Friday, July 3, 2015

The news, where I stand, and why I'm quiet (oh, and being married to an atheist)

So much big news, and I'm still considering where I stand on much of it.

The older I get, the less likely I am to voice my opinion to people beyond D, my neighbor H (with whom I can discuss topical/controversial ideas without getting into a row), and my best friend, K.  And my mom.

There are many reasons for this.
One is that nobody beyond me actually cares what I think.
Two is that I think I vacillate most of the time in the narrow space surrounding the middle ground.
Three is that most issues, and especially those that have made the news lately, are too complex for there to be one solid, complete right answer.
And if there is one solid, complete right answer I don't know it or have it.

I think I'll go with the easiest topic for me:  the Confederate flag.

I think it should be removed from South Carolina's state capitol for the sole reason that by being in the state capitol it is suggesting that the Confederacy and what it stood for is what the state as a whole and the state's government supports at this day and time.  There is so much negative symbolism to the Confederate flag that its removal from state grounds is needed.

I listened to a public radio program in which it discussed The Cornerstone Speech by Alexander Stephens.  I had never heard of this before, but he lays out exactly what the Confederacy was founded upon:  Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.  

The Confederate flag, in symbolizing this then, symbolizes this now.  It wasn't at the South Carolina state capitol until 1961.  

However, I don't think statues of Confederate generals in South Carolina or in other states should be removed.  I don't think military forts or streets or anything else should be renamed unless there is a grassroots movement within that community to make changes.

There isn't symbolism (or nearly as much) in a statue of one man or many men who fought for what they believed in.  However wrong we may think their choice, there is something to be learned from their choices.  We cannot rewrite American history entirely, nor would be want to.  How many people, after all, would even recognize that men other than Ulysses S. Grant or Robert E. Lee fought in the Civil War?  I suspect a large majority don't even know who these two fellas are either.  (I had never heard of the aforementioned speech, and I like to think I'm a pretty enlightened individual.)

[Earlier this summer I read Hallowed Ground: A Walk at Gettysburg by James McPherson, and it reminded me of what a horrible war it was.  So much bloodshed on both sides.  I'm teaching my middle school students Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt, a novel which really shows the difficulties of the civil war regardless of what "side" a person or family was on.]

I also think it is BEYOND ridiculous for all sorts of businesses to stop selling Confederate flags.  I'd be curious to know what much money places actually make in the selling on the flags?  There is a big difference, to me at least, in what symbolic gestures a state makes (which represents or is supposed to represent a large group of people) and what symbolic gestures an individual makes.  Should my personal freedom to purchase what I want be trumped?  In this instance, I have to go with personal freedom.

And the removal of The Dukes of Hazard on television?  That is plumb, balls-to-the-wall crazy!

Ok, next:  ACA

Was it a poorly written law?  Maybe.  There are lots of poorly written laws.  I look to the tax code as perhaps the prime example of such.

Is health care something that is unlike any other type of "product" or "business?"  How do we put a value on our health?  Is my health more valuable, more important than your health?  Why?

I am a supporter of universal health care coverage because of its unique nature.  It isn't like a cell phone or a handbag or a pair of shoes.  It isn't like a car because it doesn't have replacements (like a bike, subway, bus, or a pair of legs).  If my health is destroyed, I am out of luck.  I can't get replacement health that is Dollar General Store level or boutique level.

There are plenty of people who take shitty care of their health, but there are also plenty of people who, through no fault of their own, have terrible health.

Because of health's unique nature, I think a for-profit model is not the right one for governing it.  I would prefer a system in which health care is like the grocery store.  Tests or visits cost what they cost, and those costs are public and don't differ much between Alaska and Hawaii.  A 10-day supply of medication X costs pretty much the same everywhere.

Have you ever called a pharmacy and asked what a medication costs?  Or asked a hospital how much ear tube removal and replacement costs?  I have, and if you enjoy Dr. Seuss-like conversations, I suggest you try it.

This is not the way it works, and until or unless it starts working in that way, I'm going to have to support allowing everyone to have a reasonable shot at getting health care insurance coverage they can afford.  The ACA is the closest thing to it at this juncture, however flawed and imperfect it may be.

Ok, now gay marriage.

I am not gay, so this law has no impact on me personally.  My marriage to D isn't affected one iota.  The Supreme Court's decision does nothing to minimize the importance of our marriage to me (and us) any more than Ben Affleck's and Jennifer Garner's marital demise impacts our marriage and its importance.

With that being said, if any or all of my children are gay, I would certainly want them to have the same rights and protections as any other person in the country.  You read about people who have very strong religious beliefs about homosexuality until their child comes out as gay, and then suddenly there is a shift.  They may still believe the same, but their love for their child softens them.  I listened to an interview with Matthew and Monte Vines, a father and son who struggled with this very issue, and it was compelling.

I'm no bible scholar.  This is the biblical law that guides me most, Matthew 7:12:  So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.  Wait, no, it is this:  John 13:34--A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  

Those are pretty much the same, aren't they?

Most people pick and choose the parts of the bible that mean the most, that resonate with them.  I doubt there is anyone who doesn't.  I don't know if you can exist in the modern world if you try to follow every single one of the laws and rules throughout the Old and New Testaments because many of them contradict each other.  Turning the other cheek is the complete antithesis of taking an eye for an eye.

I don't think people choose to be gay, any more than I chose to have OCD and GAD, any more than a person chooses to be black.  I have been wired this way from birth.  Due to stereotypes and prejudices about being black, gay or having a mental illness, some people might think, "Well, it certainly would be much easier for me if I wasn't black/gay/mentally ill," and it would.  But I haven't had much luck with changing reality.  It is what it is.  So you live your life as a black person, as a gay person, as a mentally ill person with as much dignity and kindness and honesty as you can.  And living in such a manner, you hope that any rights granted to everyone else are also granted to you---to live, to be free, to pursue your happiness.


I very much have a "you believe what you want, and I'll believe what I want, and let's try to live peaceably together" mentality.  I think some of this is from being in my relationship with D for 20 years.

He is an atheist, and I am a whatever I am, a believer in God and Disciples of Christ church-goer as of the past few years.  I don't think he fully understands where I come from, and I don't fully understand where he comes from.  I don't ask that he attend church with me, and he doesn't ask me not to attend church.  He is ok with me raising the children with some type of Christian background if for no other reason than it will make them comfortable within a religious setting, something he is definitely not.

Our marriage would be terrible if either of us tried to force our belief system (and atheism is a belief system after all) on the other.  We do have conversations about religion, about church, about God, but we keep things respectful.  Both of us recognize that it would be futile to try to change each other's view.

I am fortunate to be married to an atheist, which sounds pretty weird, but I think it would be much harder for me to be married to a deeply religious person who felt compelled to evangelize and save me.  I would fight against this and resent it.

D and I try to respect each other's right to think and believe what we think and believe.  Negotiating this relationship for two decades has made me work very hard to accept people's beliefs for whatever they are, acknowledge their freedom to believe what they wish, but also diligently strive to ensure that my right to believe what I want doesn't infringe on their right to live how they wish.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

One instance of brilliance this summer and a whole lot of dumb

Watch this first.

Basically, what the second turtle says is what I've been saying to myself ever since June 5.

Going to Disney?
Signing up for a grad class I actually have to attend in person versus online?
Signing up for this in-person class that begins the day after I return from Disney?
Scheduling doctor visits for the kids on Monday, Tuesday AND Wednesday mornings this week?

I'm used to this, of course, since it pretty much sums up any number of parenting decisions.

I have had one singular moment of brilliance.

Even though I blogged yesterday about not caring, that isn't entirely true.  I am me, and as long as I am me I am always going to have to try some kind of little snippet of structure, of engaging the kids in some way.  I have discovered a tiny bit of something that allows me to comfortably and without guilt let the kids do whatever they want as long as they do these things each day.  The only kind of "schedule/routine" that I can handle:

That's it.  The brilliance.
Every other idea I've had has been dumb.  

Monday, June 22, 2015

The parenting progression to less anxiety (too tired to care anymore)

For years, YEARS, I felt anxious just being in the house with my children, especially during the summer.  I couldn't ever relax and do what I wanted, whether it be work on a craft project or read a book.  I felt like I had to be in their faces, engaging them, structuring their minds and activities, completely and totally present.

I have blogged about my struggle to have some kind of routine in the summer, which is impossible when one child awakens at 6:00 am, another between 7:30-9:00 and another whenever I haul her butt out of bed (between 10:30-11:00).  No matter what "system" I tried, whatever routine I tried to implement, it failed or felt like a failure.

Somewhere along the line I stopped feeling anxious in the house with my kids during the regular course of the year.  I stopped worrying every second about interacting with them, engaging them.  I certainly didn't make a conscious decision to stop worrying; it just happened.  I think I just got too tired to spend so much mental and physical energy on it.

And now, I think this has finally happened with summer.  I think I just don't care anymore.  The only anxiety is feeling like I might suck a bit as a mom because I don't care.  It feels a little like giving up, and I'm generally not a "giving up" type of person.

I think I'm to the point where "Just leave 'em alone and let 'em do what they want" sounds like a pretty good idea.  Maybe because I just want to be left alone to do what I want?

In one way, that sounds callous to me, like I don't care about being a mom, but that is anxiety talking.  That is the brain that felt like it had to be engaged every second with my children.  The more rational, more tired part of my brain knows that I give a ton of my energy to my children, their education, their lives.  It knows that there is something valuable about just being available to my kids if they need me.

That part of my brain also knows that I have sacrificed 11 years of my career and interests and friendships and sanity to raising a young family, and I want a break.  And even though my life will change dramatically in August when all 3 kids are in full-time school, it isn't like I'm not going to still be sacrificing many of the things I would like to do in an effort to raise my kids.

The truth is that, if I wanted to, I could put my kids in all kinds of camps and structured activities, but I don't want to.  I don't want them to have 8+ hours (or even 4+ hours) of their summer days doing something.  One of the best things about not working full-time is having the summer flexibility to let my kids kind of have the summer I had as a child.  Waking when you want, doing nothing if you want, that much-needed down time, which often makes a kid rather ready after two months to get back to a routine.  They've had ample time to wind-down and feel ready to get back to doing something structured and organized like school.

Because to structure their summer time in this way would be more work for me. I'd have to drive them, thereby putting myself right back into a schedule which I was ever so grateful to get a break from when school ended.  No more piano lessons, no more Girl Scouts, no more speech sessions twice a week.  And I'd have to pay for it.  Having a 1970s-type summer is extraordinarily cheap.

It's not like I don't have any anxiety over this because I'm blogging about it, which is where I go to explain my own anxious feelings to turn them over and examine them closely.  But there is some feeling of triumph in identifying that I might not have the energy, I might not care to fight this battle anymore and feel okay in not forging ahead on a more productive, more involved, more structured path.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Orlando photos and accompanying snarky comments

Before the photos, a commentary by Jim Gaffigan, which a friend posted on my FB page.  Sums up this trip to a T.  

N and G rode the Price Charming Carousel.  M refused to go on.

Ahhhh, the beauty of tired, cranky boys who barely had to move or walk
 and had ice cold beverages poured down their throats. 

I even considered riding coasters in order to avoid being the one
who had to hang with the male grumpy pants.

The Dumbo ride.

Someone enjoyed "It's a Small World."

Rainy Swiss Family Robinson Tree House

Jungle Cruise.  Someone needs to stop taking photos of
 someone else's mid-section, for crying out loud.

 People Mover, our all-time favorite ride because it is so lame.  

M gets to meet Mickey Mouse.  
The adult in line before us had no children 
but was talking to Mickey as if he were real.  

Goofy.  He's not real either.  

Pluto put M's bracelet on his snout.  Hilarious to a 5-year-old. 

M has a skinny black growth coming out of his nose.  

Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin.  G had like 19,000 points.  

Mamaw and 3/4 grandkids.  

Universal Studios.

Woody Woodpecker.  

D drinking the closest thing to beer he can stand:

N drinking butterbeer.  Call CPS. 

I considered feeding him to real sharks because of his complaining,
 but this is as close as I got.

Popeye playground:  Me Ship, the Olive.  
G carried on and on about wanting to play on this.  

Hot studs in the hot tub.

N got to visit the American Girl, Orlando store.  

Back at Disney--Hollywood Studios.

The Jedi knight ate an ice cream bar.
The Jedi knight is a messy little f*cker.  

Another opportunity to feed children to sharks. 

Universal again.  Dr. Seuss area. 

G was fascinated when N could get her wand to do magical things.  

Sometimes the big witch had to help without success.  

Jurassic Discovery Center.

Three Broomsticks restaurant in Hogsmeade.  

Camp Jurassic.

Last few shots before saying adios to Universal.