My best

“Mama, can you help me get down?”

But before I could stand up, she fell. Smacked her head right on the sidewalk, after she’s climbed onto the retaining wall in front of our house. It’s probably only a foot and a half high, and the tumble from it sounded worse than it was, of course. But she’s 3, and this was a doozy of an owie, as far as owies go. So the tears came fast and hard.

As I scooped her up to rush her inside, she started wailing, “Mama, you didn’t help me!”

That’s when my tears started falling fast and hard, too.

Not because I thought it was my fault. Even in three short years, I’ve learned I can’t protect her from every fall and failure, nor do I think I should.

I started crying because she’d just articulated my biggest struggle since becoming a mom of two: that while my heart expanded to love two children unconditionally, it almost always feels impossible to be the mom they both need.

And, for the toddler who is less dependent on me than the newborn, it falls disproportionately on her.

I know all I can do is be the best mom I can be in any given moment. But in that given moment, my best felt woefully inadequate.

It wasn’t the first time. It won’t be the last time. I just hope they know that even when my best is merely good enough, it doesn’t mean they aren’t worthy of better.

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This photo is from last fall, taken at a football game of our college alma mater.

At first glance, looking at it as my husband handed my phone back to me, I liked it. I thought it was a cute picture of us making a fun memory with our first kiddo, shortly after we learned we’ll be having our second.

I started pulling up my Instagram to share it on social media. But then I looked at it again. All I could see now were the dark circles under my eyes and the crinkles that have started emerging around them when I smile.

Suddenly, I didn’t like the picture so much. I thought if I shared it, those imperfections would be the only thing other people would see as well.

So I didn’t post it. Instead, I feverishly researched eye creams later that night.

And that’s some real bullshit.

It’s bullshit that instead of seeing those wrinkles and dark circles as signs of growing wisdom and experience, I only saw signs of my diminishing value as a woman.

It’s bullshit that instead of admiring them as marks of devotion earned while my heart overflows for a sweet, tiny human who sometimes just needs her mama to lie down with her on a dark, scary night, I bemoaned them as marks of stress and exhaustion.

It’s bullshit that instead of appreciating them as the wear and tear exchanged for the gift of loving a child in such a way that I can’t remember now what I did during my carefree, wrinkle-free previous life — because the one I have now feels infinitely more rich — I only lamented my deepening crow’s feet.

And it’s bullshit that instead of seeing the beauty in it all, I could only see the flaws.

Well, I’m done bullshitting myself. I’m done falling for the lie that age will inevitably diminish the beauty worth sharing in my life.

So I’m sharing it now, imperfections and all. Because despite the inevitable wrinkles, life is always beautiful.

An open letter* to my congressional representatives regarding their inadequate response to mass shootings

 

Dear Sen. Tester, Sen. Daines and Rep. Gianforte,

If I am ever gunned down in a massacre carried out by a person who easily acquired a weapon of mass murder, I request that you, as my elected representatives, please politicize it immediately.

Our country has perpetuated a toxic obsession and deadly glorification of gun culture — masquerading as “defense of the Second Amendment” — for far too long. How many people have to die at one time for you to take a good look in the mirror and finally say “enough is enough”?

Is 58 enough?

Are two-dozen elementary kids enough?

If your own children were murdered this way, would it be enough?

Until you and other members of Congress admit we’ve taken this defense of an antiquated amendment too far, innocent people will continue to die, and the blood will remain on your NRA-tied hands.**

Please don’t respond with some bullshit form letter defending your stance on the Second Amendment and blaming something else, like mental illness (the prior votes of at least one of you indicate you don’t really care to address that, either). You’re not idiots. You can see just as well as I can that no matter the other factors involved, guns remain the common denominator.

Do I know all the answers? No. But the current approach of offering thoughts and prayers hasn’t exactly panned out, so perhaps it’s time to diversify our strategy.

I am requesting — as your constituent, as a mother, as a human being — that you stop pretending as though there is nothing we can do to prevent future mass shootings, and instead work with your colleagues on both sides of the aisle to take meaningful action.

Sincerely,

A Concerned Montanan

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*Which I also sent to them via resistbot, which you should use, too.

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**It’s only fair to note thay Sen. Tester is not bought and paid for by the NRA, but his gun-sense record remains less than satisfactory.

It’s possible the power dynamics in this house have shifted in the toddler’s favor

My husband started a joke in our house where, in response to our toddler shouting “NO!” when he says he wants to do something (as 2-year-olds are wont to do), he replies “Yes! Dads’ rights!” I recently started co-opting this little witicism. 

Today, when I told her that Mommy was hungry and wanted to eat lunch, too, I responded to her inevitable “NO, Mommy!” with “Yes! Moms’ rights!”

Her reply? 

“No! LILY RIGHTS!”

We’ve created a monster. 

Our Exalted Leader, exercising her god-given right to eat chips on the couch. Who am I to stop her? Hey, at least she shared.

Why I march

I march because, while I don’t discredit my own work ethic and determination for my lot in life, I am also a beneficiary of the birth lottery, having arrived in this world on third base, despite never even hitting the ball. I march in support of those who have to work so much harder just to get to on a level playing field. 

I march because despite my hard work, I’ve still been humiliated at the office by a good ol’ boy co-worker who didn’t think twice about patting me on the ass in front my colleagues.

I march because I advise college women who confide in me when they’ve been sexually assaulted, by men who still don’t understand that women’s bodies are not theirs for the taking. 

I march because though my daughter is smart, energetic, curious and caring, society still values her most for how she looks. 

I march because if I ever have a son, I never want him to feel that he has to hide his emotions behind a mask, for fear that revealing this typically “feminine” trait will mean he is less of a man. I march because I want him — and society — to know that he is just as deserving of emotional richness as any woman is.

I march to honor the trailblazers who laid the groundwork for equality, and I march because we still have miles to go before it is achieved. 

So we will march those miles. 

Together.

Unhappy with ‘the media’? Then support real, good journalism

attack-the-media

Image courtesy of a news publication to which I subscribe.

Are you fed up with “the media” and all its liberal/conservative/insert-negative-adjective-based-on-your-personal-worldview bias? Are you utterly disturbed that Donald Trump may well be our next president because of people like this profiting off “fake news” sites? Or are you relieved Hillary wasn’t elected despite a constant barrage of “media bias in her favor”?

Then do something about it. Instead of simply complaining about “the media,” support real, good journalism, which is a cornerstone of any successful democracy.  Here are just a few suggestions on how to do that:

-Support a local newspaper or media organization, not just national orgs like NYT or WaPo, through a subscription. (After all, all national stories start out as local stories somewhere.)

-Be a responsible consumer/sharer. Always, ALWAYS check the sources of the story (both the website itself, and the people/organizations to which information in the story is attributed) before plastering it all over social media. If it’s not real, good journalism, don’t share it.

-Be aware of your own confirmation bias and question it whenever possible. Just because you don’t like a fact doesn’t mean it’s not true, and just because you agree with someone’s opinion doesn’t mean it’s a fact. I personally avoid sites like HuffPo because I know they have a liberal bent, and I would be tempted to just agree with what they publish without questioning it. It can be hard, but try not to only consume content that reaffirms your existing beliefs.

-Make consuming investigative journalism a priority. It takes longer than skimming a newsletter or Twitter or watching a two-minute segment on CNN, but you’ll have a much more nuanced understanding of the issue.

-In that same vein, I personally also avoid 24-hour cable news all together. The need to fill airtime, along with the use of soundbites and the constant punditry, is a disservice to journalism and the people it’s supposed to serve.

That’s just a handful of suggestions I came up with off the top of my head after a friend asked me on Facebook. I’m sure other journalists have more, and I certainly welcome those suggestions.

Because here’s the thing. Journalists, like you, are people doing their jobs. Also like you, they expect, and deserve, to be paid for doing that job. But when people consuming the service they provide expect to get that service for free instead of paying for a subscription, or use online ad blockers, or claim to be interested in investigative stories and “good” news, but actually only click on fluff and “bad” news instead, it stifles the sources of revenue needed to pay  journalists to do their jobs — and to do their jobs well. When revenues decline, the higher-ups employing these journalists order layoffs to keep the company somewhat profitable. The survivors are then expected to do more good journalism with fewer resources. This, of course, is a logical fallacy, so the quality of work produced by the organization declines, and even fewer consumers are likely to pay for what they perceive to be a sub-par service.

I’m sure you can see how this story ends.

You have the power to change that ending though. Support real, good journalism. Clearly, our democracy needs it more than ever.

I will choose love

My heart felt so heavy today. I cried. A lot. But, when it comes down to it, my white, middle-class, privileged family will likely not bear the burden of this election’s outcome, not like others will. My heart aches for them, and I currently fear for what our country’s future may hold.

But I will not let fear win. I will choose love. I will choose love, even for those who supported him, because I want to believe they made the choice they did because they were also hurting in some way, and sought to feel validated and heard. 

I will choose love because that is the only way I can raise this feisty little girl to treat others with kindness, compassion and respect, no matter their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, political views, intelligence, socioeconomic status, education level, physical ability, or the millions of other qualities that make America so robustly diverse. 

I will choose love by treating others that way myself. I will choose love because I have succumbed to the fear in the past, and it was a pretty shitty way to exist. I will choose love because the world I want my daughter to grow up in chooses love, even in the face of fear. I will choose love.

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