Thursday, October 31, 2013

Three Dollars.

So I had retired this blog. But yesterday on Facebook I read the letter posted above by a news station in Fargo. It reads:
Happy Halloween and Happy Holidays, Neighbor!
You are probably wondering why your child has this note; have you ever heard the saying "It takes a village to raise a child?" I am disappointed in "the village" of Fargo Moorhead, West Fargo. 
Your child is, in my opinion, moderately obese and should not be consuming sugar and treats to the extent of some children this Halloween season. 
My hope is that you will step up as a parent and ration candy this Halloween and not allow your child to continue these unhealthy eating habits.
Thank You.

Reading this, my heart broken into a million little pieces of disgust and rage. Sure, childhood obesity is a problem in America. So is bullying. So is, perhaps, a general forgetfulness that yes, it DOES take a village. But a village of what? Cruelty and judgement? Name calling? Non-constructive criticism? I don't know about you, but I want my children to grow up in a village full of love. Wisdom. Nurturing. Kindness. Peace. Understanding. Respect. Education. Sharing. Progressive forward motion. There are lots of options for addressing social problems in a constructive manner. Sending snarky letters home with Trick or Treaters just isn't one of them.

At first I decided I would combat this woman's bitter assault on children and their parents by sending home a Halloween letter of my own. But, meh. A waste of paper, kinda weird?, and probably not the big hitter that is really needed to demonstrate that KINDNESS can outweigh cruelty ANY TIME WE CHOOSE. Because collectively, it is that simple.

The number three seems to be my number today. Today is my birthday. I'm 33 years old. I have three children. And today I'm donating three dollars.

I don't have a lot of extra money right now. I'd love to donate much more. But perhaps if we all band together, if we all donate three dollars, we can make a difference. One dollar will go to a charity fighting bullying. One will go to a charity fighting hunger. Another will go to a charity fighting the effects of childhood obesity. Because that bitter, unkind, judgmental letter? Almost - almost - almost has a point. But it gets SO very inextricably lost in the cruel uselessness of the delivery. The author of this letter doesn't care about children. She doesn't care about the village. She is a bully. She is using concern for children as a thinly veiled excuse to be viciously mean to those around her. But if we have concerns about our society, if we want to make an impact, if we are concerned about the myriad issues plaguing our society and the lack of a "village"...let's put our money where our mouths are. Let's be a village of goodness.

Join me. Share this post. Donate three dollars.

Kindness can outweigh cruelty ANY TIME WE CHOOSE.

(Click the links below to donate. Any amount of your choosing).

Donate to help end bullying: "I Choose" Campaign

Donate to help end hunger: Share Our Strength - No Kid Hungry

Donate to help improve problems associated with childhood obesity: American Diabetes Association

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The End. Kind of.

Hi friends. This mama is tired. She is exhausted. And so she's going to put chapter one to bed.

I'm starting chapter two.

I have no business retiring this blog to start another. I've been a terrible blogger. I don't follow ANY blogging rules. I never post. I've left huge gaps in time and information. And then I've been all "HEY I'M HERE AND HERE'S WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY TOO MUCH INFORMATION!"

And so it goes.

Catch you in chapter two.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Drops in the bucket

A couple of years ago, I hopped into the Facebook controversy over breastfeeding with this post and this followup. I haven't been so involved in the continuing controversy in the last eighteen months. I weaned the boys, got busy with our growing family, had a little PPD inspired nervous breakdown, and healed marvelously and beautifully. And so it goes.

Last night, I got an email from a researcher named Caroline Jack at Cornell University. She is working on a research project that "looks at how social media affect the ways we make sense of contentious social and political issues, and how the policies set by social networking sites may influence the conversations that individuals and communities can have about those issues" (to quote directly from her email, because I certainly can't paraphrase this concisely). As part of this research, she's interviewing people who were involved in the Facebook controversy over breastfeeding. She asked me for an interview, and I excitedly said yes. (We're finalizing a date in August).

And then I started reminiscing. It was so exciting to be involved in the Facebook breastfeeding debate. It felt important. Relevant. It might have been a small drop in the bucket of all that needs to change in our society, but was something. It felt hopeful. I believed. 

I believed that if we all kept trying, we could make a difference. I believed that we could educate our communities, convert our neighbors, and gain some true publicity to get the word out there. And through all of this, I believed that the world would be a little bit better.

So it's two years later. I haven't posted any breastfeeding pictures of Anwen and I, and I'm not up on the current state of Facebook with breastfeeding. The reality is, breastfeeding, in many ways, is simply one of many aspects of life that we can look at to see how women are being treated/perceived/censored (controlled) -- by society as a whole.  We live in a world that is not equal. It's not equal if you're a woman, if you're gay, if you're part of a racial minority...I could go on and on. I fear that we're often lured into believing that things are better. That we're not still living under the heavy thumb of patriarchy. Wake up. The truth is ugly.

But back to breasts and Facebook for a moment. In the spirit of the second of my above mentioned posts, I did a quick search on Facebook...I typed the word "boobs" into the search bar. I immediately was presented with four different apps, all creatively named "boobs" with a combined 39,000 monthly users. The first app listed included the description, "send a pair of boobs to your friends! Some are hot, some are NOT!" So then I searched four more terms for breasts. Here are the images that immediately popped up:


As recently as February, Facebook had this to say about pictures of "nude" breasts: 

When it comes to uploaded photos on Facebook, the vast majority of breastfeeding photos comply with our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, which closely mirrors the policy that governs broadcast television, and which places limitations on nudity due to the presence of minors on our site. On some occasions, breastfeeding photos contain nudity – for example an exposed breast that is not being used for feeding – and therefore violate our terms. When such photos are reported to us and are found to violate our policies, the person who posted the photo is contacted, and the photos are removed. Our policies strive to fit the needs of a diverse community while respecting everyone¹s interest in sharing content that is important to them, including experiences related to breastfeeding.
There are tens of thousands of fans of these pages. Pages that are heralded by pictures of hyper-sexualized and often disfigured breasts. Apparently, this content is considered within the realm of appropriateness for "minors on (Facebook's) site." I mean, it took me, a thirty one year old mother of three, less than five minutes to pull up these images. Certainly a tech savvy thirteen year old is equally capable, no?

I'm not pointing this out to be the boob police. I'm not posting these images for anyone's entertainment. I'm not making a judgement on what is or is not appropriate content for thirteen year olds. I'm trying to bring attention to the fact that breastfeeding is the tip of the iceberg.  In at least half of these pictures, the women shown have no face. No head. They are pieces of meat. In the vast majority of images, the bodies have been cut off. In most cases, the breasts have been altered, either on the screen or in the flesh, or both.

It's not about Facebook and breastfeeding. It's not solely about gender equality. It's about our world.

When I first posted on this two years ago, I posted all of the images I could find. There were four of them. Two years later, and in the same brief search, I found twenty-two. Twenty two images of somebody's daughter. Somebody's sister. Somebody's friend. I posted twenty two pictures of human beings, their bodies morphed and de-personalized, degraded.

In spite of all of this effort by tens of thousands, here we remain. Here we have progressed. 

My heart breaks. I brought children into this world. This world, where the KKK goes to court over their right to adopt a section of the highway. (Excuse me while I stop to vomit. Writing "KKK" and "their right" in the same sentence makes me want to crawl out of my own skin.) But children. My children. Your children. This is the future we offer them. Where the fucking KKK goes to court over a highway, and yet women have not been granted the legal protection to nourish their babies in the most accessible, simple and natural way they can. Where Chick Fil A throws homophobia around like a banner of patriotism for the first amendment, and yet thousands of people are dying at the hands of their own governments. Where a man walks into a movie theater and senselessly opens fire on innocent people, and yet money still wins out in the debate over gun control.

This is our world. This is what we have created. Our willingness to go along with it is our vote for things to stay the same. My heart breaks. I want more. I want better. I want to believe.

I want my children to grow up with hope.

I want my daughter to never know there was a time where she could have been an object. Where she could become a commodity for her breasts. I want my sons to never know a time where having a penis meant an automatic ownership. I want them all to know a world where we are born equal. Where good wins and where evil isn't worth it. Where they will have the opportunity to prove their excellence because of what they become, not what they are born with.

I want to believe.

And I'm terrified. I'm terrified that we're exhausted. I'm terrified that we're blind. I'm terrified that we're all too willing to turn our heads and look the other way. I'm terrified that we think this is good enough. Or that we think this is as good as it gets. I'm the idea that we all think somebody else is going to fix it.

That "somebody else" ...? The one who's going to fix it?

Put the computer, the tablet, the phone...put it down. Go look in the mirror. 

It's you. 

It's me. 

It's all of us. And if we don't?

This is our world. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


I lied after the boys were born. I remember my mother asking me one day in the NICU, whether I felt the circumstances of their birth were impacting my bond with them. "Of course not." I believed myself. I loved them, and that meant everything. I had my babies. We were all, ultimately, going to be okay.

It is entirely possible to be blind to things sitting right in front of your face. My first impressions of Rhys: I would have known he was my baby in a lineup of a million others. And I felt like he didn't need me. My 5lb, 2oz preemie just seemed so strong. So independent. I kept this thought to myself. And refused to consider what it might mean. My first impression of Quin? Hardly exists. I don't remember the first time I saw him. Or held him. I remember laying alone in recovery, and the NICU doctor coming to explain to me that Quin was experiencing respiratory distress syndrome. In a haze of postpartum hormones and god only knows what drugs from the delivery, I couldn't register the seriousness of the conversation. I wavered between feeling giggly and overly, confidently relaxed. It will be okay. It will alllllll be okay.

I know that I held them for the first time the next day. I don't remember it. I don't know who I held first or what I said or who was there. I don't know how long I was with them. I desperately wanted to try breastfeeding and somehow convinced the nurses to let me try. What I remember from that is trying to hide from all present the fact that I kept passing out, or falling asleep. Slipping away.

My intentions were so good. My desires were so grand. The next year, two years, perhaps, revolved around one thing and one thing only. Survival in the best way we knew how. There was no time to think. To reflect. To mourn.

It wasn't what it was supposed to be. It became its own, as life does. We went with it. We survived.

But somewhere, hidden below the surface, I fell further and further into the rabbit hole. Things don't just fall away. I never had a chance to grieve the lost first moments of motherhood. We were okay. I had no right to be anything but grateful.

I wish I had seen Quin's face. I wish I could write out the emotions of the first time I cradled them in my arms. I wish I could describe to you the lioness inside of me who awakened to fight til the death for my vulnerable newborns. I don't have any of that to share with you. I don't have any of that to savor for myself.

And that is why I broke.

But this is our journey. It is not what I'd dreamed about. Our beginning has fractures. Holes. Heartbreak. And grief. Oh the grief. But it is our shared history. I don't know why. But it is ours. My boys and I. We are strong. Resilient. Enduring in our love. Forgiving. Letting go. Our roots begin with the understanding that we don't get to choose how it will be. Only how we grow from it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


I see a therapist weekly. We're doing EMDR therapy, working to process the trauma of the boys' birth. It is painful, incredible, and hella hard work. Lately I've taken to going out for a drink alone after my sessions. Until last week, I'd never been to a bar by myself before. I'd always thought it would be terrifying and lonely. It isn't. It is an incredible indulgence, to sit in the dark amongst strangers, sipping my drink, writing and reflecting and basking in a simple sense of myself. Suddenly lifted from the rhythm of my day to day life - existing independently yet wholly - as Kyle holds down the fort at home, handling dinner, baths, bed time. I'm within weeks of completing therapy, and this self indulgent little routine is like my capstone project. I've come this far. I'm going to finish strong as life transitions to a new adventure. I am celebrating my growth, my reclaimed sense of self, a thousand wisdoms that have awakened inside me. I exist. Not just as wife or as mother. I exist. A woman who can sit alone at a bar and flourish in her own company, knowing exactly who she's with.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Breathe. And then let go.

I've struggled with forgiveness. To be honest, I haven't understood it. Despite the desire, it has escaped me. It has seemed too great a gift to give to someone undeserving. I know that forgiving is supposed to help in healing. I always thought that was bullshit.

But suddenly, I get it.

I've talked about the last few months. Going crazy. I've alluded but never explained. Explanation? I was traumatized by the boys birth - more than I ever let on, and more than I could handle. It caught up with me. One simple reality. Their birth broke me. It broke my heart. My spirit. My resolve.

I tried so hard to compensate.

And couldn't.

And I'm okay.

Because I can break. I can break because I can heal. I can heal because I am strong. My strength isn't defined by determining the outcome. And that is a huge realization.

My strength is meeting the challenge. Letting go, and handling what comes next.

What has happened, all of the events that broke me, I forgive. They don't define me. Breaking doesn't define me. Surviving. Brushing myself off. Hugging my babies and moving forward. That defines me.

I get it.