight my judgemental tendencies every single day. If I see you in the grocery wearing pajama pants and flip flops when it’s 35 degrees and rainy, I do think, “What gives? Have you no pride. You don’t have sense to put closed toe shoes in this weather?” Then my brain snaps back, and I remember that it’s none of my concern if you choose to wear flip flops in November. I have no idea what’s going on at your house, and frankly, it’s none of my concern.

Most of the time I’m winning the battle. Most of the time, I have no problem remembering that everyone is fighting their own battles and just like me, they’re probably doing the best they can. I don’t jump to the conclusion that you’re a terrible mother when I see you doing the opposite of what I’d do. I don’t assume you don’t care about the environment if you’re using plastic bags. Most of the time I am able to remind my overly critical self that I’m not in any position to judge! I’m not getting any parenting awards, I’ve been to the store twice this week when I should have showered first.

But here’s the thing, see, sometimes you ASK me to judge you. Yeah. Sometimes you put something out there, or actually a lot of things, that you know you want me to use when forming an opinion of you. I’m talking about social media, of course. I’m NOT talking about that one picture of Bernie Sanders you posted last week. I’m not talking about that one FoxNews clip you reposted this morning. I’m not talking about how you changed your profile pic to a French flag. I’m AM talking about all of it. When you repost three, four, ten, twenty memes a day, and all of them are extreme, on either side, you are BEGGING me to judge you.

The problem is that whether you are convinced that George W. created ISIS, or Obama did, whether you think we should deport every muslim in the country or bring every Syrian refugee to our shores, if you are so adamant about your position that you need to post so often and so hateful, I GET to judge you. I HAVE to! Humans can’t really help it. Our brains are wired to put things into categories.

So, will your social media audience put you in the category of “lover” or the category of “hater?” Choose your political beliefs however you like, I’ll keep working on withholding my judgement on all of that. But when you express them, be careful.

This week has been brutal on social media! I have never experienced this level of hate and anger and fear, and I’ve been on social media since the early days of website message boards. This is different. And very concerning. I won’t rail against it, or try to tell anyone why they’re wrong. Instead, I’m launching my own campaign against it. Yesterday I pledged on Facebook to post one REALLY positive post every day. It might be original , or it might be a repost, but I will put as many positive things out there as I can.

So far the response has been lovely, but maybe because I made one other change. These positive posts will be public. And I’m a little overwhelmed by how far it’s spread. I want them to spread as far and wide as possible. Negatives spread farther and faster than anything positive, so it will take an army of positive posters. Repost mine, or make up your own, I don’t care, just spread some joy, or love, or happiness, or any other positive emotion you can dream up. Kittens, puppies, engagements, birth announcements, pretty cloud pictures, stories of people doing loving, accepting things. Any of it. Post it. Please. I need to see it!

Today, if you haven’t seen it, I reposted this story about a woman in an airport.  If it doesn’t make you smile, and maybe get a little teary, you should re-evaluate things.

 

 


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It’s not about not judging, it’s about not giving a $h!t #MommyWars

wpid-wp-1416081794192.jpegOh, I’m gonna piss folks off with this one, aren’t I? I guess I’ll be accused of some sort of participation in the Mommy Wars, but I’m still not even clear what that means. I think it means expressing some sort of opinion on how other Mommies are Mommy-ing. Here’s the thing about that, though. See, we’re all starting these Mommy Blogs so we can spout off about stuff we’re thinking about. We want to write about how we feel about life as a Mommy, or a woman, or a wife, or a person, or a citizen, or a drinker of wine, or an eater of salads, or whatever. We all want to write stuff to “brain dump” it, but anybody who says they don’t care if folks are reading is lying. But offending folks means nobody will read anymore, or that you’ll go viral, depending how offensive you are and to which side. We can’t write anything too controversial, because we might offend. We can’t write anything specific about our own opinions, because that might be considered offensive to those who have an opposing opinion. We can’t write about how Breast is Best because that might make the formula feeders feel bad. We can’t say staying home with our kids has been a super awesome thing, even though it’s crazy hard, because that might make those who have to work to pay the bills feel bad. And we can’t write about being glad to send the kids to daycare so we can go have grown up time in the office because that means you’re shaming those Mommies not living up to their male-equal potential.

But the prevailing opinion that we should stop “Mommy-shaming,” that we can write about. We CAN write about how everyone’s choices are valid, we all have to do what’s best for our own family, and “judging” each other is only causing more harm. What the hell does that even mean!? Are you seriously telling me that you think that the mom who has a college degree but feels so strongly about being at home with her kids that she spends hours clipping coupons and figuring out how to feed her three kids on 50% of the household income they had before kids is  NOT going to have ANY opinion on the mom who works full time just so they can afford designer clothes? NO OPINION at all? Come on, that’s just not realistic. Whether or not she expresses that opinion is her call. Whether the working mom CARES about that opinion, now that’s another thing. That’s realistic to expect someone to control. SAHMom has no right to stop WOHMom at the Back-To-School Open House and spout her opinion, but if she puts it on her blog (not calling WOHMom out by name, duh), and WOHMom reads it, SO WHAT? If she’s offended that’s WOHMom’s problem. And if WOHMom wants to write a book about how gratified she is by her work and how she can’t imagine being stuck home all day with the laundry and the kids, how is that offensive to SAHMom? For crying out loud, if we all have to make the choices that are best for our own family, why do we spend so much time justifying them in the form of rants about how nobody’s choices deserve judging.

What’s your point, Bird? I don’t know. I’m just tired of being told not to judge. That’s ridiculous. Humans judge. We just do. Obviously I think that the choices I’ve made are the best, or at least I did when I made them. Yes, by “best” I mean that they were/are best for MY family, based on available information and my own beliefs and values. Yes, if you make a different choice based on the same information, I think it’s the wrong choice. Doesn’t mean ANYTHING TO ANYONE! NOTHING, nada, zip, zilch, zero. I thought MY choice was right. I will do you the courtesy of believing that you, like me, think YOUR choice is right. And besides I am sometimes wrong. Wrong about my own choices, wrong about what I think of yours. Catch me on a good day and I might even admit it. Don’t count on it, but SO WHAT? The only thing that is offensive about me believing MY choice is right would be if I felt compelled to somehow force my choice on you and your family.

Just so you know, none of the moms I know in real life EVER talk about how wrong someone else’s choices are, especially with regard to the have a job or stay home question. It just doesn’t happen. So, despite all the blogs, media articles, books, whatever about these “Mommy Wars” and the tension between them, it’s a made up thing. If you are getting your self worth, or letting it be stolen from you, by somebody else’s book or blog, you might need to rethink how you made your choice to begin with.

Maybe instead of the Mommy Wars devolving into a bunch of high powered CEO moms, blogger moms, and playground moms all patting each other on the back congratulating each other for making choices, any choices, whatever the choices, with no judgement about any choice ever, how about we accept that we don’t agree with everyone’s choices and we stop being so darned sensitive to the idea that someone might disagree with our choices. You’re probably judging me right now for that crazy run-on sentence.

That’s okay. I can take it!

 


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Let’s FIGHT! Well, maybe just argue. Just disagree? Please?

I accepted that NaBloPoMo challenge for BlogHer, right? A post a day for 30 days. I’ve already accepted that I won’t have 1500 words on an important topic expressing my strongly held belief in succinct and eloquent prose every single day. Obviously I’ve posted some pretty random and off-the-cuff stuff since beginning this challenge. But today is Sunday and I was hoping I would come up with something fabulous. Not so much. I was thisclose to heading over to BlogHer or WordPress to look for some generic writing prompt. I may do that, yet, but today I’ve got something I want to spout off about. It isn’t really important, and I’m sure it won’t be eloquent prose, but here’s a strongly held belief of mine. How about some stuff that makes me CRAZY?

First up, folks who use the phrase, “Why can’t we all just get along?” Why can’t we just argue? What’s so bad about disagreeing on some important topic? I don’t mean that we should all just fight and feud all the time, but why can’t we engage in civilized, even heated, disagreements and remain friends? I know it’s human nature to be drawn toward groups of people who agree with our own deeply held personal convictions, but shouldn’t we look to see what other people believe, too? And if I feel my belief strongly, and you feel yours strongly, doesn’t it stand to reason that the discussion might be a little loud, or slightly heated? Name calling and unfair fights are always rude, but what’s wrong with me saying, “Hey, that doesn’t make sense to me and here’s why…” Why does that have to be offensive?

Today I posted a blog of a friend’s sister-in-law on Facebook. (This blog is HYSTERICAL and you should totally read everything the blogger has put up. It’s called Cats with Knives and it’s brilliant.) The post I put on Facebook was this one about the nurse from Maine who was quarantined in New Jersey over the Ebola thing. She perfectly expresses what I’ve been thinking for weeks but have been unable to work myself up to post about. I might have tried to be a wee bit nicer about some of my phrasing, but she nailed it. Nailed it, I say! But here’s the thing, one of my friends on Facebook, Jared, disagreed. And he said so, with a well written and calm explanation of why he disagreed. And then I disagreed with him, and I rattled off a response that maybe wasn’t quite as patient, but still followed all the rules of fair engagement. But then I got to worrying that maybe I’d picked a fight with the guy. I mean, we’re Facebook friends, but really we’re just acquaintances from church with kids about the same age. I don’t want to make Jared mad at me over a disagreement about a nurse multiple states away. It’s not like either he or I have any real say in the immediate formulation of the policies that will affect this issue. So, I posted that I was sorry for phrasing things like it might start a fight, but he responded and said he saw my point but still disagreed, then a few words about why, and I responded to that, and he responded, and we agreed that each had a point but we disagreed and yada yada. Guess what. Still friends. How ’bout that? We never came to some great mutual solution, just a simple acknowledgement that we see the other’s point, but we don’t agree. All of this notable namely because of its novelty. It just doesn’t seem to be the way things usually go down!

argument-clipartSo many folks are afraid to discuss anything, so too often we follow that basic human instinct to stick with those who agree with us and never disagree with anyone publicly. We watch FOXNews or MSNBC and only socialize with viewers of the same extreme. Our views get more and more extreme and we don’t let anyone question them. If we post something on social media indicating our views on some subject, we either post it for a select audience, or if someone disagrees, suddenly it’s a fight and BAM, UNFRIEND! I’ve posted before about my thoughts on unfriending. I have to say that since I wrote this post, my views on that have evolved a bit, not so much on this topic, though. If you unfriend someone for simply disagreeing with you, that’s just sad! Now, unfriending someone for being a big jerk and calling names or generally disagreeing in a rude manner, well, that’s different, but just because you disagree? Not so much.

But what about in real life? It’s worse there, isn’t it? No discussion of politics or religion. Ever. Why? Well, as one husband of a friend once explained to me, because we might disagree and if we disagree someone always goes away angry. WHAT? Someone ALWAYS goes away angry? Well, that’s just what makes me so angry, isn’t it? Just because I believe deeply in a God who created me and everything I see and he believes that I’m a soft-headed fool for accepting such nonsense doesn’t mean one or both of us MUST go away angry. We could, for instance, be respectful of the other’s position and only try to explain our own without denigrating the position of the other. Just a thought, but maybe I won’t tell him that he’s going to burn in hell, and he could maybe not say that my faith is pure foolishness. I’ve had this discussion with people. I KNOW it’s possible. If I don’t assume that the only outcome acceptable is his complete conversion to Christianity and he doesn’t assume that he’s failed to make his case if I don’t denounce the God I’ve worshiped all my life, than we might actually learn something about the other person. But he won’t have that conversation, and that makes me sad.

I’m thankful for a handful of really wonderful friends who are willing to disagree with me. In fact, I consider it a minimum qualification for being more than an acquaintance. If you can’t tell me you think I’m wrong, listen to why I think you’re wrong, and still want to have coffee with me next week, than maybe we really shouldn’t be more than acquaintances. Maybe we can’t be. I mean, if you really get to know someone, you’re going to disagree about SOMETHING, right? Most likely. The idea isn’t to agree on all things. The idea is to be respectful of the person you disagree with. Honestly, my Facebook disagreement today moved Jared from acquaintance to friend, in my mind. He apologized for derailing my post, which made me laugh. No, don’t keep quiet, Jared! Please keep talking, at least to folks like me who appreciate a good disagreement. You were thoughtful and respectful and that is so refreshing.

As for all you fine folks who agree with me on stuff, well, obviously I love you, too. I mean, you guys are brilliant. We’ve found stuff to fight about, haven’t we? Well, I’m sure we will. Except you, Mike Neason. We’ve got a good run going, 25 years of no disagreements. Wouldn’t want to ruin that.


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La La La Lies

Did you read MotherhoodWTF’s recent blog about the lies we tell the world on Facebook? You should. It’s called “When Photos Lie” and I wish I’d written it. I could have. I’ve had the exact same experience, only there are three children on our outings, we have never had much luck with kites, and I usually don’t even get good pictures. Since I’ve long since learned that only a tiny fraction of you will even glance at that blog entry, even though I gave you the link right there, I’ll just tell you that it’s a mom talking about how we only post the good stuff on Facebook and the like, and that’s all fine and good, but it’s just a slice of real life. She’s not saying we should post more bad stuff, or stop posting good stuff, just that we all have to remember not to compare ourselves to the mostly airbrushed version of our friends we see on social media.

fall 15Just for fun, let’s remember the wonderful pictures of my beautiful children that I took while they played in the leaves on Sunday afternoon. It’s looks like an all American autumn afternoon with sweet, rambunctious children romping in the leaves. What it really was? Three completely spastic children called away from their over indulgence in video games and Halloween candy, forced outside nearly against their will, who found a few minutes of fun so thrilling that they had to shriek nearly the entire time at a decibel level that would cause hearing damage, while never going more than three seconds without bickering with one or both siblings. I spent most of the time asking them to glance my way or stop hitting each other, or at the very least keep the leaves in some sort of grouping because remember Daddy is trying to load them on the tarp and haul them to the street. In the end, the bickering got so out of hand, I sent them all inside to separate rooms and then retreated to the basement to look at the pictures on the good computer. When I heard the bickering start up again, I went up to try and come up with some idea for dinner, which I did not want to cook and I knew they would not want to eat.

Pictures lie, for sure. But they don’t either. I want to remember the sweet innocence of these tree beautiful kids throwing leaves in the air an hour before sunset. I want to remember that they were trilled to be outside on a cool, but not yet cold, autumn afternoon. I know when they are grown up I will remember that they bickered and undid the cleaning or leaf gathering that I did every day, but I don’t need to remember the EXACT times. I want to remember exactly that moment when I stood over the three of them, lying in the leaves giggling, looking up at me. And I have pictures of that.


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#NaBloPoMo, National Blog Posting Month

Okay, BlogHer, I’m in!

What a great month for National Blog Posting Month! November is a little crazy, but not crazy like December. There’s so much to talk about in November, well, for me anyway. I love this little semi-pause between chaos of back to school through Halloween, and the holidays. The weather is firmly NOT summer, and I feel like I’m fully into the most productive season of my year.

Can I do it? Can I actually blog every day for a month? That’s the challenge I’m setting for myself. I always feel like I have so much to say but I shouldn’t bother until it’s all put together in some totally rational (well, okay, semi-rational) form. Maybe I’ll get better at that if I do it every day for a month. Maybe I’ll just ramble and run off all my followers, few as they are. I guess we’ll see, won’t we.

So, it being November 1, All Saints’ Day, I’d like to start by telling you about the wonderful, healthy, nutritious breakfast my children ate this morning. I’d like to, but I cannot. Not one person under age of 11 has eaten anything but candy so far today, and it’s almost noon. AND, they’re all glued to the screens in the basement. PlayStation, Kindle, and PC are all going strong. But, after a few weeks of video game ban, and my refusal to buy Halloween candy in advance because it gets eaten, I suppose they deserve their little party. Daddy will be enforcing a basement clean up party in the afternoon, anyway.

Halloween was a success, and even this Grinch had a good time. Girlie and her friends had a ball. Pending approval of the other parents, I’ll share a picture at some point. Middle Bird had a lot of fun trick-or-treating, especially after they ditched the little guy and Daddy showed him how to really cover ground. I think the total candy haul in this house is a little ridiculous. The Baby Bird headed out as Buzz Lightyear, but ditched the wings this time. There was just no talking him into it. He still did quite well with his candy haul. I’m not doing a lot of candy monitoring around here. Frankly, I’m hoping they will either burn out, or get rid of it quickly! Myself, I’ve had my fill. I was a bit gluttonous last night and this morning’s sprouted wheat toast with hard boiled egg and sliced tomato was just what my body was screaming for!

wpid-20141101_115000.jpgGiven that the house is bursting with candy, it’s naturally time for me to get back to eating a little better, right? Yeah. The Paleo Experiment of last winter was very successful, and though I don’t think I need to be quite so strict about it, I think I’ll be leaning that way for a while. I felt really good, and I want some more of that! I finally got around to replacing the food processor attachment to the Cuisinart, and I invested in a mandolin slicer and a spiral slicer. The plan is to cut out almost all grain, sprouted wheat being one exception, a lot of dairy, most sugar, and generally avoid all processed foods. It’s not a diet, just a style shift in what I eat. I’m not going to beat myself up if I decide that I just HAVE to have one of the fabulous apple cookies my mother only makes at this time of year. For now, I’m off to the store for more jars. I’m going to roast a chicken to day and get the broth going, plus I want to give a shot to making fig apple butter in the crock pot. Surely I’ll be blogging about that tomorrow, right?


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#SocialMedia and #deaths #oversharing

So, before social media, how many people did you have in your life on a daily basis? Social media has come into prominence since I had children, so I’ve never been a SAHM with three kids and all their schedules without social media. I never planned playdates by phone alone. I never have gathered with other parents because I got something in the mailbox. But I can imagine it. And in my imagination, I probably interact with three or four other adults that I’d call friends on any given day. Maybe there would be a classroom activity for one of the kids and I’d see eight or ten other parents that I consider friends. On Sunday, I’d go to church and see more friends. Moving out to the “acquaintance circle,” maybe I’d interact with 15 or 20 on a typical day. Once in a while death would touch our lives. But the last two weeks have been different.

I am immersed in social media. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe it’s not. That’s a post for another day. I am, and I like it, most of the time. But over the last two weeks I have been struck by the many deaths that have touched my life. Some of them were people close to acquaintances that I only interacted with periodically, but still caused me some measure of sadness. I certainly took a little time to say a prayer, at least. A college acquaintance died. A childhood friend lost her husband suddenly. A high school friend lost a child. Two other friends lost parents, and one a grandparent. A member of our church passed away. All of those deaths in the last two weeks.

I actually started this blog entry last week. I’d been pondering how social media increases my exposure to death and dying all week. It increases my exposure to joyful things, too, and that’s why I stay at it, but the death. So many unrelated deaths in a such short period! Then on Sunday I picked up the tablet and read that a close college friend had died.

I haven’t seen David in almost 20 years. We’d chatted on Facebook over the years, but I wouldn’t say we had a relationship of any kind anymore. But it still felt like a kick in the gut. Here’s a death I would likely have only heard about much later in the days before social media.

Our relationship was so extreme. Aren’t all relationships entered into by 19 year olds extreme? We were young and stupid and passionate. We engaged in emotional gymnastics and drove each other mad. There are some really wonderful memories that would swirl up when we would chat. But there was real ugliness, too. Pain caused by our own youth, stupidity, and passion.

And it wasn’t just us. We drug those around us into our drama, just as we participated in theirs. And we bonded with those others over all that drama, too. Good Lord, college aged kids can cook up some drama. Some of it was thrust on us, some of it we concocted on our own. But all of it was just drama. Heightened emotions that caused the kind of bonding that is much more rare after your mid-twenties or so.

I met my husband at 27. I was still pretty young, and certainly still stupid. And with him definitely still passionate, but not in the reckless way I’d been with David. This time was different. Better, yes, but mostly just different. It was a few years before I understood how all that silly drama and “emotional gymnastics” had formed me. They’d made me know for sure what I would accept in a relationship and what I could not tolerate. That relationship taught me how to be a productive half of a team, who demands as well as provides. I’m not here to tell you how a good relationship works, but everything that is right and healthy in my marriage is at least a little bit because of this one goofy, drama-filled relationship of my late teens and early twenties.

I was able to travel to his home state for the funeral this weekend. There was no actual funeral, no service anyway. Just a gathering of friends and family at the funeral home. I stayed with old college friends, I saw more old college friends at the funeral home and over the rest of the weekend. I caught up with some other close friends of David’s who I’d only met briefly many years ago. I hugged his mother, who seemed genuinely glad to see me there when I was surprised that she even remembered me. I mourned an old friend and the fact that I’d never get to really thank him and tie up those few loose threads. It doesn’t matter much. My life is so full and complete, I’ve written often of how much I feel blessed. But it feels wrong that I didn’t really share how grateful I am for having known him.

I had wished him so much happiness. He had a daughter he adored, but I don’t think he ever experienced the kind of peace and happiness that a happy family can bring. A friend who’d known him longer than I, says he was doing well, and it’s even more upsetting that he might have found it someday but never had the chance.

So, I’ll put this out on the internet and hope that’s as wrapped up as I can get it. Maybe I’m “oversharing” again, but that’s who I am, I guess. Goodbye, David.


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So what if they’re comfortable with TBDBITL’s “hostile” atmosphere?

I want to write about the situation with the OSU Marching Band. I want to share my rather strong opinion. I might. I’ve been trying all day to distill my thoughts into something manageable, something succinct. Right now, though, I just want to know what I missed. How are there all these women up in arms because Jon Waters was fired? How are all these women, particularly the alumnae of the band, defending him?

You’re going to answer that with the “Letter to President Drake” by Alex Clark, AKA “Joobs,” aren’t you? Or maybe you want to point me to a gay alumnus and his feeling that the atmosphere was not unsafe for himself or the women he shared the field with. Or maybe just another mommy blogger like myself who was happy to be a band member in the 80s and thinks this has all been blown out of proportion.

I’ve read all of these blogs/articles/letters and several others as well. I’ve read the entire report of the investigation. I’ve argued with my mother and random strangers while browsing the OSU merchandise at the State Fair this week. I’ve wrestled with my own thoughts and even prayed about it. But I keep coming to the same conclusions. Nobody seems to get it. Nobody seems to be able to accept that Waters had to go because he allowed a climate where someone MIGHT (and likely would have been) harassed, not because any one witness or named member WAS harassed.article-2471386-18E62AA400000578-406_634x286

I’m sorry, Alex Clark. It simply doesn’t matter that you don’t feel sexualized by a nickname that combines your religious heritage with the size of your chest. The nickname is inappropriate and crass at best, lewd and harassing at least. Just because you liked it, just because YOU (or your parents, for that matter) were comfortable with it does not in any way make it okay. I’m not telling you how to feel. You get to feel how you want, and frankly your feelings about it are irrelevant. You don’t feel harassed or sexualized? Fine. But you cannot speak for every “Rookie” that heard your nickname and wondered what hers would be. You can’t say those nicknames didn’t feed a certain atmosphere that MIGHT have ALLOWED sexual harassment. And that is enough for the person in charge to lose his job. It just is.

Maybe I’m talking in absolutes. Maybe that’s the problem here? Maybe I should accept that sexual harassment can be acceptable if the person likes it? REALLY? REALLY!! I should accept some minimal level of sexual harassment because that’s what kids DO? Sorry, folks, can’t go there.

So let me make sure I cover all the arguments:

1. The named student didn’t feel harassed and always felt they could easily have opted out of activities like “Midnight Ramp” with no repercussions. Um, no. Just no. The fact that names referring to body parts EXIST, the fact that ANYONE is marching in their underwear, creates a hostile environment for SOMEONE. The “final” test, shown as Exhibit A with the investigation report, included a question asking the rookie to rank other band members by the size of their genitals. This does not go on, unchecked, in a vacuum. None of you will convince me that the very EXISTENCE of this question didn’t make anyone uncomfortable. Ever?

2. This is just what kids, particularly college kids, do to “blow off steam.” This sounds dangerously like “boys will be boys.” It is not some sort of huge leap to say that this kind of thinking is EXACTLY why rape culture still exists. It may be true that this is the sort of behavior that kids engage in regularly, and have forever, but that doesn’t mean the institution, or even the group leader, accepts it. And this bit about the culture change being a “process” is crap, too. Yeah, it’s a change that takes time, but we don’t have to be gentle about it. There’s nothing in the report about Waters making a blanket statement that these practices would be unacceptable moving forward. At no time did Waters ask for HELP in changing the culture. His loyalty was to the kids engaging in the inappropriate behavior not to the institution signing his paycheck, or putting their reputation in his hands, or to the SAFETY and welfare of those same kids.

3. Waters is a scapegoat. Others were involved and should also be reprimanded or fired. It’s entirely possible that others should be punished. It’s true that others knew and didn’t report these behaviors or work to change them. It’s true that the students involved should be punished. But none of these statements back the idea that Waters should be reinstated or shouldn’t have been fired. He’s not a scapegoat. He was in charge of a HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT. He had to go.

4. This has been going on for generations. Do I really have to reply to this one? “We’ve always done it this way” just never flies.

 

The first paragraph of “Analysis” in the report sums it perfectly for me.

 

Each of the allegations about the Marching Band’s culture discussed above implicates university
policy and federal prohibitions on sexual harassment. While some of the students may have engaged
in such behavior and gave no indication that they objected, the interviews highlighted multiple
situations in which students did not welcome this misconduct. In a culture so sexualized for so long,
students’ acquiescence and failure to complain cannot be taken as evidence that the range of this
misconduct was welcome.


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Heroin happens, even here

I really should be working on my last week of class stuff, but as I’d hoped, once I started writing, I can’t stop. And this morning, someone sent me something I want to share. But first, some other thoughts, and some background.

We bought this house in May 2009. Though both my husband and I were drawn to a bit more urban setting, the best schools we could afford, with the most house, were here in Worthington. And since our oldest child would be starting kindergarten in the fall, we were thrilled to find a house in our price range with some of the upgrades it needed, walking distance from shopping and restaurants, not to mention the elementary school, with wonderful neighbors and mature trees. I had never had the experience of moving into a home that I loved with no expiration date on my stay. We would live here for an indeterminate period, a long period. The kids would grow up here. I remember joking that I would never move again. We probably will, but that’s a post for another day.

We were so happy. We loved this place. The spot, the schools, the neighborhood, all of it. We thought it was the perfect American dream we were living. Then one morning in September we looked out the window and saw several police cars parked across the street and many officers in bullet-proof vests and Kevlar helmets. There didn’t seem to be a high degree of alarm among the officers, so we watched. Eventually they left and we didn’t find out what was going on until we watched the evening news. In the morning, the Columbus Dispatch ran the story with the headline: “13 caught in heroin sweep.” One of those kids lived across the street from us.

Bubble POPPED!

Reality!

There is HEROIN IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD! And not just “in our neighborhood” like out there, somewhere, close, but vague. It’s ACROSS THE STREET!

I didn’t panic. I really didn’t. I mean, this kid was out of high school. There was no reason for this incident to affect my children. After all, it wasn’t like they found it in the elementary school, right? But it’s awful damned close to home. I could see into the bedroom window of someone who was doing, possibly distributing, heroin. Now, let’s be clear, it’s not like I’ve never been exposed to people doing heroin. It’s not like I have no experience with drugs and the people who use them. But not like this, not since I became a mother. This is different. No part of me felt sorry for the kid who got busted. No part of me thought, “What a shame they got caught” like I might have 15 years earlier if I’d read about someone caught with a joint. No way. This time all I could think about were this kid’s parents.

I am a fact finder by nature, I guess. Some might call it stalker, but we quibble about language. I wanted to find out about these folks. I hadn’t met them, yet, despite living across the street for four months by then. I looked them up on the tax auditor’s website and found out that they’d lived there for over a decade. They’d probably moved here to put their kids into the good schools we’d moved here for. They’re just parents. How heartbroken they must have been that this was happening. What did they feel like?

I lost some sleep worrying about these parents. I kept imagining myself in their position. I don’t know how you get there, but I knew that despite my best efforts and hours of praying, it could happen. I could find myself in just the same position. I was absolutely sure that at no time had those parents across the street thought to themselves, “Oh, we’ll just let this one thing go and if it leads our kid to get involved in heroin, it will probably be okay.”

But after a while, when there were no more news stories about heroin in our specific neighborhood, just vague rumors about it’s existence in the city, the whole thing got pushed to the back of my mind. Not forgotten. Never forgotten. It’s such a frightening thought, too frightening to really dwell on all the time. So we got back to the business of raising kids who would hopefully avoid such a thing. Kids who would be properly scared of the prospect. Kids who would be smart and strong and capable of pushing back against such evils. But we were not under any illusion that such evils were far away, that they don’t still lurk way too close for comfort.

Then a few months ago a friend “introduced” me to another mom on Facebook. I’d seen her also commenting on our mutual friend’s posts, but didn’t think much of it. One day this mutual friend just posted and tagged us both and said something like, “Here, you two should be friends. You are the same brand of cool.” Well, this particular friend’s opinion is good enough for me, so I had a new friend. You know how you just click with someone right away? Well, that’s how it was with this friend. After a few months, we decided to meet in person for coffee.

When we met, we ended up talking for a few hours, and only because we both had other places to be did the conversation end. But most of the conversation was around the things she told me that were not posted on Facebook. There are lots of blogs and such out there about how we all use Facebook differently, but most of us don’t put our worst stuff up there. We don’t put the stuff that makes us too vulnerable to judgement, to others seeing that life isn’t at least sometimes Pinterest-worthy. Her son was recovering from using heroin.

I was floored. She seemed so, I don’t know, so normal. Like me. So much like a mom making all the same decisions I would make. Like she’d probably approached the subject of drugs with her kids in much the same way that I was. But there it was. A mom whose kid was using heroin. She’d found it in his bedroom. She’d FOUND it! It’s not like she suspected and ignored her own red flag. She’d FOUND it.

Again I found myself realizing that it wasn’t just about making the right parenting choices, whatever those might be. Raising kids is anything but an exact science. Despite all the best intentions, and informed decisions, it had happen to this mother’s son. It could happen to mine.

So, I listened to her tale, and I made many mental notes. I was in awe of the strength she showed in the way she’d handled it and in the way she told her story. Later I went home and digested it all further. I prayed that if it were ever my kid, I would do many of the same things she’d done. First of all, she didn’t bust him, accept his apology with a promise that it would never happen again, and then forget about it. She got his butt into treatment RIGHT THEN. She went through several months of advocating for her kid because there is no good system in place to take care of him. I’m sure it was no picnic for the kid, but I still can’t see it from his perspective. I can only see it from his mother’s eyes.

In the months since, my new friend and I have met again and we’ve continued to communicate regularly. I have encouraged her to start the blog she talks about, but she isn’t ready to do it, yet. But this morning she sent me something she’d written. She’s not ready to out her son, nor does she want to tell his story. This is what she felt and I want to share some of her feelings. I’m betting there are other parents out there who have thought about these things. So, I share this as a bit of hope. Yes, she’s just like me, and many other moms and dads out there. Middle class, good family, involved parent who “kept open the lines of communication.” But it still happened. And here’s how she felt.

Six months.

I am six months out from a day I thought I would not live through. It was the day we found heroin in our son’s room and had to confront him. This day was terrifying, sad, frustrating and a new beginning.

So how does a seemingly normal family respond when you find a substance like heroin in your child’s room? Well:

It makes you question everything you believed in.

It makes you doubt any remote possibility that you were a good parent, because at this point, you pretty much know it was an epic parenting fail.

You long for the days when your child was an infant or toddler and you wish you would have enjoyed them more.

You learn how to live with the terrifying realization that heroin takes many lives and your child’s could be one of them.

You wonder every time your child leaves the house if you will see them alive again. You learn that this struggle is their struggle and you need to focus on you.

You realize you must try to rely on a relationship with a higher power that you now completely wonder if there really is such a thing.

You are also angry because you know this should not be happening but you can’t change or stop it. The pain you know your child is living with, is almost unbearable for you to feel or think about.

You are scared.

You realize your child, whom you have loved with all your heart, is in for a life long struggle and challenge that seems insurmountable to you.

You become keenly aware of every heroin death and it sits like a cinder block on your chest. It is not the life you planned or wanted, but it is now your life.

Come on NEW BEGINNING!! My life came to a halt December 6, 2013. I was afraid. I felt like a failure. But as things evolved, I dug deep and my strength kept our family afloat. As the dust settled, my strength was not needed and I was not sure what to do, but I thought I was okay: I wasn’t. I became sick. Sick with fear, sick with worry.

A friend gave me a gift. She stopped me and took a chance that I could hear her truth. She told me to stop. Stop being paralyzed by my fear. She told me to stop being afraid, afraid to live and afraid to make decisions.

You see, my fear for a long time has been my guide. It was making my decisions for me. I was not in control of my own destiny and I was unable to be myself. The heroin and the fear was defining a new me. I was becoming someone I did not want to be.

Everything felt bad. I took her truth and I am working every day to let go of the fear, turn it over to my higher power and live: live life and be grateful. Live life and stop being afraid and letting the fear guide me into despair. I am grateful for my new friend who took that chance on me and told me to let go of my fear. This is my new beginning.

My son, he has a new beginning too: six months clean. But, that is his story to tell. What I can share is that he is working hard every day and he is happy – and for this, I am incredibly grateful.