America Needs You to Stop

Image via Huffington Post

  There have already been dozens of op-eds, articles, and blog posts about gun control in the wake of yet another mass shooting in Oregon, (and now another in Arizona!  There was another school shooting between when I began this post and now.  What the actual fuck, people?!) but I decided I needed to pile on anyway.  Once upon a time, people changed minds with well-written essays or impassioned speeches.  Anyone who is completely against new gun control regulations will not be a fan of this post.  While I don’t expect to change any hearts and minds, I hope that you will at least listen to what I have to say.

You don’t need a gun.

Correction: unless you’re an on duty police officer or military personnel, living completely off the grid and need to hunt and gather your food, or are training for the Winter Olympics biathlon, you don’t need a gun.  You may want a gun, but you don’t need a gun.  This is not to be mistaken with the idea that you shouldn’t be allowed to have a gun.  But so far, I haven’t heard a single persuasive argument as to why someone needs to have a gun.  For example:

“I like to go hunting.”
Everyone needs a hobby, I guess.  And truth be told, I don’t have a problem with someone hunting and eating what they’ve hunted.  I mean, Bambi is delicious!
“And I need a high powered rifle to hunt with.  It will allow me to get a cleaner shot so it will die quickly and not suffer.”
Nope.  You lost me.  You want a high powered rifle.  Plenty of people were able to hunt just fine before high powered rifles.  Hell, if you want to be an impressive marksman, go back to bow hunting.  And as far as not wanting your kill to suffer, that’s really sweet.  But if you’re so concerned about the welfare of the animal and its suffering, I suggest maybe not hunting.  

“I need to protect myself/my family.”
I really and truly do have sympathy for that idea.  Nothing is scarier than being attacked while defenseless.  Whenever I hear a strange sound in the house, my thumb hovers over the “send” button for 911.  Sometimes I might take a large kitchen knife with me.  In my mind at those times, I think I’m going to be like fucking Jack Ryan or Katniss and defend myself like I know what I’m fucking doing.  Here’s the thing, though.  None of us are Jack Ryan or Katniss Everdeen.  The likelihood of someone successfully defending themselves with gun in a home invasion is low, while the possibility of someone in the home being injured is high.  How often do we read stories about children accidentally killing their sibling or friend because they were messing around with a gun?  What about some asshole kid in Tennessee who murdered an 8 year old little girl the other day because she wouldn’t let him play with her puppy.  How about the girl in Arizona who accidentally killed her shooting instructor, even though she had learned proper gun safety?  The father who killed his own son because he believed him to be a home invader? Then there’s the fact that a gun in the home significantly increases the likelihood of a woman to die because of domestic violence. I will grant that there are a handful of stories where a resident was able to fight off their attacker with a gun, but that isn’t the norm, and it still doesn’t make having a gun in the home a good idea.  People survive parachute accidents.  That doesn’t mean we should all start jumping out of planes without chutes.

“I like to go shooting at the shooting range.”
Blink. Blink.  How liking to go shooting is more important than people’s lives is beyond me, but okay, I’ll play along.  Rent the goddamn things at the range like a club at putt putt.  And yes, I’ve been shooting…with a gun my ex-boyfriend was able to buy on the Internet.

“2nd Amendment rights!  Constitution!  Founding Fathers!  Liberty from a tyrannical government!  Hitler!
Let’s make one thing very clear: if you have always lived in this country, (with some obvious exceptions) you don’t know from tyranny.  And do you honestly think our government is going to come after you?  1) We liberals who aren’t pacifists aren’t usually fans of war anyway.  2) It’s highly doubtful that our military would follow orders from President Obama or a liberal Congress or any other liberal in power to war against its own citizens.  The portion of our military that isn’t Republican and telling our  liberal government to go fuck themselves would likely object to such action.  3) Let’s assume they do come for you, (for… reasons?) I seriously doubt the small arsenal you possess will do much against a tank or five.  But seriously, they’re. not. coming. for. you.  And the whole Hitler reason is bollocks.  And as a wise person once said to me, “If you invoke Hitler in an argument, you automatically lose. Those are the rules.”

The fact of the matter is, if your desire to have a gun is more important than the lives of hundreds upon hundreds of victims, then you’re a bad person.  Full stop.  If you’re arguing against or preventing gun control because you don’t want to make it more difficult for you to get a gun, then you have some seriously fucked up priorities.  Stop using bullshit arguments in order to keep your precious metal penises.  

Stop using Chicago as a reason to not regulate guns.  That’s like saying, Passing laws against driving drunk hasn’t stopped everyone from doing so, so we might as well not do anything.  It’s an excuse, nothing more, and you know it.  One must be true: either banning handguns in other countries has worked to drastically diminish this sort of gun violence or our country has a disproportionate number of the world’s murderous people.  Otherwise, I look forward to ceasing attempts to ban abortion and the decriminalization of  marijuana.

Stop saying that we just need better gun education and safety.  If that were true, there wouldn’t be accidents all the time.  My cousin wouldn’t have accidentally shot himself in the torso and then fought for his life. The fact is, people are stupid.  We just are.  We make mistakes.  We think we’re invicible, (I’m looking at you, 16-22 year olds.)  Then again, sex education has totally eliminated unplanned pregnancy and STIs. Wait…

Stop saying that we need to fix mental health care.  It may be true that mental health plays a part in the reason people go on these shooting rampages, but deflecting to mental health as the only reason is insulting to those of us who live quietly with mental health issues every day.  But thank you for continuing to propagate the stigma of mental illness.  Also, many times, the first indication that someone is seriously mentally disturbed is after people have been murdered.  And even if there are indications, that doesn’t mean they have been adjudicated to be mentally ill and dangerous, as in the case of the perpetrator of the Virginia Tech massacre.  

Stop saying that only good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns.  If that were true, Chris Mintz didn’t get the memo.  Nor did Aleksander Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, and Spencer Stone, (who, I am happy to say, is recovering from being stabbed last night.)  Not to mention, the late Colonel Bill Badger, who tackled the gunman in Tucson, AZ during Gabby Giffords’ campaign stop.  These heroes, and countless others, subdued these attackers without guns.
Then there are the would-be heroes who create problems, accidents, or get themselves killed.  Armed civilians have yet to stop a mass shooting. 

 Furthermore, escalation by putting guards with guns on school campuses will only open the schools up to accidents, (or “accidents”) and scare the shit out of the teachers and students.  It’s a place of learning, not a war zone.  I sure as fuck don’t want armed guards patrolling my girl’s schools.  And yes, I know about the meme from school shootings past, that suggests we should be like Israel and have guards at schools with semi-automatic weapons.  Well okay, but then I think we should have the car bombs and suicide bombers to go with them, then.

Finally, stop saying, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people,” and that if they don’t have guns, they’ll just use a knife or a baseball bat, etc.  Fuck off; guns kill people.  And as we’ve seen over the past two decades, they cause a lot of damage.  Plus, it’s not like you have some magical plan to make people change.  So we need to make it as hard as possible for anyone to get ahold of such devastating weapons.  Weapons which have the potential to be far more devastating than a knife or baseball bat, and you know  it, so cut it out.  

I’m too weary to write a real conclusion.  It’s beyond me why people are fighting tooth and nail to hold onto this culture of death. Even if you’re just having target practice, they are still deadly weapons.  A friend pointed out that we put people through more paces to get a driver’s license.  Why are we not taking more care with guns?  Fewer deadly weapons leads to fewer deaths.  It’s just common sense.  

I know this post has probably read more like a jumble of words I just threw at the screen. I’m angry. I’m exhausted. I’m incredulous. I’m a little hopeless. I need this to stop. America needs this to stop. 

Kids and Cats

This bed is mine now! My crazy eyes make it so!

Since becoming a parent, I have seen many articles on whether having pets is just like having children. You have one camp who only has pets, sometimes by choice and sometimes not, who claim their pets as their babies, while people with children shake their heads and smile smugly because these pet owners just have no idea. 

Now having both, I feel like I can definitely declare that having pets is more like having human children than those smug parents would like to admit. True, I don’t have to put away money for Kitty College. Nor do I have to worry about whether or not my parenting will lead to my cats being self-involved assholes with “affluenza” once they’ve grown up. But I keep adding to the list in my head every time I realize that I’m doing the same exact thing I’ve done with my own kids. 

Get cats, she said. It’ll be therapeutic, she said.

1) I have to feed them.
Pretty self-explanatory, though not always as easy as it would seem. As with children, I can’t just give my cats any old food.  I have to make sure that the food I give them has good nutrition.  Last week, Bridgette and Belle’s dry food gave Belle wet, sloppy shits, some of which ended up on our carpet.  Parents, don’t tell me you have had to deal with horribly messy poo because your child ate something s/he shouldn’t have eaten.
And once you do find food that’s right for your pet, they have to want to eat it. Cats can be especially picky, looking at you like you’re a fucking sociopath before they haughtily saunter away, because you dared to feed them salmon when they much prefer turkey giblets in gravy.  

2) I have to clean up their shit. 
Congratulations! They’re using the litter box you provided for them. Now, get down on your hands and knees and scoop it out.  If that isn’t analogous to changing a diaper, I don’t know what is. There are even times when I have to check and wipe my cat’s ass because it wasn’t clean enough after going potty, just like when Zoë hasn’t wiped well enough. 

3) I am paranoid about their health.
New parents, especially, all have had those nights when they’re trying to decide if their baby’s temperature warrants a call to the doctor.  Then there are the nights they can’t fall asleep because their child is coughing because of a cold, and they’re pretty sure their child is in the next room choking on their phlegm.
Similarly, I now have two more lives in my care, which means I get to make Bridgette go through a deep clean ear wash, and then worry about whether or not Bridgette shaking her head means that it didn’t work, she has ear mites, and they’ve caused her to have an ear infection. Last week when Belle wasn’t eating her wet food as much and began having wet, gloppy poo, I did what all parents do and searched the Internet for what my poor kitty was afflicted with. And, like all parents who have foolishly searched the Internet when their kids are sick, I became freaked out that she had parasitic worms that are difficult to eradicate and that I would have to follow her around for the next year catching her anal leakage and cleaning up whatever I didn’t catch.  This is compounded by the fact that I can’t exactly ask them how they’re feeling or where it hurts. Well, I can, but the only cat I speak right now is, “food”, “get up”, “sit down”, “pet me”, “play with me”, and “Mama!  Halp!  That crazy girl, Zoë, is chasing me again. Gah!  Now she’s touching me. Dude!  STAHP!”

4) I have to get a babysitter.
While someone doesn’t need to supervise them at all times, we can’t just take off for a week and hope they don’t have a kegger while we’re gone. As with a babysitter, I have to find a friend or boarding who will meet my cat’s needs and ensure that my feline family is alive and well when we return. 

5) I have to keep them from getting into things.
Anyone who’s had a toddler knows the feeling of having to constantly bird dog someone. You’re constantly on the move saying, “Don’t touch that!  Don’t eat that!  No going over there….and don’t do that either!”  As Belle is still a kitten, we have to do this with her more than Bridgette. Her specialty is locating ponytail holders; she’s obsessed! If there is one in the house that isn’t put away, rest assured she will find it. Then there’s chewing on paper, the living room rug, and kid’s toys.  This morning I had to stop her from chewing on a pushpin. Many of you know the feeling of asking your child, “What did you just eat?” and prising their mouths open, hoping they haven’t always swallowed whatever was in there.
I have to stop them from climbing on certain pieces of furniture.  They mostly have free reign, but the dining room table, countertops, and entertainment center are no-no’s. So naturally, Belle has to be on them all the time. She swaggers onto the table, sniffing around until I shoo her off. Of course, most of the time, she just looks at me quizzically like she’s thinking, “What?  I do this all the time when you’re not here.”  Trying to guide/push her off the table leads to her sitting down, clearly having performed the permanent sticking charm.  (Professor McGonagall, is that you?)  Have you ever tried to make a toddler go somewhere s/he doesn’t want to go?  Dead weight is my favorite.  And of course, I have to repeat this exercise with her several times within the span of a few minutes.  As far as cats and kids are concerned, “No!” is just an opening bid.  

6) Sibling rivalry is a thing.
Why do siblings fight?  They fight because they have different personalities. (Rachael is an introvert; Zoë is an extrovert.)  They fight because they have different agendas/ideas of fun.  (Rachael wants to watch tv.  Zoë wants to role play Team Umizoomi for the millionth time.)  They both want the same thing at the same time.  (“Nooooooo!” Rachael shrieks as Zoë tries to take a toy away.  Zoë whines back, “I had it first!”  I frequently refer to the noise they make as listening to feral cats fighting.)  They both want to protect their territory from the other.  (“Get out of my room!”; “I was in this chair first!”)
It’s not any different having cats. Energetic kitten, Belle, believes that now would be a great time to jump on Bridgette’s back.  Generally more sedate, Bridgette doesn’t agree, looks at Belle as if to say, “The fuck is wrong with you?”, and pushes Belle away.  A fun rough and tumble can quickly give way to Bridgette smacking the shit out of Belle because she wants to establish her dominance and possession of the cat tree at that very moment.  As with kids, she didn’t give two shits about the cat tree until that very moment, when Belle wanted up. 

“Come and get it, biznatch!”

 
It’s actually almost easier to deal with the girls when they’re not getting along. I mean, I can intervene if the cat fight gets too intense, but telling them that they had better stop or they’ll lose TV for the rest of the day hasn’t had the same effect that it does on Rachael and Zoë. 

7) You wouldn’t trade them for anything.
When you adopt a pet, they become a part of your family. You know, unless you have extenuating circumstances…or you’re a monster.  Those sweet faces you fell in love with grow into creatures with unique personalities and quirks. Fairly soon, you don’t entirely remember life before you had your furry companions.  

An Update in Pictures…and Words

Image via howtogeek.com

I have to be honest; I didn’t really feel like writing this morning.  Or lately.  Mike and the girls are at church on this cool, dreary day, and all I want to do is drink coffee, eat pumpkin donut holes, read Harry Potter, and get off my lawn!, etc. etc.  So I’m totally phoning this one in, but I felt like updating y’all on my life.  

We adopted two little, fluffy girls at the beginning on August.  We had been talking about getting cat(s) for awhile, but wanted to wait for a slightly less inconvenient time.  The timetable to move up the adoption to now from Mike holding off on it indefinitely came about as a result of my well-reasoned argument of, “Fluffy kitties will cure my fibro,” and big, sad eyes.  

  
We ended up adopting Bridgette, a 3 year old black shorthair, originally from the island of St. Thomas, and Sweetie Belle, a 5 month old gray tabby, from King Street Cats in Alexandria, VA. They’re an all volunteer, no kill shelter, and are fabulous.  Mike really wanted a black cat.  He grew up having two black cats, and also wanted to give a black cat a good home, as black cats are adopted the least. Why?  Because we’re a nation of superstitious numbskulls. She was very shy the first time we went, but hopped into Mike’s lap and adopted him the second time.  Sweetie Belle, née Thunder, adopted me.  She jumped into my lap, curled up, and went to sleep.  Now, we hadn’t intended to get a kitten, but I made a well-reasoned argument that Bridgette didn’t seem to like me, and it was pointless to get a cat if it didn’t like me, too.  On top of that… 

 
Adding them to our family has not been without its stresses. They didn’t totally get along for the first couple of weeks.  Time, our cat whisperer, Holly, and a Feliway pheromone diffuser have now made them cats who sniff and lick each other and pummel each other with sibling affection.   Otherwise, having cats has been easy. (Besides Belle feeling the need to eat and climb on everything.) Having cats and Zoë has been a challenge. Zoë is very much like Darla from Finding Nemo. She feels the need to chase both the cats, get in their faces, pick them up or pet them like she’s trying to juice an orange, and doesn’t understand why they run from her because she’s certain that they love her. So yelling at her constantly to leave the cats alone is a teensy bit stressful.

And now, for your entertainment, I present cat videos!

 

 
Peekaboo!


Lay down and take your bath like a man, dammit!

School Daze

Both girls are finally back to school. Rachael began second grade and lost her first tooth.   

How did this happen?

 
I felt completely unprepared and freaked out about school beginning again.  She seems to be enjoying her class, and she hasn’t, as far as I’m aware, cut her hair or hidden under her desk like the beginning of last year.  She also hasn’t had any homework yet, so I’m pretty sure I’m just being lulled into a false sense of security.  Zoë had a good first two days at preschool and has a few friends from her class last year in there.  Plus she hasn’t burned anything down yet, so that’s a plus.  

The Bitch is Back

By July, I was in a good place: my pain was at an all-time low and my energy was at an all-time high.  So, naturally, that’s not the case now at all.  I stopped going to acupuncture because it was almost $400 per month to go every week.  Shortly after I began treatment, my acupuncturist began accepting insurance from the company with which we are insured.  But, of course, our plan doesn’t cover acupuncture.  I need to start going back a couple times per month, though, because it seems like acupuncture was the key to reducing my pain and increasing my energy, which annoys the fuck out of me for some reason.  I say it seems to be the key because it was the only thing that changed over the summer.  My meds didn’t change.  I was still going to physical therapy 1-2 times per week.  Yet, my neck and back began aching all the time.  The pain in my feet and legs forced me to hobble to my destination upon standing.  My pain was waking me up at night. My morning stiffness, or as Mike jokes- pain boner, wasn’t eased by stretching. My energy has plummeted, forcing me to take accidental naps during the day.  

I am really thankful for physical therapy.  I highly recommend The Jackson Clinic, especially the clinics that offer aqua therapy.  The therapists were warm, supportive, and would genuinely get excited for my progress.  They never pushed me past my limits and really listened to me.  My strength and flexibility significantly increased between the spring and the end of August, when I was graduated.  I’m now able to shave my legs without feeling the need to amputate at the knees.  When I began PT, it was hard work for me to lie down and tighten my core while pushing down on an exercise ball with my arms for five reps.  Now I’m able to step up on a box and balance on one leg while pushing/pulling a resistance band for 15 reps on each leg.  I learned how much orthotic inserts for my shoes eased the pain of walking and exercise.  (Of course, every time I read or hear the word “orthotic”, I hear Hank Hill saying it in the episode when he learns he has no ass and needs an orthotic so he can sit without pain.) Even squats, which have always killed my knees, became painless.  They also showed me how changing my posture relieved a lot of pain in my lower back.  Tuck that booty and tighten that core, people!  Unfortunately, I couldn’t really sit with the posture they wanted from me, as it caused me to feel like I had weighted meat hooks stuck in my shoulder blades.  

So, what have you all been up to?

Crushin’ It

Lately, I’ve been crushing life.  If by “crushing” you mean sucking enormously at managing to keep up with everything.  The last several weeks have been filled with doctor appointments, physical therapy, acupuncture, remodeling the kitchen, trying to keep the house from being swallowed by mess, and barely qualifying as a parent and Girl Scout leader.  I look around the house each day and feel physically ill by the state of it all.  My inability to keep days and activities straight in my head make me worry about what my brain will be like when I’m old and gray.  A state of panic chases me and causes me to stumble into the next day.  

Treating my fibro
I have finally managed to begin physical therapy and acupuncture.  I love water physical therapy!  It allows me to use muscles and exercise in ways that I just can’t on land.  Therapy on land is transformative.  It turns out my SI joint and pelvis were out of alignment. It’s also been really painful to lay on my side/hip. After one session, my PT was able to adjust me, and the extreme tenderness and pain that made me yelp when she touched me was gone. GONE!  I’ve also been given very doable home exercises, some of which can be done while I go about my day. At my last session, I found out I have a weak butt. Or weak butt muscles, anyway. My homework is to clench and release my butt. 

I have had a few sessions of acupuncture or, as I like to call it, Napping with Needles.  The jury is still out on how I feel about it, but I know it’s too soon to tell if it’s making any difference, for good or for ill.  I will say that my last session seemed to make all the difference in the world. I am fighting a cold and had gotten very little sleep the night before. I was so bad off that Mike had to drive me to my appointment. Within an hour or so, I felt fantastic!  That seems like a pretty big turn around for there not to be some causal link.

One aspect of acupuncture I was not aware of beforehand is that the therapist will manipulate your body and limbs in order to loosen them.  That’s fine, but it is difficult to completely relax when the therapist is a man and leaning back makes you crotch-adjacent. Having my torso twisted, side to side quickly, so that my arms shake like cooked spaghetti and my boobs shimmy like the worst burlesque show ever, reduces me to embarrassed giggles.  Getting to lay quietly in the dark with soft music for 30 minutes, though, is pretty great. I actively try to avoid falling asleep so no one hears my snoring.  I’ve also learned that it’s pretty difficult to clear my mind, as my mind is a chatterbox with an attention deficit.

The second appointment with my new rheumatologist was much improved from the first.  My new endocrinologist is awesome; she is absolutely convinced of the existence of fibro and realizes that plenty of other doctors treat fibro patients like crap.  Finally, I’ve begun seeing a nutritionist in an attempt to lower my inflammation and lose weight.  I love her!  She is all about adding the good foods and refuses to forbid foods. Rather than making food bad or off limits, she’s more focused on making foods that will help you achieve your goal a habit.  She also understands that a person’s body in chronic pain processes food much differently than a “normal” body.  I’ve found myself reaching for better food and not craving a ton of crap. 

This is such a burden.

Taxi service
I’ve been taking Rachael to a slew of doctor appointments lately.  She’s been in therapy, as suggested by the psychologist who tested her for ADHD.  I’m not sure what, if anything, it’s doing for her.  But she seems to like going, and the therapist seems to understand the difficulties of our home.  We also had Rachael evaluated by an occupational therapist for handwriting and fine motor skills, as the results of her ADHD testing suggested that those difficulties could be masquerading as an attention deficit.  Results said she’s a bit behind and could use some therapy.  Since then, her handwriting seems to have improved and she’s not having as many difficulties as she was 5-6 months ago.  I may try to have her therapy over the summer.  I feel like the harm of pulling her out of class on a weekly basis outweighs the benefit of OT at this point.  

Finally, Rachael saw a gastroenterologist a couple weeks ago.  She’s suffered with relux and tummy troubles for a long time.  While Pepcid has made it better, her pediatrician wants to make sure that any underlying cause is found and corrected, rather than just continuing to treat the symptoms.  Rachael is scheduled for a upper endoscopy at the end of June. She was a little nervous, but understood the procedure and was fine…..UNTIL THE DOCTOR SHOWED HER A STUPID CARTOON VIDEO ABOUT THE PROCEDURE!  In the video, “Scopey” said that while he was inside, he might take some tissue for a biopsy. So NOW she’s freaking out to the point of losing sleep over it. Dude will get a nastygram over this. 

Kitchen remodel
The other major thing taking up most of my time is giving the kitchen cabinets a facelift.  I always thought the 20 year old , builder’s grade oak cabinets were disgusting, but getting up close and personal with them showed me that we had been living like animals for 6 years.  The amount of filth caked on them and the number of cracks in the wood made my embarrassment for whenever we had company skyrocket retroactively. 

I’m so close to being finished. It seems like there is always some hiccup or touch up that prevents me from getting on with things. But I do have one cabinet fully completed. 

 

All that’s left is to affix the knobs, which we haven’t chosen yet. Several doors are ready to be hung, but the hardware store didn’t have enough hinges. Because, of course.  

Hopefully I’ll be back blogging regularly again soon. I actually started writing this post weeks ago. But Zoë is snuggling with me and my brain is clear for the first time since I began writing this, so I can finally tell you what’s been going on with me. 

You Need to Respect Her No

It should be more horrifying when we hear of a women who was raped or sexually assaulted, and the first questions out of people’s mouths are: Did she say no? What was she wearing? Was she drunk? What did she do to lead him on?  It should be more horrifying, but it’s not.  It’s a part of the rape culture in which we live.  It’s commonplace. It’s normal.  On the bright side, it does seem that most people agree that sexual assault is a problem in this country, particularly on college campuses.  What is maddening is that people cannot agree on how to prevent rape. A largely accepted idea is that the onus is on women to protect themselves from assault.  While there are some practical things women can do to defend themselves, like learning self-defense, never leaving a drink unattended, and never accepting a drink from someone else, it quickly spirals into victim-blaming. You mean she was stupid enough to walk away from her drink to pee, and then she was drugged and raped? Well, I feel bad for her but, seriously, what else did she expect?  Society then adds on more victim-blaming shit, like what I mentioned before- did she say no?, etc.  At no point does it occur to people that, rather than placing the responsibility on women to not be raped, we should be placing responsibility on men and teaching boys not to rape!  Rather than questioning whether or not she said “no” assertively enough or if she actually meant “no”, we should be teaching males to respect her no.
Raising girls with expectations

Image via Huffington Post

As a mother with two girls, I’ve wrestled with how I would prepare them to live in a world where people like those in the fraternity at Texas Tech, who created the above banner, exist.  Quite frankly it makes me hope that, some time within the next 12 years, they’ll just be able to download college courses to a chip implanted in their brains.  I’m sure that I’ll share some common sense wisdom on how to try and stay safe: never leave your drink unattended; always be aware of your surroundings; get the fuck out if your Spidey sense starts tingling; go for the groin and yank until he’s a castrato.  But there’s one thing that I never want to teach them, and that is that how they feel and saying “no” to something is meaningless.

Girls tend to be taught, whether directly or through social cues, not to assert themselves or make waves.  As women, we learn it’s much more important for the common good to stuff our negative feelings and not make a scene.  And heaven forbid that we hurt someone else’s feelings by putting ourselves first.  Unfortunately, this learned behavior can sometimes be found in scenarios leading up to sexual assault.  Women don’t always put up a fight because they don’t feel like they can.  Men don’t listen when women say no because they’ve learned that their “no” isn’t important.

Because of this, I began telling my girls to respect people’s no’s.  Whenever Rachael gets up in Zoë’s face, I remind her to back off and listen to Zoë yelling, “Nooooooooooooo!”  Whenever Mike continues to tickle the girls after they’ve said “no” or “stop”, I gently remind him that they’re saying no and that he needs to respect that.  My hope is that this will instill in them the knowledge that their feelings and their no’s have value.  I want them to know that it’s right to expect others to respect their boundaries.  I want them to never doubt that their bodies are their own, and that no one has the right to invade their personal space or touch them without their consent.  Even Mike, their pediatricians, and I request their consent before touching them in their genital area, (for medical exams or if we need to investigate physical discomfort complaints.)  I think one of the great benefits of teaching them this is that I’ve heard them say it to others; they have said it to friends who are not listening when the girls have said “no” or “stop”.  How much better would this world be if we all began telling our children to respect one another’s no’s?

 

 

 

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Maybe Mommy Should Have a Time Out

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Image via Shutterstock

I’m sure that my mornings are no different than anyone else who has kids in school. They are stressful, hurried, and full of yelling. My girls and I have an arrangement: they give me reasons to lose my temper and I, in exchange, give them plenty of material for when they’re in therapy as adults. While the specific material varies, the skeleton of each morning’s script remains the same. Since we rehearse this almost every morning, I’m fairly confident that we could make a good showing on Broadway.

Off stage: Rachael plays with her sister, rather than brushing her teeth and getting dressed. Mother enters, stage left, and finds that Rachael is just now taking off her pajamas.
Mom: Why are you just now getting undressed?
Rachael: Zoë distracted me!

Zoë pulls her heart blanket from the hamper. It needs to be washed because she spilled nail polish on it and was treated with acetone. Mom takes blanket away. Zoë has a meltdown.

Zoë visits Rachael while she is supposed to be brushing her teeth. Rachael chats with Zoë. Mom yells from off stage.
Mom: Rachael, stop talking and brush your teeth!
Rachael: I am!

Zoë runs away and refuses to following instructions. Mom is helpless, as she is on the toilet. Mom commences pointless yelling.

Rachael has a difficult time putting on her socks. Mom grabs socks and puts them on Rachael’s feet.
Mom: If you were paying attention, you wouldn’t have so much trouble.
Rachael: I was paying attention out of the corner of my eye!

On the way to the bus stop, Zoë squats and declares that her shoes hurt too much. Her posture resembles that of a donkey that has refused to move.

Zoë refuses to remove her hat and coat upon returning home.
Mom: Zoë! Now! One…
Zoë: Two…..

And, scene.

I tend to lose my patience easily, especially when it’s the same bullshit day after day. I could honestly pre-record the top ten things I yell and go to a spa; it would be as equally effective. I do need to find a way of controlling my temper. Not just for them, but for me as well. With fibromyalgia, my body feels the stress and anger. Most people experience increased heart rate, blood pressure, tension, and quickened respiration. I experience all those things too, but the stress manifests itself within my muscles. My skin. My bones. Even though regular body responses have returned to normal, the skin in my right arm is still on fire. Sometimes it means that muscles in my legs will begin to feel as though they are being stabbed, making it difficult to walk. Pain that tingles and rips through my chest used to worry me that I was having a heart attack. Now I know that my chest is just pitching a fit because I’m upset. My favorite, though, is when I think I doing alright and have come back down, but sudden numbness, tingling, and burning in my face informs me otherwise. Even while writing this post, I realize that my body believes me to be a cunt for stressing it out, and so is giving me all those things at once.
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Image via film, Camp Takota

I don’t have any great solutions or wisdom to impart to other parents facing the same problem. If I did, I’d bottle that shit, charge $75, and get a book deal out of it. I suppose that I just wanted to commiserate with my fellow Spoonies and to share with others what it’s like for me and others like me. It really is best to remain as calm as possible in order to avoid pain flares. Oh, and I guess it’s important not to damage your child’s little spirit. When you’re unable to maintain control, then you end up like my girls and I this morning- girls crying because their mom lost it and said that, with as much as I yell, the neighbors are going to call social services and take the girls away. Damaged spirit: check! Mom, knowing she’s gone too far, apologizing and hugging her girls close, telling them that no one’s taking them away. Mom, still in pain hours later because she lost her temper and was a complete and horrible asshole toward her children.

Fibromyalgia and Broken Promises

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Her face falls and her shoulders slump.
“I’m really sorry, honey. I’m just hurting way too much.”
“Okay,” Rachael responds, shuffling away from me. She understands. That somehow makes it feel worse.

The annoyed sigh that I expected Mike to breathe comes through the phone.
“Okay.”
His response is terse. It’s not that he’s mad at me and is going to be a dick about me calling him to come home. Mike understands that a component of fibromyalgia is chronic fatigue and that, even though I said he could stay for game night, the day has become too much and I need his help. But it still doesn’t suck any less for him or make me feel any less guilty when I have to pull the rug out from under his feet.

Text to R:I’m sorry. I’m have to cancel today. Zoë was up half the night.

Text to J:I’m sorry, but I physically can’t keep my eyes open today. Mike is going to bring Rachael instead.

It seems that I’m always breaking promises and letting people down because of this damned chronic illness. I’ve learned to compensate by under-committing and making “hopeful” plans. I almost never promise my children anything anymore, just so I don’t have to break their hearts along with my promise. Language like, “We’ll try,” or “We’ll do our best,” has also become part of Mike’s vocabulary. He, too, knows better than to assume our plans won’t fall through at the last minute.

I hate breaking promises. I hate that, compared with my old self, I have become an unreliable, under-productive woman. Fibromyalgia recklessly rampages, unplanned and unannounced, not caring who is caught in its wake. I know that, for others, it must be difficult to separate fibromyalgia from me. I sometimes still have trouble making the distinction. But it’s not me who is letting everyone down; it’s the fibro.

I’m sure it may be difficult to understand that I can’t always manage my own illness. Surely, if I know flares are possible, I should be able to plan accordingly so I won’t have to break any promises.
That’s only partially true.
I know I need to plan on being wiped out for a week or two after a trip. I believe it took me 3 weeks just to recover from Christmas. I generally avoid planning more than one thing in a day. For instance, my trip to the dentist on Monday left me feeling as though I’d run a marathon, minus the shitting myself component. I avoid making plans with anyone after 5 pm. My body is generally done, physically and cognitively, by then. I even tend not to let my kids in on plans until they’re about to happen. Given the nature of this beast, it makes no sense to plan for a friend to come play after school ahead of time, as I’m usually useless by 3 pm.

Still, even with all this planning and compensation, I can be suddenly attacked with flares. Sometimes I can explain them, e.g. weather events. Sometimes I’m waylaid and left thinking, What the actual fuck? Where’d this come from? These flares are not simple mind over matter moments. I can’t overcome them by simply refusing to be a pussy and soldiering on. All I can do is take care of myself and let it run its course. And part of taking care of myself sometimes includes breaking promises.

Part of what prompted me to write this today is that Rachael and I have plans to go see Into the Woods today. Because of all the weather systems coming through, I’ve been in horrible pain this week. I feel like I’ve been walking on broken feet. My back and shoulders are compressed in a vice. And this morning I woke up feeling like my neck had been in a knife fight. The thought of holding my neck to watch a movie for 2 hours sounds like torture. But I took as many drugs as I safely could and hoped the pain would subside by movie time, because I’ll be damned if I’m breaking another promise to my little girl.