Give Me Your Money!

Just kidding.

Give the Congenital Heart Walk your money, via my page.

I am walking to raise money. My friends Katrina and Kevin had a little boy who was born with ToF. You can read more about him here. They are pretty great, he is pretty great, and I’d like to do something to help.

Thanks!

ETA: I met my goal! Thanks to all who contributed, especially my father, who donated so much, I actually upped my goal. 😉

Seven Things: The Rough Start to Summer Edition

1. The children got out of school June 6.

Jump for Joy!

I think they were pretty excited.

2. Flora got a follow-up vaccine the morning of June 7. Yes, I had to wake Flora up early on her first official day of summer vacation.

For a shot.

I was not very popular that morning.

3. On Thursday, I was working from home because our nanny Kim had to go out of town for the day. I also had to get the children ready for a memorial service for my husband’s uncle and godfather — one of his father’s brothers.

I was not popular that morning either.

4. Friday, the children spent the weekend at my brother and sister-in-law’s, with their four boys. My SIL is a *saint*. They were staying until Sunday.

Dan and I had the house to ourselves.

I’m sure you can guess what we did.

Cleaned the office!* Exactly right.

Dan was a TROOPER. He tore up that room, in a good way. We got rid of five bags of trash, a trunkful of donations, and cleaned out drawers and the closet. I have a couple things to mail; Dan has some stuff to take to his office or storage. The office is once more usable. The challenge will be keeping it that way, and then reclaim other spaces in our house to make them usable as well.

*not a euphemism

Before.
the office after we cleaned it
After

5. Then our nanny went on vacation for a week. That has not gone well. We scrambled for childcare. With Dan busier than ever at work, it’s hard for him to have them at his office. He took them two and a half days; my MIL took them for one; I worked from home one and a half days. It’s been a little stressful.

6. Flora went to Kennywood all day Monday. Then Flora got sick. She was supposed to be at soccer clinic this week, but she has not been well enough to attend. I think between the sleepovers and all-day Kennywood, she was run down.

7. It hasn’t all been *bad*, just non-stop. Dan and I went to the Wilco show last week; I took the children to the Arts Fest; Michael has been enjoying the soccer “camp” very much. June is flying right on by!

Dan and Dawn Show, Wilco edition
I married this guy. Pregaming Wilco at Southern Tier.
Arts Fest Umbrellas
Successful summer outing the first, Three Rivers Arts Fest.
Cool.
Cooling off at the fountain at Point State Park.

How’s your summer going?

ETA: The nanny got home from her vacation early, and was able to watch the children today. HALLELUJAH! It’s mostly great for Dan, who is booked from 8 a.m. today through 7 p.m. Whew!

Letters to Congress: Health Care, Again

Dear Senator Toomey,
I am contacing you today to ask you to vote AGAINST Trumpcare. It will hurt so many people, including my family. You should work with Senate Democrats to address the weaknesses in Obamacare, instead of trying to ram through this terrible and harmful bill.

Specifically, what I am asking is the following:

  • Vote against any bill that results in anyone losing healthcare coverage
  • Commit to voting against any bill that does not protect people with pre-existing conditions from higher premiums
  • Vote against any bill that eliminates ANY funding for Medicaid

The Republican health care bill that was passed in the House takes health care away from 777,000 Pennsylvanians. More than 300,000 Pennsylvanians will lose Medicaid coverage, and average premiums will increase by more than $1000. This is all unacceptable.
It is time for you to choose your constituents over your party. Pennsylvanians will lose if the ACA is repealed. You could do even more if you would strengthen the ACA, rather than try to get rid of it wholesale.

Dear Senator Casey,
First of all, I want to thank you for all you have done to protect the people of Pennsylvania from the T*ump administration. I’m sure sometimes it feels like an uphill battle. Please know how grateful I am that someone is on our side, rather than rubber-stamping the President’s agenda.

As the Senate Republicans strive to pass their version of the deeply damaging ACHA, I hope we can count on you again to oppose them. What I would like to see from the Democrats in the Senate is the following:

  • Please withhold consent on all Senate business until Republicans hold a public hearing on Trumpcare.

While Obamacare improved coverage for millions of Americans, it does have its weaknesses. Democrats should work on addressing the weaknesses in the law, as well as look at ways to create a single-payer healthcare system. It turns out that Americans like health care! And certainly more Americans approve of Obamacare in its current form that approve of the T*ump administration.

Please continue to resist. We are grateful to you.

H/T to Indivisibleguide.com for giving me the talking points for these communications.

Peace Be With You (14)

When we walked into church on Sunday, I noticed the priest was wearing red.

“It’s Pentecost,” I whispered excitedly to Dan. “I love Pentecost!”

I do love Pentecost. As a Catholic, I know that Easter is the most important holy day in the calendar. Without Easter, there’s no Christianity.

But I always regarded Pentecost as extremely important as well. (Please note: I am but a layperson in the church, not, by any means, a theologian.)

Jesus promised his disciples that he would not leave them alone. That he would send them a helper. He sent them the Holy Spirit so they would have the strength to go out into the world and share the good news.

And that’s what is documented on Pentecost Sunday, fifty days after Easter. A great wind comes to the disciples, tongues of flame rest over their heads, and they leave the room where they had locked themselves away, and begin to declaim the Word.

Imagine if the Spirit never came. Imagine if they never left that room.

++

Fourteen years ago today, it was Pentecost Sunday.

Fourteen years ago today, I delivered my stillborn son Gabriel, after four days of being induced and going into labor.

I truly believe that the Holy Spirit came to me and to Dan, in our time of need, and I was given the strength to deliver our son. Jesus breathed into that room and stretched out his hands, and peace came into my heart, and strength came into my body. It did what was needed to deliver Gabriel.

I was given the strength to leave that room.

Without the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, I’m not sure I would have left that room.

I don’t mean literally. I am sure I would have been delivered of Gabriel one way or another, and I would have left the hospital, empty handed, hollow in my heart.

But metaphorically, if I had not received the strength of the Holy Spirit, I would have stayed locked in that room. I would not be mother to three other children. I’m not sure my marriage would have survived if I had stayed in that room out of fear.

So, Pentecost has deep personal meaning to me, as well as being important to the church in which I practice my faith. I give thanks to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit for imbuing my life with the ability to move forward. Every day I am thankful for my marriage and my motherhood, in all their aspects, both dark and light. I feel the flame in my heart.

Why I’m Talking About This

On my last blog post, I was challenged. “What gain did you have by posting this?”

I’m pretty sure I was being scolded, but whatever. This is why I blogged about this issue.

1. The most obvious reason: LGTBQ rights are under assault from the right/GOP/fundamentalist Christians, from the top (T*ump administration) on down (parents in my community). Hence,

2. I want LGBTQ children in my life and my children’s lives to know that they have an ally in me.

3. To start discussions, primarily in my household and in my community, about LGBTQ rights and risks.

4. To let parents of LGBTQ children know that I see them.

5. Pursuant to #4, so they know they have an ally who is a fellow parent who cares about their children.
5b. Also pursuant to #4, so they maybe remember that their children have value, regardless of their sexuality or gender. Maybe these parents just need a reminder to think about what it means to accept and support their children, and how best to do that.

6. So my children understand what our role is in the world: to love one another, to show that love, and to treat people with kindness.

7. So my children know I will love and support them no matter what. I have their backs.

(I can safely say that Dan is on board with all of this, especially #7, as well.)

Our children just want to our love and acceptance. I posted “Safe Space” so if children I know don’t find that at home, they know that I see them, I support them, and they can come be in a space without question or judgement.

So to answer the original question: I, personally, don’t have anything to gain. I don’t intend to gain, I intend to give.

Safe Space

Pursuant to our discussion about her hair, Flora also talked about some difficulties some of her friends are having. She says three of her friends have come out to her – and they have also come out to their families, with very discouraging results.

According to Flora, one of her friends came out as bisexual. Her parents have forbidden her to even speak about it at home, and her older sister calls her a schizophrenic. When Flora told me this, I felt like my head was going to catch on fire.

“You tell your friend,” I said, emphatically stabbing the table with my index finger, “that she can come over ANY TIME. Our house is a safe space for her.”

“Yeah, Mom, I already told her,” Flora responded.

Okay then.

I do not understand how a parent can reject a child. Especially on the basis of sexuality or gender identity — not just at this age, but at any age. Don’t they remember how scary this time was in their own lives? Trying to figure out who they were and who they wanted to be? The constant fear of not fitting in, of being rejected, of being alone?

In these years between puberty and adulthood, our children have more questions and insecurities, and do more exploration than they did since they were toddlers. (Apparently, a child learns more between birth and age 3 than for the rest of his/her/their life.) Tweens and teens are seeking their identities, independence, and acceptance. And even though they are pulling away from us parents, they still need us!

  • LGBTQ youth are at increased risk for dating violence and rape
  • LGBTQ youth are at increased risk for suicidal thoughts, behavior, attempts, and suicide
  • LGBTQ youth report higher rates of bullying and substance abuse
  • LGBTQ youth are at greater risk for homelessness
  • (Source)

If a child at this stage feels unloved, unsupported, and unheard, how much do you bet these risks and behaviors increase?

It will not stand, people. Not as long as I have a roof over my head.

I’m going to need a bigger house.

Copyright for feature image: badboo / 123RF Stock Photo

My Daughter Has Short Hair, and She’s Not Transgender

As I documented on other social media channels, my daughter Flora, she of the flowing brunette locks, recently made the decision to chop them off.

Prior to cutting her hair, Flora didn’t do much with it. For gym and soccer, she would deign to put it back in a ponytail. She didn’t want me to braid it. She brushed it, but her style was to usually wear a hat. She still prefers to wear a hat; her current favorite is a Dustin-style baseball cap from Hot Topic.

She asked to cut her hair for the summer because she was finding it annoying and hot. She referred to it as a “neck sweater”. In short, she didn’t like having long hair anymore. She didn’t have her identity wrapped up in it. (Her father, on the other hand… but this is not about him.)

Her father warned her that if she cut her hair, she may be mistaken for a boy, or teased for looking like a boy. (She doesn’t, in my opinion, look like a boy.) Flora said she understood that, and still wanted to cut her hair. It was a decision purely based on convenience and ease, which seems to be working out for her.

However, her father’s prediction has come true. She did get teased a bit by classmates, but when she asked them to not tease her about looking like a boy, most of them complied. Except for one boy, who continues to ask, “Are you a boy now?” To which she regularly replies, “No. I am not a boy.”

He recently went a little further, asking first, “Are you a boy?” then turning to a friend Flora was with at the time — who is a boy – and saying, “Is she your girlfriend now?” To which Flora then said, “That doesn’t even make sense to ask if you think I’m a boy.” To which the boy then said, “Oh you’re right. So, is she now your boyfriend?”

We advised Flora to go to the teacher, and I informed her that if this boy didn’t knock it off, we may have to go to school administration. She is opposed to going to the administration, and she says she did tell the teacher.

One other incident of note:

Flora has a classmate who informed her that her mother will not allow Flora to come over, nor is the classmate allowed to come to our house. Because of what her short hair signifies to this mother, which is either that Flora is lesbian or transgender, neither of which are true. I am simply appalled that an adult can treat a child in this way and make such assumptions. I have restrained myself from asking this mother’s name, because the temptation to give her a piece of my mind is STRONG.

Let me also add here: There is nothing wrong with being transgender or gay/lesbian. If Flora were either of these things, or anywhere on the spectrum of gender identity and fluidity – which, I don’t think she has strong feeling at this point, except “not a boy” – we will love her no matter what.

But this idea that people look at Flora, and see a transgender boy… is troubling to me. I am glad that transgender issues are being addressed and are out in the open these days. However, that people are making the most extreme assumption about my daughter based on her chosen hairstyle worries me a bit. They are putting her in a bucket that she doesn’t belong in. Is she in physical danger? Are there social repercussions that will be long lasting?

My daughter is (in a limited way at this point) being discriminated against because she has short hair, which makes some people think she is transgender. There are two ways to stop this: 1. Flora could grow her hair long again or 2. People can stop discriminating against transgender people. Which sounds simplistic, but is true.

I think it’s clear where I come down on this, but let me spell it out just in case: Flora could shave her head or grow her hair down to her butt. She shouldn’t be discriminated against because of what other people think of her because of how she looks.

No one should be discriminated against because of who they are or what they look like. People deserve to be treated with basic respect, dignity, and kindness. It’s not difficult, people. Be better.

Note: This post was published with Flora’s permission. My friend Daria also read it over to make sure I wasn’t being an ass. Zie gave me zir thoughts on my first couple of drafts, and pointed out perspectives I may not have considered. I am grateful for zir willingness to review my writing and give me honest feedback.

Copyright for featured image, a rainbow for my rainbow baby: hydromet / 123RF Stock Photo

Lack of Imagination

Aside from the constant reflexive lying, the thing that bothers me most about T*ump is that he is completely and utterly UNCURIOUS. This bothers me so much.

T*ump cares nothing about anything that doesn’t have to do with him. He is on an international trip, and he’ll be served steak with ketchup at formal dinners, which is its own travesty. People have been advised to keep comments down to two to four minutes and use visual presentations because of his attention span. People in charge of briefing the President at the White House put his name in documents SO HE’LL KEEP READING THEM.

This is a 70-year-old man we’re talking about. Not a high-school student riddled with ADHD.

He has no sense of American or world history, and I get the sense he has no intention of learning. Any news stories he doesn’t like are labeled ‘fake news’. He’s in Israel today, and he seems to have this amazing idea that HE is going to be the one to solve the problem of violence in the Middle East. “People are sick of it,” he informed the Israeli president. So you should just stop that, seems to be the implication.

And no, I won’t call our President a child. My children are bright, and curious, and the are capable of learning things — heck, they are EAGER to learn things. They are involved in the world, like being around people different than they are, and while they have strong opinions, they still are interested in other points of view.

Our President isn’t a child or toddler. He’s a grown-ass adult who cares nothing, not one whit, about anything that has nothing to do with him, nothing that doesn’t profit him.

If you read this blog (still), you probably are not a T*ump voter. If you are a T*ump voter, I wonder if you care about the man’s utter lack of interest in the world around him. I have additional news: He’s not interested in YOU either, not what will benefit you.

What bothers you the most about T*ump?

Mother’s Day Musings from a WOTHM*

When Flora was born, I was freelancing.

When Kate was born, I was working full time for a former freelance client. I was let go from that job when she came along. The agency didn’t have more than 50 employees, it was exempt from the Family and Medical Leave Act.

I was an accidental stay-home mom for awhile, and went back to full-time work when Kate was a year old.

When Michael was born, I was working full time for a global corporation based in Pittsburgh. I took my maternity leave (six weeks of disability plus six weeks of FMLA). Before I went back to the office, I asked to move to part-time hours because I had a new baby, a preschooler, and a first grader. My request was flatly denied. We needed the income from my job, so into daycare he went.

It was fine, although not ideal. With different policies in place, I probably would have made different choices.

The year off after Kate’s birth was the most illuminating for me. I didn’t like being a stay-at-home parent full time. Other parents feel differently, and that’s fine! I was bored and restless, wanting an intellectual challenge beyond figuring out what I was going to do with my children that day. I was trying to freelance again, but chasing down projects, pitching stories, and then actually writing were more challenging with a toddler and baby. Putting them in daycare meant raising my rates, and my clients didn’t appreciate that.

Why Working Outside the Home Makes Me a Good Mom

1. I’m more patient. I have found depths of patience in myself I didn’t know existed. I think this goes hand-in-hand with becoming a parent in general. But coming home from work, and switching into mom-mode reminds me that my children aren’t my coworkers. They aren’t going to leap into action with an email. So I slow down.

2. My children are independent. My children don’t need me to do every little thing for them. They dress themselves, pack their lunches, get their own snacks, entertain themselves, clean up after themselves, and even cook their own dinners. (Okay, they haven’t gotten much past ramen noodles or fried eggs, but they will!) They shower themselves, and go to bed on their own, with hugs and kisses from me and their father instead of the labor intensive bedtime routines they needed as babies.

3. I’m 100 percent mom with them. Between their school schedules and my work schedule, I value the time I have with my children in the evenings and on the weekends. I like being silly with my children, playing games, coaching my son’s soccer team, and reading books aloud. My children like making me laugh, and they trust me with their thoughts and feelings. I have two tween girls, and more than anything, I want them to come to me any time they need to.

4. I know the value of a healthy workplace.
Changing jobs made me realize that perks like flex time, work-from-home days, and PTO weren’t optional. Having an employer who recognizes that all workers, not just parents, have lives away from the office is vital. It is especially valuable for parents who have to take care of sick children or need to leave a little early one day a week to get little Timmy to soccer.

5. I’m setting an example.
My children seem to recognize the value of having a mother with goals outside of raising children. They understand I’m a person, too, with my own life and wants and needs. They ask me how my day was and what I did at work. They ask about my writing and thoughts on the world. They trust me as their mom, and respect me as a person. I can’t ask for more than that from them.

I’m not here to tell you how to achieve work-life balance (I don’t believe it exists). What I do believe, after nearly 25 years in the workplace and twelve years as a parent, is this: I have value as an employee and as a mother. Finding a job that was a good fit for me as a career-oriented person and for my family has meant the world to me. I can’t promise that working when you have children is rainbows and unicorns; it’s not. And if you are a happy stay-at-home parent, I’m certainly not questioning your choice! I know that I’ve found what works best for me, my husband, and our children. And so will you!

*WOTHM = Work Outside the Home Mom. All parents are working parents – some of us just have a different job, for which we earn a paycheck, in addition to our unpaid role as caregivers.

Whiplash

I was getting all set to write my letters to Congress about the ACHA, which passed the House last week. How it’s an awful bill, how everyone in my family now has a preexisting condition, how it would affect our income because of what Dan does for a living, and so on and so forth.

I was even getting ready to lambaste my Republican senator (coward!) who is on a committee in the Senate to write their own healthcare bill, because no women were included on the committee. (Update: One woman senator is now.) I was going to put together postcards with the preexisting conditions in my family and start mailing them one by one with the hashtag I Am a Preexisting Condition.

And then T*ump fired James Comey.

I mean, one gets geared up to make calls and write letters on (at least) one thing, and before one can even open a Word document, this administration does something so outrageous, so NOT NORMAL, that it is literally breathtaking.

And for a moment (or four), I am completely frozen. What do I do next? T*ump-Russia or ACHA?

It’s exhausting.

It’s frustrating.

It’s infuriating.

Never have I realized the impotence of the American voter until now. I didn’t vote for Toomey, Murphy, or T*ump, and yet every cowardly, erratic, and shocking decision they make affects me and my family. And despite my calls and letters, Toomey and Murphy remain blissfully unaffected, unmoved, and frankly, untouchable. For now, at least.

Eventually, of course, I’ll get around to addressing both issues (healthcare and T*ump-Russia, ad nauseum), as well as expressing my anger and frustration. And I will not sit idly by (not that I did last election) when mid-terms come around.