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. 😉

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 Pennsylvanians will lose if the ACA is repealed.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.

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

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.

mother giving pocket money to child

To Pay or Not to Pay?

Flora asked for an allowance this weekend.

In general, I am not pro-allowance. For one thing, my children want for nothing. Usually when they ask for something, we are able to purchase it for them. For another thing: An allowance for what? I am of the opinion that my children are part of the family team, and as such, chores are part of their job of sharing space sanely and hygienically.

However, Flora made a counterargument that I found compelling. Simply put, she wants spending cash.

The conversation came up because Flora was going to a birthday party this weekend. I asked her if she wanted to buy her friend a gift, or if she wanted to give her $20 in cash, which is my usual go-to. She wanted to give her a gift, and asked if we could go to Hot Topic.

Which is how I ended up at the mall at 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon. Flora wanted to buy her friend a t-shirt based on a manga character. I honestly felt like she was speaking a foreign language at this point, so I just went with it.

Hot Topic, just in case you have not had the pleasure, is about all things pop culture: t-shirts, figurines, makeup, and tchotchkes of all sorts. Manga, Harry Potter, lots of goth stuff, and Stranger Things all mix. Flora saw about five t-shirts she wanted for herself.

We got her friend a banana cat t-shirt (the manga shirt Hot Topic had was one her friend already had), Pocky Sticks, and a Dumbledore figurine. Flora asked for a couple of things, as did Michael (of course), and we negotiated. She got a Dustin (from Stranger Things) hat and a Pokémon t-shirt. When she heard the total (under $60), Flora actually *felt bad* that it was costing so much. I let her know it was fine; if it hadn’t have been fine, I would’ve said something earlier. But bless her little heart.

Hence: The allowance idea.

We will probably do an allowance, all things considered. I have kind of left it to Dan (who is pro-allowance) and Flora to work out. We are looking at between $5 and $20 a week, depending on what gets done around the house. Some things are simply expected: bedroom cleaned, dishes put away. When she starts going above and beyond, then allowance will be activated accordingly.

We also talked about spending and saving, and that we will expect Flora to save more allowance than she spends. We talked about expectations and limits.

And then Flora cleaned the kitchen, including the windows. So.

I don’t know who’s going to keep track of this. Hoping it’s on Dan’s radar!

Are you pro-allowance? Why or why not?

ETA: Last night, Dan and Flora sat down and drew up a list of chores for each room. They segmented them into daily, weekly, and monthly chores, and agreed on an amount.

I have no doubt that Kate and Michael are going to want to get into the action.

Copyright for featured image: costasz / 123RF Stock Photo

Seven Things: The Afghan Whigs Edition

As has been documented, I am obsessed with the Afghan Whigs.

1. If you don’t know, the Afghan Whigs have released a new album, In Spades, out today.

2. I pre-ordered said album from Sub Pop, and have been listening to it on streaming since it became available to those of us who pre-ordered the album. That was on Friday, April 21 – the one year anniversary of Prince’s death.

I received the physical copy I ordered (a CD) this past Monday. It has been on repeat in my car since then. Listening via CD is vastly superior to streaming. The individual instruments are much clearer, and the lyrics are more decipherable.

3. Listening to the CD gave me an immediate appreciation for “Birdland”, the album opener; “Copernicus”; “Toy Automatic”; and “Into the Floor,” the closer. Still in love with “Arabian Heights” — I think that’s going to retain top billing for me. I also think that “I Got Lost” and “Into the Floor” may be the best album closers in Whig history.

4. The CD clocks in at a mere 35 minutes, which is just about five minutes longer than my commute. I sit in the car until it is over. Every time. I can’t help it.

I’ve tried taking the long way. Still need to sit in the car. I have tried driving slower, but it’s difficult during some of the louder songs.


5. My Unsolicited Review of In Spades

It’s a killer album, first off. I’ll just make that clear up front. Lean, but not sparse. As well as guitar, bass, and drums, many of the songs feature lush orchestration. Rick Nelson is joined by other multi-instrumentalists to fill this album with gorgeous sound. Other songs are pure rock ‘n’ roll swagger, though. John Curley on bass and Patrick Keeler on drums have outdone themselves. It’s fairly breathtaking the way the songs swing back and forth from celebration to threat.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention guitarists Dave Rosser, who joined Dulli in his Twilight Singer days, and Jon Skibic. In Spades depends on their soaring, chugging workmanship to move things along. Case in point: “Copernicus”, “Light as a Feather.”

Afghan Whigs released “Demon in Profile” as the first single, and that very much set the tone for what came next. “Demon” has Dulli on piano, lamenting desire, and contains my favorite lyrics: “I’m so far inside you now/ I am your silhouette.” They then released the driving, relentless “Arabian Heights”, and “Oriole”, the latter complete with a NSFW witchy video. The album opener, “Birdland” is different from anything the Whigs have done before, a cinematic, swelling letter from the past that leaves us in anticipation. The rest of the album delivers on big emotion with the instrumentation powering it along.

Thematically, In Spades is a departure from former Whigs albums, including their 2014 release Do to the Beast. The lyrics and album art are deeply evocative of the occult. Where in the past, Dulli seems to reflect on romantic relationships, their utter dysfunction, and their endings, on this album, he goes beyond that. In Spades aches with more than a break up. In Spades is haunted. Dulli is immersed in sorrowful memory here, and attempting to pull the curtain aside on loss, grief, and mortality.

6. The Afghan Whigs are going on tour. I bought a ticket to the show in Cincinnati. I am hoping they add a Pittsburgh show; I am not holding my breath, although their 2014 show here was amazing. I purchased the Tour Package ticket, which comes with some swag, a meet and greet – even though I’ve already ‘met’ Greg Dulli twice – and the soundcheck.

If I win a lot of money, I will buy a plane ticket to Chicago, and see that show. I’m really not holding my breath on that one.

7. I don’t do Facebook much these days. I pretty much ditched on it, and a lot of my “friends” there since the election. But I didn’t completely leave it.

Because I found a group there, of like-minded Afghan Whigs/Twilight Singers/Greg Dulli fans. We endlessly dissect songs and albums; we argue about Rick McCollum’s influence on the band; we debate the merits of wearing gold lamé or lace to the shows this tour. If you love a band, especially an off-the-beaten-path group like Afghan Whigs, I cannot emphasize this enough: Find your tribe. They will make your love grow. They will help you articulate the meaning of this artist in your life. They get you.

You need people to get you.

Invented Problems

In a dream, I am a single mother of a six-year-old boy. I am attending college. The main problem in the dream is that I have to change dorm rooms. At first I think we’ve solved the problem because I will just move in with two other women; there’s a (small) single bed in their room. And then I remember I have a son who has to live with us.

The dorm rooms are long and narrow, but very nice looking. Wooden floors, plaster walls painted pretty colors, good-looking, solidly built furniture. But they really are skinny rooms. I don’t know how we’re going to fit three beds, let alone three beds plus somewhere for my son to sleep.

Another dream has slipped away from me, but it was a similar logistical problem: Space, sleeping, family dynamics. These are the types of dreams my brain serves up to me. They have little to do with real life.

I do wake up sometimes thinking of things to worry about. “What if the Afghan Whigs tour coincides with trick-or-treat night?” Worse, what if the Afghan Whigs don’t come to Pittsburgh at all, and I have to travel to see them?

Maybe it’s part of this writer’s life I find myself enmeshed in. I don’t know if other writers do this, or to what extent, but my mind is constantly worrying at the fabric of my stories. What’s the next scene, what’s the conflict, how am I going to get my characters out of this room? Better: How am I going to get these characters into this room?

Maybe it’s just how my anxiety manifests itself these days. My life involves a bunch of moving parts. All the to-do lists are hard to keep up with, but at least help me compartmentalize the logistics. Maybe my mind needs a little less structure.

I don’t know. As long as my made-up problems don’t freeze me and keeping me from solving actual problems, I’ll try to just let them go. Or work them into my fiction.

What’s a problem you wish you had?

7 Things: The Disruption! Edition

1. Today was my first full day in the office this week. Lemme tell you why:

2. I had scheduled a four-day weekend for Dan’s birthday, which was Saturday. (We headed to Oglebay Resort, and I highly recommend their Ultimate Spa package.) We returned home Sunday — and Dan was sick. Michael complained about a sore throat, and he was definitely warm. So, Monday, since I had off, and Michael was still feverish, I stayed at home with him, and, just for funsies, Flora was sick too.

So: PTO day with two sick children.

3. Took Michael to the pediatrician because I suspected strep. I was correct.

So: Tuesday became a WFH day with two sick children, one of whom at least was getting treatment.

Michael is THE LEAST SICK sick child I have ever had. When the girls were sick with fevers or strep, they spent a lot of time unconscious or watching television from the couch.

Not Michael, man. He would watch about half an hour of television, and then play car battle. And then he would get bored and bother me. He ate very well for a sick child too. I suggested napping, but he wasn’t having it. He was literally crying with boredom by 2 p.m. Tuesday.

4. I made a good faith effort to get the office Wednesday — I even made it. Dan spent the morning at home with THREE sick children. I made an appointment for Flora.

5. Flora has been getting sick on and off quite often this year. Headaches, stomachaches, and extreme fatigue. This week was the third or fourth time she has been too sick to go to school. I was unable to get a morning appointment, so I had to leave work and take her to the pediatrician. Thank goodness I am able to work from home, and have an understanding employer (and awesome boss).

We did check for strep (negative), and the doctor decided to test for anemia. Along with the other symptoms, Flora has been suffering spontaneous nosebleeds. So we went and had blood drawn. We are waiting for results.

6. ON THURSDAY EVERYONE WENT TO SCHOOL AND I WENT TO WORK FOR A WHOLE ENTIRE DAY. It was delightful. (Seriously, I love my job. And having healthy children.)

7. BOOK UPDATE! Beta readers finished up, found the weaknesses, liked the book, gave me lots of good feedback. I haven’t blogged much because between blogging for work and doing the final edits (for now) on Lone Wolf, I have spent a ton of time immersed in words. I tweaked my pitch letter, and I am ready to start putting together a list of agents and publishers.

WHAT’S UP WITH YOU?