Friday, September 13, 2013

A long time coming

I realized last month that I had forgotten the day BJay died. I hadn't forgotten that day, but the date. I couldn't remember if it was the 10th or the 13th. I had to look it up. I try not to put much stock in this day. Today, three years ago was the worst day of my life. To mark this day, to make something of it feels wrong to me. I will never forget. It comes back to me all the time. I have always felt there is nothing worse about this day than any other day that I live without my husband. It will still be hard tomorrow as it was last week. However, the body just won't forget. I have felt on edge this week, and yesterday a feeling of heaviness settled deep into my heart and bones. Three years ago last night was the best night of my life. Three years ago this morning was the worst morning of my life. It is remarkable how quickly life can change. Even more when you start to realize the permanence of it.

I think I ended year one and two with hopefulness. The first year was surviving, the second year I started to feel as if I could manage. This year has been a tough year because, while I've learned how to be an only parent and I've evolved into a version of myself I feel is a pretty good incarnation--I have hit a wall of anger I just can't seem to get past. The road seems so long ahead of me. I am so angry that I have to walk this road alone and I don't know how far it goes. I am tired. I am maxed out. And there really isn't anything anyone can do to make it easier. The fact is, nobody in this world will ever be as invested in my children as I am, and as BJay was. It is a heavy thing, being responsible for 5 children. Even if I get a "break" and leave them with someone I trust I worry the whole time about them because I know no one else knows and loves them as I do. It breaks my heart to know that are missing out on having a dad. It isn't fair.

One thing I want to address because people keep bringing it up: The idea of finding love again is of no comfort to me. None. As much as I hate being alone, I hate the idea of doing the work involved in dating even more. And I can't imagine sharing my children with anyone. Dating with 5 kids is not remotely the same thing as dating as a single person. I just don't have enough faith that there exists a man who could fill BJay's shoes and love all 6 of us enough. Also, I'm just not willing to put up with the humiliation of being that single mom of 5 looking for a man. I'm sure there are other ways to think about it, but that is how I feel.

I am thankful for my good friends who get me through the hard moments, lonely nights and share my small triumphs when they come. I am happy a lot of the time, I can find joy in the moment most of the time and I love and adore my sweet children. I am taking it one day at a time, and I can do this. It isn't at all easy though.

I miss my old life.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Spotlight on Amanda Gowin: real beauty

Summer has been a slow blur so far. It feels like it has been more than 2 weeks, but also those two weeks have just evaporated into the ether without much to show for it. I have a few other excuses for not blogging, but the short of it is, I am scared.

I have put off this spotlight because, mostly, I am so intimidated by Amanda Gowin I don't know that I could fully explain her in a way that would do her justice. And that isn't fair. So, I'm just starting with an apology. I wish I could do this better! And I promise to do my best.

First off, I think the first interaction I had with this girl is what defined her, for me. Amanda is a writer, so already I am in awe because I know that takes mental stamina that I just don't seem to have. Back to first impression. I noticed Amanda had posted a picture of herself with her hair shaved and I think I commented that she has a really nice shaped head, and probably (making it about me) I said something about how I could never rock a shaved head because my head is flat in the back. I'm vain. In my younger, less experienced days I used to think if I got cancer I would forgo chemotherapy because I wouldn't want to lose my hair. Because I would be ugly? That was before I had kids. Anyway, this girl-- Amanda, replied that a cousin (I believe) of hers was, in fact, battling cancer and that she had shaved her head in support. I think Amanda said something like, "I wanted to make the point that it's only hair." It's only hair. That idea stopped me dead in my tracks. First of all, the gesture... It was just so beautiful. And second of all, I'm not sure I have progressed so far as a human that I have that kind of perspective. I should be. I "met" Amanda after BJay died. So I should have known already that nothing in the world matters more than life. More than health. That baubles and things, and hair, are just not that big of a deal. Things can be replaced, hair grows back. But life is right now, and it is all that really matters, it is all we really have of value.

So, as the kind of person who has this vital perspective at such a young age, Amanda is one of those women you admire. But not in a petty, female way. People like her. And not because she is pretty, not necessarily because she is one of those super fun moms who makes the job look glamorous. And probably not even because she seems to be one of those super cool wives who doesn't seem to take for granted how fortunate she is to have found and nourished love. I'm pretty sure it is because she may have been born fully-formed as a woman who emerged from the ocean with a complete understanding of her place in the universe. I'm kidding. Sort of. I really think what makes Amanda so likable is that she is a little bit too wise. It seems to me that she's comfortable in her own skin, that somehow she holds the reigns to her own insecurities. And having that kind of hold on herself, she's able to lift other people up. That is the kind of strength that drives our species forward. That is real beauty.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Facebook Friend Spotlight on Sean P Ferguson

I am at this really strange intersection in my life where I am questioning everything I do and think and believe. I wonder if it is a midlife crisis? Anyway, a funny thing happened after I wrote about my Facebook friend Craig Wallwork. After writing that I wanted to be the kind of person who can be there for my friends, I had the opportunity several times to practice what I preached. It was like the universe heard me and threw the words right back in my face, saying, "prove it". So it turns out, this silly idea I had to spotlight my friends is becoming my midlife crisis social experiment. Brought to you by social media. The experiment is now this: How I would reshape myself drawing from the extraordinary qualities of the people I am friends with on Facebook. Or: How can I Frankenstein myself into a better person by vampiring the best qualities of my Facebook friends list. 

I was overwhelmed trying to decide who I could prey on next, then I decided to ask Craig to pick for me. He gave me 3 names. To decide my lucky victim at random, I asked my friend Mr. Corbier to choose a number between 1-3. The name associated with the number he chose was:

Sean P. Ferguson

Not to be confused with Shawn Ferguson, who is another of my facebook friends. We used to close our eyes and think about things while being photographed back in high school. I may have to write about him another day. :)

The Sean P. Ferguson I'm talking about right now also has no idea I'm stealing pictures of him to put on my blog. I just got an A in my behavioral ethics class, so I'm not sure this is right. Hopefully I'll be forgiven. Just in case, I'm using a picture of Sean partially hidden behind a great book with some gorgeous legs on it. ;)

I met this Sean for real in the flesh when I went to Boston a few months ago. I don't know Sean very well, we don't have a lot of history. So I started asking a few of our mutual friends for some input. But then I decided that should be against the rules. I should focus mostly on the things I know. I have included just a couple quotes because they are sweet. So there are three things I can tell about Sean even with very limited exposure:

1. Sean loves his people.  If you are lucky enough to make the cut into his friends list, he will love you like you're his family. I don't know a lot of people like that. I think it takes a very courageous kind of vulnerability to love people, to say it and mean it. And to mean it without any kind of selfish agenda. I admire that. I don't have the guts to open my heart up like that. I want to be able to love that kind of strong.
 "my son said he loved me as much as all the hearts out of everybody's chests in the whole world all mashed together and put together to make his body. that's the way sean is - the way he loves people. i don't how to put it better than that." --Amanda Gowin
2. This is a guy you want in your corner. I think you can tell a lot about a person by what they chose to do for a living. Certain professions are dominated by the good people. I really believe that. Sean is a *Paramedic. And I think there is just something special about the people who chose to be the ones who run toward the disasters. People who deal with the best and worst of society every day, and somehow don't get completely beat down by it. I wish I had a Sean to watch The Following with. Or, to ride with me in unregistered taxis in India in the middle of the night. Or, sometimes to just take out the trash at night when the ghosts are looming in the tall black pines.

I know when you are unlucky enough to need a *paramedic, they show up and take charge of a bad situation. They can deal with blood and poo and vomit all while alleviating your pain and anxiety. That is how my friend Pela describes Sean as a friend and writer for Manarchy. "He's not above doing any or all of the grunt work of a project." She also said that he was just made something like press secretary (?) for his local Democratic headquarters. Yeah, he's one of the good ones.

3. He's funny. My older sister is also a paramedic. I had a conversation with her that still intrigues me about the dark humor that she and her colleagues have developed to handle seeing some of the things they see. I read, I don't think it was a story--just a vent maybe about a day in the life of Sean that involved a pretty gruesome murder he had to clean up after that I still can't get out of my head. The way he wrote it was somehow hilarious as much as it was horrifying. And I guess that is what makes funny people funny. They are able to take the horrifying or disgusting and messy parts of life, turn them inside out and make them funny. They can take uncomfortable emotions and give them a pleasant outlet. And that is probably one of the best qualities there is. And to be clear, I don't think a lot of Sean's humor is dark. He's just a funny person. I don't know if it is possible to develop the ability to be funny--in the moment--like that. But if it is, I want to.
"Ferg once shat on a copy of Down Periscope. He is crude and disgusting and perfect and awesome. He will be there for you if you need, with a good word and a fart joke. Hard working and hard living son of a bitch. Helped me sculpt great stories out of bad ones. He is a good friend." --Chris Deal
I will laugh at fart jokes every time. Every single time. Farts are just funny.

So. Thank you, Sean P. Ferguson, for existing so well and for wearing mean hats. (That was Caleb J. Ross) I am lucky to know you. (That is me)

And now, if you wouldn't mind playing along, please message me just one friend from my friend's list I can pick on next. :)

* Update-- I'm told by Sean that he has never been a paramedic. Only an EMT--which is the same thing to most of us. Also, he no longer works as an EMT because of an injury. Currently he works for the Sheriff's department dispatching EMS, police, and the fire department and taking 911 calls. I don't think these facts change what I've said, but for accuracy's sake I am putting this update in here. He's still a good one, and he's still works in a profession that says all good things about him. :) 

Friday, April 26, 2013

BJay would have been 40 today!

Today would have been BJay's 40th birthday. I was going to say something about how he's lucky he never had to turn 40, and how I would have teased him all day about being so old and how lucky he is having such a young wife. But then... I think about yesterday and all the fun we had celebrating Bridger's birthday. I am the lucky one. Because growing older is a privilege.

This morning I slept in late and when I woke up I made one of BJay's favorite breakfasts. Ebelskivers.? Little ball-shaped pancakes. Except they were gluten-free. And I put a ton of cinnamon in them. And I was thinking as I did that if BJay would have been annoyed about that? But I think if he were here I wouldn't have slept in. And I would have made them exactly the way he liked them. And so, I guess the point is... I guess the point is I'll never know what it would have been like to celebrate BJay turning 40, except in the way I'm celebrating right now.

I am lucky to see him the way I see him now. All the day to day compromises and annoyances have long since turned to ash. And all that is left is what is burned into my heart, and these five beautiful little children. And I can't help but sound like a broken record, I am the lucky one! Because I was loved in such a way that it changed me for the better. And when I get to 40 in a few short years, hopefully I'll have learned and grown that much more. And I will appreciate what a gift and honor this is, every year I get.

Happy birthday, BJay! So much love,

your young and gorgeous wife. ;)

Two studs

BJay wrestling with Paige on Halloween 2009

BJay doing the dishes...that might be why this is my favorite picture.

BJay taking a moment to enjoy the view.

Family picture at Hanging Rock. :)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

On the virtues and flaws of humanity and Lance Armstrong

I started writing this yesterday, but I never got it together. I couldn't pull my thoughts together coherently. And then I saw the news about Boston. I still can't wrap my head around it. I was up late last night with things to think about. And I think I'm going to try this again, only, with a little different slant.

I wanted to make a point about what I see as the main flaw of humanity. But in processing last night, and after having read this comment by Patton Oswald from Facebook that my sister posted:'s what I DO know. If it's one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we're lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they're pointed towards darkness.

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We'd have eaten ourselves alive long ago.
So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, "The good outnumber you, and we always will." Patton Oswald
I think this message is more on point. This idea about the goodness of humanity diluting and weakening the evil. It is in the same vein as one of my favorite quotes:

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it--always." Mahatma Ghandi
When I started writing this yesterday, I wanted to call us out as a species for having this one universal flaw--the need to exact justice, tear down our heroes and kill our Gods. Yesterday as I was grocery shopping there was a crazy long line and my baby was done being patient. I was surprised when I got to the register and a woman came from I don't know where with her cart, got right in front of me and started unloading her things on the conveyor. Not just a couple things, but a cart full. She didn't make eye contact, but I could see from her expression and constant huffing that she was almost daring me to say something. Somehow she felt justified, cutting in line. So I just kind of sat there, watching this happen and in my mind I was trying to figure out what series of events led up to a woman acting like that, oblivious that everyone else had circumstances too. I didn't say anything, because, I really didn't want to get splashed with whatever ugliness she was experiencing. It just took a few extra minutes of my time, holding my 2 year old and putting back all the candy he kept reaching for. I decided it was an opportunity for me to practice what I'm about to preach.

That brings me, finally, to what I've been trying to write about since yesterday. Lance Armstrong. I have a hard time saying this exactly right. Because, I don't want to justify lying. Nor do I want to condone the kind of bullying that he did to maintain his lie. That is disheartening. But I also think it is important to just pause a minute and try and understand what series of events lead up to those lies, and aggressively maintaining that false narrative. 

First, why was there so much doping in cycling?   Basically, to compete professionally in cycling, you have to be a superman. And you do have to be a man. Not because cycling is sexist, it is just that men physically have greater lung capacity, so no woman has ever come close to qualifying.  You have to have a VO2 max of like 75+ to compete. VO2 max= milliliters of oxygen used per kilogram of body weight per hour of activity. The average, athletic woman's VO2 max compares to about the average for a man. About 45. From the article:
Over the long, flat stages, the monitors suggest that riders hover between 50 and 70 percent of their VO2 max. That may sound like a light workout, but keep in mind that when a Tour de France rider is “resting” at 60 percent of his maximum capacity, he’s working about as hard as an average person at full exertion.
The time trials and mountain stages are entirely different. The long time trials last more than an hour, during which the cyclists remain above 90 percent of VO2 max. (As a crude comparison, for the average person that would be like sprinting for an entire hour.) In the mountains, thinning oxygen supply becomes an issue as riders traverse terrain above 8,000 feet, all the while staying in the vicinity of 90 percent of full exertion. Researchers have identified pulmonary edema — an accumulation of fluid in the lungs caused by the effort to supply enough oxygen to the body — in Tour riders after mountain stages.
Studies have also shown that, during the course of a multi-stage race, professional riders experience a steady decrease in levels of testosterone and cortisol as the body struggles to rebuild itself after each day. This decline seems to be unique to cycling, as professional marathon runners have to train hard for six months before experiencing the kind of hormonal deficit that cyclists suffer in three weeks.
Again, I'm not trying to justify the use of illegal substances. But cycling is a brutal sport, even if you are some kind of He-Man you still can't overcome the toll it takes on your body. See how it might be easy to justify? Even as a superior athlete with a precision-tuned body, you just can't overcome your body's process of righting itself. Because it isn't natural to do what those cyclists are asking their bodies to do. I am in awe of that kind of drive and determination. I love running, but I only love it for about an hour, and I'm never at a full sprint. 

Aside from that, the Lance Armstrong story is this amazing story. It was anyway. An athlete who came back from nearly dying of CANCER to win Tour De France. And then he just kept winning. I really wonder how many people had the will to keep on fighting, just because Lance did that. How many people have been directly helped, financially by the Livestrong foundation? I can't think of one other athlete that has done more, or who is more synonymous with philanthropy the way Armstrong is. I understand wanting to control the narrative. When BJay died, I wanted to control that narrative. I repeated that story to everyone willing to listen. It was vital to me, that people understood that BJay was a hero. He didn't just die. He died saving our sons. I wonder if somehow in all the justifications it wasn't a lie to Lance either, his version. Because he had this thing to uphold. It wasn't right to maintain that lie, and it was terrible the way he did it. But I get it. He was mythic. And that was the problem. As humans, we have a problem with myths. We need to expose them for what they are. What is that? 

Initially, I couldn't watch the Oprah interview. I knew it would just make me mad. I finally saw some clips the other day and they broke my heart. Especially when Lance was talking about telling his son to stop defending him. And the heartbreak in realizing that, even though he'd never talked to his children about it, they fully trusted that he was telling the truth. That is hard stuff. Breaking the trust of your kids. Hard, hard stuff.

It was a hard interview to watch. And Oprah needed those ratings, btw. In the interview, Lance admitted that when he lost control of the story, he expected that he'd lose his sponsors and his titles. But he didn't expect to lose his foundation. He also said that he deserved to be punished, but he wasn't sure he "deserves the death penalty". And that is what he got. As an athlete. He is not allowed to compete. In anything. It doesn't seem fair to me. When most people are punished for a crime, aren't they supposed to pay their debt to society? Lance hasn't just been stripped of his titles and disgraced. He's been stripped of every good thing he's done, or could do. And what a waste! He can't run in a marathon for charity?

 I think this is the problem with humans exacting justice on humans. We're so limited. We don't have the ability to see the big picture most of the time. I think eventually, at some point this will be righted. I hope, at some point Lance Armstrong makes amends to the people he's hurt, and only those people, because I don't think he owes anything more to society as a whole. I hope he gets to compete. I hope he gets to do what he was put on the earth to do. I hope this isn't the end of this story.

I love Oprah, but I wasn't loving her in that interview. Especially when she questioned him about tweeting this photo:

I don't know, I get this photo. And in the interview Lance apologized for it. To me, it says: Fine, take away my titles, I deserve it. But you can't take away the fact that I experienced every one of those races. That is my take anyway. In my opinion, the good of Lance Armstrong totally dilutes the bad.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Honest running playlist

This might be completely boring. I apologize. This is what I ran to this morning, along with a play-by-blay of my run.

1. E-pro, Beck

This one gets the job done, but I think it was a mistake putting it first. I started out running too fast and then I had to walk after the first km. That is when I noticed something really great. The male pollen structures are falling to the ground, spent. What are these things called? Stamens? Anyway, its a good thing. It means the pollen is almost done!!

2. Try, Pink

picked up the pace to pass an old man walking on the road. Yeah, I was flying. lol.

3. Fly Away, Lenny Kravitz

Finally getting into a good rhythm.

4. Ho Hey, The Lumineers

Got on the greenway on Linden, the dog keeps seeing squirrels

5. The Middle, Jimmy Eat World

Still on Linden

6. D,yer Mak'er, Led Zeplin

Crossed the road to avoid a guy walking two dogs. My dog is such a dummy. She's small but she thinks she can tell everyone what to do.

7. Bad Day, Daniel Powter

Merla (the dog) thought she was going to get a squirrel, yanked my arm, then crossed in front of me, tripping me and getting us tangled in her leash. This is why I hate running with my dog. She loves it though. So.

8. Bad Girls, M.I.A.

Love this song, I've worn it out a couple times. Its back on for like the 5th time. Ran through the village, passed a pack of girls running, ran faster.

9. Thrift Shop, Macklemore

hmmm. yeah. Running uphill. I hate this part. Started walking at the top of the hill. But not for too long. After the hill is the police and fire station. I always run faster. You know. In  case there is an emergency or something. Thats it. Also, that is really close to where I turn around.

10. Ttylxox, Bella Thorne

Cut me some slack, okay? This is an honest playlist. And... I have kids. Meh. I can't help it if I like some of their dumb songs! Running past the police/fire station again.

11. It's Only Fear, Alexi Murdoch

This is a slow song, but I love it. And I put it in to remind me to stretch. Two weeks ago I stretched before crossing the crosswalk here and almost got run down. Now I make sure to cross the road first. lol.

12. Party in the USA, Miley Cyrus

Uhhh. Yeah. Can't explain this one. Whatever. Uphill again into the village.

13. All My Days, Alexi Murdoch

I'm having a little Alexi Murdoch crush right now. It isn't really running music but the lyrics slay me. I'm slain.

14. Tonight, Tonight, Hot Chelle Rae

Back on Linden

15. Holla at the DJ, Coco Jones

In the home stretch!

16. Blue Mind, Alexi Murdoch

In the last km, back on my road. Passed a husband/wife running. That always makes me smile. And so does this song. Love. Love. Love.

Home! Pretty slow pace today. 59:07 minutes 9:29/mn miles. Oh well. Got it done.

I wear out my running playlist pretty fast. I have to change it up pretty often. What do you listen to when you run?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Spotlight: Craig Wallwork and how he changed the way I think.

So, I thought it could be fun to spotlight one of my facebook friends every once in a while? Every Thursday? I haven't decided. But I like it. I picked Mr. Wallwork first because he's been on my mind for a while now.

Brief Bio
I stole this from his blog:

Craig Wallwork lives in West Yorkshire, England.  He is the author of the short story collection Quintessence of Dust (KUBOA), and the novels To Die Upon a Kiss (Snubnose Press) and The Sound of Loneliness (Perfect Edge Books).  His fiction has appeared in various anthologies, journals and magazines.  He is the fiction editor at Menacing Hedge Magazine.  *Author Page on Amazon, yo!
*I added that. Read on, you might want to pick up some of his work. :)

How I know him

I don't really know him, know him. As with Facebook friends sometimes there is a tenuous connection. I've never actually met this guy face to face. He belongs in my friends list because I somehow stumbled into this really cool group of writers when I begged my friend Pela Via to let me join Write Club in 2010. ;) It's an uber-cool writer's workshop that I'm not supposed to talk about or something. Anyway, I found myself in this group with a bunch of writers way out of my league who were writing way cool stuff. I didn't get past chapter 2 of my "novel" lol. Meanwhile, Craig and I think everyone else in that group have published several books.

September of that year my husband died. I found myself turning to this group to talk about a lot of stuff. Raw things. Things I don't think I would read now. *shudder* They are some amazing human beings, that group.

Why I've been thinking about him

Don't worry, Mrs. Wallwork! Not that way. I have reached this point, post trauma, that I am trying to piece together the stand-out moments, people, events that galvanized that whole experience for me. And this one was a biggie.

Some background information: My husband died very unexpectedly while we were on vacation. We had just announced to our parents that I was expecting our fifth baby. Just barely pregnant, before you generally announce it. Anyway, it was dark days. Long, cold, blue nights of not being able to sleep. Standing up to hug a million people at the viewing... not being able to eat. And all the while, shouldering this horrible reality, trying to make life as easy for my children as I could, and trying to come to grips that this was actually really happening. After the funeral, I was too exhausted to get out of bed. And then I started cramping. I was sure I was miscarrying. And I felt, at that time, if that happened. I would die. I felt like the baby was the only string holding me to earth. I'm not saying it was rational. And I definitely wouldn't say that my four existing children weren't enough of a connection, I didn't want to die. I just thought that if I lost one more part of BJay just then I would literally stop breathing.

I had to check with him to make sure this happened, because my memory is very wishy washy. I was just a tiny bit worried this was a hallucination. It wasn't!

I got a message from Mr. Wallwork that said something about how he was not a religious person, he hadn't prayed in years, but for some reason he stopped while he was at the gym and said a prayer for me.

I know for a fact lots of people were praying for me. But that prayer seemed like the "Yop" that made all the difference. That gesture felt so big, so incredibly kind. I can't even describe what it felt like. I remember thinking it was all going to be okay. All of it. And that is what it is, right folks? That is why we exist on this planet. For those tiny, but amazing moments when we stretch outside ourselves for a second, beyond all barriers, all the blocks we stack up to make the world make sense to us to reach out and do something that means something to someone else.

I think about that a lot now. In my system of belief, if I'm willing to meet other people where they are. Am I willing to set aside whatever I believe to meet someone in the place that makes sense to them. To really be there in a way that matters to them. I think about it when I know someone is going through a hard time. I don't have to know how to cure cancer to be there for someone who is going through it. I just have to be there. Genuinely, be there.

Along with this non-hallucination came another impression that has stuck with me. I mentioned this at the funeral, I think, and I'm surprised no one put me in an institution. For several days before BJay was buried, I felt like I could still hear him. One of the things he said was that "it is so much bigger than you can imagine." I feel like he meant God's capacity to know and understand all things, as well as the breadth of the whole human experience. THIS. This thing we are a part of, is so much bigger than where we narrowly exist most of the time. It is bigger than we can imagine.

It must be. Because somehow in the web of human existence, I got to form a connection to this fantastic writer and genuinely kind human being who lives all the way across the ocean. Lucky me! And if I never said it before, THANK YOU, Craig. So much.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A letter to feminists on boobs.

Dear Feminists,

We have never been friends. You scare me a little. Honestly, I just don't think we see eye to eye on very much. But I want to have a candid conversation about something we have in common: Boobs. Creepy weirdos, you can move along. I'm not talking to you. Seriously, get out.

Okay, here's the thing. Topless protests? They bug me. I don't understand the rationale. I mean, sure, it is the fastest way to get attention, but is this what you want? Really? You want to besmirch the proud title of Feminism with your bare breasts? Because I'm not sure that is the attention you are looking for. There is a huge industry that makes billions on breasts, and I think we're both annoyed about that.

Recently, I read a facebook post that made a NC Bill that seeks to classify breasts in the same category as sexual organs sound like we were moving backward into the dark days of sexual repression of women. And you were there, we argued, you told me that "the man" was trying to make women ashamed of their bodies. That it isn't fair that men can go topless and women can't. And, what was that? Something about how men are making up these laws so they can feel better about raping us. Yes you did. You said that. Okay, it wasn't a direct quote. But you did suggest that the ability to feel better about raping women was behind laws like this. And that is just... insane. I'm sorry. It is.

Lets just break this down a little. The man behind this law, is Republican Representative Rayne Brown. She's a she. And the reason boobs are on her radar is because of this topless protest that happens in Asheville. And this is the proposed law, right here. Currently, there is no law that governs breasts in NC. Boobs are tricky, aren't they? Because they are this bonus we get as ladies. They feed babies AND are part of what defines our sexuality. So, we don't want to throw breastfeeding moms in the slammer. That would be idiotic. As it is written, this law is clarifying that breasts--and specifically the areola and nipple are included in the same category as sexual organs. So you can't whip them out in public where there are children around use them for sexual gratification. That is what the proposed law says. Now. That should be a no-brainer. Feeding babies, yes. Sexual gratification in the presence of children, no. Isn't that just clarifying the law to hold women to the same standard as men? Seems reasonable to me.

What doesn't seem reasonable to me is the idea that participating in a topless protest is somehow liberating, or empowering. Ever had one of those super empowering dreams where you show up to school and you're naked? And you're like, heck yeah everybody! I'm totally cool with this and I'm not embarrassed at all. No? Me either. 

I want you to look at this feminists. Ladies: this is the Asheville topless protest. I'm sad. I don't think those ladies really felt empowered about having their tops off. Did you notice the girl with the scarf? And the sloping posture and arms crossed over the boobs? It kind of didn't look like they were having a lot of fun under the camera's glare there. And you know who organized that protest? This clown. I'm hearing song lyrics right now, excuse me: "I call THAT getting swindled and pimped. I call THAT getting tricked by a BIZness." I'm not just being rude because I'm disgusted that he's a dude. He really did work part-time as a clown. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I'm more concerned that his WIFE is not cool with him organizing topless protests a couple of states away. Oh yeah, he's from Alabama. And you were having a fit because Rep. Brown lives 2 hours away from Asheville and it isn't her district. 

Now... I wonder if this conversation is even necessary. Is it? Have we really come to the point in our society where we need to legislate self-respect? Maybe not. Because, it turns out this Asheville protest organized by a dude who is so concerned about equality he's willing to face the disapproval of his wife to make sure ladies can take their tops off in public did not have a very high attendance last year. According to this article, attendance was way down. Let me venture a guess as to why. Was it harassment from the city of Asheville? Or was it that topless protests in August are a thing you just do once? Maybe it wasn't all it was cracked up to be? This is how I think it would go: you showed up ready to make a difference, ready to make a point that it isn't fair that women have to wear shirts and men don't. You took off your shirt. People stared at you. It was hot. Sweat started forming in uncomfortable places that are usually mitigated by the fabric of your clothes. Then you didn't quite know what to do with yourself. It was actually kind of lame. Maybe you got a sunburn. And then you decided you didn't want to do this again next year. Right? 

I've had this stuff swimming in my head for a month or so. I pulled the trigger because I got a blast on my twitter feed about the Iranian topless protests. I started following an Iranian activist after seeing the death of Neda Agha and it broke my heart. There is a world-wide topless protest in solidarity for Amina Tyler, a Tunsinian high school student who posted a topless photo of herself in protest Islamic oppression of women on her Facebook. This is a little more serious than pulling off your top in Asheville, NC. The stakes are higher for this girl than jail time. And, apparently, Amina has been kidnapped and cut off from all communication. This is horrifying. And sad. Firstly, teenage brains literally are not developed enough to understand the repercussions of their actions. And secondly, because FEMEN has taken hold of this story and essentially made it a thousand times worse by holding topless protests and burning Islamic flags in front of Mosques. I am afraid they are sealing Amina's fate as a martyr. And that makes me sad. When trying to further the cause of women I think there are two rules you should always follow, feminists. 1. Don't take your lead from teenage girls. 2. Be aware of the culture, lifestyle and needs of the women you are trying to help. Muslim women are intelligent and they know what's up.
Moroccan pro-democracy activist Zineb Belmkaddem maintained that using a woman's naked body to change policy is simply bad for women.
"Exposing the woman's body ... reinforces the image that objectifies women actually, no matter how FEMEN would like to think that the action frees them somehow," she said. "I tell FEMEN, `call me when exposing your breasts gets you to break the glass ceiling.'

Okay, I'm sorry for getting serious at the end there. I meant to keep this light and sweet. I just want you to see the contrast. We don't have to agree on everything. Or very much. But please, can we just agree on this one? There is still work to be done to ensure women's rights. But we can do this with our shirts on. Mmkay? Smooches.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Letting Go

It has been a really long time since I felt like writing. About three years, according to the record. In September it will be three years since I lost my husband. That is such a funny thing to say. I didn't lose him. Not like I keep losing my jewelry anyway. Seriously, I have about twenty widowed earrings. And I currently can't find the ring I had made to replace my wedding ring that I lost. I don't know why I can't keep track of shiny things. I digress, My husband died two and a half years ago and since then I've evolved a bit. A lot, I think. And that is what has me thinking today and why I wanted to resurrect the blog. Someone in my LDS widows group on Facebook posted this poem written by a friend of his:

Clean State
 Let your grief be clean.
Let it be wise and warm,
Bereft of bitterness and blame,
And hollow of all harm.
And when it dies, don’t mourn.

Jonathon Penny

I really like this poem. It is short, succinct. And more importantly it addresses the part of grief that nobody ever explained to me before I experienced it. The part where active mourning ends. And then you have to let it go. You have to move on with your life, and be this wholly redefined person. When, you come to the point where you can't take comfort in your sorrow anymore. I'm pretty sure this part hurts as much as the original pain of loss. Because it means you are finally you again, completely stripped down. It means saying "I" instead of "we". It is the final de-coupling, an acceptance and comfort with loneliness. I don't know that it is ever comfortable to be alone. But I think in this letting-go process, you get to a place where you are comfortable in your own head. With who you are, and where you want to go.

Part of grieving, for me, has meant not being able to read books. And I love books. There is an association that I may have to work out in therapy... or it will work itself out in time. Anyway, last winter I went to see Life of Pi with a friend. I hadn't read the book, so I had no idea what it was about. I literally cried like a baby when Pi said he cried like a baby when the tiger Richard Parker walked out of his life. The tiger was a metaphor for grief. I didn't realize going in to the movie that the tiger is a fairly common metaphor for grief. After I watched the movie, I searched the internet for this poem:
For Jane
 225 days under grass
and you know more than I.
they have long taken your blood,
you are a dry stick in a basket.
is this how it works?
in this room
the hours of love
still make shadows.

when you left
you took almost everything.
I kneel in the nights
before tigers
that will not let me be.

what you were
will not happen again.
the tigers have found me
and I do not care.

Charles Bukowski

I think "For Jane" describes a part of the grieving process that comes right before letting go. The finality of loss. The idea that even if you used exactly the same molecules and organized them the exact same way, you could never recreate the person you lost. You can never get back what you had. In the movie Pi Patel's journey of grief means surviving in a small boat across the ocean with a tiger that means to destroy him. He has suffered the most profound loss, his entire family is gone. During that phase, that journey, nobody could help him. He had to figure it out on his own. And when he finally reaches the end of his journey, and is being carried off the beach, THAT was the moment he broke down. The moment he had to let it go. And he says, "I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye." Yes! That is exactly it. Maybe because you don't want to hear it, or you can't imagine it ever happening. But nobody ever explains this part to you when you are on this lonely road of hurt. That there will come a point where you're done with grief. And you have to let it go: The desire to put things back the way they were, the fear that if you stop mourning, it means you didn't love hard enough or deep enough. Letting go doesn't mean that you stop loving. It means you know you loved enough, and that love will always exist. It doesn't need tears or sadness to survive. It is waiting for you, whole and complete on the other side.