Yoga

About two years ago, I discovered Yoga with Adriene and her 30-day yoga practices. I finally found my way into the practice of yoga, and I’m very glad I did. It has benefited me in so many ways.

Now, I’ll also be totally upfront here: I haven’t set foot in a yoga studio to date, and I don’t have any plans to do so anytime soon. I do a home (or work gym) practice for the following reasons:

1. It fits into my schedule. It’s just a lot easier for me to decide when I’m going to do yoga, rather than find out when classes are, and then see if I can get there.

2. It’s free! Der.

3. I don’t have to be self-conscious about my yoga poses. Not that I would be necessarily, but a home practice is super low pressure.

4. I can take off my glasses. My glasses were not made for yoga. 

Although yoga has many physical benefits, it is not the primary reason I’ve added it to my fitness routine. Increased flexibility is merely one of the side effects I’ve enjoyed.

Yoga helps me decrease anxiety and increase focus. I have learned to relax and, as Adriene says, “connect to my breath.” One of the problems I used to have with the idea of deep breathing for yoga and/or meditation was that I would actually get tenser. Through practice, I have figured out how to drop my shoulders, and truly breathe out tension and distraction.

The other thing I like about Yoga with Adriene are the mantras she brings to each day of the 30-day practice. The one I did recently was Self-Love, and she simply asked that we think of one thing we love about ourselves that day.

Yesterday, my answer was that I am a good parent, which kind of surprised me when it came into my head. But I had had a good experience at the doctor’s with Kate earlier this week. She is struggling with a few things, and in talking with the pediatrician, issues were raised. The PA we were talking with said, to Kate, “You obviously have a good relationship with your mom, and you can talk to her about this. That’s really good.”

That made me feel good. This parenting gig has many challenges, and they evolve from the physical and logistical into the emotional. The care and keeping of tweens and teens is not something to take for granted. My current strategy is to listen more than I talk, to make them feel safe, to lead by example (another way yoga and exercise in general is important; my children see me taking care of myself), to answer questions, and to give them the tools they need to be confident.

Yoga reminded me that, in this instance with Kate, I am actually doing a pretty good job. 

Copyright for featured image: tatom / 123RF Stock Photo

Gerrymander

In case you don’t know, Pennsylvania is divided up in rather ridiculous ways for voting purposes. The GOP in PA drew up the voting districts in 2010 (I believe). Democrats sued, the PA Supreme Court said, Yeah, this isn’t fair or constitutional; try again. And now the Republican representatives want to impeach the judiciary.

Here, Tony Norman of the PG does a good job of talking about the issue.

Because I am find the idea of impeaching some judges abhorrent, I decided to send an email to my representative in the PA General Assembly. This is what I emailed.

Email text protesting the GOP gerrymandering in PA and their desire to impeach the court.
My email to Rep. Mustio

And the very next day, this is what I got back from Representative Mustio.

Mustio sez: Cut me a break.

Me: Oh no he didn’t.

via GIPHY

Yeah.

I cheerfully responded:

Oh, sir, no.
Respectfully yours.

Now, it turns out the Rep. Mustio is retiring and isn’t going to run for another term (boo hoo). I certainly will be paying close attention to the people who decide to run to replace him. And I am curious what reaction his fellow Republicans to Mr. Mustio’s response to me. Do they care? Can they be made to care? I bet with a new map they sure will!

The Republicans have lost their GD minds. Pennsylvania is not the only state with the GOP thinks that they can do anything they feel like; see also Wisconsin and North Carolina.

I honestly don’t know who these people think they are.

via GIPHY

If you think the election of the Great Orange Cheeto was going to take the wind out of Democrat and progressive sails, you have another thing coming. Listen up, GOP: There are more of us. And we are on fire. We are energized to vote in 2018 and beyond. Enjoy your petty little responses now. At least you have constituents for the time being. That won’t last with attitudes like Mustio’s.

Discouraged

I wrote a book.

I edited and redrafted and had other people beta read the book I wrote. And did another rewrite.

I went to conferences, and did Pitch Wars, and sent chapters to two critique partners (CPs) and a handful of agents.

I thought of a way to redraft my book, again, which includes a rewrite to get to the action sooner, and relocating the setting, and I haven’t touched my book in, like, eight months.

Writing a book, while it does take a lot of time, is a process I can understand. You put aside the time, and you write (and rewrite and edit and rewrite a couple more times).

But publishing? Publishing is a different beast. And, frankly, not one I feel qualified to undertake.

Query letters, shopping agents, conferences, more queries.

Publishing, it feels like to me, is another full-time job. And I don’t have it in me to undertake another full-time job.

I love my book (and I want to write more). But I cannot get my brain around how to publish – or even how to participate in writing groups / be a CP. I open a website of agents, and my brain bails. Like, “Nope, I don’t have time for this today.”

One woman (now a successful author) talked about writing for 10 years before she found an agent.

Ten years. She didn’t work outside the home during that time. Her husband worked, and presumably supported her/them. (I don’t recall if she had children or not.)

Maybe there is a layer of privilege or luck to becoming a published writer. Being able to take the time somewhere in the schedule.

Maybe that’s just envy talking, I don’t know.

I joined two groups of writers on Facebook. I follow people and hashtags on Twitter. It looks to me like everyone is writing MUCH more than I am currently. I dither about doing another month of writing (there is NaNoWriMo as well as month-long NaNo Camps).

Am I wrong to think I don’t have time to get a book published? If I am wrong, I am willing to listen to ideas to pursue that dream. Because I don’t see how to do it at this time.

In the meantime, I do need to reopen and rewrite my manuscript (again). And then write the next one.

I don’t have writer’s block, I have publishing block.

Words of encouragement welcome. A push from a writer or writers who work full-time AND have still gotten an agent and gotten published also welcome.

I like my job, a lot. I love my family. Taking on the task to land an agent to get published feels like a luxury I cannot indulge.

Correct me if I’m wrong.

Birthday

(Yes, it’s today.)

For this next trip around the sun, I am focusing on a couple of things.

1. Managing my anxiety.

This is the biggest task for me on a personal level this year. My goal is to focus on what I have control of, and, you know, control it. What’s that old chestnut? The Serenity Prayer. Yeah, that.

2. Writing.

I did not write much last year, and after the burst of excitement I had from “finishing” my novel, I didn’t make much progress on publishing, either. I need to find a way of getting back to this.

3. Fun with family.

My children are getting older, which YAY!, but which also means I feel like I need to focus a little more on connecting with them over and above: Hey, it’s time for you to do these chores. Yes, we need to parent them well, with appropriate boundaries, but we also need room for roller skating and movie going.

4. Managing money and (FOR REAL THIS YEAR) doing stuff about the house.

5. Something outside of me.

I need to find a vehicle for me to be an active part of helping people, either via the political process or through volunteering. I mentioned this recently, and I am still open to suggestions. Writing letters and calling my representatives were exercises in frustration; and I already vote and donate (a little bit) to candidates I support.

So, anyway, happy birthday to me. My plans for the day include dinner out with the children and Dan, brownies, and a new cookbook.

Copyright for Buddha image: sofiaworld / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright for cake image: rojoimages / 123RF Stock Photo

Favorites

Today is one of my favorite days in the whole year. (Shame it happens so early in the year most years.)

Each Christmas, my parents give my SIL and me a Macy’s gift card. The SIL and I make a date, usually around my birthday, to shop at Macy’s. We hit up the clearance racks, and we hit them up hard. I usually have to talk her into buying color (she likes her beiges and blues; I try to get her to buy reds or greens). She usually likes what I pick out, although she is also honest enough to say she likes it on ME, but wouldn’t buy it for herself.

Some years we get lunch, too. This year, we are actually going to meet our husbands out for dinner. That will be nice. Many times, when my parents come to town, it’s for an event that we would have to all see each other anyway. So having dinner just the four of us, for the heck of it, is a treat.

Neither my SIL or I are extravagant spenders or fancy-pants dressers. She doesn’t currently work outside the home, although between volunteering at her boys’ schools (they have four boys, ages 16 to 8) and at her parish, she’s not exactly a house-bound, housewife by any stretch. We try on jeans, shirts, sweaters, and pants; I usually look for work-appropriate skirts and dresses, and I am always on the lookout for something a little funky, a little fun. Sometimes I splurge on jewelry to match an outfit — it’s the only way I get coordinating jewelry. One year, I got a pair of Guess boots for $27.

We mostly talk about the children and extended family. My SIL is fun. She’s a little more conservative than I (both she and my brother are more conservative), and no, I don’t know who they voted for. But we have a good time.

My brother is… he’s deeply funny. It’s kind of hard to describe him. He’s very quiet. He doesn’t have a big personality. He is probably one of the smartest people I know. I can’t think of a time we spent together (as adults) that I thought, “Ugh, that was torture.” I wish we saw each other more. He gets worked up about sports, and loves his Steelers and Penguins. He loves to read, and manages to get through more books than I do. If he recommends something, I usually try to check it out.

I think we share some core values, values we were raised with, about the value of people and Catholic values regarding loving one another. He is loyal, family-oriented, sarcastic but not mean. We share the same tastes in music.

My brother and I are NOT opposites. If anything, Dan and my brother are opposites. They are passionate about different things, smart about different things, and where my brother is reserved, Dan wears his heart on his sleeve.

That’s what we will probably talk about at dinner with each other, books and movies, music, children. We’ll make fun of each other, but not in a mean way. We’ll share good food and good beer. I am looking forward to it.

Then on Sunday, another annual ritual. My husband and I bought the building he works in from a couple, one of whom is a colleague of Dan’s from Duquesne. He is semi-retired, and brought Dan into his practice several years ago; we signed the lease on the Crafton building soon after Michael was born. Each year, this couple take us out to dinner to celebrate the occasion. We always go to Bella Fruttetta, and the food is always excellent. The couple usually orders the same thing every year; Dan usually gets a special, and I try to change it up if they have a new vegetarian entree on the menu.

But it is another good night of lively conversation, some reminiscing, and a celebration of sharing. Sharing lives and paths, food and drink.

This is why we are here — and I do mean this in the larger philosophical sense. To share, to cross paths and find people with whom you share values. We don’t choose our family, it is true, and I realize how blessed I am to have family I love and enjoy being with. And then I am doubly blessed to have a tribe outside of my family, of like-minded friends.

We will raise glasses and toast to our good fortune (and, possibly, wish for the impeachment of a President), and for this weekend, it will be enough. It will be what I do for myself in 2018, and gather strength to do more hard work.

Salute.

What will you raise a glass to this weekend?

Perspective

Friday night, at approximately 11:55, Michael puked.

My first thought was, “Not something ELSE.”

Dan got up, and helped me deal with the vomit, and we got Michael cleaned up. I put him in our bed (with a garbage can to the ready); Dan went to sleep on the couch; and I read for a bit until I could fall asleep.

Michael threw up again at 2:30 (which necessitated another change of sheets and another shower), then at 6:30 and 7:30. Those two latter times, he managed to get most of it in the garbage can. “Hey, at least I didn’t get any on the bed!” he happily pointed out.

Saturday, I was not feeling at the top of my game. Flat tires, sick children, other inconveniences were on my mind, and I was disgruntled that 2018 did not seem to be fantastic at a mere three weeks in.

But upon reflection, I realized that my problems are minor bumps in a fairly smooth road. (Knock on wood.) We are starting the year much as it ended: a mostly healthy family, a roof over our heads, and money coming in from jobs we enjoy. So flat tires and a little puke are a small price to pay.

It made me think of people far less fortunate. We are not being actively harmed by the current administration. When I heard about the “religious freedom” protections being promoted by Health and Human Services, I was horrified. Policies like this one are going to have devastating impacts on certain populations, primarily LGBTQ+ people, and women who want access to family planning and reproductive healthcare.

My idea of religious freedom is that I get to practice my religion, not that I get to impose my religious values on others.

++

We have implemented Circle at our house, and it has not been a popular decision. However, Dan and I are sticking to our guns on this one.

Implementation has been rocky. Flora didn’t have Wi-Fi access the hours we set up for her (3:30 to 9 p.m.) the first couple of days we were using Circle. Dan set it up, and I’m not sure what happened. Her frustration was palpable, to say the least.

When she complained about it for the fourteenth time — she was bored! She couldn’t talk to her friends! — I got a little snippy. “I’m sorry you are missing your phone, but how do you think people in Puerto Rico feel? Some of them still don’t have electricity.”

“I know, I know,” Flora said. “Believe me, I know I have it good. I’m just frustrated.”

“I’m glad you know you have it good,” I said. “We just have to wait until Dad gets home so he can figure this out for you.”

I know how good I have it. My struggle now is: How do I go about making change for the people who DON’T have it good? I feel like I have a responsibility above and beyond food and clothing donations. My exercise last year in writing letters and making calls was extraordinarily frustrating. My Republican representatives simply did. not. care. (One of them had to retire because it turned out that he urged his possibly-pregnant mistress to consider abortion. Family values, my friends!) I felt utterly impotent.

Something I am trying to do for my mental health is to focus on things I can control. So, while I can’t actively impeach the President, or make my Republican Senator heed my wishes, I need ideas about what I can do. I toy with ideas of volunteering, maybe with the children? Where would my efforts be best used?

Ideas welcome.

Finances are tight, so donating money isn’t really on the table. But I should be able to donate time, and my voice, and use my voice to amplify other voices.

If you have ideas for me, leave them in the comments.

Yes

What does a non-coercive sexual encounter look like?

Simple: It is two people saying yes to each other.

Let’s be clear about something: sex isn’t the end game here. Dating, sex, and relationships happen on a continuum. Sure, one-night stands happen; sometimes they are even the desired outcome.

One should still get consent. I would venture to say, even, that women and men can be clear about their intentions of having a one-night stand. “I’m not looking for a relationship, but you’re cute and I’m feeling frisky.” This way, no one’s waiting for a phone call.

We don’t need signed affidavits for consensual sex. The #MeToo movement isn’t going to ruin dating, flirting, or sex.

What a lot of men are just starting to realize is that the sexual interactions they are used to having aren’t necessarily fun for women. Outside of the troubling power dynamics of sexual harassment at the office, and outside outright assault and rape, there are still troubling interactions, messaging, and treatment that needs to be parsed.

We shouldn’t be afraid of this.

I once heard it said, “Sex is like pizza. Guys never have bad pizza.”

This isn’t true for women. Women get bad pizza sometimes. We are more vulnerable, and we’ve been conditioned from the youngest ages to go along to get along. It isn’t until we are in unpleasant sexual situations that we realize that it’s not going to work to our advantage.

++

Expanding on a point I made the other day:

“Traditional ideas about seduction rely on tropes of women withholding sex and men working hard to get it. It’s a narrow notion of heterosexuality — one that does a good job excusing abusive behavior…. [W]hen it’s considered ‘natural’ for men to doggedly pursue women — even those have made it clear they’re not interested — we make it easier for a predator to claim he was just following a normal romantic script.” (source)

Having this conversation about affirmative consent isn’t going to kill dating and romance. It doesn’t mean that men have to sit back until women make the first move, either.

It means take no for an answer, the first time, every time.

It means when she starts saying yes, make sure she still is saying yes minutes, and hours, and days later. Maybe even years!

“But some women like playing hard to get.”

Okay, I hear what you are saying. But the idea that she’s just playing hard to get cannot be the default position. As someone who never played hard to get, this argument falls flat with me.

If you are dating a woman, or a woman has decided to take you home/go home with you, now is time not to push ahead at all costs. If you don’t know if she’s having second thoughts, just ask. Open it up! “Is this okay? What do you want to do?” Check in.

Frankly, many women would benefit from learning more about their own bodies and their own desire. Sexual education, whether in the classroom or in pop culture, centers on boys. Boys have orgasms and pleasure; girls get pregnant. Sexual education for girls is about our period, and how not to be mortified by our body.

I have many more thoughts about this, so if you’re still interested, stay tuned. But this is the takeaway from this post, for men AND women, boys AND girls: Let us learn the language of desire, and learn what “yes means yes” looks like in action. The agonizing going on now by people who don’t want anything to change is worthless. Let’s see some change.

Consent

Mom, Dad, other family members, you may not want to read this one. I have some strong opinions about #MeToo, consent, and assault. This post includes some info about me you may not want to know. And/Or: Trigger warning. Portrayals of unpleasant sexual situations ahead.

So, it seems that an account of a woman who went on a date with Aziz Ansari is muddying the waters. This is akin to what happened when Sen. Al Franken and Garrison Keillor were accused of assault. It’s a mix of “NO, not this guy, whom I like!” and “Wait, is that assault?”

Call it assault, call it a bad date, call it coercion. It is far too common, and this is why the discussions about MeToo don’t stop now, they keep going. We don’t dismiss this woman’s account because she didn’t get to choose the wine she preferred. We say, “Okay, what do men do when they find themselves in a situation with a woman, and the signals change?”

Reading the account was unpleasant for me, and I would guess for many women. Many of us have been on bad dates, have been in situations where we did things we didn’t want to do. I’m going to call it coerced consent.

“If I do this, he’ll let me go home.” Oh, and if you’re thinking, “Just leave!” Where am I? What neighborhood am I in? Did I drive? Are buses running? Would I know where to catch one? Do I have the money in my bank account to grab an uber? Am I drunk?

“If I do this, he won’t get mad at me.” Man, I really like this guy. We’ve been on a couple of dates. I still would like to hang out with him. If I do this, maybe we can still hang out together. If I do this, maybe he won’t bad mouth me to his friends/our peer group. If I do this, he won’t hurt me.

“I said no. Why isn’t he stopping? I’m not touching him anymore, I’m turning my head away. I’m pushing him. WHY WON’T HE STOP?” Because he’s drunk. Because he thinks you’re just kidding. Because you’ve been leading him on, and now you have to put out. Because you’ve had sex before, so why not now?

++

Yes, bad dates happen. With any luck, they don’t end at the man’s apartment, with him not getting your cues, and you wondering how to get out of the situation.

When I was first starting out in the world of dating-with-sex, I stumbled into these kinds of situations. I was uncomfortable, I was unsure of what I wanted to do, I wondered how to stop things without coming off as frigid, or a bitch; I didn’t want to be unpleasant. (And, let’s not forget, I was actually raped.)

Now, eventually, I worried far less about what these men thought of me. I became confident in asserting my boundaries (not just sexually, but professionally, and so on), and sticking to them. Please note, this doesn’t mean that I radically curtailed my social life, or my drinking, or stopped going home with men I was interested in having sex with. But it does mean: I drew some hard lines, and was able to assert them, and chose guys that respected them.

This young woman who found herself in the situation with Ansari will learn her boundaries, and take a lesson from her weird, coercive encounter with him. Most women who have this bad of an experience — and that is most women — will.

This is what the discussion needs to be about going forward:

1. Women have bodily autonomy and voices that should be heard. Women are people, not playthings, not sperm depositories, not opportunities to have sex.

Women. Are. People.

2. Stop portraying romance as “guy chases girl, girl says no, guy harasses girl — even if it’s ‘cute’, even if he’s kind of a nerd — girl finally gives in, and dates boy because he’s really a sweet guy who has her best interests at heart.”

Guy asks girl out, girl says no, end of story. For an example — for several examples of treating women as objects that just need to be talked into saying yes, see Love, Actually. Don’t do any of those things.

3. Instead of coerced consent, let’s work on continual affirmation. Is it that difficult to say, “Is this okay? How about this? What do you want to do now?” Girls and boys can both learn this, the language of desire, the language of YES.

4. Women are not sexual gatekeepers. Men are not sexual animals. Relationships are two-way streets. This practice of coerced consent is harmful for boys and girls, men and women. It limits us to narrow, specific, and unpleasant roles. It gives us bad experiences. It leaves a bad taste in our mouths.

How else do we teach consent?

Metaphor

On January 2, the children’s first day back at school, my car had a flat tire.

via GIPHY

Fortunately, we have a portable air compressor, so we just filled the tire back up. We filled it up three more days that week before Dan could get it to the mechanic.

In the meantime, the children had delays and cancellations due to frigid temperatures and even colder wind chill factors.

via GIPHY

And then the pipes at home froze. Then they thawed, and I accidentally flooded the kitchen. The thermostat at Dan’s office stopped working.

And my brakes went bad. (Not catastrophically while I was driving, fortunately.)

So far, 2018 has got me like:

via GIPHY

I just want a normal day. No sudden need to work from home (although, thank goodness I can usually work from home if I need to). No more delays; I’m sure the children feel differently. No more house problems or car problems.

I get up and go to work. They children get up and go to school. Dan goes to his office. Weekends are for rolling skating and errand running, not problem solving. And all is well.

It seems like that is a lot to ask so far in 2018. And don’t even get me started on Mr. “Fire and Fury” president and Oprah in 2020. What did quiet news days used to look like? What did functioning government and world respect used to feel like? I want to go back to those days, when class and calm competence was the order of the day in the White House. Even when Congress was obstructing order, at least it wasn’t colluding with corruption and incompetence.

Oh, America of 2015, how I miss you.

HOW’S YOUR 2018 GOING? TELL ME SOMETHING GOOD.

Kate, Still Great, Now Also 11

Oh. My. Gosh.

My dear girl, my dear Kate,

A few words to describe you: sweet, fierce, loyal, thoughtful and loving. 

On the downside, you can lose your temper and take offense pretty darn quickly. We have to work on your tendency to put words into other people’s mouths, or assume that someone is out to hurt your feelings.

When you are in a good mood, you share it. You love making people laugh. You are still my cuddly girl. You are goofy and fun. 

You work hard in school, and it is paying off. You have a close circle of friends. I am happy you decided to join the drama club. It’s the perfect outlet for your energy and creative nature.

And as a final positive note on your birthday, you are a great gecko mom. You simply love Baby. You take good care of him, keep his cage clean, and make sure he has crickets and water. You are such a good pet mom you keep asking for another pet. You want either a bird or a tarantula. I am not ready to commit to the former, and it’s a hard no on the latter.

I love you. Keep working hard. Keep making people laugh.

Happy birthday, baby girl.

Love,

Mom