Friday, July 4, 2014

More Lessons From Lamb's Ears: Repeating History

Who here has seen the movie, 'Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure'? Please be raising your hand. You remember the time travel thing right? They have to go back in time to save Ted from being sent to military school and learn life lessons and improve their future selves, etc. Naturally they do it rocking the coolest high top sneakers you've ever seen in your life and jamming to a soundtrack that would make Brett Michaels proud.

In the beginning, the heroes seem totally superficial and focused on a single goal. At the end, however, the characters have gained perspective and maturity, having been taught lessons from their future selves who went back to teach their past selves who are actually their present selves. That junk confuses the ever loving daylights out of me. I watch the movie to absorb new catch phrases to impress my friends with. I digress. My point is that they learn things from their past that change them and help them and make them stronger characters.

Does that ever happen to you? Do you feel like you learn from your past in unexpected ways? If you have a phone booth that transports through time held together by a massive wad of chewed-up bubble gum and saliva of historical figures, send me a pm because I want in on that. I digress further. See what classic films of the 80's can do to a person?

Sometimes I get into this habit of thinking I know everything and that I have learned everything I need to from a certain experience.

A few years ago, after our first two miscarriages, I wrote a blog post. That blog post inspired an article, which I submitted to Motherhood Muse magazine. I remember reading the blog post as I was writing the article, remembering the heartache but thinking how lovely it was to not be in that place in my life anymore. One of those, "thank goodness that is over" moments. I've had a similar experience each time I have re-read that article over the years. I will admit, it hasn't been frequent. I have mostly tried not to think about that time ("the dark ages" as I like to call them). But again, anytime that I did read, I was filled with gratitude that I wasn't in that place anymore and thankful that I now had these experiences that might make me more empathetic to others. I truly, whole-heartedly believed that those particular trials were behind me. Perhaps my experiences from the past would someday be a strength to someone else, but I personally didn't need them. I was done with that. Lessons learned. Character strengthened. Check.

Insert mallet to the head and chirping birds circling over.

Yesterday, while weeding in my garden, I found myself right back in that exact place that I was in almost seven years ago, pulling up those very same lamb's ears, crying those very same tears, mourning yet another baby who should be with me and is not.

I wanted to hop in my Bill & Ted style travel machine and go straight to the future, the space where I know everything again and I don't need any strengthening or fortifying or humbling. That space where I am not filled with longing and sadness. Then I'd like to go back and give my present self a hug and tell myself that it's going to be okay. It's going to get better. There will be better days and peaceful nights.

I don't have that time machine, but I have hope that history can repeat itself in all ways, the bad, the good and the redemptive. I have to believe that my lamb's ears and my heart can heal and become better and stronger and more tender...again.


If you are interested in reading my original blog post, you can view it here:
http://www.allthemramseys.blogspot.com/2008/07/lessons-from-lambs-ears.html

If you are interested in reading the article that was published in Motherhood Muse, I am posting it below.

Lastly, if you know someone who is going through a miscarriage, a stillbirth or infertility, would you consider giving them a lamb's ear plant and sending them the link to this post? We are not alone in this. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a village to mourn one.


Lessons from Lamb'€™s Ears

"Why couldn'€™t I have been born with that infamous green thumb?" I wondered to myself. After all, it was certainly a family trait. Virtually everyone on my mother'€™s side of the family was a gardening guru. I wondered why this knowledge had not been implanted in my brain at birth. While weeding in my garden I had noticed that my lamb'€™s ears (which are my absolute favorite of all plants) were starting to brown and wither at the bottoms. I had marveled all summer at how much they had grown, now almost as tall as my azalea bushes. I had never seen lamb's ears grow that large, they were amazing! It surprised me to see that they seemed to be struggling as tall and glorious as they were.

I consulted a gardening friend who suggested to me that the plant might be getting too big for its root system to support. The only solution was to cut back the long stalks and remove some of the base plant. I am sure the look on my face expressed my feelings adequately. I'm sorry, perhaps you didn'€™t hear me?! They are as tall as azaleas! They are amazing and beautiful, how could I ever cut them back?! "€œUm, okay."€ Gulp.
 After delaying a bit I decided it was time to trim them back, knowing that it was the only way that I would save my lamb'€™s ears, which were becoming increasingly brown and withered by the day. It was a sad sight, all those beautiful stalks laying in a pile on the ground, huge sections of lamb's ear up-rooted and removed. What was once so beautiful now looked so pitiful. Ugh, what a mess. For a moment I contemplated reaching down and ripping up the whole plant, roots and all and just calling it quits. After all, the poor thing would probably die now anyway, might as well make it quick. I clenched my fists in frustration at the wreck that had once been my beautiful plant and then sighed. I turned and trudged into my house with a heavy heart and tears in my eyes. So much for Mother Nature knowing best. It seemed all that she did was pick and choose what could live and what would die and there was nothing that I, or anyone, could do about it. My interference certainly had done the plant no good; at least, that was how it appeared at the time.

 My demolished flower bed seemed a perfect metaphor for the past year of my life. Like the lamb'€™s ears, I too had been cut and pulled and left alone. My lamb'€™s ears and I were now only shadows of our former selves. For about the eight hundredth time that year I wondered, "€œwhy"?

 As I sat on the floor in my bedroom, still donning my pair of gardening gloves, the memories of the past year came galloping back at me, uncontrolled, wild and in full stampede mode.

 It had only been a few weeks before last Christmas when I had made that first trip to the hospital. I had already take notice of the fact that my five-month-pregnant belly was not as large as I would have expected, my appetite was no where to be found and I had not felt so much as a nudge from my little belly dweller. It wasn'€™t unheard of but for my fourth pregnancy, it was strange. When the bleeding started I knew, still I don'€™t think I'€™ll ever forget the fear I felt as the nurse struggled to find my babies missing heart beat.
The ultrasound confirmed that our baby had died a few weeks earlier. I was sent to the hospital to deliver. I decided that I didn'€™t want to see the baby afterwards. I didn'€™t want to hold it. I didn'€™t want to know the gender. I didn'€™t want to know the weight or the time of---, time of what? Birth? Death? Delivery? It didn'€™t matter. I felt like knowing those things would only cause more pain.

It was almost four in the morning when my theory was confirmed. The medication I had received after the delivery had helped me to sleep soundly and I awoke to an empty hospital room. Everyone had gone home. There was not a nurse in sight. Down the hall I could hear the sweet sounds of newborn babies crying out to their mothers. I desperately wanted to rip the IV from my arm and run full speed down the halls and out the doors, miles away from that room and from the pain. As I sat on the bed crying I noticed a small table covered with the flowers, cards and candy that my friends had left for me. Next to one of the vases was an unfamiliar yellow box, with a flower on the top. I wondered which of my friends had left that for me. I went over and opened it, only to find the unwanted answers to all my questions. I curled the tiny hospital bracelet around my fingers, trying to be angry at the nurse who had left that box, after I had made my wishes not to know anything about the baby clearly known. Instead of anger all I felt was overwhelming sadness.

As I left the hospital delivery room later that day I remember thinking, "€œthis just isn'€™t fair. I should leave with an empty belly or empty arms; I shouldn't have to leave with both."€ All that came home with me was my little yellow box with that tiny hospital bracelet and a little blue card, "€œBaby Boy Ramsey, delivered December 10th."

What followed was six long months of trying: trying to heal, trying to be normal, trying to get pregnant again and finally succeeding. The first seven weeks of my pregnancy were flawless, maybe a little too flawless. I felt absolutely perfect, normal, as if I wasn'€™t pregnant at all. Then the bleeding started again, the same way it had last time

Again, I found myself on that drive to the hospital. I will never forget sitting at one particular stoplight. It was red, of course, another small delay on my seemingly endless drive, and truly the longest ten minutes I have ever spent. My stereo, as if feeling my surge of emotion, seemed to be speaking to me. All the sudden the lyrics of a favorite song, one I had heard a million times, were written for me, for this moment in my life: "€œI'€™m not okay. I'€™m not okay."€ How very appropriate I mused. I allowed a small and strained chuckle to escape at just how true those words were. I was most definitely not okay. By the time I finally reached the doctor's office I felt so dizzy I could hardly see. My entire mental energy was innately focused on keeping the room from spinning. I could hear the nurse but it sounded as if she was talking to me under water. "€œI'm so sorry dear, there is no heartbeat."€ No heartbeat. No heartbeat. Would I still have one when this was all over? Could I actually die from a broken heart?

I tried not to look at my husband, though I would not have been able to see him through the tears even if I did. This could not be happening, not again. This had to be a dream. I hoped it was a dream.

After all of this how could I possibly be back at this awful hospital, getting ready to go home with no baby? This time there would not even be a box; there would be nothing to have of my little precious baby except the emptiness I would feel without it. How much could my one little heart really take? How were we going to tell our other sweet children at home that the baby that they were so excited for was not coming after all? Why was this happening?

 The two miscarriages were one day shy of seven months apart. For everyone around me, these two days would be entirely opposite in every way. For me, however, these days were marked with the same overwhelming sadness.

 For weeks after the second loss I tried to focus on the good things. I had a wonderful husband and three beautiful, bright children. I had been assured, re-assured and overly assured that there was nothing wrong with me, that I was, by all accounts, normal and healthy. I had been given every pearl of wisdom ever collected and stored for these very circumstances: "you are so blessed to have the children you have." "€œyou are so young, there is plenty of time for you to have more babies."€ ,€"there is a time and season for everything"€, "€œmother nature knows best". These words, spoken with love and concern, and being quite true, still they did not console my aching heart. Truly what could they have said? Nothing short of, "oh I am so sorry, there has been a terrible mistake, your baby is just fine"€ was going to ease the sorrow. Reminders stared me in the face from the cover of every magazine, every advertisement on the television, every novel and every film. Had there always been this many pregnant women roaming through the grocery store? I cringed at the image of times I had walked through the isles with my cart full of my fidgeting children, my pregnant belly a shining beacon in the eyes of some poor woman who had suffered a miscarriage, some aching heart that I wasn’t even aware of. The onslaught of emotions was overwhelming, not only sadness to cope with but also anger, frustration, envy and guilt. I was angry for feeling so sad. How could the sadness of losing two babies that I never even met be so overwhelming that it clouded the happiness of raising the three healthy ones who were right there with me? At times, the emotions felt entirely overwhelming, like trying to swim with all of your clothes on, seemingly impossible and yet somehow doable.

My mind was constantly engaged with questions that appeared to have no answers. What would happen now? Would I be able to get pregnant again and did I even want to? Would it just be followed by another devastating miscarriage?

Now, sitting alone on my bedroom floor, tears streaming down my face I mourned my babies and my lamb'€™s ears, two broken things that I could never put back together. I looked at my gloves, covered in dirt and thought of the baby that had been ripped away from me, the way I had just ripped away part of my lamb'€™s ears. My stomach twisted and the back of my throat ached trying to contain the sobs from escaping my chest. I wondered if I would ever understand why these things happened.

 It was not until a week or so later that I received an answer to that question. One day as I passed by my garden I started to notice the change in my lamb'€™s ears. They were gaining back their beautiful color; the leaves were reaching up and out, strong, vibrant and full. More startling still was what I found in the middle sections where whole parts of the plant had been removed. Little tiny buds were sprouting and reaching up for the sun. New life was forming in spite of what I had seen as insurmountable challenges. I had thought that removing part of the plant would mean the ultimate demise of its entire being. I was wrong. My lamb'€™s ear did not just decide it was not worth the effort and wither away. It did not turn away from the sun and stop absorbing water. It did what it was intended to do. It kept on growing, changing, becoming better. I had removed so much from it and yet, ultimately, it had to lose a part of itself in order to thrive and reach its full potential.

I too now felt prepared to overcome my personal tragedy. I found myself smiling again and recognizing things that I had learned. The loss I had suffered had given me new compassion and empathy for others, tender and soft like a new budding lamb’s ear. The tears I had shed helped build my root system and reminded me of what I treasured most. When I finally let go of that painful part of my life, I was able to fill that space with something new and wonderful. In the end, my beautiful lamb'€s ears grew even stronger than before, and so did I.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

They Deserve Better: Why Our Kids Need to Know About Abortion

On any given day, any single one of my six children will ask me upwards of fifty questions. Chase can't even talk and he asks me questions. He points, screams, widens his blue eyes to the size of teacup saucers, sheds tears and flails his arms. This is roughly translated as, "Mother Dearest, may I please have some raisins?"

One of the greatest weapons in any parent's arsenal is that of deflection. Of the fifty times six (no, I will not do the math and you can't make me) questions that I get asked daily, I manage to avoid at least seventy-five percent merely by changing the subject. "Oh you want to know why caterpillars don't wear diapers? Well, would you like some chocolate chips?", "Do seagulls prefer salmon or tuna? Hey, look, there's a ball over there!" It works people. I'm telling you. Then I manage to dodge another five percent by stalling. "Um, you'll have to ask your dad.", "We should look that up...later."

Those methods are great for some questions and honestly, unless you want to spend your E-N-T-I-R-E life describing in grotesque detail, the eating habits of the Red Throated Pipit, I highly suggest you use them whenever appropriate.

 But every once in a while, there come those questions, the ones that break your heart, the ones that make you question whether you are really cut out for raising children at all, the ones you wish with all your hear that you could avoid. These are also typically the ones that you know in your heart that you cannot. Oh the devilish irony of it all.

I got one of those questions today.

We had just come home from church. My kids had already gotten their play clothes on before I'd even gotten my shoes off...in fact, they are still on, that's how important this post is to me. I knew I needed to write it down NOW. I digress. I was chopping up some cucumbers for lunch when my nine-year-old walked in and casually asked if we could watch "The Prince of Egypt" after lunch. I replied that it would be fine. He then said that they had learned about the story of Moses in his primary class that day. I told him that was nice and kept chopping cucumbers. Then he said something that shattered my heart into a million tiny pieces.

  "Mom, it's so sad that the pharaoh had all those babies killed. I am so glad that those things can't happen anymore."

And this was that moment. That moment that I had to make a grown up choice. I had to decide whether or not I should tell my child the truth. I could easily have avoided it. I could have smiled, chopped my cucumbers, told him to go turn on the movie and I could have spared him any additional sadness. Because how do you tell your child that that does, indeed, still happen? I chose my words carefully.

"Well buddy, unfortunately, those things have happened throughout history and sometimes still happen today."

His brow pulled together a little but his precious heart was still intact.

"Well, in like Egypt and stuff maybe, but never in the United States, right?"

My heart broke all over again. Because I knew we had to have the conversation that I wish I never had to have with my children, the conversation about abortion.

I will not even attempt to convey the heartache felt on both sides of the conversation save to tell you that when you physically and emotionally witness a precious, innocent part of your child being changed, even when you know that change is necessary, it is something you will not easily forget.

But what happens if we don't do it? What happens if we ignore the issue? What if we don't tell our children about Moses, about the holocaust, about war, about famine, about the thousands of babies who are killed every day, all over the world, in our country, right down the street? If we don't talk to our children, what will ever change?

I am reminded of a scene in "Pride and Prejudice" where the heroine is mourning over an unfortunate situation where her younger sister is deceived by a cunning young man. She laments that it all may have been avoided, if she had only been honest with her sisters.

How much of the evil in this world could be avoided if we would merely be honest with our children? If we sweep everything under the rug, is the floor ever really clean?

I am not saying that we all need to rally our kids around the dinner table and start talking about abortion. I am, however, suggesting that we prayerfully and thoughtfully consider how to approach this topic with each of our children, individually. Not just our children, but our siblings, our neighbors, our co-workers.

A popular Dr. Seuss quote, which also happens to be one of my favorites, says: "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing's going to get better. It's not."

So this is me saying, I care. I care wholly and awfully and deeply. I want to see a better future for my children. I want to believe that if we have these conversations with our children, maybe they won't have to have them with theirs. I want them to learn from our mistakes and to fill the world with their goodness and their compassionate hearts.

I care.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

My Own Beautiful Heartbreak

I have this thing about being cryptic on the internet. This stems from me being nosy. The way I see it you have two choices, you can either be a private person, or you can be active on social media. If you're going to say something on the internet, you need to be clear because otherwise people sit there wondering what is going on...nosy people...like me.

So my general rule of thumb is that, if I don't want people to know something, I just don't say anything at all about it on the internet. Period.

I broke that rule about two weeks ago. And I feel badly about that. I know a lot of people have been concerned and confused and so, first of all I'd like to apologize and secondly I'd like to explain.

Around Valentine's Day, we found out that we were expecting a baby. Whenever I announce that I'm pregnant, one of the first questions I get is, "was this planned"? I avoid answering that question for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being that I feel it's a very personal question. I will say that we had in fact thought we were done having children (as those of you who read this blog may know from a previous post) but I will also say that we were thrilled and delighted to be adding to our family. If there's anything I've learned from parenting it's that things rarely go the way you think they will. In fact, making plans is the surest way to make the opposite happen. Plans are for sitcoms and novels.

This pregnancy was challenging. While I have had pretty extreme morning sickness with all of my babies, I was particularly sick this go around. It was very difficult to keep down enough fluids to stay hydrated. It was nearly impossible to take care of my children. My saint of a husband was burning the candle at both ends and in the middle and all the way around. My children were pretty much putting themselves on the bus every morning. It was a rough few months for all of us. But with the first trimester behind us, we were starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and looking forward to the better days of pregnancy.

About two weeks ago, I went into the doctor and discovered our sweet baby had passed. We had heard the heartbeat in the ER only two days before and it was very difficult to wrap our minds around how quickly everything had gone from being okay to being not okay. After some discussion and prayer, we decided to have a procedure done to remove the baby.

This is what has inspired some of my cryptic Facebook messages. I promise I wasn't trying to confuse everyone. The truth is, I had not made a public announcement via social media regarding our pregnancy so I felt a little strange posting about the loss of our baby. Isn't the point of not telling people so that you don't have to tell everyone if something goes wrong? But when something did go wrong, I wanted, no, I needed to share my emotion. I needed the love and the prayers and the many, many outpourings of faith and hope from my friends far and near. I want to sincerely thank you all for those prayers and for that love. I have felt them and they have been a buoy for me at this time.

This is our fourth miscarriage. And there are some things I have learned about this particular type of loss. First, they don't get easier. Ever. Whether it's your first child or your twentieth, the pain is real. That's because, from the second you learn you are pregnant your life has changed. The sight of those two pink lines on the pregnancy test (if you use the kind I like...I'm a pee stick snob, but I digress) are life changing. Whether the pregnancy was expected or unexpected, longed for or frightening, your life is never the same. You may feel an overwhelming connection to your baby immediately or it may come later...much later. You may be terrified, excited, exhausted, overwhelmed, humbled, thankful, all this and more in the window of approximately six seconds. No matter the circumstances and no matter the person, becoming pregnant changes your life. It changes you.

Like life, death changes us. Whether that person was in our life for thirty years or thirteen weeks, their death impacts us in ways we cannot predict and sometimes in ways we cannot understand. For me, it is often hard for me to understand how the death of someone I have never met, someone who has no name and whose eyes I have never looked into, can be so consuming and devastating. But it is. Because that person has changed my life. That small, sweet, precious person is a part of me. I don't know their name. I don't know what color hair they have (though let's be honest, it's a Ramsey so hair is probably wishful thinking period). I don't know whether they would like reading or playing soccer or whether they would like or hate bananas (it's a 50/50 split in our family). But in every way that counts, this baby was mine and I loved him or her in a way that I can only describe as all-encompassing.

The last two weeks have been full of tears and of joy, sorrow and gratitude, anger and humility. When these things happen, I am always filled with a profound appreciation for my Heavenly Father and His willingness to allow ultimate wisdom and compassion to dictate our mortal life. If I were in charge, I imagine I would spare everyone from any pain, sorrow, loss or struggle. I feel quite certain that, under my charge, no child would grow up without a parent, no parent would feel the pain of losing a child, no one would suffer illness or affliction. And I am sure that I would have ended the suffering of our Savior in the garden, thus eliminating the Atonement and condemning mankind to life without redemption. Truly, the Lord's plan is not one I can understand but it is one that I know, with all of my heart, is a plan of mercy and a plan of eternal joy. That joy and that peace may or may not come for us in totality in this life but this life is brief and beautiful and painful and did I mention brief? So yes, right now this Cinderella is locked up in the attic but the happily ever after will come and I can only hope that my sweet angel babies will be waiting for me.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Roasting Marshmallows Instead of Being Beaten

In recent years, the blogging world has exploded. Thanks in large part to social media, posts are written, shared, copied, pasted, tweeted, liked and sometimes the really lucky ones end up on news sites. They may even get their very own meme.

One of the most common types of blog posts that I have come across, are the “What Not to Say” posts. There must be hundreds because I feel like I see one every day. They are virtually the same layout, “What Not to Say to (fill in the blank with random sub-category of the human family)”. The post then contains a list of five to twenty things you should NE-VER say to the aforementioned sub-category.

I’ve learned from these posts. Thanks to these incredibly insightful articles, I now know all the things I shouldn’t say to people who own dogs, people who hate dogs, people who are gay, people who are pregnant, people without kids, people with lots of kids, people who adopted kids, people who gave birth to kids, people with depression, people who’ve lost loved ones and people who eat shrimp…to name a few.
Because of the knowledge I’ve gained, I feel much more capable of interacting with my fellow man. I have learned that:

1.       1. If you should happen to meet someone with depression, please don’t tell them it will be okay. Also don’t tell them to get over it. Don’t talk to them at all actually, but be there for them. They just want to know you care, just don’t express it vocally. But call them sometimes, just to talk.

2.       2. If a mother with a lot of kids is walking in the grocery store, you should acknowledge her but don’t ask any questions, compliment her children, give “disapproving looks” (make sure you don’t get anything in your contact lens when you’re around a mother with multiple children), smile at her, frown at her or tell her that her hands are full. I mean really, what kind of animal are you?

3.       3. If you encounter a pregnant woman, don’t speak. At all. Period. And for the love of Pete, don’t notice that she’s pregnant.
  
This is a short sampling of the knowledge I’ve gained. Anyone else noticing the issue here?

Here’s the thing. We all want to be accepted. We all want to be shown respect. That’s not unreasonable. I won’t lie, I’ve had to bite the inside of my cheek more than once when people have made comments about how many kids I have or how young I am, or my crazy religion. I get it. I really do. We all have feelings, young Mormon moms included.

But what if we’ve got this whole thing backwards? Is it possible that we are being a teeeeeeeensy bit too sensitive here? Do you think that maybe, just maybe, we need to chill out a little?

Maybe that woman her turned her face away from you and your two small children, looking disgusted, has been struggling with infertility. Maybe she just lost her child. Maybe it’s not that she is disgusted by your children, maybe it just hurts.

That friend who told you to “get over” your depression? Maybe she just doesn’t know what to say anymore. Maybe she loves you so much that it hurts her to see you unhappy and she’s angry with herself for not being able to help you. Maybe she is trying as hard as you are. Maybe harder.

That person who asked you if your religion worships a magical lizard (yes, I have been asked this question) is desperately wanting to find God. Maybe they just want to feel something, anything, and they just don’t know how to ask.

The grocery store worker who asked you if you’re having twins or “about to pop”, maybe she remembers those days and is thinking of her grandbaby who lives on the other side of the country, the one she is so desperate to see that she is working forty hours a week ringing up groceries just so she can afford the plane ticket.

The bully at school who mocked you for being gay, maybe his parents wouldn’t understand his secret. Maybe he wakes up every day wishing he could make it just go away. Maybe he is jealous because your friends still love you, a love that he fears no one will ever feel for him.

What about the homeless man on the street? I wonder if he would be grateful if someone would just speak to him at all, just acknowledge that he’s a living soul, a person, someone’s child. God’s child.

People are going to say things. Sometimes those things will hurt. Sometimes they will irritate. But is it possible that instead of worrying about what they’ve said, how they looked at us, or didn’t look at us, we could just simply choose to not worry about it? I’m not saying it won’t hurt a little. It might hurt. Words can hurt. Looks can hurt. But by dwelling on it, fussing about it on facebook or twitter, blogging about it, etc. aren’t we just keeping our finger in the piranha tank?

Maybe we could all try a little harder to assume the best, hope for the best and choose to let it go when we get offended. Chances are, we’ve been on the other end of things at one time or another. Come one, tell me you've never put your foot in your mouth before.


Speak softly and use that big stick for something productive, like roasting a big fat marshmallow.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

My Friday Night Letter

After battling a week of sleepless nights, upper respiratory purgatory, trips to the emergency room, trips to the doctor and did I mention the sleepless nights? I did. Well, they are worth mentioning twice. After all of that, I thought that nothing else could evoke much thought or emotion from me this morning. And then my husband told me about "Friday Night Tykes". 

This show, part of the Esquire Network lineup, is supposed to be a glimpse into the "reality" of youth football in Texas. After listening to my husband describe some of the scenes in the show, I could feel my blood pressure rising. Those of you who know my husband know that he is a very athletic, very competitive person. He loves sports and has spent many years coaching our kids various teams. He's also not what you'd call the "emotional, sensitive" type. He had to turn the show off because it was too upsetting. He said that his first thought was, "it's a good thing Jen isn't watching this." And I believe he was right. I can only imagine how I would feel if I had witnessed these things myself rather than hearing about them second-hand.

Still, I haven't been able to stop thinking about this. I haven't been able to peel my mind and heart away from the feelings that this show, this concept, is invoking in me. But what I have to say isn't for the producers or the coaches, or even the parents (though trust me when I say, I have plenty of ideas for conversation topics should I ever encounter them in person). My words are for the kids. The eight and nine year old children who find themselves involved in this. 

Dear Friday Night Tykes,

 I'm sorry that the adults in your life have failed you. I'm sorry that, as a society, we have forgotten that raising children is more than feeding and clothing and teaching you to keep up in a competitive society, it's also teaching you to accept your imperfections and realize that they don't make you less worthy of love and respect. I'm sorry that there were no adults there to stand at your side and defend you. I'm sorry that the same people who speak out about the anti-bullying movement are the ones who are humiliating you and bullying you and sending you the message that it's okay to be cruel because "it builds character". We, the adults, have failed you. That includes me. I wasn't there. I didn't step in and stand between you and the abuse. I'm sorry.

I'm sorry that your humiliation was recorded and displayed for entertainment, that our society is more concerned with ratings and publicity than with humanity. I'm sorry that the world sat back and watched on while you were forced to run until you vomited and then forced to run some more. I'm sorry that we sat on our couches and watched as the grown ups who should be setting the example for you, got in your face and spoke to you as if you weren't a human being, as if you don't matter. You do matter. You are important. You are loved.

I'm sorry that our culture is full of flawed philosophies and that some people believe that whether or not everyone on your football team gets a trophy will have a substantial impact on who you are and what you can do. It's not true ya know. Those things don't really matter. That trophy doesn't define you. It doesn't define your teammates. Recognizing your efforts doesn't make you entitled. In fact, nothing that YOU do will do that. 

I'm sorry that our society is raising you to think that you have to know all your shapes by the time you're two and read when you're three and that education is all about competing in the job market and not about experiencing this life that you've been given. I'm sorry that you've been taught that what you have is more important than what you give and that what you have is never enough because someone else always has more. Because that's not true either. You have enough and you are enough and you can accomplish greatness because you are great.

I want you to know that these experiences are not going to be your life story. This time is going to pass and you can choose to let these experiences stay in the past. You can move forward and embrace the unique and beautiful qualities that make you who you are. You can treat others with respect. You can help those who need help. You can be a light. You are light.

Please don't let these experiences tear you down. You are stronger than that. You deserve better than what you have been given but you can create happiness and fulfillment. It's like a superpower. 

Please forgive us, all the adults who have failed you. We aren't perfect and many of us have forgotten about that superpower. We think that happiness and fulfillment come from societal acceptance, material possessions and public recognition. We don't remember what is really important. 

Will you remind us? Will you show us how to be better? Will you teach your children and never let them forget how powerful and amazing they are? 

I hope that you will. I also hope that the next time your coach gets in your face and yells at you, or the next time your parent tells you to quit crying and get back out there...that you kick them right in the knee. 

Sincerely,

A Stupid Grown-Up










Sunday, December 1, 2013

How to Talk to Parents: A Toddler's Guide to Communication


Ten Laws of Parent Communication:

1. What you have to say is infinitely more important than whatever is happening. Period.

2. The BEST time to express your deepest fears, hopes, desires and views on life, is when your mother is on the phone.

3. When you are asked to talk, e.g. for a family video, a program at church/pre-school, or to demonstrate your vocabulary for a doctor, you MUST remain silent for a period of time. Only respond to their requests once they have offered you sufficient rewards for your efforts. Remember your worth. Do not settle for a sticker when you can get ice cream.

4. The middle of the night provides the perfect opportunity for one-on-one communication with your parents. Please note that results may vary. If your mental faculties are not entirely present, simply crying or whining will usually get results. Remember, above all, you must be consistent in order to see the best results.

5. Find new and interesting ways to pronounce words. You may get exciting results. For example, if you want a strawberry, make you sure you alter the pronunciation enough to elicit guesses. At some point they may ask you if you want, say, a cookie. If you just came out and asked for a cookie, they would likely say, "no". But if they have to guess for long enough, they will be so excited to have (supposedly) discovered the answer, they will more often than not, give you the cookie. This is known as up-selling.

6. When words fail you, throw yourself on the ground, thrash and scream.

7. Change your mind rapidly and without warning and expect your parents to keep up. If they incorrectly assume that you still want what you said you wanted ten seconds prior, please implement the method discussed in number six.

8. It might seem difficult, at times, to get your point across. They are only adults after all. But you will have greater success when you utilize these tried and tested methods: volume and repetition. If you feel your point is not getting across, try repeating yourself while increasing volume until you elicit the desired response. For example, if you want your mother's attention and she is on the phone, you would start by saying, "mama" in your normal voice. She will probably ignore you. Try not to lose your patience. Remember, she is still learning. So use a little more volume and repeat, "mama". If she still does not respond, then you need to implement the aforementioned technique, ie. "MAMA! MAMA! MAMA! MAAAAAAMAAAAA!"

** This method does not have conclusive results with dads. They have a highly-developed ability to block out the sound of your voice. The louder you get, the less they hear. For best results with dads, turn off the television or simply hit them with a hard object. We recommend the remote control for added emphasis, though be warned, your point will likely be lost on them.

9. If they express frustration with your communication techniques, carefully project the lower lip and shed two to three small tears (do not over-do it). Make as little noise as possible. This will guarantee you snuggles and kisses.

10. If you are still struggling to communicate effectively with your parents, try writing your feelings down. We suggest a wall, an important document or high-quality bedding. Permanent markers are the preferred medium but work with what is accessible. Don't feel limited. Crayons, pens and makeup are all perfectly acceptable substitutes.


Friday, September 27, 2013

What Just Happened?

I remember back when I was on the horse scene. We used to all talk about the cushy life that a racehorse lives. Seriously. Have you met a racehorse? Spoiled bunch of punks. They eat better than I do. They have servants, people who come in and brush their hair, clean up after them, clip their toenails, bring them snacks. They work really hard for about one to two years, usually leading up to one big huge event and then, after that event, they retire. They get to keep the servants. Like I said...punks.

But something happened today, something that makes me think I may have been a little too judgmental about the racehorses. Today, I sold my baby clothes...all of them. I've sold baby clothes before but it was different, it wasn't the last of my baby clothes. I kept my favorites, ya  know, for the next baby. I never really thought about what would happen when there was no next baby. When I was done. When life, as I knew it, packed up in a big Rubbermaid container and high-tailed it into the back of some stranger's crossover and drove away. But I've thought about it now. And now I want to apologize to the racehorses. Because I wonder if this is how they felt when their last race was over.

Did they go back to their stall and think, "what do I do now?" I mean, they knew it would come eventually. You can't race forever. There has to be a last race and that race has to come to an end inevitably. But still, did they really know that?

I didn't. I mean, I knew but I didn't know, ya know?

No one can have babies for forever. I knew that. I may not have set a certain number that I wanted to have or not have, but I knew that, at some point in my life, I would have to stop getting pregnant and having children. What I didn't know what how I would feel about that. That, I was completely unprepared for.

I used to laugh a little at the moms who used to say that "lost themselves" when they had children. They forgot about their spouses, their interests, their careers and ambitions. They were so silly. They obviously didn't have a good grip on who they were. They clearly just weren't good at keeping it all in check. So silly.

Today, when I came home and deleted my craigslist post for that last batch of baby clothes, it hit me. I have no idea who I am. Okay, that's not totally true. I know who I am right this moment. I know who I've been for the last ten years. What I don't know is who to be going forward. I don't know how to prepare myself for never buying another pregnancy test, never going to another ultrasound, never packing that hospital bag, never listening to my husband's voice counting during a contraction, never have that first smell of newborn baby skin, never experience that first kiss between those sweet eyes. I don't know how to not be having babies. Because for my entire adult life, I have been in the business of having babies. That's been everything. My planning for the future was centered on when we'd have the next baby. My day-to-day living was focused on how to raise my children while simultaneously nursing or lugging around thirty extra pounds of belly. I know how to do that. It's what I've been doing every day. I've trained. This was my race.

And now the race is over. And it's good. I get that it's good. I know that I've run my best. I know that the time has come for me to focus on other things, like raising this pack of crazies and teaching them to be productive human beings. There are good things ahead. And I'm excited about them. But still, I feel a little like a racehorse who has been stuck in the stall. No more races. No more roses. And where in the heck are my servants?

So yeah, today was an emotional day. The baby clothes are gone. I did what any reasonable woman would do in my situation...I ate four chocolate chip cookies and went to Sweet Frog. When the crib goes, I'm going to the Bahamas.