Thursday, July 3, 2014

How to Fight

In the wake of the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling, I was angry.  When I get angry, I tend to do something about it.  Being completely powerless in this particular situation (I have not yet been chosen as a Supreme Court justice.  An oversight, I'm sure.), but still believing that dissenting voices should be heard, I posted something online.

Who cares, right?  Everybody posts things to social media.  That's why it was created.

It does make for a great tool, though.  It helps to let our representatives know the general feeling of their constituency.  It also helps to engage people in debate over issues that are effecting their lives.  Or not effecting their lives at all, if you just like to troll.  Either way, these debates have value.  Bringing attention to important topics, and presenting two well thought out and fact based sides to an argument is never a bad thing. Who knows, it may even lead to a more informed, less TMZ focused voter population.  (Hopefully.)

The point I'm making is this:  I'm all for speaking your mind.  I'm all for screaming your opinions from the rooftops, the soapbox, or the Facebook post.  Let your voice be heard.  Just don't be an asshole about it.

There has never been a time in our country's history when our citizens have had their voices silenced.  We can speak out against government decisions.  We can speak out against churches.  We can speak out against our neighbors.  It's a right we are entitled to.  And it's pretty awesome.

Regardless of the sides taken, I love that people are exercising this right.  I also love that you don't have to hold any qualifications to form your opinions.  You don't have to be an expert to share your thoughts.  And most of us aren't.  None of us knows everything.  Not one of us is able to divine the perfect answers to all the tough questions we're faced with.  Which is why I find it so odd that people resort to whining, calling names, and hurling insults while debating.  It's not helpful, and no one gains from it.

I've read some follow-up stories that have been published since the decision.  I've seen so many posts on the topic.  (Because I don't live under a rock.  Really.  Can this stuff be avoided?)

Some have been thought provoking:
When my daughter grows up, I hope she becomes a corporation.

Some have been less so:
I assure you, we aren't all thinking that.
I find this one from Planned Parenthood Action especially sad and unhelpful.  Here's why: the second you say you "deserve" something, you've basically resorted to that whiny voice kids use when they'd like to stay up past bedtime or want a second cookie.  "But moooom, I ate all my veggies.  I deserve it!"

People don't deserve things.  Ever.  People work for things.  Women don't "deserve birth control" coverage.  They've earned it.  It is compensation for doing their jobs.  Ladies, if you're going to fight, then fight.  If you're whining, you've lost the argument.

As for the insults, and there have been many, the most frequent I've seen in the comment sections of these articles, and everything ever published online actually, is "you're stupid" or ignorant, or dumb, etc.  (Only, let's be honest, it's almost always "your stupid" isn't it?  Those in glass houses...)  This seems to be an internet argument classic.  You're backed into an intellectual corner?  Come out swinging with a "You're so stupid!"  That'll teach 'em.

Holding a different opinion than someone doesn't mean the other party is stupid.  While failing to present facts or argue a logical point, and turning to insults may not mean you're stupid, it certainly makes you look that way.   If calling someone dumb is your ace in the hole, you've lost the argument.

I've also seen some insults that seem to only come from one side of the conversation.  That's the belittling of religious beliefs.  Weird coming from me, I'm aware.  I am a huge proponent of people keeping their religions out of my personal affairs.  I do not think religions should get to make reproductive decisions for everyone, just as I don't think that Jenny McCarthy should get to make vaccination decisions for everyone.  That doesn't mean that I don't respect the role religion plays in the lives of many people I know and love.  It's not for me, but that doesn't mean it can't be for them.  Calling deeply held religious beliefs "whims" is horribly insulting.  If you're belittling someone because of their religious beliefs, you are a bigot, and you've lost the argument.

Up to this point, the fan favorite of ineffective debating seems to be the name calling.  Or in this particular situation,  the slut shaming.  Seriously, America?  Women who are on birth control are all sluts who should just keep their legs closed?  Ask your mom if she's ever used birth control.  Ask your sisters.  Ask your daughters.  Then, if slut shaming is still all you have to contribute to the debate, shut up and read something.  If "just stop having sex" or "You're a whore!" (or implying that a woman's rights or opinions don't matter because they would like to have sex for reasons other than procreation) are the points you're trying to make, you've lost the argument.

Sadly, most of the name calling and insulting I've noticed over the course of the week has come from women.  I don't know why that is.  I don't know if there is some deep reason for it, like we don't teach our girls to be assertive the way we teach our boys.  I don't know if it's because women are more emotional, or if it's that the cause hits closer to home for women.  I really couldn't say.  But it's troubling.  

Personally, I feel that calling names and insulting people would only serve to make me look petty.  It would do nothing to further the conversation.  It certainly wouldn't help ensure contraceptive coverage for the women who work for Hobby Lobby and Conestoga.  And, it would do absolutely nothing to force people to take my voice in debate seriously.  

Its all too easy to disregard a woman's voice.  She's angry?  It's probably just PMS.  Before that it was Female Hysteria, which could be diagnosed simply by asking a husband or father if a girl had a tendency toward speaking out or causing trouble.  (Um???)  This is why I'm begging:  Please women and girls, please, fight like you mean it.  No whining.  No name calling.  No insults.  Use facts and logics.  Separate the issues from the emotions.  Speak out, but listen too.  Don't take things personally, and don't get personal.  Do not give people a reason to tune you out.  

In the Facebook battle I accidentally waged on Monday, I was debating two men whom I happen to love dearly.  Two of my favorite people on the planet, in fact.  They think I am terribly misguided, and I think they are as wrong as anything, but I respect them.  I don't think they're stupid.  I don't think they're evil.  I don't think they're happy that some working women in our country can't afford to buy birth control out of pocket.  I just think they have a different opinion than I do.  AND THAT'S OK.  It doesn't fill me with hate or rage.  It just means family dinners might be interesting.  That's all.

Their team won this time.  It's done.  We can explain rationally, and without vitriol, why we think the Supreme Court made the wrong choice.  But beyond that, there's not a lot to be done.  Except contacting your representatives...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Valentine's Day Survival Guide

I'm sort of a stupid-internet-article junkie. As such, I'm sure you can imagine the amount of advice I've read regarding the perfect Valentine's gift for the woman in your life. My unequivocal response to these is...NO.  

But fear not. On behalf of wives everywhere, I'm here to help. 

The most recent advice I've come across was in the form of a "10 best" sort of list from Yahoo. The very first suggestion is an (ugly) floral display and a teddy bear that hugs. Unless your wife is a seven-year-old, I would strongly caution all men to disregard this.  Do not get a fully grown, adult woman a teddy bear, unless she just had a baby or is expecting on Valentine's Day. Those are the ONLY exceptions. If your wife is anything like me, she has spent the last several years purging your home of unwanted stuffed animals. Just don't do it. 

Next we move on to the ever popular perfume. If your wife has a favorite bottle, and you notice she is running low, by all means get her a new bottle. And wrap it nicely. It will show her that you notice her, and that is wonderful. If, however, your wife has never worn perfume in her life, and you see a bottle that looks pretty when you're walking through the last minute, I forgot Valentine's Day aisle at CVS...keep on walking. Do. Not. Guess. Scents are very personal. A smell that you love may smell like week old trash water to her. 

And then we have the weird glass jewelry box complete with totally impersonal engraving. Think this one through. Does she have toddlers at home who will likely smash this gift into a million pieces? Does she even wear jewelry? Proceed with caution here. My husband would probably not be advised to purchase this. As much as I would love the thought, it would sit unopened in the top of my closet. Don't make your wife hurt your feelings. 

I could go on systematically dismantling the dumb gift ideas that seem to be conventional internet wisdom, but I realize that's probably not very helpful. For those of you who need a little assistance showing your lady how much you adore her, I'm going to try to give you some better ideas for a successful Valentine's Day*:

1. Strap on an apron and make her favorite dinner. DO NOT ask for her help with the dishes. 

2. If you have small children, handle the bedtime routine while she relaxes in a bath...with noise canceling headphones and her favorite bottle of wine. She'll be in a much more romantic mood if she doesn't have to read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom 300 times. I promise. 

3. (Warning: this one is very sappy...but girls love the sappy junk. You can thank Nicholas Sparks. He's ruined all of us.) Make a list of all the reasons you fell in love with her. Real reasons. Not "Your cooking tastes just like what mom used to make." In fact, avoid mom comparisons at all costs. This should be about her, and all the reasons she's special. Because she is. And you know it, even if you forget to tell her the other 364 days of the year. Throw in a box of chocolates for good measure. (Not the cheap waxy chocolate though. Go for the good stuff.)

4. Take the day off together. Couples massage at her favorite spa, wine tasting, walking through a book store. Whatever you like to do together, take the time to do it. Don't rush. 

5. Jewelry. But nothing featured in a Kays commercial please. Nothing says you're one of a kind like buying her something that is mass produced and marketed during breaks from Nick Jr. shows and NFL games. Don't go for the children's birthstones either. Save that for Mother's Day. She was your Valentine before she was your baby mama. (In most cases.)

Lastly, the most important piece of knowledge I can impart: Do not ever, ever regardless of circumstance or necessity, DO NOT buy her a vacuum.  I cannot be more clear about this. Nothing good will come of it. 

Keep in mind, Valentine's Day is about love. It's not about the price tag. If your girlfriend is annoyed that you didn't spend a lot on her, but you took the time and found her something special that reflects how you feel about her, well...your girlfriend kinda sucks. (I'm not including wives in that statement, because in general wives just want to know they're still your girlfriend too. Wives are easy.)

*You know your wife or girlfriend better than anyone on the internet. Take these and all suggestions with a grain of salt. Just be sure any gift you get comes from your heart. Woman are very powerful bullshit detectors...especially on Valentine's Day. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

If I was the president...

With the State of the Union and the upcoming President's Day vacation, I have overheard my beloved after-school study buddies discussing the presidency on several occasions over the past few weeks.  They agree that it would be "super awesome amazing!" to be president.  You would never have to make your bed or do homework.  But sadly, you would still probably have to do "real boring stuff" sometimes.

Keeping their chats in mind, I readied today's group project.  I asked the kids if they knew who the current president is.  After I pinky-promised them it was not Washington...or Lincoln (Eventually one of my girls proudly stated, "I know!  It's ARACK ARANA!"  Close enough.), I sat down with each child, and posed a question:  If you could tell the president one thing, what would it be?  It could be anything; a piece of advice, suggestion, criticism, something you want to change, anything at all. 

Some had an idea immediately.  Some sat deep in thought for a few moments.  Regardless of the length of time it took them, the little bits of wisdom they doled out are pure magic.

Originally, the idea was to write their thoughts on their own illustrations, and send them off to the White House.  And, I will still do that.  We're hoping for a response from President Arack Arana himself, fingers crossed.  But I just can't keep this level of genius between myself, and the White House staffers tasked with reading adorable kid mail.

"If I was the president, I would say, 'Girls are allowed to wear ties!'" --age 7

"Make peace with everybody in the world.  Right now." --age 8

"If I was the president, I would make sure everybody is safe.  Even the boys." --age 7

"Be more like Abe Lincoln." --age 7

"Thank you for making this a better place." --age 6


"You are the nicest president.  But I don't know the other presidents." --age 6

"Be in charge of our whole school." --age 6

"You should take care of your family and your country!" --age 8

"If I was the President of the United States, I would rule the school.  I think you could probably rule the school too." --age 6

"I think you should give us cupcakes every day." --age 7

"I like how you gave your speech on TV.  You had a serious face.  If I did that, I would barf." --age 7

"If I was the president, I would make everyone wear purple.  It's my favorite color." --age 6

"Go to the North Pole." --age 6

"If I was the president, I would do things you don't get to do that see a circus." --age 7

"Ban homework from the USA, and give everyone a dog to cuddle." --age 7

"If I was the president, I would run every restaurant in the world, and I would make everyone eat my food.  They would love it." --age 8

"I want to be president when I grow up too.  Maybe you could teach me?" --age 7

"I like George Washington more than you, because he makes quarters and fights in the army.  You don't do that stuff." --age 6

"You should change all the cafeteria food to macaroni and cheese." --age 8

Don't think of the preceding just as 20 cute statements from six to eight year old children.  Consider them as indisputable evidence that kids are better than us.  Children are a lot more worldly and wise than they are given credit for.  Clearly, they have their itty bitty fingers on the pulse of the nation.  They know the issues that matter.  They understand the problems of the masses, and they know exactly how to solve them:  With cupcakes, doughnuts, and macaroni and cheese.

Friday, January 31, 2014

There I am happy.

My house seems to have fallen victim to some new and creative biological weapon (and with the use of that phrase, I welcome all my new readers from the NSA), or a biblical plague, or maybe just bad luck.  Whatever the case, the stars have aligned, and they're not in my favor.

Over the course of the last seven days, the children have taken turns with sore throats, fevers, medications, hallucinations, allergic reactions, side effects, and projectile vomit.  Even the dog got sick.  Which means the parents haven't slept in a week.  We are dangerously close to reaching the exhaustion equivalent of a nuclear meltdown. 

My clothes smell like bleach.  I have barf on my favorite boots.  I'm spitefully jealous of my husband, because even though he only closed his eyes for 20 minutes last night, he gets to go to work today.  At this point, I am using almost all my energy not to turn into 120 pounds of pure hate. 

This is the side of motherhood that they don't put in the brochures.  This is the sweatpants, unbrushed hair, bad lighting, no Photoshop side of motherhood.  We all experience it at some point.  It sucks, but there's not much to be done about it.  We just keep our heads down, buy Gatorade and Clorox in bulk, and stumble our way through. 

Whenever I have a week like this...or whenever someone barfs on my favorite boots, I remember Friar Laurence from Romeo and Juliet.  (The secret is out.  I really am that much of a nerd.)  When Romeo thinks his life is over because he's been banished, Friar Laurence reminds him of all the ways he is lucky.  Basically, he tells Romeo to suck it up, quit whining, and stop acting like an idiot. 

I am big on silver linings, and sometimes I too need to be reminded to suck it up, quit whining, and stop acting like an idiot.

There are some silver linings to my forced, week-long confinement:  My kitchen is cleaner than it has ever been;  I have successfully managed to watch everything on my Netflix instant streaming list;  I finally finished crocheting the matching scarves for my little lady and her American Girl doll that I have been working on (blissfully ignoring) for months;  I've changed the color of my nail polish every day.  Fresh nail polish really compliments the sweatpants and unbrushed hair look.

But the ultimate silver lining is the quality time I've gotten to spend with each of my monsters.  I am all too aware that very soon they won't want me hanging around.  So if I have to exploit their sickness to snuggle up and watch hours of Doctor Who with my son, or to read every chapter of Prisoner of Azkaban out loud "in the funny voices" with my daughter, exploit I will.  I'm not above it.

I love my kids.  Love them.  Completely.  Their sticky, little, germy fingers have a vice-like grip on my heart.  I cherish every second I get to spend with them.  Even when they barf on my favorite boots.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Dads: It's All Part of the Job

I'm tired all the time.  I am constantly multitasking.  Cooking, cleaning, brushing hair, fighting the "Eat Your Vegetables" wars, volunteering in classrooms, and making time to be the wife my husband married.  They're all important tasks, but they're really no big deal.  I'm not special.  I'm just doing my job.  And nobody is surprised by this, because I'm a mom.

However, my husband is no different.  He's tired too.  He works all day, helps around the house, kills spiders, gives each child his undivided attention, shows them both a level of patience that I am personally not capable of, and spends time with me every evening.  It can't be easy for him.  But he does it.  And I don't think that's any big surprise either, because it's his job.

Recently a picture of a dad with his two daughters (one in a carrier, one getting her hair styled by dear ol' dad) has made it's way around the internet.  It has gone viral, been passed around everywhere, has a crazy amount of shares, likes, and favorites on social media sites.  What I truly do not understand about it is this:  There is not one remarkable thing about this picture.  (Or at least there shouldn't be.)  This guy is just doing his job.

The man who took the photo agrees with me completely.  This is the title of his blog post, "I have a Dream:  That People Will View a Picture Like This and Not Think It's a Big Deal."  He gets it.

I cannot believe the amount of support...and hate...this guy has received. 

At any given moment during my childhood, my dad could've taken this picture.  Only he had twice as many daughters.  He taught us how to braid hair.  He painted fingernails.  He dressed us for school and dance class.  He cooked us (sometimes rather unorthodox) meals.  He pretended to be Daddy Warbucks and danced with me down the steps of City Hall.  Though he may not remember this, he bought me a tube of crazy bright purplish lipstick, so I could look "just like The Pointer Sisters."  He did things like that all the time.  Because he was our dad.  And that was his job.

He also loved our mom.  Still does.  Unconditionally.  And he let us know it.  We knew exactly where we ranked, and it was not first.  Mom had an ally.  There was no divide and conquer.  They were a united front.  (I'll admit, that bit was sometimes completely infuriating.  Especially when we wanted to stay up to watch the end of The Cosby Show.)  Showing us that our mom was something to be cherished was his job too. 

Those things weren't special to me as a kid.  And I'm incredibly thankful for that.

I am glad I thought that a father actually parenting his kids was commonplace.  I'm glad I thought having an active dad was a normal thing.  I recognize now that not everyone had that experience.  

My dad's relationship with his daughters helped me in ways I cannot describe.  Even though at times I'm certain he thought he was raising a giant group of idiots, he never detached.  He was there.  All the time.  Even when he had the misfortune of being the dad of four PMSing once.

Of course he watched football in the recliner.  But, we were right next to him on the couch.  Of course he spent time with the guys he worked with.  But they became our family too.  Of course he enjoys a good beer.  And, now he and mom meet my sisters for a drink on Friday nights.  He did all the manly dad stuff.  But we were the priority.  And we knew it.  Because that was his job.

So I speak from experience to the dad behind the photo:  Keep doing your job.  Even if I don't think it's that special or remarkable.  Keep doing it even when it involves an infant puking down your back, or explaining something to a curious daughter for the 9283793485956th time, or doing that chore your wife hates just to make her happy.  Do it even if your girls don't want you to.

They may not think it's anything out of the ordinary now, but some day they'll thank you for it.  Because of the example you set, your daughters are likely to marry men just like you.  So your grandchildren will thank you too.