Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Why I Hope You Fail At Your Resolutions (But Not All Of Them, I'm Not An Asshole)

2014 is upon us. A New Year, holding  new hopes and goals, and the promise of possibilities for old dreams. Yesterday, I posted a status on Facebook listing all the day to day resolutions I make and then break. I have always felt to be in a constant state of self improvement. My point was, I always have goals that I am working on, no matter the time of year. It made me chuckle to see how many I had not met. It was impossible to think of starting fresh on January 1st, when I have so many resolutions that I have abandoned, forgotten or lost the will to achieve. I accomplished a million things I had not even planned to attempt and failed the dozens of things I had. 

 And so goes life. Uncontrolled. The New Year resolutions of “The Unplanned Life”.  

My friends rallied behind me. Some laughed and some encouraged me to focus on the all the positive things I had done this year, as to not beat myself up. Focus on the positive and positive things will come to you, they assured me.

Except, I am positive. Positive I failed at these things! And I’m OK with that. In fact, I’m glad.
And I still had an absolutely incredible year.

I am positive and I am negative. I am generally happy and I am sometimes sad. Sometimes, I succeed, sometimes I fail and that is what makes me human. It’s OK to not achieve everything you set out to do and it’s perfectly fine to be in a constant state of self-improvement. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s awesome. If life is an adventure, then a wrong choice, here and there, is necessary. Screw ups keep us on our toes, keep us motivated, give us confidence and teach us gratitude.

I am OK with screwing up. I am OK with being imperfect. Aw hell, I ENJOY IT!

Happiness is not the absence of sadness.
And success is not the absence of failure.

Happiness thrives on truth, acceptance and gratitude. It is possibility and it can be present even in the face of despair. I am usually a happy person, often a sad person and generally, optimistic to a fault. I remember lying in my own blood, razor in hand, on the bathroom floor and still knowing that if I “ended it all” I would be missing out. In fact, I remember being mad at my optimistic mind for reminding me, despite my hatred and pain, there would be a silver lining. I’m lucky to be an optimist, genetically given the nature of a child, reluctant to go to bed and miss out on the fun that must occur when only the grown-ups are awake. Optimism is happiness wrapped in possibilities BUT it realistically acknowledges the presence of negativity. It tells us to keep on keeping on and whispers promises in our ears when the negative noises weaken our resolve.

Another friend suggested that maybe I needed a shorter list. Truth be told, if given more time, I could added dozens of active personal pursuits to my list. We should be constantly striving to better ourselves; physically, mentally, socially and intellectually. Attainability should not determine what we strive for. Because growth does not end and the presence of failure should not detract from success.
Hurdles are for jumping and jumping makes you strong. True success requires practice and true self-improvement requires failure. Acknowledge those failures! Relish in them. Let them make you laugh. Screwing up can be hysterical. I am fully aware of the mistakes and unaccomplished goals that led me to here. I do have regrets. I regret the decisions I have made that hurt other people. But I also look to my errors with complete gratitude for molding me into the person I am and lighting my path. Being imperfect is the most universal thing you can be and therefore, the last thing anyone should be ashamed of.

If I could suggest anything for anyone in 2014, it would be to EMBRACE YOUR TRUTH. Become ridiculously comfortable with your imperfections, fall shamelessly in love with your story and stay incredibly excited by your potential. Other than that, don’t change a damn thing.

Much love and Happy New Year ~~ Jeanna

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Happiest Moment

Right now I am the happiest I could be.

Granted, I would be happier if I had paid time off left and my son were not sick; but these are the hurdles that brought me to this place of happiness, so I embrace them. They are tiny hurdles and from darkness comes light and all that yin and yang jazz. Any which way, I couldn't be more content.

Plus, he's not THAT sick.

Sniffles and a cough. The cough is just nagging enough that he was up all night. It was just enough that I knew I had better not send him to school. So, after a brief jaunt to work, to open and ready the office I came back home.

Now we lay in front of the woodstove. In a nest of blankets and pillows and yawning dog we lay. We are surrounded by tissues, bellies full from toast and homemade jam. We are snuggled in thick, watching Rescue Bots on Netflix, while the first snow of the season falls outside. The gentle fire crackles and I stare at his fat, little toes, unsocked, peeking from the end of a green blanket. They wiggle enough to keep him awake and then they stop. His rhythmic breathing turns to stuffed up snores.

I am happy.

There is no place on the entire earth I would rather be. And I am the luckiest person alive.

He opens his eyes and I tell him it's snowing. He runs to the window and says, "do you hear it?!"
"What?" I ask, not following.
"Santa's sleigh! I hear it! It's snowing, Christmas is almost here!"
I laugh, "not yet, but soon."

Tomorrow he will head back to school. Tomorrow I will be back at work. Today I will will relish the absolute deliciousness of simplicity. Nothing is as sweet and everything is soon.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Self-Harm: What I Believe.

I wasn’t going to put this here.

I haphazardly typed out my story of self harm and threw it at Plucky. I thought I’d let her anonymously divulge my disease. Because I am acutely aware of the risks of being considered crazy.

I have always been aware of the risk involved in living out loud. These risks have wrapped themselves around my heart for as long as I can remember. No matter how much easier it makes things, Jeanna can’t fake it to make it. I am always 100% passionately myself. Even if it makes me look bad.

Well, sometimes I photoshop my under-eye circles.

But my story of self-harm? The whole story? I didn’t want it here in black and white, where one day my children could read it. Where my ex husband could read it and think “SHE IS RAISING OUR KIDS!” Where my husband’s ex-wife could read it and think, “SHE IS CO-PARENTING MY KIDS?” Where my mother could read it and think, “I didn’t give her enough or treat her enough or do enough.”

See, I don’t want to hurt anyone else and I don’t want to hurt myself.

I don’t want to hurt myself.

Those words are why I must share. HOPE. 17% of young women self-harm. SEVENTEEN percent. How many days did I feel to be the loneliest freak alive? Our stories build awareness and awareness brings action. By not hiding we allow ourselves to be seen, to reach out, to get help.

And help is possible.

The day after I checked myself into the psych ward I called my mom. Disappointing her has always been the scariest thing to me. But I called her to tell her what I did and I expected her to be mad. After all, no responsible mother goes and has a nervous breakdown! What she said to me was this: “Are your kids OK? Were they away for the weekend? IT IS THE PERFECT TIME TO TAKE CARE OF YOU. No judge would EVER take away children whose mother is looking to get better, who admits defeat and is battle weary and exhausted. There is nothing saner than admitting you need help. You are proving you are responsible.” Now, I know some judges would. Some judges, like some people, are just dicks. Because 90% of the time I AM awesome. But those words, "nothing is saner than admitting you need help," they chimed through my collapsed mind.

So I will hold those words, hope for the best and share my story.

I remember being a child, laying in my closet, wanting to die. I had a big white and green toy box. It was covered in fantasy pictures, unicorns and Technicolor rainbows, I remember being huddled next to it and sobbing. I begged God to let me die. I wasn’t old enough to know I could have a say in Life and Death.

I don’t remember a time where I didn’t think about suicide. Still, when I am angry, frustrated or sad, it’s the first place my mind goes. Habitual imagery it seems. I look at ceilings and see places that I could hang myself. I picture my body lying in a bloody bathtub. I imagine cold on cold and apologize to the person who will find me. I cannot help where my mind goes; it’s always the first response. I will be suddenly overwhelmed and it’s what I see. It’s the bad habit. It’s my dirty secret.

I was 14 when I began to self harm. Barely, older than my daughter now. I watch her skin and follow her injuries with strategic inquiries. I wonder if she thinks like me and hurts like me. She is my clone in so many ways, will she inherit this? God, I worry. When I was 14, I swallowed a bottle of Tylenol and then threw them up. I lit matches and burned designs in my skin. I found razor blades and acquired scars. I practiced bulimia not because I wanted to be skinny, but because I liked to cause myself pain. I enjoyed making myself binge and then purge. It was about power and discipline. I smoked, I drank bottles of cough syrup, I did acid, not to try and fit in, or have fun, but because I knew it was hurting myself. And I wanted that.

I wanted to control my pain and numb my pain at the same time.

I was able to be the catalyst (controller) for my external pain, while releasing endorphins to calm my internal pain.

Cutting saved me from suicide. Cutting calmed my mind. When I was in the hysterics of anxiety, cutting was Xanax. It was an addiction and soon, when I was upset, I wasn’t thinking, “I want to die,” I was looking for a blade. I wanted to cut. As soon as that familiar sting hit my brain, the rest of the world melted away. The rest of the pain melted away. I had something I controlled.

And I had a secret.

I have heard people say that cutters are just out for attention, but nothing is further from the truth. I hid my wounds and guarded my secret as if sworn by magic. NOBODY saw them. As I grew up, I cut less. Adulthood gave me external responsibilities and no longer could I internalize the world. Parenthood made me fear judgment. Fearing judgment made me fear madness.

Adulthood brought on 2 main points of relapse. In fact, I almost thought I had grown out of the behavior. The thoughts were still there, the cravings still present, but I didn’t give in. Until my world (my marriage) fell apart. At that point I began to harm myself in all the ways I could, except drugs.

The last time I cut myself was July 29th, 2011. (If you’ve read Unsinkable, you know the story). I admitted myself to the mental ward that night. I admitted my addiction to self harm, on a physical, mental and emotional level. Whether it was physical injuries, self-shaming, alcohol, sex, suffering, guilt driven over achievement or co-dependent behaviors, I needed to stop. I was addicted to pain.  

I decided to no longer remain silent. And that keeps me honest.

Like any addiction, it doesn’t go away. My first urge when I’m upset (still) is to self-harm. I have not let myself go there. And I have been successful, so far.

Reasons I feel successful:
1. I am doing this for me. I do not WANT to be a self-harmer.
2. I admit to my sickness. I acknowledge I suffer anxiety disorders. I admit to an addiction to self harm. I hold myself accountable to my promise of honesty.
3. I recognize the addictive properties of my illness. I recognize cues that drive me to crave self harm.
4. I can speak to others about self harm without being embarrassed.
5. I am dedicated to July 29,2011 being the last quit date I ever have.

What does any of this have to do with National Suicide Prevention Day and why do I tell this story?

Because I am just like you. I mean besides living in a treehouse and wearing aprons and stuff. But I am just a regular mom and wife and professional woman. I am actually pretty frickin "together". I am college educated and own a home. These people are all around us. And they might be overwhelmed and need help. Or they could be scared to seek help. But they are helpable! Life can be beautiful, even for those who don’t think so. And self-harm wears SO many hats, this isn't just about razors and matches.

I said above that self-harm saved me from suicide. Indeed, I feel it was a coping mechanism for stress. It was habit forming and addictive. It allowed me to deal. But I wanted to live. I never truly (other than some VERY bad moments) wanted to DIE. Strangely enough, those moments, are stories I’ve never told and because of the hysteria in my mind, barely remember. I wanted to live, but for many self-harm is still one of the strongest indicators of suicidal tendencies.

I believe by removing the stigma, and looking to have a better understanding of the self-harmer’s struggle, we can save lives.
I believe by recognizing the addiction component of self-harm, we can treat and save lives.
I believe by sharing our stories we can unite.
I believe in wellness.

I believe in hope.

And I know they are all possible.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Post I Wasn't Going To Post Until My Daughter Unblurred My Lines

I didn’t really want to write about this or talk about it anymore. But sometimes things come up. Sometimes, discussions take a certain turn and I feel the need to navigate my thoughts to a destination. This is one of those times and I’m taking the time to write my feelings.

A few weeks back I made a post on my Facebook page addressing Miley Cyrus’s recent comments regarding her song ‘We Can’t Stop.’ She stated that it was indeed about drug use. The lyrics “everyone in line in the bathroom, trying to get a line in the bathroom” and “dancing with Molly” were indeed about using drugs (probably ecstasy as the reference is normally used). She stated it was time for people to stop viewing her as a child. As in, adults can use drugs, it’s our bodies, lay off. This upset me and I stated drug use was a stupid way to express maturity.

I am a sobriety advocate. Sobriety, for me, is in no way an immature choice. On my page and in my life it is a reoccurring theme. I am fully aware many adults choose otherwise, whether it’s getting high, drunk, tipsy or the many other points in “under the influence”. I know and love many people who use some substance or another to cope, medicate or release tension. But, I advocate sobriety. It could be the next door neighbor, the 8th grader at my daughter’s lunch table, my good friend or even a pop star, but when someone makes a blasé statement about drugs, I respond. It’s kind of my THING. So, after I read her statement, I made my post. While some people agreed, quite a few attacked me for being “judgmental”. Being that every opinion is a judgment and I stand fast to mine, especially when it comes to my “thing”, I let it go and moved on with my day.

A couple of weeks later we were at home listening to the radio. “Blurred Lines” came on and immediately we all started moving our hips. My 12 year old daughter came over to me and said, “mom, do you know what this song is about?” I replied “yes”, instantly feeling a bit bad about enjoying the beats. By age 14, I was a self-proclaimed feminist. I heard “you’re a good girl” the first time I heard the song and knew the lyrics would irritate me. It was the good girl vs. bad girl categorization that I had fought, as an outspoken woman, most of my life. “Yeah, I know.” I told her. “Mom,” she continued, “do you REALLY know?” I turned down the music and I looked at her, “what do YOU think this song is about?”

She told me the kids had been talking about it at school. She told me it was about date rape. “It’s about getting a girl drunk and talking her into doing things. So she won’t know what’s right or wrong. So the lines get blurry.”

I smiled, “but it has such a fun beat!” She didn’t smile back.

Now, I have been aware, for 20 years, that the best way to make racism, sexism and all other forms of hate OK, is to make them a joke. Tell a joke, people laugh, and those who don’t are haters. “It’s just a joke, get over it” is how the stereotypes are able to flourish. Blonde jokes, man jokes, Polish jokes, women jokes- they perpetuate a much deeper expression of hatred. I could mark this up to “just a song”. But this song was teaching my child, and her peers, about dating, about boundaries and about the blurred lines. And it was making them cool and acceptable. In fact, the easy beats and “hey, hey, heys” were blurring my lines as an equality advocate and parent. I was missing the bigger picture. She was right.

Those who enjoy the song can make excuses; it’s actually about infidelity or it’s actually a parody of women pitting themselves into “good girl/bad girl” roles and how they should just do what they want. Certain people could even make us think the song PROMOTES equality. But not to our children. To our children it is a song about date rape.

Perceptions are where we derive our reality.

Fast forward to the night of the VMA awards. My husband went on Facebook and immediately turned to me, “woah, Miley Cyrus did SOMETHING.” We went to YouTube and looked up the video of her performance. As we sat and watched it on his Kindle, my comments went like this, “what’s up with the teddy bears”, “this song is about ecstasy,” “I like her new haircut,” “she’s dressed like all pop stars, what’s the big deal?” We continued watching, “why is he dressed like Beetlejuice?” And then, I was hit with that sinking feeling…”this song is about rape.” Then I giggled a little about her boning him with giant foam finger.

Because that’s something I would do if given a giant finger.

The next day the internet was in uproar. The same people who admonished me for being judgmental were hoping Miley could find Jesus. She was vulgar and disgusting and her parent’s must be ashamed of her. It was everywhere in Facebooklandia. I, like so many others, brought it up. But I wondered 3 things:

1. Which female pop stars DON’T use sexuality to promote their careers? Was her outfit all that different from what we’ve seen on Gaga, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Brittney Spears, Christina Aguilera or Madonna? Why was it even an issue?

2. It’s a performance. On a stage. If you have ever been in a stage performance or SEEN a stage performance, they are supposed to be over the top. Especially at the VMA awards.

3. Why was no one discussing the guy in the Beetlejuice suit? But I didn’t state it like an asshole. I made it a joke. Easy to accept. WHY? He was as much a part of that performance and HE has the song that blurs the lines of rape. HE was the one the kids at my daughter’s middle school were talking about. Why was HE cool and SHE not? Why was HE good and SHE not?

She was not a good girl. We all knew she wanted it. We all knew she was animal. He was cool. These are all the factors that blur those lines. Our anger at her propagated the lie that the “cool” guy was in the right and the “bad” girl doesn’t get our support. No, we judge her. We know she’s bad by the way she dresses (or doesn’t dress). We know she’s bad by the way she dances and sticks out her tongue. She’s a bad girl and she deserves to be judged. Her parents should be so embarrassed.

Have you ever been on a date or in a social situation where after the fact you aren’t sure if you were just raped? It’s a weird feeling, knowing you said you didn’t want to, but were just so uncomfortable that you went along with it all. I mean why the hell not? It’s 2013 and you’re not a virgin waiting to give your goats to some man. Plus, you were horny. You kind of did want it. Just not there with that guy. One thing leads to another and eh, you said no, but finally you just said, “fine”. That happened to me once. “No, no, no, FINE.” It’s a weird feeling, the feeling of shutting down. Blurred lines are strange, even when you’re completely sober. Because we don’t want to fight. We don’t want to hear, “it’s just a joke, lighten up.” We don’t want to be judged. I don’t want my daughter to ever think I will make light of blurred lines.

I continued to read about what a poor role model Miley Cyrus was for our children, so when my daughter got home from school I asked her, “was everyone talking about Miley Cyrus?” She looked at me strangely, “no, why?” I was kind of surprised. I told her what happened and she told me no one cared. If anything, her age group likes Miley better now. No middle school child is going to be interested in Hannah Montana, after all. “So, do you think your friends view her as a role model?” She laughed, “uh, no mom.” I wondered why all the parents online were so concerned. Their children saw Miley Cyrus for what she was: a performer. Why, as adults, could we not? She wasn’t a role model, she wasn’t out to become a role model and our kids don’t care for her to be one.

Over the next few days, today included, I explored this subject more with my daughter. “who in the entertainment business, WOULD you look up to as a role model?” She told me no one. “Mom, most of them have made mistakes, or tried drugs or done other “bad” stuff. Some worse than others, they are just people, but I don’t look to any of them as role models, even if I like them.” I asked her, “well, who influences you and how you decide to act and how you make decisions and stuff? Anyone?”

She answered, “you.”

“Maybe it sounds corny or whatever, but I learn about stuff from you and think about what you’ve taught me when I make decisions. I guess, you are my role model. Not those people, I don’t even know those people.”

And it was that simple. Just because our children LIKE something doesn’t mean they want to BECOME that. The main role models in our children’s lives are not singers on a stage or musicians in a studio. They are US. They aren’t formulating strategies as to how they will conduct themselves for the rest of their lives based on what they read in magazines. UNLESS WE LET THEM. If we, as parents, decide that we will let entertainment icons be responsible for the role modeling of our children, if we let them see or hear, without discussion of moral and social consequence, then entertainment icons will fill the role. But our children will first turn to us. They will turn to us to learn if they are supposed to judge a person by the color of their skin OR the clothes they wear. They will turn to us to determine who is “good” and who is “bad”. They will turn to us to learn what qualities are most important to us, to know WHO we judge and why.

And if what we teach them has blurred lines, eventually they will turn away.

She's always helping me see more clearly

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Character Building with Pickles

Rain poured outside. My five year old stood in the kitchen smearing peanut butter on a piece of bread. Lightning flashed and the power went out. The kids looked at me to do something. So I yelled, “COME BACK ON, POWER!!”

Nothing happened. So I shrugged. My eldest shook her head at me, “sorry, mom.”

The lights came back on.

I did a HAHAHAHA dance, “that’s right! Mama has the……”

The lights went back off.

My son looked at his sandwich and pouted. Food is important to him and for a moment it seemed that this sandwich wasn’t going to happen. “Shit.” I declared. I swear in front of my kids. Not all the time, but often enough that they know I am grown up and I can do what I want. Most importantly, I can do things they can’t. I earned that right by surviving my parents and one day they will also earn the right to establish superiority over their kids. It is the cycle of life. Like lions and giraffes and the word “shit’. Anyway, we needed to get this lunch show on the road, because I had to get to work.

I turned to the kitchen shelf and saw the dill pickles Mr. P and I had canned the weekend past. “We are ready for this, guys!” I exclaimed to the kids. “We are PREPARED. We have canned goods! We can handle an outage! You can bring pickles to school!” It was obvious to me, at this point, I am a professional homesteader. I was ready to go off the grid. I imagined my bonnet. As long as I could charge my phone in the car I would be OK. “We don’t need electricity!”

My daughter gave me the ‘da fuq?’ face. “Or, Mom, we can finish making the sandwich.” Well, that was hardly fun. But she was right. So, he smeared on the last of peanut butter and stuck the sandwich in a bag as the lights came on. The children and Mother Nature collaborated to dash my Little House on the Prairie dream.

“It’s POURING out.” I declared as I gathered my car keys. “And I have to get to work.” I eyed the children who were getting their backpacks. “I could take you with me, then drop you off, each at school, then go back…. But…” The frontierswoman inside of me said “NO. They can get wet.” I told the kids to get umbrellas. “Get umbrellas. You can make it to the bus and get wet if you must!” I felt good. I was not going to raise children who were scared of water. Or bugs. Or mud or sweat or hard work or the word ‘no’. That’s right. I. AM. MOTHER. This was good.

I nodded my head, empowered by my parenting decisions. Damn straight. This is what we call “CHARACTER BUILDING.”

I squatted down and looked the kids in the eyes, “I will drop you off at the bus stop, but you are going to wait in the rain for the bus. OK?” I searched their eyes for fear. “This is what we call ‘CHARACTER BUILDING’” My daughter put her hand on my shoulder, “we can walk mom, it’s no big deal.” I turned to her, “No. I could drive you to school. I could. You wouldn’t have to stand in the rain at all. I could even pick you up a donut at Tim Horton’s. But I AM NOT GOING TO. I am going to make you stand in the rain. You will thank me one day.”

I smiled at her and took her hand. She smiled back and said, “OK, Mom, whatever.”

“Grab your umbrella!” I enthusiastically pushed them toward the door. And we exited the house. We exited into a new day, filled with opportunities and lessons. Ready to take what comes our way and roll with it. A day of silver linings to dry our doubts.

A day where the sun was shining down on us as soon as we got in the car. The kids chucked their umbrellas in the back seat.

Thanks, Mother Nature, thanks for the support.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Happy Birthday Donna

I have Parent Privilege.

I am a parent who has never lost a child. I cannot imagine. I cannot look at my children, living and breathing and sitting in front of me; children who argue with me and whine and lay their little heads upon my shoulder, I cannot imagine my life without them.

I cannot imagine losing them.

I huff at waking up early to deliver them to daycare and I fight with them to go to bed. I count down the days to free moments. I scold them for bothering me when I'm writing. I pride myself on their accomplishments and take photos of their faces.

I am privileged.

I cry when I read stories of loss. I type, "I am sorry." I EMPATHIZE, but I do not understand. I am luckily not part of the that club, "The parents who have buried a child club." I have parent privilege. I offer my condolences, I wear ribbons, I do 5Ks, I buy the T-shirts and I shaved my head, but I do not really understand. And I hope I never do.

On March 30th, 2013, my family shaved our heads in honor of Donna. We raised money, like good privileged parents, for the St. Baldrick's Foundation and pediatric cancer research. People praised our courage. But all we did was go bald. As my hair grew back I became more and more acutely aware of my privilege. Hair grows back, but children who died of cancer do not come back. My family was not brave; we never even saw a battle. We hopefully never will.

I do not want to be a warrior or a survivor or a part of any clubs. I just want to continue being lucky.

So what was the point? What IS the point of honoring Donna? What does mourning a child I never was able to meet do, besides stroke a philanthropist's ego? What is the take away of a day that changed me forever?

Simple facts:
1. In the U.S., childhood cancer kills more children than any other disease.
2. Worldwide, every 3 minutes a child is diagnosed with cancer.
3. 1 out of 5 of those children will die.
4. Nearly all children who survive childhood cancer will suffer life long health consequences from treatment.
5. Out of all the funding in the US, for pediatric cancer, only 4% goes to all the types of childhood cancer combined.
 6. Our $2,000 to St. Baldrick's, in Donna's name, was part of the $22 million that provided 63 grants this summer for research into pediatric cancer.

Those are simple facts that I carry with me like a sword. They have changed the way I parent. They have changed the way I look at other parents. Those facts are a reality that gives me the HONOR of representing a person who I was never able to meet and a mother whose path would probably have never crossed mine, had it not been for her tremendous loss. A mother whose pain I cannot understand, but will forever hold deep within my soul.

For I am privileged, but I have been touched.

July 20, 2013 is Donna's would have/should have been 8th birthday. I will be wearing her favorite color. I will be thanking her for four years of beauty and strength, which are now, despite her physical absence, changing the world.

If a Birthday Happens and No One Is There To Blow Out The Candles Do You Still Celebrate?

St. Baldrick's Foundation
Mary Tyler Mom
Donna's Good Things

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Put Your Money WEAR Your Mouth Is

Mike Jeffries: The face of popularity, beauty and coolness. Or something.

Lately there has been a ton of internet chatter regarding the remarks by Abercrombie CEO, Mike Jeffries.  Basically, he is an asshole, a proud asshole and it bothers people. Frankly, I was unaware that Abercrombie and Fitch was a brand hell bent on excluding the ugly. I never shopped there because I thought the clothes were boring.

Not the point.

In response, angry people are writing long letters to the CEO. They blindly seek out his heartstrings, “I was never popular…”, “My family could never afford…,” “As an overweight woman….,” and I keep thinking, ‘The guy is a proud asshole. He doesn’t care.’.

He is glad. It proves what he is doing works. He has managed to build an entire brand while excluding you, if you are the unpopular, poor, fat kid. It worked. He is probably celebrating with each letter from within his evil clothing laboratory. He is probably sitting there, eating chocolate in front of poor children dressed like Charlie Bucket and pushing fat kids. Every time someone writes a letter telling him how they have found self worth, regardless of their weight, self proclaimed assholes like Mike Jeffries grow a little bit stronger.

So, I proclaim we actually do something. By we, I mean the old (over 25) and fat (if you can pinch something you are in). Are you in? Here is MY open letter to Mike Jeffries.

Dear Mr. Abercrombie and Fitch,

I’m not actually a fan of your brand. I think it’s boring. In fact, until all this recent media (good job, dude), I thought the store name was A{M}bercrombie and Fitch. Obviously people are pissed over your recent comments regarding your branding decisions. They were pretty heartless, man. I’m old and way too fat for your clothes now (if I didn’t find them monotonous), so I know you don’t care what I have to say. You don’t want me wearing them any more than I want to. This isn’t what this is about.

I may not be welcome in your stores. But my child is. See, the old fat people you pissed off? They are the wallets for the popular kids. Oh snap. I will not wear your clothing, thanks to your exclusive branding. You have made sure of that. But, now, neither will my four children.

They are thin (well, except the linebacker one, but he’s a boy and I think you said that is OK). They are popular. And we have money.

My daughter had stacks, STACKS I tell you, of Abercrombie and Fitch clothes. But not anymore. What to do with them was a bit of a problem. I hated to just throw them away, but then again, I hated to see them re-worn. So, before we donated them, we drew a big line through the logo. With black sharpie. They are forever marked “the poor people A & F.”

I am now asking this commitment from the world of blogger parents. “Don’t buy A & F for your kids. Keep this clothing out of the hands of our thin and popular youth. Soon, there will be nobody left. You, the parents, hold the wallet.”

It will be interesting. Because I know you don’t care about seeing me in your clothing.... but I am far more powerful than what I wear.

Jeanna Kaye

Independent thinker and dresser since 1978

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Listening To An Invisible Child

I yelled at my 5 year old son to get dressed, as I brushed my teeth. Mornings are always like this; scream, scream, go, go, hug and kiss. I went into his room and looked at his outfit: a t-shirt, 2 camouflaged sweatshirts and camo pants. "It's supposed to be in the 70's, you don't need 2 sweatshirts, take all that off!" I added a "hurry up" for good measure, swallowed my anxiety meds and went to establish an ETE (estimated time to exit) on my daughter.

My son slithered down the stairs and I examined his outfit, he had traded in the camo sweatshirts for a camo fleece zip up. "Fine, but take it off if you get hot. WHY DON'T YOU HAVE SHOES ON YET?" He giggled, "I'm invisible." My daughter stood in front of him. "Camouflage doesn't make you invisible, it makes you blend into your surroundings," she corrected him. "Why is no one listening to me?" I screamed, clapping my hands like a drill sergeant "car, car, car...."

Once outside, my self-dressed child ran up to a tree and held very still. He smiled. "I'm invisible." My daughter mumbled, "blending." I stopped for a moment and looked at him. He did blend pretty well, so I took a picture. "Let's see what you look like in front of a tree with rougher bark." He ran from tree to tree and I snapped some shots. "Let me see them!" He gleefully asked, "can we show them to my teacher?" "Sure." I replied, losing interest, "get in the car, I'm late for work."

The entire ride to school he discussed camouflage. We pulled up and I got out to walk him to the front door. His little warm hand clung tightly to mine. "You have to come in and show my teacher the picture." I looked at him, "I'm late for work. Later. I'll come in when I pick you up."

"No, mom, now."

I looked at him and back at my daughter waiting in the car. "Honey, I have to go, you have a good day. My phone is in the car. I'll show her later." I hoped he would forget about this by then. He held my hand tight. "No." I looked around at the bigger kids mulling around in front of the school, was he scared to go in alone? "Fine." I told him. I went back to the car and grabbed my phone and walked into the school with him. We walked through the office. "Can I show her?" I asked. He told me she was not the one. In the hall a women said hi to him. She, too, was not the one.

We turned the corner and two teachers stood in a classroom talking. My son lit up, "there she is!" I was about to ask which teacher when one woman came walking toward us. She looked at my son and exclaimed, "WHERE IS HE? WHERE IS Z?" She looked around confused. "He is just a floating head?! What happened to Z?" My son stood as still as a rock and giggled. "I hear his laugh, but I can't see him!!" She grew closer and closer. Z unzipped his fleece, showing her his T-shirt beneath. "There you are!" She smiled, "you survived the meteor crash! Great camo Z!" I remembered I had pictures to show her and I fumbled for my phone, "I'll take a copy of that," she nodded at me.

"So, Z are we gonna go thrift shopping?" She asked him. He laughed and yelled "Hey Vacklemore, you wanna go thrift shopping? What? Wha wha wha what? (like the song Thift Shop)" The two of them started doing the robot. She threw back her head and laughed to the teacher next to her, "Oh, I just love him!"

I walked down the hallway and my eyes welled up with tears. All night he had planned that. This morning he woke up wanting to be in camo. I kept yelling at him to change his clothes. He spoke and I ignored. He spoke and his sister corrected. He needed to show her, because she saw him. Even when he was invisible. He had probably heard her exclaim, "I love THAT kid." Him. HE was listening. I rushed him through his day like I rush him through his life. "Why aren't you listening, Z?" Why wasn't I? He tried to tell me. And I told him to hurry up. But he stood his ground. He had to fight to wear his outfit and fight to get me into the school. He had to fight and repeat himself because I wasn't listening. I almost missed the moment. I almost never knew the impact this woman had on my son.

The moment our children are born we tune into their every noise. We lay awake at night listening for a peep. We learn their cries and know when they are hungry, bored or hurt. We listen intently as the learn to speak, "Did she say ball? Was that mama?" And excitedly we beg them to communicate with us. We implore them to use their words and say "bye bye." Then, just as they master the language we all speak, we, parents, stop paying attention. We shush them and rush them. By about age 9 or 10 they learn we do not listen so they stop communicating. By 11 or 12 we are lucky if they don't speak a whole new language. We wonder why our children don't listen, but never stop to teach them how. We talk at them as they interrupt our phone calls, dish-washing, TV watching and Facebook browsing. The years of childhood blend quickly into our timelines, like camouflage against a tree. We plan to sit with them, but after work, after dinner, after bathtime, in the morning, tomorrow, this weekend... hours become invisible and children become adults. We need to stop and pay attention. And not just when we get a chance or when it's convenient for us.  As my son said, clinging to my hand, "No. NOW."

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Dear 16 Year Old Me

I posted the question on Facebook:

If you could speak to your 16 year old self, what would you say?

And I answered:

"You are exactly who you are supposed to be. Stay the course. Don't change a thing. Unless you decide to. Embrace possibility. You can't fuck it up if you hold hope in your hand. Never let go of the power of truth. You, my dear, rock."

I was a mess at 16 years old. It is the year I got pregnant by a guy who would become a heroin user. I had an abortion. I dropped out of school. I ran away and lived in the basement of a drug house, until the police found me and made me go home. To my mother's house where I hadn't lived in three years. I moved from my father's house where I had complete and utter freedom, a father who let me go so that his latest wife could move in. A father who gave up on me, for his own disgustingly selfish needs. I ran away again. I hated so much.

At 16, I made a lot of bad decisions.

And I HURT. Immensely.

I COULD tell 16 year old me to not get pregnant and not do drugs and not shave my head into a defiant mohawk in attempt to tell the world to fuck off. But, I imagine some adult, at some point, already told me that. I want to tell the young me that it doesn't matter. We ALL make mistakes, but they do not DEFINE us. Unless we let them.
Stay the course.

Perhaps it comes from a person who has swallowed a bottle of pills and prayed to not throw them up before they took effect. A girl who has sat inside a dry bathtub and ran razor blades across her tiny, white wrists.

Stay the course.
This will not define you.

I told my husband last night that I feel closer to the girl I was then, than I ever have. Not because of the life I am living, but because of who I am on the inside. I was passionate. I was determined. I based my actions on a compass magnetized by independent thinking rather than following the path of society's norms. I was curious. I was open. I was alive. And I am, again.

Surely, my independent thinking was brand new. Surely, I made a thousand mistakes. But I stayed the course. The end result was bliss. I am happy. And I am happy being uniquely ME.

What is a teenager?
A teenager is US, before.
A teenager is our children, in the future.

Teenagers are people, caught in a moment of time. A small moment. They are listening. And learning. They just don't want to become.... as dead inside as they see some adults. And they do not have to.

You running soft through the night
You were bigger and brighter and wider than snow
And screamed at the make-believe
Screamed at the sky
And you finally found all your courage
To let it all go

You fallen into my arms
Crying for the death of your heart
You were stone white
So delicate
Lost in the cold
You were always so lost in the dark

I've been looking so long at these pictures of you
That I almost believe that they're real
I've been living so long with my pictures of you.
~The Cure

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Tie A Ribbon On Your Wrist

My son is not an easy child.

He does not want to play with the other kids. He doesn't want to go outside. He is chubby and serious. He doesn't like sports. He never stands still. His indoor voice can be heard indoors at the neighbor's house. People don't have much to say to him. Mainly this:

1. Did you hear what I said to you?!
2. Sit down!
3. Be quiet!

And then a lot of repeating patterns like 2, 1, 2, 1, 2 or 3, 1, 3, 1, 3, 1.

Sometimes, he drives me nuts. He is almost always on red at school. He sits on the toilet for 45 minutes at a time. He doesn't listen. To anyone.  Me, included.

But I never get mad at him for the way he plays. He has great adventures with the characters in his head. He wages battles, usually winning, with his superpowers. He is an expert on magic powers, robots and spirits. He runs back and forth, talking to him and zapping unseen bad guys. He protects our souls inside crystal circles and talks to our spirits. He does it all without telling us. He believes 100% in his powers.

This morning while the other kids ran around with iPods, leaving a trail of stuffed animals and game boards, listening to Bruno Mars and begging to go do something, my son paced back and forth, talking to a turquoise blue ribbon. He tied it in knots and made it zap things. Back and forth he paced, finally tying the ribbon to his wrist. "Zap!" He pointed it at the wall.

I asked him to explain the ribbon to me. It's name was Zap. It had powers. Thunderbolt powers to freeze anything. Zap. I asked if he wanted me to write Zap above the ribbon. He smiled SO BIG. So I tatted up his arms. He beamed. "This is exactly right, mama". He quickly froze me, then giggled. "It was just a little thunderbolt, mama, it will only hurt for a minute."

He looked me in the eyes and as clearly as can be, with full attention, he said "thank you."

And then he ran away, quick as lightning.

Sometimes, I am scared I am contributing to his weirdness. Sometimes I think I need to be the adult that instills the ideals of reality in him. The person that teaches him how to interact without superpowers. But here's the thing: I believe him. And I want someone around to zap away the bad guys. So, rather than break him down, I build him up. And I help him design his costumes.

Maybe we should all tie on a ribbon and feel the power of being special.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

McTip's Snips Part Two

Read McTip's Snips Part One


Fear becomes me.

Am I scared to be bald? You bet ya. But every 3 minutes another child around the globe is diagnosed with cancer. THAT IS SCARY. Imagine those parent's fears? If they can do it, if they can wake up each day and put on a smile and a superhero cape and maintain HOPE and SPIRIT, for their children, then surely I can handle a temporarily bald head.

Fear motivates me to OVERCOME.


I decided that each day I would share the story a child off of the St. Baldrick's website.
1 child each day.
1 child to remind you.
1,000 people.
30 days.

=Why I am shaving my head.

Cari Jane Hadac's Story

Last night we passed the $250 goal, thanks to a generous donation from Isaiah Hankel. Which means my daughter has to shave her head too. Imagine that strength, she is 12! She is scared to death what her middle school peers will say. 

So, this morning we decided to go from FREAK to ICON.

I'm meeting with her counselors and principal this week. We want to make this a school wide event. Where she is a mascot. She is getting her own sign-up on team McTip's Snips. She is also going to use the experience to coincide with her new anti-bully page.

The Universe hears you. Sometimes you just gotta scream. 

Make a bald move.

Dr. Isaiah Hankel
Kid's Against Bullying 

Donate to McTip's Snips 


1 child each day.
1 child to remind you.
1,000 people.
30 days.

=Why I am shaving my head.

 Linsey H.'s Story



My daughter was trying on scarves tonight. She is the most powerful 12 year old I know. She is absolutely strong. Well, we are TOGETHER. Her dedication to service comes from deep within. She has a BELIEF that she CAN make a difference. She believes good triumphs over evil. She believes in sacrifice. Now if I could only get her to clean her room...

1 child to remind you.
1,000 people.
30 days.

=Why I am shaving my head.

Berand's Story 

Donate to McTip's Snips 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Don't Judge A Status by What You Want It To Say

The other day I made a comment on Facebook about how I was sick of seeing Marijuana called "harmless" on the internet. I was frustrated that because of the push towards legalization, my children are constantly seeing misinformation and propaganda regarding a drug with potentially harmful side effects. I was met, as Facebook lovingly will greet all posts more controversial than a smiling puppy, with both "thank you's" and malicious attacks. I never stated my opinion about using marijuana or the legalization of the drug. I, in fact, clearly stated that I had many good friends who used marijuana, both for medicinal and recreational use. Beyond that, my father is a licensed grower and I, personally, have completed the paperwork for patients to obtain medical marijuana. I have used it and that, is how I discovered I have a severe allergy to it.

My point though, was this, this drug has definite psychological, cardiac and pulmonary affects. The fact that the amount of THC can vary so immensely and is poorly regulated, can create major discrepancies in use. There are risks. There are both psychological and physiological risks to marijuana use. These side effects or potential for allergy need to be acknowledged and recognizable.

This was not a debate on whether marijuana is safer than cigarettes or beer. This was not a debate of whether your husband with cancer should be made to suffer. This was not a debate on how major pharmaceuticals have destroyed the market for safe drugs. Or a debate whether marijuana is even a drug. This was not an exploration into the possibility that there could be healthy uses of marijuana.This was not a debate on whether, you, as a grown adult, should be allowed to smoke a joint with your girlfriends on a Saturday night. This was me, standing up, saying I will not tell my children something is harmless when it is not harmless. 

The internet has created a world where the misinformed come armed with memes, cheap one liners and reactionary tactics. It is the problem we come across when facing any political discussion these days, whether it be gun control, drug use, equal rights, economic policy or foreign affairs. We scream foul politics and beg for bi-partisanship, then turn our computers on and "share" one-sided misinformation. There is no room for moderate discussion. All the while, our CHILDREN are watching, and learning how to resolve conflicts with sarcasm and greet debate with misinformation.

It is irritating that we can have access to so much information and come armed with so little.

Friday, March 1, 2013

McTip's Snips Part One

I knew things were going on today for Donna's Day. Goodness, I had read Donna's story on Mary Tyler Mom months before. My heart had wept for their beautiful family. But I'm always so busy, and what could I do? I didn't really look deeper.

I know the statistics. About 1 in 300 children will experience cancer. I know it costs them more. I know from my meetings with our AFLAC rep that treatment costs more for children. And I know funding for research on pediatric cancer is terribly low. I sat down at my desk and started filling out patient paperwork.  I completed the FMLA paperwork for a patient with recurrent breast cancer and stapled it together with my pink ribbon stapler and noticed the post on DeBie Hive. She was cutting her hair.

I don't have anything to give financially. Not right now. But I have all this hair. So much hair.

I have been growing my hair out since I started my life over. It, for some reason, makes me feel pretty and feminine, despite the major weight I've gained or wrinkles I've found over the past several years. A daily ponytail has become my staple
look. And when I let it loose, or let it drip long and wet, down my back, I feel like a goddess. I feel beautiful.

Could I cut it?

I texted Mr. Perfect "would you still love me if I shaved my head for childhood cancer awareness?" 

"I will always love you" he replied. And 10 minutes later he added, "Maybe I'll do it too."

I felt a wave of strength, like we could do this. We could make a difference.  I went up front, with the office scissors and asked the girls if they wanted to cut off my hair. No guts, no glory, we needed enough for Locks of Love. We measured and found I had well over 10 inches, about 12 or 13 in fact, in my ponytail. So, we cut.

And I was left with a really cute cut and a lot of hair to send to Locks Of Love. Then, something else happened. My Sudden Attack Of Conscience sent me a message and asked me if I wanted to drive to Chicago at the end of the month, to attend a Saint Baldrick's Event in honor of Donna. And I said ABSOLUTELY.

I knew this meant some heads were going to get shaved. And I knew I'm always down for a double dog dare. So, I went to the St. Baldricks website and set up a team.

If $50 is donated, Mr. Perfect will shave his head.
If $250 is donated, Mr. P and Eldest daughter will shave her head.
If $1000 is donated, all 3 of us will.

All it takes is 1000 people to donate ONE DOLLAR.

Will you be part of this?