Thursday, March 14, 2013

You Will Never Pee Alone

   I spent the last afternoon and evening doing one of my favorite things. I am a voracious reader.  So
   when a blogger/author/unicorn lover/ Queen of all things sporky started posting about a book that she had contributed in writing, I knew I would have to investigate this. The name alone is a testament to Parenthood. "I Just Want to Pee Alone" I think every parent has dreamed of the sheer bliss of being able to close the bathroom door and let nature take it course naturally. Alone, without a chorus of "MOM, MOM, MOMMY, MAMA." But just like that old axiom "If you want your dinner to be served quicker in a restaurant, go to the bathroom" there is "If you want to spend some, not so quality time with your entire brood, head for the Toto." I volunteered to read it and let you know what I honestly thought.

  So, I settled down fully preparing to enjoy a stroll down memory lane. I am in that sweet spot where my children are all adults. Living and loving and working all on their own. I still see them on the regular, but now when they visit, they usually don't barge in the bathroom, usually. When I started reading though I got far more than that. This book is more than you'd think. This is not just some quickly thrown together group of stories about the trials of parenthood. No, this has real tips you need to get through life. Like the need to take your own wet naps when burying your mother...oh, and a small scoop too. Trust me and rubber gloves and maybe a poncho.

  Also, do not, no matter how excited you are to meet Patti, from Insane In The not kiss her on the mouth. Or share a beverage with her. I do not care if she gargles first with hand sanitizer the answer is no.  Get your own damn glass....I will not tell you her shame...lets just say it involves baby poop and her mouth. Enough said. Moving on.

   It would be so easy to say that this is a mommy bloggers, funny book. It is and it is raw and real. There are so many bare naked truths shared. So much honesty about the ugly side of parenting. The one that they do not tell you about. Even if they had told you, you would not have listened. You never know more about parenting your children than when they are still pretend children who are shiny and perfect and don't spew biohazards at you.

  There are many things in this world that are hard. Waking up at 6:30, smearing hello kitty make up on your face and using baby oil to slide into your wet blue jeans before the bus comes on the first day of high school is hard....Being the designated driver on ladies night with dollar well drinks and cute guys trying to liquor you up, is hard. Not killing your husband for making "that time of the month" jokes. Still being attracted to him after he dutch ovens you...also hard. But listen up buttercup it is nothing and I mean nothing compared to being a snot rag, vomit catcher, poop licker baby breeder. There is practical useful advice here and war stories. Learn from their battles, because there will be blood. There will be tears and sickness and sleepless nights.

  And if that little bundle of bio waste is not what you expected. If in this world of perfectly formed beings, yours is not, well then it gets real. Ask these women. There is nothing so harrowing as fighting for your child just to create something like a normal life.  So, when these talented loving, brave writers let you see behind the curtain, please take the time. It is well worth the price of admission to the madness of mothering. These women share their hurts, faults and fears, and in doing so they honor us. They are revealing their foibles and failings. Also, they are really saying that we are not alone. We all struggle with loving parenthood. No matter what you have read or how you have scheduled and organized parenting in advance, you will fail. Accept that going in and you and your young will be the better for it.

   Nobody asked me but I will tell you are never going to be able to pee by yourself. There I told you. First it will be your children, then your spouse and later, your grandchildren. yes...just let that sit there and ruminate. You will have grandchildren. Try not to laugh at your children when they come in after a long night of no sleep, smelling like week old kitty litter and looking even worse. Hand them this book, it will still be relevant. Good writing is ageless.

                                  I Just Want To Pee Alone

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Words that Wound

  I remember the first time I ever noticed that some children were born differently. I was at a new school and I was filled with both wonder and fear. Not just about a new school, or other children. Everything scared me. Having lived a life of virtual solitude the stimulus of it all overwhelmed me. I was a quiet child, watching everything. Measuring the threat level of everywhere I went. So, when we were led down into the basement of, what to me was a giant, dark tomb of a building, I was already fearful. I noticed them almost immediately. They were at the other end of the long, low space. Someones brilliant idea of the perfect place to unleash children in the winter months. In my mind it was very dark, which I am sure added to my perception of these new creatures. No matter how dim it was, it could not hide the fact that they were different. I remember one day edging closer...they were always kept away from us and I did not know why. There was one boy, with a red padded helmet and as I watched transfixed, he stood very close to the concrete wall and banged his head on the flat cold surface. I ran to my teacher, filled with confusion and afraid for this other child. I pointed him out and begged her to help him. She waved me off dismissively and said that he was retarded.

  I tried to ask her what that meant. She was done with me. She told me to stay at my own end of the play area (that is what they called it) and to go play or sit with my back to the wall in the corner. She stared me down, waiting for me to decide my own fate. It took a long time for me to ask my mother. She was not one to take questioning well. She would rather we were still. It was the school's role to educate us. Finely I did ask and she to her own credit, explained that this meant that these children had had some part of their development retarded and something in her words, I truthfully do not remember them in detail, that made me think they were doomed. Or somehow broken or less than. But she did say, that I was not to use that word. And with that I had my full education of children with special needs.

  I remember that they kept them in a separate part of the school. They ate before us, so we did not share the cafeteria with them. I once was sent to pass a note from the office to one of their teachers. I had never been down that part of the school. Where our hallways were decorated with craft paper turkeys and colorful paper plates painted with happy scenes, here they were bare. I could hear them before I ever opened the door. It was all strange noises. That filled me with even more fear. Guttural outbursts and loud voices I could not understand. I tried to look down and not stare at them and give the little yellow paper to the stern teacher and then as the door closed behind me, I ran. We were not allowed to run in the hallways and I was always one to follow the rules. But, not that time. I ran for the safety of happy pictures of happy children and the quiet comfort of a classroom mored in controlled discipline.

  I never thought much of those children again. My life was full of so many of my own challenges. It would not be until I had my own children and volunteered in their schools that would I find out the bittersweet joy of actually knowing a special needs child. Her name was Kara. She was in a special little wheelchair that had a little cushion to support her head. I would read to the children. That was my special talent. I loved to teach them words and introduce them to the magic that lived in books. Every Wednesday I sat down with the children one on one and helped them understand how a string of letters became something more. I had seen Kara, I had smiled at her and held eye contact. My son seemed to love her. It was while sitting with her and silently puzzling in my head how to help teach this child. I had no idea what she knew or could do. She was a clever little minx. She smiled and laughed and understood my words. She may not be able to speak clearly, but she had no trouble absorbing the lessons.

  She became one of my favorites. She seemed always to be smiling. I did not know, when I sat down with her that first time, remembering the only experiences I had ever had with such a child, that she would be the one to teach me. She was not interested in limits that others had set for her. She could not run or even stand, but she was far freer than so many adults. There came a day when I would be called into the office. My son, who was a middle child and very much a loving soul, had gotten into a fight. Through telling and retelling the events of the day it was reported that one of my son's favorite things was being chosen to help Kara navigate around at recess. Times had changed greatly from when I was a child. And it was while doing this that some other child had used the "R" word. I had never talked to my children about it's use. I think their teachers must have taught them. I had not thought of that word or it's loaded meaning for a child's lifetime. My son had first stood up for Kara and then there was pushing, which of course is how we all landed there in that room discussing it.

  I had taught my son to keep his hands on his own body and it was not like him to be physical. I remember that he got off with a warning and that I told him that it was not okay to push people and he answered me with a child's simple truth. "It is not okay to call Kara that. She is not retarded. She is my friend." We would as a family have the opportunities to get to know and love many children of different levels of special needs. They have enriched all of our lives. There are words that are so egregious, so harmful that they should not be uttered. Surely, when this particular word was first used to describe a set of challenges a child may be born with, I would like to think it was not meant to be offensive. However, like so many other seemingly benign labels that have come to mean something far different than their origins, this word has come to mean less than, not worthy, stupid and a slew of other evil connotations which should never be said to or about anyone. Most especially not the sweet spirited souls who every day live beyond limits that their bodies and minds may try to set for them. I have a deep love and respect for both these children and their strong, brave parents. Who, not only have to deal with the day to day demands of bodies that do not move on their own, or children who will never say " I love you mama, daddy" and my hear breaks for them. I hold them in the highest esteem for the daily trials that we will never fully understand. We cannot. I can relate to a harried mother who's two year old will not eat his food or take his nap. That I understand.  But that mother or father who will never know the joy of a day with no accidents. Or the promise of all of those special dreams we hold out for our children. Little league and training wheels, first dates and proms. They let go of many of these dreams that die ever so slowly when faced with this worlds realities.

 I think of all these things and I am overcome. I cannot for the life of me grasp the depth of strength of pure will power to deal with this jaded world that would think it appropriate to use such language. I would not make it through the stares and rude comments, there is no way I would stay out of jail if someone dared to use such a diminishing hateful word in front of my child or myself. We all carry our challenges, our own special needs. Most of us can hide them. We are all broken and we all suffer. Ladling out pain to others will never lessen our own. Ignorance is no excuse for throwing out hate. In case you have not been told, incase you did not know... it is never okay to call anyone, in any context "retarded".  Remember that words have power. And you are a compilation of your thoughts, deeds and words. The next time you see a parent out and about, trying to have a normal life just running errands with a child who may never walk or talk or sing, show compassion. Give them a smile, a kind word a place ahead of you in line. Send up words of prayer for them and their family. You may not even realize the harm you inflict with a side glance and a grimace or a downward stare. These are tiny paper cuts. But using the "r" word is purely hateful and for that you have no excuse. When given the choice be kind. Life is hard enough, do not add to another's burden.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Power of Words

                                                         The Power of Words
  Today I am thinking on limits. We all have them. What is acceptable and what is not. It starts as children. The lines and boundaries that give society it's structure. There are rites and rituals set up surely for our own good. It is never about control, not really. But it becomes a slippery slope when I don't believe in your lifestyle and you don't believe in my faith. I don't approve of this and you do not like that. When did it become this way? When did we each come to believe that whatever we thought was right and anything else was wrong? Why are we so set on our course that we not only will not alter it, we will allow no one else to express an opposing view.  Why have we become so myopic that we can no longer see any other way of thinking to be anything but an attack on our very wellbeing.

  Gone is any attempt at polite discourse. I have watched as friends tear long strips of mental flesh from each other over politics or religion, relationships or parenting. Why? Why are we so intolerant? So angry? I have been there. I have been that narrow minded, foolish person who felt somehow challenged or disrespected if my voice was not the only one heard. I was wrong. I believed mine way was the only way. It was all about walls and angry words. A kind of release of that slow boiling rage that was always with me. I would jump into any discussion and proclaim to be the holder of the only truth. One is never as foolish as when they are declaring someone else wrong.

  Oh, and the heady feeling of sticking a sharp steel blade between the ribs of another's well laid argument. The pure unmitigated joy of harming another with my best weapon, my words. The telling and retelling of battles fought over faux positions. As if this made me more. Somehow better. I was a clanging woeful creature who allowed my beast run free. As if my wit and humor at another's expense was a valid occupation. I had become the rat. I am ashamed, as I sit here going over so many horridly placed words. I remember far too many of them and I live in the hope that those I harmed have forgotten them. Not because I wish redemption, although I do. No, but for there own  piece of mind. My words had no value. They were unworthy of other's thought. As much as I am sorry, and I most assuredly am, I am thankful. Thankful for learning the lesson of weighting one's words carefully. I rarely bring God into my words here. Not because I have no faith, but because I do not wish to force my belief on others. But, I am going to now. The Bible says that God spoke us into existence. If you take nothing further from that book, take this; words have power.  Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote it true when he stated "The pen is mightier than the sword".  And so it is. Be careful. Learn from my mistakes. It is so easy to wound and so hard to heal. Ladling out pain will not lessen your own. 

  It took me a long time to see my own flaws. I was so prickly and harsh. I saw conflict everywhere. I had the need to show that I was strong. To be so tough that no one would or could hurt me. What a terrible place it was. The one that fear and mistrust create. Filled with dark tunnels of misunderstandings and miserable, lonely caves of my own making. I built my own prison and locked myself away. I was scared and alone and I could do nothing to change my fate. Or so I thought. I had turned my life over, willingly too. It was a self fulfilling prophesy of solitary confinement. I pushed people away and was surprised when they stayed away. I would venture out now and again and inevitably get my feelings hurt by some little slight and that would be excuse enough for me to retreat further into myself.

  It occurs to me that many people who are constantly angry are not so far from who I was. There are always reasons. Someone had done something and it had caused us to become something other than we were indented to be. If you choose to be unhappy, you will be. That is the power you hold in your own life. I know it sounds overly simplistic. I have been there. So stuck in my own shadows, counting out all the things that were wrong that I completely missed what was right. I have with a sense of glee looked for what was wrong. As if it was some special gift to find fault in everything around me. I was becoming bitter and entirely too familiar with my inner bitch.

  The more I wrote, the more people reached out to me. The more people reached out the more I listened to other's stories. I began to realize, we all hurt. We will all feel pain and be treated unfairly. It is universal. What we choose to do with that experience makes us who we will ultimately be in this world and how happy we will be. I would much rather be remembered for my kindness than for my ability to harm others. To be thought of as kind, I would have to be kind. It is an art. It takes no great skill to harm another, however it takes the greatest of one's abilities to help someone mend their broken lives. They must do the real work, but we, you and I can give them encouragement. We can aid them in changing their world and there by changing ours. What a wonderful goal. I may not reach all the people I would like. I may be mocked for my Pollyanna ways. And that is fine. It bothers me not one bit. I would rather walk alone in the sun then travel in a pack filled with darkness.

Monday, March 4, 2013

GRACE Discovered

                                                    GRACE Discovered

   When I started writing, I was looking for an escape. For my words, for my feelings and most of all for my deep corrosive anger that affected everything in my life. I was so broken, my little boat listing so far on it's side that I honestly did not think it could be righted. I told you that I was looking for the place I did not know. The one not found on any map and until today, I had not found it. It occurs to me that we often mistake strength for weakness and weakness for strength. We have been taught to stand up, to attack, to hurt those that would do us harm. And there will always be a place for that, sadly. But it is not a way of life. The bare truth of the matter is that I used to look for reasons to be upset. Cut me off in traffic, I had a few choice words and a finger or two for you. I was always in warrior mode. I had a great gift for finding reason to be annoyed, as I most always was. It had become a lifestyle.

  It is a hard way to live. I never let anyone get too close. People were not to be trusted. And I received just what I thought that I would. By putting anger out, I got it back multiplied. A crop not worth harvesting. And yet I must. I had sown those seeds and so I must clear the field. Till it over and start again. I went looking for GRACE and I found it today, cloaked in forgiveness. I knew the answer long ago. I was just too stubborn, too connected to the pain to let it go. That ache that itched, right below the surface of my mind. It was the wrinkle in my newly ironed linen. The flaw I carried as a treasure. I was proud of my ability to stand up and to speak out. Anger gives you that. But with all things there comes a price and anger's tax was high.

  I hurt people I loved and strangers with sharp words and pointed accusations. I used my anger as an excuse to let that dog run free. It was up to me to repair the damage. I had to hold myself accountable and see the fault was mine.

  I was doing a simple thing when I found it. Oh, not in any drawer or cupboard. No, it was with me all along. We are created to find Grace. It is not a denial of events. Nor is it sacrificing your own happiness to another. No Grace does not ask us to be a martyr. It asks us to look beyond ourselves. I have never been so at peace and filled with a sense of wellbeing. I have moments where I am simply overcome by joy. This is the gift forgiveness gives.

  It is more about letting pain go and allowing yourself to raise above a set of circumstances. I cannot tell you where you will find it. I simply know you already have it. I send you love and happiness and smooth sailing and if the wind picks up and it gets a little rough, remember this is your world too. You are in charge of your life and at the end it is up to you to man your station and save yourself.