Tag Archives: children

Male Victims of Sexual Abuse are not “LUCKY”

9 Apr

boys

 

I’ve never been a huge fan of the saying “boys will be boys”.  I think that saying dismisses actions and behavior from boys that might not necessarily need to be dismissed. I can’t help but think of the Steubenville rape case, and how the actions of the boys, the rapists, were largely dismissed because they were athletes, or because the girl was “asking for it” because she was intoxicated, or for whatever reason. This reeks of this “boys will be boys” mentality, and in my opinion, it fuels rape culture.

I also think saying “boys will be boys” gives the impression that girls are to be held to a different standard of behavior than boys.  I was a rambunctious and rowdy kid. I built forts, played with Star Wars toys, and climbed a hell of a lot of trees. My parents were extremely good about nurturing the child I was, rather than trying to make me fit and stay into one box labeled “girl”.  I think the saying is just another double standard, and I really dislike double standards. A lot.

I have written about the double standard of women being slut-shamed and how it’s very easy to fall into the seemingly socially acceptable habit of  labeling a woman a “slut” or somehow otherwise devaluing her when she chooses to have sex with a lot of people, or before knowing someone for some unknown amount of time before she has sex with them, or for whatever reason someone wants to honestly. “Slut” seems to be the go to insult for many people, like the absolute worst thing a woman can be is one who has indiscriminate sex, or close to absolute worst thing. It seems the absolute worst would be calling a woman a “fat slut”, but that is well-covered territory in this blog.

Double standards are not only annoying, they are also dangerous.  We socialize our little boys to believe that they are practically machines when it comes to sex. They want it all the time, with anyone, and they are not allowed to NOT want it. We socialize our little girls to believe that their sexuality is something to be treasured and prized and must be given with extreme caution and discretion.

I find this difference in how we socialize our children disturbing, perhaps because I am the mother of two boys. I want them to know that they too are allowed to say no and that they can be raped and violated, even though they are boys (this last part seems like it shouldn’t be necessary, but there are some people who think boys cannot be raped). I think telling them otherwise perpetuates the myth that simply because they have a penis they must want sex all the time, and they have a right to expect it, and they are not allowed to say no, and they are certainly not allowed to tell someone that they were violated or coerced into having sex when they didn’t want to.

Bill Maher, comedian and host of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher,  seems to feel the need to mock the research written about in this Time article that states that “nearly half of young men say they’ve had unwanted sex.”  This mock public service announcement  perpetuates the stereotype that men, and boys, simply because they are men and boys, have no right to say no to sexual advances, that there is no such thing as coercing a man into having sex, and if a man or boy tries to rebuke unwanted sexual advances, the video has this piece of advice for them “boo fucking hoo, you fucking pussies. Grow a pair”.

Hey, I get satire. I have written satire. I understand the set up and delivery. I understand the furor over the whole #CancelColbert  thing (admittedly the piece this links to is about hashtag activism in general, but I found it fascinating AND relevant, so I linked it) because the tweet in question was largely taken out of context because the person who wrote the tweet wrote it as if everybody in the world, or at least everyone with a twitter account, had seen the bit that aired on the show that the tweet referenced. Taken out of context, the tweet DOES sound totally offensive.

The thing is, and I may be wrong, but I don’t think there is any other set up to this video, besides Maher acting like this is a real PSA when introducing the clip. This piece doesn’t feel like it’s mocking what I think should be mocked, the belief that this is how society treats boys who have been in this situation.  It seems like it is mocking the research itself, and the very idea that a person of the male persuasion would ever have the audacity to turn down sex or admit to those times when they felt like they were coerced into having sex.

noun: satire
  1. the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

I understand that males and females are different, but socializing our little boys to think that they must be ready and willing for sex at any time with practically anyone is harmful.  I think we would all agree that pedophilia is a disgusting thing, yet this story about Chris Brown “losing his virginity” when he was 8 years old to a girl who was 14 or 15 is insane and one that has not gotten a lot of attention for WHATEVER reason.  Does the public not care because Chris Brown is not a very likeable celebrity or is it because this scenario is just not as interesting as it would be if it was 8-year old Christina Brown and the 14 or 15-year-old was a boy? As it stands, I have a little more empathy with Chris Brown’s issues as an adult knowing that he was molested as a child, and yes, molested, not lost his virginity, but molested. Granted,  molested by another child, but I can almost guarantee that neither Chris Brown nor the young woman who molested him received any therapy or intervention of any kind. We know how Chris Brown turned out. Again, not an excuse, but perhaps insight.

I think boys need to be told about their bodies and explained that their penis becoming erect is a physiologic reaction and can happen even in traumatic or painful situations. I think, just like girls, they need to be told about sex and the consequences involved, including STD’s and pregnancy, and how females may carry the baby but that does not absolve them from any responsibility, and I also think we need to tell boys about consensual sex, consensual on both sides, and that they are allowed to say no if they want to and we need to stop perpetuating the ridiculous crap in the above video. We need to provide a culture for all children that makes them feel safe and empowered and as of right now, we are not doing that.

I’m taking this right from the website, 1 in 6, which references that 1 in 6 men have experienced unwanted or abusive sexual relations before the age of 18.  For more details, visit the site.

Before addressing the myths, let’s review some key facts:

  1. Boys and men can be sexually used or abused, and it has nothing to do with how masculine they are.
  2. If a boy liked the attention he was getting, or got sexually aroused during abuse, or even sometimes wanted the attention or sexual contact, this does not mean he wanted or liked being manipulated or abused, or that any part of what happened, in any way, was his responsibility or fault.
  3. Sexual abuse harms boys and girls in ways that are similar and different, but equally harmful.
  4. The sexual abuse of boys has nothing to do with an abuser’s sexual orientation.
  5. A boy abused by a male is not necessarily gay, nor was he abused because he’s gay, nor can the abuse make him gay.
  6. Girls and women can sexually abuse boys. The boys are not “lucky,” but exploited and harmed.
  7. Most boys who are sexually abused will not go on to sexually abuse others.

I spent some time researching Bill Maher, specifically this Wikiquote page. I’m perfectly okay with him having his opinions, I just totally disagree with some of them, and while Bill Maher has no children, I will do my best to teach my boys that they are valuable on many levels and they can be in charge of their sexuality AND be REAL MEN.

 

An Open Letter to the “Hot Facebook Mom” Maria Kang

19 Mar

Dear Maria,

First of all, let me say that I dig that you have a message and a vision for your life. I read through your blog and I could relate to some of it (I was unmarried and not financially prepared when I got pregnant the first time too! The second time I was married but not financially prepared and now I’m neither married nor pregnant and not financially prepared for life in general).  I didn’t really find much else that spoke to me, but that’s okay. I respect your story and your journey thus far.

maria

I saw once again that you wanted to know what my, and other moms who don’t make fitness a priority,  excuse is.  Maria, while I appreciate your concern, I find what you’re doing to be just more mom-shaming, wrapped in what you think is an inspirational message.   I’m not even going to touch on the fact that I find it to be fat-shaming as well,  which I do, but for the purpose of this letter, I am just going to address the mom-shaming aspect. However, I will answer your question at the end of this letter.

Let me just say that I am a huge proponent of moms not shaming other moms for their choices.  I find parenting hard enough without having to concern myself with Polly Perfect who is constantly on Facebook proclaiming to the world how perfect her kids are, accompanied by pictures of little Sally and Billy  munching away happily on homemade organically grown apple sauce. I assume this is not the impression you want to leave, but I may be wrong about that. It seems that looks are extremely important to you, so I can imagine your need to control every aspect of what is even thought about who you are is extremely important too. I’m not judging, just pointing out that I find you to be a bit of one of those moms that I avoid at baseball practice.  Or on Facebook. Or in life. Ever.

maria

According to the picture you posted above, as well as what I’ve read about you in your blog, I know that you have three sons, born in 2009, 2010, and 2011, and that you are tired. I can only imagine! I know you don’t have a nanny or a chef and that you are not an athlete or a fitness model and you work over 8 hours a day. One of those arrows up there supposedly points to your stretch marks, but I’ll be damned if I can see them, but that’s not the point.

The above picture, which I  know is small, also says that you “practice consistency, persistence, discipline, intensity, patience, desire, focus, and faith”.   Good on ya girl! I do too, though I find patience to not come naturally to me,  I do try to practice it.  I’ve got the desire part down pat though, know what I’m saying? Yeah you do.

Maria, you are absolutely gorgeous, that is for sure. It is obvious that you have made fitness and “being hot” a priority in your life, and you have since the age of 16 when you started competing in beauty pageants.

I have NO PROBLEM with beauty pageants. My sister was in the past an actual beauty queen, and she still is beautiful, though I’ve had it with her wearing her crown for every family function. I understand  prioritizing what is important to you, that’s what life is all about, right?  I DO have a problem with your holier than thou attitude directed at those of us who do NOT make those things a priority. I KNOW being fit and being healthy are important, though just to be clear, and I’m sure you know this, skinny does not automatically mean healthy and overweight does not automatically mean unhealthy.

Maria, you may or may not be mortified to learn that we are actually not all that different.

This is from your blog,

I’m a wife, mother, business owner and nonprofit founder.

I dream.

I set goals.

I plan.

I take action.

I reflect.

And I repeat.

Well, me too bitch! I mean bitch as in girlfriend, no disrespect meant, because while you do irk me a little, we are similar. That’s right, Maria, you have a lot in common with a mom who has two boys, and is overweight, and exercises very lazily 3-4 times a week, and is right this moment drinking a Coca damn Cola, because I also dream! I set goals! I plan! I take action! I reflect! And I repeat! I couldn’t help but notice that you have a vision board next to your treadmill. GIRL, mine is in my bedroom.

I know there will always be people who insist that their way is the only and right way. The debates between those who have chosen to bottle feed their children rather than breast feed, those who choose cloth diapers over disposable, those who co-sleep rather than not, those choices are all valid and good choices.  Figuring out what works for ones own family and filtering through everything that is out there about what you SHOULD be doing is one of the toughest things about being a parent in my opinion.

I understand that you have chosen to prioritize fitness in your life, and that is a good and valid choice. Maria, I will now answer your question. My excuse I guess,  is that I just haven’t made fitness a priority in my life, but it’s not an EXCUSE, it’s a choice. It’s a choice you may not agree with, and that’s fine, but it doesn’t mean that because you have made it a priority in your life that I am any less the person or mom that you are.  The words that are on your picture as far as things you “practice” are not exclusive to you and your commitment to fitness.  This year I have chosen to conquer fear to do something I have always wanted to do, stand-up comedy. I write daily, even if it’s just something like this, I am someone who constantly tries to learn from my past and is striving to make myself the person I want to be, not only for myself, but for my children. I want them to see a mom who is not afraid and who kicks ass. I think those are things you want your children to see in you as well, we just see the end product as something different. And it’s okay! We’re both right!

So Maria,  let’s agree that maybe you knew you were stirring up some controversy when you posted your “what’s your excuse” picture, because I think you did. You’ve been blogging for a long time, since 2005, but nobody gave  you much thought before that picture took off and went viral. I don’t think you’re a MEAN person, and I know you think you are impacting the world in a positive way. If I could wish anything for you it is that you would come from a place of support rather than shame, because we are not all that different and maybe we could learn something from each other, but it is hard to listen to someone when you feel they are attacking you.

Also, your boys are adorable and I wish you nothing but luck in your endeavors.

Love and donuts (I’m sorry, now I’m just being a brat)

Amy

Happy Galentine’s Day AND Happy Valentine’s Day

13 Feb

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and today is, from what I understand, Galentine’s Day.  What, prey tell is Galentine’s Day? Galentine’s Day is from an episode of “Parks and Recreation”, a show starring the very talented and hilarious Amy Poehler as well as an equally talented and hilarious supporting cast including Nick Offerman (and his EPIC mustache), Aubrey Plaza, Aziz Ansari,  Rashida Jones, Chris Pratt, and Rob Lowe. See? Why aren’t more people watching this show? Including me actually since I don’t watch it on the regular either. I know, I suck, but in my defense I just now figured out how to program my DVR.

Anyway, Galentine’s Day is a day invented by Amy Poehler’s character Leslie Knope,  to celebrate the women in your life. It doesn’t matter if your gal-pals are married or otherwise attached, Galentine’s day is a day to let the gals in your life know that you love and appreciate them. Here is what Leslie Knope herself has to say about the day –

What’s Galentine’s Day? Oh, it’s only the best day of the year. Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lillith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas.

Sounds like fun! I am extremely fortunate to have an excellent support system of women near and far that I call friends. Some are family members, some have been my friend for over 30 years, some for not that long, some I haven’t even met in person but thanks to social media we have become friends. I share in their lives and they share in mine. They are my biggest cheerleaders and I know when I need anything, they are there. We have cried together, we have laughed together, we have gotten outraged together over my seemingly endless bad luck regarding relationships, and we have nervously laughed at my sometimes terrible decisions, because if WE can’t laugh about not being able to stop texting someone who clearly doesn’t want to be contacted simply because I think I thought of the PERFECT way to explain why I sent so many texts to him BEFORE, then who can?

So to my gal pals I say Happy Galentine’s Day! I love each and every one of you and I thank you for being there for me.

galentines

As for Valentine’s Day, I grew up with a father who felt it was important to give his daughters Valentine’s presents and/or candy and/or flowers and because of him, the day is much LESS about having a romantic relationship than it is to shower those you love with love, and a balloon or little box of Scooby Doo bubblegum balls (spoiler alert, that’s what my children are getting from me this year).

I have my fair share of stories of Valentine’s Day plans that went terribly awry. My personal favorite is when I was dating someone and we had plans for him to come to my house for dinner, this was when I was in my 20’s so when I say “my house” I really mean a crappy studio apartment. I searched all day for a heart-shaped baking pan and I made a delicious yellow cake and topped it with whipped cream and strawberries. Rick never showed up that night or called until the next day.  I don’t remember why he couldn’t come over, but I do remember that over the course of about 6 hours while waiting for him, I ate that entire cake with a fine white wine (just guessing since I don’t remember but it was probably from a box).

I’m not involved in a romantic relationship this Valentine’s Day, BUT I can guarantee you, I will feel loved and I will show love. I will be spending the day with my two favorite Valentines, my kids, and I will tell them that I love them, just as I do every day, and I will hug them a little tighter than usual and I will tell them that no matter what, their mom will always be their Valentine, and this will creep them out immensely, but hopefully when they are older they will carry on the tradition of looking at Valentine’s day as a day to show appreciation and love to everyone just a little more than they do every day, and that being single on Valentine’s Day is not a big deal.

And I may or may not, just for old time’s sake, eat a whole cake with some wine.

heart-shaped-cake

 

 

It’s My Party

27 Jan

In just a few short days I will be turning 44 years old.  I have written before about things I thought I would have accomplished by this point, and I think I wrote that last year, so presumably, more things have landed on that list.

This past weekend I went to the discount store with a friend and I bought, among other things, a shower curtain. I am still loving renting and living in the house that belongs to my brother and sister-in-law, but the color scheme in the house is not my personal color scheme.  I don’t dislike it, I just have everything in shades of blues and greens and in this house there are very few blues and greens, rather maroons and browns. I had been using my old shower curtain that had circles in blues and greens all over it, and it totally clashed with the wallpaper that has muted shades of red and pink on it, with a border at the bottom of pink. I found a shower curtain and told my friend who was shopping with me that “I think things will finally start coming together for me, because my shower curtain will match my wallpaper”.  I was kidding, but it made me think  how when I was a kid, I really did think that things would just “make sense” by the time I reached a certain age.

I don’t know what age that is, but I can tell you, I haven’t reached it yet.

My eldest son commented that our house feels like a motivational seminar because of all the signs I have chosen to hang in our home. I am a huge believer in the power of the universe. I have written about my vision board and I really do feel that words have the power to motivate and bring about change. Whether that change is positive or negative depends on the words and images in which you have chosen to surround yourself. I’m not DELUSIONAL. I think it takes more than just hanging a few posters in your house to affect change, but I do think it helps.

forwhatitsworth

As I sit here typing this with the television show Iyanla Fix My Life, playing on my TV behind me, it strikes me that there isn’t a magical age where everything suddenly makes sense. I don’t know for sure,  but I don’t think anybody wakes up one morning and all of a sudden they’ve got it all figured out. I do think that each morning we wake up we can choose to try to live the life we want to live or we can choose to be afraid to make changes that may lead to that life.  I don’t want to ever become comfortable with just existing. I don’t want to be ruled by fear. I want so much for my boys to take to heart everything that is on this sign, and I want to show them by example.

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”- Eric Roth

That damn shower curtain still doesn’t match the wallpaper but instead of getting stuck in thinking that by this age I should have it more together than I do, I will revel in the fact that I am not where I was 5 years ago, or 1 year ago, or 1 month ago, and that is because I have made forward movement.  Things have not fallen into place exactly how I would like them to, but this is my kaleidoscope, and I have the power to turn it myself to make a more pleasing pattern.

Really, how am I not writing greeting cards or something? That last sentence is a thing of freaking beauty.

Never Fear…It Is STILL My Year

21 Jan

I am such a good planner that I went ahead and got the health issues and hospital stay out-of-the-way first thing in 2014.  Sometimes I amaze myself…with my own stupidity.

The congenital heart defect that led to heart surgery about 4 years ago that makes me tick (literally and figuratively I suppose) requires that I take blood thinners. Forever. Forever and ever. The amount of blood thinner in my blood must be monitored weekly by in my case a clinic that must be the busiest clinic in the south because every trip there from beginning to end, travel time included, is about 3 hours.   If my levels are relatively stable, the clinic visits go down to once a month. I never managed to be very stable and it felt like I was spending a lot of time at the clinic. I have learned through a series of bad decisions on my part that spending a lot of time at the clinic beats spending 2 nights and 3 days in the hospital, or any time at all in the hospital.

I don’t know if I am so terrified of committing to anything that I felt the need to break up with my medicine or if I really do think I’m invincible, but after hearing lots of stories from friends and loved ones about people who knew people who had a stroke after being off of their blood thinners for two days and stories of people who died, and 1 very curt doctor who had me in tears, and my sister who really could make lecturing her life’s work, I realized that no matter how busy I am, or the fact that I moved, or that it was the holidays, I can’t mess around with my health like that. While there is no doubt that I am fabulous, I am not immortal, and my kids deserve to have me around  to torture them with my long drawn out speeches about injustice in the world. They need me around to make more vision boards and badly sew pillowcases for them. I’m their mom, and there is only one of me. I want to be around for them and I want to be here to see them bring home their first girlfriend, or boyfriend, because whoever they are is who they are and of course I love and accept them, for whoever they are (at this point they would be screaming at me to give it a rest.)

In the spirit of near-death collisions, I have put up another profile on OKCupid.  The latest iteration of my profile has been up for about 36 hours, and I have received some interesting messages,  including one from a man who says he has a Master’s Degree, yet his profile is riddled with spelling errors. I mean, where did he type his profile that NO spell checks noticed that one of his favorite books, presumably Water for Elephants, is not Water for Ella Phants, unless Water for Ella Phants is a book about a woman named Ella Phants who lives in a desert and is on a quest for someone to bring her water, and in that case, color me red.

 

I have received two messages within 12 hours from the same man, who I guess thinks surely there was a computer glitch and I didn’t receive his first message because why would I NOT immediately write someone who took so much effort to not fill out anything on his profile and who sent a message telling me how much better my hair looks straight rather than curly. Thank you for your unwanted and absolutely unnecessary opinion, man whom I will never message.

My absolute favorite so far is the man who simply sent me a message saying “u don’t look fat”.  I presume I brought this on myself because in my profile I have the audacity to state that while I am not a tiny little person, I am “comfortable in my skin”. This translated to him that I was fishing for compliments I guess, and in his mind, the worst thing a woman can think of herself is that she is “fat”.  What I really want to put on my profile is “don’t worry, I will never ask you if my butt looks big in anything. I have SEEN my butt, it is fantastic, and looks big in everything.”

Ah online dating. Honestly, at least I get a lot of really hilarious and hilariously bad stories out of it.  Keeping an open mind. HEY, maybe I’ll meet someone at the clinic.

peace love joy

What the Hell? Christmas Edition

16 Dec

christmas

Before you balk at the title of this post,  I like Christmas. I like the food. I like Christmas specials. I like the songs, though if I never hear “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” ever again in my life, that will be fine with me.  I like to get presents, and I like to give presents.  I like that this time of year seems to make people want to give of themselves a little more than any other time. I like my family and I love spending time with them. Having said all that, there are a few things about this time of year that I just don’t understand.

Let’s start with what I find the most heinous of all Christmas-related phenomenon, Elf on a Shelf. I kid, I don’t find it the MOST heinous, and I will most definitely be writing about it shortly. However, without a doubt, what I find the most heinous is that big bucket of peppermint scented poop  known as black Friday. I understand the appeal of shopping on black Friday.  For several years on Thanksgiving I would peruse the sales flyers and outline my plan of attack for the next day. The next morning I would wake up at 4:00 am, grab myself an Egg McMuffin and a coffee, and dash into the Target or Toys R Us, or Joanne’s Fabrics, to pick up  whatever was on my list. I would save some money and get the boys some toys that I might not be able to without the black Friday sales.  I understand for a lot of people, they treat it the same way I did.

Now, this is why we can’t have nice things. Black Friday is now starting on Thanksgiving day, people are literally being attacked over sales items, and do you know the number one seller at Wal-Mart during black Friday this year? Towels. A mother fucking bunch of towels. Not that I don’t appreciate a luxurious 5 thread count cheap towel, but come ON. This might fall under the category of irrational anger, but dammit, I’m angry about it.

And yes, I understand that Christmas shouldn’t be about presents and commercialization and let’s all hold hands and sing around a tree like the Who’s down in Whoville. I am ALL for that, I really am, BUT, there won’t be a Christmas where I don’t give those I love a Christmas present, even if it’s very small, because I just want to. I give of myself, and sometimes myself is in the form of a gift card or a pair of earrings.

So far, I have used the word “Christmas” rather than “Holidays”. This is because I grew up celebrating Christmas, and these rants are CHRISTMAS related. All Christmas was for me growing up is what I listed in the first paragraph. I can count on one hand the number of times I was in a church, not including for other people’s weddings,  but I did consider myself a Christian growing up. We had a nativity scene, and I knew the whole story about the baby Jesus and Mary and no room at the Inn and following the Northern star and all that jazz. I don’t recall being told the story, but I assume I was, and didn’t just piece it together through Christmas songs and specials.

As an adult, I don’t consider myself a Christian, more like an agnostic, or sometimes, an atheist, depending on whether the University of Alabama wins its football games or not (settle down, I’m kidding). I have tried to educate my boys about Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the fact that some people don’t celebrate anything at all, and that to some people Christmas is more religious than it is for us, and  it’s all fine and good. The same rule of life applies, believe and/or celebrate what you want, as long as your beliefs and/or celebrations do not hurt another living creature.

I tend to say “Happy Holidays” as a catch-all for this time of year. Does this make me ANTI Christmas? Is this me waging my own personal war against Christmas?  Hell no, it’s not. This is me being cognizant of the fact that not everybody celebrates Christmas. Why in the tinsel covered hell does it matter if someone chooses to say “Happy Holidays” OR “Merry Christmas” OR “Happy Hanukkah” OR “Happy Kwanzaa”? It doesn’t to me. Thank you for the greetings, may you have a happy whatever as well. End of story. I don’t feel the need to go into this further because it is Elf on the Shelf time.

I don’t get this Elf on the Shelf thing. At all. I read that it was to help children become “more excited” about the impending holidays. WHO ARE THESE CHILDREN WHO NEED TO BECOME MORE EXCITED ABOUT THE HOLIDAYS!? The day after Halloween, mine start counting down to Christmas. I don’t need and/or want some creepy elf to help us in any way, thanks. Maybe I saw Poltergeist one too many times, but the fewer clown/elf dolls in my house, the better.

Happy holidays everybody.

elf

Slumlords, Hell Holes, and Gratitude. This Post Has It All

20 Nov

The calendar has moved beyond all things spooky towards the season to express gratitude.  However, I feel I can’t do that fully without first talking a little more about something scary. A haunted house of sorts. No, this has nothing to do with the terrifying creatures  in Washington DC, this is not another political post.

The house I’m referring to is not so much a house as a yellow trailer covered in tin sheets the same thickness as aluminum foil. A place that was literally falling apart under the feet of all those who dared enter. Someplace so horrific that hot water refused to make its presence known. Are you stumped? Cue dramatic music…..it’s where I USED TO LIVE!

I moved the boys and myself into the above-mentioned hell hole because I could afford it, it was a nicer part of town than the hell hole where I lived before, and it had a big yard for the dog. I am a woman who has made some stupid decisions, and lots of mistakes. I am nothing if not fully aware of how imperfect I am.  Choosing to “make do” in the little yellow trailer was not in my top 5 of dumbest decisions I have ever made. That should tell you how many mistakes I have chalked up in my 40 something years. It was solidly in the top 10 however.

The place itself wasn’t HORRIBLE at first. The landlord said we could paint! How nice! I’ll just throw away all the weird stuff left behind by the last tenants. I don’t think I need any more Halloween decorations, especially not jack o”lanterns that are supposed to plug-in and light up and have cords that look like they have been chewed by…um…something…and are covered in electrical tape.  I also don’t need any more Easter decorations featuring creepy bunnies wearing sundresses and straw hats. That in itself is not bad, who doesn’t love a rodent in clothes, but the dresses were covered in some kind of red and presumably sticky substance. I’m going to say raspberry jelly just in case any of you are eating while reading this.

So, I painted the living room dark green and made curtains with greens and blues in the fabric. It was adorable! I couldn’t open the windows because the ones that were not painted shut didn’t have screens and this is Florida, open an un-screened window for 2 seconds and risk catching malaria (and whatever else mosquitoes carry).

The boys picked out a nice bright blue paint for their room. This would be fine. This would be just fine. Until things started breaking and it became very apparent that my landlord insisted on making the repairs himself, and that meant a full day with him in my place, tinkering away with parts that he had more than likely pilfered from junk yards, and the repairs would not stick. The only time that something that he fixed stayed fixed was when he replaced my air conditioner when it went out. In July. In Florida. And he didn’t return my call about it being out for 2 1/2 weeks.

I learned tricks to keep things working that were almost broken. My refrigerator teetered at death’s door for months and months, but I learned that if I adjusted the temperature every now and then, that would breathe some life into it. I changed the door knob myself when it became so loose that my door could be opened whether it was locked or not.

When my hot water heater stopped working I could not fake or fix it myself. It was still summer, so I was okay with taking cold showers, but the boys weren’t as easy-going about it, so I broke down and called the landlord. After a couple of weeks, he arrived with duct tape and screwdriver in hand. I don’t really know much about water heaters, but to me, this seemed like he was woefully unprepared to actually fix the problem. I was correct in my assessment of the situation. It broke again a few weeks later. I called him again and told him that I had no hot water once more. Here’s where it got really ugly. It broke the second time at the end of the month. I told him I would not pay rent until it was fixed. He would not fix it until I paid rent. We had reached an impasse. One that meant I would be living without hot water for the next two months.

At this point, I had heard from a lawyer friend that what the landlord was doing was illegal. I did some research on this thing called “the internet” (thank you Al Gore) which is really so much more than cats and porn and blogs (not that I don’t love blogs…and cats…and porn) and discovered that my friend was right, the slumlord was wrong, and I sent him a letter using the words “pursuant” and “statute” and I told him that he was wrong and that he must be used to dealing with people who were afraid of him and/or stupid and that I am neither of those things. He showed up, sprayed some tire sealant all over the hot water heater (no joke. Tire. Sealant) and called it a day. My water still wasn’t hot, but it was very chemically tasting and smelling, so it was a good trade-off.

Here’s where the gratitude part comes in. I was able to tell my landlord that very next day that we would be moving out within the week. I could do this because my brother and sister-in-law offered me and the boys the chance to move into their HUUUUGE house in a beautiful neighborhood in town, for rent that I can afford, because my brother had moved to Texas and my sister-in-law was ready to join him.  As of a few weeks ago, the boys each have their own room, we have two bathrooms, I have an indoor laundry room, a dishwasher, closet space, a yard for the dog, and so much more. To say I am thankful seems like an understatement, but I am so very thankful for their generosity. I am extremely fortunate to have a generous and supportive family who COULD very well let me flounder in my own stupid mistakes, but they don’t. They help and comfort and support me and have never made me feel like a loser who makes bad decisions.

thank you

In the midst of hot water heater-gate, part 2, I had a little breakdown after a very unladylike screaming match in the yard with my FORMER landlord who dropped by to ask for money one night. I had sent the boys inside so that they wouldn’t be scarred for life at hearing their mother cursing at an old man, but they snuck out onto the porch and heard me doing just that.  After he left I was crying and saying that I was so sorry for making the boys live someplace so awful and that I was trying to get us out as soon as I could. It was a great moment in parenting for sure.  My eldest, who at 12 is smarter and more sensitive than a lot of adults I know, said “oh yes mom. Be sorry for putting a roof over our heads and working to feed us and give us things we need. Suck it up”.

I am so grateful that the boys appreciate that I AM trying. We appreciate our family so much, and we can all agree that we will NEVER take hot water, or each other, for granted. This Thanksgiving, or EVER.

gratitude

 

I’m all Enlightened and Stuff

31 Aug

yoga

 

I have practiced yoga off and on for many years, and though I know the correct term is indeed practiced, it has perhaps never been more apropos in this instance because though I have been DOING yoga for years, I still have not mastered the art of yoga.  I love doing it and I love the way it makes me feel but I feel like I’m not any good at it. I mess up my breathing by inhaling when I should be exhaling, I tend to want to hold my breath, which is totally not what I should be doing, and perhaps worst of all, I am not good at being IN the moment, something that is stressed during yoga.  I tend to let my mind wander rather than concentrating on breathing out through my chakras. When the instructor is telling us to concentrate on our breathing and leaving everything outside the yoga studio, this is what is going on in my head –

Was that my stomach? I am hungry. What is there to eat at home? Do I have any gas in my car? Do I have money to put gas in my car? What time does the Alabama game start? Who are we even playing? I am the worst fan but I really do like college football. I should go back to college. I have so much laundry to do. I cannot wait to move.

And soft breaths

I really need more yoga clothes. Wonder if they have any at Goodwill. Oh Goodwill is bad. I should try the consignment stores. Where did that place move that was right down the road? And there’s my stomach again. Oh I’ve got those baby carrots and yogurt dill dip. Who the hell am I? Seriously, this is what I want to eat?  This yoga shit is really enlightening me to what goes into my body. Baby carrots with yogurt dip and I still have Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Done and done. Lunch and dinner figured out right there. Boom.

And really concentrate on leaving everything outside the studio. Think of this moment.

In this moment I need food that is currently outside the studio. Why don’t I eat before I come, this happens every time. Great. I’m the stereotypical overweight lady who is constantly hungry. Don’t judge me thinlings, I’m thinking about baby carrots.  I need to buy a yoga mat. It’s dumb that I come here and borrow theirs. They’re like what, $6 at Target. I need to do that.

And child’s pose 

Oh I LOVE child’s pose. Yeah, stretch it out. I am so damn flexible now. I am feeling my spine stretch through my fingertips.  Speaking of spines, I have GOT to look up the final moves for Mortal Kombat on YouTube. I don’t remember which character pulls the spine out of their opponents body, but that is a badass move. The boys would love that. Is that too violent? I grew up playing video games and I’m not a serial killer, yet anyway, though if I don’t eat soon, it’s a possibility.

And on to proud warrior

Damn right I’m a proud warrior. I’ve got this shit IN THE BAG. I’m gonna be sore tomorrow. This is INTRO to yoga? So glad I didn’t decide to try power yoga. I think that would kill me. I am so hungry, what time is it? Oh I have apples at home too.

And tree pose. Really make your feet like roots 

My foot is a root. Look at me. I should wear my glasses in here so I can see myself better because I look freaking awesome right now. I AM a mother fucking tree. I should relax into this and breathe like we’re supposed to and BE in the moment. Oh so hungry. This place is so pretty, I love that mural. Wonder if that means something or if it’s just decorative. I should ask.

And now we lie down on our backs and mentally scan our bodies to relax fully

THIS is what I’m talking about. This pose, this flat on my back hands to the side palms up totally doing nothing but breathing pose I have DOWN at this point in my life.

And breathe

AND BREATHE

Namaste

Nailed it.

 

Dear 12-year-old Amy

27 Aug

typewriter

When I was writing this, it sounded very familiar to me and I realized why.  The advice I’m giving myself as a 12-year old is essentially the same that I gave to my boys in the post, A Letter to my Sons.  It makes sense. I have often said that children sometimes act as mirrors and reflect back to you those things you like about yourself, and what you don’t like so much as well.

I see so much of myself in my boys, for better and for worse. I want them to “GET” things earlier than I did, I want them to not beat themselves up for being flawed, I want them to learn from their mistakes, but mostly I want them to know that they can do so much more than they think they can because they are amazing. I let the fear of failure, and on many levels, the fear of success, color my choices. I hope the boys realize the only thing standing in their way is themselves.

None of us can go back and do things differently, and by and large, I don’t want to.  I do wish I had more time with my dad, and Brett, and I lament some of my choices, but even if I had the chance to go back and change things, I don’t know if I would because I feel like every broken heart, every rejection, every seemingly wrong turn, led me here, parent to the two most incredible boys on the planet. BUT, if I could go back, this is what I would want to tell myself.

Dear 12-year old me,

You’re kind of mess right now, aren’t you? You feel like school sucks, your parents are dorks, your siblings are jerks, your hair is a nightmare, your braces will never come off, and you will always live in a tiny town and feel something like a fish out of water. Well, never fear, 43-year old you (me) from the future is here to soothe your troubled soul. Granted, your hair will always be kind of a nightmare, but the rest totally works out.  I have some guidance for you to help you on your journey.

When you start high school, you will meet some fantastic people. Brett will be one of your closest friends. He will be there for you when few others are. Cherish him. He will be gone far too soon.

Dawn is someone who is very special and she will teach you about strength and love. Don’t lose sight of her.

Mom and dad love you but yes, things will get weird. Dad’s a complicated man and slowly you will start to realize that he is a human being, not a super hero. That’s okay. He can still be your super hero. He gave you his sense of humor and he loves the hell out of you and would do anything for you.

Emulate mom if you can. She’s incredible and totally comfortable in her skin. Also, give her a break about crying over Little House on the Prairie episodes and long distance carrier commercials. You will be exactly the same way. Also, you will do other things like she does too, so…keep that in mind the next time you laugh at one of her eardrum shattering sneezes.

Missy and Clay will always have your back. Clay will become one of the best guys and fathers you’ve ever seen (and probably won’t fart on either of his children’s heads even once like he used to yours) and Missy will grow more than you thought possible and will teach you about introspection. Listen to her. They will be your friends forever. Don’t fight with either of them about stupid shit. It’s not worth it.

Your family will grow to include a sister-in-law and two nieces.  Enjoy time with them when they’re little because soon enough they will be grown up and you will be in awe of the women they become.

In the coming years you will feel immortal and you will drive after having had a lot of alcohol to drink. You will do this more than once. Don’t do this ever, you freaking idiot.

Stay in journalism class. Continue in college. Writing is the one thing that you have always done and it is what you will always do and it would be fantastic to be paid for it.

Rethink that crush on Ashley Wilkes.  Weakness is not a quality to be desired. Trust me on this. Ashley could never have handled Scarlett anyway.

I know it seems like a self-destructive streak in boys is fun and desirable, but realize, that streak is inside you. Don’t seek it in them, deal with your own.

You feel like the chubby funny girl who boys don’t like. Boys DO like you, exactly how you are, and if one boy doesn’t, another one will.

Don’t even think about changing yourself for anybody. Ever.

It feels like you’re the girl who will never be kissed.  Not only will you be kissed, you will fall in love, several times, and boys will fall in love with you. You fall hard and you always will. Things inevitably end and it will hurt. It will not hurt forever though. I promise.

There are other things you could change and do, but it is imperative that you go to the On the Border restaurant with Missy and one of the guys she works with and one of his friends. The guy she works with will be more into Missy, but just hang in there. Meeting him will lead to two of the most amazing creatures ever.

Life is short. It’s really short. You will make choices in the coming years that you will not believe sound like a good idea to you at the time, and they probably aren’t, but I think you have to make them to get to where you end up. Remember this, nobody can beat you up the way you can. Give yourself a break after you make amends for your mistakes..and you will make so many mistakes, but everything will be fine. It really will.

Trust yourself, know your boundaries, love with everything you can, learn from and clean up your messes. You will be just fine. 

Airplanes, Anxiety, and Amy

20 Aug

While I am far from what anyone would call a “serious” person, I am fairly stoic when it comes to certain things. For instance, I am ridiculously cautious when crossing the street. I wait for that signal and I do not move away from the sidewalk towards the street until I get the green light and/or walk signal. If my children are with me, I clasp their hands tightly until we are safely across the road. Don’t give me this “you’d never make it in NY” shit. I’ve been there. They have cross signals and it was just as easy to abide by them there as anywhere. This issue irks me to no end living in a college town. Kids today are too busy listening to their i Pods and updating their Instagram accounts to pay attention to silliness like crossing signals. Pull up your pants, get out of the middle of the road, and stop whining about everything. I’m 43 and my life stinks sometimes too. This is not an age-specific thing, it’s a life thing. Ask my 71-year-old mom.

Another time I find it necessary to pay heed to signs and signals is when flying. I enjoy flying. I like traveling. I am usually always excited to be heading somewhere. My trip to Las Vegas a few weeks ago was no exception. My niece was an absolutely beautiful bride and I am thrilled to welcome Dean officially into the family, though he’s been there for 11 years already. I got to spend time with my sister and her man and my mom and pseudo step-dad  which is always good and also with my hilarious aunt and cousin, and their kids. My children were incredibly handsome and well-behaved and we all had a great time.  Once again, I marveled at my exceptionally attractive and funny family.

What I do NOT find exceptionally attractive and/or funny, however, is when people do not do what they are told to do when flying. EVEN if it’s total bullshit that the instruments could interfere with the instruments on the plane, is your phone call to your office to tell them you’re on the plane all that important? No. No it’s not. I am sure I APPEAR calm when flying, but inside I am acting out the scene from Terms of Endearment when Shirley MacLaine goes all (justifiably) crazy because the nurses were late giving Debra Winger her pain shot, but my rant would be more “JUST TURN OFF YOUR FUCKING PHONES. ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS TURN IT OFF FOR A FEW HOURS” and less “JUST GIVE HER THE SHOTTTT”.  When we’re flying, I want you buckled when you’re supposed to be buckled, I want your damn electronic devices off, and if you’re sitting in an exit row, I want you to pay attention to what you’re supposed to do to get me out of that plane alive should there be a need, because I am NOT going to put on that oxygen mask if it drops simply so I can breathe in any fumes that may be permeating the cabin so I can knock myself out and not have to deal with the crash in any way. Is that too much to ask of my fellow travelers?

adorable

Me and my sister are supermodels.

Another thing that causes me a bit of controlled anxiety is looking at pictures of myself taken by anybody else in the world besides me. I read a Tweet once, I can’t remember who said it, but I wish I had because I can totally relate, “my camera and my mirror seem to have totally different ideas of what I look like”. Truer words were never spoken. In my mirror, and in pictures I take of myself (also known as a ‘selfie’) I am freaking adorable. Offensively adorable. In pictures anybody else in the world takes of me, I am…not so much.  I am super comfortable in my skin until I see a picture of myself and think “now might be the time to quietly start looking into Botox” because according to every expression I have, I am either a dim-witted cartoon character or an old-time vaudeville comedian, which explains why I have spent some time this past week quietly un-tagging myself from pictures on Facebook.

This week my boys started school which caused both me and my eldest son some anxiety. We didn’t buy the boys school supplies until the weekend before the first day and that was too close for comfort for my 12-year-old. He stressed about not having a backpack (he decided to use his brothers from last year anyway), or school clothes (yes he did), or paper or pencils (had that too), and was convinced that he was going to show up on Monday naked with nothing. I have recently realized that my eldest is an anxious kid, and that some of his behavior issues might be anxiety-driven. He has TOLD me that he finds it difficult to NOT think about everything all the time. Besides the little bit of anxiety that I described, and a few other things, I don’t think of myself as an anxious person, so I have had to really take a step back and breathe before barking at him for many things. This is something that I will surely write more about, but as of today, the first day of school went well for both boys. My youngest is very happy-go-lucky about everything. My eldest seems much more comfortable this year than last year and decided to spring on me that last year when he was dropped off, he didn’t know where to go before class, so he followed another kid to the cafeteria and sat there alone until the bell rang and he went to class. This of course made me burst into tears and ask him why he didn’t tell me this last year, to which he deftly responded “you’re crying about it a year later. You would have had a heart attack if I had told you last year”, which is probably somewhat true SO, part of what I will be working on this year is not being anxious about things my children tell me about things that make them anxious. Yeah, it’s like Inception, but with anxiety.  Again, still haven’t seen that movie, but I refuse to stop using it as a reference when I think it fits.  Spouting off about things I know little about is part of what makes me a great American.

This got very long but in summation, I’m an anxious freak when crossing the street, flying, looking at pictures of myself taken by anybody besides myself, and when dealing with my children in any way whatsoever.  I’ll just leave it at that.

J. A. Allen

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