Growing Up, and Letting Go.

Thought I would post these today, with permission of course.  Time slips away and these moments are gone before you realize it.  Thank You Baby Girl – for allowing me to save them and share them. You’re beautiful!  May 3, 2014

“Ours Not to Wonder…

…What were Fair in Life; but finding what may be – make it Fair up to our Means.” ~ Anne McCaffery

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/kansas-judge-man-who-provided-sperm-to-lesbian-couple-must-pay-child-support/

This made headlines recently and I figured I could use a good op-ed piece to get my muse kick-started again. So here goes…

First of all, I am completely supportive of same-sex couples adopting and/or having their own biological children together.  A loving home with good consistent co-parenting is a key factor in raising a healthy well-adjusted child. (I’m leaving single parenting out of my factoring in this case, although a loving strong and consistent single parent is just as effective in raising a healthy well-adjusted child – I think we all can agree that having two involved parents is the optimal situation for all concerned. Parenting is a tough gig.) That said, it is not the “right” of any couple to be able to have children simply because they want them.

If one or both of the partners is infertile then medical insurance can cover procedures to mitigate that, and/or provide Artificial Insemination or other options to assure pregnancy.  In the case of this lesbian couple – its safe to presume that at least the biological mother was fertile – in which case it was NOT incumbent upon her medical insurance (if she had any) to provide coverage for the AI procedure. Just as it is not incumbent upon a fertile heterosexual woman’s insurance to provide that coverage.  There’s no problem with the plumbing in either case.

No, I can’t say its fair that same-sex couples have to struggle on this level too, but in regard to this issue – that’s the way it is.  I’m going to use myself as an analogy here for a moment:  I had bariatric surgery several years ago.  I could use a few nip/tucks here and there post-weight loss.  However, I am not covered for it. Fair? Nope. But that’s the way it is. Life’s given me bat-wings so I better learn to fly with them! Anyway, however any of us may feel about same sex relationships, and related civil rights –  we cannot deny basic biology. Unless there is some help or scientific intervention there can be no fertile relationships between same sex partners.

So,  – the correct thing to do if AI is the way fertile females are choosing to conceive, is to SAVE THEIR MONEY in order to get the procedure done.  Mistake #1 in the case I am discussing here. Mistake #2:  The couple  advertised online (Craigslist???) for a sperm donor.  They must be OUT OF THEIR FREAKIN MINDS.  Mistake #3:  The man involved actually responded to an online advertisement to be said donor.  He was not a registered sperm donor.  HE must be OUT OF HIS FREAKIN MIND too.   The poor kid could’ve ended up with John Wayne Gacy or Delphine LaLaurie as parental material!  We all know what a wonderful, safe place the internet is, so let’s search it to find the perfect person to create a child with…….. OR NOT.

Mistake #4: AI is a medical procedure with inherent risk even when performed by a licensed physician.  Conception a la Turkey Baster at home is, how shall I say this – a “Bozo No-No”….. yeah that works…. The woman was fortunate in that her home performed procedure did not result in complications such as infection, peritonitis, sepsis, STD’s, or even death – and lead to a healthy baby.

I guess my bottom line here is that life isn’t fair.  We all have dreams that are unfulfilled; things we want to do that we cannot.  It is what it is, and we should try to make the best of it if we cannot change it.   The Kansas court rightly decided that the donor should be responsible for child support in that proper procedures were not followed by any of the adults involved regarding the insemination of the woman, or the subsequent support of the resulting child. The judge also quite correctly inferred that the child is the person who matters here.  Hopefully this will serve as a heads up to other couples deciding whether or not to have AI. If you want to be a sperm donor, please register and donate at a licensed medical facility. These steps protect you legally.  If your insurance doesn’t cover artificial insemination, save your pennies, consult a lawyer, draw up a binding contract that clearly spells out obligations and will be recognized in court, and use state approved and medically licensed facilities and personnel to perform the procedure.  Or alternatively – ADOPT. There are far too many children who need loving and supportive homes out there.  But that’s another story…..

The Slippery Slope

http://jezebel.com/girl-gives-boy-blow-job-at-music-festival-boy-is-hero-1170516814

This past weekend there was a music festival in Slane, Ireland at which a young woman was photographed engaging in sex acts with at least two different young men. The photos went viral quickly and the young woman has promptly been slut-shamed; while little if anything negative fallout has been attributed to the young men who participated in said publicly indecent behavior. I cannot even begin to tell you how upset this makes me – on many levels.

First off – it takes two (or more in this instance) to Tango, folks. The young men who engaged in this activity with her are just as “slutty” if not more so – than the woman in question. They ALL should be ashamed of themselves, and probably should be arrested for public indecency and placed on the sex offender registry when convicted. Since 17 is the age of consent, child pornography is not an issue in this particular case. Yet, I fail to understand why young people these days deem it OK to photograph, videotape, and share what should be extremely private moments. There is certainly  more than enough information out there about the dangers and consequences of sharing explicit photographs and messages via cell phone or on the internet. Once it’s out there, its out there FOREVER. I don’t completely understand why folks aren’t more careful about what they do – or don’t do, in the internet age. Hel-lo!?! It ain’t rocket science to figure that one out – and act accordingly. Secondly, there was no expectation of privacy…. Moreover, since when did it become OK to get a blowjob in public? So for the young woman to be “distraught” by the publication of these pictures doesn’t make sense. Duh – they were in PUBLIC. If this woman was inebriated, where were her friends to talk her out of doing something this dumb? Oh wait, they were probably all inebriated…… and thought this was HILARIOUS….

I think, perhaps, there’s a very slippery slope here – and what we see in this instance is the pileup at or near the bottom of that slope. The code of conduct for public behavior, hell – even the dress code, has relaxed considerably in the last few years. For example, \10 years ago I don’t know of a single person who would have left the house in their pajamas for any reason other than a critical emergency room visit. Just stroll around your local mall this weekend and you will see a lot of people wandering around in their nightwear. Standards of decency have lowered too – as evidenced by the fashion of wearing ones pants below the hips with one’s tightie whities or boxers showing to all the world. Shirts showing either under-boob, side-boob, or uber-cleavage. Low rise pants that stop millimeters from revealing the upper pubic area. Short shorts clearly outlining one’s genitalia, and buttocks hanging out the back. The attitude is “anything goes” – fashion wise. It’s a short step down to “anything goes” behaviorally, is it not? Especially when, alcohol and drugs are involved. These music festivals are notorious for such things. Is the lack of decency in fashion a cue to act less than decently when wearing such costume? I think that’s highly probable.  I am not saying one cannot express themselves via their clothing.  I am saying that one should be careful and thoughtful, always. Just because you CAN do something does not necessarily mean you SHOULD.

There’s not a clear line to distinguish the acceptable from the unacceptable anymore. Is it then surprising when we (ie the rest of us)  get treated to the free show? If we are surprised, we shouldn’t be. We are not holding anyone to acceptable standards of public behavior when we make ridiculous allowances for “freedom of expression” that cross the line into indecency and immodesty. I am not saying that fashion choices are the sole determining factor in this debacle – but I do think that it was a big part of the slippery slope these folks were on when they fell. Its all connected folks – don’t let anyone tell ya different. I believe it does no one harm to be told “NO” once in awhile. No – you can’t go out of the house dressed like a hoodlum, or a 5 dollar hooker, period. That boundary allows us the structure to eventually determine our own levels of self-respect.

In the festival fellatio fiasco, there was a serious lack of self respect shown in regard to all the participants in the “event.” Certainly more than enough blame to go around for all involved. Is it slutty behavior to perform sex acts in public? Absolutely. All should be held accountable, not just the female who performed the favors. A young man with any self-respect whatsoever should have declined any ‘offers’ and assisted the woman to a safe location. Any young man who was raised correctly, that is. And any woman with any sense of self worth should absolutely know better than to engage in such behavior. If both consenting individuals were interested in a hook-up – it should have been conducted in PRIVATE. I am hoping that all parties will have charges brought against them, that they will learn a tough life lesson, and conduct their sex lives in private from this point on.

 

The Head Table

Head Table Place Settings

Head Table Place Settings (Photo credit: VancityAllie)

Remember when you were a kid, and you couldn’t wait to sit at the grown up table on holidays?  No more mismatched chairs, paper plates and plastic cups at the rickety old card table. No sirree bub – you got the formal dining room and the good china at the adults table.  You were where it was happening. Definitely a mini rite-of-passage, at least for this chick.  As the oldest child and oldest grandchild I got to go first. Woo Hoo! Welcome to the Party, Pal!

But I want to talk about a different table.  The Head Table.  I don’t mean where Bride and Groom sit during their reception, or where the Silver and Gold Anniversary Couples get to sit. Those are cool places to be.   The happy place – center of attention and hub of the party wheel.  I want to talk about the table you get move up to – and sit at – when your parents pass away.  Its not an actual table, but its a real thing nonetheless.  And its emotional, and scary.  If all goes as hoped, you’re bound for the cemetery next. Not that anyone hopes to die, but if The Fates are kind, they take you before your children.

When you step up to take your seat at the table (if those Fates have once again smiled upon you) you’re usually middle aged – and usually with children and grandchildren by that point.  Sitting down, you get to take stock of your life to date.  You evaluate your goals, reevaluate them and maybe even change career direction. Or divorce. Or remarry. Have a full blown nuclear mid life crisis. Make a menopausally fueled Hit List. Or none of those things. But –  underlying whatever is going on is the stark reality that there’s no human buffer zone between you and the Great Beyond anymore. No safety net below you as you stand on the platform at the ceiling of the Center Ring.  Tag. You’re it.

I was chatting with my Aunt Jean the other day.  She lives near Chicago, but we try to connect with one another as much as possible. She was 17 when I was born, and she’s my Godmother.  We were discussing careers and work. She mentioned that at my age- I’m at the apex career wise.  If I’ve reached for the brass ring already – great. If not, I’d better do it soon. She didn’t say so, but I thought –  I’m approaching the Head Table, dammit.   I haven’t sat down yet because my Mom is still with us; but  I’m halfway up there as of 2007 when my Dad left us terribly, suddenly. Two of my best friends in the world – Cheryl and Martha – have a seat saved for me. Cheryl’s been sitting up there since 1999.  Martha, since last year.

I’ll be in great company, but I’m really not ready to move up to the Head Table yet. Those Fates though, they don’t deign to ask whether or not you’re ready to sit up there. And if I had to guess, I would say that NO ONE is ever ready for a seat at this particular table.  The view is probably lovely up there – friends, family etc. The love, palpable. But it seems a lonely place, regardless of the company you’re in. And, taking your seat up there acknowledges that you are, in point of fact, now an orphan.

So, as I meander towards my new assigned seating (which I FERVENTLY hope I will not have to sit in for a few years yet) I find myself asking the questions:  Am I happy? What makes me happy? Do I matter? Selfish questions, but at my age I’ve paid enough dues in life to ask such selfish questions. I also ask unselfish ones:  Have I made a difference to someone, helped someone, been a good parent?  (Don’t ask my girls that until I’ve had a chance to bribe them) Hahaha! ;). And finally: What do I want to do with the next 30+ years of my life?  I’ve certainly discovered a passion for writing and photography in the last year or so. I would like to build on that if I can.

What questions will you be asking yourself as you approach The Head Table? Or, what are you thinking about as you sit there?  Inquiring Minds…. etc.

What’s in a Name? And, A Drive By Vomit

I woke this morning to the sound of giggles and murmuring in my living room.  Mayhem (the youngest) has been sleeping on the couch because of a spider-fright in her room. Chaos (the oldest) had to get up early to register online for next semester’s college courses.  So of course Chaos had to make sure that Mayhem was awake – because in her world if she ain’t sleepin, ain’t nobody sleepin. They didn’t bother me (today 😉 ) and so I snuggled back into my cocoon of warmth for a few extra ZZZZ’s. When I finally emerged into the living room – Chaos was registering for her classes and Mayhem was doing her usual morning zombie shuffle. At some point, Chaos decided to help herself to some post-Easter Jelly Beans.

Didja ever start eating something that you thought you knew what it was; but it turned out to be something different? Well…  (Gagging, goat-like noise) “Mom? Black jelly beans, what flavor are they?” Me:  “Liquorice.” Chaos: “What’s anise, then?”   Me: “It tastes like liquorice…. Its a plant.” She had been expecting grape flavor -mistaking black for purple in the dim light. Well, since things usually taste pretty crappy when you were expecting one taste and get another  – much merriment ensued when the word “anise” was phonetically compared to the word for the body orifice that produces said crap.  Which I was unaware of, quite apparently –  since I continued to blather on about the anise plant.  The girls were still chortling over “anus” and thought I was commenting about anuses….how you can boil and reduce them to make the liquorice flavor. Yes, I have lost my mind – but not quite on that grand a scale – yet….Mayhem  was holding her sides. To paraphrase JRR Tolkein: Its a dangerous business – getting out of bed in the morning.

Fast Forward to this afternoon:  The Tale of the Drive-by Puking.  To set the stage: the usual state of affairs is that Chaos brings Mayhem home after work, since the younger one is a member and the older one works there.  They arrived home at abut 6:20 pm today – par for the course.  Chaos had to relate what happened on the way home –  literally just up the street. They had turned down our street and were approaching the neighbor’s house.  Both girls noticed a girl sitting on the curb. The car in front of them slowed, stopped and picked the girl up.  Mayhem: “Whats going on?” Chaos: “Getting a ride, or getting kidnapped.”  Door of car opens, girl leans out – Kidnapping Escape Attempt? Nope.  She proceeds to hurl on the street.  The driver waves Chaos around and gives her a wide-eyed  “IDKWTF is going on” look as they pass the car.  Said car then proceeds to speed off down the street in some haste – leaving the lovely deposit behind…..

I am not surprised. In this town literally anything is possible.  But I think I have had enough strange hilarity for one day.

The Times – are They a’Changin?

I have been having a multitude of conversations with my 14 year old lately dealing with behavior, morality, human sexuality, sexual orientation, social acceptance, bullying etc.  More than I ever seemed to have with my oldest at that stage of her life. Times have gotten tougher everywhere.  These times, they are a changing  – or are they? Its not that my youngest doesn’t get it, or is having trouble socially – it’s just that what’s out there is so darned overwhelming. She starts high school in the fall. It’s a whole different world – even more so than when her sister went to high school – and CERTAINLY much different socially than when her dad and I attended,  way back in the “olden” days.  (and it’s a whole ‘nother planet when you think of the differences between now and her grandmother’s generation – who probably graduated in the 50’s or 60’s)  But perhaps not.  There is so much further we still have to go in terms of  inclusion, equality, and respectful social interaction.

I read this online today at www.aholyexperience.com   and while my prevailing thinking does not generally run toward a religious bent – something she said really resonated:  “When the prevailing thinking is ‘boys will be boys’ – then girls will be garbage.”  And I went: “Wow…”   since I have those two girls of my own. Being young – and female, in today’s society comes with enormous challenges; and becoming a successful, self assured, independent female adult requires great sacrifice, a strong steady moral compass, sheer cussed stubbornness – and a big mouth.  Raising such women has been supremely difficult – and supremely rewarding.  Raising girls sure is tough. Girls are, well….girls. There are days when I feel extremely sorry for The Viking – trapped in an unending sea storm of estrogen.

We’re up against it aren’t we, after all? That glass ceiling – career-wise. A woman earns 70 cents for the dollar that a man earns to do the same job.  Hypersexualization of women in our culture from an early age Toddlers and Tiaras, anyone? Jon-Benet? . Madonna provided a hypersexualized portrait of women in their early 20’s.  Brittney Spears brought the age level down to 17/18 and Miley Cyrus – 14/15.   This society we live in, with its severely delinated and defined gender roles that allow no room for people to just be people. Outdated patriarchal thinking that allows women to be objectified; and is more concerned with blaming a  woman for her clothing choices on a Saturday night out with friends – rather than blaming the drunken lout who assaulted her.  “Boys will be boys” after all. Boys are not accountable simply by virtue of their gender?… Wait, what?  Yeah, I went there.  The “rape culture” that blames the victim and elicits sympathy for the offenders.   Witness Steubenville, Ohio.The media laments about  “promising football careers lost” while simultaneously – and gleefully – reporting that the underage victim had been drinking.  Witness Delhi, and Datia Province – both in India – where one only need be female  in order to be assaulted, defiled, and murdered.   Witness Elmont, NY – where a 15 yr old special needs student was gang raped beneath her desk while class was in session – with a teacher only feet away.  They were all asking for it?  By being drunk? Being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Being developmentally disabled? Or merely by being female? Oh I think not! Things like this make me want to keep my girls home permanently. Only I didn’t… haven’t… won’t.

My daughters both have minds of their own – quite intelligent and compassionate ones. The 14 year old is particularly sensitive to social issues and is not shy about expressing her opinions even if they differ with mine. (The older one is even more vocal, hahaha) My views at this point in life are somewhat jaded (I guess that would be the most apt word).  “It is what it is, my friend – and life’s not fair – so get used to it.” That’s not to say I won’t pick any battles, but I have seen the futility of tilting at the proverbial windmills.

As my youngest starts to establish her adult identity she is of course interested in self expression.  Hairstyles, clothing styles etc.  I have always encouraged my girls to choose for themselves, – but within limits.  The conversation we had the other night is a good example.  There seems to be a fashion fad going around of people wearing informal style pants where the crotch hangs down around the knees by design. The waist is not pulled down manually – as has been the gangsta style (underwear showing) that’s been so popular. Below the knee, the pants (t shirt or sweatpants material) fit tightly to the calf.  I did not hesitate to tell her what I thought: 1. Looks like pajamas, which are NOT acceptable to wear in public 2. Looks like the person wearing it has a full diaper and needs to be changed – again, not acceptable in public.

Like it or not,  people will be judged by their appearance. If you walk out of the house to do business in public in your pajamas – you will be perceived as lazy, period. If you are dressed like a two dollar hooker – please do not be surprised when you are treated like one. Is it right or fair? – NO. But its not going to change anytime soon.  How do I teach the fine line between self-expression and immodesty? Or sloppiness? or laziness?    Hopefully it began long ago, when their father and I (again hopefully) instilled a sense of pride in themselves. By demonstrating that we do things the right way, not necessarily the easy way. And, by treating each other with respect and tolerance.  Walking the talk, as it were.

No one has the right to harm another person, no matter how they are dressed, what their IQ is, where they are from, or how inebriated they are. That said, however – it is also important that women remember to be proactive, self protective, and self aware.  This means understanding that choosing to wear the belly shirt and the micro mini-skirt may bring unwanted attention. It means being responsible – and response-able, making smart choices.  We cannot control how others behave; we can only control our own behavior.  We can hold others accountable for their behavior, but ONLY after the fact.  And by then – Damage Done.  Damage in the form of teasing or bullying, harassment, or outright physical harm.

The teenage years are horrid at best – so why would anyone deliberately make extravagant choices that would paint a target on their back? What about that self expression?  Well, living in adult society often means compartmentalizing and role-playing.  For instance – I’m a jeans and tee shirt kind of girl – who also happens to be tattooed.  However, I work in an office that has a dress code and I have to wear business casual attire Monday-Thursday and cannot go sleeveless even in the summertime.  Do I feel stunted or my freedom of expression impinged upon?  Not really – because who I am inside is always there and I don’t need to show it on the outside all the time in order to feel I’m living authentically.  I know I can go home and change when I get out of work. I have developed a public identity to go along with my private one. My personal friends and family see a more complex me than my acquaintances do. My professional contacts see me only superficially. Their opinion of me on a personal level means little. I merely have to do my job and be pleasant. I have a bigger obligation to be “real” to my acquaintances and even more so with my friends and family. This is the process teens are working through – developing their adult identities and coming to terms with the fact that our public and private faces do not necessarily have to match in order for us to live happily. Finding the balance, becoming OK with the layers.

Another issue is that we tend to over share these days. Somehow we’ve gotten the idea that unless we are acting uninhibitedly we are being untrue to ourselves. NOT SO. Just because we can do something does not mean we should. A bit of inhibition is a good thing. Self-restraint is a sign of maturity whether you’re male or female.   It’s a fine line to walk, and a big challenge to impart that lesson.   (The brain’s judgment center is not fully developed until the mid-twenties) Teen females also need to learn to navigate the patriarchy and carve out their own niche – not settle for whatever society determines is right for them  ie: The Trophy, or The Bitch.

So I’ve told my girls: Be authentic – do what feels right, provided it doesn’t hurt anyone. Be respectful, and expect to be respected in return.  Harm none. Speak up against injustice and unfairness.  But, recognize that as a female they will have to do it better than the boys to even be considered half as good.   And that by speaking up, by demanding that respect – they’ll be thought of as Bitches. And that’s OK – a strong Bitch is hard to push around, isn’t she?   I want my girls to be happy and successful.  I have tried to make sure they have the tools to excel in today’s world, while also striving to assure that they have the dreams and vision to aspire to something better for themselves. So in the end, they can choose to be someone other than a Trophy or a Bitch. And THEIR daughters won’t even have to think about it.

A Beautiful Dawn in the New Year

My mother called very early yesterday morning. I expected it on January 9th because it was Mayhem’s birthday and Mom always calls first thing in the morning to wish her grandchildren a Happy Birthday.  I was not expecting an early call a few days later; so when I saw the caller ID I admit to panicking a bit.  Last year was not a good year health- wise for either my Mom or my step-Dad… sooo yeah.  Fortunately, she was just calling to alert me to the dawn.  She also calls for “rainbow alerts”, and gorgeous sunsets, and unusual bird sightings – outside of our usual conversations.  I will miss that when she passes, which won’t be for awhile yet if I have anything to say about it (which I don’t, but still…).

I threw on a jacket, grabbed my camera, and headed outside in my slippers to the back yard. Our property abuts the dike along the Westfield River, facing southwest(ish) if you’re looking directly out my kitchen door – so the sun actually rises in the winter just outside of left frame in the first three pictures, and well outside of left frame in the fourth. Behind the dike is a cornfield, then the treeline along the river. The next 4 pictures you see are a sort of  “pan” from left to right.  The sky was just beautiful yesterday morning.  By the time I got to work it had clouded over completely and later there was a freezing rain to drive home in. But the lovely start more than made up for it.  I hope you enjoy the pictures.

January Dawn watermarkedJanuary Dawn 2 watermarked and croppedJanuary Dawn 4 watermarkedJanuary Dawn 3 watermarked