Off Duty Mom

Thoughts from an exhausted mom who is NEVER really "off duty"

Archive for the tag “Women”

The Gym, the Guilt and the Undying Search for Balance

10257789_685963581450789_99859160733615273_nThe guilt is overwhelming sometimes.  Most of the time.

It doesn’t help that the little guys in my life HATE coming with me to the gym.  Or that they ask, “why do you ALWAYS have to go to that gymmmmmm?”

I am insanely fortunate to have found a phenomenal CrossFit gym with a supportive and encouraging coach who allows me to let my children play on their tablets and do their homework while I work out.  But, I still feel incredibly awful dragging them to sit there so I can do something that is solely and completely just for me.

All the self-help people and women’s magazines tell us that we just simply must make the time to do something for ourselves.  It is essential that we take care and have something to call our own.  But I am not sure what the point is at which I am taking too much for myself.

mom-me-time_iwqi70I already work outside of the home as a teacher.  So, that’s “mine.”  I work out somewhat faithfully twice a week.  I get my nails done every two weeks or so.  I see a chiropractor semi-regularly.  I get my hair highlighted and cut every six to eight weeks.  If I wanted to add a third gym day in or see a physical therapist to figure out why I always have to pee when I jump rope, I feel as though that is just going to far.

And, I have to admit that I don’t know who I am more afraid will judge me:  my kids, my husband, society at large or ME.

6e1f525658ca73c44d018f7598768963So, I work out two days a week and while that is wonderful, I am not progressing that quickly.  I’d love to be able to tell you that I can do real pull-ups and bench-press 250 lbs., but those would both be lies.  Since starting at my gym 14 months ago, I have not managed to squeeze out one single actual real pull-up.  Or push-up.  Or unbroken 400-meter run.

The former, couch-potato me would say, “but you’re out there and you’re doing something and you’re sweating and doing something amazing for your body.”

Yep.  I am.

But, can I justify it?

What is a mother supposed to do?  No, really.  What am I supposed to do?  What percentage of “me” time is acceptable?  How many gym days can I have without being a “bad mother”?  If I drag the kids with me tomorrow so I can pick out new frames for my glasses, do I have to counterbalance that which was done solely for my (and not their direct) benefit with ice cream or trips to the park or other bribery/rewards/”quality time with the kids”?

Today, during my front squat, my coach told me I had to take weight off of the bar.  That’s demoralizing.  While I was thankful for the lighter load to bear, I also wondered about whether that made me weak.  But, his cue to me let me know that in that moment I was taking on too much.  I needed to scale back.  I wish I had a better system in place to help cue me as to when I have taken on an improper balance of time dedicated to the different elements of my own life.

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A change is brewin’

I’m 39.

That might be really old or really young depending on who and where you are.  I have to admit that most of the time it feels kind of old, especially when I look at how much energy my kids have comparatively.

A little over a year ago, I decided that I didn’t want to be 40 and fat.  I knew I had no control over the 40 part, but the “fat” part of it was a different story.

Going back about 8 years now, I decided to become “Off Duty Mom” when I felt that too few people were talking about the ugly side of motherhood or parenting, for that matter.  I needed more people to be open about hemorrhoids, varicose veins, tantrums, post-natal constipation, potty-training, the obnoxiousness of Caillou and the vast abyss of Thomas the Tank Engine and Minecraft into which so many kids fall.

But, it seems that people are talking about those things now.  I am really happy that new mothers now won’t have to deal with what I did:  believing that everyone else had an easy go of it while I was over here crying every night at 7 PM for NO REASON WHATSOEVER (aka:  hormones) after giving birth.  Had my dear friend not said to me, 3 months before I delivered, “when I had my daughter I was not prepared for that much bleeding.  I mean there was blood everywhere,” I might not have known that sleeping on a bed that looks like it was prepared by a serial killer ready to dismember his neighbor and a small elephant or that those giant mesh undie things would be so very, very necessary.  Oh, the joy that was the icepack panty pad.  What a motherfucking fantastic invention.  And, had my mother not given me fiber pills when I came home from the hospital and just said, “TRUST ME,” I wouldn’t have been prepared for the colossal fucking ass-rip that was trying to poop after delivering a baby.

My kids are school-aged now and that comes with new challenges for me.  But, when I hit my don’t-be-40-and-fat “eureka” moment, I knew that I wasn’t just all about the kind of vanity that comes with wanting to lose weight in your 20’s.  It wasn’t about a goddamn thigh-gap.  It was about living a long and healthy life with my family.  I wanted to be strong and fit.  But, most of all, having struggled with depression and anxiety for so long, I wanted to stop the incessant message in my head that said about so much:  “I can’t.”

I repeated the ugly “I can’t” message to myself probably a few dozen times each day, every day.  It related to what I felt was utter exhaustion about e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. around me.  “I just can’t stay up any later.”  “I just can’t run and play with my kids outside.”  “I just can’t walk to the park.  We have to drive.”  The list went on and on.  There seemed to be no end to the things I told myself I couldn’t do as a mom, as a teacher, as a wife, and just as a living, breathing human.

So, I am moving on to talk about something else now that I don’t thing enough people are honest about:  aging gracefully.

Actually, cosmetics companies, fashion magazines, celebrities and other people I don’t particularly want to hear weigh in on the subject are talking about it plenty.  But, I am not hearing a dialogue about what matters to me.

So I am going to start one.

Ever seen a video online of some amazing 65-year old bodybuilding and being all “If I can do it, anyone can!  I’m 65!  Get off the couch!”

Fuck you, 65-year old.

I started CrossFit almost exactly one year ago.  I am most decidedly NOT starring in videos, lifting 150 pound over my head and telling people to get off the couch.  I am in no position to tell anyone a friggin’ thing about fitness.

When I tell people I do CrossFit, I get one of two reactions: awe or confusion.  Some people have never heard of it.  But, most think that I am fucking nuts.  They think I throw tires and run 5Ks with kegs of beer on my back.  Actually, I do push-ups on my knees and I get lightheaded after running 100 yards.

That fit, smirking 65-year old in the videos started small, too, I am guessing.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, y’all.

So, I am recharging Off Duty Mom.  I can’t talk legitimately anymore about how annoying Elmo is because

  1.  I am no longer in a place where Elmo is in my world.  It’s all K.C. Undercover and Avengers movies ’round here now and
  2. It’s been done and overdone.  Blah Blah Blah Being a Mom is Hard.

I mean, being a mom is still hard.  But, what I am finding hard at this point in my journey is how to be better to myself for my family.  How do I increase my life span and breathe in life with more joy and less exhaustion?

I will be sharing with you now the Off Duty Mom journey of growing older, becoming stronger, finding more positive headspace and not being 40 and fat.

Thanks for your readership up to this point.  I hope you’ll be interested in opening conversations about how we can (and must) take better care of ourselves not so we can compete with the 22-year old moms at the pool whose bodies just sprung right back into magazine-cover shape post-partum (“it was so easy!”), but so we can grow from our former selves.

Join me.

Fuck off, Pizza Man

I have not felt compelled to contribute to this blog for a very long time. I am a writer who really only writes for the catharsis — for the experience of emoting via word ammo.

For a long time, I have not been inspired to write because while I have had many meaningful experiences, none gave me the deep feeling that I NEEDED to put my thoughts on a page (or screen, as the case may be).

Today that changed.

As you may know, I am a teacher at a public high school. I love my job — even the parts of my job that I complain about.

I was having lunch today with a few of my colleagues. If you are familiar with the daily routine of a teacher, you may know that our lunch break lasts for about 25 minutes. We get very good at eating very quickly.

I finished my lunch fast and a colleague asked if anyone had a moment to help him carry some pizzas into the school. He had ordered 20 pizzas for an assembly we were having honoring students who had perfect attendance.

It was no problem, I told him. I could come help.

The pizza man came down the street with two giant insulated bags of pizza. He handed one of those bags immediately to my colleague. When I reached for the other bag, he said, “No, no no. Here — take this instead.” Then he handed me a plastic grocery bag with styrofoam plates in it. It must have weighed only a few ounces. The pizza man struggled to carry his bag.

I asked him if he did this “because I am a girl.”

His response?

“You’re too pretty.”

I am going to let that sink in for you.

Women readers are already getting it. Many male readers might not. In fact, some of my male readers (actually, do I HAVE male readers?) may have the same reaction as the Pizza Man did when I responded to him.

“I am not sure that’s a compliment,” I said.

“You should say, ‘thank you.’ It was a compliment, right?” This was his response.

Go fuck yourself with a rusty pen knife, Pizza Man.

I handed the bag of plates to another colleague in the hallway. I did not want to be near this man anymore. Then I went back into the room where I was eating lunch with my colleagues: four men and a woman.

One of the men in the group still doesn’t know why I am upset about all of this. One left the room when I started talking about it. Another got on his computer and tuned me out. The last shook his head and understood and cited that viral video of the girl being catcalled and harassed simply for walking down a street in New York. When man #4 referenced this video, man #1 said he’d not seen it, but asked what the girl in the video was wearing, you know, “just for a frame of reference.”

When lunch was over, I walked down to my classroom and I tried not to cry.

Men: this isn’t that fucking difficult. Stop the bullshit. We are not that hard to figure out.

Telling a coworker she looks nice is FINE. Telling her she looks nice in that sweater is NOT.

The difference? One is a simple acknowledgement of an effort someone put into looking pleasant. The other is a direct reference to anatomy. If you say I look good in my sweater, you are talking about my body — the personal parts of myself that I have chosen not to show to you because I put them underneath a sweater.

Look — I am no spring chicken. I am not as young and hot as I once was. And, I don’t think that this matters much. I still have men say inappropriate things to me, whistle, or ask me “how YOU doin’?” in a tone that perhaps suggests that I am not being asked an honest question regarding how my day is. I am NOT thankful that I’ve “still got it.” I don’t feel good about myself because at my age someone has called me “pretty.” This is mostly because I do not measure my self-worth on the opinions of random strangers who refuse to let me carry pizza.

Now, perhaps you may wonder if it isn’t chivalrous for a man to offer to carry something for a woman. Yes. It is. I don’t think, however, chivalry necessarily is the issue. It would have been chivalrous to OFFER to carry something for me if I were struggling with it. It would have been chivalrous if, when I had offered to take the pizzas, the Pizza Man said, “Oh, that is so nice of you to offer, but I am doing just fine. Would you mind taking these plates, though? That would free up an extra hand for me to carry these.” It is not chivalrous to refuse to permit me to help you then tell me that it’s because I have both a vagina and a cute face. This is not a good deed. It is an insult.

I let this man escape with his life for three reasons:
1. I was at work in a school full of impressionable young people and I would rather not show them that violence is the answer to anything.
2. He was old and is probably from an era where a good ass-slap was a welcome indication of a job well done for perky secretaries and receptionists. This doesn’t excuse the behavior, but does help me perhaps understand it.
3. I can’t go to jail. I have a family to think about.

Now, there are a million ways I wish I had handled this and a million things I wish I had said. And, this all reminds me of when I was raped as a teenager: I am dealt an injustice; I am treated disrespectfully. Then, I end up being angrier with myself for not immediately responding better; for not being stronger and for not being a quick-thinker. This is the great sadness of womanhood: thinking of one’s own faults when someone else has done wrong.

I honestly don’t know what to do now. I am angry and sad and disappointed and reflective and thinking all kinds of awful things. And I had been having such a fantastic day. And a few words from a stranger has sent me into such a different direction. And, when the bell rings to end my brief “free” period, I have to teach a room full of 31 15-year olds. And, I can’t let this color my work with them.

If you can relate in any way to this story, please comment here. I do welcome respectfully dissenting opinions, too. I’d love to open a dialogue about this.

Feminism and I Don’t Care that You’re Different

I’ve been swept up in the #YesAllWomen whirlwind.  I actually heard about this before I heard about the incident that helped push this hashtag activism to the top of the Twitter trends.  As a busy mom, sometimes I get a little behind in my news.

Since I was a teenager and first heard of the Riot Grrrls, I was secretly hooked on feminism.  I loved punk already and this next step was inspiring.  But, because I was a follower who so very much wanted to fit in, I left my brooding and my secret love of Liz Phair for my private time and shopped at the Gap and wore my boat shoes with those little culry-cue tied laces in my public life.

At college, I was raped, but that wasn’t the most important thing that happened to me during my time there.  I met the man who would be my husband there and this has proven to be far more significant to my life.  However, I also remember being dumb-struck when I looked out of the window of my freshman dorm to find a mini-mock-cemetery erected to “show respect” to the “babies” who had “died” from abortion.  I was sickened.  And, my festering feminism grew.

I had always been self-conscious and bordered on a having a bit of an eating disorder until my adulthood.  Yet, there were always men who ogled, cat-called, or bought me drinks.  No, I didn’t find any of it flattering.  It all scared me in a way I couldn’t quite define then, even if I made jokes about it.  In fact, anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that sarcasm is my defense mechanism.  When I’m cornered, I crack jokes.

Still today, when I walk alone, I am always acutely aware of when there are men around.  I hold my purse tighter.  I listen to the pace of their footsteps behind me to gauge whether they are “gaining on me.”  I check my rear-view mirror often to make sure I am not being followed in my car.  Once, I am certain that I was followed.  I was about 19 and pulled into the completely empty parking lot of the tanning salon where I worked as a cleaner on Sunday mornings.  No other businesses were open in the shopping center.  The car that followed me into the lot couldn’t have been an innocent shopper.  I high-tailed it out of there before putting my car in “park.”

A few years back, as a precaution, I was asked to have a breast ultrasound as a semi-routine part of my women’s health check-up.  The technician found an unusual clump of fibers that turned out to be nothing at all.  But, she needed to call in the doctor on staff to double-check her work.  I am pretty sure that as he moved the ultrasound wand over my breast, he let his pinkie finger rest along side of it, rather than on top of it with the rest of his hand.  This allowed his little finger to stroke my breast and linger over my nipple while he worked.  I wasn’t sure if I was just imagining things or if I would be overreacting to a medical professional just doing his job.  So, I said nothing.  I still feel like this was wrong today.  I am angry that I didn’t say anything.

I never hold the elevator for anyone if I am alone.

I carry my keys between my fingers if I am in a parking lot by myself, regardless of who is around.  I never enter my car without checking the back seat.  In parking garages, I check under the car before approaching it.

I am shocked by how much fear I live in and I never thought about it until the hashtag revolution of All Women.

And, I am shocked as I look back on my life and realize how much I wanted to be a feminist, but how afraid I was to be a “feminist.”  I am sad that I still avoid using the word “too much” because it might make me seem like a “man-hater” or a “feminazi.”

What made me solidify the idea that I was finally (after, like a quarter of a century) ready to embrace my feminism came when I realized that the “other” people I was looking to shelter from the harshness of my equity search just didn’t have a say anymore in my politics.

You’re different?  Great.  You’re a man who doesn’t rape, oppress, kidnap, assault, attack, belittle, misjudge or objectify women.  I actually don’t fucking care.

I mean, that’s nice and all.  And, I totally know a ton of you guys.  Really, the vast majority of men I have come into contact with personally are of this category.  You’re not different.  I truly believe that you are the norm.

But, it so very sadly does not matter.  Or, does not matter enough.

One armed psychopath killing pretty girls because they don’t love him and killing innocent men because he’s jealous of their happiness is one too many.

One fucked-up Clevelander who held women hostage for over a decade in his home, repeatedly assaulting them is one too many.

One court judge who tells a woman she ought to forgive the husband who repeatedly drugged and raped her is one too many.

And, when we add in contraceptive tampering, domestic abuse, female genital mutilation, honor killings, sex slavery, forced prostitution, bride-buying, human trafficking, female infanticide, rape and the slew of other crimes that “some” (a few? a small number? a relatively small percentage?) of men commit world-wide, it makes me grab my handbag and remember what my 11th grade gym teacher taught me about popping somebody’s eyeballs out if I were ever attacked, even though 95% of my personal experiences with men have been positive (or at least neutral) so far.

You’re different.  Super.  You being different didn’t help any of the millions of women on this planet when they were beaten, enslaved, mutilated, raped, tortured, sold, murdered, held captive or made to live in fear.

It is not your fault.  You are not responsible for the men who ruin your sex.  I do not blame men as a unit for their part in the myriad of crimes against women daily.  Men as a unit have no part in the myriad of crimes against women daily.  Indeed, it is not *all* men who treat women like shit.

But, because even a very small few have, I don’t walk at night alone.  I don’t blame you for this, but it is something we should talk more about.

Feel free to leave me your comments.

 

 

 

Reality as a Geezer

There is no doubt I have lamented the aging process.  Having small children reminds me of how much energy I don’t have anymore.  And being a teacher of early high school students reminds me of how uncool I am.  These kids don’t even use the word “cool” anymore.

I am much nearer to 40 than I am to 20 (and to 30, for that matter).  I had never pictured myself at this age.  It’s kinda weird.

But, here are some realities I have come to understand about the aging process:

  • My body is older than my mind.  When I see a long hallway, I still want to do cartwheels all the way down.  I don’t, however, because I’d have to stretch for a half an hour beforehand and then take a bottle of Advil afterward.
  • My concept of time has shifted dramatically.  The concept of “a long time ago” has changed quite a bit.  I remember when Friends first came on the air.  It doesn’t seem that long ago.  It was 20 years ago, though.
  • My concept of “young” has shifted, too.  I once cried when I turned 24 because I felt so OLD.  Now, I work with people who have advanced degrees but are not old enough to remember the Challenger explosion.
  • I feel less grossed-out by plastic surgery.  I once wondered why people didn’t just “grow old gracefully.”  Now, I sit in front of a mirror and pull my face up manually and sigh as I wonder what it would cost for a nip and a tuck.
  • I actually care what I eat.  In high school, I came home almost every day and ate an entire family-sized back of potato chips (or an equivalently-sized snack of another type).  I wore a size 6 that my mother tailored smaller through the hips for me.  Now, I still love my potato chips, but each crunch comes with a side order of guilt, self-loathing and fourteen more pounds on the bathroom scale.
  • Nobody likes my music.  Two decades ago it wouldn’t have been hard to find someone who liked The Pixies, LL Cool J, Blondie, Nine Inch Nails, and who knew how to do “The Hustle” and understood that you were never supposed to “trust a big butt and a smile.”  Nowadays, we’re harder to locate.  Some of us came to enjoy modern music.  Some are stuck with the soundtrack to “Frozen” on repeat.  Some people switched over to “Adult Contemporary.”  Yeesh.
  • I’m okay (for now) with my glowing pale legs.  This time of year in my twenties, I was running to a tanning salon on rainy days and spending every damn minute outside to alter the color of my skin when it was sunny.  Nowadays, I don’t really have the time or the patience.  So, I just revel for now in the idea that I am staying away from skin cancer and/or wrinkles for one more day.
  • I don’t feel old.  This one is weird.  I don’t know what old is supposed to feel like.  I mean, I feel weaker and slower and fatter and more tired.  But, those things don’t alone signify an elderly status.  Are my knees supposed to ache when it rains?  Am I supposed to forget what day of the week it is?  Am I supposed to wear white button-down sweaters on 80 degree days?  I am not sure if I am doing this right.
  • I still feel like I am in high school — emotionally.  When all the stay-at-home moms gather to pick up their kids in their Lululemon or their Hunter rain boots and their big diamond earrings — and completely ignore the existence of those outside of their social circle, I remember feeling like this before:  for four straight years.

I still want to learn how to surf and speak a foreign language and read more books and run a 5k (no — actually RUN it this time — like, the whole time) and get a PhD. and a six-pack and a nose-piercing.

And I wonder if I will do any of those things.  Or even if I should

Conversations with my Post-Baby Body Parts

 

This might help.

This might help.

1.  EYES —

Me:  Hey!  Let’s stay up on Friday night and watch Gravity on Blu-Ray.

Eyes:  Sounds great.  We’ll be done with our job by like 8:30, though, right?

Me:  Well, no.  I will need you until the movie is over.

Eyes:  We can’t promise that.

Me:  Come on.  8:30?

Eyes:  We’re already tired of this conversat—-

 

2.  BACK —

Back:  I hurt.

Me:  I know.  I am not gonna tell anyone, though, because they’ll think we’re old.

Back:  But you groan every time you stand up and you sigh ridiculously loudly every time you sit down.  Who do you think we’re fooling?

 

3.  SKIN —

Me:  Discoloration, zits AND wrinkles?

Skin:  Yeah, and the kids’ college funds have made us too poor for surgical solutions.  If only you could exchange sarcasm for collagen…

 

4.  HAIR —

Me:  I am sure glad I had 9 months of prenatal vitamins that made my hair glossy, thick and luxurious.  That was nice while it lasted.

Hair:  It is so fun when we all jump out of your scalp at once and then the poor schmucks we leave behind all start to turn gray!  Good times!

 

And, it just keeps getting worse.

And, it just keeps getting worse.

5.  BOOBS —

Me:  What the hell?!

Boobs:  Hey, look!  We’re still here!  No.  Down here.  Hello?

 

6.  BRAIN —

Me:  Ugh.

Brain:  Totally.  Hey, let’s worry every minute of every day forever now.  I am totes going to make you cry at greeting card commercials and shout like a lunatic when your kid scores his first soccer goal.  Don’t delay the anti-anxiety meds, lady.  Get me the good stuff, too.  I have a lot going on up here.

 

7.  UTERUS —

Me:  I hate periods.

Uterus:  I hate not having a baby in here.  It’s lonely.

Me:  Hey, um, I put two babies into ya.  That was good, right?

Uterus:  Fuck you.  I want more babies.  Give me more babies!  Every month you don’t give me a baby, I’m going to tear down these walls and make your life a living hell.  I am going to make it feel like there is a giant fist inside your gut grabbing and twisting your vital organs like you’re being juiced.

 

8.  KNEES —

Me:  Hey, what the hell?  You guys never hurt before.  Now all of a sudden I can tell when it is about to rain.  What’s up with that?

Knees:  You’re old.  And chubby.  It’s hard to carry you around.  Less chocolate.  More kale.

 

9.  LEGS —

Me:  Wow.  That’s ugly.

Legs:  So’s your face!  Ha!  Ha!

Me:  No, seriously, veins?  They’re everywhere.  I can’t possibly need that many transport lines for my blood.  Can’t we do some rerouting or something?

Legs:  They got doctors for that, you know.

Me:  I know.  But that shit hurts.  Why can’t you all just straighten up and fly right?

Legs:  Why can’t you embrace our newfound blue beauty?

 

This is what we have to look forward to, then?

This is what we have to look forward to, then?

10.  BUTT–

Me:  Holy shit.  I think I could put a can of soda under my ass cheek and hold it there against my thigh.  When did you get so droopy?

Butt:  I started heading South during Baby #1.  You were too busy designing a nursery motif to notice.  Ever hear of Prenatal Yoga?  Come on, now.

Me:  Sorry.

Butt:  You are sorry.  In about three more years you’re going to have to start getting your drawers at Sears.  SEARS!

Me:  Are you sure?

Butt:  And, they won’t be called “panties,” anymore.  They won’t make “panties” in your size.  They will be “underpants.”

Me:  That sounds awful.

Butt:  And, stop having kids.  With your constant expansion and refusal to do Kegels, you’re going to be a fatty who is also, charmingly, incontinent.  Then, you’ll be on to adult diapers.

Me:  That sucks.

Butt:  Yuppers.

If they fit, we should just get them in every color.

If they fit, we should just get them in every color.

11.  FEET —

Me:  Hey, guys.  My shoes hurt.  I don’t ever remember complaining about that before having a coupla babies.  What gives?

Feet:  Oh, so you thought we’d go back to “normal” size after your babies were born?  That’s cute.  Hey, Cankles, that sparkly boutique downtown called and said they had shoes in our size.  You know the place.  They also cater to guys like Larry who stocks lumber at the Home Depot by day, but who by night hosts a cabaret show under the name of Hillary Clit-Ton.  Sure, Larry’s alter ego’s typical footwear choices make Gaga look more like Amy Farrah Fowler, but whatevs.  They have your SIZE.

 

 

body

 

The Penis: Mightier Than the Sword

I feel as though we live in a culture of “I Want.”

Because “I” want, then I steal, I cheat, I antagonize, I rape, I fight, I bully, I kill, I throw a temper tantrum, I oppress, I hate, I flee, I yell, I abuse, disown, I hurt and I neglect.

Today, I decided that everyone pretty much sucks.

At work, we had a faculty meeting. Teachers totally love those. The only things we love more are professional development sessions and parents who claim that they pay our salaries.

At this meeting a colleague stood up and told a long story about how she had overheard some other teachers
talking badly in the hallway about a student, but, you know, “I’m not gonna name any names.”

Fuck you and your motherfucking passive aggressive bullshit. If you have a problem with an adult colleague, you act like an adult and approach that colleague as if you were an adult.

Also today, a parent demanded to meet with me so I could explain why his son was crying last night over his falling grade in my class. Dude, the fact that your son sleeps in class, refuses to do homework and actively opts out of all class work, indeed, might just be my fault. I mean, most things are. Totally. Let’s meet about it.

Also today, only 60% of my students (high school freshmen) came to class prepared to do the presentations they have been working on for 5 weeks. One even looked at me and said, “What are we supposed to do if we are not done yet?”

Please tell me how you would have answered that question. My own answer was sarcastic and a little pissy.

Also today, a core group of my colleagues were excused from our dreadful faculty meeting so they could meet privately about a course that was being mismanaged and has been, frankly, an embarrassment to our school. I was not permitted to leave this meeting to talk with our guidance counselor about devising a plan to provide homebound instruction for a student who is recovering from a virally-induced heart failure.

Next time I want special treatment, I will be sure to screw up at something first since apparently an acceptable excuse for leaving a meeting is “‘cuz I gotta clean up this shitstorm I caused.”

And finally, today, I found out that I got edged out for some professional perks I had been vying for by a teacher with less experience and who isn’t even fully qualified to receive these benefits.

Fuck me.

And there it is. That’s what I said to myself, “Fuck me.”

In that moment, everything shifted. My worldview cleared like those Claritin commercials.

Why is something that gets “fucked” a recipient, often of aggression or violence? To get “fucked” or even “fucked up” or “fucked over” is to be duped, shamed, victimized or beaten.

If Tupac says, “I fucked your bitch, you fat motherfucker,” it is an insult because it is supposed to be emasculating to the owner of the “bitch.” The woman in the scenario is just an object or receptacle to accept the “fuck.” Very rarely do you hear a woman say that she fucked a man, suggesting that she had asserted her dominance over him. Actually, I don’t know if I have ever heard that.

And here I am. I ponder what it means to be in the world of “I Want.”

“I want to dominate.”

“I want to degrade.”

“I want to show you I am better than you are.”

“I want to do whatever the hell I want.”

“I want to insult.”

“I want to have power– take power– assert power.”

“I want you to know you are beneath me and that I will fuck you, fuck you up, fuck you over, or fuck this shit until I prove it.”

If a penis (real or metaphorical) can do all of this, then indeed..

The penis: mightier than the sword.

I love you, Wine

Dear Wine,

I love you. A whole bunch. You are awesome. When I am with you, the world seems like a better place. You make a bad day so much brighter.

But, I have not been faithful to you. I have been spending time with…Beer.

And, here is my problem: I love you both. I couldn’t possibly choose.

The thing is, you see, that each of you offers me something different. Depending on my day, either of you might be just what the doctor ordered.

You see, Wine, you are fabulous. And sexy. And appropriate to accompany me at parties where food is served on little trays passed by waiters dressed in crisp white shirts. And, your cousin, Grape Juice, is totally acceptable for the under-5 set, so I feel pretty okay about being seen with you when I am in the presence of my kids.

But, Beer was in my life before I found you. We go way back. In fact, I’d be committed to Beer fairly exclusively if I hadn’t gone to that All-Inclusive where things got a little…interesting. I met you there and realized that I was not the kind who could be tied down.

And, if I am going to be honest, I also occasionally spend time with Cosmopolitan, Whiskey Sour, Margarita and that vodka that gets soaked with fresh pineapple for, like, two weeks.

I guess there is a nasty name for girls like me. I know. It’s not you. It’s me.

But, here’s the thing: I love you, but don’t always understand you. I don’t really use words like “mellow” or “full-bodied” to describe my perfect evening companion often. Most of the time, I am just looking for strength. I need strength more often than you might think.

If I had the stomach for Jim Beam Straight, I might give that a try, honestly. I get around. I know. But, Jim Beam Straight is too much for me to handle, so I am hoping to keep both you and Beer in my life, well, indefinitely.

You’re too good for me, Wine. But, stick with me. Ours is a good home. This is a good place for you: right here by my side.

I can’t promise you will be my one-and-only. I am not that kind of girl. But, we will have wonderful times together.

I love you.

Sincerely,
Me

I don’t care how your vagina looks

Why is the Brazilian Bikini Wax even a thing?

I mean, honestly, why is it sexy to leaf through Playboy and ogle women who are adults from the belly-button up, but are 9-year olds from the shorn labia down?

I suppose I understand the arguments one might make about staying appropriately groomed for swimwear and…well…that’s actually the only argument I can think I might understand.  But, I am a little wierded out by the long-running trend that glorifies having a stranger toss your ankles in the air, stick her face near your C-U-Next-Tuesday, and forcibly tear out your pubic hair by the root en masse.

What is the male equivalent of this phenomena?  What do our gentlemen friends have to do stay sexy?  Um, get a job?  Not wear Wife-beaters?  Take out the garbage?  Kill spiders?  Steer clear of Crocs, skinny jeans, and pleated khakis?

And, pray tell, why are we as a society — a WORLD society — so preoccupied with private orifices?

For example…

–How did Vaginal Rejuvenation surgery come to be?  After children, no woman’s lady parts look like blossoming lotus flowers anymore.  That’s life.  Whatevs.

–Who invented Anal Bleaching?  Has anyone ever seen an anus that needed to be bleached?  I don’t understand.  Is it…um…dirty…so the process is like bleaching your kid’s socks after he played flag football in the yard without shoes, or is it a skin color issue and a matter of the monstrous impact of white-normed culture that is the culprit here?

–Did you know that you can get your hymen restitched?  In some parts of the world, it is critical that a woman be a virgin upon marriage.  So, in case you said “fuck you” to that tradition and now have some Buyer’s Remorse, or if you accidentally jogged and opened your hymen (as is the case, apparently for most women — hymens split through natural means), you can recreate the illusion of childhood-fresh vagina-dom with Hymen Repair surgery.  Wow.

–If you don’t like how large, small, or misshapen your clitoris is, you can change that, too, through specialized plastic surgery.  Now, really.  I understand women who have suffered through Female Genital Mutilation, but I wonder how many people, statistically, have this surgery for vanity’s sake.  I don’t mean to judge, but I actually wonder why our society puts so much pressure on appearance that women feel the need to adjust this (normally) hidden part of their bodies.

–Men aren’t totally immune to this, either, though their options are more limited and the number of men who partake is grossly smaller.  There are numerous schemes, pills, devices, surgeries and home remedies to help men enlarge their penises, though.  (Is that correct?  penises?  Might it be peni?  I have never had much use for plural penises [hee hee — that’s what she said]).  There are also options for men who want to tighten their ball skin to reduce sag and options for men to be circumcised as adults.  Ouch.  While the former may be for vanity (but may more often be to improve sexual function or prowess) the latter, I assume, is more often performed for medical reasons to relieve discomfort.  These are not just to make them more attractive.

Look:  I believe in freedom.  Have yourselves waxed, dyed, plucked, primped, tanned, pedicured, shaved, implanted, lifted, Botoxed, reshaped, liposucked, dieted, styled and glossed if, when, and how you want.

But, don’t be surprised when the phenomena into which you fall becomes the topic of a post from your friendly neighborhood blogger as she rants about cultural obsessions with human undercarriage.

All I wonder is this:  have we gone too far?

At what point will humankind ever just be satisfied with things as they are?  At what point will people begin to accept one another?  When might we begin to see and celebrate uniqueness instead of trying to rip, tear, pluck and reconstruct into some weirdly agreed-upon ideal?  When do we start to love and accept one another BECAUSE of, not IN SPITE of our differences?

I imagine that will happen…um…never.

I blame video games.  And gun violence.  And Global Warming.  And President Bush.  Either one.  It doesn’t really matter.

What say you?  Feel like dabbling in some anal bleaching or hymen reconstruction yourself?  Want to recommend ball tightening to someone?  Ever seen a clitoris that really needed a makeover?  I would love to know about the circumstances.  I am all ears (actually, if I were, in fact, ALL ears, would I have to get plastic surgery on them to be pretty?).

I look forward to your comments.

 

Sex Sells

I have been feeling unmotivated lately.

I’ve not posted here in a while because I (for once) haven’t had much to say.  This is pretty unusual for me in general.  I typically do not shut up.  Like, ever.

So, instead of trying to force it here, I thought I would just make a post that we can all enjoy…

Here you go.

Historic movie eye candy.kevin

You’re welcome.taye2

brad carypaulgeorgejamesmarlondaniel     leo  mattwillsean patrick

The Surprise

Guest Post By

“MARINA”

I remember the day I had my fourth miscarriage.  It was the most painful experience of my life.  I mean that it was honestly the most physically painful experience ever.  Of course, I was in emotional pain, too.  It was traumatizing.  But, unlike the first three miscarriages, this one was truly gut-wrenching.  I threw up.  I sobbed.  I stayed in bed for days.  I was depressed.  I was exhausted.  I was angry.

I know that this blog comes out of the United States where laws are different than they are where I live.  In my country, my partner and I are legally married, though I know of many parts of the world where women are still not permitted such rights.  So, I cannot imagine how I would have made it through this without the needed health care and support that was provided for me in this time of need.  I know that I am lucky in that regard.

My partner, “Magdalena,” was wonderful through all of this.  We had decided long ago that I would carry our child.  She had some health concerns that would make it pretty unsafe for her to carry a child for nine months, so I happily agreed to bear this responsibility.

There appeared to be no medical reason why this was happening, though.  Doctors could not explain why I couldn’t stay pregnant.  They kept telling me what great news it was that I could GET pregnant.  That didn’t matter much if I never carried a baby to term, though, did it?  I had grown sick and tired of the rhetoric and started to become despondent.  I became a terrible employee.  I snapped at the people around me who I loved.  I was crumbling as a person.  This process was destroying me.

After that last miscarriage, “Magdalena” and I decided that enough had been enough.  Actually, she decided this.  I was too tired from all of this to fight with her.  She loved me and I was in no position to be making decisions at that point.

I took some time to heal.  The wounds I had at this point were more emotional than physical.  We took about a year off and tried to live happy lives as a couple.  It was idyllic, even.  We traveled.  We bought a new home near the water.  I launched a business and became pretty successful at it.  We rediscovered our happiness.

Years prior, we had investigated adoption.  We went through all of the awful paperwork and interviewing, but were told that adoption isn’t as simple as perhaps it ought to be, so we should not hang our hats on this option alone.  We, of course, didn’t and we secured a donor (a dear friend) and tried to carry a child to term on our own.  And, obviously, that didn’t work.

So, imagine our surprise when we found out that there was a child who was waiting for us in Guatemala.  If we were still interested (so many years later now!) we could meet our new family member soon.  Did we want to continue with the process?

We had rebuilt our lives at this point.  We were also both nearly 40 years old and pretty set in our ways.  We had finally come to terms with the idea that we’d never be parents.

But, we felt as though this child were a part of us somehow.  We named him Frederick.  He’s amazing.

Things don’t always turn out the way you plan.  Sometimes, they’re better than you could have imagined.

Heartbroken

GUEST POST BY

INFERTILITY CHICK

from Infertility Journal

My husband and I have been trying for 5 years.

The journey started with what we thought was going to be an accidental pregnancy.   All the symptoms were there. Everyone looked at me and said you must be pregnant…

On Christmas eve when my period was late by about 7 days, I took a test and almost like a time clock I started bleeding. I was in great physical pain, (not that unusual for me as I have PCOS) but the emotional pain was unbearable. That moment when I started bleeding I remember sinking onto the tile of the bathroom floor and crying until I couldn’t breathe.

My husband and I then realized that we were ready.  We wanted to start trying to have a family. We made plans; we came up with names for the children we prayed for. We even created a timeline. We agreed that if my husband turned 30 we would stop trying to have children as we did not want to be old parents.

Well, that came and went and here we are.

After the first false alarm the symptoms of pregnancy seemed to toy with me and my emotions. I have gone through so many wasted tests and painful doctor’s appointments I have lost count. The worst part is our journal is rounding year 5 and the pain has only gotten worse with every minute, hour, day, week and year. I cannot begin to describe the pain that I personally feel. We have talked to our family doctor about the options and sadly we do not have many. We are not in the financial position to pay for IVF or any other experimental treatment and, well, now that my husband has lost his eyesight and is on disability we do not have insurance for anything else.

I know there is more to say but I just cannot bring myself to think about all of the details. No one can ever truly understand the feeling like you’re dying from the inside out because you are heartbroken every second of the day.

Fertility Series – #2

Good evening, everyone!

Thank you so much for your wonderful interest in our December fertility series here at Off Duty Mom!

The second installment of this series is a post already published at another WordPress.Com site.  But, check it out.  It may speak to many of you out there.

Click here to read more.

And, please check back in a few days for more posts on this very important topic!

Thank you to all of you who have read and showed support during the creation of this series.  So many people out there are impacted by this issue and it is critical that we talk about it, share our stories and share our strength.

If you have a related story you’d like to share, we may be able to consider guest posts for the end of December.  You need to get them in, like, now, though.  But, I encourage you to share if you have something you can, indeed, share with other women and couples who may need to draw from your experiences.

Thanks!

Alternative Infertility

GUEST POST BY

MEREDITH BLAND

from PILE OF BABIES

I have never been into alternative medicine: I like vaccines, ibuprofen, and surgical options. When I hear people talk about the benefits of using Chia seeds in their food, I think that they are wasting what could be a perfectly good Chia pet. I believe that colonic enemas are NO THANK YOU VERY MUCH, rather than “cleansing.” So it is super odd that when my husband and I were being treated by a reproductive endocrinologist for our infertility, I tried some alternative medicine treatments as well.

We had been diagnosed with “unexplained infertility,” which is the medical community’s way of saying, “Uh…the fuck if we know.” We started out with the usual medical treatments: three IUIs with Femara, which didn’t work. Then we moved on to an IUI with injectible drugs, and I ended up with somewhere in the range of 5000 mature follicles, so that got cancelled. At that point, our doctor recommended moving on to IVF. So we did. And then that didn’t work, either.

My husband and I were exhausted by then. All of the money, all of the time, all of the shots in my ass…we had enough. We decided to take a break for a few months. You know the saying, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop?” Well, so is an idle uterus when you are dealing with infertility. Instead of using the time off to relax, refocus, and recharge, I got re-crazy. I started looking into all of my options, and researching anything that might help. I wanted to try it all. I didn’t want to miss the chance to be the person who later said, “You won’t believe it, but Mongolian Throat Singing is what did it for us!” I could be the one for whom that last ditch effort, that one silly thing, was what made all the difference.

And so, I took the Cuckoo Express to Crazy Town.

Here are the stations I visited along the way.

1. Acupuncture

Okay, so acupuncture isn’t full-blown crazy. Lots of people do it and have great results. But…sticking needles in my head to open up my uterus? I just don’t know that I can travel that road with you, my friend. I did at the time, though! I was all, “yes, the needle in my big toe will open up my blockages, and improve my blood flow, and stimulate my chakras,” or whatever the fuck. I can’t say I loved it – I have never been a huge fan of needles, and I always had these nightmares that I was going to roll off the table face down with a face full of needles. How do you think Pinhead from the Hellraiser movies got that way? The man had poor motility and sperm production. And his wife talked him into acupuncture. And then he fell and got a face full of needles. I’d be pissed, too.

There is a lot of research out there supporting the use of acupuncture during IVF. I will also say that I enjoyed my sessions – there’s something about being stuck full of needles in a dark room with soft music playing that is very relaxing…relaxing in a “well, I guess this is how I die” kind of way. And it didn’t work for me, but I might do it again. But probably not.

2. Uterine Massage

Uh-huh. NOW we’re starting to sound a little nuts, right? Right.

The place where I got my fertility acupuncture also had a massage therapist. I love me a massage, so when the acupuncture team recommended I get some sessions with her, I said, “Here’s my wallet! Sign me up!” Turns out, this massage therapist focused on the uterus – in particular, freeing your uterus from fear.

I could not possibly be shitting you about this.

I would lie down on the table, and she would go to work, kneading my stomach like a happy cat. Then she would start to go deeper, and I would start to cry. She told me it was alright to cry, because I was probably releasing some deep feelings about my previous miscarriages. I agreed that it was alright to cry, but that I would probably stop if she removed her thumb from my fallopian tube. That shit HURT, y’all! I mean, holy hell! After 3 or 4 sessions, I started to “forget” to reschedule with her. I was terrified that my poor, mangled uterus was going to have a fight-or-flight response the next time her hands got near me and would either try to crawl out through my belly button, or send out both fallopian tubes to deliver a one-two punch to her well-meaning face.

So, that didn’t go well. The employees there recommended I try one more thing to clean me out and prepare me for me frozen IVF cycle. And that was…

3. Vaginal Steam Bath

I know.

I’ll give you a minute to re-arrange your face, which I am sure is twisted in disgust right now.

Ok. Let’s talk this through.

I don’t know how to defend myself on this one, you guys. I have to plead “temporary insanity.” Towards the end of my treatments with the acupuncturist, they recommended I try to cleanse myself with a vaginal steam bath. At first, I was deeply offended.Then I remembered that they had not been putting any needles in my business area – thank christ – so I probably shouldn’t take it personally.

I was instructed to sit in a chair that had some kind of weaving in the seat – like a steamer basket for my cootch – and to boil this bag of stuff and then stick a pot of it under me and lay a towel over my lap to keep in the steam. I don’t know what kind of hippie nonsense was in the bag, but it looked like either tea from the clearance rack at the supermarket (you know, the stuff that they put in a grocery cart at the back of the store, next to the toilets), or dirty gerbil bedding. It definitely smelled like the latter.

Since I am an idiot with a highly tuned sense of self-preservation, I decided to wait to steam my vagina for a time when my husband wasn’t going to be home. One night, he called to say he was going to be working late, and I pounced on the chance. I immediately ran into a problem – I had no chairs with holes in the seats. How was I going to get the steam into my beaver pond?! I did some quick problem-solving, and decided to put the pot in the bathtub and then squat over it with a towel over my lower body.

And I did it. God help me, I did it. And what was the result? A swampy crotch, and a house that smelled like no smell I had heretofore encountered. I dumped the stuff down the sink and opened the windows, trying to air the place out before my husband came home. It didn’t work. When he got home, he said hi to me, walked about five feet into the house, and asked, “What smells like death?”

“Oh,” I said, “I tried a new recipe and it did NOT work out.”

“What was in it?! Whiskey and roadkill?!”

“Something like that…”

So, the vaginal steam bath didn’t work, but our frozen IVF cycle did! We ended up pregnant with our awesome, exhausting twins. It was worth every minute of stress, sadness, needles, and uterine manhandling to get them. I don’t regret trying alternative medicine – I would have wondered about it if I hadn’t gotten pregnant and never tried it. And while it didn’t work for me, I am not discounting the whole field. Worst case scenario, you get a relaxing acupuncture treatment and a fearless uterus. If someone asks you to steam-clean your vagina, however, make sure you ask if they have any lavender-scented gerbil bedding. The “classic” scent is no good.

Meredith Bland blogs at Pile of Babies and writes humor essays for other websites. Read all of her nonsense at http://www.pileofbabies.com.

Free speech, bad taste or criminal tendencies?

 

In a recent post, we discussed our disgust with a thread in which military personnel (or readers of a US military [we think] online publication) advocated violence and rape of women.  Read about the issue here.

Thanks to a wonderful reader, we have updated the information with a call to action as well.

I also appreciate all of the individuals who sent messages or left comments on the blog about the issues this raises.  I am still surprised and dismayed that this thread and ones like it are continuing and individuals associated with the defenders of our country are so openly advocating murder, rape, coerced oral sex, and racist hatred of ethnic and religious groups.

But, I am, at the end of the day, in favor of free speech.  I suppose that these individuals have fought to defend my freedom to say that they are uneducated, weak-minded fucktards.  I am troubled that they’ve also defended their own freedom to advocate secretly taping sexual encounters to be used as “evidence” to counterattack potential claims of rape.

I would be interested in hearing about your thoughts on this matter.  Weigh in here in our comments section and don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook where many of these conversations continue.

Last call, y’all

Tomorrow is the deadline to submit a post for our December fertility series.

Please remember that you may remain anonymous if you wish, but these stories-your stories- are important to tell. So many of us have been through struggles with infertility, miscarriage, pregnancy illnesses, birth issues, testing, sterility and a host if other issues related to the process of conception.

I am still hoping to add a few more stories to this series. It would be particularly important to hear from those of you still in this fight, and/or from the men impacted by these issues since these stories are less common to read about. Many of us don’t speak up until after we’ve found peace. Many men don’t talk about their roles in these fights at all, but for men these battles are no less painful to endure.

Please share your thoughts.

Send us a message through our Facebook page or via the Guest Posting page here.

Happy holidays. Thanks for considering working with us!

Bad Grammar, Sluts and the Undead

As a teacher and a mom, I wonder sometimes.

I wonder (and worry) about the future of my community, of my country and of humanity.

Every time I make even the smallest decision relating to my child, I worry about the impact that decision will have on his growth and how that decision might lead him to success or, ultimately, into eventual therapy one day.  Is there too much refined sugar in his lunch for today?  Should I let him watch Caillou when I know it will just teach him how to whine better?  If he refuses to eat dinner, how should I handle that?

We are all bombarded each day with a cacophony of critical moments — one after another.  Robert Frost never warned us that there’d be so many roads to choose.  I’d give my eye teeth for the opportunity to choose between just two paths in one day.

I find myself in a constant state of questioning how I am helping to make an impact on future generations, and how I – as just one person – can forever make a positive dent in the seamless shell of human time.

Even with being as introspective as I am, and working with young people everyday, I am consistently shocked to hear about how my finger is absolutely NOT on the pulse of youth culture and (subsequently) the promise of tomorrow.

…and Abraham Lincoln, William Shakespeare and Plato all simultaneously rolled over in their graves.

If you are over the age of 25 and do not work with or regularly have contact with kids ages 12-18, please let me enlighten/terrify you with the following:

1.  We are raising a nation of illiterate jackasses.  Not only can people born after 2Pac died not write a sentence that makes any kind of coherent sense whatsoever, they (and just wait until you learn this) CANNOT READ HANDWRITING.  If I teach a lesson to 10th grade students, I must write on the board using only printed, block letters.  Otherwise, moans and groans will erupt, followed with complaints of “I can’t read cursive!”  I blame an over-eager generation of text-o-philes for this phenomenon.  And, it sucks.  Kids today can only process typed language.  Many 16-year olds I know do not know how to sign their own names.  If asked for a signature, they print instead.

2.  This is really showing my age, but for people who are too young to remember the Challenger explosion, some weird social convention has come about.  Everyone turned into a big bag of whores after Generation “X” got real jobs.

I was at a party in 1999 where a wet t-shirt contest was taking place.  The final “contestant” to be revealed were actually two 19-ish year-old women who got water poured all over them while they stood in their thong underwear and white tees making out with one another.  They won the contest.  But, I remember wondering (and, I was completely shit-faced, too, mind you, but I don’t ever recall being drunk enough to think that this was a good idea): what would possess young women to degrade themselves for the gratification of young men?  I’ve never been a complete feminist per se, but come on, people.  I was only slightly older than 19 at this time, but the times they were clearly a-changin’.  Have you been to a dance club recently?  If not, just stay the hell home.  It’s gross.  And loud.  Chris Rock once joked that a dad’s only job in life is to keep his daughter “off the pole.”  If you have been out of your house to witness the under-24 set lately, you may have found already that deciphering between who sucks up dollar bills with her ass cheeks for a living and who is on her way to Philosophy 101 at the local community college is tough since they look an awful lot alike.

3.  Technology is a way of life now.  Isaac Asimov tried to warn us about the rise of the machines, but the damn kids these days seem to be welcoming it all in.  My child could use an iPad before he could pour himself a glass of juice.  At the time, I thought that I was just allowing him to be immersed in educational experiences.  But, I realize now that he’s likely sitting back and secretly plotting my demise.

Watch your backs, old timers.

Kids view technology as essential for life now.  Many adults I know cannot be separated from their smartphones, but the whipper-snappers these days very literally cannot function without electronics.  As a teacher, I cannot remember the last time I saw a teenager do even simple addition without a calculator or cell phone.  Well over 90% of my students show up to school every day without a pen or pencil.  It isn’t that these are bad kids, either.  They just don’t typically USE these items in their daily lives.

And, now I have come to realize that kids know that we don’t understand C++ coding techniques and Java Script, I realize that these illiterate sex fiends are poised to be the only survivors of the Zombie Apocalypse (which, for some reason, every 14-year old INSISTS is imminent).

I wonder sometimes about whether I am just becoming old, senile and out of touch with the changing landscape of human society or if that very human society is disintegrating into a wasteland fed by cell phone radiation, whipits and ramen noodles.  Either way, I fear I am pretty screwed.

So, adults, beware.  I have spoken with the future of this country.  And, they are prepared for zombie war and careers as fluffers, but not for writing thank-you notes to their grandmas.
Sleep well.

What the Holy Frick is Wrong with People?

I was preparing to write a piece that was going to be freaking hilarious about women and styling salons.  I wanted to open with a funny one liner that would be a take on “Women:  can’t live with them; can’t live without them.”  So, I turned to my old friend, Google, to help me find something adorable.

What I found was this.

I didn’t investigate much.  This was the second hit when I started my Google search.  But, I did see that it came from something called the “Military Times.”  I do not know if this site is associated formally with the US military, whether it is a legitimate publication, or if it is just garbage, but I was totally disgusted.  And, I don’t get disgusted easily.

There is what appears to be a legitimate site called “Military Times” which seems to offer news, information and opinions for, by and about military personnel, defense issues, politics and policy.  I would love to believe that these two factions are not, indeed, connected, though.

I was first horrified to see that, at the time, the top response to “Women:  Can’t Live With Them, Can’t…” was related to vicious commentary about rape.  Not sure anyone associated with the military should be giggling about illegally shoving your penis where it doesn’t motherfucking belong.  Isn’t there enough bad press about how women are treated in the armed forces already?  Jesus.

The rest of the responses I read were about murdering, defiling and otherwise performing (or forcing the performance of) sex acts with women.

Seriously?

I don’t talk about it.  Ever.  But, I survived a rape 16 years ago.  It changed everything about everything in my life.  And, to see sexual violence used as a punchline makes me feel a kind of anger for which there is no real word in my language.  I, very literally, feel sick right now.

I don’t even really recommend you go and read those posts on that forum.  I really hesitated before even linking to it as I was afraid to give it more of a voice.

But the mother in me came out.  If you are the parent of a daughter (or if you love any woman in your life at all), you need to see what kind of people she will encounter in her lifetime.  Think about how you might teach her to respond to these animals.  If you are the parent of a son, perhaps you can think about what you can do to make him turn out NOT to be like the (presumable) men on the aforementioned forum.

Rape and molestation are not about sex.  They are not about “urges” or “attraction.”  They are about violence, power, anger, aggression and the deep and insecure desire to cause pain, shame and a feeling of weakness.

If you have or if someone you know has been the victim of a sexual assault, or if you were involved in a situation where you were forced, coerced or taken advantage of while you were in a state that made you unable to consent to a sexual encounter clear-headedly, please contact your city’s Rape Crisis Hotline or visit http://www.rainn.org/.

Things don’t have to be the way they’ve always been.

 

**UPDATE:

I received this message recently from reader, Christine Moore:

The Military Times is indeed a Military publication. My husband gets the Navy Times all the time. I’m not really surprised that thread is on there, rape and sexual assault is a HUGE problem in the military. Most victims of sexual assault in the Military are “written off” as crazy and discharged from the military. There is always stories in the Military Times that talks about it, and how the Military is working to fix the problem, but the honest truth is nothing is really being done about it. I think what needs to be done here is that thread needs to be reported to the military, to DOD, to the Pentagon. AND it should also be reported to the media, if the media gets a hold of something like that the military will have to do something about those people, they will have to investigate, and hopefully that will lead to some arrests.

I will be reporting it, I hope you do also, and encourage others to do so.

 

Thank you, Christine!  And, indeed, please, everyone, feel free to take action against this heinous attitude about victimizing women.

(Almost) Last Call for Submissions!

This December, Off Duty Mom will be featuring the stories of several women who have experienced all stages and types of battles with infertility.  As the holiday season approaches, many of us know that it can be difficult to cope with NOT getting the one thing we really want:  a family.

You can’t always get what you want, but you can try sometime and you might find you get what you need.

Avid readers of Off Duty Mom know that we love humor, wit and cleverness.  However, stories of all types and tones are welcome.  Send us your happy, sad, exhausting, gory, triumphant, expensive and just plain weird stuff, too.  We will feature selected stories about people’s struggles with all types of infertility throughout the month of December.

If you are interested in submitting a piece for consideration, please visit the “Guest Posting” section of the Off Duty Mom blog.  Or, “like” Off Duty Mom on Facebook and submit your piece through a message to us there.

The goal is to provide the many, many loving adults out there who have a very special wish for this holiday season will have a wonderful series of stories to read from people all over so that they may understand that they are not alone in their struggles.

If you’d like more information about the upcoming series, please leave a comment here.  We’ll get back to you soon.

For the many of you with whom we’ve already spoken about submitting your stories, please get those to us soon!  We can’t print everything we receive, but we do hope to include as many as we can!

Submissions will be accepted until November 22 (Thanksgiving Day).

Happy writing!

Happiness, Snark and the “F” Word

I have spent about a decade and a half as a real, honest-to-goodness, working adult.  In that time, I have stayed in the same general field of education, but have worked in four very different positions in two very different school systems.

And I have complained about every job I have had.

And, of course, at a certain point, I do have to ask whether it is the job that sucks or whether it just might be me.

It is an awfully shitty moment when, as a grown-up, you realize that it isn’t everyone and everything else out there that needs to be fixed.  All the jobs in all the world can’t be awful.  Maybe it ain’t the JOBS that are the problem.

Crud.

So, what does one do when one is punched in the throat with the hot, sloppy mitts of Reality?

If “one” is “me,” then “one” makes inappropriate jokes, becomes sarcastic to a fault and hides behind the thin veil of snark and other condescention.

I don’t know about you, but I use humor as a defense mechanism.  The problem with this is that everyone just thinks, then, that I am a snotty bitch.  I, however, think that I am hilarious.  I think I know how Joan Rivers must feel.  If she can feel anything with all that plastic shit in her face.

 
See?  There I go again.

And, so I am left with trying to figure out a better coping skill here.  Throwing around ill-crafted jokery and f-bombs isn’t, in the end, really making me feel that much better.

I take that back.  It does make me feel better.  Plenty better, really.

But, it doesn’t make me HAPPY.  And, I wonder what happiness IS, even.  Not that I’ve never felt it, but I don’t know that I understand it in the way someone like John Stuart Mill or Martin Heidegger would have.

By the way, I am sure that my 200-level philosophy professor will come across this blog post one day and totally take back that “D” he gave me in 1996 because I referenced two dead guys above that I am sure he talked about in class.  Or something.  I don’t know.  I was probably hung over.

Anywho, I am now on the hunt.  I am in search of an explanation as to why I can’t settle my ass into a job, stay put for more than a handful of years, stop complaining about it, eventually retire and move to Tahiti already.  I constantly feel unsettled.  I feel as though I need to “find myself.”  Whatever the crap that means.  I question everyday what I am supposed to do with my life.  Then I make a lame joke about it all.

So, if you are working in a field or at a place that is just amazeballs, I would love to hear about it.  And, hear about when they’ll be interested in hiring a quirky misanthropic wannabe writer.  If you identify with feeling a little lost (despite being all grown up and being of an age when you are totally supposed to have your shit all figured out), let me know I am not alone.

In the mean time, I think there are some bad drivers I haven’t flicked off yet today, so I better hop to it.

Should I Move to Australia?

Work sucks.

We all know it.

It turns out it sucks worst here in the United States, especially for women, and most especially for women with families, it seems.

“Did you know that 138 nations mandate vacation time by law? But, one of them isn’t the ‘Republic of here,'” said Bill Maher on the June 15, 2012 episode of Real Time with Bill Maher.

He went on to note that “in England, you get 28 paid vacation days a year. In Switzerland, you get 20. In Sweden, you get 25.”  Currently, I have “earned” 10 vacation days for the next year (July 1, 2012-June 30, 2013).  I have so few because I have had vacation days deducted from those “earnings” since I opted to take a maternity leave within the past work cycle.

But, it seems as though I was even lucky to have been afforded the privilege of taking unpaid maternity leave and being charged with sick, vacation and personal days in the process.  Many other new mothers don’t even get that.  And, I appear to be enormously fortunate and in the vast minority in the fact that I even get those 10 vacation days at all.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, “The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a law that requires most companies to allow their employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave time after the birth of their child. The FMLA applies to both men and women and is also available for those that adopt a child.  If the parents work for the same company, the 12 weeks is then divided between the two of them and is an accumulation of both of their time (i.e.,. each could take 6 weeks off; one could take 4 weeks while the other takes 8 weeks).  There are exceptions to the FMLA which release a business from the obligation of allowing unpaid time off. These exceptions include the size of the company (less than 50 employees), the time of employment (at least 12 months), and level of wages (top 10%). Employees with incomes that account for the top 10% of wages for the business may not have access to the unpaid benefit if the company can show with evidence that your absence creates significant financial harm to the organization.”

This has me wondering whether this is a convenient way for companies to legally discriminate in their practices.  Certainly, it cannot be a matter of official record, but if a company employs 55 people and feels as though it cannot “afford” to allow women time off to undergo a major medical experience, would it not be better served by hiring only men?

One might argue that times are tough and women can always refuse to accept a position with any company whose policies do not meld well with their personal beliefs, medical needs, or family interests.  In other words, we can just say to women, “If you don’t like it, go work somewhere else.”  Interestingly, men don’t have any equivalent I can see where they might be told something similar.

Here’s where it gets worse.  According to a report on Forbes.com in 2009, “more than half of U.S. companies employ fewer than 50 people.”  So, just going and finding somewhere else that jives better with your family needs doesn’t seem that possible all of the time, then.

How is the United States, a country that takes such pride in its focus on equity, social justice and civil rights, among the few who still treat women as second-class citizens who must choose between their personal and professional lives?  The following may be surprising.  Here are a few countries with longer maternity leave options for their workers:  Belarus, Cambodia, Chad, China, Congo, Egypt, Iran, Thailand and Zimbabwe.

CHINA?!  Don’t they have some of the worst human rights policies on the planet?  And, yet, they mandate more maternity leave for women.

Recently, The New York Times reported:  “Canada and the United States may share a border, a language and much cultural affinity, but if women face broadly similar situations in terms of education and economic opportunity in the two countries, they are far apart in the area of gender equality, the experts said.”

It also reported that “last month a report by Save the Children suggested that America is one of the worst places to be a mother among rich countries, pointing to what it said were one of the highest maternal mortality rates and worst breastfeeding environments among developed countries.”

Craptacular.  So, if we survive (which we are less likely to do here than in a host of other industrialized nations), we are still subject to a lifetime of over-work and low pay.  In fact, the Government Accountability Office concluded that men statistically receive earning boosts after having children while women receive significant losses at the same lifepoints.  They also concluded that still after 20+ years of this pervading statistic, women still earn a mere 80% of men’s average salaries — 80 cents to every man’s dollar.

This all leaves the US as one of the worst places to be a working woman and mother who believes in equity and fairness and who values family time.

In 2011, Marie Claire reported that “a 2005 report by the World Economic Forum found [Sweden] to be the world’s ‘most advanced country’ for women, with greater levels of equality, power, health, and well-being among women than anywhere else. (The survey ranked the U.S. an abysmal 17th place — one above Costa Rica.)”  The article went on to note that “Sweden, which has a population of 9 million — around the same as the state of New Jersey — has a long history of female-friendly policies. The government gave women equal rights to inherit property way back in 1845; in 1901, it introduced the world’s first formalized maternity-leave program. In 1958, the Swedish Lutheran church changed its doctrine to permit women to become priests. And today, female politicians make up around half of the Swedish parliament.”  In the US, women make up just 17% of the Senate and just shy of 17% of the seats in the House of Representatives.

Again, though, it doesn’t all just suck for women, though it sucks for us the worst.  But, it seems as though everyone in this country is getting shafted.  The Denver Post says, “Blue-collar workers get five days of paid leave after one year of service, and 23 percent of Americans get no paid vacation whatsoever, the 2006 statistics showed.”  NO. VACATION. WHATSOEVER.  Wha?

“Experts said the lack of vacation stems in part from an American obsession with work as a form of defining one’s identity,” The Denver Post article continued, “whereas European and Asian cultures enjoy longer vacations and define themselves by familial or national affiliations.”

So, again, I see a trend.  Americans must choose between family and work.  People just about everywhere else do not. Because they out-earn their female counterparts statistically by 20%, men often do not face such decisions in this country where women still do.

And, of the work we all do, Americans are working harder for their money, to boot.  An article on 20somethingfinance.com said in 2010:  “At least 134 countries have laws setting the maximum length of the work week; the U.S. does not.”

So, let me see if I have this straight:  women in the US work longer hours, for less money, less vacation time, less maternity leave time and fewer cultural perks than workers just about everywhere else on the globe?

Is it time to do something about this?  I’d love to hear what you think.

Reasons Why I Cried

Today, I had an ice cream sandwich for breakfast.

I reasoned that it couldn’t be that much worse for me than a sausage biscuit from McDonald’s.  And, I knew that the chocolatey goodness would heal what ails me.

Yesterday, my day began with an e-mail sent to my entire office from our boss.  She publicly congratulated the temp who has been working in our office for quite some time now for the fantastic improvements she had made on our website design.  Our old website, apparently, had been unappealing and not user-friendly, though this was the first I had heard those complaints from anyone.  So, I guess it fucking sucked secretly.  Guess who designed that website?  This was the first thing that made me cry yesterday.

I had lunch alone (as I usually do, but not by choice — by virtue of the fact that no one seems to eat lunch in my office except for me) and ordered a Reuben sandwich and a side order of sauteed Parmesan broccoli from a lovely organic/locally sourced cafe in our city.  When it arrived, my side order of broccoli included one floret.  ONE.  I finished my entire side order in one bite.  I didn’t have the energy to argue with the waitstaff or kitchen.   And, I was late for a meeting, anyway, so finishing $10 worth of food in fewer than 10 minutes was, I guess, a benefit.  But, later I cried because I hate feeling like I’ve been a victim.  More on that in another post, maybe, if I feel like telling you all of my dark, gloomy shit.

Please take a look at http://amominspired.com/2012/05/23/i-surrender-again/ from which this photo was borrowed.

When I came home, it looked like a bomb went off in my house.  The kids had completely destroyed it.  The nanny had a very long day with my little monsters.  I absolutely don’t blame her for the mess.  But, I was totally deflated when I saw it.  And, within 30 seconds of coming home and seeing this, my dog went nuts-o at the front door.  An appointment I had scheduled was a half hour early.  She knocked on the door, enraged my mutt, woke my napping preschooler and subsequently walked into a living room that appeared to be inside of Tornado Alley.  I hadn’t even had a chance to set down my purse yet when this happened.  No, bitch, we didn’t say 5:00.  The appointment was for 5:30.  No, it is not okay.  I’m pissed.

I didn’t cry about it at the time, but I did a little later when the nanny left and I ended up cleaning spilled juice off of the side of the refrigerator.

Just as I was putting my oldest son to bed, then, sirens wailed outside.  Fire, EMS and Police flew through the intersection near our house in our neighborhood that might normally be referred to in short stories as a “sleepy little town.”  The usual peace of our community was interrupted by some major emergency that must have been only a few blocks away.  I don’t know what happened.  I bet my neighbors do, though.  They ran out of their house and looked down the street.  When they realized that the emergency situation was too far down the street to be seen from the vantage point of their patch of sidewalk, they actually got into their car and followed the last ambulance that roared by.

When I thought for a moment about how first responders run so bravely toward situations that others run away from (well – most normal people run away from things like fires, robberies, or natural disasters), I welled up with emotion.  I sometimes can’t believe that there are people in this world who dedicate their whole lives to a profession where they might lose their own, just for the chance of helping others in need.  It all seemed so…touching.  So, I cried.  Then, I laughed at myself for crying about that.  Then I cried again because I am so pitiful.  Then I laughed again because I was crying about being pitiful.

I realized that a nice glass of white wine would be helpful.  But, we were out of it.  Can you guess what my reaction was?

We hear a whole lot about Postpartum Depression, but I don’t think that anyone talks enough about how being a mother continually messes with your head.  Forever.

Mothers are constantly filled with fear that their children will come to harm.  They are saddened by the passing of time and they miss the times when their babies were babies.  Moms are continually surprised by how parenting can be difficult.  They deal with tantrums, illnesses, the heartbreak of watching a child experience heartbreak, the worry a child won’t fit in, the worry that a child will fit in with the wrong crowd, the concern that a child might not make all of the smartest decisions even though he’s been “raised right.”  Mothers worry about whether their children are being appropriately educated.  Are kids “liked” by their teachers?  Do they have learning obstacles or disabilities?  Are they being challenged enough?  Are they on the right path?  Will they be exposed to the best life choices?  Will they have all of the opportunities they deserve?

I feel every day as though I am just barely hanging on.   I wonder, though, how any mother is NOT suffering from depression and anxiety.  I think it might be part of the job description.  Consider this fair warning if you’re thinking of starting a family.  THIS is what they mean when they say, “Your life will never be the same again.”

Three Unexpected Lessons Learned from my Children

Obviously, I knew on some level that my life would be vastly different after having a child.  You know, everyone feels as though it is necessary to tell you that, too, when they find out you’re pregnant.  Yes, my life is going to change.  Got it.  Go away now.  No, you cannot touch my belly.

I realized that my definition of “love” would change and that my concepts of duty and responsibility would shift.

I did not realize that there would be a series of valuable lessons I’d learn from each of my children that would make me a better parent, but that would more surprisingly make me a better version of myself.

1.  SLOW DOWN —

Kids are like therapy, man.  (And they cause a need for therapy, too, but perhaps that is for another blog post…)  Before children, I was always a little anxious.  I even suffered from a rather debilitating panic attack once while at work.  That sucked.  I’d worry about things I couldn’t control.  Well, I still do that, I suppose, but now that I have children, I have learned to take things a bit more slowly.

This weekend, I decided to steal time away from the kids and do some gardening.  I was very pregnant with baby #2 last spring, so my garden was neglected for a year.  There were weeds, branches, dead leaves and even a little trash all over the place.  The old “me” would have done a half-assed job of picking through the entire garden (which is enormous, by the way).  I would have rushed and felt overwhelmed by the fact that the garden is so big and there is such a mess and Oh-My-God-I-Am-Never-Going-To-Be-Done.  I would have been tired after an hour.  This time, though, I took my time and did a really good job on one section of the garden.  I tilled the soil, uprooted old, overgrown plants, potted some unwanted things to share with neighbors, got rid of weeds, threw away trash that the wind had swept into my flowers, cut a clean edge between the lawn and the flower beds.  I only did one section, but I did it right.  And, it looks good.  And, I can go back out the next magical time I have free time and do the same thing on another section.

Because there is no rushing kids, I have learned that slow, deliberate, careful work is the ONLY way to get a job done well.  There is no way to rush a toddler through the bedtime routine just because I know that it is past his bedtime.  If I try to hurry him through brushing his teeth, getting his pajamas on, washing his face, using the potty and reading his book, he’ll have a tantrum or drag his feet or get distracted by the first shiny thing he sees.  Or, he’ll do all of those.  Small children cannot be rushed.  It takes LONGER when you rush a 3-year old.  So, I have learned to slow it down.  It is the only way that anything works.

Yup. That's totally what I'd look like, too, if I went hunting. And, that's the exact outfit I'd wear,

2.  MARKSMANSHIP —

Personally, I am pretty against the use of weapons.  Whatever you do is whatever you do, but I am uncomfortable with the idea of even holding a gun or bow (or Samurai sword?).  But, I am pretty sure that I’d be AWESOME at it if I ever tried.

Have you ever tried to dress a cranky 1-year old?  I have.  Ever tried to feed a tired 8-month old?  I have.  Ever tried to catch a naked and wet 2-year old who is all riled up after his bath?  I have.  Ever tried to put shoes on a 3-year old who Does. Not. Want. To. Go. To. School?  Yup.  I have.

My life is all moving targets now.  The deer of America better hope I never get a sudden urge to learn to love venison.  I’m pretty sure I could successfully spear hunt.  If I can get strained peas into a moving, crying pie-hole the size of a half-dollar with out spillage, I think I can hit something the size of a Toyota Camry with a giant stick.

3.  TEACHING —

I spent four years of my life in college learning how to become a successful teacher.  Actually, that’s a lie.  I spent most of that time drinking beer.  But, most (okay some) of the time I was not drinking beer, I was learning how to become a teacher.  I then spent another three years part-time in graduate school to further my education on education.  And, yet, nothing could prepare me like motherhood did.

I was a teacher for over a decade before I had a child of my own.  I was always pretty sure that I was awesome at teaching.  And, truthfully, I really was.  For reals.

But, when I became a mom, I understood the gravity and importance of working with other people’s babies.  Even though by the time they got to me, those babies were old enough to operate motor vehicles legally, they were all still the babies of other moms.  That means something very different to me now.

I try to listen a little harder, empathize a little more and dial back the sarcasm a bit with the young ‘uns.  My kids have taught me that every story they tell is important to them even if I can’t stand to hear about Thomas the Tank Engine one more time.  He wants to tell about it and it is the most important thing to him at that moment.  If I really hear him and show an interest in Thomas, maybe when he gets to be old enough to be my student, he will still tell me about the things that are important to him in those moments.  I have a feeling that I’ll want to know about those.

And, if I try to remember that every child is someone’s baby, I am able to hear them all a bit better.  And, I can feel for their situations a bit better.  And I can be a bit more aware of how my actions and words impact someone’s day (or life).

What a journey this has been so far.  I’ve learned much in a few short years.  I know that more is yet to come.  I look forward to growing with my children.  And, I feel blessed that the universe has chosen me to share this journey with the two most amazing boys in the world.

Being Better

Women.

Can’t live with ’em; can’t shoot ’em.  Am I right?  Yeah?

Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Anyone?

I kid.

I was listening to a popular morning show on the radio yesterday.  A young employee of the station (but not a regular on-air talent) was being “featured” in a segment they were doing about dating.  This girl (a very recent college grad) sounded kind of like Dahlia from “Suburgatory.”  She came off as arrogant, infantile, self-centered and, like, totally annoying, you, like, know?

I judged her from that short segment and decided that I hated her.  Then, I decided that if I told anyone that I hated her, men would call me “jealous” and would suggest that it was the fact that she was young and (presumably) attractive that I decided that I felt this way.  Having this imaginary fight with unidentified men in my head made me pretty pissed.

I thought about why I had had such a strong reaction to this young lady.  I decided that I didn’t want her speaking for or representing me.  When people turn on a source of media and they hear someone talking arrogantly and obnoxiously about her experiences with men, I didn’t want that to be connected to me in any way.  I didn’t want anyone to make the mistake in thinking that the opinions expressed by one naive 22-year old were in any way the views held by the larger consituency.

Then I felt petty and stupid.

You see, since I became a mom nearly 4 years ago, I have slowly but surely become more interested in women’s issues.  Why is there no national standard for long-term PAID childcare leave for new mothers (and new adoptive parents and fathers, too, for that matter)?  Why am I still earning 70 cents to my male counterparts’ dollar?   Why do some politicians want to discuss the contents of my uterus?  Years after the inception of Title IX, why are girls’ athletics still underappreciated, under-funded and under-attended?  Why do boys still outperform girls in mathematics and science?  Why is the US one of the only  industrialized, 1st-world countries who has never had a female head of State?  On television and in movies, why are all of the female characters either sex objects or wounded little kittens?   Oh, wait, they aren’t.  Sometimes they are lost souls who are unlucky in love and are just waiting for some handsome, wonderful men to come make their lives complete.

What the fuck?

And, here I am contributing to the bullshit.  I am a woman.  Every day the world will judge me by the way I look, the way I talk, the way I dress and the way I act.  After that, the world might give a shit about how smart or strong I am.  I just better not be too smart.  I also better not be too strong.  I better not be “too” anything, really.  Too tough?  She must be a lesbian.  Too pretty?  She must have had work done.  Too thin?  She must be anorexic.  Too hardworking?  She must be shirking her duties in her personal life like parenting and housekeeping.  Too high-earning?  She must be a ball-busting bitch.  Too maternal?  She must not have any skils or drive.

And, yet, here I am.  I am sitting in my car, judging a person’s worth and character based on 3 minutes of hearing her voice.  I am part of the problem.

Since becoming a mom, I have also realized that the point of the sexual revolution fought so hard by our mothers is to provide us with options and to allow us to select any option we wish and throw up a big middle finger to the world while doing it.  WANT to be a ball-busting bitch?  Do it.  WANT to be a stay-at-home-mom?  Do it.  WANT to be a snob?  Do it?  WANT to be all full of silicone and collagen?  Do it.

You.  Have.  Choices.

My hope now, for myself, is that I will learn to respect that more.  It is tough enough out there with my 70 cents at the societal dollar store.  I think I ought to start being a whole lot more accepting and respectful of a woman’s right to choose to be whomever she wishes to be.

I have an important role as the mother of boys.  I can be a part of molding a generation to be better than my own has been.  I can teach my boys to judge others not by the length of their skirts or the size of their waistlines, but by the content of their character.  I can teach my boys not to say (or think) stupid shit like that ass-clown on “The Amazing Race” did last week when he lamented “I lost to a freaking GIRL.”

It is an important role we play as moms.  I wish the country in which I live recognized that more readily.   I wish western culture were more interested in equity, honor and responsibility and less concerned with breast size, hair type and fragility.

I am thrilled to have been given the opportunity to raise two men. I hope I do right by them, help them find their ways in this world, help them find self-worth, help them become well-rounded and courageous, and help them grow up to be men who will make this a better planet for all of its inhabitants.

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