This latest school shooting. I get how easy it is to jump to needing stricter gun control. And I’ll grant you that the process is flawed and needs reform.
But a piece that isn’t even being mentioned by most is this: look at how many opportunities there were to change this kid’s experience. Look at how many chances we had to see that this was coming and to intervene.
This particular kid’s story really eats at me because I’ve heard stories like his–ones of absent family, loss of all support figures, ostracism and bullying, and the cascade of circumstances that leave kids alone, scared, angry, and without the skills to navigate our world–so many times. Our system failed him. With tragic consequences.
This isn’t to condone his actions. Does every bullied, orphaned, “different” kid end up committing acts of violence? No. But there were also so many instances where it was apparent to the people in his world that he might, including social media posts in September specifically stating that he was going to be a school shooter that even the FBI was notified about.
My question, frankly, isn’t why he had access to guns but why weren’t interventions to help and stop this kid taken more seriously? Why is obvious mental health and judgement deficit not more of a call for support than a call to block access? While gun safety is critical, people are the ultimate deciding factor in these tragedies. People with mental health and coping deficits need more than just a gun ban. What leads a person there? And how do we in our structures and systems intervene to prevent a person from being led there?The question I keep coming back to is: What can I personally do to work against these things? What can I do directly to/with/for the people likely to commit these acts? Calling them monsters and splitting hairs over whether they have mental illness or an anger problem or violent religious or personal ideology doesn’t do anything to impact the pathos in them. Chasing legislative changes that may or may not occur and petitioning representatives and peacefully protesting the continued occurrence of gun violence doesn’t act directly enough to reach most of the people committing these crimes. What can I and my neighbor and my daughter and some stranger in the Bronx or rural Wyoming actively DO to recognize and redirect that dangerous behavior path in those individuals? In other words, if all attempts at legislating this problem away or improving healthcare systems and these big, large scale projects to solve this fail and it’s in my hands to personally take action, what can I do? Because today, attempts at changing legislation failed. Changing the healthcare system failed. And it will tomorrow and the next day and the next. And, unfortunately, with the current administration in power, those legislative and structural changes are likely to be fiercely resisted and blocked every chance they get. I’m not saying don’t work toward those things. But don’t count on them. And find something you can do directly. And share your ideas. I won’t even pretend to know all the answers.
Shutting out mental health issues only exacerbates them. In the individual and in society as a whole. We could have helped this kid. And, if nothing else, if it really was too late to help him heal, we could have seen this coming and stopped him. Vilifying him as a monster who should never have been sold a gun is a way of dismissing our failure to respond and prevent his actions. If you want to end gun violence, you have to look at more than just the gun.


I Like a Glass of Good Bourbon

I like a glass of good bourbon–every now and again. 

I like the velvety fire of just a sip at a time, curling across my tongue and unfurling into nothingness like oak-flavored smoke. 

I like the way a glass will give a mischievous glow to the more shaded corners of the mind, the way the Trivial and the Mundane seem to fall away, revealing the Important, the Meaningful, the Relevant and True. I like the way words are less of a struggle to let go of,  just enough inhibition removed to let them flow like fresh honey from the comb.

I like the slow burn as the bourbon blazes down into the depths of my body and sparks warmth across my flesh, and I like the faint brush of dew across my forehead seeking to quench that heat. 

I like the clarity that comes with knowing you’re a little fuzzy. The dichotomy of the experience.

Dancing Gracelessly

I hate the days that drag, the days I wish I could fast forward through. I hate how much I would miss out on if I could. 

How much do I miss out on, toe-tapping through the intolerably long hours, though? Trying to distract myself through cruel eons of tedium? Being present in the moment is a struggle right now. 

This year has been rough to be present through. A car crash, repeated injuries and illnesses, the loss of a coworker, the loss of THREE kids I’ve worked with in 6 weeks…it’s been heavy. Keeping my eyes forward, focused on achieving The Bright and Less Distant Future, has been all there is. 

It’s funny, sitting here in limbo, outlasting the days between now and that bit that gets built up in my head as The Beginning of The Rest of My Life…it feels stagnant, boring, oppressive like humidity. Three months, Autumn. Three more months, and you start walking that road.

Trying to string my thoughts together into coherent ideas has been harder than normal, and it’s creating some anxiety for me; words are my thing. Words are where I dance, graceless as I am in my physical movements. So to struggle with words is to feel extremely off-balance. 

In my frustration, it seems it would be nice to not care how the words come out, to regurgitate them before me and see them for what they are and make sense of it all afterward. But I do care, and so, in the absence of effective words ready to fall flashing brightly from the tip of my tongue (or pen, or keyboard), I fall silent. 

Silence can only be maintained for so long, though, before the excess builds up and spills out as Flighty, Distracted, Disorganized. It gets labeled “Quirky” and I continue to search for appropriate outlets for it. 

It’s been a few months of struggling to find the words and manage the excess madness. Here’s to happily finding words again, and to finding outlets for quirks, should the words fail me again. 

On Losing a Bright Star

We lost a dear friend yesterday. I hardly have the words to write the sadness that is in my heart, the collective agony of loss in the countless people whose lives he touched. 

From the first night I met Bill, I knew he had a heart that was bigger than his ample chest could contain. His spirit echoed in the sonorous baritone boom of his voice. He was at once both fierce and soft, kind and firm, gruff but warm. Although we never worked the same shift, I know he was fantastic at his job. I know the kids we worked with knew he cared. I know the staff who worked his shifts respected and trusted him. We all did. And we all miss him more than there are words for. 

Bill gave me a baby shower present shortly before I left on maternity leave last summer. He knew I love Harry Potter, and he knew I planned to read to Beasty; he also knew I had left my books in California. So he brought me a copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I don’t know if he was familiar with Order of the Phoenix or the series as a whole or not, but he certainly knew how to pick them. 

Early in the story, Harry discovers that he can now see skeletal, horse-like flesh-beings called thestrals, creatures only visible to those who had seen death. Luna Lovegood helps Harry see that the thestrals are not to be feared or hated; that they’re misunderstood because of their association with tragedy; that, despite their strange appearance and unfortunate reasons for being seen, there are beautiful and good qualities to be found in the thestrals. Bill had a similar way of seeing the good in a kid, of caring about even our most challenging kids, no matter how the kid presented him- or herself. Like Luna and the thestrals she saw because of unfortunate circumstances, Bill could look at a kid and see past the unfortunate circumstances that brought the kid before him. 

At the end of Order of the Phoenix, Harry loses his godfather; he watches Sirius fall through an archway and slip under the veil hanging there. Harry waits for him to stand back up, half-expecting Sirius to pop through the veil with a wicked grin on his face and the flash of a fight shining bright in his eyes. But it doesn’t happen. And the reality hits: this man, who has stood in in Harry’s father’s stead, who has selflessly supported and loved Harry without condition, is gone. We have waited for a healthy Bill to return to us, but that is no longer to be. And the reality of his absence cannot be dismissed. I still catch myself expecting to hear his laugh booming from the CM office, still half-hope his obnoxiously large chair will be in front of our desk.

Bill, you are so very missed. You have touched so many lives, so many more than I think you realize. The emotions I saw today from our coworkers, from the kids who knew you, scream to the stars that you have been here, that you made a difference to so very many of us. You are so very loved, and our hearts ache as we feel your absence. 

To my EYC family, I love you all. And I feel with you our great loss. We will do right by his memory.

Cluster-feeding Cluster-f**k: Mommy’s Cluster-fed up!

So, between the car accident, several busy days of dealing with the aftermath of said accident, what I suspect is an impending growth spurt and cognitive jump–oh, and possibly a pair of new teeth coming in…we’ve started cluster-feeding again. With gusto.

This girl has literally been latched and nursing all night for over a week. She drains one breast, cries until I switch sides, and drains the other side while she waits for the first side to refill. During the day, she spends a good 60-70% of the day latched. And most of the rest of that time, she’s stuck to me like glue. 

I hit a point about half-way through last week where I desperately needed a break. I was touched out, tired from constant wake-ups through the nights, hadn’t been able to shower in several days…I was not at my Mommy Best. The Mr even tried to take Beasty off my hands for a few hours, but she wouldn’t have it. She just wants and needs me right now. 

I had a bit of a melt-down over all of it on Wednesday. I had gone out to my totaled car to clean it out, was re-confronted with the memory of the accident, and there were too many similarities that afternoon to the night of the accident. Beasty was crying inconsolably. I was running late. I felt flustered as I tried to determine what needed to come out of the vehicle and what was not worth it. I left a lot behind. 

I ended up being late for the doctor appointment (Beasty is growing right on track, hitting milestones either as expected or ahead of time, btw. Proud mama right here.) I had to pee like crazy the whole appointment. I ended up being late to pick up the Mr. And by the time I got to his office, I was in tears. 

As he came and took over driving (especially after the accident, I much prefer the passenger seat), I had the full Mommy Meltdown I’d been putting off for longer than I care to admit. 

They happen, from time to time, the meltdowns. They’ve happened for longer than I’ve been a mom, longer than I’ve been an adult, longer, really, than I can remember. I reach a point where I’ve lost sight of the big picture just trying to get through each day (hello Anxiety, hello Depression, in the flesh). And it all crashes down, at least in my mind, around me. Sometimes there’s a migraine, sometimes it’s just a fog of excessive energy and emotion. I get through it, and I have some clarity about what I missed and how to do better moving forward. It’s easy to see on this side of it, impossible for me to recognize how to stop it when the ship is on its way down. 

And on this side of the meltdown, I find myself determined to do better, to fight against the chaos and clutter in my mind with new tools.

This time, I’m working on calling myself out when I see a behavior that’s a product of anxiety or depression: I call out the behavior (one of my big ones, for example: avoiding making phone calls), find some way to alleviate the anxiety (maybe giving myself 10 minutes to read while Beasty nurses, or walk myself through the phone call, something that brings me into a calmer space), and then I do whatever it is that the behavior was avoiding or affecting (you know, making the stupid phone call). I’m trying hard to catch myself in the act, to make sense of my less-reasonable behaviors and redirect them. 

I hope I can be a good example for my Beasty. She deserves a strong woman as a mother and role model. 

Labors of Love and the Love We Find in Laboring

Friday was World Breast Pumping Day. It came just 4 days after I hit 6 months successfully breastfeeding with Beasty. I was able to accomplish this in part because I pump. 

I pumped early on to help my supply increase, and I pump while at work to maintain my supply and to provide Beasty with food for the 7-10 hours I’m away from her, 3 days a week.

Breastfeeding was something I deeply wanted and feared I wouldn’t get, even before I got pregnant. Almost exactly 4 years before Beasty was born, I had a breast reduction surgery. While I still firmly believe that having the surgery greatly improved my quality of life, it became something that I feared would rob me of an experience for which I longed. 

But I did a lot of research and discussions with my care providers, both at the time of surgery and through my prenatal care, about increasing chances of success. My surgeon took my wishes into account when he did his work. I learned about stimulation techniques, supplements, and pumping patterns and techniques. I had Beasty latch almost immediately, and I refused to give up through struggles with pain and supply. I continue to monitor very closely how much I produce. For me, breastfeeding has very much been a labor of love. For me, pumping has been a huge piece of that labor. 

There have been a number of people, by virtue of their positions at my company, who have helped make pumping a possibility, and to them, I will always be grateful. They may not even know that they did anything, but the 20 minutes, 2-3 times a day, that they gave me have made a huge impact on my life, on my daughter’s life. It might seem like a small thing, but I can’t thank them enough. They have helped me achieve what I thought was impossible.

So here it is: 6 months strong. Six months of natural feeding, of bonding, of establishing benefits for both of us that will trickle down through the years. Here’s to every day that I get to keep doing this, and here’s to aiming for another 6 months. And another year. And feeding another baby (in a few years…) with my body. 

Here’s to what we never thought we could–but did. 

Just a little vent-y side note…

Yesterday was one of those specific days that stand out individually against the general blur of days past in the mind.  There are those days that are the sort that stick out because of monumental joy: the weddings, births, first dates, etc. The shimmery days, if you will.

Unfortunately, the other sort of days that do that tend to be fraught with misfortune. That was my yesterday. 

Yesterday sucked. As I knew I would, I survived it. But even that ended up being a close call. 
It started with struggling with the Beasty. She is aptly nicknamed at times…yesterday was one of those days. She’s going through some big cognitive jumps, along with her front upper teeth descending, and between those two things, her sleep has been all jacked up. Which makes her a fickle, indecisive handful of a Beasty. 

She and I have developed a strong bond through babywearing, and as she’s gotten bigger, my front-facing Infantino is our ticket to tasks like meal prep and dishes. And laundry. And feeding animals. And…well, everything, pretty much. Point is, babywearing is the bees’ knees, and I highly recommend working through any initial struggles you encounter. 

Anyway. We were babywearing as I put together a salad for my lunch. I, admittedly, wasn’t paying as much attention to Beasty’s reach as I was to the location of the tip and sharp edge of the knife I was using. She reached across and grabbed my salad bowl and pulled it off the counter and onto my pinky toe, and I felt my toe crunch. 

This is 10 minutes after. 

This is 24 hours later. 

So I got through my barrage of four-letter words, got some ice on it, and got on with my day. The Mr called to let me know he’ll be a bit late, so I planned a trip into town that would coincide with his pick-up time. 

Fast forward to pick-up time, and I’ve taken a different route to pick him up to accommodate a gas stop. As I passed through an intersection (as it turns out, the intersection I needed to turn at, rather than going through), a car passing across my path. Way too close to avoid collision. I caught her back end, lost control, and slammed into a traffic light pole. Thus ending my drive to the Mr. 

There she is, my faithful Baby-Ru. Her final act was to keep me and Beasty safe. Airbags deployed, I got rocked incredibly hard, and I’ll need to replace my car seat, but we both came out of it with no major injuries. Beasty doesn’t even seem to be sore today. 

We are so lucky. So incredibly lucky. 

Today, I feel a bit worse for wear; I can tell that I hit my face on the steering wheel and then the airbag after it deployed, that I braced my right arm on the wheel or the dash upon impact, and I’ve got some bruising and pain that’s popping up across my chest and abdomen. 

But the physical pains are minor in comparison to the panic and guilt I felt over my daughter. I don’t know that I could have handled her being hurt or worse (I won’t even bring myself to put it into words). It took me a minute to get myself freed enough to get to her, and those moments of struggle make me nauseous even now. 

Holding her close now, as she sleeps soundly against me in the Ergobaby, I feel primally protective over her; the urge to never let her leave this close-snuggled hold is strong. Even though I’m exhausted and in a fair amount of pain, I can’t bring myself to let her from my arms for more than a few minutes. Even though I am struggling to keep my calm through her fuss, struggling to find the patience for it, I also don’t have it in me to take space from it. 

Motherhood is the most challenging, wonderful, awful, painful, rewarding, hardest, weirdest adventure I’ve yet undertaken.

Winning the Ick War

Today is a struggle. 

I came down with the bug that the Mr had earlier in the week, and I came down with it much worse. I’ve been running a fever for about 24 hours now, my body aches worse than anything I’ve felt since childbirth, and my daughter still needs me to be a mom. 

Today feels insurmountable. 

Between the animals, the absolute war zone my room has become, and Beasty’s constant needs from me, I feel overwhelmed. I feel like that warrior I talked about birthing is gone, off fighting a more winnable war. 

Today, my anxiety is getting the best of me. 

But here’s the good news: I’ve recognized it. I can now work on managing it. There are things I can do to alleviate the feelings of being overwhelmed, once I recognize where they’re coming from. 

This is a winnable war. I may not get the decisive and easy victory I so badly want (and, let’s be real, could really freakin’ use) today, but I will get through it. 

I will work on my patience with my daughter’s incessant, ever-changing needs (boob in mouth–but also entertainment, motion, ambient temperature changes, diaper changes, support with teething pain, a giant-ass pony with lollipop shits…you name it, she probably wants it and will scream bloody murder until you find the right combo). I will work to meet both of our many, many needs today. 

And I will forgive myself my shortcomings today, the battles I lose for the sake of winning the war against shutting down completely and letting it all fall apart. 

The Dawn Warrior 

Today, my baby is 6 months old. 

One hundred eighty-four days ago, the Mr woke up to find me in my 7th hour of contractions; they had started around 12:30, but I had labored in silence, needing the calm and quiet time to myself to mentally prepare for the coming hours.

In just a few hours, I will have had my four thousand, four hundred sixteenth hour with my daughter. Where have all those hours gone? 

Today marks a special set of accomplishments for me and my family. Our daughter is healthy, happy, hitting cognitive and development milestones as or well before expected. We have successfully breastfed exclusively for 6 months–which is 6 months longer than I thought I’d be capable of doing; I accomplished this on the strength of my will, the bond I share with my daughter, and the support and love of my partner. I have discovered strength in myself and my family I never dreamed possible.

I never really thought of myself as a rebel or revolutionary material prior to getting pregnant. Sure, I lived a somewhat alternative lifestyle and I had some things over which I felt very deeply convicted. 

But I didn’t feel the boil in my blood, the call to stand strong and bold no matter the consequences, until I was confronted with the idea that my child (I didn’t know she was a daughter yet) might suffer an injustice or have a need go wanting because of unfair policies put in place by politicians who would never be affected by the votes they cast.

Today, my daughter is 6 months old, and there is a man as the figurehead of our country who is actively pursuing policies that jeopardize the future I want for her. I am scared for her. I am scared for the millions of men, women, and children, both at home and abroad, who will be negatively impacted by the Trump administration’s plans. 

I am scared, but I don’t have the option of letting that fear paralyze me. I have to be a part of protecting the future I want for my daughter. It’s my responsibility as her mother, it’s my duty as a human, and it’s my need as a sentient member of this planet. 

I was originally going to write, today, about the joy and hardships motherhood has brought me. But what I keep coming back to is that motherhood has taught me how far I’m willing to go, not just for my daughter but for all those I love. Motherhood has taught me how hard I’m willing to work to improve my world. 

Motherhood has birthed the warrior in me.

New Meaning to My Morning Solitude

I live for my mornings to myself. Or rather, I used to. These days, I live for my mornings with my daughter. 

Prior to motherhood, I had a standing appointment with a cup of coffee each morning immediately after my feet hit the floor. I spent a good half-hour watching the sun rise, taking sips of velvety, sweet caffeine heaven, listening to the world wake up.

Giving myself those 20-30 minutes each morning set me up mentally for the rest of the day. Even if I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the day’s events, taking that time in the morning gave me the space to look at the rest of the day and say “I can and I will.”

When I got pregnant, one of the first things to go was the coffee. But I still took that time each morning, replacing coffee with pregnancy tea and the occasional hot cocoa. One of my more selfish fears of motherhood was giving up this precious time, so I cherished each day I got those few quiet minutes alone with my thoughts, especially in the final days before I held Beasty. 

(“Beasty” is an affectionate nickname we gave our daughter while pregnant, one I’ll continue to use to reference her, for anonymity’s sake)

When she arrived, I’ve found I’m still able to take the time I needed; I’m just not spending it in solitude anymore. Sure, I have to multitask and sip coffee while breastfeeding or babywearing, but I still watch the world open up into the day. I still get the quiet moments after the Mr heads to work and before anyone else wakes up. 

6:15 to 7:30am is our time. I’m alone as I’m going to get for the day, and I can occupy my space unabashed. Beasty is still waking up, and her cuddly morning noises and movements are mine alone to enjoy. We listen to some quiet classical music, water the house plants, pet a kitty…

Not being a morning person, these things help me adjust to the cold hard fact that sleeping time is over and my bed holds no dominion over the rest of the day.