Wednesday, January 1, 2014


People are inclined to make resolutions at the new year, I suppose because it seems like a likely spot in time for a new beginning. I like to think we can make a new start at any time – no need to wait for the calendar. But I do enjoy the idea of a clean slate, everything from the past 365 days wiped away, starting off on a new day spotless and fresh. It’s easier to continue forward, trying to be the kind of person I aspire to if I don’t feel like I have to “make up” for anything that happened in the past; to let any regrets I have go and forgive myself any transgressions. I try very hard not to engage in activity that puts me in that position in the first place, but there are always some things that I wish I could do better. Every year I think, I’m going to remember ALL the birthdays this year! And then I fail. I think, I really want to make a career change, and then life gets in the way and it’s easier to continue on the same path, that of least resistance. I think, I would like to be less judgmental about others in general, and then some young guy walks in front of me with his pants almost to his knees, holding his belt with one hand so that they don’t fall down the rest of the way, trying to look “cool”, and there I go, being all judgy again. 

2013 was a year of new beginnings: starting a new life as a single mother, public school, and a huge move back to my home state of Oregon. I’m excited to see what 2014 has in store. My resolve is to continue opening to new beginnings, to allow possibility to have a prominent place in my life and not to close  any figurative doors out of fear, apathy or angst.

What hopeful things do you see for yourself in 2014?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

bah humbug

I wanted to write about Christmas traditions, but it turns out, I have exactly zero traditions. When your family dynamic changes due to something like divorce, the things that were traditions, or at least trying to develop into a tradition, they get scrambled or discarded. We used to pack ourselves into the car and drive around and look at Christmas lights. We haven’t had a chance to do that this year. Our situation does not allow for me leaving the house to do something like that. There used to be particular movies we would always watch at Christmas time. But my son doesn’t like most of them, so I don’t put them on. Most of them were movies that his dad and I would watch after he went to bed anyway. I like to try to pick movies that take place at Christmas, but aren’t necessarily “Christmas” movies:
Die Hard
Love Actually
Lethal Weapon
Hook (the first time I saw it in the theater was on Christmas)
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Reindeer Games (horrid, but in a good way)

this could be my own holiday portrait this year

 And then there are the traditional Christmas films:
It’s a Wonderful Life
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Bad Santa (I wouldn’t watch this one with the kids, though!)
The Holiday
Home Alone

What other traditions did we have? I don’t even really know. I think it was only important to me to have traditions. The things I can remember are me being the one who always was up Christmas morning with Nick, because his dad couldn’t be bothered to wake up early in the morning, even on Christmas. I remember that “we” decided not to give each other Christmas gifts because we would just buy what we wanted. Which meant that it was too inconvenient for him to bother to think of something to get for me for Christmas. The more I think about it, the more depressing it is. I hope that my son at least feels that his Christmas mornings are worth the disorganization of his tradition-less parents. He gets a stocking every year – I guess that’s a tradition. I used to read him the book A Wish for Wings That Work, but this year, it’s packed and I have no idea where it ended up. I hope we didn’t lose it. And he’s getting a little old for reading Christmas stories.

That is not nearly the most depressing thought that I’ve had so far this year. I also have dredged up some memories of my own Christmas pasts. One where I sort of knew I was going looking for my Christmas presents, found them, and in a flurry of irrational feelings of success, looked at all of them, only to realize that absolutely nothing would be a surprise on Christmas morning.  That’s not so bad, though. The year that my step father decided it was time for me to “get over” Santa, and said to me, “You know that’s all just made up, right?”. Christmas morning, he actually took a couple of gifts from his parents and shoved them into my stocking right in front of me and laughed saying, “Well, at least there’s something in there for you!”. HAHA! YOU ARE SO FUNNY! Asshole. Who does that to a 9 year old kid? 

The rest of them, the ones I haven’t completely blocked out, are just a blur of me being driven between one parent’s house and the other, depending on whose turn it was to “have me”. Getting shuffled around to make sure I spent the requisite amount of time with each family. It turned into my obligation to act happy at every house and grateful that I got to have more than one Christmas celebration. The first year we lived 3000 miles away, I was terribly homesick until I realized I would not have to drive anywhere to visit anyone. It was absolute bliss.

Unfortunately, since the divorce (just over a year ago), which I’m probably still bitter about, even the memories that were good, I think were just a lie. Everyone pretending to be happy and what the fuck was it all for anyway? Hey look at that! I found my holiday tradition after all - being miserable and dissatisfied with my life! 

What would be really nice, would be to have a holiday – any holiday, really, I don’t care about Christmas one way or the other – to spend with a person who actually wants to spend the holiday with me, who enjoys doing the same things that I enjoy, so that we could enjoy them in tandem and laugh and smile, eat good food, drink wine, go for a walk out in the cold, tell stories, laugh at old videos. Maybe we would even come up with a couple of traditions. 

Come to think of it, it doesn’t even have to be a holiday.

*I had to edit this to add Titanic to the list. How did I forget that one?? It's my perfect Christmas movie!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Where I mention the unmentionables

Hey, bra designers of the world, can you please get your collective shit together and make a bra that not only works, but also doesn’t make me want to join a nudist colony?

As a plus size lady for pretty much all my life, even before there was  such a thing as a “plus size”, I can tell you this one fact about clothing: bras suck. I don’t think they only suck for women who are under a size 12, either. I think that bras suck in general, but my experience is predominately with bras in larger sizes. So that is where the complaining will take place.

I am about a size 18 (depending on the brand of clothing) and I do not have large breasts. In fact, I would probably fit into a very modest B cup. My problem is that I have a large rib cage and I’m fat. So I need something that  44” around. Try to find a bra that is a 44B. You can’t. Believe me, I’ve tried. I would like a cute bra, in my size, which can be worn with clothing that isn’t a potato sack. I know, it sounds crazy! I have had one or two, but inevitably they wear out, being the only couple of bras in my possession that don’t piss me off, and then when I try to go back and buy more, the style has been discontinued or changed in a way that makes them no longer appropriate. Bah Humbug! I am seriously contemplating getting a boob job so that I can wear a size bra that exists and doesn’t cause these types of bruises on my body:

Photographic evidence of injury done to person by afore mentioned undergarment:
This is the spot where the underwire rubs against me the most. This is from a normal bra - the underwire was NOT protruding (YET) from the bra, it's there mostly for torture and general discomfort. This picture was taken after the garment in question had been removed after approximately 10 hours of normal wear. 

This picture was taken a full 24 hours later, lest you wonder if the marks on the first picture were merely an impression made by the garment. Nope. Bruises. They will purple up nicely.

It should not be too much to ask a designer, any designer,  to come up with a plan for making bras that fit actual people and not some vague interpretation of a human form that doesn’t actually exist.

And while I’m at it, can we please do something about underwires?? If we can get a flying machine into outer space, we should damn well be able to create a structured garment that doesn’t suddenly, in the middle of your day, become unhinged and leave you with a bare wire poking into your flesh. How is that even reasonable?  Is there a comparable garment for men? No. Does any undergarment in the average man’s closet (assuming you are wearing traditional male attire – I’m sure there are plenty of men out there who are as pissed off about bras as I am) even have a wire infrastructure? I can’t think of one.

Don’t even get me started on Spanx.

In closing, it seems that I am going to be forced into:
A.   not ever wearing a bra again
B.    wearing something that looks like a bra, but is really only the suggestion of a bra and will make me wonder all day why I didn’t go with option A
C.    pay a gazillion dollars to have a designer design and produce  a bra specifically for my body
D.   keep wearing ill fitting bras that leave bruises on my delicate flesh

It’s not looking good.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Memory Loss

Losing your mind happens in stages. Medical professionals have created lists of stages that a person will go through when afflicted with dementia. You can track someone’s behavior through these stages and, ideally, prepare yourself and them for what will come next: the deterioration of the brain. The brain is tricky, though, and can spend years convincingly acting as though there is nothing wrong. All of a sudden, it seems to the person suffering the loss, there is no more environmental control, no bodily control. No more driving.  No more laundering or cooking. No more bathing. All basic freedoms and dignities are slowly eroded away, until what is left is dependence and vulnerability; the control of others. If the brain would give way, relent and allow you to sink into a benign muddle, content and infantile, it might be a peaceful way to go out. The brain however, keeps poking at you, egging you on trying to reboot and restore the previous level of function; teasing you, telling you that you’ve been functioning all along and that you don’t need help. The brain is belligerent in it’s biological imperative to create function and reason. The brain refuses to believe that it’s no longer functioning.

What is most misunderstood about memory loss is its erratic incompleteness. This can become frustrating to a caregiver; the patient seems to be able to remember to go to the bathroom, to ask for help when it’s needed, to wash hands, but one time out of 10, will end up crawling on the floor with no pants on, and will become belligerent and stubborn, insisting that everything is fine, this is the way it’s always been, there’s nothing wrong.

No amount of explaining does any good, because the brain which is affected by dementia cannot process information. The brain cannot understand how a lecture or an explanation fits into the space-time continuum. Short term memory is a thing of the past, and a simple sentence is uttered in frustration over and over, and is forgotten again and again. Let me help you put on your pants. I don’t have pants on? No, let’s put them on. I don’t need pants! You don’t have pants on. Don’t I have any pants? Why aren’t my pants on? Let me help you put your pants on. I don’t need help with any pants. I’ll put them on when I’m ready! Where are my pants? I’m getting cold, aren’t you going to help me put these pants on?

A glimmer here and there of the way the brain used to be capable of functioning; a spark of energy in one area for 5 or 10 minutes. Then oblivion.

My grandmother is in the later stages of dementia. For about two years now, she’s needed help doing most things. Her decades long Tinnutis makes auditory hallucinations more and more common as her brain struggles to maintain normality. She likes to have the television running in the background, to overcome the ringing in her ears that is always there, despite her hearing aides. But dementia has stolen her cognitive ability to follow a story line, or understand a plot or scheme being played out in a movie or even an hour-long program. What we are left with is a handful of shows my  teenage son and I lump into one category as The Judges. These are televised, simulated courtroom settings where a “judge” hears out an argument between two people and renders a “verdict”. They are generally half hour programs and each “case” is about half of that, making them, if not digestible,  short. They also generally employ repetition to an epic degree, making them perfect for someone who’s short term memory is approximately 90 seconds. Another for of television Grandma can appreciate is the game show. I don’t think she follows the game as much as she can appreciate the emotionally charged, overly gregarious behavior. It’s easy to know when to smile and laugh when there’s a studio audience giving you cues.

I haven’t watched any of these shows for years, but it’s fun to watch Grandma and my son laughing together over the Judge chewing out someone or Steve Harvey being Steve Harvey (who knew Family Feud was still on the air? I had no idea!). My feeling is that if in the few glimmers she has left she can laugh, then it’s going to be okay.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

you might want to look the other way

Before I go ahead and just start ranting, I’m going to acknowledge first and foremost that it is only due to my own privileged situation that I was able to homeschool my son for 6 years. I feel that I was very lucky to not only have the opportunity given by the state in which I lived, but also that our family was financially able to support our mutual decision to homeschool my son. I do realize how lucky we are to live when and where we live.

That said, I’m all riled up this morning about this story:

And my consequent tweets:

I read the WHOLE article and now I’m going to get out my soapbox.

And to be fair, I’m not so much riled up by the idea that there are some fundamentalist religious people who choose to homeschool, who’s views I staunchly disagree with. I am disturbed by families being plagued with the fallout of mental illness while our health care industry does nothing.  I am, in fact, righteously outraged that people use the bible as a way to justify abusing children. And once again, I am riled up because anytime homeschooling is mentioned it’s always about the crazy people. Those crazy damn homeschoolers! What are they doing to those poor children? Think of the children! The children, who are being forced to stay home and ruin their lives! I am SO. TIRED. of this argument.

Homeschooling families are as diverse as families who choose public education. I am going to venture a guess that even families who are choosing to homeschool because of religious reason have a wide range of diversity. There is not One Kind of homeschooler. This article mentions other types of homeschooling briefly, but then quickly disavows homeschooling on any level.

I am also tired of reading about the “frightening” statistics of homeschooling.

Homeschooling now exists in a virtual legal void; parents have near-total authority over what their children learn and how they are disciplined. Not only are parents in 26 states not required to have their children tested but in 11 states, they don’t have to inform local schools when they’re withdrawing them. The states that require testing and registration often offer religious exemptions.”

Firstly, and most importantly, whether you homeschool or not, you live in a country where abusing a child is not legal. Period. And I'm pretty sure we are all clear on what types of "discipline" are actually abusive behavior. As for the "legal void" mentioned in this article, homeschooling families of all sorts wish for this void every September. If only! I have lived in three different states and have home schooled in each and the rules are varied, but there is hardly a “void”. If it were a matter of parental choice, you would or would not send your child to school as you saw fit for your own family. You would homeschool at whatever level you choose to homeschool, you would not be required to take a class (Washington State) or prove how many college credits you have (North Carolina), or declare in any way your decision to homeschool (Oregon). However, we are required by law to announce to the state and the school district what are intentions are, not just once, but every fall that our children are of “school age”, and individually for each child. The only benefit I can see is to the school and the funding that each child represents in their budget. It certainly has nothing to do with the welfare of the children in question. I submit that instead of some "legal void" that homeschoolers are reaping the benefit of, instead there is a startling lack of legal rights if you choose to enroll your child in the public education system.This argument is made only in favor of compulsory, public education.  I have done both, and I can tell you that my rights as a parent were pretty much negated – we were told when and where our child was supposed to be while school was in session and if we dared to fall outside that box, we were threatened with being sent in front of a judge in a county court where we would have to defend our parental “rights”. Where’s the legal void when you really need it?? 

But, I digress. My whole point is to ask why is it that we only ever hear about the horrifying stories of homeschooling? Certainly, there are as many ways of parenting as there are families to decide how to parent, and homeschooling is no different. Would you want to be told that you must feed your baby formula? That you are absolutely required to use cloth diapers? That you have to buy a particular model of vehicle if you planned on transporting your child? Ridiculous! Abuse is abuse and while I see the correlation between the fundamentalist homeschooling movement and child abuse, is it any different than the correlation between poverty and childabuse?  From the motion picture Horton Hears a Who to the latest media blitz on the horrifying story of Hana Williams, over and over what people hear is the term “homeschooler”  linked with some nightmarish situation. It’s what made people look at me sideways and take two steps back after I mentioned that I was a homeschooling parent. You’re one of those people.

Can we please just start addressing the issue of child abuse, and leave the homeschooling out of it? The only reason I see to keep making an issue of homeschooling is to pave the road to removing that right altogether. Is taking away basic rights a highway that anyone really wants to drive down?  In the words of Tod from the 1989 movie Parenthood,

“you need a license to buy a dog, to drive a car - hell, you even need a license to catch a fish. But they'll let any butt-reaming asshole be a father.”

And there’s the real root of the issue for you.  Damn humans.