Yay for Washington State!

We are living in a curious place in history. Ultimately, I believe that we, as a nation, will move toward the humane policies of countries like Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands. I believe we will catch up to the other nations of the world in terms of humanitarian ideals, economic and social policies, and healthcare. That’s the beauty of life; we’re always learning and growing and changing, both individually and as a society. I do think human beings are inherently social creatures who thrive on community and kindness, and I do have faith in the inherent desire of our species to survive (for which we need our communities).
But at this moment in time, U.S. citizens live in a nation that is caught in a transformative struggle. Consider not simply our economic situation, but several social themes that are sweeping the nation:
  • The atheist movement. Atheism, agnosticism, and generic non-involvement in religion are rising yearly as more and more people become disaffected with the hypocrisies and problems in religious institutions and feel there must be a more effective, efficient, and honest secular alternative to what has been traditionally deemed religious territories (charities, community, etc.).
  • The feminist movement, which had been wrestled into a kind of submission by the double prongs of demonizing feminist women as “femnazi’s,” while simultaneously perpetuating the myth that women had “won” and now enjoyed equal rights to men, has begun to reassert itself. This movement, a slumbering giant that had been considered a relic of our grandmother’s generation by many, has been reawoken by hard-right-wing attacks on women’s health care providers (like Planned Parenthood), women’s access to contraception, and proposed legislation that would allow the government to require women to submit to invasive and potentially traumatizing (especially for victims of rape) procedures prior to getting an abortion.
  • The LGBT civil rights movement, which is premised on nothing more than the apparently radical belief that individuals have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that who they love should not strip away their basic rights and opportunities as American citizens.
  • The Internet Rights movement. This is of particular interest to me, because the internet is an entirely unique in the annals of human history. We are blundering in the dark here. We compare internet legislation to past groundbreaking innovations, such as the printing press, recorded music, and motion pictures — but this is so much more. The internet is a revolution in how we communicate; a tool that is so revolutionary that I don’t think we, as a species, will fully understand it’s transformative impact until we have several decades of retrospect.
I would say centuries, but the internet has changed even the way we view history. Once upon a time, history was a story that each generation added upon; stories sung and chanted and shared and altered slightly to the storytellers personality. It was about sharing larger, experienced human truths. We began to record our shared stories in written manuscripts, which were carefully copied and passed down by philosophers and monks in monasteries. We also recorded and shared our histories in artwork and music. This recording of history marks the beginning of a slow transition from a shared and immediate verbal history to a more linear, factual progression.
With the advent of the printing press, the recording and distribution of linear history began to speed up. It still was still (objectively) slow, and not widely accessible, but the larger historical events were definitely being marked in a linear, progressive fashion. However, the small stories were often lost, either to time itself or due to commoners not having the education to record their experiences. History tripped on, and education began to become more democratic. Farm boys learned to read and write at their mother’s knee, and when they grew up and went to war, their experiences were recorded in letters and journals that ultimately gave us a snapshot of history in a more personalized, immediate way.
Even so, the access to these letters and journals was still limited to traditional means. When film (and later, TV) were introduced, our timelines sped up a little more, from a weeky or daily newspaper to first a daily news broadcast, then news broadcasts in the morning and evening, and then 24-hour news networks. As recently as 1990, if you wanted to hear the Presidential address, you needed to tune in or set your VCR to record. If you wanted to learn about the the origin of the myth of Robin Hood, or whether drummer boys actually fought in the Civil War, you had to go to the library and find what you wanted. You needed to hope they had the info in stock, or wait for it to arrive via snail mail.
Then, the internet was introduced and made accessible to the general public. Now, we have access to all of linear history, all the personalized “larger truth” history, and we are actually in the progress of making history. The internet has made a slim, controlled trickle of available information into a raging torrent of river that is carving through the course of human history to create an entirely new landscape in how we learn and interact. We now experience in one moment the linear factual progression of historical events while at the same time preserving our real-time experiences of the shared-story/ larger truth version. Don’t believe me? Think about this: We have a curious ability, us humans, to forget things that embarrass us and make us uncomfortable. We’ve all done it, both on individual and on social scales.
People often wonder how the Germans could have turned a blind eye to the concentration camps just outside of town; how the Americans could have blithely pretended nothing was wrong as we rounded up future American icons like George Takei and put them in internment camps. We like to tell ourselves we would stand up against such obvious wrongs, that we would be modern-day Miep Gies’ and protect the frightened Anne Franks of the world.
What if the internet had been around? What if YouTube videos had shown those starved, tortured Holocaust victims? What if Wikileaks had released documents detailing the Mengele experiments? What if news blogs had run pictures of the pits and mounds of skeletal corpses? Would the U.S. have waited a full two years to get involved? Would the German citizenry have been able to continue to turn a blind eye? Would America have made it’s own colossal (and largely ignored, when considered next to the concentration camps) stumble of rounding up American citizens for unconstitutional detainment? How would the everyday defenders and promoters of those activities — the neighbors, the classmates, the co-workers who were either silent or actively participated in rounding up the “undesirables” — how would they feel to have the arguments they made, the defenses they mouthed, preserved for all time in video or blog format on the internet, for future generations to look at and say, “That’s how they justified their bigotry? That?”
It’s so easy for us, with the 20/20 vision of linear history laid out before us, to say we wouldn’t be so short-sighted. But it’s also false, and the internet is, day by day, collecting our short-sightedness so that it can be compared to linear history. A few decades from now, when so-called “Obamacare” is the norm and our children and grandchildren will have grown up knowing their healthcare is guaranteed regardless of employment status; when homosexuals will have been marrying and raising families and serving in the military for decades; when the GOP will have either completely imploded or managed to somehow reinvent itself — we as a nation will have to look back on our collective, recorded insanity.
And many will have to admit, with extreme discomfort, that they were the “bad guys” in this historical tale. Even worse for them, they will not be nameless, faceless “bad guys.” There will be no wondering of what sort of person could stand idly by, or even actively encourage bigotry and cheer for a government that perpetuates it. Their faces are recorded for posterity in YouTube videos; their names are recorded next to FB statuses that proudly proclaim their bigotry.
T-shirt here.
I got to thinking about all this today because Washington State has quietly proposed a bill that will require all healthcare plans to cover abortion services. This is especially happy to hear in a political climate where we are bombarded with variety of ways the GOP and their radically conservative evangelical base are attempting to strip women of healthcare access and personal rights. The most stunning of these proposed legislations is, obviously, the attempts by Virginia and Minnesota to require the government to literally f*ck women.
Washington State has a history of recognizing moral grey areas, and legislating in a secular, fair manner to protect the rights of everyone, not just a minority. Ironically, I think this pointed fairness has arisen, in part, from Washington State’s role in the Japanese internment camps. I remember when, as a child, I learned that my beloved Puyallup Fairgrounds had not so long ago housed Japanese citizens who had been forcibly removed from their homes and had all their personal belongings confiscated (and, often, destroyed). I think in a sense, Washington State is striving to not only remember this huge blot on our history, but to make up for it by erring on the side of protecting civil rights (hence our slow transition into becoming the Netherlands of America — which I am not in any way complaining about!).
Anyway, the proposed law is pretty basic. Apparently, Obama’s national healthcare plan requires each state to come up with a basic list of healthcare coverage requirements by choosing from among the most-commonly used insurance plans in-state. Washington state has chosen the “Regent BlueShield Innova” plan, which covers abortion services, ergo, all healthcare coverage in Washington state would be required to provide abortion coverage as part of the basic package. Part of the reason this plan was chosen is because some policy-makers fear that, due to difficulties and vagueness in the Federal plan regarding abortion services, healthcare plans will simply opt not to provide abortion services at all if active steps are not taken to protect coverage of it.
This is one of those times when I feel really, really proud to be a Washington citizen. I know it’s not even close to being a law yet; it’s a proposed bill that hasn’t even been voted on, let alone passed. But the fact is, Washington wants to protect women’s healthcare rights and is actually proposing a bill to do so. In a news cycle that is currently dominated with headlines blaring the latest uber-conservative attempt to strip women of healthcare access, this local news from my state capitol feels like a refreshing oasis of cool sanity.

introverted =/= depression

Well, I’ve been weirdly busy lately, but in an odd schedule. Fits and starts, really. I signed up with the school’s PTSA, and am volunteering on a committee for an upcoming activity. I went to the local University that I hope to attend and spoke with an adviser about my education plans, then I filled out my FAFSA and the college application. I helped John fix our new car. I’ve been working on my writing more, having set an every-other day reminder. In between, I do the usual household chores, cooking, and parenting. Oh, and it’s been 9 days since my last cigarette.
Oddly, I haven’t felt like talking to anyone really. I can’t say I’m depressed, because I have energy and I’m doing stuff. I just don’t feel like talking to anyone. Yesterday I realized that it’s been a month or so since I initiated contact with any friends or family, so even thought I didn’t actually have anything to talk about, I tried calling a couple friends and each of my siblings. It ended up that only one friend was available to talk, though, so I ended up not having to struggle to come up with something to converse about.
Sometimes I feel like there’s a real tendency in our society to equate introversion with depression and loneliness. As the years go by and I become more comfortable with who I am, I’ve realized and accepted that I am an introvert, and that’s okay. I like parties/ social gatherings . . . but in small, controlled doses. Few people. Finite amounts of time. I like to talk with friends, but in spaced-out distances. Whenever I start feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I respond by pulling away from most human interaction. I like people, I just don’t like to deal with my stress and other people at the same time. When my normal schedule is shaken up by either John or Kidling’s schedule changing, I respond by limiting my outside social interactions in order to limit my stress levels.
I’ve also come to realize that this behavior has been erroneously tagged as depression in my social and familial circles, and that a large part of the stress and concern I feel over this behavior is my tendency to equate it with depression and mental illness. It’s only in the past year or so that I’ve come to not just realize, but fully accept that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being introverted, even if our society does tend to idolize popular, extroverted people as the desired norm.

Retrospective: 10 years of parenting (part III)

This is the final post in a 3-part series inspired by Kidling’s birthday. I was a bit slow in updating basically because I’ve been kind of . . . I dunno. Apathetic, I guess, for the past week or so. Feeling sort of uninspired, uninteresting. Like I have nothing to contribute to the conversation.

Anyway, here’s the 3rd piece of parenting advice, although this is applicable to life in general. Actually, now that I think of it, all three pieces of advice can be considered applicable to life in general:

  • This too shall pass.
My mom used to say this all the time when things were tough. It’s a really, really good piece of wisdom to hang onto. There have been times when it’s raining out, and it feels like the entire world is grey and awful and always has been and always will be. Times when I can barely remember the warmth of sunshine or a bright blue sky, but I remember what mom and experience taught me — This too shall pass.

Sitting on mom’s lap

This doesn’t just apply to the bad times — it doesn’t just apply to diapers that stink to high hell or fighting siblings or a teenager screaming that she hates you. It doesn’t just apply to a kid talking back or a string of bad report cards. This applies to the good times, too. This too shall pass, I have learned — though my mom (kindly) never pointed it out — also applies to things like a stretch of sunny days, or to sticky-sweet toddler kisses, or to the soft fresh-powdered scent of a newly-bathed 4 month old.

This too shall pass is the handiest wisdom I know. When the world is tearing apart around or inside me, I keep telling myself that no matter how impossible it seems, this too shall pass. Horrible, heartbreaking things have happened in my life, and I’ve come out the other side and been able to look back and learn from it all — and that is life. That’s the way it works. Bad times do pass, even if it seems impossible in the midst of them. There have been times when only the knowledge — the intellectual realization, not even the emotional, visceral realization — that this too shall pass is what kept me going. There have been times when I’ve had to remind myself that I’ve survived worse and been happy again.

Bright times ahead.

But I try to remember it, too, when life is sweet. To remind myself to savor the smiles, to relax and let go of irritations and frustrations. Because this too shall pass. I adore my husband and my son, and nothing terrifies me more than the possibility that I may lose them. But life is fickle and unpredictable, and ever since my mom died, I dwell on that fear. I don’t fear my own death — I fear loss. I fear the loss of those I love. As a result of that, I savor the good times all the more, because life is terrifying and unpredictable, and there’s nothing I can do about that. But I can collect and save the good memories, the happy times, the smiles and joys and laughter, the stories of our lives. So I do.

Bus stop mornings.

. . . Hey, look at that. This entry was vaguely depressing, too. This is why I don’t like to write in this mood — I’m not quite depressed, at least not according to the clinical definition or what my mom experienced, but I’m definitely trending toward a sort of morbid optimism. Or maybe it’s a bright pessimism. All I know is, it’s the sort of talk that makes conversations fall silent and people look at me with a sort of confused concern.

Part 1 and Part 2 through the linkys, as well as the original Hubpage I wrote that inspired this series of posts.

new (to us) car day!

I would totally post part III of that parenting/ advice/ retrospective thingy, except we went out and bought a new (old) car today and I am friggin’ exhausted.

The car was up to Shoreline, which is a . . . bit of a distance. Past Seattle. An hour and a half drive or so from where we are. Our mechanic friend who’s all knowledgeable about cars and stuff helped me check it over and figure stuff out, too. The guy selling it to us was very open and honest about any cons regarding the car. After an hour or so of a very thorough checking-over, we decided it would work for us. A price was agreed upon, papers were signed, money exchanged.
I hopped into the car and began heading home . . . in rush hour traffic. Through Seattle. It sucked, all stop and go. Night was falling, the headlights and taillights were bright, my eyes were hurting, and it’s been so long since I’ve driven an automatic that I wasn’t 100% sure if I was doing it right (I normally drive manuals, and believe it or not, automatics are strange to me — why do they have a “2” and “1” option if you’re not supposed to use them?!?). On top of that, I couldn’t fucking remember where the headlights switch normally was.
I was freaking; stressed and starting to shake from a very mild panic attack. So I pulled over in Kent, thinking I’d go pee and grab a coffee. But I turned the wrong way on Military Road and ended up going down this long, mostly-empty stretch of road with no coffee shops in sight. And then the car died.
The lights all flickered out, and the engine slowed and coughed and slowed some more. I kept pressing on the gas, and nothing doing. It just didn’t want to go, let alone speed up. So I pulled over in a neighborhood and parked it, then called our mechanic buddy again.
It was determined that it was the one thing left unchecked — the alternator. And for some reason, there was a deep cycle marine battery in the car instead of the proper type of battery. Long story short, a new battery was acquired and the car started again. From there, the alternator should have been checked before continuing home, but I was tired and my back hurt and it was already super-late, past Kidling’s bedtime. So I decided to have the alternator checked tomorrow, and headed home.

It’s the end of a very, very long day. I’m exhausted. As of the writing of this entry, it’s 45 minutes past Kidling’s bedtime, on a school night, and I was so tired when we got home that I just ordered a pizza instead of fixing something. So he hasn’t even eaten dinner yet. None of us have. Therefore, I will be writing the next entry on parenting tomorrow, because sometimes life just throws you unexpected curve balls and you have to deal with them.

Oh, and here’s a little ditty I made up to help me find my way home from Shoreline:

South, south, south, go south!
Shoreline to Seattle, Seattle onto Kent
south, south, south, go south!
Kent onto Tacoma, then onto Lakewood
south, south, south go south!
Lakewood to DuPont, and then you’re nearly there
south, south, south, go south!
Yay for the interstate!

Retrospective: 10 years of parenthood (part II)

This is a continuation of yesterday’s post, which will be a three-parter. The second piece of general parenting advice I feel comfortable offering to prospective parents is, like the first piece, fairly simple:
  • None of us know what we’re doing. What matters is the effort, not the knowledge.
Sadly, it took me a few years to realize this important piece of wisdom. As a new mom, I felt like a constant failure to my son. All the advice I was getting — from parenting magazines, books, websites, medical professionals, in-laws, and church members — said I was doing it wrong, and I needed to change. No matter which way I looked or turned, it felt like someone was giving me different advice and telling me why whatever I was currently doing was wrong, wrong, wrong.
My own mom was sick throughout my son’s infancy and died a few months before his 2nd birthday. I used to call her, asking for advice or just wondering if this or that was normal, and she’d respond with a listless, “I don’t know.”
I’m not complaining, because it wasn’t her fault. Her lack of helpfulness was not an intentional choice; it was purely a result of the illness and in no way a normal response for her. I’m just mentioning this because the one person I’d always imagined I would be able to count on for wise, knowledgeable, and patient parenting advice was rendered incapable right when I tried to call on her. Unfortunately, my dad was no substitute — he was a great dad, but he simply didn’t know the answers to those day-to-day questions: Dad, how old were my brothers when they potty-trained? Dad, when did I say my first word? Dad, how do you teach a boy to pee in the toilet? Dad, how old was I when I first got chicken pox? 
It’s a terrifying prospect to think of failing this guy.

Turns out, dad doesn’t know the answer to any of those questions. He has funny stories relating to each of those questions, but he doesn’t actually know the answer to those questions — mom had handled the day-to-day details of child-raising, and she was the one who had known and recorded such things as first steps, first words, potty training milestones, and chicken pox sick days. Dad simply could not provide the necessary information for me to combine the data of myself and my 4 siblings into any sort of baseline for Kidling’s behavior.

On top of the difficulty regarding my parenting knowledge (or lack thereof), I suffered from serious post-partum depression after my son was born. I took care of him, because I knew I was supposed to and I felt fond of him, but I didn’t feel that deep, maternal, emotional bond that everyone claims you’re supposed to feel immediately. I felt confused and worried and scared when I held my son — worried that I didn’t feel a deep emotional bond, scared at my lack of experience and knowledge, and confused in general. Everything was so foreign, and I felt so completely and utterly alone. After my mom died, my depression became even worse.
To add to this, my husband and I were going through some relationship issues. Not surprising, given the situation — we were beset by financial issues, with only one breadwinner in the home; the usual new-parent conflicts; and stresses for both of us in relating to our new in-laws. Added to all those issues were my post-partum depression and grief from losing my mom, and the fact that we were still newlyweds — we hadn’t even figured out how to properly communicate within a relationship as partners, let alone as parents.
We had been married 5 years and parents for 4 when we separated, in July or August (can’t quite remember which) of 2006. By this time, I was so utterly convinced that my family’s history of mental illness and my own struggles with post-partum depression and grief made me an unsuitable parent that I didn’t argue when John told me his parents had advised him to seek primary custody and were flying his sister out to help him take care of our son. I agreed. I felt they were right, that I was an awful mom who could only cause problems in my son’s life and development. From the reports I received in the immediate weeks after I moved out, things improved drastically with my absence. Kidling was better off without me, under the care of his aunt and father.
I began working on putting my life back together. I found a studio apartment, applied for food stamps and welfare, and began looking for a job — a daunting prospect, given that we lived in a low-income area, I had no transportation, minimal job experience (and none within the previous 4 years), and only a high school education. So I decided to start working toward my college degree. Meanwhile, my dad and sisters were urging me not to give up my parenting rights so easily, and in a neat dovetail, John’s sister began working at a local retail outlet. They needed the occasional sitter for Kidling, and I happened to be both available and free of charge. So I began watching Kidling about once a week, in the beginning. It quickly became twice, then three or four times a week. This is when I discovered something amazing: Kidling thought I was a good mom.
Kidling took this picture of me on
one of our many walks that autumn.

It didn’t matter that I suffered from depression or that I was confused about all the conflicting information on potty training and video games. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have a t.v. in my new place, or that all the toys I bought for him were from a second-hand store instead of shiny and new. It didn’t matter that I had to sleep on the floor while he slept in my daybed. None of that mattered to him — what mattered was that I was there, and I loved him. That I took him on bus rides and walks, that we spent time at the library and painted together and read together and cooked together.

For the first time, my refusal to let him have soda pop or stay up late didn’t matter. It didn’t matter if anyone else felt I was overprotective for not letting him climb too high in the jungle gym, or too strict for enforcing an 8:30 bedtime every night. For the first time, no-one else was there to tell me I was doing it wrong, and for the first time I realized that the only people whose opinion mattered were mine and Kidling’s — and later, when John and I resolved our issues, his.
I realized all the reasons I thought I was a bad mom were stupid — maybe if I’d been leaving my son behind nearly every night to go drink and dance at bars and cheat on my husband, then yeah, the judgment would have been valid. Maybe if I’d been smoking pot, showing up stoned to birthday parties and family events, then the criticism would have been valid. Maybe if I’d been a strung-out crack addict druggie with needles and a meth lab, or an abusive mom who slapped and pinched and hit her kid, then yes — criticisms of my parenting skills or lack thereof all would have been valid.
But I was none of those. I was simply inexperienced and fumbling in the dark, trying my hardest and being told by everyone other than my husband and son that I was a failure. My greatest failure as a parent was not listening to those who mattered most.

That’s who.

I approached my husband in early December with the modified child custody paperwork. For the first time in months, we spent time together with just the two of us, then time together with our son, and by Christmas we had decided to give our marriage (and family) another shot.

I can’t regret the separation, because it taught me some very useful things about myself as a person, as a mother, and even as a wife. I had been trying too hard to be what I thought other people wanted — not who my son and my husband and I needed. I had been trying to juggle all these balls of societal and religious and familial expectation, and in the process I’d been neglecting the only ones who mattered — my son and my husband. My family. I only regret that it took a separation to figure this out — if we had been able to learn that lesson earlier, it would have saved all of us quite a bit of grief.
So any new parents out there — if you find yourself scrambling to please everyone, stop and take a deep, deep breath. Look at the ones who matter — your spouse, your children. Block out all the other voices — grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, church members, mom group participants — and listen to what your children and partner are telling you. Because if you’re trying, really trying, and giving it your best shot, the people who matter most will know and appreciate it.

This guy.
And this guy.

Retrospective: 10 years of parenthood

Being a parent is no easy task. It’s one that comes with a lot of self-doubt and stumbling, and a lot of societal judgement. Someone always has something to say about some aspect of it all, and if you’re really, really lucky, you’ll have at least one person (hopefully your partner!) in your corner, supporting you and being an active decision-maker and participant.

Unfortunately, more often than not, parenting in the 21st century can feel like a very lonely place. Even when you join mom groups or turn to church or family members, the self-doubt is there, shuddering beneath every conversation as you jiggle your darling, snub-nosed newborn with petal-soft skin and listen to the other moms debate buying vs. making baby food, or cloth diapers vs. disposable, or breast vs. bottle, or attachment vs. authoritarian parenting. Everyone has an opinion, and once your pregnancy starts showing, everyone feels it’s their right to share their opinion.

Over the past 10 years of being a mom, I’ve learned many truths about myself, my son, and our family. But when asked for parenting advice, or when complimented on my son’s manners and asked, “How do you do it?” I just smile blankly and politely. So I’ve come up with the three most useful yet generic pieces of parenting advice I feel comfortable offering to prospective parents, and in honor of a decade of motherhood, I’ve decided to do so:

Expect the Unexpected.

I was married for one month when I became pregnant. Less than that, actually — possibly only a week, or even pregnant at the alter. We were married in the last week of April, and I found out I was almost 2 months along in mid-June. It was, to say the least, somewhat unexpected. We hadn’t actually talked about children; how many we wanted or what our parenting style would be.

Back then, I thought I would have lots of kids — at least 5, like my mom. Preferably a nice round dozen. Much of my spare money in my teen years had been earned through babysitting jobs, and I liked to volunteer in Primary at church. I did a lot of tutoring the younger grades in school, and in general was considered by the adults around me to be a helpful “mothering type.” My mom attributed my endless collection of stray animals and shiftless, directionless boyfriends as yet another expression of my apparently innate caretaker/ mothering abilities. So I just figured this whole parenting thing would be natural and easy. I mean, I had a vague inkling that full-time parenting was more difficult, but I had no idea how fully unprepared I really was.

Now, doing it “right” starts the moment you find out you’re pregnant — or, more accurately, being told you’re “doing it wrong” starts the moment you tell people you’re pregnant. That’s when the questions and implied judgment start. Believe it or not, I had people who became irate with me because I didn’t want to find out the gender of my child. They felt this was simply irresponsible and selfish of my husband and I. Then there were the various types of childbirth, and everyone had an opinion and experience to share.

I wanted to do it the “right” way. The “right” way, I thought back then, was a natural birth attended by a doula. I was even tilting toward a water birth. In the end though, I developed gestational diabetes, and was induced early. There were problems during labor, and they ended up doing an emergency c-section. The funny thing is, I’d been worrying about getting a c-section throughout my entire pregnancy, and been continually reassured by everyone from my husband to my doula to my doctor that I was fine and would have a normal delivery.

This whole ordeal was the first experience I had in realizing that being a parent is never as cut-and-dry as those shiny parenting magazines and soothing What to Expect . . . books try to sell you. It’s messy and surprising and full of unexpected detours. This has been the most oft-repeated lesson of motherhood, for me. I like to plan things out, to know what’s coming, to know what to plan for. Being a mom . . . well, by the time he was a year old, I’d adopted the Boy Scout Motto, amended slightly: Be prepared for anything.

. . . cont. tomorrow with Lesson #2.

This is also moved from my hubpages account, and significantly altered/ edited for the blog. I’ve also decided to chop the single (long) hub article into 3 separate yet related blog entries. The hub is here.

Happy 10 years!

This Saturday was Kidling’s 10th birthday party, and today was his actual birthday. Saturday is kind of ideal for school-age parties, though. He’s growing up so fast, it breaks my heart a little bit.
Holiday Season, 2002
Summer, 2011
We decided to hold it at Chuck E Cheeses again (second year in a row). Last year, we did it at Chuck E Cheese because I was told that Centralia was too far to drive for a birthday party by Kidling’s former Aunt. So we re-arranged the party to Chuck E Cheeses, since Kidling was really excited about his cousin coming. I was surprised to find that Chuck E Cheeses is . . . not that bad. Not fantastic, but not that bad.This year, I was leaning toward a party here at home, but given the neighborhood situation, I felt it was safer/ wiser to hold it at a different location. Hopefully next year we’ll be able to enjoy a proper party at home again. I miss making those cakes-on-demand, like the Halo Pelican ship-cake I made for his 8th birthday.

Anyway. So we did it at Chuck E. Cheeses. He had 5 planned guests total, including himself. We’d had a list of 8 invitees, and sent out invitations with RSVP dates on them. The party ended up with a few more than that, so all told, the attendees comprised 17 people total:

  • Kidling
  • 4 party guests (kids)
  • 1 party guest sibling
  • 2 cousins of Kidling (too young to be guests)
  • 8 parents (guests: 1 mom, 1 mom/dad couple, 1 dad; Kidling: John and I; cousins: Sil & Bil)
  • 1 grandparent

So . . . we had the 5 planned kid guests paid for, no problem there. I ordered an extra goodie bag for the  young cousin, but I hadn’t been aware a sibling of a guest was coming, or I would’ve gladly included her in the token/ goodie bag guest category. I offered, but the parents said it was unnecessary. I’d expected 4 adults (John, myself, in-laws) and possibly more, so I’d already ordered a sampler platter, just in case. So overall, the unexpected arrivals didn’t cause any issue.

I was also pleased and surprised that Kidling’s grandma was able to make it into town for his birthday for the first time since his 2nd birthday. As a long haul trucker, she doesn’t get the opportunity to come into town often, so this was an unusual surprise. On the negative side (but not unexpected side), my nephew and brother were unable to make it, so that sucked.

The kids are pretty cool. They are all school friend’s of Kidlings, and many are in the after-school program or track with him. One, I discovered, is LDS and his mom used to be in Lacey 4th Ward growing up. Another, I learned, has a dad in the military — his dad works at Joint Base Lewis McChord (where my brother does) and plays hockey. And yet another has an awesomely geeky dad who discussed Pokemon tournaments, Star Wars-themed weddings, and Firefly with me. These things are kind of nice because while the kids run off and play, the parents tend to stay around the table and talk, and it was nice to meet with other adults for a bit and hang out.

John and I had bought several small, mostly inexpensive gifts for Kidling, which we wrapped and put in a bag. The gifts were:

x-box 360 LIVE 12-month gift card
w/ MW3 Beanie
Call of Duty: MW3

He was super excited about all this, and has been wearing the beanie nonstop. The LIVE card was really for the family as a whole, so we could all watch Netflix streaming on our x-box 360, and the last active LIVE account we’d had was about to expire. Everything else was all for him, though. He hasn’t taken the MW3 Beanie off since he got it. From his Aunt and Uncle, he got the game Gears of War 3:

For the x-box 360!

His grandma gave him a plastic helicoptery thing; you throw it in the air and it goes up like 300 ft, then swirls back down. Unfortunately, I can’t find an image of it online. She also gave him a wood model kit to make a motorcycle model, which will be fun for John and Kidling. From his friends, he also got some pretty awesome stuff, namely:

Pokemon Card Set
Nerf Vortex Blaster
$10, except unlike this image, both bills are real.
3-pack Star Wars Puzzle Set

He was actually double-gifted the Nerf Blaster, which was pretty neat because (let’s face it), one lone Nerf gun isn’t the best recipe for fun ‘n friendly times. Two, however, begets Nerf wars and fun times. So although the parents seemed a little embarrassed that their gift had been duplicated, I was just pleased as punch, myself. So that was Saturday.

Sunday, we ran around the house and had Nerf wars (it was Superbowl Sunday, so everyone else was doing some sort of football celebration stuff), then went on a rollerblade (me)/ razor scooter (Kidling)/ run (John) over to get the boys hair cut. They both look excellently awesome now, and this time I actually remembered to do before and after pictures, which is fun.

Today was Kidling’s actual birthday. We were going to go out to dinner as a family at Red Robin, but we’ve decided to put that off until we get a car, which should be any day now. So instead, I packed Kidling a special school lunch and let him buy breakfast at the school as a treat. After he arrived home from school, he took his Nerf guns over to a friends house and played there for an hour or so. Then John walked over and picked up some Papa Murphy’s pizza as a birthday dinner treat while Kidling and I did his homework. After dinner, we watched some t.v. and put together his Star Wars Puzzles.

Part of his homework is 10 minutes of writing, which he reads out loud to me every night when he finishes it. Lately, his writing has turned toward the journalistic, and today’s entry was totally cute — apparently they sang “Happy Birthday” to him on the school bus, which I thought was just sweetness and a half. All told, it was a very laid-back, cool day, and I was kind of pleasantly surprised at how well everything went.


I saw something today that made me feel a little sick and sad inside. We were standing in line at the grocery store, and there was a family, about our size, just ahead of us. The mom was short, and a little overweight. She held a small, chubby blond toddler on her hip, and bouncing around her feet was another kid, about a year or so older than the one on her hip. Her husband, much taller and also massively overweight, was making fun of her for looking at a magazine — saying she hadn’t even graduated high school and she didn’t like reading anyway. She hadn’t even asked to buy it; he’d just caught her looking at it.
I’m sure he thought it was ‘just teasing’ and would say she was ‘too sensitive’ if she complained. The little boy around her legs got in on it, a little bit, piping up with something about how he had to read his own bedtime stories, to the approving laughter of the dad.
It made me feel really sad and lonely that there are people out there like this, families like this. It made me want to cry, because relationships and families should be about love and respect and not crossing boundaries like that. Kids shouldn’t learn to disrespect their parents from their parents. Teasing is okay, but only if it stays teasing; friendly, fun, with everyone in on the joke. Once it crosses to genuinely hurt feelings — once those hurt feelings are repeatedly ignored — it’s not funny anymore. It’s not a shared joke. It’s mockery, plain and simple. It’s targeting areas of weakness in someone else order to make oneself feel superior. And it’s not okay.
I wonder how that family will turn out. I wonder if that poor mom will leave him, or if she’ll stay and get ground down over the years under his constant ‘teasing’, him always bringing up her flaws and mistakes without ever seeming to recognize the emotional abuse this entails. I wonder if those children will grow up to think it’s normal, and treat their own spouses like that, and teach their own children that behavior in relating to people.
I wonder where the cycle of emotional abuse ends, or if it can end — can someone raised to think this is normal, acceptable behavior ever change their communication patterns and reach a place where they don’t automatically revert to it in times of stress or anger? Do apologies ever happen, behind closed doors or as public admissions of failure to be a supportive partner? Is it possible to really love someone if you can’t speak kindly of them?

Amazon is killing the bookstore

I’ve been against Amazon for years. Anyone who’s spoken with me for 10 seconds or less about Amazon’s bookselling policies, the Kindle, or their treatment of authors and publishers knows how I feel about them. I’m not exactly subtle in my distaste for Amazon’s strong-arm policies or their desire to kill the traditional book and bookstores altogether.
But I’m also aware I can come off a little evangelical, a little too much end-of-the world (or, more appropriately, physical book). I’m aware that for people who are more interested in the low prices than the ethics or morals of Amazon’s author treatment; or people who don’t realize how important the publishing companies model still is for new authors who are trying to break in to the business, to get recognized, that I appear too harsh. Amazon cannot offer the package deal — the editing, artwork, advertising, pay advances, and endorsements — that established publishing do. It’s simply not enough to tell new authors to self-publish, it does not recognize the complexities of the situation or that traditional publishing companies are not the only victims of Amazon’s behavior.
I met Sarah Rees Brennan, a new author, at Powell Books’ Wordstock in Portland, OR.
I heard about Scott Westerfeld through Sarah Rees Brennan.
And was introduced to the wonder and beauty that is
Laini Taylor (a local author!) through Wordstock.
Which is promoted and funded through Powell Books.
It’s not as simple as write book, publish book. There are steps in between, even for e-books — editing and re-writes, proper formatting of the filetypes, and advertising/ awareness. I know that I can be off-putting to people who don’t necessarily care about what goes into actually getting a good book out and available; only that they pay what they feel is an okay price.
Well, the writing on the wall, my wild-eyed Cassandra-esque warnings from way back when I first comprehended Amazon’s business model (well before the first Kindle) are coming true, and I’m not the only one noticing it.
New York Times is writing about how Amazon wants to kill the bookstore, and while B&N is putting up a good fight, nothing is certain. The Author’s Guild outlines the backstory of Amazon’s strong-arm tactics; their bullying of publishing companies and authors alike, and how they became a monopoly. Even Writer’s Beware Blogs has featured Amazon’s KDP program, with it’s non-competition clause that prevents enrolled authors from selling their books elsewhere; Amazon’s habit of underpricing books to the detriment of authors and their publishers; and Amazon’s decision to ignore publishing companies wishes and illegally enroll their books in their Lending Program without permission.
This is a horrible, unethical company. I’m not against e-readers — I love my Nook Simple Touch, as everyone who spends half a minute in my company knows — I’m against Amazon, specifically. I hope more people start reading the news and listening to what’s going on, and I hope more people get the key points that can be summed up from all this information:
  • Buy a Nook, save the books. Barnes and Noble wants to save the bookstore. They are offering competitive, great tech in their e-readers, and are taking over more market share of e-books every day in their quest to save books and bookstores. Buying a Nook is a tangible step we can take toward saving bookstores, while buying a Kindle is a choice to help kill the bookstore.
  • Amazon is bad for authors. The publishing industry sucks and needs to change, yes. But as bad as they are, they are not as bad for new authors trying to break into the field as Amazon is. Amazon consistently undercuts author’s prices, rights, and selling choices.
  • Amazon is an unethical bully. Amazon is a monopoly, and they wield their economic clout with crude, bullying tactics that negatively affect everyone, including their customers — don’t forget when Amazon illegally sold digital copies of 1984, and when they were challenged, pulled every copy (remotely) off their customer’s devices . . . and only reimbursed them when the outcry started. Amazon is still pulling this illegal type of shit — they rolled out their illegal Lending Library in November 2011.
Readers and writers need to educate themselves and be aware. Move away from the Kindle. If the Nook is too expensive for you, there are other great readers out there — the Kobo, the Sony, or the iRiver Story. Yes, I’m personally a Nook fan, because I own a Nook and I’ve followed their company and I’m an aspiring technie nerd, so I know how well-regarded their tech is. But if you care about books, about quality literature and bookstores and authors — the all-necessary content creators — if you care about these things, then here’s the deal: Literally any e-reader is better for the industry than the Kindle and Amazon.