Sunday, June 30, 2013

Big Old Lady Who Stands Her Ground

Today is New York City's annual LGBT Pride Parade.  I wish I could be there.  I'd love to see Edie Windsor as Grand Marshall.  As George Takei says, "Rosa Parks, Edie Windsor--never underestimate the power of a little old lady who stands her ground."  

I wanna be an old lady who stands her ground, too.  At forty-two I've got just a few more years til I get to label myself as old, but I've got another obstacle in my way toward little old lady greatness:  I don't have the body type.  Rosa Parks and Edie Windsor, yes, you can call them little.  Not me.  I'll be a big old lady who stands her ground.

It's OK that I can't make it to the parade.  I can stand my ground while sitting in a comfy chair: I've got a good book to read.

I've longed to be a progressive activist since ninth grade when I first read the book Black Like Me.  It spurred my interest in the Civil Rights Movement.  After reading The Color Purple and Rubyfruit Jungle my interest in feminism and lesbian rights grew, too.

The world is far from perfect, but the work so many social progressives have done is creating positive change.  Today African-Americans, American women, and LGBT Americans are trampled upon far less than they were back when I first started paying attention in ninth grade.  There is much work to do still, but things are getting better.

Another oppressed group has caught my attention in the last three years: fat people.  Since I read Dr. Linda Bacon's book Health at Every Size, I've become interested in fat people's health.  My own health in particular, since I've been told since I was in third grade I need to lose weight.  Except for when I was told to gain weight in fifth grade when I had developed anorexia.  My body has been at both extremes, fighting other people's judgment.

I've long spoken out for the underdog.  Sometimes I don't fit inside the group I speak out for (African-Americans) and sometimes I do (American women, the B in LGBT), but never have I felt like I belong so strongly to a burgeoning social movement.  I'm speaking out for myself.  This is personal.

I am fat.  I am healthy.  My body is mine, not yours.

I'm here, a big old lady who stands her ground, telling fat phobes to get off my lawn.  It's not just about health, it's about oppression.  I'm sick and tired of so-called authorities such as the AMA calling obesity a disease.  Telling all fat people that they are diseased is not just untrue, it's discrimination based on a person's appearance.

For example, high blood pressure.  Some fat people have high blood pressure.  Some thin people have high blood pressure, too.  I'm fat, but I have lowish blood pressure.  I'm friends with people whose bodies carry much less fat than mine, and they take medication for high blood pressure, but I don't.  Is it genetics?  Diet?  Exercise?  Who knows.  Just because I'm fat doesn't mean I'm not healthy.  Precisely because we can't tell by appearance how healthy a person is, size and weight needs to be taken out of the equation when assessing an individual's health.

The best health advice for people of all sizes--tall, short, fat, thin, and everything in between is this: eat a variety of real food (primarily plants), move your body in pleasurable ways, and love yourself. That's Dr. Linda Bacon's advice in her outstanding book.  I can't recommend it highly enough.

If you can't make it to the Pride Parade today, I have an alternative plan for some progressive activism you can do: read.  Books have always gotten this big old lady ready to stand her ground.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Dr. Weil Agrees: Obesity Is Not a Disease

I don't have time for a long rant.  I promised my kiddo we'd go for a hike in the woods today.  You know, what Health at Every Size guru Dr. Linda Bacon calls "active living":

HAES encourages people to build activity into their day-to-day routines and focuses on helping people find enjoyable ways of being active. The goal is to promote well-being and self-care rather than advising individuals to meet set guidelines for frequency and intensity of exercise. Active living is promoted for a range of physical, psychological and other synergistic benefits which are independent of weight loss. Myths around weight control and exercise are explicitly challenged. Physical activity is also used in HAES as a way of healing a sense of body distrust and alienation from physicality that may be experienced when people are taught to over-ride embodied internal signals in pursuit of externally derived goals, such as commonly occurs in dieting.  --Dr. Linda Bacon, Nutrition Journal 2011, 10:9

I've had doctors try to prescribe Metformin for my Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).  It's a diabetes medication but it's useful for some patients with PCOS too.  Not me.  Since I already don't have high blood glucose levels, the medication makes me feel sick.  I suspect it lowers my blood glucose levels too much.  I feel like someone who has gone days without eating when I take it: irritable, shaky, lightheaded, and nauseous.  But guess what else is good for managing PCOS?  Exercise.  Active Living.  I don't need a doctor's prescription to go for a hike in the woods with my kiddo.  It's fun!  It just happens to be something healthy we can do with our bodies, to "move them in pleasurable ways" as the good doctor Bacon advises.

So I don't have time to go on and on.  Gotta get moving' on.  But I wanted to share this good news: Dr. Andrew Weil is on board.  I've already blogged about my feelings toward the AMA.  Here is Dr. Andrew Weil's take on the American Medical Association's recent decision to classify obesity as a disease:

Some people (including me) disagree with the AMA's action. The vote to classify obesity as a disease went against a recommendation of the organization's Council on Science and Public Health, which studied the issue for a year and decided that obesity shouldn't be considered a disease because the measure most often used to define it – the body mass index (BMI) – is unreliable...I do not consider obesity a disease. Rather, I see it as a condition that may increase risk of certain diseases. But it is possible to be obese and healthy - if one eats a balanced diet, gets regular physical activity, attends to other aspects of lifestyle that influence health, and makes use of appropriate preventive medical services.  --Dr. Andrew Weil

Hooray!  Now, off to have fun with my kid through healthy, active living.  May you find something fun to do with your body today too.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Epic Pro-Choice/Pro-Life Double Rant!

Wow!  Watch @elliottcmorgan and @megturney host this edition of SourceFed, featuring an epic pro-choice/pro-life Double Rant!:


What I like about SourceFed, which is different than most other news media sources, is that the hosts are not stiff, politically correct mannequins.  They are real people with real opinions.  Elliott Morgan is pro-life but that doesn't automatically make him a misogynist.  Humans are not automated beings.  We are complex and messy and stubborn and curious.  That's what I like about SourceFed.  It's human.

Here's the best part of Elliott Morgan's rant:

I typically choose not to identify myself as anything, not because I don't have opinions but because titles come with baggage and people will take whatever stance you hold and dismiss you once they know which way you lean.  

Labels kill discussion, they spur debates and the cement idleness.  Labels ensure that your face becomes red with rage but your hands and feet remain still and actionless.  

We humans are so much better at winning debates than we are at abolishing any kind of oppression, however one of the saddest parts of the abortion debate for me, besides every single abortion ever, is not that my stance might come with overgeneralizations, that's human nature, that's what happens when you open the floor for discussion, it's that I'm especially ostracized by my admission of being pro-life on account of being male.  

For example, tell a husband whose pregnant wife just died that only his wife is dead.  And the idea that I in any way support inequality, let alone by my belief in the sanctity of life is not simply inaccurate it is heart-shatteringly baffling.  

Wendy Davis deserves a lot of respect, and I stand with her, as I will stand with anybody who stands for what they believe in, but I will also fight for the unborn.  And I'll fight for the abandoned children in our foster system that the pro-lifers have forgotten.  And the death row inmates that pro-lifers have deemed unworthy of life. 

I've written about my thoughts on abortion here before.  Basically, I think the government should stay out of it.  I have complex feelings about abortion.  As a subfertile woman, I've never been put in the position to choose, so it's hard for me to say, but as someone who tried so hard to get pregnant, I don't think I could ever have an abortion.  When I was six-week's pregnant, when I saw the heartbeat on ultrasoud of the fetus that would later be named Katie,  I didn't think, "Aww, that's our clump of cells!"  I thought, "Aww, that's our baby!"

But I was in a loving, safe relationship.  I was not raped.  I was not physically or mentally ill.  How could I know how another woman would feel in her individual situation?  It's not for me to tell another person what to do with her own body.

I wish our society would work to help women who have an unwanted pregnancy find other options than terminating it, but I also don't want the government telling women what to do with their bodies.  I think abortion should be legal and rare and the decisions surrounding it made by the mother.  Spouses, doctors, religious leaders, and spiritual guides can be consulted, but government bureaucrats and politicians should keep their opinions about other people's bodies to themselves.

I respect people like Elliott Morgan, people who seem to genuinely care more about saving lives than attacking their political opponents and winning debates.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

June 26: A Gay Day in History

Will + Becky = Love (October 22, 2004)

I feel so gay about today's SCOTUS ruling on DOMA and Prop 8, I'm compelled to share our wedding photo. When Will and I decided to get married back in 2004, we joked that one of us should get a sex change operation to protest the illegality of gay marriage. I'm happy that in just nine years our idea has become ridiculous. 

When my mom presented us with the cake, she said the cake toppers were wrong because the man has short dark hair like me and the woman has long light hair like Will. I tried to remove the heads and switch them, but they were too stubbornly attached. I have a dream that some day all cake toppers will have detachable heads so all adults in consensual relationships can design their wedding cakes accordingly.

It's awesome that SCOTUS ruled in favor of marriage equality in June, which has long been designated LGBT Pride Month, but it would have been even more amazing if they had waited two days to announce the ruling on the actual anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, the major turning point in LGBT-rights history, June 28th.  

June 26th is OK with me.  It's long been a significant date in my personal history.  It's the birthday of Reuben Weinshilbaum, the boy who turned me gay.

I'm joking of course.  No one turned me gay.  I've probably been bisexual since I rented out my mom's womb.  The first girl I remember ever being attracted to was my friend Courtney, who I met at the St. Joseph Public Library storytime when we were both four.  (I met my future husband, Will, when we both worked at another public library.  Who knew libraries were such hot spots for hookups?)  

Reuben Weinshilbaum broke my heart but he didn't turn me gay, even though I dated almost exclusively women for many years after he told me to leave him alone.  I eventually went back to my bisexual ways after time healed the heteosexual part of my heart, broken by Reuben Weinshilbaum's unrequited love.  I loved several people, both men and women, until I found the one person who fits me best.  Will happens to be a man, so I was lucky back in 2004 that it was legal for me to marry him.  Had he been a woman, we would have exchanged rings and vows and told people we were married, but it wouldn't be the same.  It wouldn't be like it is today, June 26, 2013, when our country grew up and realized consensual love between two people is a glorious thing which should be celebrated and sanctioned.

I no longer have any animosity toward Reuben Weinshilbaum.  I hope he's having a gay birthday today, wherever he is, whomever he's with.  Jealous love is immature.  The love I feel for Reuben now is mature.  For a few years in my late teens and early twenties I thought men in general were jerks because one boy jerked me around.  Just as our country has evolved, so have I.  

Love is love.  May we all find it in a way that fits us best.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Proud of My Bounce

When I was a kid most authority figures told me I was either too fat or too thin.  Except for one person.  My elementary school gym teacher.  Her name was Ms. Haas.  When I was in fourth grade she said the most remarkable thing to me one afternoon.

I had been sent to Weight Watchers the year before, in third grade.  By fourth grade, with the help of a six-inch spike in my height one summer, I had managed to lose a significant amount of weight.  I had not yet developed anorexia.  That diagnosis wouldn't come until the next year, after I passed out in fifth grade and the school encouraged my mom, who has an understandable fear of the medical establishment after the way she was treated prior to my birth, to take me to the doctor and, eventually, a therapist who helped me stop starving myself.

Fourth-grade was the one year of my life everyone around seemed satisfied with my body.  I was neither too fat nor too skinny.  

Everyone but myself.  And Ms. Haas.  She didn't seem to care one way or the other.  Most of my teachers, my parents, my siblings, my friends, my neighbors, everyone but Ms. Haas commented on how great I looked.  Ms. Haas had never said anything about my weight-loss.  She had never made any comments about my body ever.  

Then one afternoon, out on the blacktop, we were playing kickball.  I kicked the ball so far it took several minutes for the opposing team to get their act together and find it out in the weeds.  After rounding the bases, I found myself standing next to Ms. Haas, waiting for the kids to retrieve the ball I had so epically kicked.  As I stood there next to Ms. Haas, I wiped my brow and said to her, "I'm always so sweaty.  Even after I lost so much weight, I sweat so much."

"Sweating is good for you.  It's a sign that your body is healthy," she said to me, although her eyes were on the group of kids goofing off in the weeds in the general vicinity of where the ball had landed.  She lifted her whistle, but she didn't blow it yet.

"It is?" I said, surprised.  I suspected Ms. Haas was a feminist, something I'd heard about on TV while watching the news with my folks, with her short, mannish hair cut and her makeup-less face.  She looked nothing like my mom who set her hair in rollers and wouldn't leave the house without putting on her face.  Maybe feminists do not believe that saying about glowing women and sweaty horses, I thought to myself.

I looked up and noticed a couple of skinny girls had wandered off, bored with their positions in the outfield, hanging upside down on the monkey bars.

"No matter how much weight I lose I'll never be able to hang upside-down from the monkey bars," I said, wistfully.

And that's when Ms. Haas said it.  It was moments before she took off running toward the rowdy boys in the weeds, her whistle just inches away from her lips.  She looked at me briefly, with a cocked brow, and said, "Becky, did you see how far you kicked that ball?  Even when you were chubby, you've always been one of the most athletic kids I've ever taught."  

She took off running, blowing her whistle at the boys out in the weeds.  We never talked about my body again.

I look back on it now and I realize what an excellent role model Ms. Haas was.  But I didn't listen to her then.  I continued to hate my body until three years ago when I discovered another good role model, Dr. Linda Bacon.

I follow Dr. Bacon on social media now for inspiration.  This morning she shared an article that made my inner-third-grader-who-was-sent-to-Weight-Watchers smile: Treatment of Childhood Obesity Will Do Little to Improve Adult Health Outcomes, Predicts Stanford Study.  

Yeah, no duh.  After the early "treatment" for obesity I received I developed anorexia nervosa, followed by a young adulthood spent in an obsessive relationship with food.  The cops got tired of me calling them to come over and settle domestic disputes between me and a half-gallon of chocolate ice cream.

I didn't get a healthy adult outcome from my early weight-loss intervention until I gave up trying to lose weight.  It was Dr. Linda Bacon's book, Health at Every Size, that convinced me.  It changed my life.  It reminded me of my body's athleticism, the joy I get from playing ball and moving my body in pleasurable ways, something I'd given up on long ago when I stopped playing games that emphasized how bouncy my flesh is.  

I've learned to love my body, something I never dreamed possible.  I feel compelled to help other fat people learn to love their bodies, too.  If you don't love your body, why would you care to feed it healthy, pleasurable foods and move it in healthy, pleasurable ways?  The best way to improve the overall health of human beings is not to tell them they're diseased but to teach them to love themselves.

There are lots of fat people in the world.  I don't have time to wrap my arms around all of you.  So let me use this blog as a virtual hug, to wrap my arms around every fat person's body and whisper into every fat person's ear, "loving yourself is the healthiest thing you can do."

Let's start a little online support group.

Hello.  My name is Becky.  I'm fat, and I'm healthy.  

I love my body.  You can learn to love your body too.  Don't worry.  It feels lonely to be ahead of your time, to fight for injustices early, before conventional society latches on to progressive ideas, but it's fun to fight the good fight.  Let's eradicate body hate in this lifetime.

I love medical sociologist Pattie Thomas' quote in her piece from Psychology Today:  

"History will not be kind to the AMA’s decision. Decisions made by privileged groups at the expense of subordinate groups for the profit of the few at the cost of the members of that group are usually doomed to ridicule in generations to come."  --Pattie Thomas, "What Do You Call a Fat Woman with a PhD?" Psychology Today, June 24, 2013

Let's speed up history's unkindness and get over our differences, shall we?  Fat-phobic friends, let's go swimming, or for a hike through the woods.  Let's play a game of kickball!  Instead of fighting with each other on the computer while sitting on our asses, let's get out in the world and let me show you the amazing things my fat body can do. 

I've learned to be proud of my bounce.  

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Did I ever tell you the story about how my reproductive endocrinologist turned me away even though I had been to him the year before to have Katie, but this time he told me to come back when I lost twenty pounds, although I never did, so I never had more kids, and then, one day a few years later, when I got back from an excellent walk, when my body felt sweaty and vibrant and strong, I checked the mailbox and what was there but a newsletter from my community hospital with a picture of my reproductive endocrinologist and a blurb about how he, this slim, seemingly fit man, was recovering from a heart attack?

Yeah, so that happened.

I'm not saying it made me happy, the irony of a doctor scolding me to try to improve my health by losing weight when he himself a few years later faced a huge health crisis.  Not happy.  The English language doesn't do the feeling justice.  We must turn to the Germans for a word that expresses how I felt for a brief moment when I found out this doctor who had disappointed me so much, who I felt had discriminated against me for my size, this man who told me he refused to treat me and said he was doing so "for my own good health", when he proved himself a mere mortal the word describing how I felt was this: schadenfreude. I didn't feel good about his illness.  I felt bad for him.  But it felt a little good to feel bad for him.

I'm long over the schadenfreude I first felt when I read about my fat-phobic doctor's bad luck, but when I read reports that the AMA has joined the NIH in classifying "obesity" as a disease, despite their own panel of experts who studied the issue for a year advising them not to, I remind myself that doctors are mere mortals.

I'm not saying we should stop following all doctors' advice.  We need to think critically and choose wisely when we pick a doctor to work with us as an individual with complex needs.  This is the best advice I've read all day, from naturopathic doctor DeAun Nelson:

"I encourage every fat person reading this to have frank discussions with your physician. Fire physicians who do not comply with your health goals (if you can). Find physicians who understand that you are a person, and that your size should not dictate the quality of the treatment that your receive. Don’t let the financial interests of the diet, drug, and surgery industries affect how you are treated. Encourage your doctor to read Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon and start a discussion."

Now that I'm all fired up over this foolishness, I think it's time to cool off by pulling out the Slip N Slide:

#IAmNotADisease #FatAndFit #HAES #SlipNSlidesLoveAllSizes

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Four Aron Franks

There's a scene in John Green's novel The Fault in Our Stars where the protagonist, Hazel, a teenager with terminal cancer, visits the Anne Frank House with her boyfriend, Augustus.  Before Hazel and Gus start making out in front of a crowd of tourists, Hazel notices an alphabetical list of names of victims of the Nazi extermination.  Next to Anne Frank's name is a listing of four boys named Aron Frank.  This part kills me:

The book was turned to the page with Anne Frank's name, but what got me about it was the fact that right beneath her name there were four Aron Franks. FOUR. Four Aron Franks without museums, without historical markers, without anyone to mourn them. I silently resolved to remember and pray for the four Aron Franks as long as I was around.

But of course it doesn't really kill me.  I am not dead yet.  But I will be some day, as these four Aron Franks are.  As Anne Frank is.  As John Green will be some day.  As my sweet six-year-old daughter will be some day, too.  All of us are mortal.  One thing I learned two years ago when my brother Pat died at the age of 49 of alcohol-induced liver failure is that there is no time to put off what we feel we must do before our time on this planet is over.  That's why I started writing.  Daily.  As often as I can.

Writing is not the same as publishing, I have learned.  When I was young and egomaniacal I thought surely I'd have published a book by now.  I loved to read.  I sheltered myself from the cruel world, inside my bedroom, reading, becoming friends with the characters in the novels.  They were fictional, but they understood me more than real people did.  I wanted to emulate my favorite authors, create works that could speak to others when I couldn't be physically present due to geographic boundaries or death.  I wanted to achieve immortality by creating stories that would survive my physical demise.  I wanted to be an Anne Frank and not an Aron Frank.

I am forty-two now.  I haven't published a book.  I've never been very good at goals.  Great at dreaming them up, but terrible at following through til the end.  It's so much easier for me to succumb to the moment and do as I please than it is for me to focus and do the boring work that must be done to achieve a goal.  I've produced two manuscripts now, one fiction, one a memoir, but I don't seem to have it in me to create an outstanding query letter or book proposal that I need to attract the attention of a literary agent.

And so I blog.  Just because I'm too lazy to find an agent, too allergic to marketing my work in a conventional way, doesn't mean I'm not writing.  And through this blog I'm able to connect with others despite our geographic boundaries.  I wonder, will this blog survive my death?  How long will my words and my stories live on in the digital world after my body has left the physical world?

Would my stories survive longer or connect with more people if they were sold by a big publishing house?  Or is blogging enough to satisfy my desire to connect with others?

The other day a friend of mine said something and it hurt my feelings.  I mentioned that Dr. Linda Bacon had shared one of my recent blog posts and that it hit over 200 page views in one day.  My friend's first reaction was not, "Wow!" or "Congratulations!" or "How exciting!" like it would be if he were a fictitious character inside my head and I were writing our dialogue in a story.  Instead he said the same thing my inner critic has been saying to me since I started this blog nearly two years ago:

"So do you get paid for each individual page view?"

"No, but van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime.  I'm a van Gogh of blogging," I argued and then I went for a walk in the park by myself to think about it.

Is writing worthy if it's unpaid?  

Yes.  It is.  Just as parenting is worthy even if it's the hardest unpaid work there is.  The rewards are beyond royalties.  Just yesterday, my daughter reminded me.

"It's crazy, but you wanna know what my favorite toy in the whole world is, Mom?" Katie asked me.

"What's your favorite toy in the whole world?" I asked.

"Books!  I love books more than anything," she exclaimed.

"I don't think that's crazy at all.  I completely understand.  I love to read too.  I'm happy you love books so much," I said.

I've gotta find some bloggers who write for young children so I can turn my kid onto the idea that the way stories are shared is evolving, that a good story doesn't have to be hardbound in order for you to enjoy it.  If you have any suggestions for a good blogger for kids, please let me know in the comments section.

I'm passing on my stories in my subtle way, the way I like to do it.  I don't have crowds of fans beating down my door or standing in long lines to have me sign their copies of my best-selling books.  I'm not getting rich off my art.  But would I really want that anyway?  Do I write to attract fans and a fat bank account, or do I write to share my love of a good story?  By publishing my stories on my blog and by passing on my love of reading to my daughter, I'm connecting in the best way I know.  Measuring my success in this way, I've already achieved my goal.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Happy Father's Day

Everything went smoothly.

I found my dad's current phone number and called him on Wednesday to make plans for Father's Day.  He said to consult my older sister, so I did.  She wanted us to come over to her house, so we met there Sunday for lunch.

The food was great.  Katie had fun playing with some awesome toys my sister, who has an estate sale business, gave her.  I enjoyed talking with my sister who, because of our busy daily lives, I see less often than I'd like to.  But here's the kicker:

Dad was nice.

Seriously.  Sure, he hogged the conversation like he does when he's in a good mood, but at least his stories were, for the most part, pretty funny and upbeat.  Sure, he complained a little about the loneliness of living by himself, but he balanced it with a statement about how he makes it a point to get out and stay active, even if it just means going to the library or going out to eat.  I felt bad for not shoveling his driveway last winter.

But I didn't feel bad the whole time like I used to when I was around my dad.  He didn't criticize me once.  He even asked me how my writing was going, and when I told him I hadn't found an agent and that my first manuscript is sitting at the back of my desk, he just smiled and didn't say anything judgy at all.  It was so weird.  What happened to the man who yelled at me and called me stupid when I told him I was taking a part-time job at the library where he claims I'd never "make any money" as if slinging arts and information isn't a worthy undertaking?  He was not there Sunday at my sister's kitchen table.  This guy was happy.  Grateful to spend an afternoon with his two daughters, his son-in-law who kept golf on the TV all afternoon for him, and his granddaughter who looks so much like how he remembers me when I was her age.

Will had to work, so when he got home I told him about how oddly upbeat my dad had been.  Will said, "Well, I guess that means it's time to forgive him."

"What?  No!  But I don't waaaaant to forgive him," I whined like I really was Katie's age.

And that's just it, my friends.  Forgiveness is not about the other person.  Forgive others for yourself.  When I learn to forgive my dad fully, I'll feel so much better.  Grudges are heavy burdens on my already sagging shoulders.  I've got to learn to let go of past trauma.  We're all here just trying our best.  Even Dad.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Owner's Manual

I caught our six-year-old reading the owner's manual to her booster seat.  Will was driving.  I was in the passenger's seat.  Katie was in the back.  I looked into the mirror over my visor and I could see Katie was reading something, but I couldn't make out what it was.

"What are you reading, Punk?" I asked.

Katie looked up at my visor mirror and caught my eye.  "The owner's manual to my booster seat."

"Oh yeah?  Why are you reading that?" I asked, a terrible thing for a librarian-mother to ask a child, but it was already out of my mouth before I realized how negative it sounded.  

I can't stand to read manuals of any kind.  When I get something new I fiddle around with it until I know how it works.  If I can't figure it out myself, I ask for help from someone else.  As a last resort I might consult the manual if I'm desperate, but I've been known to simply chuck something into the back of my closet before consulting the owner's manual.

"Because it's interesting!" Katie exclaimed.

I smiled like I did the time when she was three and woke me up at six in the morning to ask if I'd make her some broccoli.  Our sweet, strange child.

Now, Katie isn't always such a goody two-shoes.  Most days she's happy to play video games until she gets a headache and eat candy until she gets heartburn.  It's not all reading owner's manuals and eating broccoli with her.  But when it is, it's hard for me to keep a straight face.

"What's so interesting about the owner's manual to your booster seat?" I asked.

"Well, it tells you how to build it!  And it has lots of pictures of kids!  Babies and big kids like me!  And I can read it in English or flip it over and read it in Spanish!"

"How do you know how to read Spanish?" I asked.

"Well, if I read this maybe when school starts Mateo will be in my class again and I can tell him what I read and he can translate it into bilingual for me!" She said, looking back down.  

I could hear a page turn as I watched our funny kid re-focus on the owner's manual.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Six of Clubs

Will, Katie, and I found ourselves in the neighborhood, so we popped inside Planet Sub, one of our favorite sub shops.  We placed our order and sat at a booth to color while we waited for our dinner.  I solved a maze by doing it backward and when I bragged about my feat Katie said that you are not supposed to do it backwards.  I said nuh-uh and flipped the sheet over to color a whale grey with orange polka dots.

The woman who took our order brought our food to the table.  We thanked her.  She smiled and nodded her head.  She turned around to head back to the counter without picking up the six of clubs, the card she had given us when we paid and got our receipt.  Instead of asking for names, they hand you a card from a deck and then that particular card is linked to your specific order.  I set the card aside and we ate our meal heartily.  Delicious.  Katie and Will split a meatball sub. I had a tempeh reuben.  We split some broccoli cheese soup.  Yum.

We finished eating and began to clean up after ourselves, Will very neatly stacking our trash on the plastic tray and carrying it to the trash can.  I picked up the six of clubs and asked Katie if she wanted to take it to the counter and hand it to the employee while I stood back at the table and watched.

"Sure!" she said with sweet eagerness.  She's usually shy around adults she doesn't know, a side-effect of all the stranger danger talk she's heard.  Which is good.  I don't want her to approach strangers unless one of her caretakers is watching her.  In some ways she's growing up so fast.  She seems so mature.  But she's only six.  She still needs guidance.

I stood back and watched.  Katie walked in a straight line up to the counter, paused for a moment, then approached the woman, who smiled brightly and said something I couldn't hear.  Katie nodded her head as if she were replying, but I couldn't hear it.  She turned around, beaming, and walked briskly back to me.

"Thanks, Punk," I said, patting her back.

"Mom," Katie said out of the side of her mouth in a quiet voice, "I think she thought I was a dwarf grownup."

"Oh yeah?" I smiled so big it felt like my cheeks were cracking.  I was trying so hard not to laugh.

Katie was serious.  I could tell she felt so big, pretending she's a grownup of short stature, out in the world, doing normal, grownup things.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


I don't grow my own food.  I don't sew my own clothes.  I cook, but not very well and it's still a challenge to get three things hot at the same time.  I don't do my own taxes or grow my own grapes to make my own wine.  I'm not into fixing up my home or baking my own bread.  I admire DIYers, but I'm not much of one myself.

Except when it comes to the DIY haircut.  I'm not too shabby with a pair of shears in my hands.  My cuts come out shaggy, but that's my style.

Sometimes I get a bug up my butt and decide to get a professional cut, so I haul my tightwad ass to Great Clips or some other such chop shop.  But really, I can cut my own hair better than I can explain to someone else how I want it cut.

So, voila!  My DIY 'do:

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Bike to Work

I biked to work despite my rusty chain, inspired by Chummy, my favorite character in the amazing TV series Call the Midwife.  It's a BBC production but in the states it airs on PBS.

We don't have cable or a digital converter box on our TVs, so we can only watch DVDs and VHS tapes on the four sets that were given to us by friends and family.  No worries.  I checked out Call the Midwife series one on DVD from my public library, and series two is on order, so I got in line for it.  Instead of waiting for the library's DVD set to arrive, though, I'll probably watch series two online.  It's available to stream for free until June 18, 2013 on the PBS website.

If you can't find it for free at your public library, you can watch series one on Netflix, if you're not a total tightwad like me who doesn't like to pay for what I can get for free.  Although it's good to support PBS, so maybe I should buy it from them.  The show is so good, the kind of thing I'd like to watch over and over, that I might end up asking for the DVD set for--dang it, I missed Mother's Day.  What's the next occasion where I can ungreedily ask for a present?  I know: our anniversary.  If I'm still as obsessed with the show in October as I am now, I'll ask my hubby to buy the complete series for my anniversary gift.  To some girls, diamonds are a best friend.  I prefer Chummy.

Or maybe we should save our money so I can fix up my old, rusty bike:

My old, rusty bike is pathetic, but at least I have the luxury of riding it on solid pavement on a quiet street.  It's just under one mile from my house to my job, and I can take side-streets all the way.  At least I'm not dodging cameras and lighting as I ride my bike on cobblestone like the actors have to do in Call the Midwife:

When I first got my bike, when it was not old and rusty but shiny and new, Will installed the basket in the front so I could haul my books back and forth to work at the library.  I was up early, not knowing how long it would take to ride it to work.  I'm not normally a morning person, but on this day I was fresh as a daisy.  Excited to contribute in my small way toward saving the planet by expending my own energy to get to work rather than by burning fossil fuel in my car.

I took off down the road. It's true what they say about how you never forget how to ride a bike. It felt like I was flying. Free. With the sun shining on my smiling face. It never occurred to me that, as a frumpy, middle-aged woman, I might look like a total dork to some.

A couple of blocks into my route, I approached two tweens walking to school. I'd seen these girls in the neighborhood before, but I don't know them. Still, without thinking, I waved to them and called out a chummy "hey".

They did not wave back. The two girls looked at each other, looked at me, and then looked back at each other, bursting into a fit of laughter. 

As I rode past them, at first I just kept smiling, not quite getting the joke. Then I realized they were laughing at me. A frumpy, middle-aged woman on a dorky bike that has brakes on the pedals and one gear.

But you know what? I didn't let those mean girls stop me. I certainly don't bike to work every day. I've got a compulsive lateness problem so I'm usually in too much of a rush to get to work on time to bother with airing up my tires, finding my bicycle lock, and huffing away to work. It's faster to get in my car and go. But I ride my bike to work when I find the time, or when I'm inspired to, like when I saw the wonderfully awkward Chummy learn how to ride a bike in Call the Midwife, not letting the mean neighborhood children taunt her into giving up.

Kids, get out of the way. Chummy and I have important work to do.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

My One, Wonderful Kid | Nashville News, Weather

This 33-year-old man who doesn't know the difference between the words "siblings" and "offspring" is "winning" at life's biological race because, as of this moment, he's fathered twenty-two children, give-or-take--"roughly eighteen" he says in this video--and I've only been able to have one child.

I know, I know.  Life is not a competition.  But it feels unfair that in fifty years, in one-hundred years, in a thousand years and on, this man's genetic legacy will be much bigger than mine.  If his kids and my kid only reproduce one kid of their own, think how much bigger of a genetic mark he'll leave on this earth than I will.  This man who loves his children but who can't afford to pay for their care, leaving the state with an over $7000 per month tax burden to make sure his kids have food and shelter.  This man who says he's ready to, in his own words, get "fixed".  This man who named all his kids but who only gets to see about half of them one weekend and half the next.  Or is that the mothers of these children he's talking about?  I'm confused.  I'm not the only one.  This man who claims to be able to name all of his kids--remember, he named them himself--but who appears to have forgotten about half when asked to recite them.  

And here I am with my one kid, Katie.  Unable to reproduce another.  Some days I feel like the universe is laughing at me.

Shut up, Universe.  I'm the lucky one.  Me with my one, wonderful kid whose existence fills me with pride and wonder and amazement and gratitude.  One is enough for me.  I get to indulge her with my time, guide her with my words, model behavior and teach her what I know about the world.  And learn what she teaches me.

To a child the definition of a parent has less to do with whose loins they come from than whose arms consistently hold them.  My genetic imprint might not be quite as large as this man with "roughly eighteen" or twenty-two or who knows how many kids, but my influence will nonetheless be impressively molded into my one, wonderful kid.

Friday, June 7, 2013


Katie had over one of her best friends for a sleep over the other night.  This little girl is obsessed with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  When school was in session Katie would come home from time to time, telling me about how she got to play "Donnie Tello, because he's the smart one" with her friend during recess.  But Katie never showed much interest in TMNT until her friend slept over.

Will hooked them up with an old school Nintendo version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game on the TV in Katie's bedroom.   By the time Katie's friend left the next morning, Katie was jonesin' for more.  She stole my tablet and watched TMNT videos on YouTube until she was quoting from them as she acted out the dramas in our living room.

"Mom.  I only want green clothes from now on."


"Because green is my favorite color."

"Oh yeah?  Remember when your favorite color was blue?  When you were four?  And then you turned five and started kindergarten and you heard your friends say that blue is a boy color and so you changed your favorite color to pink?  But now you're changing your favorite color to green?  Now that you're almost seven, you've decided to try out a new favorite color?"


"Why can't you just say all colors are your favorite?"

"Because my favorite color is green!"

"I see.  So green is your favorite color now?"


"Because of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?"

"Yes!  Mommy, did you know my two favorite things are green?  Link wears green in The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are green!"

"Well I can see why it's your favorite."

I'm not going to run out and buy her all new, green clothes, though.  A month from now she'll latch on to some other obsession.  I remember what that's like.  Getting Hollie Hobbie sheets for Christmas the year after your friends had all moved on to Barbie.  Bragging about your new Big Wheel when your neighbor got a new two-wheel bike with a banana seat and tassles on the handle bars.

The problem with Katie's new obsession is, now I've got this song stuck in my head:

It's not a bad song.  It's just not a song a 42 year-old mom can relate to.  I can to this day pop in a Smiths cassette (yes, I still have a boom box) and sing along with Morrissey about how heaven knows I'm miserable now, even though I'm not often miserable any more.  It's fun to relive my past, to remember my sullen teenage years with pride.  I was a brave girl.  I was awkward and different, but in the most endearing way now that I look back on it.  I want to go back in time and kiss my fourteen year old face.  I'd have to spit a glob of pancake makeup off my lips.  Note to fourteen year old self: no makeup is best!

The reason this song is stuck in my head is because Katie has played it a thousand times since she found it yesterday.  She raises the volume, holding the tablet on her knees as she sings along to the song:

I woke up it was 7
I waited till 11
Just to figure out that no one would call
I think I've got a lot of friends but I don't hear from them
What's another night all alone?
When you're spending everyday on your own
And here it goes

I'm just a kid and life is a nightmare
I'm just a kid, I know that it's not fair
Nobody cares, cause I'm alone and the world is
Having more fun than me tonight

And maybe when the night is dead, I'll crawl into my bed
And staring at these 4 walls again
I'll try to think about the last time I had a good time
Everyone's got somewhere to go
And they're gonna leave me here on my own
And here it goes

I'm just a kid and life is a nightmare
I'm just a kid, I know that it's not fair
Nobody cares, cause I'm alone and the world is
Having more fun than me

What the fuck is wrong with me?
Don't fit in with anybody
How did this happen to me?
Wide awake I'm bored and I can't fall asleep
And every night is the worst night ever

I'm just a kid [repeat x5]

I'm just a kid and life is a nightmare
I'm just a kid, I know that it's not fair
Nobody cares, cause I'm alone and the world is
Nobody wants to be alone in the world.

I'm just a kid and life is a nightmare
I'm just a kid, I know that it's not fair
Nobody cares, cause I'm alone and the world is
Nobody wants to be alone in the world
Nobody cares, cause I'm alone and the world is
Having more fun than me tonight

I'm all alone tonight
Nobody cares tonight
Cause I'm just a kid tonight

Lyrics source:

Wow.  Those lyrics sound like something coming out of Morrissey's mouth inside my bedroom when I was fourteen, not six.  Dang, kids grow up fast these days.  I wasn't expecting to deal with depressive pop songs for at least eight more years.

I asked Katie, sitting on the futon part of her bunk bed in her room, why she likes this song so much.  She said this, which sums up pretty nicely why I layed on my bedroom floor listening to The Smiths for hours at a time:

"Because it makes me feel like I'm part of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle family."

We all want to belong to something.  I'm not often miserable any more for many reasons, but my favorite one is because I feel like I belong to Will and to Katie.

It Gets Better for Fat People Too

My favorite health advocate, Dr. Linda Bacon, shared this article yesterday.

It reminds me of this blog post I wrote.  To me, the fact that so few "obese" people have "good numbers"--blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol, and other internal measurements of good health--tells us that too many fat people are discouraged from participating in healthy activities.

While visiting my mom last summer, we were discussing how exercise might help with blood circulation and improve the edema that gives her fits. I asked her why she doesn't like to go for walks around her neighborhood. What she said stunned me at first, and then I just felt sad.

"People will think, 'What's that fat old lady doing out there exercising?'"

To my mom, and I'm afraid to many others in the heavy-set crowd, health is an entitlement only thin people deserve.

But that way of thinking is unhealthy. Fat people, thin people, short people, tall people, all people deserve health. A fat person should not feel so embarrassed by her body that she's ashamed to move it in front of other people.

Fat people, like gay people before us, come out of the closet!

The fresh air and sunshine and fun things we can do with our bodies is amazing once we get over the fear of other people's judgment. And it's not just a health benefit for ourselves. We can change the world.  Sure, I can exercise inside my own home where no one else can see me. But when more fat people get out and say, "Hey, I'm fat AND I'm healthy" and feel confident enough to swim and dance and move our bodies in pleasurable ways for the whole world to see, it can create a cultural shift in attitudes toward fat and health.

It's scary though, to be brave in the face of adversity. Especially about something so personal as your own body. So I don't blame fat people, or anyone who has body shame issues, for not wanting to get out and flaunt it. It takes time and hard work to feel confident about your body in our dysfunctional society. I still struggle with it daily. But, as the gays say, it gets better.

June is Gay Pride Month.  What month should we designate as Fat Pride Month?  I can't wait til the day I see a bunch of radical fatties marching down the street, flabby-arm-in-flabby-arm, fighting for our right to live and love and be who we are, free from other people's judgment.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Body Love

Phrase of the Day: "Scale Dependent Self-esteem."

Do you suffer from SDS? Here's a brilliant TEDTalk by Golda Poretsky. You will shake your head and say, "yes" out-loud as you watch it.

"This year alone Americans are going to spend sixty-two billion dollars on diets and diet products."

"Accepting your body just as it is, to me, this is one of the greatest peace movements of our time. Because if you can let go of the judgment around your body and other peoples' bodies, if you can stop denigrating your own body and saying negative things about yourself, it creates an amazing sort of peace."


Got Scale Dependent Self-esteem you can't seem to shake? The cure is body love.  Shake it no matter what your size or ability!  Be proud of your vessel.  When you love yourself others become more lovable.  Spread the love!

Wouldn't it be wonderful to wake up tomorrow and we all decided to love ourselves and each other?

Yeah, yeah.  I know.  Fat chance.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Confidently Cautious

One of Katie's classmates had a birthday party in her back yard last week.  It was so cool.  They had one table set up for the kids to tie-dye a shirt, another table set up for the kids to create their own picture frame, and another table set up with the grandma doing face painting.  But the coolest part of all, I thought, was the tree house.  The dad built it himself and it's a glorious thing.  I never had a tree house growing up and my inner six-year-old gasped when I first saw it.  They filled up water balloons with paint and let the kids place canvases on the ground and then climb up to the tree house to drop the paint balloons on them.  My inner Jackson Pollack gasped when I saw the first paint balloon drop.  It was so freaking cool.

Katie would have none of it.  She did think the tree house looked cool, from down on the ground.  And she enjoyed watching the other kids drop their paint balloons onto their canvases below, but after a few half-hearted attempts to climb the ladder, never getting past the second rung, she gave up.

"Don't you want to drop a paint balloon onto your canvas?" I asked, trying to sound more encouraging than critical.

"Nah.  I'll just put my canvas down there and let the other kids splat paint on it for me..."

Katie is terrified of heights.  She's always been on the cautious side physically--she was "late" to roll over, sit up, crawl, walk, toilet train, swing, slide, roller skate, ride a bike--but she always came around to these activities in her own time.  We read the book Leo the Late Bloomer together a lot when she was younger.  Mostly as a reminder to me to stop worrying, that my sweet cub is perfectly fine just the way she is.

When Katie was three she fell off a four-foot wall at the park.  She wasn't physically hurt, but it freaked her out.  Maybe that event made her extra cautious about heights.  She'd been chasing after another girl about her age.  Back then other kids' activities-- even fearless things like walking along four-foot walls--could make Katie forget her worries and join in, but now her temperament seems more fully developed and she's less inclined to follow others into what her brain interprets as imminent peril.  My kiddo might be a scaredy cat but at least I know she's no lemming.

Katie's acrophobia might come from the early trauma of falling off that wall at the park.  Or maybe it's just the way her particular brain is developing.  Maybe it's genetic and it just skips a generation.  My mom is also terrified of heights.  Not only for herself.  She can't even stand to watch others in situations where they could fall from a great height.  Mom hardly ever bossed me around or corrected me.  The word "scold" is not in Mom's dictionary.  But whenever we'd go to the mall, if I came within a foot of the guard rail that protects people from falling off the opening to the floor below, Mom would yell, Get over here! like the most overprotective parent on the planet.

So when Katie and Will decided a few days ago that it was time to get a bunk bed for her room, just in time for summer sleepover season, I countered, "But what about your fear of heights?  Are you going to be able to climb up to the top bunk?"

"Mom!  I've been to the top bunk on Jonathan's bed a thousand times already!  A bunk bed is not as tall as a tree house," she insisted.

So I dropped it and we got her a bunk bed.  I doubted seriously if she's really been to the top of her cousin's bunk bed a thousand times, but if that's what it took, telling herself this white lie to get over her fear of heights, that's fine with me.  I lie to myself as a form of encouragement sometimes too.

Will installed the bed and Katie slept in it all night.  She loves it.  She didn't even get out of bed at 4AM to crawl in bed with us like she usually does if she hasn't just fallen asleep in our bed from the start.  Long after Will went to work, when I woke up sprawled out in our king size bed, alone, I smiled and thought to myself oh our big girl is growing up!

Then I heard her calling for me in her room.

"Mom!  I think there's a bee in my room."

"It's just a fly, Sweetie.  I saw it last night," I assured her.  I was surprised our big dog Earl hadn't hunted it down and eaten it yet.

"Come check," she said.

I heaved myself out of bed and walked into her bedroom.  I heard the fly before I saw it.  "I can tell it's a fly by the sound it makes," I said.

"How do you know?" Katie asked.

"Forty-two years worth of experience with summer flies," I said.

She smiled and sat up.  She slept all night in the top bunk, unafraid.  She had even crawled up the ladder all by herself like she told me she could.

"My big girl!  Sleeping in the top bunk all night!" I said.

"Uh, Mommy.  Where's Daddy?  I need help getting down." She smiled like she was asking for a gift she knew we couldn't afford, like the time she told me she wanted that child-size car that runs on batteries and costs $600, more than my first real car, a 1974 Super Beetle we paid a friend of my mom's $500 bucks for because it had a bad catalytic converter and made my clothes smell like rotten eggs.

"Daddy's at work.  You need help down?" I asked, trying to sound encouraging and not critical.

"Yeah.  I can get up by myself but I'm too afraid to climb down."

"How did you get down at Jonathan's?" I asked.

"Well, he put some pillows and blankets on the ground and I just jumped down," she explained.

"A thousand times?  You did that?" I asked.

"Well, no.  Just once.  It was too scary to do it again."

"I see.  Well, do you want me to put some pillows and blankets down for you to jump onto?" I asked.

"No!  Can you just hold me while I try to climb down?" she asked.

"Sure, Sweetie."

We tried that for about fifteen minutes.  Finally, she gave up.  It was either trust in her mother's strength or a full bladder, but she let me hold her by the armpits and pull her down.

"Wow, Mommy, you're strong!" she said.

"Yep, I can be if I need to be, " I said.

"I'm sorry I can't get down myself," Katie said, looking down at the floor.

"Oh, Sweetie," I said, touching her chin to raise her eyes to mine.  "You don't have to be sorry for that.  I'm sure as you practice and get bigger and more used to it you'll learn to climb down by yourself in your own time."

"Why can't I do it now?  Why am I so scared?" she asked.

"Ah, Sweetie, you just have a special brain that thinks a lot.  Your brain warns you about danger faster than some other people's brains do.  It's good to have a brain that thinks a lot.  You come up with great ideas all the time.  The flip side is sometimes you think about scary stuff a lot.  Just try to take deep breaths and you'll get there with time, like you always do."

"But what if my friends tease me because I can't do it myself?  Millie made fun of me yesterday because I'm six and I still have training wheels on my bike and JC is only four and his bike doesn't have training wheels!"

"Well, I feel sorry for Millie that she doesn't know people learn things at different rates and that we're all special and we all do things differently.  She's going to have a hard time making and keeping friends if she keeps making fun of people for doing things differently.  She's got a lot of learning to do."

"But why can't I ride my bike without training wheels but JC can and he's two years younger than me?" Katie buried her head into my armpit.

"Sweetie, I bet JC can't read as well as you can.  But it's not a competition.  We all learn things at different speeds.  Do you want to take your training wheels off your bike and try to ride it without them?"

"No!  I want to ride my bike with training wheels until I'm a grown up!"

"Ok," I said.

"Really?" Katie took her head out of my armpit and looked up at me.  "I can ride my bike with training wheels until I'm a grown up?"

"Yeah.  Why not?  Some people never even learn how to ride a bike with training wheels.  We all do things differently.  In order to be a happy human being you don't have to learn how to ride a bike at all, or climb down from bunk beds.  I mean, if you want to do those things you have to practice a lot to get good at them and giving up won't help you learn them, but no one says you have to do those things to be a happy person."

"Well, I'm going to be a happy person who rides a bike with training wheels til I'm a grown up," Katie insisted, with confidence in her voice.

Five minutes later, after a bathroom break, I heard Katie calling from her room again.

"Mom, can I have breakfast in bed today?"

I walked into her room and she was sitting, smiling proudly, on the top bunk again.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

BBW Berit from "My Life as a Dog"

As a sixteen year old girl I saw the Swedish film "My Life as a Dog" at the Fine Arts Theater in Mission, Kansas.  At the time it was one of my favorite films, and although I have grown attached to far more movies than this one since then, it still retains a special place in my movie-going heart.  It's been twenty-six years since I've seen it and I still recall scenes from time to time.

I've been blogging a lot about body issues lately.  I've become friends with several fat activists.  Big bodies have been on my mind.  So I've been thinking of "My Life as a Dog" and how it was one of the first times I remember watching other people respond favorably toward a large woman.

The artist's model Berit, played by Ing-Marie Carlsson, is, in the parlance of the urban dictionary crowd, a BBW--a big, beautiful woman.  All the townsfolk are hot for her.  The twelve-year-old protagonist nearly kills himself falling through a roof trying to peep on her during a nude modeling session.  Already wide-hipped at sixteen, I vividly remember sitting in the scratchy seats under the big screen thinking to myself, "Wow, if I lived in Sweden in the fifties instead of Kansas in the eighties I'd be a beauty queen."

Here's the trailer.  Warning: contains brief female nudity:

Watching this now, Berit doesn't seem that big to me at all.  I'll have to go back and watch the movie on DVD and see how I respond to it as a forty-two year old woman who has learned to love her body, rather than when I first saw it, just five years after my sweet little fifth-grade self was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa after having been sent to Weight Watchers in third grade.  Is it a case of I'm older now so things that seemed so big when I was a kid seem small now?  Or were the pickins so slim for American images of BBWs in the eighties that I was too quick to lump not-really-all-that-big Berit into that category?

Hurt Two Birds with a Rock

Me: "Come on, turn off the TV.  It's time to fix your hair."
Katie: "But, Mooooooom.  I want to finish 'Ponyo'.  It's almost over."
Me: "No, it's time to fix your hair now, not later."
Katie: "Why don't we do that thing, you know, that thing?  Where you hurt two birds with a rock?"
Me: "Kill two birds with one stone?"
Katie: "Yes!  Kill two birds with one stone.  You can fix my hair while I sit here and finish watching the movie."
Me: "There you go again.  You and your good ideas."

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Cheerios Family and Charles Ramsey

When I was a young woman my therapist told me to "envision the life I wanted to live."  She said if I could picture inside my head what I wanted my life to look like, I'd have a clearer understanding of what I needed to do to achieve those goals.  It sounded to me a lot like what us laypersons call "fantasizing" but heck, I'd give it a shot.

My three main goals at the time were this: find a life partner, have a kid, publish a book.

That was twenty years ago.  I'm pretty pleased with my slow, steady progress.  After about a decade of being single and "working on myself," I found a life partner when I was 31.  I had a kid at 35.  And although I haven't published a book, at age 42 I downloaded the app to Google Drive so I can read the manuscript of the memoir I wrote, Unashamed: From Anorexia and Anxiety to Body Acceptance and Bravery, on my Google Nexus tablet as if it's an ebook.  When I read it and pretend it's an actual, published ebook, it's not petty child's play or fantasy: I'm envisioning the ebook I want to publish.  

Back in my younger days, when I was envisioning the life partner I wanted to have, what I saw was this: a black guy, or maybe a biracial black and white guy, with long dark hair, who was tall and kinda looked like a cross between Anthony Kiedis and Lenny Kravitz.  I'm superficial, what can I say?  But no, my "envisioning" went a little further than looks.  I imagined this life partner of mine to be a high school teacher at some impoverished inner city school who, in his free time volunteered for Big Brothers and Big Sisters and scooped poop at the local animal shelter on the weekends and visited elderly patients in nursing homes and read them the paper or from one of their favorite novels or just sat around and chewed the fat with them and let them tell him about the good ole days.  I wanted him to be the kind of person I wanted to be if I could figure out a way to heave myself out of my depression bed.

I don't know why I envisioned my future life partner to be black or biracial.  Probably because I have daddy issues and I wanted to marry someone who looked the polar opposite of my own father, who is white, short, and bald.  I dated a black woman for three months back in the day, but I've never dated a black man.  Well, there was that one boy named Michael who in high school gave me a ride home and then kissed me on my front porch, but that's as far as I'd ever gotten romantically with a black guy.  I started to say "with someone of African descent" but we're all of African descent if you go back to Mitochondrial Eve.  

As things go, my life partner turned out to be tall, yes, and with long hair, yes, but he's even whiter than me.  Blond hair.  Blue eyes.  No matter what your therapist says, no matter how much envisioning you do, you cannot predict who you will fall in love with.  I lucked out.  Will's better than my wildest dreams.

I still have an affinity for black men, though.  Some black men walk into the library and they have those long dreadlocks or braids and I'm like, mmm hmm, that's what I'm talking about.  I would never cheat on my husband.  I'm not a multitasker.  I can only handle one lover at a time.  But come on, no matter how solidly monogamous you are, who doesn't notice attractive people?  I know Will thinks lots of other women are hot and I don't feel threatened by it.  If anything I feel honored that of all the hot women in the world he chose to stick with me.  

I kinda feel like Jerry Seinfeld did in that one episode of his eponymous show where he makes a statement about loving Chinese women and Elaine calls him on it.  Isn't that a little racist?  And Jerry's all, if I like their race how can that be racist?  It's not like I'm attracted to all black men.  Or that I'm not attracted to white guys or men of other race and ethnic groups.  Obviously.  My lily-white-assed husband is who I picked to stick with partially because I love his lily white ass.

What I really love is when I see a hot black man come into the library with his white wife and their biracial kids because then I get to remember my long ago envisioned future and pretend that's my family for a minute.  Just yesterday there was this family that stopped in front of my desk.  The dad was black.  The mom was white.  The kids were biracial.  And there were two grandparents with them, both white.  The white grandmother pulled out a small bottle of hand sanitizer and bent over to gently rub it into both her grandkids' hands.  The contrast of her old, wrinkly, pale hands against their young, smooth, dark hands was a thing of beauty.

I remember when I was a kid and we drove by the high school one day to pick up my brother and we saw a black boy and a white girl on the steps outside, kissing.  My mom made a comment about how that never would have happened at her high school, that it was only in her junior year that her school was forced to become integrated and three black students began attending classes with her.  I think about that time, when I was sitting in the back of my mom's Vega, the vinyl seats sticking to my thighs as I sat with the window rolled down, looking out at the world.

The times are changing.  For the better.  Slowly.  Now it's commonplace to see white grandmothers holding their black-and-white grandkids' hands.  In Katie's class last year there were twenty-two kids.  Out of those twenty-two kids, eleven had white skin and eleven had brown skin, and many of those brown-skinned kids have one white parent.  Katie has two classmates in the same grade, one white boy and one black boy, who are brothers.  The white boy's mom is white and she had him with another white guy before she married her husband.  The black boy's dad is white, so I'm assuming his ex is black, or maybe the boy was adopted.  So when the white boy's mom and the black boy's dad got married, the two became brothers.  This is the world we live in now.  And that makes me happy.

That's why I'm disappointed to read about the Cheerios ad with a biracial couple in it that had its comments feature disabled on YouTube because so many racist rants were popping up.  Bad Internet!  When a hero like Charles Ramsey gets songified for his comment about how you know there's something wrong when a pretty little white girl runs into a black man's arms, I don't know whether to be happy that that Internet feels comfortable enough about race relations that we can joke about it, or to be disheartened that the Internet continues to be a cave for anonymous trolls to hide out in.  But man, the song sure is catchy.

And dang that Cheerios ad is cute.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

"A Butterfly" by Katie Carleton, Age 6

"A Butterfly" by Katie Carleton, age 6.  

Katie has a Play-doh kit that has these three spatulas you can use to get the Play-doh out of the molds and to cut it in wiggly lines.  When I was in bed with a migraine the other day, Katie was left up to her own devices.

She got out her Play-doh set and soon realized all the Play-doh was gone - dog ate some, some dried up, most of it just got used over time.  Without complaint, she took the three spatulas, colored them, and taped them together to make a butterfly.

I love that she continued to use the parts of the kit to create something long after some might think the kit was worthless.  I mean, who can create a butterfly using a Play-doh kit that's run out of Play-doh?  Katie Bug can!  The butterfly is proudly displayed, taped to her bedroom door.