The Voices in My Head – My Messy Beautiful

Jen's Blog

We are not careful with each other, or with ourselves.

On paper, my life is impressive. Or maybe it’s more that the paper in my life is impressive. On my walls hang diplomas – Bachelor of Arts, Juris Doctorate (With Honors, no less, emblazoned right there on the degree), license to practice law from two states. Newspaper articles, newsletters referencing my involvement in the community – advocating for justice, volunteering my time on boards and committees and for various social work. Ever more importantly, a Civil Union license meaning someone chose to build a life with me. Lots of paper evidencing a sassy and brilliant 13-year-old daughter. Photographs and cards from friends and family who all seem to consider me important.

Looking at all this paper documenting my life, it appears I’ve turned out alright. Words abound reflecting a multitude of people who love me, intelligence, success, priorities mostly in order.

Here’s the thing, I don’t think the voices in my head can read.

If they could, they’d surely cut me some slack.

Instead, they constantly berate me for my shortcomings, failings, mistakes. They whisper, which is worse than shouting: you’re worthless and unwanted; you’re careless with your partner’s feelings; you screw up parenting all the time; your daughter’s anger issues are because of your own; you throw snarky comments at your best friends; you’re selfish and mean-spirited; you’re petty and vengeful; you hate easily; it’s your fault; you’re demanding and impossible to please; you’re never happy; you’re life hasn’t made any difference, doesn’t mean anything. You are a failure.

And every shortcoming they point out is prefaced with if you were a better lawyer, a better litigator, a better spouse, a better daughter, a better in-law, a better parent, a better friend, a better communicator … always if I were just BETTER.

While I’ve written before about struggles with depression, this isn’t that. This is just my normal.

I’d like to go a day, get through a social event, or worse, a family gathering, without the voices analyzing how everything played out. If I might have said anything wrong, if anyone mistook my words, if I inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings. It can’t possibly be normal to go through a mental and masochistic debriefing every time I have contact with people.

The anxiety doesn’t even wait until afterward, it’s during. In my head, while I’m talking to others, it’s like live action commentary of a football game, followed by hours upon hours of replay analysis. Trust me, ESPN has nothing on my brain and family gatherings are like the Super Bowl.

And these worries, they smack of narcissism. People are not obsessed with my every word, for God’s sake. To be this concerned indicates I think they are. … Maybe if you were less self-absorbed …

It. Is. Exhausting. And limiting. It makes me fearful, cowardly. Afraid to try new things because what if you fail, what if it doesn’t go well …. Visiting with friends or family … you’re saying that wrong; they’d rather you go; are you sure they want to know you that well? Every single time I post something on my blog … no-one reads anything you write, you’re not saying anything worthwhile, no-one’s going to look at this.

I’m not alone in this. The voices may take different forms but when I dig deeper with people, I find being self-abusive in our thinking is almost universal. Why is that? I have said that people are not careful with each other, but at times it’s even truer for how we treat ourselves. One of my favorite quotes is, “If someone treated your best friend like you treat yourself, you’d kick their a**.” Oh, how very amen. After all, the voices in our heads are really just our own.

When someone comes to me about how they have fumbled parenting, let their spouse or best friend catch the brunt of their bad mood, let old resentments interfere in relationships, ruminated on revenge instead of forgiveness – words of compassion come quickly and easily. I remind them that life is indescribably amazing and impossibly hard, we can try our best and yet we have so little control, we experience resounding successes and spectacular failures and sometimes, well, we just flat screw it up, don’t we? We make the wrong call, say the wrong thing, we even fail, god forbid. But failing is not the same as failure – something the voices will never acknowledge. There are no perfect parents, no perfect spouses, no perfect daughters, friends, family and no-one who says the right thing all the time.

Yes, I can offer that so easily and sincerely to others. I can wrap people in words of compassion. But the voices don’t listen any better than they read.

Still, in spite of those ever-present mutterings, I can’t logically look at my life and conclude I’m a coward or failure. Two years ago, my partner and I gathered our daughter, our pets, our belongings, our careers and left Oklahoma. We moved to Colorado to start a new life in search of community and friendship. We started a new business in a town where we knew no-one and had no connections. It was equal shades bravery and insanity, and deliriously freeing. No matter how hard it has been and is, I am endlessly proud we had the nerve to do it. We are happy on some substantive level I’d not previously known, our daughter is thriving and our business is growing, slowly yes but growing.

Every day I wake up in a place I never thought to live, with a partner I never thought to find. I make myself do the things that scare me, in defiance of the whispers telling me all the reasons to do otherwise. I know how much effort it takes to overcome myself. I have to see that part as an additional accomplishment when I try new things, interact with people, post something on a blog …

We are none perfect.  We are all messy and beautiful. It is our individuality, our nuances, faults, quirks and sometimes just plain weirdness that make us who we are. We should strive to love that person, embrace her, offer her the compassion you offer your best friend – that is the definition of being careful with ourselves. And achieving it might quiet the voices.

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

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Posted in Random thoughts, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Embarrassing Mom Moments – the Porn Wolves

They do it when you least expect it.

The Divine Miss M’s elementary school always had Open House about a week after school started.  I had particular fondness for Open House. Meet the teacher, find out the new class rules and procedures – all while it was too early in the year for said teacher to be pulling me aside to discuss a certain child’s behavior.  Back then, I considered the first few weeks of school “the honeymoon period” – for both me and the teacher. The only difference being I knew we were in the romance stage, the teacher was sadly oblivious.  Add the fact I knew most of the parents in the school and Open House was barely short of a party.

Second Grade’s Open House, though, held an unexpected surprise.

Her school’s mascot was the Wise Wolf and each student in her class was supposed to draw a Wise Wolf to put on display in the hallway right outside their door.  I unsuspectingly headed to her classroom and, with many many parents around me in the hallway, the Divine Miss M proudly pointed out her drawing:

Porn Wolves

Mother of God. I stood there, stunned, with my face (and ears, as Jodi will tell you) turning 500 shades of red.   I don’t recall what I said at first but I remember trying to keep a neutral expression on my face as she was telling me all about her drawing – that she was pointing at directly so I couldn’t even pretend we were discussing any other picture on the wall.  I found myself asking what her wolves were doing and as soon as I uttered the words, I panicked internally with what she might answer. But instead, she responded like I was an idiot, saying, “They’re playing.”

After we were in the classroom a while, I tried to convince myself maybe it wasn’t as bad as it seemed.  Later in the hallway, I  grabbed the elbow of a parent I knew and told them to look at M’s picture. She immediately gasped and brought her hand to her mouth. Dammit, it was exactly as bad as I thought.  The Labor Coach, who knows not an ounce of loyalty during a moment of need, laughed until I thought she was going to hurt herself and then dubbed them ‘the Porn Wolves.’  A name that stuck as that artwork turned into legend.

The Divine Miss M will have children of her own someday. I hope they like art as much as she does.  If so, I might make a point of attending all their Open Houses.

Posted in Chosen tribe, Parenting, Us | 5 Comments

Ignoring Birth Control as Health Care

That tiny little thing is why I've been able to avoid a hysterectomy for the past several years.  It also costs $1000.

That tiny little thing is why I’ve been able to avoid a hysterectomy for the past several years. It also costs $1000.

I am oddly prudish about discussing anything female-related and discussing sex. I am way too old to feel this way.  Even discussing these things with my Chosen Tribe, I find myself whispering and looking over my shoulder to make sure no-one else can hear – to their great delight, I can assure you.

Having said all that, after hearing the oral arguments yesterday before the Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby (“HL”) case, I feel compelled to discuss a few things about my own medical history.  I’m flabbergasted at how often it is overlooked ignored that thousands of women use contraception for medical reasons unrelated to controlling birth.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I’m a lesbian.  I’m also a lesbian in a long-term, committed relationship.  Obviously one of the benefits of such a life is that neither of us should need to use birth control. However, I have an IUD, one of the most expensive forms of contraception available.  And I have it for medical reasons.

When I was 33, I went to my doctor due to specific and extremely problematic issues I’d been experiencing. An ultrasound and other examinations revealed I had developed polyps in my uterus along with a very rough (I forget the medical term) uterine lining.  The polyps were removed and the lining was scraped. Luckily for me, after the torturous three day wait on the testing, the polyps were benign.  However, my doctor and another agreed that over time, the same things were likely to develop again. I was presented with four options:

(1) Hysterectomy – I was 33, M was a little girl, I was nowhere near ready to say I absolutely for certain didn’t want more children. Plus, that’s an extremely expensive and invasive procedure with other long-term effects.  It was also unnecessary because I had the next three options.

(2) Birth Control Pills – I tried, I did, but I didn’t do well on those at all. Some made me nauseous and others gave me migraines, which then made me literally vomit.  I learned that some women just don’t do well on birth control pills. I was one of them.

(3) Progesterone – you know what makes a woman so exhausted during her first trimester of pregnancy? The progesterone hormone suddenly coursing through her. I was a full time lawyer raising a young daughter. I already fought fatigue.  Living that way perpetually was not a realistic option. By afternoon, my words were practically slurring I was so exhausted.

(4) IUD – Intra-Uterine Device. It keeps the lining of the uterus extremely thin and has very little side effects (actually none that I’ve been able to tell). The problem?  Without insurance, it costs approximately $1000.  Luckily, my insurance covered it or I simply would not have been able to obtain this.  It is a medical necessity for me – unless I want to have a hysterectomy.

I had many thoughts while reading the transcript of yesterday’s Supreme Court arguments (yes, I do that.  I’m a con law nerd to the highest degree).  I’ll list four here.  First, just thank God for female Justices.  They were amazing.  Second, how is it we could be listening to a Supreme Court Justice note that HL is only objecting to three or four birth controls (again, IUDs are two of them) and then ask “that’s not terribly expensive stuff, is it?”  Wow.  Love how informed Justice Scalia is on the facts, not that he generally allows facts to get in his way, of course.  Luckily for my blood pressure, General Verrilli responded that IUDs were the most effective but also most cost-prohibitive forms of contraception.  $1000 is not something I could have even come close to shelling out last year when it was time to have my IUD replaced (which hurts like absolute hell, by the way.  The joys of being a woman.).  Third, a bit of an aside, I appreciated Justice Sotomayor’s reference, albeit briefly, to HL’s hypocrisy in that prior to the ACA, HL’s employee insurance plans actually covered two of the very contraceptives they’re complaining about now. After the ACA requirements went into effect, it specifically changed its insurance plan to exclude those. This resulted in its no longer coming under the ACA’s grandfather clause, which would have allowed it to avoid the requirement of covering the other two contraceptive methods about which they now complain.  Then they brought their lawsuit.

Fourth, and most importantly, I am exceedingly concerned that there was not one single mention during oral arguments that birth control is often used for MEDICAL PURPOSES – the precise reason people have health insurance in the first place. I had a specific medical problem and in order to avoid an unnecessary surgery, I use an IUD – a decision I reached with my doctors after considering various medical options.  It is astounding to me that, depending on the summer’s ruling in this case, a corporate owner’s religious beliefs could trump that decision and force a woman in my situation to have a hysterectomy when an IUD is available and would prevent it.    Frankly, I have a religious objection to that.

Surely we can do better than this absolute nonsense.

There are a dozen more legal issues wrapped up in this case, too many to address here. But I do want to mention that the possibility a corporate owner/shareholder/managing member could assert their religion in order to avoid compliance with federal laws will spell hell for the LGBT community.

As always, predicting a ruling based on oral arguments before the Supremes is a fool’s errand.  So, it’s yet another June wait.

 

Posted in Rights and Legal Stuff | 4 Comments

Reflecting on the Passing of Fred Phelps

We have a choice to make.

We have a choice to make.

As many of you know, Fred Phelps recently passed away.  He was the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church known for picketing funerals of Matthew Shepard and U.S. soldiers, as well as concerts and various other venues, with signs such as “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” I’ve been a little more preoccupied with his passing than I anticipated. Surprisingly, at least to me, there are some within the LGBT community who consider Mr. Phelps beneficial.  “Fred was a net positive for the LGBT community,” said Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen. “The organized Religious Right despised him. They would spend big money to concoct elaborate schemes that tried to make raw hate appear to be love. Then Fred would come along and foil their careful plans with a ‘God Hates Fags sign.’”

 I can see Mr. Besen’s point, though I’m not sure I can go so far as to see Mr. Phelps’ actions as beneficial.  However, with the recent ‘license to discriminate’ bills being considered by several states in which legislatures ponder allowing businesses to refuse service to gay customers all in the name of “protecting religious freedom,” there is something almost refreshing about someone approaching with the “God Hates Fags” sign.  It is, after all, easier to battle those wearing white hoods, easier when you know what you’re dealing with.

At his passing though, I’d prefer to concentrate on a truly positive thing surrounding Fred Phelps. One of the most immediate responses to the Westboro Baptist protests was people showing up to form human shields between the protesters and the funerals.  As far as I know, those forming the human shields didn’t usually know the families they were protecting and it’s likely some of them didn’t even support gay rights.  But those people, often strangers, came together because they not only recognized a wrong, a hurt being inflicted on others, but they stepped in to stop it. Over and over again we saw this somewhat spontaneous display of love and protection. As history has repeatedly shown us and what I occasionally hold on to with a white-knuckled grip, whenever individuals show us the absolute worst in humanity, other people respond by showing us the absolute best.  Ironically, Mr. Phelps’ protests often worked to restore my faith in those around me.

On that note, I hope when Mr. Phelps’ funeral arrives no-one pickets or protests, tempting as it may be.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m no saint. A part of me feels relief he can no longer organize hatefulness and distraction during a time when people are experiencing levels of hurt and loss I can’t even fathom. Years from now, Mr. Phelps will be a footnote in the history books representing religious fanaticism. For many who are followers of Jesus, Phelps’ extreme beliefs are the antithesis of the unconditional love of the outcast Jesus practiced. Maybe Phelps’ life as a whole is nothing more than a lesson about hubris, the pride in being right that can blind us to everything else, including people.  If that is the only thing that can be said of one’s life, then it was a wasted one indeed.  I can’t feel more than sadness for that.

Many organizations have discouraged others from emulating Mr. Phelps’ actions at his passing, to let him instead go in peace.  I can’t disagree.  I also think people feel compelled to do something because of the helplessness we’ve felt at watching these actions over the years.  I can’t disagree with that, either.  But if we feel compelled to do anything, then let it be concentrating on opening not only our minds but also our hearts when dealing with those with whom we disagree.  Some have already started – when the Westboro Baptist Church showed up at a concert to protest after Phelps’ death, they were met with ‘counter-protesters’ who held this sign:

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Reacting to hate requires not only an immense amount of compassion, it takes courage and an affirmative decision to not turn a blind eye.  It takes showing up, as people have repeatedly done in forming human shields.  Seeing the worst of humanity is your opportunity to display the best. Remember this and you will find that even in the darkest of moments, there are always beacons of light and hope – you can be one of them. If we can do that, then today is not a day of remembering terrible things Mr. Phelps said or did, it’s a day of celebrating that even in the depths of hate, love can bear fruit.

… I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last …” John 15:16. I choose the fruit of compassion and I choose to show up.

Posted in Evidence of humanity, Lessons, Rights and Legal Stuff, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What Does a Kid Know about Marriage … Quite a Bit, Actually.

The Divine Miss M is a bona fide Harry Potter nerd so she was rockin' the Dumbledore sign at a recent Marriage Equality Rally

The Divine Miss M is a bona fide Harry Potter nerd so she was rockin’ the Dumbledore sign at a recent Marriage Equality Rally

PFLAG National filed an amicus brief with the Tenth Circuit in the marriage equality appeals.  It filed a similar brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the Prop 8 case.  Their approach is to tell stories of inequality not just from the perspective of the lesbians and gays affected but from their parents, families and friends. As our daughter, the Divine Miss M falls into the category of families of lesbians and gays. PFLAG National contacted her to see if she would like to share her perspective. She submitted the following which was included in the amicus brief filed today.  (No, we’re not at all proud of her and of course, I don’t get choked up every time I read it and even as I type this):

C. Story of []

My partner, Jodi, and I raised our daughter in Oklahoma before moving to Colorado in 2012. As lawyers in Oklahoma, we were not “out” professionally for fear we would lose our jobs. A year after we moved to Colorado, we were able to obtain a Civil Union License. While having a “civil union” carries with it certain legal benefits, Jodi and I want to get married. We want to be responsible for and held accountable to each other for all of our days. Marriage is the strongest commitment you can make in this country and we want to make that commitment.

Marriage equality is also important to the other member of our family: our 13-year-old daughter. Her feelings about why she believes Jodi and I should be allowed to marry are as follows:

“One of the things that I like to do with my best friend is to plan my parents’ wedding. My best friend and I make lists of people to invite to the wedding. We also talk about who the bridesmaids should be. But we don’t talk as much about where or when the wedding will take place. That is because I have two moms, and right now they are not allowed to get married in Oklahoma, the state where I was born and grew up, or in Colorado, the state I moved to two years ago.

I think it’s unfair that my parents can’t get married. I can see that they love each other just like my grandparents love each other and just like the straight parents of my friends. I see them hugging each other. I see their togetherness – the way they treat each other with respect, the way they work together as a team.

We are a true family. My two moms are great parents to me. They always tell me when they are proud of me. I know that I can go to them with any problem. They teach me great lessons about standing up for what you believe in, not giving up, but always being respectful of people who disagree with you.

My family is just like everyone else’s and my parents deserve the same rights as everyone else. Everyone should be able to marry the person that they love and the gender or race of that person should not matter. Knowing that my parents are not allowed to get married makes me feel like some people don’t believe that we are a real family. It feels lousy and hurts my feelings. But I’ll keep planning my parents’ wedding and looking forward to the day when they can get married.”

This is by no means the first time she’s participated in an ‘activist’ role, nor is her passion limited to LGBT issues.  Her submission was, however, the first time she’d ever voiced the specific concern to us that other people didn’t see us as a real family.  I suppose we never know just how many ripples in the water inequality leaves in its wake.  But I do know the Divine Miss M is stronger, more self-assured and believes more in the possibility of changing the world than I did at her age – probably because she’s already started.

Posted in Colorado, Family, Lessons, Parenting, Rights and Legal Stuff, Uncategorized, Us | 7 Comments

Explaining Inequality to Children

Earlier today I was discussing with another attorney the Utah and Oklahoma Tenth Circuit appeals regarding same-sex marriage. He asked me if it was hard to explain our family to our daughter or Jodi’s role in her life since I’m technically the biological mom (As an aside, I loathe that distinction but I understood the context of his well-intended question).  I had to really think about that answer because I couldn’t recall an exact moment the Divine Miss M had to suddenly understand our family.  I do recall her telling me when she was around the age of 5 that two women should be able to get married but not two boys.  Though it made me chuckle, I believe her conclusion had more to do with two boys in kindergarten with whom she didn’t get along and her desire to deny them, well, everything than about a person’s acceptable legal status.

I finally answered by telling him that we’ve never really had to explain our family to Miss M.  I’ve never had to ‘explain’ Jodi’s role in her life.  I’m assuming that’s because Jodi’s role in her life is defined by the relationship M has with her, which is that of parent and child.  I don’t have to explain to M what role my mom plays in her life, or her cousin’s role, or her grandparents’ role because those roles are defined by M’s relationship with them.  M knows that Jodi’s parents are her grandparents not because we told her they are but because that’s the relationship she has with them.  M is a highly intelligent child but it doesn’t take smarts for a person to understand their own family.  Indeed, regarding Jodi’s adoption of her, M matter-of-factly stated that Jodi was already her mom, this was just something we had to do for it to be official to others.

Nope, this was never something that had to be explained.

Nope, this was never something that had to be explained.

Do you know what has consistently been difficult to explain to her?  Other people’s intolerance, why we don’t have equal rights, why we can’t get married, why Jodi couldn’t adopt her in Oklahoma but can in Colorado, it goes on and on depending on what issue has arisen lately.  We have steadfastly managed thus far to keep her from hearing about Kansas, thank God.  She has asked countless questions trying to understand why people fight against equality for the LGBT community in various contexts.  We make a valiant effort to remain respectful while discussing these opposing views, including and maybe especially those based on religion.  M sees all of them as irrational and nonsensical and usually gets frustrated, angry or upset because none of it is logical to her.

I was talking to a friend in Oklahoma City once who asked about my family’s reaction when I came out to them. I explained that most were accepting but not my dad or my brother, with whom I no longer have relationships. He was startled by my brother’s reaction when he learned my brother is in his early 20s (much, much younger than me, obviously). He explained that he always just assumes the next generation will be better, that it’s like meeting a young racist, he knows they exist but they always surprise him.  (I had to begrudgingly admit, my brother’s probably racist as well.)  Anyway, I thought of that today when I was answering the attorney. I’m not wild about the analogy to the Civil Rights era in the 60s but I have to admit, explaining our inequality to M is a lot like explaining racism to her and any other child, there’s no logic to it.

As I’ve thought about that conversation this afternoon, it’s occurred to me that people who are opposed to marriage equality, who consistently point to protecting children as the reason for that opposition, would be surprised to learn that those children actually see them as the real threat.

Posted in Boulder, Colorado, Family, Parenting, Rights and Legal Stuff, Us | 1 Comment

Kansas: The new Hate State

KansasBumperSticker

In the 90s, Colorado had the dubious honor of being known as the Hate State. This occurred after three counties passed ordinances prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and the voters promptly passed Amendment 2, prohibiting the extension of such employment protection. That Amendment was eventually struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States in Romer v. Evans, but not until after the usual years of litigation.  It took a while but Colorado eventually rid itself of the odious Hate State moniker.

Every now and again a state will either propose or ponder legislation that makes it a potential candidate as the new Hate State but none have done anything quite egregious enough to be awarded with the title … until now.

Kansas, enter stage left right.

This week, the Kansas House passed a bill that the Senate is also expected to pass and the ever-righteous Governor Brownback will undoubtedly sign with glee.  This bill allows employees of public and private businesses/entities to refuse service to gay customers if the employee feels it would violate their religious freedom.  Lest you think I’m overstating the text and application of the law, please feel free to go here and read it: Kansas Hate Bill.

I think my favorite part is where the bill says that an employer must provide another employee to wait on the gays if an employee refuses, “or shall otherwise ensure that the requested service is provided, if it can be done without undue hardship to the employer.”  (emphasis provided).  So, if it’s a business full of nothing but bigots whose employees all have religious objections to waiting on gay customers, guess the gays are out of luck.  Jodi’s family is from Kansas and there is a particular Italian restaurant there I adore.  I really hope it has at least one server whose religious freedoms are not offended by serving me a plate of spaghetti.

But there are so many possibilities to ponder for this new law.  I wonder what happens if someone working voting polls has a religious objection to gay people voting.  Just not going to let the gays vote at that precinct? Or wait, I have an idea, why don’t we just harken back to the enlightened ideas of the Founding Fathers who counted African-Americans as 3/5 of a person.  Using that theory you could just count each ballot submitted by a gay person as 3/5 of a vote.  I mean, come on Kansas, if we’re going to do this, let’s go all in.

There is absolutely no question businesses will put up signs saying “No Gays Allowed” or “Gays not Welcome” or “Gays not Served Here.”  How in the hell are we supposed to take our annual Christmas trip with our daughter to see Jodi’s family knowing we might see some of that?! I know what will happen. The Divine Miss M will see it, likely go off on the business person or unfortunate employee before we can drag her away and then get in the car and sob.  Also in that vein though, what if we are in an accident or for any reason need police or medical help and happen to draw a bigoted officer, hospital employee, ambulance personnel while we’re there?  What then?  Based on the wording of the Kansas statute, any of those could refuse to serve M as well.  She’d just be guilty by association.

When I first read that this bill passed the Kansas House and would likely be law, I was annoyed and rolled my eyes. Later, the more I thought about it, the more infuriated I became.  One Representative stated the following on the House floor:

“Discrimination is horrible. It’s hurtful … It has no place in civilized society, and that’s precisely why we’re moving this bill. …. There have been times throughout history where people have been persecuted for their religious beliefs because they were unpopular. This bill provides a shield of protection for that.”

Oh, the irony.  But let’s look at what he said.  People have been persecuted for their religious beliefs?  Yes.  Yes, they have. The Crusades come to mind, for example.  Jewish people during the Holocaust.  This world has seen centuries of horrific religious persecution.  Please let’s not insult the historical and personal tragedy of true persecution by conflating it with having to sell me a candy bar at a gas station.

Some have tried to spin this law as only allowing the refusal of services related to the celebration of a gay wedding or similar joining.  This bill is not so limited.  Specifically, if contrary to religious beliefs, an employee does not have to

Provide any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges; provide counseling, adoption, foster care and other social services; or provide employment or employment benefits, related to, or related to the celebration of, any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement;

related to OR related to the celebration of any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement.”  It is NOT limited to a celebration of a gay relationship in any form.  It is any service related to any such relationship.  That is absurdly ambiguous, as codified bigotry usually is.

If you’re going to be hypocritical bigots, then don’t add dishonesty to it as well.  This bill has nothing to do with protecting religious freedom. The purpose of this law is to legalize homophobia. It’s about institutionalizing the last acceptable form of discrimination.  Well, congratulations Kansas, the Hate State moniker is all yours.

 

Posted in Rights and Legal Stuff, Uncategorized, Us | 3 Comments

Repost: Advice and Anniversaries

I originally posted this last year on February 8, 2013. This year, I’ve managed to post something about it on the day of but since I haven’t actually written anything new, not sure that’s progress.  Still, it’s a day worth marking, at least to me and especially this year since I’ve struggled more than the last.  Regardless, or maybe especially because of, those struggles, February 7th has arrived and I find I am still overwhelmed with gratefulness.  Here’s to another 7 years.

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The best advice I ever received in my life is this:

“You don’t have to ride the truck all the way to the dump to know where it’s going.”

I took my last drink of alcohol on February 7, 2007.  ‘Drink’ should be plural because, believe me, if I was capable of taking ‘a’ drink on that night or any night, then I wouldn’t be marking this anniversary.

6 years ago yesterday.  Huh.

I’m likely supposed to feel pride in that accomplishment.  And it’s not that I don’t.  Exactly.  I certainly don’t have negative feelings about it. I just can’t really pinpoint how to describe it and I know pride doesn’t quite fit.

When I think of the quintessential rock bottom, I picture someone waking up in a gutter wondering how they got there, friendless, family-less and broke.  Did I hit that rock bottom?  No.

I’ve written and then deleted descriptions of the year preceding 2/7/2007, especially the preceding six months when I was in a downward spiral of depression and self-destruction, but I can’t quite bring myself to publish that.  Cowardice, shame, whatever.  It wasn’t everyone’s rock bottom, but it was mine.  It took far longer than it should have for me to  acknowledge I had a problem.  It is amazing how well reasonably intelligent, professional, inherently controlling people can hide that sort of thing. And certainly, it takes a while before such people admit they can’t fix themselves.

No-one can hide it forever, though, and eventually, cracks in the surface can’t be smoothed over anymore.  Though I can think of multiple incidents during that last six months that should have forced me to get some help, it was one colossal parenting fail that finally made me look at myself honestly. I hold myself up to impossible parenting standards anyway and to fail spectacularly because I was basically a drunk still makes my skin crawl.  Finally though, finally, I stopped and asked myself, “Really?  This is the person you want to be?”  I’d already lost some friends at that point and my career was beginning to be adversely affected, but I began to get it together.

I don’t deal with daily cravings for a drink and I am usually perfectly comfortable with alcohol in the house.  On the rare occasion I’m not, it is disposed of or taken elsewhere.  I know I can’t take the first drink, because I also know without question, if I take one, I’m incapable of not following it with forty more.  Lay’s potato chips used to say, “You can’t eat just one.”  It’s an apt description of my relationship with vodka.

During the time period following February 7th, I expressed skepticism at my accomplishment since my rock bottom didn’t include a gutter and I still retained most of my possessions; dignity, being intangible and all, doesn’t count.  And that was when a very kind man, who was familiar with my story, explained, “You don’t have to ride the truck all the way to the dump to know where it’s going.”  It may be odd but I find that very comforting.  It seems like such a simple statement, but it has a lot of layers.  Wisdom wrapped in simplicity usually does.

In February 2007, the Divine Miss M was in kindergarten, and blissfully clueless.  The only thing she knows now is that I don’t drink.  It’s been six years.  My life is such a contrast to what it was then.  A partner who remains far out of my league but chose me, anyway.  Miss M who surrounds us with twelve year old sassiness and an enviable amount of moxy.  Living in a town they describe as ‘twenty five miles surrounded by reality,’ my days are filled with mountain views and laid back people and the ability to just be.  I look around at this life I’d never have had if I’d stayed on that truck and I settle on … grateful.  Grateful is the right word.

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She’s supposed to kill the spiders!

Does anyone else ever wake up from a dream mad at their spouse?  This occasionally happens at our house. I’m sure no-one will be surprised the dreams are usually mine and Jodi is the target of my ire.  One would think these dreams would be about her flirting with/dating other women.  While those dreams and my resulting annoyance have occurred, this week the dream was about her misguided humanity toward spiders.  Really talented spiders.  And I woke up furious.  (I will concede now there are occasions she’s entitled to sympathy just by virtue of being married to me).

What was the spider’s talent,  you ask?  Or maybe you didn’t but you should.

It went like this.  In my dream I was at our house in our living room – which was in reality not our living room or our house.  Do other people’s dreams do that?  Just create new details about mundane things like, you know, where you reside?!  Anyway, I was calmly sitting in a chair minding my own business when I saw a giant tarantula on the coffee table.  I say giant because it had really, really long legs so it was bizarrely tall but not particularly wide.  I started trying to yell at Jodi who was in some room down the hallway.  However, my dream did that thing where you can’t scream, or even really talk at a normal tone of voice apparently.  I was getting panicked and frustrated thinking it was just like in a dream where you can’t yell – unfortunately this seemed to do nothing to clue my dream self into the fact that it was indeed a dream.

- Mind you, when I told this story to the Divine Miss M, she interrupted at this point to ask why I didn’t just try to kill the spider myself.  A question that never occurred to me because killing spiders is supposed to be Jodi’s job. We all have our roles in our respective relationships and one of hers is spider-killer. -

I continued my futile efforts to yell for the resident spider-killer, not taking my eyes off the freakishly tall tarantula. And then I watched it use two of its legs to deftly pick up the sippy cup next to it on the table, tip it over, drink out of it and set it back down. (The dream world apparently created a toddler for us. I never saw the toddler and sadly, keeping said tarantula away from it never entered my dream world mind.  Clearly, I rock as a parent in every reality).  At that point, I was able to make enough noise to attract Jodi’s attention.  She walked in and do you know what she did?  Well, she didn’t kill it, I can tell you that! Instead, she picked it up and held two of its legs up so that, in her words, “it can’t bite me” and proceeded to take. it. outside.   All the while, I’m telling her to kill the d*mn thing!

Upon awaking and vociferously explaining the deplorable nature of her actions, she calmly responded that obviously she wasn’t going to kill it as it could drink from a sippy cup.  That did not get her off the hook though because she didn’t know it could drink from a sippy cup, she wasn’t in the room then and I hadn’t told her before she went all PETA on me.  (I would note she was also not concerned, in either reality, with the resident toddler.  It’s really a wonder the Divine Miss M has made it this far.).

This occurred to neither of us.  Awesome.

This occurred to neither of us. Awesome.

She also didn’t seem concerned about my subsequent outrage.  Instead, she proceeded to let the dogs outside and I heard her breezily tell them, “Watch out for the spider.”

I’d already told her we weren’t in our current house in my dream. She doesn’t listen to me at all.

Posted in Random thoughts, Uncategorized, Us | 3 Comments

The Divine Miss M enters the teen years

January 8, 2001, 8:45 p.m.

Turning 13 means a detour to Starbuck's on the way to school.

Turning 13 means a detour to Starbuck’s on the way to school.

Thirteen years ago.  That’s when my whole life changed, cliché as it sounds.   I think, in hindsight, I was too young and too naive … but she arrived, anyway.  Since that moment, everything has changed.

And thank God for that.

It’s funny, I remember every detail about the night she was born. When the doctor told me she had a head full of curls and the nurse exclaimed, “She has rolls!” When the doctor finally held her up where I could see her and my first coherent thought was, “Her head is shaped like a football.”  When they laid her on my chest and she protested loudly with indignation at the shock of it all.

Now, as I watch the video from that night showing the family filing in to see her, I can see what no-one else does.  That I was holding her in that moment and praying silently, “Please don’t cry because they’ll all know I have no real idea what to do.”  I remember worrying, rather belatedly, if displaying total incompetence meant they’d never let me take her home.

Yes, I remember all of that but the moment that truly stands out to me came later, in the wee hours of the morning, after the well-meaning family members had mercifully left.  I laid her down beside me in the hospital bed, swaddled so tightly in her blanket all I could see was her little face.  We were both on our sides, close enough I knew she could focus.  The light was dim and everything was still and quiet.  She was awake and alert and seemed to inspect my face so carefully, I could scarcely breathe.  I wondered at the thoughts she might be having, trying to match the face to the voice she’d been hearing for several months, wondering at this person to whom she’d been assigned?  I wondered too, irrationally, if I was measuring up.  Thirteen years later, I can’t think about that moment without getting chills on my arms and tears in my eyes.

Later in the day, I held that chubby little person in my arms, under my chin, to my chest and in my lap, and I dreamed. I dreamed of first smiles and first birthdays.  I dreamed of bike rides and trick or treats and scraped knees.   I never dreamed of the specifics, of today, of this, of 13 years later. I couldn’t.  It was too far away, like trying to picture infinity. Even now when it’s here upon me, I cannot fathom it’s been 13 years. That I have kissed her sweet face and tucked her into bed literally thousands of times. That I’ve spent (almost) every single day with her and have witnessed every step, every inch of growth, both inside and out. That little baby who I carried inside me and who’s voice I tried to imagine when I closed my eyes at night, now speaks of things I never knew, of interests and passions that are not from me but of her own yearning to learn, her own views of the world.

I didn’t know when I was holding her then the changes that would come, even though I knew they were coming, of course.  I never pictured the sprinkling of freckles across her nose and cheeks that would appear during the summer she was six. That those little noises she made as an infant would turn into the demands of a pint-sized tyrant.  That the ‘mama’ I waited on for so long, would quickly turn into Mommy and all too soon, Mom would become my only title. That one day I would be startled simply by the length of her legs. That on others, I’d be even more startled by her insight.  That she would devour books with a passion, and hate math just as fiercely.  And that she would present to me a fascinating dichotomy of an adamant refusal to conform battling with a sensitive streak desperate for approval.

At 13, she still doesn’t hesitate for hugs, kisses and “I love yous,” no matter where we are, but I wonder when that will change.   In a store, I heard a two-year-old tell his mother, “I wanna hold you” and I was struck by such a strong force of longing, I had to stop myself from telling her how much she would miss it when he got that particular syntax right.

She is separating from us now, seeking independence and responsibility and relationships outside our family. She wants so much to be her own girl, and yet, in a million little ways, she still needs her mommies.  When she feels overwhelmed or something or someone hurts her feelings, she comes to us still – for now. She buries her head in between my neck and shoulder and sobs while I rub her back. She still sits at the island while I make her hot chocolate to ease the sadness – even if it’s 90 degrees outside. Yet, there are moments I simply can’t fix whatever hurt has been inflicted upon her, whatever disappointment she has suffered.  A helplessness I never understood before parenthood.

I was fiercely determined to have her, and then once she arrived, I don’t believe I’ve ever been so terrified.  Thirteen years later, I am even more afraid at times because I realize she is slipping away from us.  As a teenager, she’s busily pursuing friends and interests far outside of us, exactly as she should. She’s striving for the independence she can’t quite decide she wants right now; but she’ll be sure soon … and determined, I’m guessing.  She’s too much like her moms for her own good (or for ours).

I don’t like to imagine life without the little girl who will still occasionally lay her head in my lap. She is easily the greatest thing I have ever done, ever will do. She has changed and reshaped me more than any other person or thing could ever hope to or will.  The next milestone will be high school, then driving and then college and somewhere in there dates will occur.  But no matter the number on her birthday cake or how tall she grows, I know one thing I tell her will always be true, “You’re not A baby, but you’re MY baby.” That never changes.

Posted in Family, Growing Up, Lessons, Parenting, Uncategorized | 9 Comments