August McLaughlin's Beauty of a Woman Blog Fest 2013
My mind is occupied with things that aren’t so beautiful. Things like cancer. Things like my second close friend in six months undergoing the knife to remove a piece of her that I imagine, as we all have, she’s grown accustomed to looking down at from time to time. Certainly she’s been painfully aware of its presence recently, if she didn't pay it much mind before.
Her husband sits in a waiting room with his father and sister, not seeing the phone before him, hearing perhaps a ticking clock nearby, snippets of hushed whispers.
Her children sit in their respective classrooms, not hearing their teachers. Wondering, worrying, and not quite understanding what their mother is going through, or perhaps even where she is.
I sit looking at this glowing white page, with words coming and then escaping me; too fleeting to capture most of them. And I wait. I’m not there. I feel helpless. The snow blows outside my window. And I wait.
An army of supporters waits with them, each of us going about our own lives. I am writing this post, because I agreed to do it, and because there is nothing more beautiful than a woman mothering through her pain. There is nothing more beautiful than a wife who is there for her husband for all the moments before and all the ones after a traitorous piece of her is cut away. There is nothing more beautiful than a woman who comforts and cries with and prays with her children and reassures them, even as she reassures herself, that everything will be OK.
I was still living in California when my first close friend underwent the same surgery, double, that my friend today must endure; must survive; must press on through for all the days that follow. I can’t fathom what might be beautiful about those days in between—only perhaps the other side. After the scars begin to fade, and the hair grows, and the beauty and blessing of mothering lives once again in her children’s classrooms, reading and making crafts, and checking papers, instead of mired in each moments’ survival.
My job will be to find ways to help make some of those days beautiful for my friend and her family, even as I continue to be the mom, the wife, the writer and businesswoman
I’ve come to expect myself to be.
Now that I’m back home where I belong, the beauty of my dear friends, all of us different ages, but with children the same age; changed on the surface and deep inside though we have in two short years, is that we’re still here. Even if we can’t comprehend the choices, or fully appreciate the experience without having had it ourselves, we’re still here and we’re still friends. We still have each other's backs, and we still hold one another's families in our hearts and in our care when one of us is down.
My friends, my posse
, still forgive clumsily chosen words; we still vote for and cheer one another on, hold each other up and help each other succeed. We still give the benefit of doubt in most cases, and accept apologies when offered. We hope for only the best in life for our friends, and we’re there to help them survive, overcome and learn from the all too common snag, or plod through a monumentally difficult time.
And through two years in California I made new and equally beautiful friends that now span the country, and who will remain so forever. And through this process of releasing my inner author
and sharing my soul with *the world*, I’ve made a myriad more friends across tundra and oceans.
Whether an instant of souring brilliance, or in the worst of life’s moments—even if it’s spent unproductively, staring at a blank page, and praying like I’ve never prayed before, for mercy, for deft hands, for beauty and grace, and for another day to hug my friend, gently, or just to be there if she can’t stand my touch, even if it’s not a particularly beautiful day—there is no place I would rather be than among these beautiful women who became my friends through a MOMS Club
playgroup. We’ve seen children born and children married, and we’ve watched our brood of fifteen kids grow through everything in between. T
his week reminds me what is beautiful about being a woman that has nothing to do with weight or height or skin or hair or breasts; and none of it is more striking than the beauty of women friends. [And what a difference 48 hours makes. Update: my friend came through her surgery bravely and valiantly, and so did her family, and so did I. Amazingly, she came home the next day. She is where she belongs, recovering with her family and friends surrounding her. And my first friend gave us all hope when she received news recently, as her hair begins to grow back, that her doctor considers her in remission. On to the next step: Fight like a Girl, my beautiful friends! Fight like a Girl!]Thank you to August McLaughlin for inviting me to participate in her second annual Beauty of a Woman Blog Fest. Please check out what are sure to be more fantastic posts over on August's page, where she'll be linking up a bunch of us to celebrate the beauty of women tomorrow, February 22, 2013.
This post that I wrote quite feverishly the afternoon that I was waiting to hear about my friend's surgery absolutely suits the spirit of @HeatheroftheEO 's #JustWrite exercise over at Extraordinary Ordinary
. It's all about capturing moments. Happy ones, heart wrenching ones, poignantly beautiful ones...those that give you pause, that make you notice life and appreciate all it has to offer, the good and the bad. It's one of the best writing exercises I've participated in, and I highly recommend it. Be sure to follow the directions, because that's what makes it ROCK so beautifully.
The funny thing about our world these days is that Social Media vehicles like Twitter and Facebook have made it much smaller than it once was. Due to the recent events in Newtown, Connecticut and the immediacy of shared information, other countries are suddenly offering their input and participating in a dialog that was once uniquely American. I’m new to Twitter, but I’m becoming more and more aware that I could be talking to someone across oceans, and certainly across thousands of miles of tundra. I could be talking to someone who isn’t American, about a topic that concerns Americans, because suddenly it weighs heavily on the hearts and in the minds of the world.
Such was the case last evening when a dialog began about gun control and mental health between two mothers in two different countries. In the shorthand that is unique to Twitter, we only whispered at the surface, but I am building a great deal of respect for her views on success and failure, and we and the brilliant minds at Leadership Voices
agree on the need for an urgent global discussion on mental wellness
. Irene Becker is a business coach and consultant with Just Coach It
in Canada, and I am actually working with a business coach, Nancy Kaye, of Define Your Destiny
in San Diego, California. These women and others like them share a vision of the potential that can be reached by many who may have previously seen themselves as failures. And it’s quite possible these two fine, smart, beautiful spirits who are trying to heal the hearts and the minds of the clients they work with, one at a time, may share some other similarities in their views on gun control.
I have a unique perspective on the issue of gun control, in that my husband is an ex-police officer/ firefighter/ paramedic and is a nationally recognized security expert
who specializes in Business Continuity Planning
that encompasses active shooter and violence in the workplace programs.
We’re from Michigan, and we tend to be prepared sorts. That being said, neither of us is against federal mandates for stricter gun control policies as they pertain to the consistent vetting (across the country) for past criminal and mental health issues, right to privacy be damned—I would not be opposed to such background checks on all members of legal age in a prospective household, a waiting period not to exceed a week, for example, safety checks and required safety courses. With his background, my husband was part-owner of a gun store in our town for a time and served as gunsmith and armor to many of the local law enforcement agencies. On occasion I worked in that gun store, and thus had to go through the extensive training and testing and obtain a Concealed Pistol License (CPL) myself. I understand there are those who have very differing views on and feelings about guns than many of the rest of us in the US, as I’m sure we do on other issues. Much like the taboo of mental illness, this wasn’t something I often felt I could talk about in California, as I imagine it wouldn’t be in many circles in Canada and other countries. I must tell you, however, as a 5’0” woman who has been the victim of date-rape and who spent years as a single mom, I rather enjoy feeling competent and prepared; less scared and less like a potential victim all the time.
I suspect the incidence of all crimes is lower in Canada than in the US. But here we are, and suddenly taking guns away from law-abiding citizens while leaving them in the hands of criminals and psychos who don’t abide by the laws of the land, amounts to piss poor planning. However, Leadership Voices, Irene and Nancy are definitely onto something when they speak about the amount of stress under which our society lives and functions on a daily basis. I’ve seen it first hand, having lived in Chicago for a time when our daughters were young, and more recently having lived in San Diego for two years. We have chosen to return to our small, Midwestern town, where the pace and the demand and the traffic and the competition and the stress is far lower than what we experienced in either of those two bustling metropolitan areas, and frankly where I’m less afraid (and better prepared) to walk the streets. There was a school shooting at Kelly Elementary School in Carlsbad, California, not fifteen minutes north of our house when we first arrived there. There were two incidences of highway snipers that occurred in the short time we lived there, the 2nd one ending with an incident AT our freeway exit. There were robberies in malls, there were home invasions, there occurred two murders of cab drivers two exits to the south of ours in an area we frequented with out of town guests; all and much more in the short time we lived in California.
In our experience and in fact, the problems don’t stem from those of us who legally and responsibly own guns for the protection of our homes. The problems tend more to come from those for whom guns have been purchased by others, or from those who illegally possess guns. My hometown in Michigan sits on a stretch of highway that runs between Detroit and Chicago. There is a great deal of drug running that occurs, and there is plenty of gun violence that occurs in the socioeconomically depressed and welfare dependent town that sits right across the river from ours. We cross the river to go to the movies, and we cross the river to do our Christmas shopping. Thus, we are occasionally the victims of muggings and other crimes, particularly this time of year, and shoplifting and petty larceny is rampant.
Among the difficulties of the recent events in Newtown, CT, for me, is the fact that it has taken away an insular sense of security I once treasured here in my hometown. Mine is very like the town of Newtown: lakeside, quaint, picturesque, we parent and love one another’s children without restraint; we look out for our neighbors. Sandy Hook Elementary is a school very similar to my son’s. The staff and the children who lost their lives, and ALL of the town’s and the nation’s and the world’s parents and citizens who grieve them, look and sound very similar to those in our town. And even while I grieve my own and my children’s loss of innocence in such times, I have a strong sense that the past several years of economic destruction in many American families has left us heartbroken and emotionally, mentally, and financially battered. Those with the capacity for hope and the mental stability to do as Irene so aptly describes in her essay, Winning the New War
, to use our Constructive Discontent
to Fail Forward, will survive and with the help of people like Irene and Nancy use our skills to grow and perhaps even to excel in these times. It is the perpetually poverty-stricken, the sick and the tortured, the ones who suffer from undiagnosed and untreated mental illness, PTSD, and even chemical imbalances
that can sometimes be attributed to something as simple as food sensitivities
, who are clearly more susceptible to urges that lead them to take their pain and their anger out on innocent victims.
But patting them on their heads and holding their hands and telling them that it will be OK and being afraid to discuss mental illness or to reach out for help that isn’t there; caring more for their civil rights than for their mental health and the safety of others, clearly isn’t doing enough to ensure the health and safety of the public at large, and it must be immediately addressed.
Americans will always feel differently about guns than Canadians and those in other countries do, because Americans have had to fight hard for our freedoms, and Americans have had to fight for the weak and for those who have been inhumanely treated by their own governments. But what of our own? We are the self-appointed and globally-appointed protectors of freedom and justice in this world, and that ideology isn’t likely to change any time soon. Now we just need to find a way to heal our own troubled nation and protect the children in our own backyards and schoolyards, classrooms and hallways.
Taking the right to bare arms away from law-abiding Americans is akin to “changing the minds” (a la Paul Ryan in the vice presidential debate) of Middle Eastern nations or changing women’s minds about the right to choose—from either perspective. That’s a war nobody wants to take on. Perhaps we can, however, come to a reasonable compromise about important things like background checks for all persons of age in a prospective household, waiting periods, trigger locks, safety checks and safety courses.
I wouldn’t be GlutenNaziMom
if I didn’t relay the fact that much of the anger and the malcontent
that exists in our country can be attributed both to what is lacking (vital nutrients/ variety) and to what is present (GMOs, sugar, chemicals and additives) in our Standard American Diet—S.A.D. And there’s a reason the acronym is so very, very SAD.
We must realize that all of the pieces and the parts are connected. I am a sometimes reasonably liberal and sometimes reasonably conservative chick—founding member of the Enlightened Middle Majority
—who occasionally likes to very safely shoot guns, who has chosen both life and otherwise, and thus could never presume to “choose” for another woman, and who has pulled herself out of the depths of poverty as a single parent and for a season contemplated suicide
, and who believes that Health Care Reform as it sits is faulty, at best. How can it support itself if NO ONE is paying a copay? The math simply doesn’t work. And what earthly good can it do if we don’t address mental health in the process? If we continue to fail to address or even discuss Welfare Reform? Mind, Body, Spirit; it’s all interconnected, from an individual standpoint, and from our nation’s.
Guns and the right to bare arms, religious freedom as well as the freedom not to worship are organic and fundamental pieces of the ideology on which this country was built. Mr. President, you may have won the election because for just enough the alternative was unpalatable, but you have a long way to go before you win over and heal the hearts and the minds and the pocketbooks of the Greatest Nation and of the world. And until we as a nation come together, support one another, and collectively do so, unthinkable and unacceptable horrors such as the one in Sandy Hook Elementary school last Friday, such as the one in the mall in Newport Beach, California, three days before, and the one in the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, before that, will only continue to happen and likely continue to escalate. I think we can all agree that nobody wants to see that happen in their corner of small town America, or anywhere.
A quick look at my site stats tells me that I have drifted off into Blogosphere oblivion because, quite frankly, life has gotten in the way of my blogging. But here’s the thing; blogging felt pretty goddamned amazing.
Being a mom most days means living in a fairly constant state of oblivion. As long as my son has a lunch to take to school, his favorite clothes are clean, food is on the table and there’s a ready ride to where he needs to be, I can go for days, weeks, years even it seems, pretty much unnoticed. We schlep and we haul and we pack and we motivate and we advise. We kiss the boo-boos, bake the cakes, vacuum the cobwebs no one else notices, all while fulfilling our “wifely” duties and trying to look our best. My husband swears the other day he told me I looked nice when he got home, but he must have said it mumbling and walking away, as he does most things, because I sure never heard it. I swear there are entire conversations that exist exclusively in that big head of his, especially if they are remotely appreciative, because I rarely ever hear words like that produced out loud. To my face. Voluntarily. And God-forbid I should point out the fact that I got my hair done that day, because then I get the defensive, “I said you looked nice today!” *grumble, mumble*
During March, however, when I was obsessively blogging and feeling a downright responsibility to do so, little of the above actually got done. And I LOVED it! I was using my mind, remembering words I hadn’t played with in ages, feeling appreciated by all of my readers (thanks Anna and Mr. B). I had things to talk to my husband about that didn’t involve something needing to be fixed or purchased. It was the least lonely I’ve felt since moving to California, even though most of the time I was very much alone. I think because of so much time spent in front of a computer, I was more willing to seek out contact with actual, blood-pumping humans. All of which would be amazing, if only I could figure out a way to seek out contact ($$--ahem) with an actual vacuum-wielding cleaning lady. HEPA filtered. Who does windows. And laundry. And uses green products.
Not that blogging is all harp-holding cherubs all the time; there will always be those who disagree with me, judge me and laugh at me for all the wrong reasons. And forgetting to pick up my son more than once in awhile is likely to get me the wrong kind of notice at school. And apparently I needed yet another reminder today to COMPOSE IN WORD, because it REALLY blows when you lose internet connection mid-post. Curse you, again, AT&T!! April’s NaBloPoMo Poetry on BlogHer was a heroic fail. Apparently an on-demand or disciplined poet, I am not. Though I did love the idea—the romance—of it, I have come to understand that writers tend not by nature to be particularly disciplined people. Huh. So maybe that’s why I’m that way. And when you don’t look in a mirror all day, or have anyone sitting in a cubicle next to you to tell you that you’re still wearing your jammies, have spinach in your teeth, or that your skin is flaking off your face, you might usually leave the house looking like a bit of a wreck, or hurriedly pull on shorts only to discover that you haven’t actually taken the time to shave in a week. And, oh shit, you don’t have any clean pants to wear anyway.
Wow. Dry shaving sucks.