Perhaps I Didn’t Make This Clear: My Family is Awesome

Nine years ago today I made the single best choice of my life and married The Hubs. We had an amazing anniversary and just marveled at everything we have been through, good and bad. Nine years seems like forever, but we both remembered our wedding like it was yesterday. As we walked along the river after brunch today, I started having some Very Deep Thoughts. We were discussing our sweet little E, each other, funny memories, and of course, adoption. Talking or thinking about adoption is a pleasant thing, lately. For a while it wasn’t. But there is one adoption aspect that is bothering me. 

Everyone from our adoption education class (cohort) and the two classes after us have adopted already. In fact, so many people have adopted that there are only 8 home-study ready families, including us, even left remaining in the waiting pool! I’m not wallowing in self-pity, but it does make me feel a bit sad. Also, I stumbled upon another surprising emotion while reflecting on why this bothered me: indignation. 

Here’s why. Getting passed over and being second choice again and again makes me feel very defensive of my family. It isn’t only because we haven’t adopted yet, but because not being picked feels a lot like being the last kid standing alone after all the cooler students have been chosen for teams in gym class. It feels worse than that, because this is my family. I’m not saying I’m anything special; however, I’m sure married to someone who deserves that title. And I will take credit for birthing the other member of this family who is absolutely something wonderful. Not just because he’s my son. Because he’s good, and kind, and generous, and loving. 

  And while initially it irritates me that my amazing husband and kind little boy (and myself) aren’t being chosen to adopt, my emotions after irritation are quite different. I feel very sorry for those who have reviewed/will review our profile but moved on. They missed out on the best father any kid could ever have. I can state without hyperbole that I don’t think I could find one fault with the Hubs and his role as Dada. He’s just a great guy who fulfills every aspect (playing, learning, nurturing discipline) of fatherhood effortlessly. It just comes naturally. And E has all the makings of a great big brother. He’s sensitive, empathetic, and loving. He loves being a helper. E will be one of those older siblings who looks out for his little brother/sister. He asked for a long time when his baby was coming; he would ask God every night during bedtime prayers. He hasn’t done that in a while, and I feel scared that maybe he “gave up.”  I hate the idea of my little boy losing faith in his prayer. After all, he’s 3; he’s not sure how the whole faith thing works just yet!

I ache for any expectant mother (or father) who is on the heartbreaking, emotional journey of placing their baby for adoption. I have read that many birthmothers say a great deal of stress was lifted after they found the “perfect family.”  I’m not even going to entertain the idea that we are perfect. That’s pure silliness. But we are most assuredly a family that could put some of an expectant mother’s stress at ease if she met us and saw what we are: a genuinely joyful, imperfect, adoring couple who choose to lead very kid-centered lives devoted to parenting, with a bottomless-soda glass amount of love to shower upon a new member of the family. The thing I wonder is, why isn’t it enough? 

I just had an interesting thought: I think if I was an expectant mother and I was interested in choosing an adoptive couple that had a child already, I would want to meet the kid. You could tell a lot about the hopeful adoptive parents just from sizing up their child, I bet. You could also see the parents interacting with their son or daughter and decide if that’s how you would want your baby to be treated (or not). It’s a good idea, right? 

Just to drive this point home once more, I don’t dwell on the above very often. Usually only after I hear someone else has just adopted, or after we hear we were second choice again. I’m doing a great job of enjoying the blessings in front of me and not obsessing about the ones we hopefully we have one day. But as anyone who has adopted would certainly agree, there are inevitably going to be moments where you question yourself as well as the process. Mostly the process. 

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On This Easter Sunday

On this, the early hours of Easter, I have found myself in spiritual reflection. One large topic I haven’t really addressed in this forum is my faith. And I will be honest with you why I have not.  Although I love Jesus with all my heart, I have found the label of “Christian” is something that has been hijacked by a collection of organizations and people that I simply do not want to be identified with. This is why I refer to myself as a Follower of Jesus rather than a Christian.  It’s all semantics, but people have very set ideas on what Christians believe and how they treat others. Some hear it with a very positive connotation, yet others still hear the word and assume narrow mindedness and judgement.   It is one reason why I have refrained from addressing my beliefs on this site until now. 

Jesus in his mortal form was THE MAN (also in His risen form, but I’m referring to the time before the crucifixion. He loved unconditionally. He sought out the undesirables of society and was intentional about spending his time and energy with and on them. He did not judge. He just loved his flock, warts and all. He had the answer to remedy a flailing, tumultuous society during his earthly life; love, be loved, do good whenever and wherever you can.  It’s the simplest set of rules ever if you think about it. 

Jesus was abundantly clear about the issue of judgement of others; don’t do it, because that isn’t your job. It’s God’s job. It’s not your job. Your job is to love. 

I was, am, and always will be an unapologetic supporter of equality for homosexuals, including marriage. People have often asked me, “How can you consider yourself saved if you go against the teachings of the Bible?”  Such a many layered question, but I will go with this: because Jesus himself spoke about homosexuality exactly zero times in the Bible. And also, remember that part about how Jesus sought out the disenfranchised and  outliers of society to teach them and walk with them and love them because that’s just who Jesus is?  Does Jesus sound like a guy who would be holding “God Hates Fags” poster board signs above his head at the latest “Preserve the Sanctity of Marriage Rally?”  How about the guy outside Planned Parenthood laying in wait for a young woman to exit so he can scream at her she’s going directly to hell, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Maybe she had an abortion, maybe she’s there for the free birth control. Either way, that is not how Jesus rolled, and some acknowledge it and some don’t.  Political issues that use the Bible like weaponry really aren’t about the Bible, or Jesus at all, in my opinion. Although Jesus rose from the dead and LIVES, his physical form is not occupying our current space and time on Earth. If he was, I believe he would shake his head in disbelief that as a nation we have allowed ourselves to be mired down by trumped up religious issues: does anyone truly believe that Jesus’ first order of business in the mortal world would be to deal with recently legalized marijuana laws? Or same sex marriage? Or would he zoom in on the real issues, such as abject poverty in a land of plenty, or war after   war, or children not getting enough to eat. I think he would see a society that never seemed to quite “get” what He wanted of all us in order to thrive: to do OUR jobs. Our jobs are simple; we practice love, we practice acceptance, we shun judgement of our fellow human beings. 

My family doesn’t currently attend church. We have in the past, but until we find one that embodies the unconditional, non judgemental spirit of Jesus as their bedrock, we will continue to pray and worship in the comfort of our home. And if any of my readers happen to know of a church that operates like Jesus did, I’d love to know! I dream of finding a church of people who think like me. Until then, I feel pretty great about my relationship with God and His son just the way it is. 

On this Easter Sunday, I sit humbly as I remember God’s sacrifice for the world; giving his only son over to death so that Jesus could conquer mortality and rise again to become the ultimate salvation of all who seek him.  

Be a Follower of Jesus; accepting Jesus does not mean your only option is to glom on to the thinly veiled hate groups who act in the name of Christianity but have none of Jesus’s charactistics, traits, or intentions. Dare to be different, just like Jesus was! 😇

Answer: I’m a Mother

Why do mothers of all kinds, stay at home, work from home, work outside the home,  forget to realize that being a mother is a very real and legit job? In the back of my brain, behind all the cobwebs, I’m well aware of the truth. I know how important my work is.  But I have noticed that sometimes, I find myself feeling like I need to justify “what I do all day.” To be fair, no one has ever asked me this question. If they had, I would be writing this from prison. Even a simple inquiry such as, “Yesterday was so beautiful! How do you and E end up enjoying the day?” will make me cringe if I can’t come up with a fascinating Stepford mommy answer lickety-split. “Well first, we went outside, and while E was telling me the difference between a deciduous tree and a coniferous tree using Latin terms, we spotted a caterpillar! This led to an excellent teachable moment where I planned to explain to him how the caterpillar develops into a butterfly. I had barely began when he interrupted me to finish explaining the life cycle of a caterpillar! I was so proud, and I completely forgot that I had already taught him all about it during our regular nature walks last spring. Then we decided to have a picnic lunch, so we went inside and made sandwiches from homemade gluten-free bread. Wait until I tell you about our afternoon!”

That would impress the socks off you, right? There’s a mom who’s doing her job like a boss! Now, what would you think if I answered your question honestly? “Um, let’s see. Our day didn’t really start until 11 AM because I was up with E holding warm compresses on his ear every couple hours. After lunch, E seemed to feel well enough to go outside to play, so we headed out to the yard to throw a ball around. We had been outside for five seconds, possibly ten, when E heard a bee. He didn’t see the bee, but he heard the bee, and he was pretty sure the buzzing was getting louder because the bee was getting closer and it was hell bent on stinging him. I did see the bee, a giant bumble that was pollinating my flowers, so I tried to explain to E that most bees are very helpful and have no interest in stinging. I had gotten three words out when he turned and raced at top speed back to the house and began pounding on the patio door to get inside, sobbing for me to hurry lest the bee attack and sting me, too. When he calmed down, I made him his lunch of macaroni and cheese from a box and some green beans that were probably the GMO kind. I dunno, I got them on sale. Wait until I tell you about our afternoon!”

No mother that I know likes to be asked how she spends her time on the job. There aren’t any tests or systems of measurement that tell you how good you are doing and therefore you are left to your own imagination. You can’t enter your activities into an app each night and ask it to calculate your level of productivity for that day. No supervisor* shows up at your residence periodically to “observe” you in action and evaluate your efficacy, leaving you with some strategic suggestions for areas that need improvement.

Perhaps the key lies in redefining what a “job” actually is. Is it about money? If you have a real job, is it a requirement you receive a real paycheck? What about people who receive money but have no job, like Paris Hilton or pick-a-Kardashian?

When I was a teacher, I didn’t justify nothin’ to no one. One answer to all questions: I’m a teacher. Mic drop.

It is high time to stop letting me manipulate… I don’t owe the world a big fat explanation about what I do all day. I’m a mother, and that should tell you all you need to know, Joe.

*Under no circumstances should your spouse attempt to fulfill your desperate need for evaluation. Just, no.

John Travolta, I’m Going to Have to Ask You to Back the Eff Up

A few years ago, I was in front of my 8th grade language arts class introducing the concept of rhythm and meter in poetry to my students, when out of nowhere one of my male students reached over a grabbed the breast of a female student.

In one-eighth of a second I experienced emotions from bewilderment to full-on rage. I was trained to handle discipline discreetly and without “humiliating” anyone, but in this moment I could not have cared less about this little future sex offender. I pointed my entire arm and one rigid finger at the young man and gravely said, “Get out.”

“It’s raining,” he whined. “Where am I supposed to go?” I was teaching in one of our school’s finest portables so if I had to send a student out…well, I didn’t usually, because they would probably hit the sidewalk and head home rather than dutifully report to the principal’s office.

“What?” I asked in disbelief. “I don’t care. Just get out. Get out of my classroom.” And this kid, this fourteen-year old, gathered his stuff and walked out. As he passed me, he seemed genuinely confused. I steeled my Medusa gaze at him and he quickened his pace, walked into the rain, and went somewhere. I didn’t care where.

I looked down at the young lady who had just been victimized in front of her entire class by this guy. There was no good way to handle this situation and protect her in the process. They had been sitting in a group of four, in the front and center of the room. Everyone saw this happen. Not only did this poor girl get her breast grabbed by her desk mate, she got to endure it with over thirty witnesses. And there she was, looking down at her desk like she did something wrong, like she had something to be ashamed of.

I wish to God there had been some way to handle this situation without drawing further attention to her. All the other kids, to their credit, were dead silent. They knew what that boy did was wrong. They knew I was pissed. A few of the boys looked ashamed on behalf of the one I had just kicked out, and four or five girls had that “hold my earrings” look and were probably seconds from charging out the door to collectively beat down the kid while he wandered around in the rain.

“Kinsey,” I said quietly, addressing the girl’s best friend, “why don’t you and Kelly go inside and get some water, maybe talk a little bit? Maybe go see Ms. London?” Kinsey nodded and took the ID badge I handed her so she could unlock the door to the school to get inside, and she and Kelly gathered their things and went outside. I watched through the window as they slogged through the bark dust towards the school. Kinsey was carrying Kelly’s books and Kelly had her head in her hands, bawling.

I stood in front of the class, silently, trying to figure out how to turn this into a “teachable moment.” Because that’s what we do, no matter how bad the situation, we turn it into a “teachable moment.” We rarely just call a shitty situation, a shitty situation.

I cleared my throat. “Ladies,” I began. “If a guy ever touches you somewhere they are not invited to touch, punch them in the face.”

Silence. Then, finally, “But won’t we get in trouble?”

“No,” I said. “If someone grabs a private part of you that they have not been invited to grab, you have every right to punch them in the face. Or kick them in the nuts, if that’s closer. Doesn’t matter if it’s in the middle of class or in a back alley. It’s the same thing. You decide who touches what and when. If an adult writes you a referral or suspends you for a week because you punched a kid that grabbed your breast, make a huge issue of it. Fight it. We’ve taught you that violence is not the way to solve problems your whole life, but that’s not exactly true. It’s usually not the answer. But in this situation, it is.”

The girls were looking newly empowered and some of them were glancing at their hands, balling them into fists. The boys looked intimidated, ashamed. “Hey guys,” I said, “you know what? You didn’t do anything wrong, at least not that I know of.”

“I wish I had said something to him,” one said quietly. “I knew what he was going to do. He was trying to get us to cheer him on. No one did, but we didn’t stop him.”

“I wish I had punched him in the face,” said another boy, looking tersely at the ceiling.

“Welllllll, let’s not go around just punching people in the face willy-nilly,” I jumped in quickly. “I get what you’re feeling, but I don’t think that’s the solution exactly, either.” The kid nodded. I’m positive he still wanted to punch him in the face. I did too. Maybe that isn’t something to advertise, that I, then a 30 year old English teacher, wanted to punch my 14 year student right in his teeth.  I already had sort of bastardized the whole “teachable moment” opportunity by calling for violence and opposition to authority.

Here is the thing. Fourteen years old is old enough to know better. The lines of demarcation have been clearly drawn and explained to both boys and girls by the age of fourteen, and there is no confusion as to what may be touched without permission and what should not. Grabbing a girl’s breast, in the middle of class, at age 14, is sexual assault. That girl felt violated in more ways than one by that incident. That is an extremely vulnerable age to make peace with all the changes in your body without someone grabbing you or otherwise. It affects the way you see yourself and it affects the way you interpret intimacy in future relationships.

Which brings me to freaking John Travolta. If a fourteen year old should know better, this 61 year old douche-canoe should definitely be well aware of the rules. But, based on his actions at the Academy Awards of last night, it would happen he is still a little hazy on what is appropriate and what is not. He made the rounds throughout the night molesting his younger colleagues at the Academy Awards, and we, the viewers at home, were forced to watch these ladies attempt to handle the uncomfortable and unwanted touching with ladylike genteelness that made the situation seem less horrifying than it was. And, although both are great actresses, they kinda failed, for which I am extremely grateful. People, perhaps young men most of all, need to see what it looks like when you touch a woman and she does not wish to be touched.

Some people may think I’m overreacting.  That’s fine, everyone is entitled to their opinion.  However, their opinion is wrong because look at the faces on these two women.  They are not having fun.  They are not enjoying the breach of both etiquette and personal space. Their bubble is not being acknowledged.

Maybe I’m old fashioned, but if a man comes up behind me unannounced, wraps his arm around me tightly and rests his hand on my waist just below my breasts, that man better be my husband.  If a man is holding my face with one hand, and caressing my cheek with the other while calling me darling, that man also best be my husband.  I can think of no other situation in which any other man should be doing any of these things.

I don’t blame Scarlett Johannsen or Idina Menzel for responding the way they did.  It’s the way women are taught to behave in such circumstances.  Whether the whole world is watching, or no one at all, the most common reaction for a women is to freeze, accept what is happening, and hope it’s over soon.  It’s a gray area for us; it’s not egregious enough that we can become upset and defend our bodies right then and there without bringing down judgment upon ourselves, labeled as prudish or “bitchy.”  It is egregious enough that even after the awkwardness is over, it sticks with us for a while afterwards, especially when we beat ourselves up for not saying something in the moment.  In other words, still finding a way to absorb the blame, when we did nothing wrong in the first place.

How can we change this?  I’m couldn’t even begin to offer a comprehensive answer that might serve as a solution.  I do know this; if either Scarlett or Idina had hauled off and punched Octopus Hands right in the snout, I would have leapt off the couch, cheering for all I was worth.

Wondering what happened to the kids from the first part of this post?  The young man, all fourteen years of him, was not held accountable for a damn thing.  No referral, no instructions to write a heartfelt letter of apology, no provisions made to make sure Kelly did not have to see this kid every day of her life in classes, at lunch, at gym.  Her parents thanked me profusely for intervening the way I did, but assured me that “this kind of thing wasn’t a big deal at fourteen.”  The boy’s father refused to talk with his son to help him understand the gravity of his actions.  “The problem,” he said to me, while proudly rocking a Not My Bill of Rights t-shirt, “is that society is so uptight about everything nowadays.  All you teachers are just afraid you’re going to get sued, so you gotta overreact and drag me in here from work to talk about something that isn’t even a problem.  Richard didn’t grab that girl for any sexual reasons; he’s just curious.  You know how boys start getting really fascinated with girls with the raging hormones and all that?  He told me he has to sit next to her everyday and that she dresses really slutty, like low cut or tight shirts, all the time. No teenage boy can sit by that everyday and not doing anything about it.  That’s the truth.  Any other boy sitting next to  her would do the same thing, and they’re lying if they say they wouldn’t. They’re just curious, and anyway I think that’s the girl he said he had a little crush on…so it probably woulda happened anyway.”

I know when I’m staring into the face of pure ignorance, and I wasn’t going to waste my breath on this guy.

Meanwhile, Kelly met with the counselor, Ms. London, regularly for the rest of the school year.  She couldn’t put her finger on what was making her so anxious and depressed, but she knew it started the day a young man grabbed a part of her body that he had no business touching.

I adamantly refused to let Richard back into my class.  One of my bosses thought I was overreacting and behaving unreasonably.  I didn’t care.  I told her they needed to find a new language arts class for him, and while they were at it they might want to compare both of the kid’s schedules to ensure that they didn’t have any other classes together.  Richard spent his language arts time in the in school suspension room for a couple days, and then found a class that had a teeny bit of space to squeeze him in. I didn’t care about where he went or how that class lined up with my class.  I just didn’t want to see him again, and for the most part, I didn’t have to. He had acted in such a way that I couldn’t stand the sight of him any longer, and I just wanted him gone. I believe it’s possible he grew from this experience and realized what he did was so, so wrong. Then again, maybe not. I didn’t feel like being the one help him see the light, if I’m being honest.

I don’t know if my impromptu “teachable moment/shitty situation” speech changed any lives or not.  That’s the thing about teaching.  Most of the time teachers do not get to see what grows from the seeds they have planted.  I’m okay with that.  Every so often I am blessed with the opportunity to run into one of my seeds, grown into a sturdy tree.  Maybe someday one of them will come tell me that punching someone in the face is the best advice they were ever given.  Wouldn’t that be something?

Note: Shortly after publishing this post, a good friend of mine sent me a link to a incident that fit with mine like a glove. I have linked it here: This Girl Did This After the Boy Refused to Stop Snapping Her Bra

*All names have been changed, of course.

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