Dec 29, 2013

Dear Thomas,

I went to your house on Friday to spend some time with your wife. I haven’t hung out at her house in probably 20 years... and I have missed it more than I knew.  I only wish we were seeing each other under happier circumstances.

Greg was there. He is supporting her, like he does.  I had met him once or twice, way back when. He didn’t remember me, and was somewhat horrified to be spending an evening with a former fiancee of a Northview wrestler.  That was worthy of a few giggles.

We talked of people and places from our 20s. It seems so long ago when we were all that young and silly. How much has happened in those two decades.

We talked of how you and Erin met. She thought you were kind of an idiot at first.  Funny how a soulmate doesn’t always start out as one. But I guess one evening at Duke’s was enough for your hidden charms to win her over. 

We talked about the kids.  You and Erin sure made beautiful children. I toured their rooms - Lili’s doll collection freaks me out too.  We talked about Willem. Nearly two years later, and I still can’t comprehend the horror of his death. 

We talked about you, of course.  How could we not?  I learned so much about you, from the wife who loves you. Then, now, always. How you used to love Christmas so much, you would make hoofprints in the snow and spread glitter from the reindeer. How you would jingle bells and make Christmas-y noises as you were putting out gifts.  What a wonderful father you were.

We talked about your bad days. I know I didn’t know you well - ours was a friendship baptized by the fire of critically ill children. I always worried when I posted something had happened to Claire - how you would react. You were so sensitive when it came to kids.

Thomas, you were so loved. By your wife, by your children, by your friends, by your brothers in arms. What you did was not the answer. The world is not a better place without you in it. For anyone.  I am just so unbelievably sad that you couldn’t see beyond what you lost to what you had left.

I hope there’s something after death. I don’t know if I believe, but I hope you found Willem. That you are together in eternity. That you found your peace. That you will watch over the beautiful family you left behind and protect them as best you can. 

Before we left, Erin took me downstairs to see the playroom. She detoured to “your” room. Before she opened the door, she said, “I don’t know what to do about this...” and then... a microcosm of you. Yes, you were indeed the giant slob that Erin said you were. A collection of random things all thrown about in a whirlwind of mess.  

But as I looked closer... a bottle of Old Spice. Erin had said earlier it was the only scent you would wear, and that it smelled so good on you. You kicked it old school, didn’t you?

Your guitar, music open on the stand.  A beautiful pencil sketch you made of your beautiful boy. A painting you made of a pink shell.  Artist.

Fatigues, a rucksack, a welcome home poster made by the children, decorated with a proud American flag.  Soldier. Father.

Tshirts, socks, shoes, belts. Messy husband. We laughed about your cowboy hats. They truly were ridiculous. She hated them. But she smiled and laughed just looking at them. Soulmate.

You were so many things to so many people, Thomas. You will be so damn missed.

Dec 21, 2013

What the Duck?

If you’ve watched the news at all over the past few days, you may have caught wind of how a certain duck patriarch ran afowl of his employment contract for expressing views in an interview - ones he’s been known to have pretty much his whole life.

In exchange for $200,000 per episode, Phil Robertson knowingly signed an employment contract which stated he would not do anything which would reflect badly on his employer, A&E, nor the Duck Dynasty brand.

And then he went and did an interview where he, without being prompted by the interviewer, stated his viewpoints on homosexuality and race relations.  Suffice it to say, they weren't what you would call politically correct.

So, A&E put him on hiatus (which means they did NOT fire him - they just wanted him to go quietly away for a little while until the next shiny object distracted the television sheeple, and then they could bring their rainmaker back with little fanfare).

Except, well, before you could say “duck commander” everyone from Charlie Sheen to Sarah Palin was weighing in about how abhorrent Phil Robertson’s views are (which, I have to agree, they kind of are) to how the liberals were trying to put a chokehold on ole Phil’s constitutional right to free speech (which they kind of weren't) to how “shocking” and “horrible” and “disgusting” and “racist” and... all this is.

Now wait just one cotton-pickin’ minute.

Don’t we still have soldiers in Afghanistan?

Isn’t genocide still happening in Syria?

Doesn’t North Korea still want to nuke everyone?

Isn’t our healthcare system still in crisis?

Aren’t homeless people still freezing to death on our city streets?

Aren't children going hungry as the government reduces their food benefits?

Don’t we have bigger things to worry about?

My cohort and sometimes partner in crime posted something on Facebook about how he just wanted everyone to shut up about all this.  And, as things often do in Facebook, it turned into a troll war about liberals vs. conservatives.

Holy shit people, are we really politicizing this? THIS is our issue?

And then to top things off, one of his “friends” called me his “old lady” and a liberal. And I don’t even know who the hell this asshat is.

You know what? I’m irritated. On a LOT of levels. I’m irritated by the stupidity of people making this an issue. I’m irritated how there are big problems in the world, and we care more about two jackasses who named their offspring after points on a compass, and how much a 21 year old child acts out by shaking her ass.

I’m irritated someone did an interview with a 60 some year old redneck from the deep south and then acted surprised when he espoused opinions which didn’t fit the current culture’s version of correctness.  People, opinions are like assholes - everyone has one and most of them stink.

I am irritated how, when A&E, in a stroke of genius marketing, pulled Mr. Robertson from his Dynasty and then everyone cried they were trampling Phil's constitutional rights.  Dear Tea Partiers: If you’re going to use the Constitution as the foundation for your actions, it would probably be a good idea to have a basic understanding of the document.  But let me take a moment to try to educate you in a really small way.  If you make a stupid comment and someone tells you you’re stupid, that doesn’t mean your freedom of speech has been violated. You have not been imprisoned or persecuted for saying your stupid thing. You were simply informed it was stupid. And as for Mr. Robertson being put on hiatus for saying that stupid thing? That wasn’t persecution... that was exercising a clause within the employment contract he signed and was fully aware of.

And I’m irritated about another thing. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences.  Phil Robertson exercised his right to express homophobic and racist comments under the guise of Christianity, and other people expressed their right to say, “holy crap! That guy is batshit crazy!” and then A&E exercised their contractual right to put Papa Phil in the time out corner.

But lastly, I’m really REALLY irritated someone called me a liberal (with a sneer). God DAMN that pisses me off. I had a friend (now a frenemy) who used to call me that a lot. It annoys me to no end.  Here’s the thing:

I don’t like organized religion

I think our new pope might just be a Saint.

I am agnostic: I belong to the church of “I don’t know”

I would fight for your right to believe in whatever God you want.

I voted for Bush, twice.

I also voted for Obama.

I’m a welfare recipient.

I support drug-testing for me and any other welfare recipient.

I support capital punishment.

I also support gun control laws.

I think the healthcare system in our country sucks.

I don’t believe ACA is going to fix it.

I support equality in all things, even saying the “N” word: That word is so powerful, so hateful, no one should say it. No one. The idea that the color of your skin dictates one person's right to say a word, and bans another from saying it, is ridiculous to me.

I believe the world will always be unequal, divided by the haves and have nots, the dos and do nots, the ares, and are nots.

And so many other things. To label me as a “liberal” is just a sign you don’t know me.

I am nobody’s old lady.

And I am overducked.

Addendum: For the record, I like Duck Dynasty.  I like that their motto seems to be God, Family, Nature, Country.  I may not believe in their God, but I can appreciate how much they do.  I think Phil and Miss Kay are adorable. I think Jase is kind of hot. And I have to remind myself that Willie's oldest son is still underage (have you seen those dimples? My goodness!) I don't support Phil's viewpoints, but I don't support the viewpoints of a lot of people. I don't think that makes them Satan. I can simply agree to disagree and move on.

Dec 5, 2013

Reason #426 Why I Will Never Win Mother of the Year...

Or, “Why I bought my son a “girlie magazine” for his 13th birthday”

So, my adorable, dimple-cheeked, freckle-faced, sweet baby boy turned 13 today.  Allow me take a bow and tell all the doubters “Neener, neener, neener! I did manage to keep him alive to teenager-hood! Hah!”

Quinn v. Big Wheel
Okay, I mean... yeah. It was touch and go there a few times. Like, you know, that time he required stitches after a Big Wheel accident. But, c’mon! Who face plants off a Big Wheel? Those things are two inches off the ground!

But, I digress...

I am what some would kindly call a “creative” parent.  How I put it is, I’m the mom other moms would like to be if they didn’t worry so much that other moms might be judging them. Or CPS was watching them... whatever.

For the record, I don’t believe in corporal punishment.  My children have each been physically punished twice in their lives.  Once, when Quinn was about 5 years old and it was midnight and the little imp still would not go to bed (sadly, this was before “Go the F**k to Sleep!” was a bestseller), his father spanked him on his chubby little butt. Once. And Quinn screeched in the most dramatic fashion any 5 year old could manage, “I’m bleeeeeeeding!!!”

But we didn’t struggle over bedtime after that.

I once pulled Claire’s hair - hard - when she lost her second $300 asthma inhaler in just about as many months (when I did not have insurance) and acted like, “Whoopsie!”

She has never lost one since.

And there was once what is referred to in whispers as my Honey Bear Hula moment. I’m not talking about that one.  Our therapist says I’m forgiven.

I am “creative” when it comes to discipline, consequences, and the occasional punishment.  Both children have had to write letters of apology for bad behavior, write sentences for when they’ve told lies, have had their toys, gadgets, games, and loveys taken away until they earned the right to have them back.

I’m also “creative” when it comes to educating them about life lessons. For example, when Quinn was heading over to the middle school, I figured it was as good of time as any to discuss the dangers of drugs and alcohol.  However, I did not sit down with him to have a serious discussion following the D.A.R.E. manual. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t matter how “bad” you try to make drinking and drugs sound - one friend telling them it’s freaking awesome and that lecture goes right out the window.

Nope. I figure kids are visual... so I sat Quinn down with that wonderful educational tool: the ‘Net.  I Googled a time lapse video of what meth addiction looks like. He saw a beautiful young model turn into an emaciated, scabbed horror with missing teeth in a matter of moments.  I showed him a video of a junkie, needle still in arm and dripping blood, passed out in a disgusting bathroom with vomit down the front of his shirt.  I showed him a picture of a crash scene after a drunk driving accident, the teen half hanging out the car door with his brains and hair sliding down the door panel.

Brutal? Yup. Effective? Hell yes.  And since Quinn has already been offered drugs - in middle school - I feel comfortable with my decision to show him this at his age.  I can’t guarantee he won’t experiment - but I can certainly know that he has a vivid picture in his mind of what the potential consequences are... and I’m glad of that.

So, the girlie magazine.  I intended on getting him Playboy... but that’s harder to find in our small town than I would have thought.  So he got Maxim.  It came with a fabulous swimsuit calendar of gorgeous babes in black bikinis.  It has an article with Gandalf - Sir Ian McKellen.  It has a How to Make a Stink bomb article.  It has an article about 54 gadgets, toys, and doodads to make you happy.  And did I mention the swimsuit calendar?  It has lots of really really pretty girls scantily dressed.  Whooo hooooo!

Oh, wait...

I am teaching my son to objectify women.

I am showing him pornography.

I am teaching him about “sex” stuff too young.

No. I am creating a teaching moment. I am being “creative”.

See - Quinn is 13 years old. And he has these things called hormones.  And those hormones make him want to see one thing... boobs.  Or the more politically correct “breasts” - whatever. He’s pretty fascinated with those bouncy bumps in the front of girls’ sweaters.  He’s still pretty discreet about his glances, mainly because I’m not sure he’s sure what’s going on with his body when he catches an eyeful... but he likes ‘em. He’s a male - of course he does.

And you know that thing called the Internet I mentioned earlier? He already knows that a search can gain him access to a naked Miley Cyrus grinding on a wrecking ball - he learned that in the hallways of his middle school on the school sponsored iPads.  So it’s only a matter of time before a Google search is going to earn him a whole lot more than boobies - it’s going to lead him to hard core porn.

And I am not okay with that.

I am as vigilant as any parent about my kids’ web usage.  I have a report sent to me weekly about where they’ve been and what they’ve seen. Besides an over-interest in things farting and all things Minecraft - Quinn has kept away from the naughty bits.  But I am not so naive as to believe that it’s going to stay that way forever.  Eventually he’s going to be led to a video of some guy pounding away on some girl from behind, pulling her hair and slapping her ass, and asking, “you like that, bitch?”

And that is NOT what I want my son to believe sex is about. I do not want him to think that’s what romance is about. I don’t want him to think that’s what women want. And I certainly hope to GOD that his first sexual experience (after college, when he’s MARRIED, of course...) is not going to be what I described above.

I “created” a moment where I could discuss that I may kind of know what he’s going through.  I was a teenager once too and there was a time not far from where he is now that I would have given just about anything to see a real live naked penis. So while I may never have been a teenage boy - I think I understand just a bit.

Thus... I gave him a magazine. With plenty of boobs. Not completely nude, but scantily clad enough to keep a 13 year old boys interest.  And I talked to him about why I was giving it to him.  And what else is out there. And why I don’t really want him looking at that. Because what he may find is not real.

And when his heart and hormones meet in the place where he thinks he’s ready to go the next step, he will be educated on what it all means. What he is responsible for. That having a baby is not the worse thing that can happen with unprotected sex.

The visuals found on the World Wide Web are not a depiction of reality any more than “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” is a depiction of marriage or “Keeping up with the Kardashians” is a depiction of a normal family... those videos are an illusion. An oftentimes ugly and brutal illusion. Not appropriate for him at this age, or the next 10 years... maybe 20.

I told him he could look at the bikini babes in the privacy in his room only if he promised to read about Sir Gandalf, and tell me how to make a stink bomb.

And perhaps most importantly, that woman are to be respected while they are being appreciated.  Always.