Saturday, October 29, 2016

My sorry attempt at a post about the election

I've tried, at least 15 times, to write a blog post about the upcoming presidential election.  Each and every time, I save the draft, return later and delete everything I've written.

If there is anything good about this election, it is that it has forced me to really think about not only where I am coming from about my political beliefs, but where other people might be coming from.  I have friends and acquaintances from both parties, and this hasn't been an easy ride for many of them.
Under no circumstances do I understand the appeal of Donald Trump, but I feel like I can understand the desire of people to vote GOP because that party aligns with their general belief system and that, for them, means voting for Trump, even if they are dry-heaving as they do it.

What has been most uncomfortable for me is what this election has made me feel inside because it has brought a lot of my own internal ugliness to the forefront of my consciousness.  I say ugliness but maybe the better word would be honesty, which can sometimes feel ugly even though I'm not 100% sure it is actually ugly.

This election has made me ask myself "Where the hell do you stand, Carrie?" and the answer is that I'm sometimes in the midst of playing an internal game of Twister, with one foot in the GOP ideology, one foot in the Democratic ideology, and a hand in the third party ideology....on the exact same topic.

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." 
--F. Scott Fitzgerald

I can't, in all honesty, be a person who loves all and welcomes all unabashedly, which is how I sometimes see the Democratic party, as a big party of love.  This feels far too hokey for my personal taste.  I am far too cautious to be this way, but neither do I like what I perceive to be a party of exclusiveness and avoidance of the other, which is how I often perceive the GOP. 

I do not think abortion is right, but I also don't think I can force my belief on something that is wholly someone else's choice, even though I sometimes shudder to use the word "choice." Having carried my own babies, I would have been devastated had I lost them at 16 weeks of gestation, even though I know they were unable to survive outside of my body.  Even though they were alive, without me, they were nothing.  That seems like holding two opposing positions in my head and trying to remain sane.  But if I don't want others telling me what I can do in my bedroom, with my birth control and with my body, I can't really force my own confused and uncomfortable beliefs and feelings on someone else.  It feels an awful lot like splitting hairs when I think to myself, "I believe that life begins at conception, but I also believe that it is unviable life without the mother, and I think in this regard the mother's autonomy outweighs the life's autonomy at least until viability."  Could that be more complicated?  

I fully support LGBT rights, and yet am pretty darn conservative when it comes to marriage, whether it is heterosexual or homosexual.  I'm not always sure I understand my own feeling of "Do whatever you want with whomever you want until you promise to marry and have children.  From that point on, you stick with your promise."  And that is not even a hard-and-fast rule because I know there are all sorts of circumstances that make sticking with one's marital promise impossible.

I dislike stupid regulations but also know that businesses cannot be trusted to run without regulation of some kind.  The almighty dollar doesn't have a conscience.  

How can I feel that Donald Trump's groping statements are sexual harassment and that men should never say or do such things but also feel that women sometimes do really stupid things that certainly aren't "asking for it" but set themselves up to be in harm's way?  As a person who doesn't have a sexy bone in her body, I cannot wrap my head around women who want to dress in tight sexy clothes.  They have the right to wear whatever they want, but I have the right to think they are ridiculous for putting their bodies out there and then claiming they want people to judge them on their minds.  People will not judge you on your mind because they are distracted by your body.

Having that thought makes me uncomfortable, but I can't feel differently than what I feel. It's maddening.

This election has made me consider my own implicit biases, and I have them.  We all do, whether we think we do or not.

This election has made me consider whether I dislike outright lying more or less than sneaky lying (and we have two candidates who excel in their respective categories).

This election has exhausted me.  I am about at the point where I just want it over and don't really care anymore what happens.  It has been a fun exercise in near-constant rehashing of my personal belief system, but I'm tired.  

To find meaning in suffering

There was a time when my mood disorder caused me suffering.  Fortunately, as a result of medication, my teeth give me far more problems now than my OCD and GAD.  I am very thankful for that, although having dental work sucks.  It doesn't suck as badly as feeling like you're going crazy, though.  Dental work gets done, and you move on with life, perhaps $600-$700 poorer.  Intrusive thoughts go on and on and on.

(I also feel compelled to distinguish between what I experienced as suffering and what seems like capital S suffering, which would be living in a war-torn nation, like Syria.  Like so many things, suffering is a spectrum with degrees.  An untreated mental health disorder is on there, although not as extreme as war.  Of course, depending on the severity of the mental health disorder, they might be pretty darn close.)

Suffering has also come in the form of helping G deal with his mental health issues.  The differences between our situations are many.  He is a child, and I was not when I hit the mental health wall.  He didn't see a problem in what was going on (his behaviors), while I knew very well that something was horribly wrong with my brain.

I am not, by nature, an optimistic, glass half full person, but I can see that there has been much good for others to have come from mine and G's mental health suffering.  Having experienced this as an individual and as a mom, combined with my openness about both, have been very beneficial to others who are going through similar things.

It is a very common occurrence for people I know to confide in me about their own mental health struggles or those of their children.  And I am not particularly close to many of these people---they are acquaintances.  I am often asked questions, and I frequently provide resources to others who are just beginning their journey into treatment.

I just finished reading the book A Man Called Ove, and I very much enjoyed it.  One of the things I especially appreciated about it was that Ove, a curmudgeon to the core, was also a profoundly giving person.  I felt like I could relate to him in many ways.  When he saw things that needed to be done, people who needed to be helped, he helped them.  He was an utter pain in the ass, and a man who was experiencing a great deal of internal pain, but that didn't stop him from helping others.  It was a frequently laugh-out-loud story (and reminder to me) that what you say or what you think is far less important than what you do.

I often give myself a lot of internal grief because I am not a "classically thoughtful" person who does niceties for people.  I don't make bread and give it to others.  I don't see trinkets I think someone would like and purchase it for them "just because."  In my own way, I am a callous person.  When my own mother underwent a procedure earlier this year that caused her a lot of discomfort, it never occurred to me to make a meal and take it to her and my dad (my sister-in-law did this, which I thought was very nice and thoughtful).

As I "grow up," however, I am starting to see and, more importantly, appreciate that I have my own unique ways of being thoughtful to others.  I am starting to understand that even though my way is not "classically thoughtful," it is still giving.  Like Ove, I assist others ways that feels natural to me, even if it's not detailed-oriented niceties.

Also like Ove, the people I assist may have to contend with my curmudgeonly mouth and general outlook on life.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Kid magnet (and what I like and dislike about subbing)

My theory has usually been that middle and high schoolers are like cats, and elementary students are like dogs.

Similar to cats, a middle- or high-schooler will come around on his/her own terms--if they want and/or need you.  But if you make a move toward them, they instantly flip their tails, turn on their heels and throw shade at you.

Elementary students are yippy, energetic and bound around your feet, whipping past your legs, knocking over dogs.

Elementary school kids invade my personal space to a degree that gives me a bit of the willies.  A very sweet 4th grade girl gave me approximately 4,000 hugs in the 3 hours I was with her class the other day (teachers were having meetings).  Told me she loved me more than my own children have.

It makes me think I am a bonafide kid magnet.

I like it.....and then I get another squirt of hand sanitizer.

This year, subbing has been much easier than April and May of last year.  I expected to have zero jobs in August but easily got my 5 days in at both my kids' schools.  I am learning more each time I sub and paying attention to what I see teachers do that I like and is effective.  Like a new hallway prep song I learned:  My hands are by my side / I'm standing straight and tall / My eyes are looking straight ahead / I'm ready for the hall.  Singing or saying---it doesn't matter---1st graders ate it up.

Germs aside, there isn't much I don't like about subbing.  I like working with kids, and I like walking out the door and being done.  I like the flexibility.

If there is anything I don't like, it is not knowing which kids have what needs.  I was in a 5th grade class the other day, and a kid was being challenging.  I felt like he was bucking me a bit---not attitude, but squirrelly silliness.  Class clown-type thing.  As it turns out, I later found out the child's medication was wearing off.  I don't know if having this info would have changed how I managed the child's behavior necessarily, but it would have internally changed my understanding of the child's behavior.

I don't blame teachers for this.....they have enough to worry about in leaving good lesson plans, and it likely doesn't register which kids have special needs and situations---they are used to it and it likely just doesn't cross their mind  But it is helpful to know.

I feel like I'm getting better at subbing at the elementary level, which is not my natural forte.  I feel more comfortable among people who understand sarcasm and with whom I can use the phrase "jacked up."  First graders are not those people.  But little people are very sweet (and germy) but mostly sweet.

It's that whole animal thing, I think.  I like dogs and can spend a little time with them, but I love and can live with cats.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Oh my heavens, my bonus baby is now 7!

Dear M,

Every child is a special miracle, but you are especially miraculous and always will be.  You slipped in under the wire.  You weren't expected, and you weren't planned, but you are evidence of wondrous life happening in spite of our plans and our expectations.

I sometimes consider what life would be like if you hadn't arrived.  Who would have sung us "Bring the Chainsaw Back?"  Who would be penis bros with Daddy?  Who would provide G the buddy and helpmate he needs?  Who would be the easy-going bread on the other side of N in the family sandwich that has G as the tangy middle?

You will always be my Monkey M, the baby in the monkey costume who did his monkey crawl along the sidewalks on Halloween night.  You will always be the long-term nursling I always wanted and had to wait through two kids to get.  You will always be my special bonus baby.

Even though you are a personality at home, you tend to be shy and more reserved among others.  You are my sensitive boy who cries easily when something unexpected happens or someone unexpected appears.  And you definitely keep a wary eye out for your Uncle K, who is the world's biggest tease and likes to see if he can pull one over on you.

I love it that you put your swimming goggles on so tightly that you look like a little Asian child.  I love it that you still have a squeaky little voice.  I love it that your laugh, when you really cackle, can crack anybody in the room up and still often results in you racing to the bathroom to pee.

It astounds me that 7 years have passed since we heard the doctor say, "It's a boy!"  And even though I really liked the name Maeve Catherine, I'm really, REALLY glad I had the opportunity to use M**** D****** for you.

I hope you have great fun at your party this weekend.

All my love, always,

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The lure of travel

When D and I decided to start trying for a family way back in the day, we were sort of burned out on travel.

We certainly weren't super-adventurous travelers, but we did a bit in our 8 years of togetherness before children (2 before marriage and 6 after):

Caribbean cruise (St. Thomas / Barbados / Dominica / Martinique / Puerto Rico / St. Maarten)
Grand Cayman Island
Las Vegas, NV
The Grand Canyon
Death Valley, CA
Virginia Beach, VA, including Chincoteague, VA, Assateague Island and Colonial Williamsburg
Savannah, GA
Panama City, FL
Niagara Falls
Toronto, Canada
Italy (Florence / Rome / Isle of Capri / Sorrento / Venice)
Greece (Athens / Olympia / Delphi / various islands)

Since having children, our travel has changed.  In the past 12 years, we've been to--

Orlando, FL (Disney / Universal Studios---3 times, and if I never go back again it will be too soon.)
Traverse City, MI and the UP
Gulf Shores, AL (2 times)
Sanibel Island, FL
Edisto Island, SC
and a slathering of other small, closer-to-home places, like Indianapolis, IN, Columbus, OH and Nashville, TN

The kids have gotten to a point where I'm starting to think we can travel to some more interesting places, although the way M carried on complaining as we walked through the Indy Zoo the other day leaves me wondering how rational this plan actually is.

My goal is to take them to Utah in two years to see the Mighty 5 National Parks (Zion, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef), although realistically I'd be happy to see Zion and Bryce and call it a day.

Eventually, we want to take them to Washington, DC and over to Delaware, but that will have to be when M is closer to middle-school age.  There is enough shite in DC to not have to listen to more of it coming from my complaining kids' mouths.

Next year, though, we'll probably just go to Hilton Head, SC.  All of us love the ocean, but G, especially, loves being in the waves.

My parents always talked about taking me and my brother to a dude ranch when we were kids, but we never did.  I'm not sure why.  My parents made the mistake of listening to what my brother and I said sometimes, so when we complained about the prospect, they might have heeded our fussing.  They never did this when we complained about going to church, so I suspect a dude ranch wasn't a top priority for them.

On my personal list of places to see is the following:

Key West, FL (the tentative plan is for me and D to go here next year for our 20th anniversary--hence the reason we'll just head to the beach with the kids for a "simple" vacation.)

Maine (Arcadia National Park)
Quebec, Canada
Africa (on safari)
Yellowstone National Park

Talking about travel is one of my absolute favorite things to do if I can't actually be traveling.