This Is How It Works

We don’t exactly like our neighbor. She doesn’t exactly like us. She’ll only ever talk to my dog and my mother-in-law. She ignores us when we wave at her as we walk or drive by. She likes to burn lawn debris when I’m outside with the kids and blow the leaves out of her driveway at 9 at night.

But she told my mother-in-law while she was out with my kids today that her husband had just passed away two days ago. She doesn’t have any family to speak of, and I find it hard to believe that she has many friends. So I have a condolence apple-cranberry cobbler in the oven to take over to her this evening.

I do this because this is The South and that’s how it works down here. We don’t let the grieving go hungry. Ever. But more than that, it’s the right thing to do, the nice thing to do.

Because you don’t have to like somebody to be nice to them. Because it’s especially important to be nice to somebody when you don’t like them. Just let that one marinate for a little while.

Then, Suddenly, Crohn’s Disease

I was planning on making the boys’ costumes for Halloween today. I even started making them. And then, suddenly, Crohn’s Disease.

Some days, I hate my body. Not in the way that a typical 28-year-old woman might hate her body for not being slim or supple enough, but in the sullen, resentful way that a person might hate another for some sort of betrayal. Because it’s not easy or fun to live in a body that you can’t trust to do what it’s supposed to do.

Before we get any further today, I’d like to direct your attention here. That link will take you to the Spoon Theory, which is probably the closest to the unified field theory that the chronically ill have. If you have the time, read it, because it’s excellent, and then skip to the next paragraph here. If you don’t, I’ll briefly summarize. Suppose you have a certain number of spoons. For our purposes, and for the sake of continuity, we’ll say you have 12. 12 spoons. Everything you do in any given day costs you X spoons. And I mean everything. Showering, brushing your teeth, eating meals, cooking, cleaning, even sitting at a computer working, these each cost spoons. Simple things like getting dressed only cost one spoon. More complicated tasks like cleaning your bathroom can cost multiple spoons, depending on how thorough a job you do of it. It is almost impossible to gain more spoons over the course of the day. Some days you start out with more spoons than others, but you can’t just assume that you’re going to have more spoons tomorrow because you probably won’t. Don’t have a spoon to spare for washing dishes? Too damn bad. Dishes don’t get washed.

The point of the Spoon Theory is that most people, healthy people, have no idea what it is to have a such a low limit to the number of spoons they have. Most healthy people have spoons to spare.

The Spoon Theory author has Lupus and as such uses it as the example, but this theory applies to pretty much everyone with chronic conditions. Me? I have Crohn’s Disease which effects the digestive tract. Not only do I have to mind all the things that I do, but all the things that I eat. It all costs me something. Maybe that salad is “better” for me than the cheeseburger, but it’ll make my guts cramp something awful and send me running to the bathroom in fairly short order (how severe either of those effects is depends on how well I’ve been doing).  And both of those things, the stomach pains and the bathroom sprints, cost spoons. So, which do I choose?

It’s just super-exhausting to be sick. So if we show up to trick-or-treat this year and the kids are dressed as Mark-and-Michael-five-minutes-form-now instead of dinosaurs, you’ll know why.

No Man Is An Island

Today is always a tough day for me. Every year I think it’ll be better, but it’s not. It never gets better, it just gets different. It might seem a little odd that a suburban girl from Alabama with no ties to New York or Washington would be so deeply affected, so grievously wounded by something that, if we’re honest, had nothing really to do with me.

For God’s sake, I’d never even been to New York. I was sixteen years old. Just a child, looking back, though I’d never have admitted it then. A senior in high school. It’s a tender age for one’s entire world to change.

It strikes me at odd times. Not just when older TV shows or movies have the towers in the background. Sometimes when friends in the military post stupid Facebook statuses, or when I watch my sons industriously stack blocks, or in the  gentle consuming quiet of the night. I never knew a single person who died that day, but the point is that I never will. And I have wept bitter tears for it.

I wish I could explain the deep ache in me for this. Perhaps it’s all we’ve done since then in the name of freedom and safety. Maybe it’s the profound hate that’s sprung up from the rubble. Maybe it’s the constant sacrifices of our young men and women to the insatiable god of war. Maybe it’s the feeling that something deep and vital was broken that day and never did heal up right. Maybe it’s the knowledge that my sons will one day be old enough to ask me about it and the fear of the day that they’ll understand it.

I’ve talked about this a little bit before. If you don’t care to follow the link, the important bit is this: “I will never be able to adequately explain to my children the profound grief of that day and of the days that followed it. Or of the near-decade of anger and frustration of a nation as we kept sending our young people out to defeat what could not be defeated, to continually break ourselves against misunderstanding as waves against rocks.”

And perhaps that’s really it. I was old enough to know what was happening, but not so old as to be able to find the edges of it. It was too big for me to get a hold of on the day, and as I get older, I get closer and closer to coming to grips. It’s the knowledge that I could do nothing to stop it, but the feeling that I somehow should have. It’s the feeling of missing people I never got the chance to meet. It’s the burden of someone else’s hate.

So today is a day that makes my heart hurt. I suspect it always will.

+5 Hair Clips of Prettiness

Listen up, y’all. I bought new hair clips and they are adorable. This is important. They make me feel pretty. And that, my dears, is a feeling that I’ve been notably lacking in the last two and a half years or so.

It’s an underrated feeling. When I was working, before we found out about the boyos, I was leaving the house every day. I was interacting with people I didn’t share DNA or a bed with. So I put in some effort. But then I stopped working, I became planetary in size with my pregnancy, and I’ve been chasing babies for the last 21.5 months. I don’t get out much. So, I just kinda stopped paying attention to what I looked like and the next thing I knew, just putting on pants was a fashion accomplishment. I let everything go. I didn’t really exercise, I was lax about skin care and oral hygiene. I forgot how to do cute eyeshadow. It was bad, and — worse — Andrew was starting to follow me down.

But then I got a good haircut. And then another. And I dyed my hair purple, which I have always wanted to do. I bought nail polish. And some really cute hair clips with flowers on them and everything. And I wore my hair clips today, with no one but my kids and my dog at home during the day to see or care. None of them did.

But I did. I cared that I looked cute with my little flower hair clips. I felt pretty, and it made me want to continue to feel pretty. So I scrubbed my face and I put on a mud mask and I toned and moisturized. I even flossed, y’all. I flossed.

If you stay at home a lot, like me, listen up. At home, most of the time, you don’t really have any kind of reason to look good. But you also don’t have any kind of reason not to look good. For yourself. To remind yourself that you’re precious and worth taking care of. Feeling a little pretty here and there can lead to other improvements, like eating better and exercising more. I’m still kind of working up to that last one, but nobody’s perfect. *wink*

So find something that makes you feel pretty (or handsome, as the case may be), and make it happen. Maybe it’s sparkly jewelry, or polished nails, or purple hair, or that piercing you always wanted. It’ll boost you up way more than you might think.

Dead Horses

I know I just wrote about this the other day, but I feel like I need to come back to it. I don’t know, the older I get, the more this kind of thing makes me angry.

I’m talking about women. Well, more specifically, how people view women, talk to women, behave around and towards women, how people market (or don’t market) to women. This kind of stuff has been getting a lot of attention lately, and I think that that’s a good thing. We live in a remarkably interconnected world these days, and alienating essentially half of the entire human population of the world can’t be a good idea.

I can’t fathom it. I simply do not understand. What the hell is so scary about women? This is the 21st century, for Chrissake, and we can’t even get our government to admit that women should be paid the same amount as men for the same work. We live in a place where a woman can be banned from her constitutionally protected right to free speech because she made some men uncomfortable. Bonus irony points to that last example because the women was speaking out against reproductive legislation. All the good I can say is at least they didn’t call her a prostitute for it.

I’m just boggled, I guess. I can see that this is happening; I just don’t know know why this is happening. So, if someone wants to explain it to me, I’m all ears.

You Have Failed

I don’t like to criticize other people’s parenting. What works for one family may or may not work for another family, and that’s okay. I don’t think there’s any single correct way to raise a child. Most of the time, the kids turn out pretty okay. So having said that, let me say this: parents of sons, you have failed.

Granted, not every parent of every son. But broadly, generally, yes. All of us have failed. We were so wrapped up in raising good, strong girls that we neglected to raise good, strong boys. It’s not enough to have good girls. We need to have good boys.

There is a pervasive, virulent, and (most frighteningly) casual sexism in this country. In this world. And I don’t just mean in the workforce where women still only make about 77 cents for every dollar a man makes doing comparable work, although there’s that. And I don’t just mean in trashy pop music where women are “bitches” or “hos”. Everywhere, in everything, in our very language itself, it is implied that women are less.

“Nancy-boy.” “Grow a pair.” “Don’t be a pussy.” Even, conversely, “she’s got balls.”

This doesn’t begin to cover it. And so many people don’t realize that this is a problem. They don’t realize that calling a woman a “slut” as a form of disagreement is unacceptable. They don’t understand why a woman would resent a man telling her what she can and cannot do with her own body. They don’t understand why She-Ra is sexist but He-Man isn’t. And women who speak out against sexism are called man-hating femi-nazis, dykes, sluts. They are told to shut their mouths, learn their place, get back in the kitchen. When women speak out against aggressive sexualization in the media, they are asked by detractors why then haven’t they themselves buzzed off their hair, taken off their makeup, worn figure-covering clothes. They are asked, basically, why don’t they look like men.

Is this hyperbole? No. This happens every day. Do you wonder why there isn’t gender parity in the worlds of science and technology? This is why. And this is why. And this is why. And this is why (NSFW).

So yes. We need to raise up tough, smart girls who can stand up for themselves and prove that they’re just as good. But please, for the love of God, we need to raise boys who won’t make them. Parents of sons, can we all work on that?

Pillion

So, you know that passenger “seat” on motorcycles? No, not a side car, the one behind the driver. That seat has a name. An honest-to-God name, and that name is a “pillion.” When you ride on the back seat of a motorcycle, you are “riding pillion.”

I just learned this this weekend.

Because, for the very first time in my life, I got to ride pillion.

We’ve had the motorcycle since December.

Image

Oh yeah. Check out all it’s majesty!

Well, I hadn’t ever ridden it until this weekend, for reasons including but not limited to the fact that I don’t know how to drive it. Andrew does, but he only just learned in November, and hadn’t really been comfortable with the idea of having a passenger when he was still getting the hang of being the driver.

Sensible, but frustrating.

But we made plans, collected my gear, and I read articles on being a motorcycle passenger. Because it’s not at all like it is in books and movies. Not at all. You don’t leap onto the back of the bike and wrap your arms around the rock-hard abdomen of your hunky and mysterious love-interest who always smells like sandalwood and musk. You don’t just throw on a helmet and zip off into the accident-free sunset.

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One does not simply ride pillion on a motorcycle.

You see what I did there?

First, of course, you need all the same gear that the driver needs, and for all the same reasons. An appropriate helmet, an armored jacket, armored gloves, hefty boots. They aren’t just expensive fashion statements, they all serve a purpose. And that purpose is not dying.

Once you’re suited up, you need to ride with a driver that you absolutely trust. And then, you can’t just sit on the back and watch the scenery whiz by. You have to pay attention to traffic and terrain and turns and stop lights so you know how to hold yourself. You have to lean forward during acceleration so the front wheel doesn’t pick up off the ground, but not so far that your weight is on the driver. You have to brace yourself during breaking and gear shifts so you don’t jerk forward and knock into the driver. They tell me that you can do this by holding on to the motorcycle version of the “oh Jesus” handle which is directly behind your backside. Seems kinda tricky to me, so I went with putting my hands on the gas tank (not nearly as awkward as it sounds).

And then there’s the turning. You have to lean into the turns. If you’ve never been on a motorcycle before, this is completely counter-intuitive. I’m assuming that ever since humans sorted out walking upright we’ve preferred our horizon line be solidly horizontal. You know, in your rational portions of your brain, that you’re supposed to lean to the right during a right turn, but the strong instinct is to panic and stay upright. Even the gentlest of turns is a supreme exercise in self-control.

It’s also hard to see around the helmet of the driver. I spent most of my rides with my head tilted to one side or the other. It doesn’t sound like that much of a deal, but helmets aren’t exactly light, and holding your head to the side for half and hour gets a lot harder when it weighs twice as much.

So it was actually mentally taxing, physically exhausting, and not a little bit scary.

It was totally awesome.