Monday, April 30, 2012

Cover the Debate

Copyright JSH 2007
Nursing in public. It is a hotly debated subject. There are those who believe you shouldn't do it. There are those who believe you should do it. There are opinions that fall in line somewhere between those two extremes. I have my own feelings on breastfeeding in public. I'm all for it. No woman should ever feel ashamed to feed her baby on demand wherever she happens to be. At the mall, at Church, at a soccer game, in Chuck E. Cheese, on a plane...feed that baby when that baby is hungry. Personally, people would be sorry if they came up to me and got rude with me when I was nursing in public. I don't take shit and would hope that other moms wouldn't take shit, either. However, not everyone has my type of personality. Many women are self conscious and have difficulty nursing in public for various reasons. Enter another debate - the cover.

Oh, holy Lord, the fucking breastfeeding cover. We aren't going to talk about the general public attitude toward breastfeeding in public. No, we're going to talk about something that sparks a shitstorm of debate among breastfeeding advocates. The nursing cover is a much debated subject among the lactivist set. Anytime a blogger asks the question, "Breastfeeding cover? Yay or nay?" on their Facebook page you can expect a firestorm of opinion. We're not debating the color of the covers. We're not debating the material of the covers. We're not debating who sells the best cover at the lowest price. Nope. We're debating whether or not breastfeeding mothers should ever ever use them. And it can get nasty. We eat our own kind in these debates. To an onlooker, these debates give the anti-breastfeeding set fuel for their fire and justification for using that horrible word about us - Nazis. 

I will tell you what I think of covers. I'm not fond of them. I don't think they are discreet because nothing screams, "I'M BREASTFEEDING OVER HERE!" like a big lime green cover with super hot pink flowers printed on it draped over your shoulders and a pair of baby feet sticking out. I have often joked that if I ever get a nursing cover, I want one that says, "Discreetly breastfeeding." I think they can be hot to the baby. There is the risk of rebreathing stale air. I don't like women to feel like they have to use them. I tried to cover with a blanket twice when my son was a newbie. On both occasions it lasted all of 20 seconds. He hated it and I am super clumsy so I ended up getting myself all tangled in the blanket and that is probably the only time in my public breastfeeding career that I did flash a nipple. So, do you think I am sitting next to covered women telling them they need to pull that Hooter Hider off? Hell to the no.

I have been sickened to read other women tell breastfeeding mothers that they are hurting all of us by covering. I have seen a lot of public shaming of mothers who cover. The following comment is real, "Those women discredit all breastfeeders. They do a lot of harm to the whole breastfeeding rights movement." Um, no. You do plenty of work to discredit the whole "breastfeeding rights" movement when you judge other mothers and shame them. I get that you don't want women to feel like they need to cover. I don't want women to feel like they need to cover. However, there are women out there who feel the need to cover in order to breastfeed in public comfortably. Do I hope they are able to feel more comfortable uncovered someday? Sure. And, if I can help them feel more confident then YAY! I will help women in any way I know how to feel more confident and comfortable in their ability to nurse in public without a cover, but I refuse to shame them. When you publicly shame women who prefer to nurse covered then you are no better than the people who come up to a mom in a mall and tell her to nurse in the bathroom. Sorry, that's how I feel. And when I say, "sorry," I mean I'm not sorry.

Unfortunately, I know quite a few women who are victims of sexual molestation, assault and rape. Several of them are mothers. All of them had emotional issues they felt the need to overcome when it came to pregnancy, giving birth and breastfeeding. In the context of breastfeeding, each of these women has had to overcome a great deal of emotional and physical discomfort. For them, the idea of nursing in public can be terrifying. We all know they are not exposing themselves, but they feel exposed due to the trauma they endured in the past. So, you want me to tell these women that they should force themselves to feel comfortable with breastfeeding without a cover? I think they've dealt with enough force against their bodies in their lives, don't you? The fact that they are breastfeeding at all is quite an accomplishment as it's well known that many sexual abuse survivors can have a lot of negative feelings about it. So, let them cover. You have to realize, it could be an issue of breastfeeding with a cover or not breastfeeding at all. What's more important to you? You don't know a woman's story and the reason behind wanting a cover. It may be deeper than you think. Let's reserve judgment.

We need a society that does not readily make women feel as if they must be hidden and covered when they are nursing in public. There is no denying that fact. However, we could already live in a society where nursing in public is accepted and encouraged and you will find that there would still be women who feel more comfortable when they are covered up. So, let's learn to be okay with their personal preferences. It's easy - say fuck you to a society that makes women feel ashamed to nurse in public, but embrace women who decide that a cover is best for them. Every single woman I know who uses a cover does not mind if other nursing moms do so uncovered. Most of them are not telling other moms that everyone needs a cover. It's usually an issue of personal choice to them. Now, I acknowledge the fact that there are covering moms who believe everyone should keep it under a blanket. I'm not okay with that. Again, it's a personal choice issue. That's great if you feel comfortable covered, however it's not comfy for me or my baby so we will not be hiding under a blanket.

I don't want women to feel like they have to breastfeed under a cover, either. I get that part. But, I don't think it's right to put pressure on women to uncover if they are not comfortable because, apparently, an entire movement rests on their backs. No. You nurse uncovered. I nurse uncovered. There are many of us who have no problems sitting down or standing wherever we are and nursing without a cover. Keep doing it. Keep showing society that it's normal and beautiful and not shameful. Eventually, things will fall into place and the act of breastfeeding in public will be seen for what it is - feeding your baby. We will see a day where the majority of women are comfy nursing in public without throwing anything over their children's heads. There will still be women who will prefer a cover and that is absolutely acceptable.

Let me leave you with a short story. I was in a store and my baby needed to eat. I found a set of benches to sit on while nursing. There was already another mom nursing there. She was using one of those covers. Did I look at her and say, "Great. You just set the women's movement back by decades because you are using that cover?" (BTW - that is an actual argument I read in one of the debate threads) Nope. I sat down on a bench next to her and nursed my baby. After about two minutes, she let her cover slide off and she continued nursing her baby without it. I never said anything to her. She never said anything to me. We smiled at each other once and that was it. Perhaps my confidence rubbed off on her. I hope so.

Be an example, not a judge.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Craft: Toilet Paper is For the...Bees?

When I walk through the hallways at my son's school, I always see cute little crafty things being displayed outside of class rooms. I always tell myself that we will go home and make these cute little crafty things. Never happens. Until today! A few days ago, I noticed these cute little bees decorating the announcement board outside of a first grade classroom. They were made out of toilet paper and halved paper towel rolls and construction paper. I. Love. Bees. Bees rule. Jenn + Bees = TrueLoveForever. So, of course, I wanted to make this little bee craft with my son. We just finished 10 minutes ago. I am such a good mom that I came online to blog about it.

What you need:

Toilet paper roll or a paper towel roll, cut down the middle to make halves (this will get you two bees)
Construction paper. I used yellow for the body, black for stripes, legs, stinger antennae and eyes, pink for the wings.
Glue or tape

Cut the yellow paper to size and wrap around the toilet paper tube. Glue or tape in a few sections to adhere it to the tube.

Cut black paper into strips and wrap around the tube in the same manner as the yellow paper, gluing and taping as needed to secure it.

  Cut out wings. I cut out two hearts, one a little bigger than the other. I overlapped the hearts end to end and glued them together that way.

Glue or tape wings onto the top of the body. I found that tape holds the wings on better. I was able to glue everything else just fine. Glue legs, stinger and eyes to the body. Voila! You have a bee! Easy.

You can (maybe) see that I had to use tape for the wings.

Happy little bee.

Isn't he cute?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Look Back in Anger?

This was written a few years ago. I originally posted it on my Facebook page. This is part of the story of my experience in grade school as "that girl, who was always picked on." It's not a happy story, but it set some of the framework for who I am. Most names have been changed to to either protect the innocent or give more character to the assholes.


If you love me, it's important that you grab a cup of tea and read this. This is something you should read if you've ever wondered why I am the way I am...a bitter, untrusting and insecure bitch. When I came to Facebook a short time ago, I joined a group for the alumni of one of my grade schools. For the record, I attended public school until 4th grade. I switched to Catholic school in 5th grade. This is about the Catholic school - St. Anon School (obviously, not a real name).
Remember back when you were in school and there was that one kid that everyone picked on? That was me.

From the very first day, my life at St. Anon was extremely difficult. It started with my socks. The dress code stated that you wore your socks to your knees, so I did. Only, no one else listened to the dress code, except for a few girls. From my first few minutes in line on that first morning I was made fun of for wearing my socks up to my knees. I would like to point out that nowadays, the cool kids in my old grade school and high school wear knee socks. Only a few hours into my first day, I was called out. Our teacher, Mrs. Dunce (name changed to protect the assholes) was hosting an informal discussion just before lunch began. She asked a question to the class and I responded without raising my hand. She yelled at me and asked if kids were allowed to talk to the teacher without raising hands at my old school. I told her yes, as that was the truth. My 4th grade teacher was very into group discussions and we frequently called out answers and spoke up without the need to raise hands. Then, this girl who also attended my public grade school, but was held back a year because she was trouble, told Mrs. Dunce that her mother works for my old school and she knew "for a fact" that my teacher would have never ever allowed anyone to speak without raising their hands. Utter bullshit, but Mrs. Dunce had already chosen sides. She looked at me and said, "Miss EarthChild, you are going to be nothing but trouble for me." The rest of my first day didn't go  smoothly. I had no one to talk to or sit with at lunch. All these kids knew each other since 1st grade. Even the aforementioned loser from my old school already had friends at St. Anon. My only friend there was Rita, who was a grade younger than me, so I never saw her and wasn't allowed to interact with her. Recess sucked balls as I just leaned up against the fence, alone, and watched everyone else play. Rita was out there, too, but you weren't allowed to play with other grades. Each grade was segregated and it was strictly forbidden to interact ( I had a moment of desperation in 6th grade where I merely spoke to Rita over the 5th grade/6th grade line. Got my ass reamed by one of the nuns for that one). Later that day, we filled in some stupid paper about our likes and dislikes. What's your favorite dog? What's your favorite cartoon. What's your favorite movie? What's your favorite band? Oh, this one started some of the biggest crap for me. I listed "David Bowie" as my favorite band. I was called stupid first, because David Bowie himself was not a band. Well, he didn't have an official band. Plus, Bowie was uncool and my liking him made me uncool as well. Mrs. Dunce yelled at me for writing a singer's name and not a band and told me I couldn't follow directions and I was exasperating her already on the first day of school. I explained that I didn't have a favorite band, just a favorite singer, who did use a band whenever he made albums and sung on stage. That reply was considered sarcastic. I placed a comma next to Bowie's name and penciled in, "Bon Jovi.". Then I erased it. So, I was made fun of for that. Now, I could write a 4 book series on my experiences at St. Anon - a long book for each grade. I'll make it brief for you, but remember my version of brief is...well, not so brief. I've NEVER written about this before, much less spoke of it to anyone other than Mike (my husband), so it's hard to contain everything I want to write.

5th grade

As you have read, the first day wasn't great. I had envisioned going to my first day at a new school as a glorious one. I was going to make a ton of friends and have a great time. So much for manifesting. In the beginning weeks, I told my parents that things were ok, but I quickly buckled and told the truth as things got worse....way worse.

I was nominated for, "That kid who everyone pokes fun of" on that very first day. It never got better after that. Making fun of me for Bowie was pretty mild at that point. It happened, but not often. In fifth grade, I embarked on the now 20 year battle with acne. I was apparently the first kid in St. Anon to get zits and they reminded me of that fact Think of all the names for zitty forever making mistakes and finally coming to the wrong answer. Laughter, even from sweet Mrs. Dunce, would ensue. She would loudly ask me what was wrong with me in front of the class.  Kids would push me, throw things at me, draw horrid ugly pictures and say it was me, make up songs and rhymes about me, play all sorts of tricks and just generally treat me like absolute shit. I was, of course, always picked last for teams and activities in gym class. Mrs. Dunce was one of the players. On one day, right before Christmas, we were coloring Christmas pictures. I had shared crayons with Cartman, who always treated me like hell, but I had hoped sharing crayons would make him nice for the day. I reached out to his desk to grab one of my crayons and my desk tipped over (it was one of those one piece desks), with part of it landing on top of me. There I was, on the floor, with my legs splayed up in the air and my white Gitano Girl panties with the red hearts showing for all the world to see. Not one single person asked if I was okay. Not one person helped me back up (those desks were heavy and I was hurt). And Mrs. Dunce? She rolled her eyes at me and shook her head, as if I was giant inconvenience. My Lord, writing this makes me want to go back there and slap the fucking shit out of her head. I digress. By the end of the first semester, my mom had written notes about how the kids treated me. Then she spoke personally with Mrs. Dunn. Mrs. Dunn told her she had "no idea" at all that I was having any problems. She said I seemed to get along with other kids, just that I was a little shy and quiet. My mama knew better...mommy knows her kid. She said she would talk to the kids and nip that naughty behavior in the bud. And she did talk to them. She had me step outside of class on morning and stand outside the door, while she told all the kids to play nice with me. They did for the rest of that day, and that began a new game that kids would play until 8th grade. Be nice to Jenn (well, Jen at the time) for a little bit, then crush her. They would pull me aside and tell me that they wanted to be friends. They would talk to me. Then they'd walk over to other friends and start making fun of everything I said and the fact that I even thought I could be friends with anyone. I fell for it a lot because I craved friendly attention so bad. Now, I did have one friend beginning in 5th grade. A shy kid that I originally thought was from France. She had an Eiffel Tower figure on her desk and Mike Macsomething told me it was because she was from France. We'll call her Frencie. She wasn't from France. We were friends throughout gradeschool, with our ups and downs. If I had one solace then, it was that I was friends with Frenchie. I think she got picked on because of her friendship with me. There was one time when we were holding hands in the schoolyard and we were made fun of so bad for it.

I'll share another favorite 5th grade occasion with you. Remember, my life everyday was hell. Non-stop being picked on. I was called to the blackboard to do fractions, fucking fractions, and stood there like a moron because I couldn't get it. Mrs. Dunce told me I had to stand there until it was figured it out, and went on talking to the rest of the class without me. I couldn't figure it out, no matter how hard I tried. Years later, I learned I had a math-specific learning disability called dyscalculia. Back then, they just thought I was an idiot. When lunch came, she told me I had to stand there through lunch until I got it solved. If I wanted to sit down and eat, I would have to figure out that math.  In the middle of lunch, another teacher walked into the room and asked why I was standing at the board. I told her Mrs. Dunce said I had to stay there until I solved the problem. Mrs. Dunce, knowing she could get into trouble, acted all shocked. "Jennifer! You should have known better than to stand there. Sit and have lunch." As I sat down, one boy started to inch his desk back until it hit my desk. He kept doing it until he moved my desk backwards into another desk and was pinned there. I loudly told him to stop and I got yelled at for that. Mrs. Dunce said nothing to the boy. Another fun occasion was the school book fair. We all went to the library to buy books. When we were done, we were to return to our classroom. Some kids had gone up before me. When I walked into the classroom, Mrs. Dunce was talking to those kids and I walked in just as she was saying, "So what is wrong with her? Why is she like that?" I wondered who they were talking about as I started reading one of my new books. Dick stood up and started listing all of my "bad points" (which he made up). Dick was notorious for kicking the back of my desk all throughout social studies class with Sr. Joseph. He would poke me in the back with his pencil, put things down my shirt, pull my hair and remind me, for the 5th time of the day, that I am one of the ugliest people alive. Dick told Mrs. Dunce that I poked him, told him he was ugly and that I was always a bad person. Mrs. Dunce looked at me and asked me, "Why are you like that? What is wrong with you?" I spoke the truth, "I'm not mean. Everyone else is mean to me and if I say anything mean it's because they started it." (5th grade logic). She told me, "That doesn't make Christ happy." As if shit-talking one of your pupils makes Christ happy. Another story to warm your heart to Mrs. Dunce. Her daughter, Tiffany, went to that school. She was a year or two younger than us. She was a snotty little kid who thought she was so great because her mom was a teacher. She would come into our classroom everyday at the end of the day to meet her mom. One fine day, I had my head buried in a book -we were sometimes allowed to read before class dismissed - and she said something to me. If you know me, you know I'm hard of hearing. I honestly didn't hear her and went on reading. She went to her mom and told her I was rude to her. Mrs. Dunce looked at me and said, "That's just because she is jealous that you are so much prettier than her." Cunt.

6th Grade.

Sixth was almost no different than fifth grade, but my skin got worse and the name-calling got a lot worse. A lot. Line dances were popular in gym class and anyone who had to hold hands with me would cover their hands with their sleeves. Now, I know this is common with boys sometimes, but everyone did it and made a big show of it. If you forgot to cover your hands and touched me, you were called on it. "Eeeeew, you touched Jenn. You're going to catch her zits." I was still pushed, shoved, kicked, stepped on...blah blah blah. I got braces that year which made life SO MUCH BETTER. Not! Mind you, other girls with braces were cute. I was simply hideous. Our teachers that year were a bit odd, though no one as near as bad as Mrs. Dunce for me. One teacher, Sr. Damien was the devil incarnate. I'm not kidding. She was pure evil. She looked like a gigantic killer Cabbage Patch, but she wasn't as cuddly. She was from the old school nunnery, where it was okay to get physical with students. Her favorite pastime was to have kids stand outside the room while holding all of their textbooks. Or, in my husband's case, they would have to kneel on pencils while holding their arms full of textbooks out to the side ("like Christ on the Cross). She was the devil. One day, I had turned a page too loudly during class. So, out to the hall I went with all of my textbooks. She then came out to scream at me and then started pounding on the books in my hand. I told my parents that night and my mother ripped her a new asshole the next day. I mean, mom must have taken her old Catholic school nun aggressions out on Sr. Damien that day, because she went for the jugular. Never had a problem with her again. I don't have too many horror stories from 6th grade. Just the same old everyday bullying. Lunch recess sucked ass. Frenchie went home for lunch so I had no one to hang out with. I would just lean against the fence and wait for her to come back. There was this kid in a few of my classes...he was fat, sloppy and he smelled bad. He got made fun of, too, but not as much as me. He still ended up having friends. Plus, he always fought back. He nailed a few kids back then. I never bothered with him. He never bothered me at all. I felt bad for him, being all fat and sloppy. His mom used to make him wear suits on picture day. No one else did that. His name was Mike. Apparently, years later, he beefed up in the muscle department (his pastimes are lifting 300+ pound objects and then telling you about it) and marry some really hot chick and have the cutest kids ever (hint: she is writing this).

7th Grade

We're coming back to David Bowie. My fandom for the dude deepened, thanks in part to the Ryko re-releases of his old albums back in the early 90's. I was immersed in the 70's Bowie, especially the glam rock persona, Ziggy Stardust. That's the Bowie with all the make-up and the frilly, sparkly clothes. It was tradition to decorate our creative writing books with magazine cut outs and other pics. I decorated my book with pics of Bowie. I also decorated all of my folders with his pictures. And that, my friends, made me a "dyke." Not only was I the ugliest creature to ever live, but I was also a stone-cold bulldyke according to my classmates. I was called a lesbian, carpet-muncher, fag-lover, whore and dyke everyday. You see, in order to like that fag David Bowie you HAD TO BE a complete dyke. So then the girls would make special points to tell me I made them uncomfortable because they were afraid I'd come on to them. I was also told that Bowie was a complete fag who was going to hell for being a complete fag and that I'd also take a trip to hell because of my love for his complete faggy-ness. On top of this, I was even uglier and I didn't know how to do my hair all cool and shit. That was a bad thing. And, ah yes, the usual bullying tactics were still in play...pushing, shoving, kicking and, of course, always the last picked in gym class. This year also sucked because Rita moved to Virginia. I had no one to walk home with. But, yay, I did make a few new friends. There was Kim, who I actually knew from years back. Then Sara, a so-called nerdy girl who wore her socks up to her knees. And Karen. Karen was in the grade above us, but was friends with Sara. I walked home with them on most days. Karen was a tough girl and I always felt safe if she was around. I had a nice reprieve for lunches that year because I didn't have to go out for recess. Bless dear Sr. Michael. Until 7th grade, lunch recess was always horrid because I was always alone, leaning against and fence or wall. In 7th grade, I got a "job" cleaning the desks at lunch recess. I never had to go outside.

By 7th grade, the attitude you all know and love began to take shape. After listening for 25 minutes about how horrid-looking I was, I would roll my eyes. Then I was called an ungrateful bitch. Joan would always try to stare me down. It was quite funny, actually. One day, she was talking about a relative in Staten Island. My mom and her family are from there. Looking to make friendly conversation, I told her that my grandmother and other family members lived there. She asked where my grandmother lived and I told her it was by one of the train stations. She bust out laughing and told everyone that there were NO trains anywhere on Staten Island and I was just making it up to fit in and be cool. The next day I brought in a map of Staten Island and pointed out the train tracks on the legend and told her I hadn't been trying to fit in, I was just stating a fact. I was called a rude, disgusting bitch for that one. Ahhhh. People would take my books out of my desk and write nasty notes or draw gross pictures on them. 7th Grade was when I started crying myself to sleep every night. I would pray and beg God to please end the harassment. To please clear my skin. To PLEASE let me have peace at school. The harassment never ended, even to this day, nor did my skin clear up. I still believe in God, but I do wonder "why" sometimes. That year, a girl in my class decided she truly, madly, deeply hated me for an unknown reason. So, she organized my fellow lovely classmates to meet in this little patch of land on my way home from school. The object was to "beat the living fuck" out of me. All day, most kids came up to me and told me I was getting my ass kicked after school. Eh, I shrugged it off. On the way home with Karen, Kim, Sara and maybe Frenchie, I noticed the very large gathering of kids waiting in that field. I had spotted them before they saw me. Even Karen was nervous and it was decided that I should go back to school. I turned around and walked to one of the crossing guards. I told her what was happening and she gave me a ride past the fight spot in her car. If you're wondering why I never took action with the principal, it's because it was useless. I learned in 5th grade that telling those in power what was happening wasn't desirable. I was told, "kids will be kids." Plus, when I relayed my issues, it just made the kids hate on me even more.

That year was the WORST for school pictures. I made the fugliest face ever. No, seriously. I was ridiculed for that one. Then, at the end of the year, the teachers thought it would be great to do some sort of yearbook type thing. They sent around a form with a list..."Most likely to be a ballerina. Most likely to be a truck driver. Most likely to be a veterinarian. Most likely to be an actor. Yadda yadda." You were supposed to fill in your picks for who would most likely be what. I actually took it seriously. I voted myself for veterinarian. (whoops) and was complimentary towards my classmates. The idea was scrapped when the teachers began to get the papers back. I was voted several times for truck driver and garbage man. Then there were the fill ins. Most likely to be a failed Clearasil actress. Most likely to still be ugly. Most likely to be alone forever. Most likely to be a nobody. Most likely to be a stripper. Most likely to be a bum. I did get one compliment that year. Bernadette  told people if my skin cleared up and my braces came off I'd be really pretty. She was always nice to me. My braces came off a few years later, but the clear skin and pretty never came. And my teeth went back to crooked-dome and the braces left permanent staining on my teeth that has to get re-covered every few years when I can afford it.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::time for a pee break::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

8th Grade

Oh my Gawd, still the ugliest alive. Still picked last. Still kicked, punched, pushed, shoved. No protection from Karen as she was now in high school. Lunch wasn't that bad because I sat on concrete posts with Sara and a couple of other "nerds." Funny story...the eight-graders were allowed to play soccer and ball during lunch recess. One girl kicked the soccer ball in our direction. It grazed Sara's hair and hit me square in the face at full force. I couldn't breath for a few moments there and my face stung for the rest of the day. The ball's kicker came over to Sara and made a big show of asking Sara if she was okay and completely ignoring me and my beet red face. Cunt.  A nasty boy, Kip, sat next to me in one of my classes. His desk was pushed up next to mine and he would always hit my elbow. He's stare at me and just say, "eeeeeeeeeew. Why did God make you? You are so disgusting" Kip and his brother walked home the same route as me. My mother walked me home on some days in 8th grade because things had gotten so bad. Kip and his brother would follow close behind and make fun of both of us. My mom, too. And they spit on us.I wouldn't cry if they were hit by a bus. And there was Fester, who sat next to me in social studies. He, like, Kip would sit and stare and comment on my "beauty." One day he called the classes attention to "look at Jenn's zit - it's so big. Oh my God, I've never seen one so big." Fester had the same affinity for spit as the twins. Oh, and I was still a "dyke" for liking David Bowie. I was even worse because I wore a necklace that said,  "David Bowie." ( I'll tell you, it was his music and reading about his life that helped keep me sane those years._ Sometimes, gym classes were held outdoors and we'd play baseball or soccer. I didn't know how to play either game...still don't. I'm not a sports person. I had no clue what each position is on the baseball field.  So, we played baseball outside on warmer days. I was selected to I was somewhere out in the field. I missed a ball because I had NO CLUE what I was doing. One of the girls on the field started yelling at me, telling me I was stupid and asked what they hell I thought I was doing just standing there. So, in the middle of the game, I told her to fuck herself and I walked off the field, while everyone yelled at me for doing so. The gym teacher asked me what I was doing and I said, "I'm so sick of this shit," which is something that could have gotten me suspended. She, knowing what I had been through all those years,  just said, "I know," and told me to sit down. I didn't have to play baseball again after that. I became more sarcastic and talked back more that year. And then we graduated. We had our 8th grade trip to Hershey park where me and Frenchie rode the log flume and the roaring rapids 95858765897234905748957 times and I actually felt like a normal kid. We had the eighth grade dance where we wore those hideous dresses with the puffy sleeves and rhinestones Graduation was fine and I was so happy to leave that place.

Thus ends that part of my story. It is amazing to note that I always had good grades in St. Anon. I mean, I am a genius, but the fact that I could remain focused on academics through all of that is pretty awesome. I called out a lot in 6th and 8th grade to avoid the bullying. I'm very lucky to have had a very loving and stable family life. Plus, the very few friends I had were good friends. And there was Bowie. He needs cred, too. I want to mention the good family life, friends and Bowie because I want to touch on something very dark. I often fantasized about killing a good majority of my classmates. I had several violent scenarios worked out in my head. In my head is where they stayed. I knew better. I believed killing people was morally wrong, but it was "fun" to think about. Plus, they were never worth the trouble I would have gotten into. School shootings were unheard of back then. I often wonder what would have happened if I didn't have that stability and love in my non-school life. What if I left school each day to come home to an abusive household?  Would I have been something like those Columbine kids? Would I have taken action? Instead of fashioning my now famous brand of sarcasm and dry wit, would I have fashioned weapons and plots and acted on them? Sometimes, I think my classmates need to thank me. For all that I was put through, they came out relatively unscathed.

If you wonder why I recount this....sad. It's not a case of "kids will be kids" and "everyone gets bullied." I am not being dramatic when I say I was tormented and tortured. My life at St. Anon was a living hell 95% of the time. I can't "just get over it." As much as I want to feed you some Dr. Phil crap about overcoming adversity and putting the past behind me, I honestly can't. Those experiences had a profound effect on me. I learned not to trust. I have had some major issues with trust since then. I have a very very very hard time trusting friends, no matter how deserving they are. I always wonder when the other shoe will drop and when my friend will turn on me. And the few times it did happen in later years cemented my insecurities. In fact, it just happened again quite recently. It's hard to learn how to completely trust people, when those who demand your trust are the ones putting the knife in your back. Thankfully, my true friends completely understand this and love me anyway. I do try to work through these issues. There is so much scarring on my psyche and sometimes I don't think all of it will be washed away. Things didn't get 100% better after St. Anon. High School wasn't the greatest. I didn't have many friends and didn't socialize much. I stayed on the outside of social circles because I didn't drink and, therefore, was never invited anywhere. But, there wasn't much torment. I was made fun of on occasion, but nothing as vile and evil as St. Anon. And when I was made fun of I talked back, and I could be nasty. I got a rep as a bitch, because I was one. It was a self-preservation thing. People know if you fuck with me, it'll come right back at you. I know some of the bitterness I have is held over from my days at St. Anon. To this day I still get made fun of. Random people still call me ugly and whatnot. Sometimes they get ignored. Sometimes I am not nice...and I can be vicious, thanks to my Catholic grade school education. Even recently, I have suffered betrayal at the hands of so-called friends. There are days when I feel like I'm just not going to catch a break. There are days, and more often recently, where I say, "I really don't give a fuck what people think of me anymore," because I really don't.

Sometimes being bullied is something you are able to get over. Sometimes it drives people to violence against others or even themselves. Sometimes, the bullied eventually become bullies and start the whole cycle over again. It's easy to put the blame on the victims and tell them to put their big girl or big boy pants on and get over it. That sort of attitude doesn't help anyone. We need to understand that incidents of bullying can have a big effect on kids as they grow into adults. Some people see me as a very confident person and admire that I seemingly don't take much crap from anyone, but there is a layer of insecurity to me. I try not to let it get the best of me, but it happens sometimes. I am trying to make that insecure part of me become smaller and smaller. 

As for my former classmates - a lot of those who bullied me don't have happy tales to tell now. Quite a few of them went down some very troubling paths. Some have died. There is a part of me that feels a smug self-satisfaction when I hear one of my tormentors has ended up in jail or is a complete loser. Another part of me feels completely sorry for them.  I have reconnected with a lot of my old classmates on Facebook. People who weren't my friends back in St. Anon are now my friends on Facebook. Why? What happened to me suck and should not be excused. You'll never hear me say something like, "they were just being kids and this is a normal part of growing up," because that attitude will never solve a damn thing and it takes the voices away from victims of bullying. However, I have grown up and they have grown up. I have a choice to hold on to all of that anger or to release some of it. I am not the type of person who can sit and stew in a big boiling pot of anger. It's not me. I'll never dismiss my experience, but I have learned to let go somewhat. Many of them have privately messaged me or even publicly spoken to me and told me they were sorry they said/did things to me or remained silent as they watched others hurt me. I have accepted those apologies and moved on.

Bless you if you have made it this far. This is not a story to evoke pity from anyone. It's a retelling of my experience and an insight into what sometimes makes me tick. It's just one of those pieces of my psyche puzzle.

It's Mama Earth's Party and She'll Cry If She Wants To

Copyright JSH 2012
As I write this, another Earth Day is winding down. Earth Day stirs a bunch of mixed feelings in me. I appreciate the sentiment of Earth Day. I completely appreciate the fact that the original awareness created during that first Earth Day helped push laws demanding cleaner air and water into existence. We needed Earth Day then. We still do, but not just on April 22nd of the year. I view Earth Day the same way the Church views Christmas. The one time of year people remember they are Christians and attend Mass. Earth Day has become this planet's Christmas. The one day of the year where we say, "Oh yeah, I like the planet. I'm going to recycle something today." I get that it raises awareness. I get that people host wonderful conservation events and plant trees, clean streams and sow seeds. But, like the Christmas present little Johnny begged Santa for, those trees, clean streams and seedlings get forgotten by a large majority of people within two weeks of Earth Day. We are now on the 42nd anniversary of the celebration and where are we?

There are improvements that have been made, of course. But, I feel like our little rock in the universe is getting bullied quite a bit these days. Decades old legislation that keeps our air a little bit cleaner and our water a little bit clearer is being challenged - and with a frightening amount of might - because now environmental protection is being seen as a hindrance to corporations, to capitalism and to success. There seems to be a push back against the environmental movement and this planet is taking an alarming beating as of late.

There needs to be more than Earth Day. There needs to be more than the green movement. Oh, how I hated that. Do you remember that? A few years ago, everybody was all about being green. I remember saying over and over how the "green living" trend was going to come back to bite us in the ass. Why? Because being green became a trend. What happens to trends? They die. Here we are, a few years later, and people are tired of hearing about being green. They are rebelling against it. They are annoyed with it. It never should have been made a trend. Our planet cannot afford our care to be a trend.

It's a cliché that you hear every year at this time - Earth Day should be everyday. It's the truth. We need to instill the values of environmental stewardship in our children from a young age. They should learn that Mama Earth is precious to us and, while she gives us plenty, she needs us to take care of her. This is how I was raised.

I was raised by wild hippies, with long hair, unshaven everything and a tie-dyed minivan. Okay, only part of that is true. My dad really is a hippie and has been since the counterculture existed. My dad is a Vietnam War Veteran and he came back from the war and marched on over to Washington D.C. and was arrested for chaining himself to a fence outside the White House in protest of the war. My dad has several marches and protests under his belt. He has also been unshaven since he came home from the war. I have never seen my dad without a beard in person. I've only seen pictures of him from the late 60's. He looked just like John Voight (which he used to his advantage with the ladies). My mom isn't a hippie per say, but she married my dad, so... Anyway, I was raised to respect the Earth. It wasn't ever forced on me or drilled into my head. It was just a casual part of life. We composted in our city backyard starting when I was in grade school (this is the 1980's). We recycled before there was curbside pick-up, saving our cans and bottles to take to the recycling plant and getting some change for it. We always had gardens of some sort - veggies, plants and flowers. I played outside just about everyday. My dad took me for walks in the woods at least once a week. He would point out all sorts of trees and vegetation, teaching me how to identify their leaves. He'd show me animal tracks, fur, old bones and school me on who they belonged to. One of the most important things he said - and he really only mentioned it once - was that there were spirits/souls in everything - trees, animals, plants, the ground. He told me they watched over the Earth and it's inhabitants and that they are happy when they see people taking care of the planet and being kind to ALL of her creatures. I've held onto that since I was a small child.

It was just the simple daily things of recycling, composting, getting out in nature and touching nature that got me into the habit of respecting the environment. My parents never preached, they just led by example and answered questions. Truly, the only "preaching" is what my dad said about Spirits in the forest. I think being allowed to go outside and to explore the natural world had one of the biggest impacts on me. Just being out there in plain old nature inspired me to plain old respect nature. I think these are key elements for children today. Get them outside to touch the dirt, feel grass in between their toes, smell the ocean (or a lake, stream, pond, river if you are far from a coast). Let them learn about all the bugs, birds and animals that are out there. For the most part, learning stifles fear and fosters respect.

A word about preaching. Several friends have shared with me that they are no longer comfortable in their churches because their pastors have preached against environmentalism, calling the "green living" movement to be some sort of trick of Satan. Now, I have seen reference to this in the national and international news, even among my own religion, Catholicism. It was explained to me by friends that their pastors likened respecting the Earth with worshiping the Earth (which is fine with me!) and that was something to be frowned upon. One friend said her pastor stressed that you cannot drill or plow the Earth too much as God will always provide, despite Biblical verses to the contrary (Jeremiah 2:7 - I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable). He stresses God's call for us to have dominion over the Earth to mean that we can do whatever the fuck we please with her. I call bullshit.

Like I said, I'm Catholic. Sort of. My spiritual beliefs are very complicated. I went to Catholic school. We were always taught that taking part of the Earth honors God. In fact, one entire semester of religion class during my junior year of high school was dedicated solely to respecting the environment and be responsible stewards of the Earth - for God. He gave us this planet as a gift, so don't take a proverbial crap on it. If you give someone a pretty present and they proceed to kick it down the street, jump on it and then throw it in the trash would you be moved to replace that gift for them? Not really. As for having doesn't mean that we should do as we please and trash the place. You have dominion over your home and, unless you are like the folks on Hoarders (who suffer from mental illness and need/want help), you don't trash your home. You respect your home. You treat it kindly. The same goes for the planet. We are charged to respect her and to protect her and those who dwell here. 

I absolutely hate that respect for the planet has become such a hot political and religious issue. Politics and religion are two very polarizing elements in our culture and the environment should not be caught up in that. Taking care of the Earth shouldn't have anything to do with being a Republican, a Democrat, a Buddhist or a Wiccan. It should be a basic human issue. We all live here, we should all respect it. 

Earth Day. Forgive this comparison, but I think of it as an abusive relationship. You abuse your partner everyday, but now and then you cook dinner or bring home flowers and sheepishly say, "I'm sorry," to prevent your partner from leaving. Earth Day is that bouquet of roadside stand flowers. 

I implore you, make respect for this planet a part of your everyday lives and the lives of your children. You don't have to sell your soul to care for our environment. If our children learn young, they will have a greater capacity to do good work for this planet and for each other in the future. After all, this is it. There is no Earth v2.0

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Flat Butt

My baby is going to have a flat butt. What? What about those squishy little cheeks? They will still be there, just encased in flat diapers for one week. I've decided to take part in Dirty Diaper Laundry's Flats and Handwashing Challenge, which is taking place from May 21st to May 27th this year. Check out the link for the details and other snazzy stuff.

In short, you diaper your baby in flat diapers and handwash them for one week. Part of the purpose is to show that cloth diapering can be very economical,especially for those who don't have the money to shell out nearly $40.00 for one diaper and for those who don't have regular access to a washer and dryer. As I said, take a peek at the above link to see all of Kim's reasons for starting this as well as to find some how-to information as far as finding flats and using them. I just checked out the videos on the different types of folds for flat diapers. Seems pretty darn easy. I think I may be in love with what's known as the "diaper bag fold."

Despite my varied cloth diaper collection, I have never used flats before. My mother used them on me and my two brothers. According to her, they are super duper easy. I own some flats, but I have only used them to stuff pockets in a pinch. I'm excited to give them a try. According to Kim of Dirty Diaper laundry, Ikea sells burp cloths in a pack of 2 for $2.99 and these make wonderful flat diapers. I'm actually going to make a trip over there in a day or two to check them out. I'll grab on pack for now. If I like them, I'll go back for more.

Will you join me in this challenge? During the 7 days of the challenge, I'll be posting a new photo as well as a little write up each day. I'm excited to give this a try.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

UPDATE: 2012 Items to Declutter in 2012: Moving Right Along

Just wanted to give you a brief update of the my 2012 items to declutter in 2012 challenge. You can find the first two posts here. And you can join in on the original thread on right here.

I hit a little bit of a slow patch in the last month. It has nothing to do with me not wanting to declutter. We have been so super busy lately with fun events and Easter things, so I haven't had time to really devote myself to purging stuff from this house. In addition, I briefly died of a horrid stomach virus and spent a day in the hospital and a couple of days recovering. Can I just tell you the enormity of mess that occurs in my house when I am out of commission? Oh my Gawd.

I'm doing well with getting rid of things that I have a sentimental attachment to. We cut down our collection of my husband's grandmother's plates. We were never going to use them. They are not entirely valuable so they weren't something we would sell. I got rid of a broken up old dusty purple vacuum. It was our first vacuum when we moved in together. We bought it in 2004 at Sears, during a tornado. You see, I was picking my husband up from the mall that day. He told me to meet him at Sears. There were some thunderstorms brewing that got intense as I was driving over. According to the weather reports on the radio, everything was hunky dory. The sky turned that magical green and I could feel the updraft and smell the scary changes in the air. I watched the clouds get lower and lower until a wall cloud started to form. I ended up doing 90mph down a local road. Good thing - I wouldn't have made it in the store otherwise. I also had my cat, Duncan, with me. He was about 5 weeks old at the time. We were going to head to my parent's house after I picked him up from the mall, so I had brought Duncan along in his little blue carrier as we couldn't leave the little bad kitten home alone for too long. I barely made it out of the car - in fact I parked right up at the door - before things got serious outside. The updraft was insane, the rain made visibility impossible and there was quite a bit of hail. I ran into Sears, cat in hand, and told a girl at the register that I wasn't leaving my sweet baby kitten out there in that weather. She put him behind her register. They put the store on lock down, not allowing anyone in or out, because there was finally an official tornado warning. We had to go down to the first floor of Sears for shelter from the storm. The tornado never hit ground, it stayed a funnel cloud, but those few minutes were pretty darn scary. While down on the first floor, I wandered around the vacuum section. I spotted a purple Hoover that was on sale for about 50% off. Sweet! We needed a vacuum, it was on sale and it was PURPLE. Once the weather calmed and they ended the lock down in the story, we bought our vacuum, collected Duncan from his shelter under the register desk and went on our merry way. And that was my long story about a vacuum. Haha. Anyway, it broke two years ago. It has had it's issues over the years, but I was always able to repair it, but this time was for good. It sat in a closet for two years simply because it was sentimental. I finally let it go. Ahhhh...

Now, my next sentimental mountain to be moved is a box of medical equipment from when our cat, Abigael, was alive. It's tough to get rid of anything associated with her.

I've done good. I've been getting rid of lots of clothes and even some toys. There were lots of little small toys (prizes from game rooms, party favors, etc) that just get lost in the bottom of the toy box. I also just donated a ton of gift wrapping supplies. Lots of boxes, bows, wrapping paper, tissue paper. I had way more than I'll ever need, so I let it go.

It feels get to move this stuff out and get a little more organized. It's definitely a work in progress and we still have far to go, but we're moving right along and doing well.

Grand total so far:

768 out of 2012

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Granola Glam

There is a lot of emphasis in the Natural Parenting Community on what you do that makes you granola...or crunchy. Those terms describe people who live a more natural and earth-friendly lifestyle. There is a wide range of behaviors and actions that make one granola. Anything from using coconut oil as deodorant to making your own shampoo out of common kitchen ingredients can give one a certain level of crunch. Of course, there is a bit of competition between those who consider themselves to be granola. A mere sentence such as, "I just made my own homemade granola with the kids," can be expected to be one-upped with something like, "well, we made our own granola out of oats we grew ourselves, honey from our own beehives and I then mixed it with yogurt that I made from my own breastmilk." I'm serious, it really happens.

Every now and then, you have someone on a forum ask what you do that makes you crunchtastic. Obviously, this leads to the competition. Not shaving gets you points. However, if you do shave and manage to spin your just-shaved hairs into some type of human wool and then weave that into a Waldorf doll then you are the Grand Goddess of Granola. We bow to you. These questions are fun, despite some competitiveness, because you can learn new things. But, I also love when people ask what you do that isn't granola. It's fun to watch people sheepishly admit that they take long showers, eat McDonald's or drive an SUV. And that Grand Goddess of Granola? You find out that she bought her kids a plastic baby doll bottle from the dollar feed the Waldorf Wooly Human Wool Doll. I love how this question highlights something - it is presumed that if you are a crunchy, granola hippie chick such as myself, you can't be glamorous or girly.

I am often met with surprise when I admit that I have a shoe fetish or that I love 1950's housewife fashion. Eyes widen when I admit to using nail polish and sparkles. It is assumed that us super granola crunchy hippie chicks cannot be feminine, cannot be glamorous and must always roll in dirt and dress ourselves in vinca vine in order to maintain our crunchy cred. Well....phooey. Yes, you will often find me in T-shirts proclaiming my love for the planet and long, flowing gypsy skirts. However, you will also find me in frilly sundresses, fantabulous and bright sandals and loaded with nail polish and sparkly jewelry.

The following things about me deduct points from my hippie soul:

I have said the following on many occasions - "I want to have sex with those shoes." Now, I would never engage in actual shoe coitus - they can't buy me dinner - but I have a major shoe fetish. Thankfully, we are pretty dang poor, so I am left to merely drool in shoe stores. Every now and then I "splurge" (Mama doesn't buy shoes that are not on super sale or clearance - $30.00 is steep for me) and treat myself to a pair.
I take long showers and baths. This is something I am trying to stop. Sure, a good soaking in some Epsom salts and lavender essential oil is good now and then, but there is no excuse for my long showers. I do it to get some "me time," but I can easily pretend I have to poop and just hide in the bathroom with a book. No need to waste water doing so.

Nail polish. I love nail polish. I try to buy the rather pricey brands that are lower in nasty toxins and are cruelty free. I don't do fake nails and I don't do the standard French manicure. I have gorgeous nails of my own that I take the time to file nicely. And I paint them in funky colors. I'm going through a slight neon phase right now. Neon is everywhere, but I actually remember it when it was truly cool back in 1988. I was 10. I'm often seen wearing at least two different color polishes on my hands and my toes.

While I mainly clean with concoctions made of vinegar, water, essential oils and castille soap, I will bring out the big guns. I do own a small bottle of bleach. I can count on one hand the number of times I have used it in the past 2 years. Still, it's there and I'm not getting rid of it. Recently, I had the stomach bug from hell and it landed me in the hospital for a day. As soon as I came home, I kissed my husband and kids and headed straight to the bathroom to bleach the fuck out of every last little puke germ in there. I believe that bleach has a time and a place. This was that time and my bathroom was the place. In addition to bleach, I own a few Magic Erasers. We live in an apartment and they used somoe kinda of crappy, chalking matte paint that shows every single little smudge. We painted a few of the walls, but some were left white and those are the ones that my son decided to scribble all over with crayon.....with the one non-washable crayon among a sea of 10,000 washable ones. Far be it from me to stifle his creative genius. I don't yell at him for it, but after a while I'm tired of looking at it. I have tried making all sorts of magical potions out of vinegar, baking soda, borax, lemons, sea salt, Dr. Bronner' name it, I've tried order to naturally remove the crayon marks from the walls. Nothing worked. I resorted to that smug bald bastard with the tacky gold earrings, Mr. Clean. I probably don't want to know what makes it so magical...

I shave. Oh, the horror. Just admitting that has pierced many a crunchy heart. Listen, I understand  that we are mammals and this hair serves a purpose. I'm totally down with that. I have zero problems with folks who refuse to shave. For me, I like to smooth some areas out. I am not against growing my own socks in the Winter, but when Spring comes, I whip out my Preserve razor (made from recycled yogurt containers!) and mow quite a few lawns on my body. I like the look and feel of nice smooth armpits and legs. Heck, ask my husband about labor. The moment I realized I was in labor with my son, I hopped in the shower and shaved. And my daughter's birth? As if the start of labor with my daughter wasn't fun enough, my husband walked into the bedroom to find me sitting on the floor in front of the mirror, legs spread and up in the air while I took the electric razor to my bikini area. Again, this says something about our relationship when the only thing he said in response to that sight was, "would you like a pillow to sit on instead of the bare floor?" Awww. That's love.

I wax my eyebrows - My original eyebrows can give Bert a run for his money. They get so out of control that I can feel the weight of them on my face. It's awful. Again, if you love the size and shape of your eyebrows, I have no problem with that. I don't like mine plucked thin, but I like them nicely trimmed and shaped. I am unable to tweeze them. I find that I get bored halfway in between doing the first brow and the second. I once dozed off when tweezing my own brows. I had finished the first brow and was on my way to attacking the second when the sandman came. When I woke up, I completely forgot that I had been grooming my brows. I headed out to the supermarket and had no clue why people were looking at me saying things like, "bless her heart," and "that poor girl," under their breaths. So, to avoid all of that, I visit my hair salon and my lovely stylist slathers on some hot wax and rips the offending hairs out of my brow. I stop at eyeborws, though. They fucking hurt and I have no desire to rip the hair from larger parts of my body. You will not find me bent over in front of some chick while she rips wayward hairs out of my Funky Little EarthCrack. Ya know what I mean?

I love frilly dresses - Us hippie chicks are supposed to wear flare jeans and sandals or peasant tops with long gypsy skirts. I own all of those, but I do love me some sparkly and girly dresses. I have been known to visit bridal shops with friends just to dress up and twirl around in gowns for fun. I love 1950's style housewifey dresses, which also kicks away some feminist points (insert eyeroll here). Lace? Yay! Frilly, flowy fabrics? Woo-hoo? Sparkles? Come to Mama! Dresses of all kinds are a major weakness for me. Boho, retro, wedding, hollywood glam, long, short, sleek, poofy - I love 'em all. I adore getting dressed up.

I would love to dye my hair - if I could find a truly safe and natural to obtain some fantabulous blonde highlights, I would do it. Alas, I have yet to find a method. I know a lot of folks swear by lemon juice and/or chamomile tea. I haven't had any luck in that area, but maybe I'll try again. There are days when I am super tempted to go to my stylist to get some plain old foil highlights.

I go to the doctor - 99% of the medicine we use at home is homeopathic, herbal or FOOD. I even make some of our medicines. I use my own dehydrated placenta as an anti-depressant. I see a chiropractor now and then, I have an acupuncturist and I get energy work when I can afford it. Yet, I still see Western medical doctors. They know I'm that crazy chick who prefers natural treatments and will likely question everything. I have a cardiologist that I like to see on a regular basis. I go to a primary physician now and then. I take my children to the pediatrician. My husband goes to a variety of doctors (primary, cardio, pulmonary, neurologist, ophthalmologist). To me, doctors are like that bleach under my sink. I think they are overused in many cases, but there is a time and a place for them. You may have read about my daughter's hemangiomas and how we decided the natural course of therapy was not going to cut it for her. While I prefer alternative medicine, I am not opposed to western medicine if I find it is needed. Speaking of doctors, I am slightly obsessed with having my blood taken. No, not in a sparkly vampire sort of way. I love hematology and I do request yearly or bi-yearly bloodwork just to see how the old blood cells are holding up and if my chemistry values are behaving. Can't help it. My midwife will indulge me with this. She'll order up anything I ask because she trusts in my instincts and knowledge.

Gas - I drive a 2009 Nissan. It has 96,000 miles on it. *hangs head in shame*

You see, even I'm not perfect when it comes to keeping a high crunchy credit score. While I have made a lot of changes in the past decade to reflect a more Eco-friendly and holistic lifestyle, there are still some things I do that are less than Earth-friendly (even shoes and dresses - consumerism, ya know?). I am a crunchy granola hippie chick, but my granola is coated in ultra-fabulous tacky glitter.

You can't tell - but those are 4 inch heels and that's a retro 40's dress. We went hiking, all dressed up, on the way home from a wedding.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Knowledge Within

Copyright JSH 2010
 I want to share a conversation I recently had with an acquaintance and her friend. We'll call them Josie and Charlotte. Those names are pretty. This is an actual online conversation and is used with permission. I just copy and pasted and changed names. Grammatical errors are, hopefully, not mine.

Josie - Women have a hard time getting pregnant because you bleed the egg out. It's hard to catch it.
Funky - Bleed it out?
Josie - Yeah, the egg comes out when ur having ur period.
Funky - That's not how it works. You release the egg when you ovulate. That's before your period starts.
Charlotte - funky is right because ovulation tells your body it's time to start your period. the egg comes out and you get your period the next day.
Josie - Not quite. You ovulate while ur having ur period. The bleeding is what gets the egg out.
Funky - Wait. Do you guys know when you ovulate?
Josie - With ur period. And thats why they tell you u can still get pregnant even on ur period.
Funky - Umm...nooooo. You ovulate somewhere around the middle of your cycle...between periods.
Charlotte - i think i do the day b4 my period bc i get cramping on one side. not in the middle.
Josie - You don't get pregnant in between ur periods. What's the point?
Funky - This is why we have so many unplanned pregnancies. Ladies, I'm begging you to check out a few websites or read, Taking Charge of Your Fertility. I'll send you links. You'll thank me.

  That's not the first time I've had conversations like that. I have found that many women do not understand their cycles at all. The menstrual cycle is a pretty big deal. In general, we bleed once a month. Our bodies are devoting time to the waxing and waning of fertility every single month. We bleed. We get discharge. We don't get discharge. Our boobs hurt. Our bellies bloat. Our heads ache. We get moody. Our skin breaks out. We get super horny. We get super not-so-horny. You would think with having such a big deal process happen in our bodies that we would be more in tune with them. I don't mean to imply that you need to be a midwife or a doctor and know every intricate detail of every hormone and when it surges and when it declines. But, many women I talk to lack a basic understand of how and when ovulation happens and what causes menstruation and how all of it relates to getting pregnant or avoiding pregnancy. I know plenty of women who don't know how long their cycles are, who don't know when their last period was or when to expect the next one. I'm not putting women down at all. I don't want you to think that I'm calling anyone stupid if she doesn't understand how her body works. That's not what I'm saying. In fact, I think women have been forced to become out of touch with their bodies. We're meant to be in touch with our bodies, but we've lost that connection over the last century.

 Think about it. In my experience talking to other women, we seem to know about the bodies of celebrities more than we know about our own. We spend more time studying whether or not Kim Kardashian or the celebrity du jour has a baby bump, fake boobs or a flabby ass than we do learning about our own bodies. Many women can adequately name what cosmetic surgery procedure each Real Housewife has had, but they cannot adequately name the parts of their own reproductive system. They can tell the difference between each Kardashian sister, but they don't know the difference between a vulva and a vagina.

  From a young age girls are taught to be ashamed of all that makes them a woman. Let's hope you don't end up flat-chested. Guys won't want you. Let's hope you don't end up with big boobs. People will think you're a slut. Tone that belly. Firm your thighs and your ass. Don't let anything jiggle. No softness to your curves allowed. Don't say the word vagina or vulva. Those are dirty words. And by the way, you've been cursed. Mother Nature hates you. God hates you. For whatever reason, the person in control of creating humans hated women sooooooooooooo much that he or she makes us bleed once a month. Oh, it's horrible. The blood. The cramps. The zits. The tears. The constant craving for chocolate-covered potato chips. Why, it's enough to drive you crazy. Oh yes, you're a crazy bitch when you have your period. You and your PMS. Now, go shove a wad of highly processed and bleached cotton up your vagina, pop a few meds and be sure to tell other women how much you hate your body during this time of the month. Spread the word. And make sure you tell men they're stupid because they don't have periods.

 Yuck. Is it any wonder? We have had millenia of negative viewpoints on our bodies and our cycles. A certain book tells us that we bleed once a month because Eve sinned. All womankind carries her curse. Our menstrual cycle and our pain in childbirth is there to remind us that it was a woman who tempted man and got our asses kicked out of paradise. That's a lot to saddle on a young girl. The same book said we were dirty when we bled so we must be separated during and purified after menstruation. Even people who touch us while we menstruate are "unclean." A woman's body was and still is something to be fear. It contains the curse of menstruation. It's curves and it's beauty are tempting and can cause others to sin. Cultures and religions where women were worshiped and their menstrual cycle was seen as a mirror to the cycle of the planet have been stomped out for thousands of years. We have spent centuries telling women to be ashamed of what is so natural in them. Yet, women in the past centuries were likely to be better connected to their cycles. They would have been more in tune with the natural flow and changes of energy during different points of that cycle. They would have known how their rhythm was tied to the Moon. Where did we go wrong?

 Despite the shaming of our bodies, women's issues were left to women. Mothers instructed daughters about their periods and fertility. Sisters shared secrets about their budding breasts and newly curved hips. Women attended women in childbirth. New mothers learned to breastfeed from her mothers, sisters and other women around them. A woman would walk into a church and see images of Jesus being suckled at His mother's breast and not blink an eye. While the function of a woman's body was the devil's work, the look was celebrated in art. That changed centuries ago. Religious reformation once again reminded us that we are dirty. Nudes in art needed to be covered up. Women's bodies needed to be ... managed. As our race made scientific advancements at a quick rate, men became more involved in the affairs of the uterus. The childbirth bed was no longer surrounded by other women. It became one more thing to be dominated by men. Women were no longer trusted to care for their own bodies. They needed science and the management of doctors. Men who knew better. We began to lose touch with ourselves.

  Fast forward to the last 100 years. Conquering our femininity, rather than embracing it, has been the gold standard. It's best to be disconnected from your body. Your period? Don't talk about it, unless it's to tell other women it's disgusting and torturous. Pregnant? Better hope you don't get too fat, too stretch-marked and you better lose that baby weight ASAP. Giving birth? You won't be able to do it. It's too painful and you are too weak. You don't know anything about your own body, so let a doctor tell you what to do. I had a horrible birth so you will, too. Breastfeeding? Well, you will most likely fail. Who wants to have a kid stuck to their tit all day anyway? Well, if you're going to do it make sure you cover up and sit in a bathroom or something because no one wants to see that It's in the media. I cannot tell you how much I HATE the tampon commercials that depict Mother Nature as some bitch who is out to get you and ruin your day with your period. Everything around us tells us to be ashamed and annoyed with our bodies. Oh, it's no longer because we're being oppressed by the man. No, now it's done in the name of being a feminist. Conquer all that makes you a woman. Hate it. Despise it. You'll be better off for it. It's not the men holding us down anymore. It was centuries ago, but now women are doing a disservice to other women. We are judging one another. We are tearing each other down rather than empowering one another. We are hating ourselves. No wonder we are so lost in our own bodies.

 How many books are out there devoted solely to helping women achieve orgasm? A LOT. Do we ever stop and think that it's a bit messed up? That's a very primal and basic function, but we've been taught to be so ashamed of ourselves that we don't even remember how to make ourselves feel good.

  Knowing your cycle and knowing your body isn't gross. It isn't vain or sinful to look at yourself naked and smile at your curves or lack of curves. There is nothing wrong with knowing what your body feels like. Your period isn't gross. Trust me, I get that it comes at inconvenient times and that cramps suck. I'm not denying that. I don't throw a period party every time it shows up, but I don't hate it, either. However, I can't stand it when people learn that I use a menstrual cup instead of the standard pads they recoil in horror as if I told them I just ate a sandwich made of dead puppy and kitten testicles. It's not just dealing with blood that grosses them out, it's having to touch yourself. A menstrual cup means you are likely going to have to make contact with both your vulva and your vagina - more so than if you were using a tampon with an applicator. I've listened to many women who are repulsed by the idea of having to actually touch their "down there bits" (remember, the parts are so shameful that we can't even name them properly). To me, letting companies make products that are chock full of bleach, dioxin, plastic, petroleum and that unknown blue gel to keep so close or inside our bodies is what's disgusting. Having more than 1 billion feminine hygiene products end up in landfills each year is what's truly gross. Spending a few seconds inserting a menstrual cup into my vagina is preferable to the bodily and environmental damage caused  by "mainstream" menstrual products.

 We are doing a serviced to our girls by giving them a sterilized and watered-down version of the cycles of their bodies. It's perfectly acceptable and common to just throw and pamphlet or two at them along with a copy of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and hope that they don't actually come to you with questions and want to start a dialog about their bodily functions. We're living in a country, a world, where it's deemed unacceptable to teach young women about fertility awareness. I'm sorry if I offend some, but I think it's bullshit that there is a lot of legislation proposed that would ban teaching anything but abstinence in schools. There are people out there who don't want young women to learn anything about fertility awareness because they think it's going to turn them into slutty devil-worshiping heathens. I'm sorry, but that is pure bullshit. We owe it to our girls to empower them with knowledge and respect for their bodies. Keeping them in the dark about their natural cycles will not stop them from having sex and getting pregnant. In fact, they may be more likely to have sex and end up with an unintended pregnancy because they are lacking knowledge. Without that empowerment, it will be much easier for others to take advantage of them. If they don't have a strong knowledge base about their own bodies it will be much easier for them to fall for the lies of others. We are harming our daughters and our sons more by withholding this information.

 You don't need to finish reading this blog and immediately run to the bathroom to poke and prod yourself and have a self-love orgy. I won't blame you if you do - I have that effect on people. However, I strongly encourage you to learn about your body. Get to know what makes it work. Give it a little nudge. It's not dirty and it's not shameful. You are the result of millions of years of evolution that precisely picked out which part goes where and how it works in conjunction with other parts, if you believe in that. Or, you are the result of a Divine hand that worked to create the perfection that is you. Any way you slice it, whatever you believe, it's all completely beautiful and sacred. Do your daughters and your sons a favor and teach them how their bodies work. Teach them how the bodies of the opposite sex work. This knowledge will only empower them and make them better able to advocate for themselves. Give them the gift of respect for their bodies. Give yourself that gift, too.

Monday, April 9, 2012

What's Buggin' You?

Ah, Spring. She is here. And she has brought us so many beautiful things; warm weather, flowers, vegetable sprouts, adorable baby animals and bugs. Bugs? Eeek! With the warmer weather, many insects and other crawlies come out of hiding to get to work eating, making love sweet bug love and making new bug babies. An aside: I'm just referring to everything that is not a cute puppy or kitten as bugs - bees, millipedes, stinkbugs, ladybugs, butterflies, ants, you name it - as bugs. Technically, the word bug refers to a specific class of insect, but we're not going to be technical like that today. Anyway. So many bugs do a world of good for us. Bees, butterflies, moths, ants, beetles and wasps keep plants - including those that bear fruits and vegetables - alive and well by pollinating them. We need these critters. Other bugs eat other bugs. Spiders eat ants and gnats and even stinkbugs. Those terrifying house centipedes (you know, they are the ones with 6,000 legs and they look hairy and they move so stinkin' fast) actually enjoy a diet of spiders and roaches. Ants eat aphid honeydew (goo excreted by aphids). Ladybugs love to munch on aphids and mites. Some bugs are an excellent source of food for animals. What frog doesn't love a good fly salad? Certain birds dine on stinkbugs, beetles, ants, mosquitoes, etc. Bats rely on a healthy diet of mosquitoes. We all hate mosquitoes because they can spread diseases such as West Nile, heartworm and malaria, but if we annihilate mosquitoes, we will damage the bat population. It's already happening. We've got bugs that are part of the decomposition process - carpenter ants, beetles, flies and their maggot babies, etc. are charged with chewing away at things that are rotted and dead (including flesh) and cleaning up the landscape so to speak.

The point is, even though many bugs can freak us out and we consider them pests, they do serve a purpose. It can be food for other creatures, pollination, population control, decomposition, etc - they all have a job to do and there is a balance in their existence.Does this mean I expect people to just embrace all bugs, hug the nearest roach and build a nice shed in the backyard where all manner of crawlies can live? No, not really. I understand that we don't strive to get sucked on by a mosquito or have a spider terrorize us in the shower. Heck, this EarthChild screams like Janet Leigh in psycho when she encounters most bugs. Now, I respect them. I respect all that is living and I will go out of my way to avoid killing. Yes, I am that crazy lady that will catch bugs in her home and escort them outside. Rather, I am that crazy lady that will scream for her husband to catch bugs in the home and escort them outside. I once had a neighbor frantically knocking on my door asking if I needed police help because a stinkbug landed on my hand as I was typing on my computer. It seems that I screamed like someone being stabbed. In my defense, the stinkbug was really big and I'm quite certain he gave me the finger and threatened to cut me. I should note here that I have five cats. One would think they would provide excellent bug population control. Not true. I once watched all five cats line up on the edge of the couch - tails flickin' like they meant business - to watch a stinkbug slowly meander across the window sill. Sure, one of them would occasionally sniff at the stinkbug, but they would quickly jump back if their nose accidentally brushed up against the beast. So, I don't know about anyone else's cats, but mine are useless in that regard. My house is not some stank roach motel, but we do get stinkbugs, a few spiders (had one the size of a Mini Cooper in my shower the other day - no lie) and the occasional house centipede. Unless you have a home like those on Hoarders, buggies don't necessarily signal a dirty house. Everyone has them.

My ode to bugs over - what to do about them if you don't want them within 50 feet of you? We are all aware that there is no shortage of sprays, pellets, chemical traps, bombs and powders available on the market to extinguish bugs. Some of us are aware that the majority of anti-bug gunk out there is pretty freakin' toxic to humans as well. Lawn and garden pesticides, such as Round-up, are well known for their harmful effects on our health. Pesticides designed for home use, such as Raid, can also be toxic to our health. Some of the known effects of the variety of chemical pesticides out there are simple skin irritation such as rashes, respiratory irritation, endocrine damage, neurological effects and cancer. Pesticides are especially dangerous to vulnerable individuals such as children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. It's not an exaggeration to say that we overuse chemical pesticides in this country and that we are, in turn, harming ourselves and the environment due to it. It's extremely frustrating and I believe that we really need to educate the population about the dangers of all of this crap that we are spraying on our lawns, trees and food. Ah, but that's another rant for another day. Today, let's keep it simple. What should you do when you want to keep the crawlies away from you, but you don't want to poison your kids and the environment in the process. Let me share my methods.

I rely on the natural order of nature, plain old plants, essential oils and vinegar to keep the buggies at bay.

Natural Order of Nature

I spoke about this somewhat in the paragraphs above. Bugs are prey critters. Just about every bug has something that will eat them. So, a method at reducing the bug population is to keep the environment friendly for those who eat the bugs. Attracting birds, beneficial bugs and bats to your yard is a great way to keep pests at bay.

Birds are relatively easy. Have a bird feeder? You have birds. Bird feeders are available at most stores that sell garden and yard supplies - even grocery stores - but you can also make them. Search around on google or Pinterest and you'll find ideas for crafting bird feeders from wood, leftover soda bottles, used milk jugs, used orange juice containers and more. You can also offer suet and place it in a suet cage or on a platform. Heck, I have even just placed leftover chunks of suet on the ground in my garden the birds seem fine with it. Suet is generally made up of solid animal fat (ew) mixed with seed, oats, nuts, raisins and the like. It attracts birds who also love, love, love insects; bluebirds, chickadees, woodpeckers, mockingbirds, wrens, catbirds, robins, titmice, nuthatches, tanagers, warblers....oh, there are so many. So, they'll come for your seed and suet cakes, and will stay for the bugs. Getting the kids involved in making feeders, filling feeders and watching and identifying birds is always a bonus.

Bats provide plenty of population control. They enjoy a delicious insect entree, with mosquitoes being among their favorite. I know bats freak a lot of people out, but they can be incredibly beneficial. I understand if you prefer to shy away from attracting these incredibly adorable rodents to your home. However, if you would like to increase your bat-friendly backyard status, I encourage you to research bat homes. These are flat wooden boxes that you can hang high up on the side of your home or an old tree. You can buy them at some nature centers, garden stores or you can even find tutorials online for building them on your own. Don't worry, you won't have a billion bats flying around your head. They are typically only active for a few short hours at dusk and dawn. Night blooming plants (think Four o'clocks, Evening Primrose, Moon flower) will attract them. Having a bat-friendly yard is an important step in conservation and a wonderful lesson for children in regards to environmental stewardship. Nearly 25% of the world's bat population is currently threatened and that number is expected to rise. Not only do bats provide pest control, but they are also pollinators. We need them.

Another important step is to keep standing water off your property. If you are going to have a bird bath, make sure birds actually use it everyday. If it just stands out there alone and untouched everyday then you might want to get rid of it. Also, change the water daily. Standing water is home to the larval stage of mosquitoes. Eliminating it is a major step in keeping them away. Ponds are popular, but be aware that they can turn into a nursery for infant mosquitoes. You may want to install a fountain or a filter that will keep the water moving. Be sure to clean up kid's toys, flower pots, garbage cans and other things that may collect standing water.

Ladybugs. Get ye some ladybugs. These adorable little guys will chow down on aphids and keep your garden healthy. And if the ladybugs get out of control? Well, the birds that you're attracting will eat them. The circle of life. Now, I know you can order ladybugs from garden centers and online stores. That is not part of my expertise, so I won't comment on that. I do know, however, that you can attract ladybugs with flowers and herbs. There's a large variety of plant life that will attract them - some of the most common are marigolds/calendula, tulips (they really enjoy cup-shaped flowers), dill, cosmos, dandelions, chives, alyssum, chamomile, lavender, feverfew and fennel just to name a few. One thing I rarely notice mentioned when talking about attracting ladybugs is milkweed. Milkweed is often grown to attract monarch butterflies as it's an important food source for their caterpillars. Milkweed is often attacked by aphid. If you've got aphids, you'll attract ladybugs.


There are a large number of plants who, typically by virtue of their scents, repel all sorts of insects. The best part is that many of these plants have other uses, such as in food or homemade medicine. Many of them can be grown both outdoors and indoors. Growing them outdoors can keep bugs away from your children's play area, your picnic table or anywhere that you like to hang out in your yard. You can also grow these plants in order to make your own cleaning solutions, herbal preparations or balms to apply to your home and body.

Mint - anything in the mint family will usually repel ants, fleas, aphids and even roaches. They despise the smell of mint. Mint plants will also deter mice and, sometimes, mosquitoes. Be careful as mint plants can spread quite a bit. I grow mine in little pots. I also dry and crush the leaves and sprinkle it around baseboards when I'm out of peppermint essential oil. Peppermint will also repel mice.

Rosemary - this happy little plant will repel mosquitoes, flies, moths, ants, slugs and beetles. It's also good luck to plant by your front door.

Lavender - repels ants, mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and moths. If moths are a concern in your home, you can dry lavender and hang it in your closet or place it in your drawers.

Marigolds - these sunny flowers repel aphids, bean beetles, squash bugs, white flies, mosquitoes and even veggie-stealing bunnies.Marigolds are in the calendula family, but you want the cheaper marigolds that give off a very heavy scent to repel insects.

Basil - there a a billion varieties of basil and most will repel mosquitoes, flies and Japanese beetles.

Catnip - great for tea and it repels mosquitoes, ants, roaches, beetles,fleas and aphids. Beware, it also attracts cats. However, I have not had a problem with attracting neighborhood cats by growing this.

Lemon balm - repels mosquitoes and flies. I have actually rubbed lemon balm leaves on my arms and legs to keep mosquitoes at bay.

Tansy - when we first moved into our apartment, I noticed a ton of this growing in our little garden. I almost pulled it up. I'm glad I didn't. This little herb gives the finger to mosquitoes, flies, fleas, Japanese beetles and moths. It does spread easily, so keep an eye on it.

Bay laurel - this is another that takes up space and needs to be brought indoors for Winter. It can grow to about 6 feet tall. You may prefer to just buy fresh or dried bay leaves. You can places dried bay leaves in containers of flour, oatmeal, rice or other ground grains to keep the weevils at bay. Roaches absolutely despise bay laurel. Grinding it into a powder and sprinkling it on the carpets or at your doorways helps keep critters at bay (I seriously did not mean to use that pun). You can also stick bay leaves in cracks and crevices to deter roaches and other pests.

 Citronella grass - this is a giant plant that takes up a lot of room. However, if you have the space for it then you'll find that it repels mosquitoes, flies, fleas and ticks.

Essential Oils and Vinegar

White vinegar is an excellent household cleaner. Be sure that your white vinegar is grain-distilled. Otherwise, it may be derived from petroleum and we don't want that. Vinegar in and of itself will deter many insects, including ants and roaches. You may find that you either can't grow plants or maybe you want an extra boost indoors. Many of plants I listed can be made into essential oils that you can find at your local health food store, Whole Foods and even supermarket (Giant sells a variety of essential oils). Be sure you are getting essential oils, which are made from plants, and not fragrance oils, which are made from the devil's ass hair and other toxins.

My preference is to mix a few drops of essential oil into my vinegar solution. My vinegar solution is merely a spray bottle filled half and half with vinegar and water. The essential oils you add are based on your own preference. In my home, ants are the common visitors and I find a vinegar solution with both peppermint and lavender added to it to be highly effective. I just spray floors, walls, windows, doors, counters and pretty much everything else with this solution. I have also rubbed straight peppermint oil on my windowsills to keep ants at bay. You can place a few drops of peppermint oil onto a cotton ball or a small swatch of fabric and leave it in corners or common entryways for ants and roaches.

Be warned - only try a couple of drops of any essential oil at first. Some people find that certain oils bother them or irritate their senses. Peppermint oil, rosemary and citronella can be especially pungent.

Another method I have used is to wash my floors with peppermint-scented Dr. Bronner's castille oil. We noticed ants in our kitchen last summer, so I washed the floors with some peppermint castille soap and they never came back.

This list is not the final say in pest control, of course. I am hoping this gave you some suggestions for naturally repelling unwanted guests from your home. There are other methods out there, but this lists is what I know best and what I have personally used.

I want to give an honorable mention to diatomaceous earth. Food grade diatomaceous earth is lauded by many as a natural way to get rid of pests. I know plenty of people who use it. I did not mention it here as I have personally never used it or done much research about it. If you know plenty about it, please drop a line in the comment section so readers can use that info as a resource. Thanks!
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